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Treasury Dept. to Allow U.S. Companies to Do Business With Russian Security Service

by Peter Alexander. /  / Updated 
Russian President Vladimir Putin watches the opening ceremony of natural gas pipeline from Russia to Crimea during a live video link from the Kremlin in Moscow on Dec. 27, 2016.Alexei Druzhinin / Sputnik via AP

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The U.S. Treasury Department announced Thursday it will allow some American companies to do limited transactions with the Russian Security Service, or FSB — the successor organization to the infamous KGB.

The Treasury will let U.S. companies work with the Russian intelligence service on transactions necessary to approve importing certain information technology products into Russia.

The broader impact is still unclear. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters on Thursday that the move is "a very common practice" and the administration characterized the efforts as a technical fix necessary to avoid unintended consequences of cyber-sanctions.

Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, who has long been critical of Russia's purported hacking, said that, at first blush, the changes do indeed seem to be merely a "technical fix."

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The move comes just a few weeks after the Obama administration put in place sweeping sanctions against Russia, aimed at Moscow's intelligence community in retaliation for what the White House said were hacking attacks designed to meddle in the U.S. presidential election.

Those sanctions included the GRU, the Russian military intelligence service, and four high-ranking officers of the organization and the FSB.

While the modifying of sanctions against Russia may be a "technical fix," it is being viewed in Russia with interest.

This paves the way to setting up an anti-terrorism coalition, member of the State Duma, and former director of the FSB Nikolai Kovalyov told TASS, a state-owned media outlet.

"This shows that actual joint work on establishing an anti-terrorism coalition is about to begin," Kovalyov said. "This is the first step on the way leading to cooperation in the war on terror."

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, speaking to a state-owned media outlet, said Russia wants to first "understand what is it about."

"We know from the example of rocket engines that American partners never put what they need under sanctions," he said.

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