Ex-U.S. envoy Huntsman urges rethink of Russia sanctions in WSJ op-ed

FILE PHOTO: U.S. ambassador to Russia Huntsman speaks outside Lefortovo prison after visiting former U.S. Marine Whelan, who was detained and accused of espionage, in Moscow

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Days after ending his term in Moscow, former United States ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman has urged Washington to review its sanctions-dominated approach to Russia, questioning its efficiency and calling for dialogue.

The U.S. has placed multiple layers of sanctions on Russia, its senior officials and largest companies, as well as businessmen it views as connected to the Kremlin, the bulk of them linked to Moscow's role in the Ukrainian crisis which began in 2014 and has yet to be resolved.

In a column https://www.wsj.com/articles/america-needs-dialogue-with-moscow-11570488054 for the Wall Street Journal published on Monday, Huntsman argued that "sanctions have become our go-to foreign policy tool to admonish misbehavior" but not all of them are having the desired effect.

"It's easy to initiate sanctions, but it has become politically perilous to discuss removing them," Huntsman wrote.

"By last count, there are almost 850 Russian individuals and entities that have been designated under various sanctions authorities, with little or no analysis measuring their efficacy."

While many of those measures may be having the desired effect and should be maintained, not all of them do, he argued.

"My embassy colleagues and I heard the same refrain over and over - that in some cases U.S. sanctions are having the opposite of their intended effect, forcing capital back to Russia, buoying Russian domestic sectors and disadvantaging U.S. businesses seeking to gain a strategic market foothold," Huntsman wrote.

Unilateral sanctions won't succeed in changing the behavior of Russian President Vladimir Putin or that of his government, Hunstman said, and leave little space for Washington to "cultivate constructive relationships with those who will shape Russia's post-Putin period".

"The U.S. was caught off guard by Mr. Putin's unexpected rise to power after the collapse of the Soviet Union. We can't afford to let that happen again," Huntsman wrote.

"Smart diplomacy thus far has managed to keep us from war, but I worry the current estrangement will limit our options for strategic engagement in the years ahead."

The Kremlin has repeatedly criticized U.S. sanctions as counterproductive and said its own actions were in line with international law.

(Reporting by Tom Balmforth and Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Katya Golubkova and Bernadette Baum)