New US sanctions against Russia hit President Trump as well. In more ways than one


The bill that imposes new sanctions against Russia, which President Donald Trump signed and made into law this week, is actually a double edged sword and hits not just Russia and its energy sector but Mr Trump as well.

That is the reality of the power struggle that is going on in Washington, initiated by the Democrats and supported by some of the Republicans, in Congress and beyond. In effect, the ‘swamp’, as Trump calls the political establishment in Washington, seems to be currently driven not by common sense and logic and America’s national interest but by spite, ideology, personal grievances and agendas that have nothing to do with politics or economics.

The killer catch in the law authorising the new sanctions against Russia that includes Iran and North Korea as well, although their punishment is much more modest, is that the move is explained by Russia’s role in Ukraine and its interference in American domestic politics. And that second point automatically implies a dig at President Trump p because it questions the legality of his election last year, supposedly assisted by Moscow.

How extraordinary that both chambers of the US Congress practically unanimously approved a bill that is openly hostile to the current Commander-in-Chief! Not to mention that Republicans have the majority in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. If that is not a direct challenge to the authority of the US President then it is difficult to imagine what else it is.

The other point in the new law that is openly hostile to President Trump is its restriction of his ability to ease the sanctions against Russia, forcing him to basically ask Congress for permission. That is so obviously disrespectful to the President that it could only be explained by the remarkable situation in Washington.

This is the legacy of the eight years of Barack Obama’s presidency, when militant neo-liberal groups had an unlimited access to the White House and exercised extraordinary influence over Congress and, with the help of the mainstream media, turning hostility towards Russia into the official policy of the US. The problem that most people miss is that pressure on Russia started well before the crisis in Ukraine and even if it didn’t happen at all, we would be still having sanctions against Moscow introduced, but under some other pretext.

It has to be said here that Moscow made a terrible mess of the whole row over its alleged meddling in US elections, with some Russian officials making idiotic statements about the Russian governments supposedly staying in contact with Trump’s people during the whole election campaign in the US. Not to mention that the Kremlin was, and still is, rather flattered that it is accused of deciding the result of the race in America, and could not even hide it. For President Vladimir Putin, who has already started his re-election campaign in the run-up to the presidential election in Russia next year in March, that is a serious crowd-pleaser for his domestic audience.

Still, what the politicians in Washington haven’t grasped yet is that by waging a hostile campaign against President Putin they are playing into his hands at the moment. That is why the Kremlin’s reaction to the signing of the sanctions bill was that of: who cares, we knew it would happen anyway. “This isn’t news,” the Kremlin spokesman said.

Moscow has already responded to the new US sanctions by cutting down the number of staff in the US diplomatic missions in Russia, most of whom are Russians, by the way. That is why the figure of 755 expulsions doesn’t really match up to the real impact. The move is symbolic anyway as relations between the two countries are so bad that there was not much to do for the embassy and consulate personnel anyway. But as regards the impact on the Russian domestic audience, that went well, naturally. As in, we showed them!

So what happens now? Well, a number of European countries including Germany and Austria have already voiced their concerns that the new anti-Russia sanctions may hurt their own companies that work with Russia on the new pipelines running into Europe, putting pressure on them as they won’t be able to raise credit from US banks. In the next several months you can expect Moscow to do everything to highlight this and try to drive a wedge between America and its European allies. .

Whether all of it is good for America, Europe and Russia is another matter. We now have politics in Washington driven by vested interest groups and individuals with personal grievances that make little or no sense.

Welcome to the surreal world of the post-Obama fallout.