tv North Korea Russia and Venezuela Sanctions CSPAN September 13, 2017 4:14am-5:28am EDT
>> now. former deputy cia director david cohen talk abouts the use of sanctions against russia, north korea and venezuela. other topics include china's role in north korea and the current state of the iran nuclear agreement. hosted by georgetown university law center. this is just over an hour. all right. okay, wonderful. hello, everyone. my name is chris brumer. i delighted to welcome you to the institute of the economic law q and a discussion. with david cohen. bill trainer will be bro deucing david in just a couple seconds.
interdisciplinary way. that takes an interesting take on international economic and global affairs. that is integrate and analysis into real world affairs. talking to many of the leaders. here in washington who are on the front lines of managing and navigating issues that have global import. and we have just been very fortunate to have many of the leaders here. and today's q and a will be a continuation of the series of the conversation. throughout the changes, our dean has been at the helm. side by side helping the international law faculty and the larger washington dc community think through how our academic programming as a law firm can inform policy makers, market participants, diplomats,
ceos and others. a particular interest in today's talk. bill was before becoming a law professor, he was involved in government. and served as the deputy assistant general in the aus of legal counsel of the u.s. department of justice. and before that he was the associate counsel of the office of independent counsel during the iran contra investigation. the gift that kept giving for a while. i want as a result i really did want to have bill here. have the honor of doing the introduction for david. and to help shepherd us into the discussion today. bill trainer. >> i want to thank you for that kind and generous introduction. and welcome you all to georgetown law and this very important discussion. let me begin by thanking the institute of international economic law for having put together today's event.
under chris's leadership i have grown to become one of the premier forums for policy discussion. i want to recognize him for having conceptionalize. and making it a reality. over the last two years with the active participation of nearly a dozen renowned faculty members in finance, tax and trade. we have enjoyed cunning edge programming with ambassadors, general counsel, regulators and ceos. and we're delighted to once again welcome reporters, c-span, students and leaders of the washington policy making community. and i want to say how pleased we are to be cosponsoring today's events with the atlanta council. georgetown and the atlanta council share a common goal of promoting constructive leadership, and engagement in international affairs. in today's increaseingly complex
world, it's impairtive we do all we can to promote that. constructive leadership and engagement in international law and policy. and that's what it's about. sdp just a delight to have the atlanta counsel join with us here today. now, david, we're particularly honored to have you here with us today. before getting into our q and a. let me thank you for the government service you rendered. that's something that we particularly value at georgetown law. and we value it always. but particularly on this very significant day. today is the anniversary of september 11, 2001. and that date always gives one pause. to reflect on where we are as a nation. what we value, and what we stand for. the day provides collective moment of interspection.
sdp this is never been truer than it is today. and it's never been more necessary than it is today. as we face enormous national security and other challenges that will shape global economic governess. the international order, and perhaps the very future of the democracy. so it's therefore fitting that we gather together today on the anniversary of 9/11 with the discussions. to examine the current and evolving u.s. sanctions regime. as they pertain to russia, venezuela and north korea. all nations that are the subject of potentially serious political discussion. while russia, venezuela and north korea are in the news quite a bit these days, there seems to be less than optimal public understanding of the different sanctions regimes. likely success and the national
security issues that drive the background. so, that's why we're so honored and we're just lucky to welcome david here today. david cohen served as deputy director of the central intelligence agency. from 2015 to 2017. as the agency second in command he managed the cia domestic and worldwide operation. and over saw the modernization. he also led the agency performance of its five core missions. foreign intelligence collection, analysis, covert action, counter intelligence, and foreign liaison relationship. in addition he led special projects focusing on the impact of new technology on the agency. and how best to work with u.s. companies to advance the cia mission. and notably, in light of the conversation today, david served as the cia second most senior
official during the russia hacking investigation. at the conclusion of his tenure, he was awarded the directors award and the intelligence medal. which is the agencies highest honor. before becoming deputy director. he already had a remarkable record of public service. he served for six years in the u.s. department of treasury. in two key positions. responsible for following the money. from 2011 to 15 the senate confirmed under secretary for terrorism in financial intelligence. as under secretary he directed the treasury department policy enforcement regulatory and intelligence function. aimed at identifying and disrupting financial support to nations organizations and individuals posing a threat to national security. and he also directed two key regulatory agencies. the office of foreign assets control, and the financial crimes enforcement net work. he was also instrumental in developing and implementing the
financial sanctions regime that brought iran to the negotiating table. that imposed cost on russia. and president putin for the invasion of the unrest in eastern ukraine. and the deprived al qaeda and other terrorist organizations access to funding. led the treasury department to combat money laundering. and financial terrorism. it's really -- before that he was the treasury department assistant secretary. it's a remarkable record of public service. he has -- he's a unique person to be able to have this conversation today. he's got an unmatched knowledge of terrorism. money laundering and nuclear programs and a deep sense of where the issues intersect in the most dangerous corners of the globe. although he's returned. this is the infomercial segment. he returned to focus on cyber security. i'm so grateful that he's here
