Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin met with senators on Tuesday, urging them to allow the Trump Administration to ease sanctions on certain Russian aluminium companies, including major Russian manufacturer Rusal.
The meeting came ahead of a Senate vote to advance a resolution which would bar the administration from easing any sanctions on Russia. The vote was ultimately advanced, though it has not yet been passed as law.
The Treasury Department sanctioned Rusal and the other companies for having ties to Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska. Rusal has agreed to make Deripaska cede control of the company, and has replaced their CEO and seven board members in an effort to comply with US demands.
Mnuchin’s argument is that the Treasury Department, having issued some very specific demands as conditions for sanctions relief, needs to be able to deliver on that sanctions relief if the demands are met. Some Democrat senators, however, are arguing that any sanctions relief is in effect a “gift for Putin,” and that US sanctions must remain in place no matter what.
Broadly, imposing new sanctions is popular within Congress, while sanctions relief is viewed as a sign of weakness, irrespective of the justification.
Rusal is the world’s second largest aluminium company, behind only China’s Hongqiao Group. The company accounts for 6.2% of all primary aluminium production on Earth. Deripaska is a major investor in the company, along with others, but ran afoul of US sanctions after he was accused of having ties to former Trump ally Paul Manafort.