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White House Hints Trump Could Veto Russia Sanctions

30 Juillet 2017

The bill, cleared by the Senate in a 98-2 vote, will limit Trump's ability to lift or waive sanctions against Russian Federation, and imposes new sanctions on Iran and North Korea.

"The Congress of the United States has sent a clear message tonight to the governments of the Russian Federation, Iran and North Korea - there will be consequences for their unsafe, destabilising activities against our country, our allies, our interests and our values", said Senator Ben Cardin, Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Putin described the sanctions bill now working its way through US Congress - which calls for new measures against Russia, North Korea and Iran, and limits Trump's ability to alter them - as "illegal under worldwide law" and warned that Russia might have to respond.

He dismissed Congressional investigations into Russia's alleged meddling in last year's US presidential election, calling them a symptom of growing anti-Russian hysteria in the United States and a result of USA domestic politics.

Putin also spoke about an ongoing diplomatic row between Moscow and Washington which erupted last December when then U.S. President Barack Obama ordered the seizure of Russian diplomatic property in the United States and the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats. However, Putin at that point took a magnanimous tone, saying they could stay and that he would await Trump's inauguration before taking further action. America and Europe are still trying to exert pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin over the Ukraine crisis, and won't welcome warmer ties between Moscow and Athens.

A U.S. Embassy spokesman could not immediately say how many people worked for the embassy and consulates in Russia, nor what kind of cuts would be required to meet the Russian government's new requirements.

The ministry said "We propose to the USA side to bring the number of diplomatic and technical staff" working in Russia "in exact accordance" with the number of Russian diplomats and support staff in the United States by September 1.

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But Trump has said he favors forging a better relationship with Russian Federation and sanctions would be a move away from that policy. The statement made no reference to Russia's retaliatory measures.

The bill is the first major foreign policy legislation approved by Congress under Trump, who has struggled to advance his domestic agenda despite Republicans controlling the Senate and House of Representatives. Lawmakers say they want to prevent the president from acting on his own to lift penalties imposed by the previous administration for meddling in last year's US election and for aggression in Ukraine.

Still, signing a bill that penalizes Russia's election interference marks a significant shift for Trump.

The bill seeks to impose an economic cost on Moscow, Tehran, and Pyongyang for an array of activities to which Washington objects, and gives Congress the power to block any presidential move to suspend the punitive measures.

Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., were the only senators to vote against the bill.

According to a statement late Friday, Trump "read early drafts of the bill" and after negotiating "critical elements", has reviewed the final version approved almost unanimously by Congress.

White House Hints Trump Could Veto Russia Sanctions