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United States Timeline: News, Updates & Opinions

Discussion in 'The Americas' started by Hellfire, Jul 29, 2017.

  1. Hellfire

    Hellfire Devil's Advocate THINKER

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    Trump to sign Russia sanctions, Moscow retaliates
    Eric Beech and Andrew Osborn
    JULY 28, 2017


    WASHINGTON/MOSCOW (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump will sign legislation that imposes sanctions on Russia, the White House said on Friday, after Moscow ordered the United States to cut hundreds of diplomatic staff and said it would seize two U.S. diplomatic properties in retaliation for the bill.

    The U.S. Senate had voted almost unanimously on Thursday to slap new sanctions on Russia, forcing Trump to choose between a tough position on Moscow and effectively dashing his stated hopes for warmer ties with the country or to veto the bill amid investigations in possible collusion between his campaign and Russia.

    By signing the bill into law, Trump can not ease the sanctions against Russia unless he seeks congressional approval.

    Moscow's retaliation, announced by the Foreign Ministry on Friday, had echoes of the Cold War. If confirmed that Russia's move would affect hundreds of staff at the U.S. embassy, it would far outweigh the Obama administration's expulsion of 35 Russians in December.

    The legislation was in part a response to conclusions by U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and to further punish Russia for its annexation of Crimea in 2014.

    Late on Friday, the White House issued a statement saying Trump would sign the bill after reviewing the final version. The statement made no reference to Russia's retaliatory measures.

    Russia had been threatening retaliation for weeks. Its response suggests it has set aside initial hopes of better ties with Washington under Trump, something the U.S. leader, before he was elected, had said he wanted to achieve.

    Relations were already languishing at a post-Cold War low because of the allegations that Russian cyber interference in the election was intended to boost Trump's chances, something Moscow flatly denies. Trump has denied any collusion between his campaign and Russian officials.

    The Russian Foreign Ministry complained of growing anti-Russian feeling in the United States, accusing "well-known circles" of seeking "open confrontation".

    President Vladimir Putin had warned on Thursday that Russia would have to retaliate against what he called boorish U.S. behavior. Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters on Friday that the Senate vote was the last straw.

    Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov told U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson by telephone that Russia was ready to normalize relations with the United States and to cooperate on major global issues.

    Lavrov and Tillerson "agreed to maintain contact on a range of bilateral issues", the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

    The ministry said the United States had until Sept. 1 to reduce its diplomatic staff in Russia to 455 people, the number of Russian diplomats left in the United States after Washington expelled 35 Russians in December.

    'Extreme Aggression'

    It was not immediately clear how many U.S. diplomats and other workers would be forced to leave either the country or their posts, but the Interfax news agency cited an informed source as saying "hundreds" of people would be affected.

    A diplomatic source told Reuters that it would be for the United States to decide which posts to cut, whether occupied by U.S. or Russian nationals.

    An official at the U.S. Embassy, who declined to be named because they were not allowed to speak to the media, said the Embassy employed around 1,100 diplomatic and support staff in Russia, including Russian and U.S. citizens.

    Russian state television channel Rossiya 24 said over 700 staff would be affected but that was not confirmed by the foreign ministry or the U.S. embassy.

    The Russian Foreign Ministry's statement said the passage of the bill confirmed "the extreme aggression of the United States in international affairs".

    Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov met outgoing U.S. ambassador John Tefft on Friday to inform him of the counter measures, Russian news agencies reported. The U.S. Embassy said Tefft had expressed his "strong disappointment and protest".

    Most U.S. diplomatic staff, including around 300 U.S. citizens, work in the main embassy in Moscow, with others based in consulates in St Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok.


    The Russian Foreign Ministry said it was also seizing a Moscow dacha compound used by U.S. diplomats for recreation, from Aug. 1, as well as a U.S. diplomatic warehouse in Moscow.

    In December, the outgoing Obama administration seized two Russian diplomatic compounds - one in New York and another in Maryland - at the same time as it expelled Russian diplomats.

    Trump and Putin met for the first time at a G20 summit in Germany this month in what both sides described as a productive encounter, but Russian officials have become increasingly convinced that Congress and Trump's political opponents will not allow him to mend ties, even if he wants to.

