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    Can't Beat 'Em? Cheat 'Em: New Russia Sanctions 'An Effort to Tie Trump's Hands'

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    The United States Senate has approved a bill to expand anti-Russian sanctions. Vladimir Putin called the measures evidence of an internal political struggle in Washington. Speaking to Radio Sputnik, political analyst Alexei Zudin said the bill was an obvious attempt to tie President Trump's hands ahead of his possible meeting with Putin.

    On Wednesday, the Senate voted overwhelmingly 97-2 in favor of a bill imposing new restrictive measures against Russia, targeting the country's defense, intelligence, banking, mining, shipping and railway sectors, and restricting debt dealings with Russian banks and energy companies to 14 days and 30 days, respectively. The bill also includes a provision which would prevent the president from weakening or abolishing the sanctions without Congressional approval.

    The bill, passed as an amendment to the Iran sanctions bill, now need to pass the House of Representatives before it lands to President Donald Trump's desk for signature.

    Commenting on the Senate's push for tougher sanctions in his annual 'Direct Line' call-in session on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that he believed the new restrictions looked like a sign of domestic political struggle inside the US.

    "We know that a new bill appeared in the US Senate about tightening sanctions [against Russia]. By the way, why? Nothing extraordinary is happening at the moment. Why did [they] start talking about these sanctions again, out of the blue?…This is a manifestation of the ongoing internal political struggle in the United States, nevertheless, it is happening I think out of the blue," the president said.

    Earlier, Russian officials told Sputnik that Moscow would not leave the possible expansion of US sanctions unanswered, adding that they will wait to see if Congress approves the bill and if President Trump signs it into law before formulating their response.

    Appearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told lawmakers that his department's task is to try to "stabilize" the Russian-US relationship, which he characterized as being "at an all time low." Tillerson warned senators that new sanctions against Moscow might jeopardize Russia's willingness to engage in dialogue with the US, including on reaching a political resolution to the Syrian crisis.

    Asked to comment on the Senate vote, Russian political scientist Alexei Zudin told Radio Sputnik that the push for new restrictions was an obvious ploy to try to tie President Trump's hands.

    "First of all, there's no point expecting [new sanctions] to have any serious impact on the Russian economy," the observer said. "This is certainly an unfriendly and a negative step, but I would not assess it in terms of its effect on the Russian economy."

    Instead, Zudin said that the Senate move was a political decision, and part of "the consistent desire among the anti-Russian majority in the Congress to tie the hands of the current president and his (so far only verbal) attempts to achieve an improvement in relations between the US and Russia."

    "In essence, the Senate is trying to preempt Trump – to tie his hands as soon as possible, before his possible meeting with Vladimir Putin," the analyst concluded.

    Putin and Trump may meet in July during the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. Last week, a White House spokesperson told Sputnik that the administration has yet to decide on whether President Trump will meet one-on-one with President Putin on the sidelines of the summit.

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    expert commentary, US Congress, US Senate, Donald Trump, Russia, United States
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