New Russia Sanctions Put US & Europe on the Brink of Major Trade War

Wednesday, August 2, 2017
By Paul Martin

White House officials have been sending mixed signals regarding President Trump’s stance on the new Russia sanctions bill. Political scientist Sergei Sudakov says Washington’s uncertainty makes sense, since the bill puts the US and Europe on the path to a major trade war.

Amid a series of contradictory statements by White House officials, Moscow is seeking clarification on whether or not President Trump will sign the new anti-Russian sanctions bill approved by Congress last week.

On Tuesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that neither he nor Donald Trump were happy about US lawmakers’ decision to approve a new package of sanctions against Russia, but added that the president would probably end up signing it.

“We were clear that we didn’t think it was going to be helpful to our efforts, but that’s the decision they made, they made it in a very overwhelming way,” Tillerson said. “I think the president accepts that, and all indications are he will sign that bill and then we’ll just work with it…We can’t let it take us off track of trying to restore the relationship,” he added.

The same day, on a stopover in Tbilisi, Georgia during his Eastern European tour, Vice President Mike Pence took a more aggressive tone, saying that Trump would sign the bill “very soon,” and that the sanctions were “a very clear message that we mean what we say and say what we mean: that Russia’s destabilizing activities in Ukraine, their support of rogue regimes like Iran and Syria and North Korea, that their posture has to change.”

On Wednesday, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the statements coming out of the White House were “somewhat contradictory,” and added that Moscow is now waiting for a statement on the subject from President Trump himself.

Directly targeting Russia, Iran and North Korea, the new US sanctions package also has possible knock-on effects on Washington’s European allies, whose companies’ investments in the Nord Stream 2 energy pipeline project with Russia would make them subject to US penalties. Germany in particular is interested in the success of the Nord Stream 2 project, which would turn the country into a major energy hub for the supply of gas to Western Europe.

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