US tightens export controls for Russia, Yemen

The Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) is undertaking a comprehensive review of all Country Groups in the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) to ensure they reflect current U.S. national security and foreign policy interests.

BIS is reassigning Russia from more favorable treatment under Country Groups A:2 and A:4 lists to the restrictive Country Groups D:2 and D:4 lists based on U.S. nuclear and missile technology proliferation concerns.

“These amendments are consistent with the purpose of this rule to address U.S. concerns about Russia’s lack of cooperation and accountability for U.S.-origin items and diversion to unauthorized or prohibited proliferation activities, end uses, and end users,” BIS said in a Federal Register notice on Monday. “Specifically, Russia has not been cooperative in allowing BIS to perform pre-license checks and post-shipment verifications related to U.S.-origin goods.”

The Trump administration has voiced concern about Russian security services agents allegedly using dangerous nuclear, biological and chemical weapons-grade materials to carry out attacks against overseas adversaries to the regime.

The British government alleged that Russia was directly linked to the use of a “novichok” nerve agent in attacking former Russian spy Sergi Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal in the United Kingdom on March 4, 2018. Both Skirpal and his daughter barely survived.

In the same rule, BIS has shifted Yemen from the Country Group B list to the D:1 list. This means Yemen will no longer have access to U.S. export license exceptions for low-value shipments, shipments to other Country Group B countries, and technology and software under restriction.

“These changes are being made to address concerns about diversion of U.S.-origin items in Yemen for unauthorized purposes, including prohibited proliferation activities, end uses and end users,” BIS said. “In addition, there are concerns about the diversion to unauthorized and prohibited end uses and users of U.S.-origin items controlled for national security reasons.”

The department said U.S. exporters may continue to use existing license exceptions for Russia and Yemen through midnight March 25. Afterward, they will be required to apply for licenses in accordance with the new rule.