In late January, Congressional Democrats were expressing anger at the Trump Administration for not having used the “Counter America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act” (CAATSA) to impose immediate new sanctions against Russia. State Department officials said they felt new sanctions weren’t needed.
On Thursday, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert, the same official who previously insisted CAATSA was just as useful as a deterrent, said she “would be very surprised” if the US didn’t use the law to impose new sanctions against Russians in the future.
CAATSA required the State Department to produce a list of wealthy Russians, but didn’t necessarily compel the administration to do anything to them. Many in Congress were surprised, however, seeming to take the idea of sanctions against the Russians as a given.
Yet the US has been imposing new sanctions against new Russians for years, particularly the wealthy ones, so it’s not clear they really needed this new law to provide cover for such moves, and it may simply be that the administration didn’t have anyone specific they wanted to go after that they hadn’t already sanctioned.