today. again i want to thank him again for his public service. and i have to say, i feel like we have a protagonist in a novel joining us on stage. welcome, david. >> thank you so much, bill. >> well i guess it's good to jump right in. as introductory question. we should have a framing question. what's the state of play when it relates to sanctions, and how would you see the trump administration's conduct and use and deployment of sanctions as being different from that of the obama administration? >> first of all. let me thank you chris for inviting me. very excited to be here. and have the opportunity to talk about what i think are some of
the most fascinating issues. the interplay of foreign policy and national security and the tools that we have developed over the years to troy and advance u.s. interest in the. it's great to be here. to do that. i that was a ridiculous introduction. never ever do that again. so the state of play of sanctions is that i think as we sit here on 9/11, 2017. and is appropriate to take a moment to reflect on what today's anniversary means. it means something in the sanctions world. it means much more as a country. and i'm actually delighted to be able to talk about how sanctions can be a part of our counter terrorism effort. on this anniversary. let me to answer your question,
the as we sit here today financial sanctions in particular have become an accepted and imbedded tool of our national security. and foreign policy. that is has been evolutioned over time. i think it was something that during the obama administration and really going back to the bush administration, a lot of effort was put into trying to change the landscape of the sanctions law and sanctions tool. so we can have something that's much more nimble and effective. so i think today you pick up the paper, whatever the national security issue is. whether it's north korea, venezuela, russia, terrorism, syria, name your issue.
sanctions is a component of the conversation. i think one interesting, it's a small point. it's an interesting reflection of this. there was legislation enacted earlier this year -- it was part of the big russia rkts, iran, north korea legislation. that made the secretary of the treasury a statutory member of the national security counsel. when the established in 1950, you'll know the answer to that. >> several decades ago. >> it was a list of cabinet officials who were statutory members. secretary of treasury was not. as a matter of practice over the years secretary of treasury and his dez knee. has been present for meetings. and deputies meetings what have you. it's now a reflected in law that treasury is in the nfc. there's a appreciation the
sanctions tool is a key part of what we do. in terms of the what has changed between the obama administration and the trump administration, one of the things we tried hard to do in the o palm administration was to use sanctions as a tool for broader policy objective. we were very cognizant sanctions are not a policy unto themselves. don't apply sanctions and hope something good will happen. you apply sanctions to troy to to do one of things. either to effect behavior, to try and persuade whoever is on the receiving end of the sanctions, to change what they're doing. whether it's a policy or conduct. and the other aboutive is to disrupt and disable. in particular you look at the counter terrorism financing sanctions. it's the principle objective was to cut off the line of finance. and so the best example in the
obama administration of how we tried to do this was with iran. the sanctions that we impose on iran and continue to ratchet up and expand and i think ways that we should talk about, was all part of what we call the dual track strategy. on the one hand to continue to apply increasing pressure on iran. but to always on the other side of the track offer the opportunity for engagement. and as everybody knows, we got to a point where the iranens said okay, we're ready to talk. after a number of fits and starts where the sanctions were not intense enough to get them over the hump. they got to the point where they understood that it was in their interest to negotiate. rather than to continue to defy the international community. so we tried to merge sanctions with a policy objective. now in the trump administration, it's still early. this may change as they sort of
find their footing. there's clearly a continued reliance on sanctions. you've seen it in venezuela where they have issued a really two different type of sanctions. the standard additional sanctions that are designed to disable and disrupt. recently just a few weeks ago some very interesting financial sanctions being the venezuela government ability to finance itself. there's a lot of continued use of sanctions in venezuela. talk in north korea. there's some discussion of course of whether to relieve the sanctions on russia. what we don't see quite yet is a close tie between the use of sanctions and a policy object i have. i have tried to figure out what the policy is in venezuela. and other than as an expression of revulsion of what's goeng on there, which is a worthy and
appropriate reaction. it's not clear to me that the sanctions that we're applying are designed to achieve a particular out come. like wise and we should talk about north korea as well. unclear how the sanctions that have been discussed with respect to north korea are tied to what our north korea policy is. that's in larnl large part because we don't know what the north korea policy is. that's a distinction that as i said may cure itself over time as the trump administration refines and defines its policy. to a greater extent in the various. but that's an area where i think there's a little difference. >> we certainly do see at the moment an effort. just today. over in new york at the united nations. the trump administration is seeking to in effect stiffen
sanctions, internationally. tied to your earlier question. number one, how important is the multi-lateralization of sanctions in order to achieve policy objectives and does it defer dramatically across different countries? number two, does that multi-lateralization process inherently require more strategic thinking what it comes to policy objective? >> the multi-lateralization of sanctions is essential. for them to be truly effective. one of the reasons that financial sanctions work, to be totally candid, is that we have the worlds most important economy, most important financial sector, the u.s. dollar is the current si of choice for a huge proportion of international transactions.
