Moscow and EU warns US over new Russia sanctions
While Moscow and Tehran raise prospect of retaliation over fresh punitive measures; the EU says it is ‘ready to act to protect European interests’ if US legislation hits dealings with Russian energy sector
Moscow, Russia - Moscow and the European Union hit out at the United States on Wednesday after an overwhelming vote by the House of Representatives to impose new sanctions on Russia left President Donald Trump facing a tough call.
The package, which targets Russia, Iran and North Korea, ‘tightens the screws on our most dangerous adversaries in order to keep Americans safe,’ House Speaker Paul Ryan said after it passed on Tuesday by 419 votes to three.
It now heads to the Senate before Trump faces the tricky choice of whether to veto the bill, which has been opposed by the White House and considerably constrains his ability to lift the penalties.
While Moscow and Tehran raised the prospect of retaliation over any fresh punitive measures, the EU also warned it was ‘ready to act to protect European interests’ if the legislation hit dealings with the Russian energy sector.
The US bill was the result of a congressional compromise aimed at punishing the Kremlin for allegedly interfering in the 2016 US presidential election and intervening in Ukraine.
Key among the provisions is one that handcuffs Trump by complicating any unilateral efforts to ease sanctions against Moscow in future - effectively placing him under Congress’s watch.
“Left unchecked, Russia is sure to continue its aggression,” House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce said, applauding the bill’s backing.
Sanctions ‘will not go unanswered’
Despite initially opposing the bill, Trump appears to have few options in the face of near-total consensus in Congress, with a decision likely due by mid-August.
Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the White House was still ‘reviewing the House legislation and awaits a final legislative package for the President’s desk’.
But even if Trump were to veto the legislation, Congress would likely be able to overcome such a blockage with a twothirds majority in each chamber.
Moscow responded angrily to the vote, with Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov insisting Washington had been warned ‘dozens of times ‘that any new sanctions would ‘not go unanswered’.
“The authors and sponsors of this bill are taking a very serious step towards destroying the possibilities for normalising relations with Russia,” he told state-run TASS news agency.
Ties between Moscow and Washington have been at their lowest point since the Cold War since the US began slapping sanctions on Russia after its annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Trump repeatedly pledged to improve relations during his campaign, raising the prospect that he could roll back the Obama-era punishments.
Since then, accusations from US intelligence that the Kremlin meddled in the vote to get Trump elected have made any softening of the stance on Russia politically toxic.
The bill also includes fresh sanctions against Iran and its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which stands accused of supporting terrorism, and North Korea, for its missile tests, are also included. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Tehran would respond in kind to any breach by the US of the 2015 nuclear deal after the vote.
Russian President Vladimir Putin with his US counterpart Donald Trump during their meeting at the G20 conference in Hamburg, Germany, this month