The U.S. tech sector pushed the government to keep ties with Russia’s spy agency, despite reports that Moscow meddled in the U.S. presidential election, Reuters reported Friday. The sanctions imposed on Russia by the Obama administration last December outlawed U.S. companies from having relationships with Russia’s spy agency, the Federal Security Service (FSB), which presented a dilemma to Western tech companies. Reuters says, the FSB also acts as a regulator that approves the importing of technology to Russia that contains encryption, which is used in products such as cellphones and laptops. Joel Schectman, Dustin Volz and Jack Stubbs, reporting for Reuters: Worried about the sales impact, business industry groups, including the U.S.-Russia Business Council and the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia, contacted U.S. officials at the American embassy in Moscow and the Treasury, State and Commerce departments, according to five people with direct knowledge of the lobbying effort. The campaign, which began in January and proved successful in a matter of weeks, has not been previously reported. […] The sanctions would have meant the Russian market was “dead for U.S. electronics” said Alexis Rodzianko, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia, who argued against the new restrictions. “Every second Russian has an iPhone, iPad, so they would all switch to Samsungs,” he said. […] The lobbyists argued the sanction could have stopped the sale of cars, medical devices and heavy equipment, all of which also often contain encrypted software, according to a person involved in the lobbying effort. The goal of the sanctions was to sever U.S. business dealings with the FSB — not end American technology exports to Russia entirely, the industry groups argued. “The sanction was against a government agency that has many functions, only one of them being hacking the U.S. elections,” said Rodzianko.
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