those dollar transactions whether you are the transaction is between belgium and. approximate it's a dollar denominated transaction it will come through new york. we have a enormous positional advantage in developing financial sanctions here in the united states. we have jurisdiction that expands around the world. that being said. for the sanctions to truly be effective, you need international buy in. you need other countries not just to be forced to have their businesses and their people subject in some respect to our sanctions. sp some instances. you want those countries to embrace the policy objective. that was critical in the iran context. and you can see as an importance part of the discussion with north korea. so the going back repeatedly to
the security counsel to get resolutions that impose sanctions. and that also importantly these resolutions don't just impose sanctions. they establish the international community's uniform judgment. on what north korea is doing. that is an important aspect of developing this policy consensus. that you have countries around the world to magnify what we're doing dmesically with what they can do in their own law. >> im getting a sense of number of one, when you're trying to impose and persecute your international strategy. you should have a strategy. the question is what the strategy is. it can be to achieve a certain foreign policy objective.
you implying that economic sanctions may not necessarily be the best tool to use if what you're trying to do is not necessarily change behavior, but to either express a program or punish. just for the sake of punishing. >> one of the fundamental sanctions is they're not punitive. the idea under lying sanctions is their administrative action. when the basic governing statute is the international economic powers act. that gives the president the authority to issue an executive that then delegates the authority to impose sanctions. it's an administrative process. the office of foreign assets control and treasury department is administrative agency that actually applies the sanctions based on the executive order that the president signs that
sets out the criteria. but the idea is that if the person who is subject to the sanction changes their behavior and is no longer doing whatever it is that got them sanctioned, that they will be the sanctions will be lifted. delisted. and every year delists hundreds and hundreds of people and companies because they have made the case they are no longer doing what it is that got them sanctioned. so, bearing in mind the idea behind sanctions is to change behavior. it isn't a great tool to punish. and frankly i think confuses the use of sanctions and in some respect impairs the ability to get international consensus around the use of sanctions. if it's viewed as purely a
punitive tool. >> to that end, and this gets back to the initial question. because i think there's a lot more to flush out. what is it about the sanctions i guess we can go country by country. do you see any limitation in the sanctions strategy. in terms of achieving even the objectives that you sought and colleagues sought in the obama administration. do you see deployment of sanctions strike thatty now. that would under mine some of the u.s. policy interests and strategy. that you have six to nine months ago? beginning i should start with north korea. >> so north korea is a really interesting case. north korea has been subject to sanctions for many years. and there's some view among
those who follow this that sanctions have been totally ineffective and sanctions cannot be part of the solution to north korea problem. my view is that's not right. that if you allow for the possibility that there is a negotiated resolution of some sort with north korea. that will temperature down the danger of a basically uncontrolled north korea nuclear and ballistic missile program. which is i think a very small possibility. today kim young is not so interested in about negotiating about his nuclear program. my view is that we should test that proposition. but to test it, we need to have a quality different approach to sanctions on north korea. not the continued additional
designations of this person or that entity or this bank. but to really significantly ramp up the pressure on north korea. it is doable. it is not the case that north korea is sanctioned out. or the most sanctioned country in the world or anything close. there's a lot that's left. >> i think a lot of people are curious now. what kinds of additional measures could be taken? >> we could essentially lsh let me back up. what north korea needs is the ability to sell arms, labor, and some text tiles. to earn cash around the world. it needs to then take that cash put it into foreign bank accounts, use it from the accounts to purchase things to then ship back to north korea. the economy is not
self-sufficient. north korea is relatively isolated, it cannot sustain itself on what it has dmesically. it needs to bring in both material from over seas to make the economy run. and importantly kim jong un needs to keep the party happy with him. they bribe them. it's about a $5 billion economy. that they're running annually. all of those transactions require access to the international financial system. the north korea wand is not accepted by anybody around the world. if you want to buy a mercedes to import. there isn't a mercedes dealer that will take that. they want dollars. what north korea needs to do is sell what they can sell. labor, arms, coal, whatever it maybe. earn foreign currency.
in a foreign bank account, spend out of that foreign bank account and bring that material into north korea. all of that is a vulnerable to sanctions in a way that we have not tried to go after. principlely through the use of secondary sanctions. secondary sanctions are designed to effect transactions that don't directly touch the united states. the best example going back to iran again, is we designated a business in iran for supporting iran n iran nuclear program. that entity is cut off in the u.s. any bank account they are in the u.s. is frozen. they are cut out of system. that's a pri hair sanction. the secondary sanction is a foreign business or bank, if you do business with that designated iran entity. doesn't have to involve the u.s.
