EU angry at new US sanctions against Russia

Both houses of the United States Congress have now voted to approve new sanctions against Russia. The bill also blocks Trump from lifting sanctions on Russia. The measure also includes new sanctions on Iran and North Korea.

The bill was passed earlier in the House by a vote of 419 to 3. The vote in Senate was 98 to 2.  Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont and Rand Paul a Republican from Kentucky were the two who voted no.  Starting a new cold war with Russia and worsening relations with Iran and North Korea are a bipartisan affair. Sanders said on Twitter "following Trump's comments that he won't recertify Iran's compliance with the nuclear agreement I worry that new sanctions could endanger it."

While Trump could veto the bill, given the overwhelming majorities by which the bill passed the two houses it would no doubt be over-ridden by more than the two-thirds majority needed. Senator Bob Corker, a Republican from Tennessee said that he had talked to Secretary of State Tillerson about the legislation in the past week. Corker, the Foreign Relations chair said:
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) downplayed the chance that Trump would use his first veto on the bill, noting he had talked to the president and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson about the legislation during the past week. "It's just  not a good way to start a presidency to veto something and then be soundly overridden. It's not something I would do, but they might choose to do it."  Trump might do what makes little sense just to show that he disapproved of the bill. The bill could have serious repercussions not just with US relations with Russia and Iran but with Europe as well.

Germany warned that it was unacceptable for the US to use sanctions against Russia as a tool of industrial policy and said that there should be close coordination on any proposed sanctions between the EU and the US. A German foreign ministry spokesperson said that Germany could not accept the carrying out of an industrial policy in the guise of sanctions.

The EU went further and said that it was ready to act within days to counter proposed US sanctions on Russia because they threatened EU energy security. The EU see the unilateral addition of sanctions as breaking the unity between the EU and the US in response to Russia's's annexation of the Crimea and support for separatists in the Ukraine. EU chief executive Claude Juncker said:  "The U.S. bill could have unintended unilateral effects that impact the EU's energy security interests. 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." The EU is also preparing to use an EU regulation to block any attempt by the US to apply its sanctions using extraterritorial measures. If the EU is unable to settle measures through diplomacy it will file a complaint with the World Trade Organization.

The US is bringing countries such as China and Russia closer together as exemplified by the joint naval exercises in the Baltic Sea by the two countries right on NATO's doorstep. It may be that Russia will also punish the US by giving more support to the Taliban and Iran could do the same. The US will discover that its unilateral punishment of other nations is not without cost.


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