Chabad initially brought suit in US federal courts against Russia to secure the return of two collections of books and manuscripts held in Moscow. In 2009, Russia abandoned the case and Chabad was granted a default judgment ordering Russia “to surrender [the collections] to the United States Embassy in Moscow or to the duly appointed representatives of [Chabad].” After Russia refused to comply with the order, Chabad asked the court to enforce the judgment through imposing sanctions on Russia, the court asked the Obama administration to weigh in.
According to a recent article in The Art Newspaper, the Obama administration told the court to stay out of it. Although the government indicated that it supports Chabad’s claim to the collections, it is concerned about the possible impact on foreign policy. The government indicated that “it is the United States’ judgment that the imposition of the requested civil contempt sanctions against Russia would be counter-productive to [diplomatic] efforts, as well as for related issues such as the continuing Russian embargo on art loans to the United States.”