in any way. if you do business with that entity, we're going to cut you off from the united states. very powerful tool. we use it to great effect in the iran context. we could use it in the north korea context. the rub and what makes it difficult frankly the reason it hasn't been done yet, is unlike iran which had sort of a net work of bapgs and businesses they dealt with around the world, north korea financial and business relationships are highly concentrated in china. 90 plus percent. that is their out let for financial transactions as well. so if we were to really try to squeeze north korea, by imposing secondary sanctions on those entities that are facilitying
the. we would be korea, we would be taking action against chinese entities. my view is that we need to bite the bullet and start doing some of that to persuade the chinese to be more aligned with us in trying to bring to bear the really intense pressure on north korea that will then put kim jong-un to the choice of does he want to continue the nuclear program, ballistic missile program at the risk of essentially the stability of his regime or like the leaders in iran does he want to explore the possibility of some kind of negotiated resolution where, you know, the sanctions get relieved in exchange for real serious constraints on his nuclear and ballistic missile program. >> certainly along those lines dpsh. >> that was a long answer -- >> no, but it was a fantastic
and very thoughtful and comprehensive answer, which raises a number of larger issues and also questions that are specific to china. one of the larger issues is the question given the prevalence and the popularity, the reliance of the u.s. dollar, to what extent do we -- or would the united states or should the united states consider more muscular approaches that leverage its strengths in the banking system as well as perhaps access to swift and payment systems. i know that's generated a lot of controversy with our european friends. then related to that issue is china's efforts to build up its own international financial infrastructure for its currency. the renminbi, to sort of popularize it. at what point in time does that provide an alternative outlet for financial transactions parallel to the united states?
>> that's one of the real interesting questions about the long term utility of financial sanctions. is does it spur the development of alternative systems for international transactions? does it reduce the use of the u.s. dollar as the world's reserve currency. the renminbi coming, there was a period we thought the euro would overtake it. but that seems not to be much of a risk today. but it's both the currency and sort of clearing and settlement systems that can grow up that exclude the united states. i think it's a super interesting question. it's one that i think economists have debated. i think there's a real risk to it. but the way to reduce that risk is to go back to something we were talking about earlier is to
ensure that you have policy agreements internationally, multilateral policy agreements, about the objective that you're using sanctions to achieve. if you have that then the incentive to find a way to protect yourself and protect your businesses in your financial institutions from the reach of u.s. sanctions is reduced because they're not just u.s. sanctions. they're international sanctions. and the institutions that are on the receiving end of sanctions are ones that you, the foreign country, agree have earned that penalty. but there's a real risk there. and i think it's one that we need to be mindful of as a country as we continue to use sanctions. >> and it's part of that larger dialogue and one of the strategic questions with sanctions on north korea, the
united states points to more that china can do. china points to what it thinks the united states can be doing a little more. it sounds like what you're really doing is saying they both perhaps have a point in the sense of the united states in terms of its imposition of its sanctions but also working with the chinese in their own backyard. >> the chinese have a very legitimate perspective on north korea. it's a neighbor. they have concern about the north korean society such as it is, you know, collapsing. refugee flows. i think they have concern about the collapse of the north korean government and a bunch of loose nukes. i think we share some of those concerns. chinese are also worried about what comes next. is there a unified korean peninsula under seoul's leadership. something they are not terribly
interested in. what we need to do with the chinese and frankly the lack of personnel in key positions in our government make this more difficult but what we need to do with the chinese is to work the diplomatic angle with the chinese and say we understand your concerns. you need to understand our concerns. how seriously we're taking this. we feel compelled to do more here. we don't relish putting sanctions on chinese entities. but we're going to have to do this if you don't help us with a approach to the north korea problem that puts us in control. now, it ain't easy, right? even if the chinese were to say to us we're on board 100%, let's do it.
there's a lot of work that needs to get done there. the relationship to the chinese and the north koreans, particularly kim jong-un is not great. but we can't solve this problem without the chinese coming along with us. i think there's a combination of things with the chinese that we need to deploy. >> moving a little further afield to russia and returning to this question about strategy as well as the actual instrument, your observation that the tactic is not the end. what do you see -- number one, i think that from an outside observer that the russia sanctions issue is complicated in large part because you have on the one hand issues tied to ukraine while at the same time here domestically you have questions about the hacking during the election. for the record, was there hacking during the election?
