by James Corbett, The International Forecaster
Despite tough talk from Brussels (and Berlin) about “retaliation” over these new measures, no shots will be fired, no diplomatic relations broken, no dramatic shifts away from Washington and toward Moscow will be taking place.
In a nearly unanimous vote on Tuesday, the House passed a bill that imposes new sanctions on Moscow and forces Trump to seek Congressional approval before easing any restrictions on Russia. The bill is part of a larger sanctions regimen that would also impose new restrictions and punitive measures on Iran and North Korea and it was passed by the Senate in another nearly unanimous vote (98-2) on Thursday.
It is unclear at press time whether Trump will attempt to veto the bill, but even if he does the veto could likely be overridden by popular support from both houses.
The reaction to the bill from Russia is precisely as one would expect:
The sanctions are “equally dreadful from the point of view of international law and international trade relations,” Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Wednesday, warning that “such actions would not be left without a response.”
“This is already having an extremely negative impact on the process of normalising our relations,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told the Interfax news agency, warning that the sanctions are taking the US and Russia into “uncharted territory in a political and diplomatic sense.”
“We should look for counter measures that won’t harm our national interests, but will be painful for the Americans,” saidKonstantin Kosachev, the head of the foreign relations committee in Russia’s upper house, stressing that such retaliation “should not be just symbolic.”
And in the wake of the bill’s passage by the Senate, Russia began its retaliation, forcing the US to cut its diplomatic corps in Moscow and suspending America’s use of a storage facility in the Russian capital.
But that is all to be expected.
How about this quote: “In a remarkable moment of candor, the US draft law reveals what this is really about: the sale of American liquefied gas and the displacement of Russian natural gas supplies from the European market. The aim of the sanctions is to secure jobs in the natural gas and oil industry in the USA. Political sanctions should not be associated with economic interests.”
Is this (quite accurate) description of the bill and its contents the work of an angry Russian diplomat? A Russian military officer or businessman?
Nope. It’s part of a joint statement from German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern. And they’re not alone. A number of high-ranking European officials have sounded off about this bill and recognize that, whatever else might be going on here, the widening rift between Russia and the US is a dagger pointed at the heart of Europe.
Take European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who said of the new sanctions regime: “The EU is fully committed to the Russia sanctions regime. However, G7 unity on sanctions and close coordination among allies are at the heart of ensuring the full implementation of the Minsk Agreements. This is a core objective that the EU and the US share. The US Bill could have unintended unilateral effects that impact the EU’s energy security interests. This is why the Commission concluded today that if our concerns are not taken into account sufficiently, we stand ready to act appropriately within a matter of days. America first cannot mean that Europe’s interests come last.”
Or the remarks of Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern: “I consider the Russia sanctions imposed by the US absolutely unacceptable. Confusing political interests with economic interests at the expense of European jobs is a no-go. The energy supply of Europe is a matter for Europe!”
So what’s this about? Why is Europe so upset by sanctions on Russia?
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