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Dashed Hopes: Russia, US Bracing for Sanctions War

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The overwhelming approval by the US House of Representatives of a new batch of sanctions against Russia could effectively dash all hopes for normalization of relations between the two countries any time soon, Russian political analysts told Sputnik.

Dashed hopes

In an interview with Sputnik, Moscow-based political analyst and academic Andrei Suzdaltsev said that if the bill becomes law, this would throw US-Russian relations in deep crisis.

“Unfortunately, there is no one left in the US leadership who takes an adequate view of what relations between Russia and the United States should look like,” Suzdaltsev said.

Political scientist Konstantin Blokhin fully concurred, saying that the new US sanctions would overturn all the positive achievement of the recent meeting between Presidents Putin and Trump.

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“Trump will eventually have to sign [the bill] because he simply has no choice. Either he sign or he vetoes it and is called a Kremlin agent and sees the veto overturned by Congress,” Blokhin said.

Despite the Trump Administration’s opposition to the bill, it is likely to become law. Even if Trump decides to veto the legislation, he won’t be able to do so since the bill  has already passed both chambers by veto-proof margins.

It requires congressional approval before the president can ease or remove existing sanctions. The bill also includes sanctions against Iran and North Korea.

Moscow describes the policy of sanctions the US has chosen in relations with Russia “destructive” and threatens retaliation.

Designated Victims

The sanctions target entities and individuals, including Russia’s energy sector, banks and weapons manufacturers, those accused of meddling in the US presidential election through hacking and otherwise and also those charged with human rights abuses and corruption.

The sanctions also target individuals investing over $10 million in Russia if these investments are used by Russian government officials to snap up state assets with an eye to enriching themselves and their near and dear.

The sanctions list also includes those who provide considerable financial, material or technological assistance to the Syrian government which it could use to develop weapons of mass destruction, ballistic or cruise missiles and obtain large amounts of conventional weapons.

The sanctions will also target Russian fuel and energy sector and impose limits on cooperation with Russian financial institutions.

EU Blues

Meanwhile, the EU is troubled by the  curbs the US sanctions will place on European companies implementing energy projects in Russia.
US companies are also worried.

“We have always seen [US sanctions] as a mistake,” the head of the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia, Alexei Rodzyanko, told Sputnik.

The sanctions suggest tightening existing measures against Russia. US companies and individuals are currently banned from dealing with Russian banks in funding for longer than 14 days.

In addition, the bill suggests limiting the duration of transactions for financing of Russian energy companies to 30 days.

Time Bomb

Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov described the new US sanctions as a time bomb under US-Russian relations.
He warned that if introduced, they would put at risk the ongoing talks about the return of Russian diplomatic property seized in the US.

Lawmakers’ Response

Russian MPs warn about a list of political and economic retaliatory measures Russia could use if the bill passes the Senate and is signed into law by Presidnet Trump.

The head of the Federation Council's international relations committee Konstantin Kosachev has promised an official response to the new US sanctions which he said would be “painful” for Washington.

“Our reactions would be asymmetrical but painful nonetheless, it will concern all our previous moves on real estate, diplomats, etc.,” Kosachev wrote on Facebook.

He added that the bill on new US sanctions against Russia means that no normalization, let alone breakthroughs, could now be expected in bilateral relations.

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“Their degradation is inevitable,” he added.

US lawmakers voted 419-3 on Tuesday to approve legislation seeking to punish Russia over a host of issues, including its alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election, its support for the Syrian government and alleged support for independence supporters in Ukraine, as well as Crimea’s reunification with Russia.

The sanctions envisioned in the bill are fully in line with the Trump Administration’s desire to take over the European energy market and end the EU countries’ dependence on fuel supplies from Russia.

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