>> yeah. >> okay. [ laughter ] i'm trying to establish facts. >> right. i will say, one of the -- i would encourage everybody if they haven't done it to read the declassified version of the intelligence community assessment that was issued on january 6th of this year. it is -- yeah. having seen the highly classified version, i can tell you the declassified version is really good. it is the -- it has the essence of the report that was provided to then president-elect trump and president obama. and it concludes with high confidence, and this was the cia, the nsa, the fbi, and the dni, that putin himself set out to interfere in our
election and did so -- i'm not going the get the language precisely right -- but did so through the use of info-ops. the first objective was to undermine our democracy. right? it was not a clinton-trump thing. the number one objective was to undermine our democracy. the number two objective was to harm clinton and correspondingly to help trump. that objective of undermining our democracy is still the russians' objective. they're still at it. they're at at here. they're at it overseas. they have been doing it overseas previously. it is a hugely important national security issue for this country. and i get sort of pissed off frankly when i talk about this. the fact that this country and this government and this
administration, current administration, hasn't gone after this issue like the national security threat that it is is deeply disturbing. because what the russians want more than anything is to destabilize this country. and we saw it in the last election. we're going to see it again in the 2018 election. we see it in europe. this is the russians' m.o. they are very good at it. and if we continue to sort of blithely think that we can ignore this and not take it seriously -- and to some extent i don't want to paint with too broad a brush. there are those who are taking it quite seriously. it's going to get worse. and we as a country need to recognize that. >> certainly there were some steps taken by the congress. >> yep. sorry, you had a question?
>> in light of the national security threat posed by not just past interference and our national dialogue in terms of moving through that interference but also preparing ourselves for a potential second or third wave of interference, i guess number one, and i think i'm trying to, to the extent possible, and you can tell me whether or not it's not a correct way, i'm going to try to disentangle ukraine for the moment from the hacking. and you can tell me if that's a wise way of taking it. but i'll just focus for ton the hacking for the moment. how would you view the steps that have been taken if not through the executive branch, at least through the congressional branch. >> on the hacking? >> yes. >> the congressional steps i think have been -- it's a work in progress. i would say. i think you've got both the
senate and the house intelligence committees in the course of inquiries. i think the senate is probably further along than the house on this. it will be interesting to see what they come up at the end for recommendations. one good recommendation that's out there right now is for there to be an obligation on the intelligence community to report out if there is intelligence showing that the -- any foreign government is interfering in the election through use of cyber or other means. it's one of the things we confronted was there was no playbook for this. and we saw this. we wanted to -- working with obviously the policy makers in the white house, we wanted to alert the american people to what was going on. but we were hugely cognizant of the risk that doing so could be viewed in the context of an election as a political move.
and we were absolutely dead set that we were not going to let this -- let the intelligence community and our assessment of what the russians were doing be viewed as a political step because it wasn't. and so we -- there was the october 6th statement or october 7th statement from the dni and dhs. it was -- there was a lot of difficulty in sort of figuring out how to do this. i think one thing that congress has been thinking about is a requirement to report out so that my successors don't have this difficult decision about whether to speak or not. legislatively and i think this is where the cyber and the ukraine issue come together. congress did in the legislation
that was passed the month and a half ago have some provisions in there on cyberhacking. they were mostly codifications of existing executive orders. they didn't do much to give new tools essentially or to impose any sanctions. can i use just a little digression -- >> please. >> -- onto the legislative side of things? one of the trends in sanctions right now that i think is worrisome is the role that congress is playing. let me be clear about this. congress has a hugely important role in foreign policy and in sanctions policy in particular. legislation that congress has enacted over the years has been enormously helpful whether it's what we talked
about earlier or laws that were passed in the obama administration that gave us new tools to, particularly in the iran context go after iranian oil sales and go after the ability of the iranians to earn revenue from the oil they were able to sell. that legislation was crafted in way with a lot of interchange of back and forth with the treasury department that allowed there to be some flexible application of the tools. it gave the executive the ability to turn up, turn down, modify within the parameters that congress set which is entirely appropriate but allowed the executive to execute the laws and to be able to have some nuance in how this played out. the russia legislation that congress enacted earlier this year the president signed because he had no choice.
