Putin: More US sanctions would be harmful, talk of retaliation premature

Author: REUTERSSat, 2017-06-17 21:01ID: 1497719187894557800MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin said new sanctions under consideration by the US would damage relations between the two countries, but it was too early to talk about retaliation, state news agency RIA reported on Saturday.The US Senate voted nearly unanimously earlier this week for legislation to impose new sanctions on Moscow and force President Donald Trump to get Congress’ approval before easing any existing sanctions.“This will, indeed, complicate Russia-American relations. I think this is harmful,” Putin said, according to RIA.In an interview with Rossiya1 state TV channel, excerpts of which were shown during the day on Saturday, Putin said he needed to see how the situation with sanctions evolved.“That is why it is premature to speak publicly about our retaliatory actions,” RIA quoted him as saying.Russia and the West have traded economic blows since 2014, when Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Black Sea peninsula of Crimea and lent support to separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.The West imposed economic and financial sanctions that battered the rouble and the export-dependent economy. Moscow retaliated by banning imports of Western food, which also hit ordinary Russians by spurring inflation, and barred some individuals from entering Russia.The threat of a new wave of sanctions emerged this month as US policymakers backed the idea of punishing Russia for alleged meddling in the 2016 US presidential election and for supporting Syria’s government in the six-year-long civil war.Putin had previously dismissed the proposed sanctions, saying they reflected an internal political struggle in the United States, and that Washington had always used such methods as a means of trying to contain Russia.The US Senate overwhelmingly approved legislation Thursday that would slap new sanctions on Moscow, notably including infrastructure deemed crucial for Europe: The pipelines that transport Russian gas.The bill, which still needs to pass the House of Representatives and be signed by Donald Trump, gives the president authority to impose sanctions on people or enterprises that provide goods, services or technology that “directly or significantly” contribute to construction of Russian energy export pipelines.The measure specifically targets investments with a value exceeding $1 million per transaction, or a total of $5 million or more over a year.The penalties would also limit the capacity of sanctioned companies to borrow from US banks, depriving them of US hard currency and limiting the ability of Americans to buy their shares.If they become law, the sanctions could affect several large European companies involved in financing Nord Stream 2, a planned twin pipeline which should accelerate the flow of Russian natural gas to Germany beginning in 2019.In their bill, the lawmakers make no mystery of their opposition to the gas pipeline, which has also been criticized by European Council President Donald Tusk.The US government continues to “oppose the Nord Stream 2 pipeline given its detrimental impacts on the European Union’s energy security, and Washington should “prioritize” the export of US gas as a way to create American jobs, according to the bill, which has aroused the ire of Germany and France.The visceral European reaction reflected anger over the “red line” that was crossed with the bill, Rory MacFarquhar, a former aide to Barack Obama, told AFP.“The Obama administration philosophy was that the sanctions would be more effective if there was unity between the US and Europe over what the target and the approach were,” he said.“What unity required was that the US respects certain red lines, and the biggest red line was that the sanctions shouldn’t affect energy supply into Europe,” added MacFarquhar, now an expert at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.
Main category: World

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