The U.S. still buys certain rocket engines from Russia for rockets that, among other things, launch U.S. satellites. This has gotten various Hill types, including Senator John McCain, all worked up and provides an opportunity for them to demonstrate their lack of knowledge about the current sanctions against Russia.

Indeed, Senator McCain a few days ago launched a letter to OFAC demanding that they justify this “selective enforcement of sanctions.” The problem, as the Senator thinks he sees it, is that Sergei Chemezov, who is on the SDN List, is on the Board of Directors of Roscosmos, which makes the engines. Novikombank, which is on the Sectoral Sanctions Identifications List, as is its owner Rostec, finances Roscosmos. So, according to Senator McCain, it’s game over, case closed, for Roscosmos:

[W]e are funneling U.S. taxpayer dollars to a Russian space agency that is financed by a sanctioned Russian bank, which is owned by a sanctioned Russian defense company, and which is controlled by a sanctioned Russian CEO, who also happens to be a close personal friend of Vladimir Putin.

Why this is “selective enforcement” of the Crimea sanctions is far from clear. To begin with, Senator McCain lumps the SDN List and the SSI List together as equivalent sanctions, which they aren’t. A company owned by one on the SSI List is not automatically blocked or even put on the SSI List. Next, he doesn’t understand OFAC’s guidance which blocks companies that are owned 50 percent or more by blocked companies; it does not automatically block companies controlled by blocked entities. So Roscosmos isn’t automatically blocked because it’s financed by an unblocked bank on the SSI List that is owned by another entity (Rostec) on the SSI List just because Rostec is controlled by an SDN.

Now, leaving aside whether this is “selective enforcement,” which it’s not, there may be an argument, perhaps, that OFAC ought to sanction Roscosmos because of its connections with these companies. This is something OFAC has the discretion to do but which it is not required to do and which would not make it guilty of “selective enforcement” if it does not. Still, that question is not simply answered by looking around and pointing to all of Roscosmos’s unsavory connections. If Roscosmos produces something that the United States needs, then to target Roscosmos in that situation would be, as they (sorta) say, targeting your own foot.