by a hugely veto-proof majority it was passed. moved congress into a place where they are much more prescriptive in what the executive needed to do. there's still a bit of play but it's much more narrowly down. they tried to make it mandatory. mandatory secondary sanctions. i think really in a worrisome way, procedural congress took on the role of checking the executive and checking the treasury on either licenses that both made grant to relieve a bit
approach to russia that congress felt the need to sort of tighten down the sanctions legislation in such way that becomes very difficult for the administration now to use that tool in the flexible way well designed sanctions authorities can be used. >> in other words, by keeping a check on being able to unwind the pressure it also, at the same time, is a tool for economic diplomacy. you're trying to figure out a way to change that behavior. there's really not a lot on the table that the president can offer. >> in the iran negotiations the basic trade was we will relieve sanctions in you change your behavior. in much more micro sense, i had any number of conversations with financial institutions and others where i made very clear that if you proceed down this path, sanctions will result. if you proceed down this path, we'll be able to relieve them. if my successor doesn't have that flexibility to use sanctions in the way they were designed which is to change behavior, if it sort of locks in what is essentially a punishment
then you've fundamentally altered the sanctions tool in a way that i think makes it much less useful for us going forward. >> i guess i'll end with one sort of series of questions that are tied together. when we were discussing north korea and north korea sanctions we talked about how important it was to have the chinese on our side even though they are effectively a third party, certainly the nuclearization the korean peninsula has global implications. when it comes to russia the europeans are very much involved. they have their own interest and there are challenges when it comes to multi-lateralizing sanctions in a way that gets some of our european partners on board. maybe if you could just offer one or two comments or observations as to how that can
be implemented and then finally, even as you return to private practice, lots of private market participants have questions both about the evolution of sanctions, the clarity of policy that would allow them to sort of stay ahead of the regulatory curve. how do you go about dealing with that particularly challenge? >> it's interesting. those two things are closely tied. the market participants and how the europeans look at sanctions. they are, as a rule the europeans tend to be much more responsive to the concerns of their business community than we have been here. in the russia sanctions, we spent a lot of time working with the eu to try to have as much parity between what we were doing on russia sanctions and what the europeans were doing. and we got basically there. excuse me. and to some extent what the europeans were willing to do was
a governor on what we were prepared to do. because we didn't want to get out ahead of the europeans. and if you look at comparative economic exposure, europeans are way more exposed to russia than we were, and if we weren't prepared to take a certain step it didn't make any sense for us to do it. in that context we worked very hard to try to have an ongoing dialogue with european counterparts at the eu level or the member state level to ensure that we were walking more or less in lock-step. again, that was in part because europeans were hearing from their businesses that had much more exposure to russia about the impact there. another sort of interesting side effect of the evolution of sanctions from broad sort of trade embargoes to what we have
today, which are much more tailored, much more specific and frankly much more complex sanctions is that for businesses operating in the international environment it is a much -- it's a much more difficult environment to navigate. if it was a cuba embargo which said thou shall not sell anything to cuba, pretty easy to figure out what you're supposed to do. the russia sanctions, or what the administration just did in venezuela, which were a series of sanctions on the venezuelan government and the venezuelan oil companies, access to the u.s. capital markets, that's a really sort of complex application of a sanctions tool that i think is smart. it was sort of a cut and paste job from the russia sanctions to the venezuela sanctions.
i mean that actually in a positive sense. because i think the russia sanctions were pretty innovative and smart and i think using it in the venezuela context could be smart as well. but it's a complex environment now particularly for u.s. institutions to navigate. >> with that i know we have a good number of folks here from the press as well as students. we have two microphones. we really ask you go to the microphones to ask any questions you may have and to identify yourself. and we already have someone up to bat. >> thank you so much. josh rogan, "washington post." thank you for your time today and thank you for your service. i want to ask you about the iran nuclear deal and the sanctions related to that, the jcpoa. you may have followed -- of course you never know what president trump is going to do until he does it. but if we read the tea leaves and hear what ambassador nikki haley said last week at the american enterprise institute,
it seems clear they're heading to this policy somewhere between just tanking the deal and endorising it. they call it waive the sanctions, decertify the deal, kick it to congress, congress can then either put on the sanctions or do nothing or put on different sanctions that aren't the nuclear sanctions but they're -- still sends a message. this is what's going on. does any of that make sense to you? does it seem like from the perspective of someone who was instrumental in sort of how the jcpoa and the sanctions came about, that seem like it's going to work, a middle road approach where the trump administration sort of disparages the deal but then tries to save it but then kicks it to congress, never knows what's going to happen? how do you see that playing out? thank you. >> i think it's too clever by half. that if the administration wants to tank the deal and give it to congress to figure out how to,
you know, reimpose sanctions, it doesn't -- it doesn't get them away from the problem that the rest of the world is not prepared to back away from this deal and doesn't see any reason to do so. last week the iaea came out with its latest report on iran's compliance with the deal and the iaea said iran is complying with its obligations in the deal. that is going to be persuasive to the europeans and the russians and chinese and others who are not participants in the negotiation. and the trump administration, particularly as i've written, concluding based on the president's sort of preordained request that iran's not complying with the deal, is
going to -- will persuade no one around the world. so the difficulty is -- we can then -- this goes back to what we talked about earlier. we can then reimpose sanctions. and you know, congress has shown over the years a great interest in imposing sanctions on iran. for all i know they will do so again. but it's not going to bring the world along with us. and what works previously, we had the world with us. that's the pressure that led to the negotiations. the trump administration's idea that we will somehow get a better deal, we're going to back out of this one, renegotiate and get a better one, we'd need leverage to get a better deal. that leverage is -- at least part of that leverage comes from sanctions pressure. i don't think we're going to be able to regenerate effective sanctions pressure on iran. in the meantime, we're going to create a whole bunch of friction with allies and quasi-allies.
