Steven Mnuchin. (Photographer: Toya Sarno Jordan/Bloomberg)

Mnuchin Says Russian Oligarchs Sanctions Had Impact U.S. Wanted

(Bloomberg) -- U.S. sanctions on Russian oligarchs that sent the ruble tumbling and roiled metals markets had the effect the Trump administration wanted, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.

Mnuchin, speaking in an interview broadcast Thursday on Fox Business, said that the sanctions against tycoons close to the Russian government had the “necessary impact.”

He didn’t rule out additional financial penalties, saying the administration “is not afraid to use these tools -- we will use these tools -- but we’re not going to broadcast to the world our exact thinking.”

The sanctions, imposed April 6, included among their targets Oleg Deripaska, the billionaire founder and majority shareholder of En+ Group Plc, a key aluminum company in Russia.

The ruble has fallen 8.3 percent since the penalties were imposed, and commodities markets have been rocked for the past two weeks by the clampdown on Rusal, the largest aluminum supplier outside China. The move set off a rush for alternative supplies and stirring concern that further U.S. action could affect other markets like nickel.

The London Metal Exchange’s 3-month forward contract for aluminum is up 22 percent since the sanctions were imposed.

The sanctions have cast a pall over Russian markets, as investors try to gauge whether more penalties are in the pipeline and which companies or individuals might be targeted. The Russian Finance Ministry canceled a debt auction for the first time since 2015.

The Trump administration didn’t proceed with sanctions against Russia that U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley announced Sunday because “we refined the strategy” after she spoke, Mnuchin also said in the interview.

“We had meetings all last week at the National Security Council with Nikki and I participating on the overall strategy with Syria,” Mnuchin said. “We refined the strategy after Nikki made that announcement.”

Conflicting signals on the sanctions set off a public spat between Haley and Larry Kudlow, Trump’s top economic adviser. Haley said Sunday the administration would impose more sanctions on Russia and Mnuchin “will be announcing those on Monday, if he hasn’t already.”

No sanctions followed and Kudlow said Haley had “some momentary confusion” about the sanctions. She retorted “with all due respect, I don’t get confused” in a statement to Fox News.

Mnuchin said Haley “wasn’t left twisting in the wind.”

“This was a fluid situation, the decision changed,” Mnuchin added. “There are classified issues. I’m not prepared to go through all these.”

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