Experts Foresee Further Deterioration Of Ties As U.S. Slaps Sanctions On Russia Over Spy Poisoning

U.S. experts have said the announcement on Wednesday of fresh U.S. sanctions against Russia over an alleged nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter will further worsen the ties between Washington and Moscow.

According to senior State Department officials, the sanctions will come in two phases. The first phase will ban the granting of licenses to sell "all national-security sensitive goods or technologies" to Russia.

At the moment, such sales applications are being scrutinized on a case-by-case basis, and Washington "will be presumptively denying such applications" after the sanctions come into force.

They said unless Russia, within three months since the sanctions become effective, provides "reliable assurances" that it will no longer engage in chemical weapons use and allows on-site inspections by the United Nations or other internationally recognized impartial observers, the second batch of "more draconian" sanctions will be imposed.

The officials estimated that the sanctions may affect hundreds of millions of dollars worth of exports, dealing a blow to some 70 percent of the Russian economy and resulting in an approximately 40-percent fall in workforce.

Sergei Skripal, a 66-year-old double agent who worked for the Soviet military's intelligence services before defecting to Britain, and his 33-year-old daughter Yulia were found unconscious on a bench outside a shopping center in the southwestern British city of Salisbury on March 4.

The British government accused Russia of masterminding the poisoning, which it said involved the use of Novichok nerve agent. Russia has denied any involvement.

In a separate case on June 30, 44-year-old Dawn Sturgess and her partner, Charlie Rowley, were hospitalized after being exposed to what British authorities confirmed was Novichok in Amesbury in southwestern England. Sturgess later died while Rowley remained in critical condition.

Given that the chance for reconciliation from Moscow is slim, U.S. experts said the sanctions may continue to hurt the Russian economy and drive further the vicious cycle of U.S.-Russia hostilities.

Ford O'Connell, a Republican and news commentator who frequently shows up on TV, told Xinhua that "this is a situation where Trump has been tough on Russia, particularly when Russia is perceived to be bad actors threatening the world order."

Read more from Matthew Rusling at Xinhua

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