i am not sanguine about this move. >> jessica schullberg. thank you for coming. you mentioned toward the beginning of your remarks that you think it's time to sort of turn up the heat on north korea specifically with regards to china, that we sort of tried everything else and there's a lot more -- >> okay. >> you mentioned toward the beginning of your remarks that you think we should turn up the heat on china with relation to north korea and there's a lot more they could do in terms of sanction policy and we could do through secondary sanctions. can you describe what the thinking was during the obama administration on this? they obviously did not do this and obviously there's a lot of talk on this, what was the hesitate tans, where was it
coming from, what was the reason that policy ultimately was not taken? >> the debate about what to do to try to bring china more into the game on north korea has to be -- has to be considered in light of all we've got going on in china. and you know, that means trade issues, south china sea. it means cyber issues. it means china's relation with its neighbors in the region. the one belt, one road initiative. we have a huge number of really important issues with china. and you can't put pressure on all of those issues
simultaneously. you've got to pick and choose a little bit. that was the debate then. that's the debate now. you know, it ought to be the debate now. obviously not in the room. that i'm sure these other considerations are being brought to the fore. and so my personal view is that we need to prioritize the north korean nuclear issue. that means we are going to let other stuff go. there's -- you can try to thread those needles as best you can. but you can't do everything. and i think that's the fundamental conundrum in this. we've done a lot of things with china that matter a lot to us. we just have to take a sort of clear-eyed view of what the
north korean threat is and what we want to do about it. can i just say one other thing about the north korean threat? for sure a north korea with a nuclear-capable icbm that can range the u.s. is a serious problem. we as we sort of figure out what to do about this in the near term need to avoid taking what is an urgent and important national security problem and turning it into a crisis. the best way to do that is to make kim jong un think that we are about to invade and overthrow his regime. we were talking earlier about there being a little bit of policy churn on the north korea issue. you've seen some people in the administration talk about diplomacy and sanctions. those tend to be the people in
the military. and you've seen other people in the military talking about locked and loaded and fire and fury. those tend to be people who don't have any experience with military matters. and i think we need to be careful that we don't in this period where we're trying to figure out if there is a way to try to reduce the risk of the north korean nuclear and ballistic missile program, we don't inadvertently get ourselves sort of -- get ourselves into a shooting war with north korea. that would be a disaster. >> thank you. my name is steve hirsch. i'm a freelance journalist. >> we've got to get -- >> what? >> go head. but we've got to get some students. >> could you tell me, your appointment as deputy director, as a sanctions guy, as deputy director, cia, did that reflect
some sort of shift in intelligence do you think and if it did do you think that shift has continued? >> so i don't don't -- you know, this is going to be a really unsatisfying answer. i think the answer is no. i don't think my appointment as deputy director was because of the work i -- it wasn't to bring sort of financial sanctions into the agency. i think it was a whole host of other reasons director bennett reached out to me. but it wasn't that there was a view, i don't think, and someone should ask john this question. i never actually asked him this question. but i don't think it was gee, we've got this hole we need to fill in the agency on financial intelligence and financial sanctions and let's bring this guy in, he'll fill that hole. i don't think that's what it was. >> thanks. >> my name is freddie whittlow. i'm an administrative assistant here. my question is with regards to
threat to russia, you see a very troubling trend in the trump administration of several apoll jifts for russia in particular. everything from kind of a passive oh, shucks, it's just putin, to apologists going all the way back to the election campaign with manafort, bannon, flynn, so on. thankfully should? have been shown the door now. but at what point is this administration going to actually start addressing the russian threat up front? so you see this -- you see statements from mattis, for example, who are completely contrary to the kind of passive nature. at what point, or what is it going to take for the united states to quit playing defense with the russians in particular and start going on the offense and start making it clear there's going to be a very steep price for meddling in our affairs and meddling in the affairs of our allies? >> i don't know the answer to that question.
