Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev lashed new US sanctions as a “full-fledged economic war” on Moscow, saying they crushed hopes for repairing ties and demonstrated President Donald Trump’s “total weakness … in the most humiliating way.” Trump reluctantly signed off on the new sanctions Wednesday, bowing to domestic pressure after the White House failed to scupper the bill or water it down. Medvedev warned the move would have “consequences”, saying “it ends hopes for improving our relations with the new US administration.”
“Second, it is a declaration of a full-fledged economic war on Russia,” Medvedev said on his Facebook page. Taunting the notoriously thin-skinned US president, Medvedev added: “The Trump administration has shown its total weakness by handing over executive power to Congress in the most humiliating way”. Trump signed the legislation behind closed doors and his reluctance was on full display in an angry signing statement in which he called the legislation “significantly flawed.” “In its haste to pass this legislation, the Congress included a number of clearly unconstitutional provisions,” he said, including curbs on the president’s ability to “negotiate” with Russia.
“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. The legislation – which also includes measures against North Korea and Iran – targets the Russian energy sector, giving Washington the ability to impose sanctions on companies involved in developing Russian pipelines, and placing curbs on some Russian weapons exporters. Iran, too, reacted angrily, saying the new sanctions against it “violated” its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, and warned it would respond “appropriately.”
With regards to Russia, the sanctions 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. In his statement, Trump said: “The Framers of our Constitution put foreign affairs in the hands of the President. This bill will prove the wisdom of that choice.” In a searing rebuttal, maverick Republican Senator John McCain said: “The framers of our constitution made the Congress and the President coequal branches of government. This bill has already proven the wisdom of that choice.” “I hope the president will be as vocal about Russia’s aggressive behaviour as he was about his concerns with this legislation.” The sanctions seek to penalise the Kremlin for allegedly meddling in the 2016 US presidential election and for Russia’s annexation of Crimea.