Russian officials and politicians have vented their frustration with US President Donald Trump’s decision to sign a bill imposing new sanctions on the country.
In an emotional Facebook post, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev described the move as a humiliating defeat for Mr Trump. The Russian Foreign Ministry warned of possible new retaliatory measures. “The hope for improving our relations with the new US administration is now over,” said Mr Medvedev, who served as Russian president in 2008-2012 before stepping down to allow Vladimir Putin to reclaim the job.
The Kremlin had been encouraged by Mr Trump’s campaign promises to improve the Russia-US ties that had grown increasingly strained under former president Barack Obama. With the White House preoccupied by congressional and FBI investigations into links between the Trump campaign and Russia, the hoped-for relationship reset has not materialised.
“Trump’s administration has demonstrated total impotence by surrendering its executive authority to Congress in the most humiliating way,” said Mr Medvedev, who presided during a brief period of improved relations early in Mr Obama’s presidency. “The American establishment has won an overwhelming victory over Trump,” he added. “The president wasn’t happy with the new sanctions, but he had to sign the bill. The topic of new sanctions was yet another way to put Trump in place.”
Mr Medvedev emphasised that the stiff new sanctions amount to the declaration of an “all-out trade war against Russia,” but added that it will cope with the challenge and only get stronger. “We will continue to work calmly to develop our economy and social sphere, deal with import substitution and solve important government tasks counting primarily on ourselves,” he said. “We have learned how to do it over the past few years.”
Without waiting for Mr Trump to sign the bill, which was passed by the US Congress with overwhelming, veto-proof numbers, Russia fired back on Friday. It ordered deep cuts in the number of personnel working at the US embassy and consulates in Russia and the closure of a US recreational retreat and warehouse facilities.
It was the long-expected tit-for-tat response to Mr Obama’s move to expel 35 Russian diplomats and shut down two Russian recreational retreats in the US following allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Asked whether Moscow planned additional steps in response to Mr Trump signing the bill, Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov answered that “retaliatory measures already have been taken”.
But shortly after, the Foreign Ministry warned that “we naturally reserve the right for other countermeasures”. It said the sanctions bill reflects a “short-sighted and dangerous” attempt to cast Russia as an enemy and would erode global stability. The ministry added that “no threats or attempts to pressure Russia will force it to change its course or give up its national interests”.
It added that “we are open for cooperation with the US in the spheres where we see it useful for ourselves and international security, including the settlement of regional conflicts,” but warned that a constructive dialogue is only possible if Washington sheds the notion of “American exclusiveness”. Konstantin Kosachev, who heads the foreign affairs committee in the upper house of the Russian parliament, said the bill Mr Trump signed “leaves no chance for a constructive cooperation with Russia.”
“Perspectives for the settlement of Iranian and North Korean problems look grim,” Mr Kosachev said. “It means that real threats will exacerbate.”