i left on january 20th at 11:59 a.m. i've not been part of this current administration. and as i said earlier, i do think that there's -- that there is a need, you know, in particular on the cyber-enabled information operation front for a more robust response and equally importantly to get ourselves into a position to defend ourselves better. i mean, one of the things that i've heard people say, which i disagree with, which is that the russians have been at this for a long time, some would say this is nothing new, they've done this before. i just think that fundamentally misses the point. this is -- for sure the russians have done information ops in the past. you know, they used to try to
infiltrate student groups or whatever. but this was an attack on our democracy. and it was a -- it was very sophisticated. and it was using tools and means that didn't exist previously. and that's something i think we need to come to grips with as a country. but to answer your question, i don't know when or if this administration is going to, yeah, take a more aggressive posture on that issue. >> okay. i think we have about four more minutes. so perhaps we can take all three questions and bring them your way. >> okay. thanks. this is ellen knack shooema with the "washington post." not to double-team you here. but following up on this question, staying on the russian
theme, you said earlier that you found it deeply disturbing that this information had not gone after this issue on russia. what more would you like to see them do, do you think they can do? and why didn't the obama administration do so? or perhaps you did consider it. and if so, can you let us know that? >> i'm just going to have all three and then you can -- >> okay. >> my question deals with north korea. >> would you identify yourself? >> oh. i'm susan. i'm an alum. >> alum? >> an alum. of the law school. >> okay. >> of the law school. yeah. but my question is dealing with north korea and pressure on china. if china's interests are actually against a unified korea in the south, what do you believe that sanctions will accomplish as opposed to a carrot? and what are some carrots that might exist? because constantly pressuring china to do something they don't
want to do, maybe the opposite would be more helpful. >> hi. my name is hadu kamal. i'm from saudi arabia. and i'm a 2l student. thanks for being here. i'm runniwriting a paper on sans for my national security course. and my question seems -- it seems to me that just from the data i have that sanctions on, for example, iran and north korea haven't really prevented them from getting to their goals. their ultimate goals of getting nuclear power. so i don't see sanctions being as effective as you would imagine them to be. so should policy change on sanctions or should there be more engagement? how effective are sanctions essentially? thank you. >> so let me try to do these in reverse order and do them quickly. the question about the
effectiveness of sanctions is a complicated one because i think you need to control for a number of different variables. you need to control for the type of sanction that is being applied. and so you can't -- i don't think you can compare, you know, the iran sanctions to the cuba sanctions. either what's called sanctions. but it's -- the analogy i have, i recently read this book called "the emperor of all maladies," the history of cancer. it's a great book. won the pulitzer prize. cancer covers like a huge range of different problems. and calling something a sanction covers a huge range of different actual policy tools. so i think you need to control for that variable. you need to control for what the policy objective is. right? what are you trying to have the sanctions accomplish? if what you're trying to do is end a nuclear program, that's
one thing. if what you're trying to do is to disable someone's ability to fund terrorism, that's a different problem. and so -- you sort of go down the list. i think there is no sort of one sort of pat answer to whether sanctions are effective or can be effective. i think properly tailored sanctions used in the -- in an appropriate foreign policy and national security context with sort of enough flexibility given to the treasury department and others in the administration to apply them in a way that it is flexible, i think that -- i believe the sanctions can be quite effective. but you can also make a hash of it. and i just think you've got to figure out how to do it the
right way. north korea and china, if i understood the question, for the chinese to sort of have them be more a part of the effort here to put some constraints on north korea's nuclear program and ultimately get to the complete and verifiable denuclearization of the peninsula, it has to be a combination of carrots and sticks. we're not going to get the chinese to work with us purely by imposing sanctions, saekdry sanctions on their businesses and their financial institutions. and nor frankly should we want to do that. it would be enormously disruptive to the united states as well if we, you know, went sort of up the chain to some of the bigger chinese institutions.
so i think i said this earlier. we need a comprehensive diplomatic approach to china. that includes both carrots and sticks to bring them along on this effort. and it will involve tradeoffs on other issues. what more can be done -- where did she go? there she is. what more can be done or what more, you know, could the obama administration have done? look, it was getting toward the end. and we took some steps, but we were also mindful that there was a new administration coming in and we were hopeful that they would recognize the significance of this issue and wanted to leave some opportunity for the new president and his team to
demonstrate that they too found the russian interference in the election to be intolerable. so i think there's a lot more that can yet be done. >> [ inaudible ]. >> so i'm not going to -- there are a lot of things that can be done. there are things in the sanctions realm. there are -- there are things in the policy realm. there are things in sort of a cross -- if you think akrcross e tools of american power that we can do. yeah. i'm not prepared to sort of give a prescription of the specific steps that this administration can do today.
but there's a lot that's left in the chamber that hasn't been used. >> and one thing that cannot be done is an extension of our time. but thank you so very much, david, for coming. thank you all. this was a wonderful conversation. >> thank you. [ room noise ] c-span's "washington journal," live every day with news and policy issues that impact you. coming up wednesday morning, "washington post" technology reporter brian fung discusses the recent equifax data breach. then pennsylvania democratic congressman brendan boyle, a
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