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Anti-Russian Sanctions: Trump Faces Hard Choice


On July 25, 2017 the House of Representatives of the US Congress approved the bill named “Countering America's Adversaries through Sanctions Act” which aims at “countering aggression by the Governments of Iran, the Russian Federation, and North Korea, and for other purposes.” The bill was approved by the House of the Representatives by 419 for and 3 against votes. Only three libertarian-leaning Republicans – Justin Amash of Michigan, Tom Massie of Kentucky and Jimmy Duncan of Tennessee – voted against the bill in the House, the Guardian reports.

To note the bill aims at turning the already existing sanctions against Russian individuals and businesses imposed after the passing of Crimea to Russia, into a law. In addition the bill presupposes new sanctions against Russia because of its assumed interference in the US presidential elections in 2016. Those new sanctions target such key Russian industries as railways, shipping, metals and mining, as well as Russian oil industry.

At present the sanctions against Russia are just in the form of the executive order, which means that the US president may override them, whenever he wishes. However, once this bill is confirmed by the US Senate and the president, the sanctions will turn into a law, which means the president himself will not be able to ease the sanctions, if he did not have the approval of the US congress for that, CNN reports.

To remind, the current bill is a kind of continuation of the previous bill approved by the US Senate. However, as compared to the previous one, the current bill in addition to the proposed sanctions against Iran and Russia, also introduces sanctions against North Korea. Although the previous bill was approved by the Senate by 98-2 votes, it caused a lot of discussion in the House of Representatives and consequently underwent certain changes. Now, the current bill needs to again undergo voting in the US Senate than be signed by the US President. Although the US president can veto the bill, the US Congress can in its turn use its veto to override the veto of the president.  

So what is the position of the White House on the current bill? At first information was disseminated that the White House consults with the republican congressmen in the House of Representatives to ease the sanctions against Russia. However, the other day, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the new White House press secretary, on the occasion noted:  “While the President supports tough sanctions on North Korea, Iran and Russia, the White House is reviewing the House legislation and awaits a final legislative package for the president’s desk.”

In response Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov warned that "the authors and sponsors of this legislation are taking a serious step towards the destruction of prospects for normalizing relations with Russia," TASS reports.

The European Union, in its turn, also expressed concern, saying it would act "within days" if its concerns over the supply of Russian energy to Europe were not addressed, CNN reports.

Experts still say that the possibility of Trump’s signing the bill is high as long as it refers not only to the sanctions against Russia, but also Iran and North Korea. On the other hand, however, Trump is to make hard choice, in terms of the existing accusations against Trump of being pro-Russian, Trump’s administration aspirations to improve relations with Russia and the opposition of the Europe against the anti-Russian sanctions.

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