Report: US Tech Firms Lobbied Against Sanctions On Russia

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A number of tech companies in the United States lobbied against sanctions on Russia earlier this year, looking to soften the impact of penalties imposed by the Obama administration after stateside authorities accused the Federal Security Service (FSB) and Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) of the Russian Federation of hacking the 2016 presidential election, people with knowledge of the matter said last week, as first reported by Reuters. Moscow repeatedly denied the charges and criticized the U.S. over sanctions that may have long-lasting consequences for the economy of the transcontinental country, though their effectiveness was supposedly lessened by several Silicon Vallery giants including Microsoft and Cisco.

Domestic firms looking to help Russia avoid harsher sanctions all have a large commercial presence in the country and were reportedly looking to avoid a scenario in which Russian authorities ban the sales of their products and services in response to U.S.-imposed limitations on trade, insiders said. The FSB is said to have direct authority over the importation of all electronics and related technologies that utilize encryption to any degree, meaning that the agency could theoretically ban the sales of a wide variety of American goods and services in Russia, ranging from computer software and wearables to smartphones, tablets, and laptops. The lobbying effort reportedly started in January, with some State and Treasury officials already working on modifying the original sanctions while former President Obama was still in office. The campaign was concluded within weeks, with an exception to the sanction being introduced approximately two weeks following the inauguration of President Trump, people familiar with the effort said.

Proponents of a tough policy on Russia argue that domestic tech lobbyists defeated the sole purpose of the FSB sanctions that were primarily meant to impact all trade with the country, including America's exports. Some parties that lean toward the opposite option claim that the U.S. government should be sanctioning Russia without punishing its own companies in the process. Silicon Valley giants lobbying against the sanctions still weren't arguing about their intent, sources said, though they were seemingly still adamant to continue doing business in the Eurasian country via the controversial spy agency that polarized the American public in recent months. An update on the situation may follow later this year.

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