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News > World

Trump Signs Sanctions Bill as Russia Blasts 'Trade War'

  • "Some of the U.S. officials were saying that this is a bill that might encourage Russia to cooperate... This is a strange form of encouragement," the Russian ambassador said. | Photo: Reuters

Published 2 August 2017

Russian Prime Minister Medvedev said the sanctions end hopes of improved relations with the Trump administration, which he called “utterly impotent.”

U.S. President Donald Trump signed off on new unilateral sanctions against Russia overwhelmingly passed by the House of Representatives and Senate in a bipartisan move that has plunged ties between Washington and Moscow to a new low.

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Trump's reluctance was on full display in an angry signing statement at the White House, in which he called the legislation "significantly flawed” and filled with various “clearly unconstitutional provisions.”

The legislation, titled the "Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act" – which also includes measures against North Korea and Iran – targets the Russian energy sector, giving Washington the ability to sanction companies involved in developing Russian pipelines, and placing curbs on some Russian weapons exporters. It also notably constrains Trump's ability to waive the penalties, a statement of mistrust from the Republican-controlled Congress, which remains unsettled by Trump's warm words for President Vladimir Putin.

"I built a truly great company worth many billions of dollars. That is a big part of the reason I was elected. As president, I can make far better deals with foreign countries than Congress," Trump claimed.

Moscow's reaction to the bill was icy, as evidenced in a Facebook post by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who noted that "a fully-fledged trade war has been declared on Russia" and that the sanctions "ended Russian hopes for an improvement in relations with the new U.S. administration," which he characterized as “utterly impotent.”

Russia's newly-appointed permanent representative to the United Nations, Vassily Nebenzia, likewise highlighted the damaging nature of the sanctions, telling reporters in New York that history proves the Russians “do not bend and do not break.”

"Some of the U.S. officials were saying that this is a bill that might encourage Russia to cooperate... This is a strange form of encouragement," the ambassador continued. “But it is not our habit to be resentful children.”

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Expecting the signature, Moscow preemptively ordered Washington to reduce its diplomatic presence in Russia to 455 persons before September 1 — bringing it in line with the size of Russia’s mission in the U.S.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday he will meet with his Russian counterpart Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov over the weekend, but warned U.S.-Russia ties could still get worse.

Russian and European analysts say the sanctions reflect an ulterior motive whereby the European Union, denied access to Russian liquefied gas, will be forced to purchase energy products from the U.S. instead.

Western businesses working with Russia's Gazprom to build the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline between Russia and Germany through the Baltic Sea would also face sanctions. The United States has long opposed the pipeline, arguing that Western allies should diversify energy sources away from Russia.

"We consider this as being against international law, plain and simple," German Economic Minister Brigitte Zypries said Monday. "Of course, we don't want a trade war. But it is important the European Commission now looks into countermeasures."

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has likewise warned that "if our concerns are not taken into account sufficiently, we stand ready to act appropriately within a matter of days."

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