Trump to sign Russia sanctions bill


The White House confirmed on Friday that President Trump would sign the Russia sanctions bill into law. Both the House and the Senate overwhelmingly approved HR 3364, the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act last week. The bill also targets North Korea and Iran.

“President Donald J. Trump read early drafts of the bill and negotiated regarding critical elements of it. He has now reviewed the final version and, based on its responsiveness to his negotiations, approves the bill and intends to sign it,” the White House said in a statement.

The bill codifies current economic penalties against Russia for its alleged interference in last year’s presidential election as well as its actions in Ukraine. It also imposes new sanctions against Iran, which continues to develop its ballistic missile program, and on North Korea, which on Friday successfully launched its second Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM).

Once signed into law, the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act will require the Trump administration to obtain the green light from Congress before lifting or easing any of the sanctions targeting Russia’s banks, its energy sector – especially its gas and pipeline development, its weapons manufacturers, as well as various individuals who allegedly interfered in last year’s election process.

On Friday, Vladimir Putin took the decision to expel hundreds of U.S diplomats to protest against the new sanctions. Moscow had initially announced that it would not take any retaliatory actions unless President Trump signed the bill. However, following the Senate vote on Thursday, a Kremlin spokesman explained that the retaliatory measures had been brought forward because “the form in which [the bill had] emerged from the Senate had greater significance” because it was “almost final.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry gave Washington until September 1 to reduce the number of its diplomatic and technical staff to 455. The Interfax news agency said that “hundreds of diplomatic and technical staff who work for US diplomatic missions in Russia” would be affected. The Ministry also warned Washington that it would take additional retaliatory measures should the Trump administration decide to reciprocate.

President Trump, who initially resisted the legislation, did consider vetoing it but, as the bill was passed by an overwhelming majority in both houses, the presidential veto would have been easily overturned.

Despite the ongoing tensions, the Russian Foreign Ministry has confirmed that Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had “agreed to maintain contact on a range of bilateral issues.”