‘A whole appeasement psychology’: How America let Putin off the hook after Crimea

By | April 9, 2023

Politico reports:

Jack Hanick spent years openly helping a Russian mogul who had been under U.S. sanctions since 2014 set up a pro-Kremlin TV empire, raising suspicions about whether the American was violating U.S. law. And yet, for most of the past decade, the Justice Department didn’t appear to consider the ex-Fox News staffer too important a target, at least not enough to indict him.

But Hanick’s luck — and that of numerous other people suspected for years of violating U.S. laws penalizing Russia — started to change in fall 2021.

That season, as Russian leader Vladimir Putin prepared his troops for a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the United States secretly indicted Hanick. A few weeks before Russian missiles rained across Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, U.S. officials quietly had Hanick arrested in Britain. On March 2, 2022, the Justice Department unveiled its main weapon to enforce U.S. sanctions on Russia: Task Force KleptoCapture. The very next day, the department publicly announced that Hanick had been indicted. Then, a month later, the department triumphantly boasted that Konstantin Malofeyev, the Russian oligarch alleged to have employed Hanick, had also been indicted.

The timing was clearly intended to send a message — the United States was cracking down on those who aid Russia’s incursion into Ukraine. But it also amplified a question on the mouths of many critics: Why hadn’t the United States prosecuted these people years earlier? After all, Russia was already facing U.S. sanctions put in place after it first attacked and occupied Ukraine’s Crimea and other regions in 2014 — a set of penalties designed to deter further aggression. If more cases had been brought, critics maintain, Putin may have been discouraged from pursuing his large-scale invasion in 2022. [Continue reading…]