    The European Union has also threatened to retaliate against new U.S. sanctions on Russia, saying they would harm the bloc's energy security by targeting projects including a planned new pipeline to bring Russian natural gas to northern Europe.

    A European Commission spokesman in Brussels said the bloc would be following the sanctions process closely.


    http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-russia-honeymoon-idUSKBN1AD2NG
     
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  2. Hellfire

    Hellfire Devil's Advocate THINKER

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    For Trump, the honeymoon with Putin may be finally over
    Arshad Mohammed
    JULY 29, 2017

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin tossed President-elect Donald Trump a bouquet in December when he chose not to retaliate for the U.S. expulsion of Russian diplomats and seizure of Russian diplomatic compounds.

    The honeymoon is over.

    Russia's tit-for-tat decision to expel hundreds of U.S. diplomats and seize two U.S. compounds may be an acknowledgment in Moscow that Trump's ability to bring better ties is limited, at best, and the start of a new downward spiral in relations.

    Russia took the step after the U.S. Senate on Thursday sent a breath-taking signal that it does not trust Trump on Russia by passing a bill that imposes new sanctions on Moscow and ties the president's hands if he seeks to ease them.

    The White House issued a statement on Friday night saying Trump had negotiated changes to the legislation and now intends to sign it.

    "(The Russians) have taken Trump's measure and while they are willing to exploit his goofy fixation on Putin and naive sense you can do deals with someone like Putin ... they realize his clownish performance as president makes it really hard for him to deliver on any of the big things that Russia wants," said Andrew Weiss, a former national security council Russia expert.

    At the top of Russia's wish list is an easing of U.S. sanctions imposed for its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and its destabilization of eastern Ukraine, something the Senate action would all but rule out. Another, all but inconceivable, item would be formal U.S. recognition Russia's claim to Crimea.

    "Trump's performance surely has left nobody in Moscow with the impression he is a guy who can deliver," said Weiss, now at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank.

    Trump's desire, often expressed during the 2016 presidential campaign, to improve relations has been hamstrung by findings from U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia interfered to help the Republican against Democrat Hillary Clinton.

    A federal law enforcement investigation and multiple U.S. congressional probes looking into the possibility that Trump's campaign colluded with Russia, have made it harder for Trump to open a new chapter with Putin.

    Russia denies it interfered in the election and Trump has said there was no collusion.

    The Senate's 98-2 passage of the sanctions bill, which followed a 419-3 vote in the House of Representatives, forces Trump to take a hard line on Moscow or veto the legislation and infuriate his fellow Republicans.

    The huge margins mean Congress could easily override a veto.

    Weiss suggested that Trump's low approval ratings at home, his tendency to alienate NATO allies such as Germany and his inability to pass domestic legislation all contribute to a Russian perception that he is weakening the United States.

    "(That) is going to pay dividends for Moscow, so there is no need to turn him away from the course he is already on which is self-destructive and bad for America's standing internationally. All of that is a huge win for the Kremlin," Weiss said.

    Russia gave the United States until Sept. 1 to cut its diplomatic staff in Russia to 455 people, the number of Russian diplomats left in the United States after Washington expelled 35 Russians in December because of the alleged election hacking.

    It also said it would seize a Moscow compound used by U.S. diplomats as well as a U.S. diplomatic warehouse.


    Some former officials said Russia could take other steps, such as seeking to help Russian-backed forces seize more ground in eastern Ukraine or to try to limit U.S. air operations in Syria, while others said any reaction might be more muted.

    Russia could look at imposing economic counter-sanctions against the United States, the former official said, saying he thought that retaliation in Ukraine or Syria was less likely because it was more likely to lead to a U.S. counter response.

    Michael McFaul, the U.S. ambassador to Russia from 2012-2014, said he does not think that Russia will escalate tensions with the United States just yet because Trump’s assertions that he wants better relations with Moscow are encouraging Putin to continue seeking some kind of accommodation with the U.S. president.

    “I don’t think they are going to walk away from that just yet,” said McFaul. “I believe that Putin still believes there might be something he can do with Trump.”



    http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-russia-honeymoon-idUSKBN1AD2NG
     
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