Republicans to Donald Trump: Don’t lift sanctions on Russia

January 28, 2017 7:36 pm

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (right), President (center), and House Speaker Paul Ryan

US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan have warned Donald Trump against easing economic sanctions on Russia, ahead of the US president’s first official communication with President Vladimir Putin of Russia since Trump’s inauguration last week.
Trump and Putin are scheduled to talk on phone on Saturday amid speculations that the US president might propose a plan to relax harsh sanctions the Obama administration imposed against Russia, accusing the country of intervening in Ukraine and the 2016 US presidential election.  
“I’m against lifting any sanctions on the Russians. These sanctions were imposed because of their behavior in Crimea, eastern Ukraine and now we know they’ve been messing around in our elections as well,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in an interview with POLITICO on Friday.
“If there’s any country in the world that doesn’t deserve sanctions relief, it’s Russia.”
Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the US president, said that the two leaders could discuss lifting of sanctions against Russia when they speak on Saturday.
‘Very early to talk about removal of sanctions’

US President Donald Trump (L) and British Prime Minister Theresa May walk at the White House in Washington, DC, January 27, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Trump, though, indicated at a joint conference with UK Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday that he was not yet ready to ease sanctions, saying it is “very early to be talking about that.”
However, Trump previously expressed willingness to remove sanctions against Russia if it cooperates with in efforts such as counterterrorism, and agrees to reduce its nuclear weapons.
On her part, May insisted that Western sanctions against Russia should continue, playing down talks of a possible thaw in the West’s relations with Moscow under the Trump administration.
Sanctions against Russia are ‘overdue’

US House Speaker Paul Ryan

When asked about the issue on Friday, Speaker Ryan said he believes sanctions against Russia are “overdue.”
“I think Obama was late in putting them in place,” he said. “I think they should stay.”
Meanwhile, Republican Senator John McCain, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, warned on Friday that any decision by Trump to lift sanctions would face stiff resistance in Congress.
“President Donald Trump’s call with Vladimir Putin is scheduled to take place amid widespread speculation that the White House is considering lifting sanctions against Russia,” he said in a statement.
“For the sake of America’s national security and that of our allies, I hope President Trump will put an end to this speculation and reject such a reckless course,” he said.
Reports about lifting sanctions also worrying Portman

US Republican Senator Rob Portman (right)

Republican Senator Rob Portman also said that he is “deeply concerned” by reports Russia sanctions could be removed.
“I believe the U.S. Senate should take pro-active steps to codify the sanctions against Russia into law to ensure we live up to our commitments to our allies and uphold longstanding American values and ideals,” Portman said.
“To lift the sanctions on Russia for any reason other than a change in the behavior that led to those sanctions in the first place would send a dangerous message.”
‘Russia sanctions should stay for some time at least’
Days before his inauguration on January 20, Trump told The Wall Street Journal that he plans to keep Russia sanctions “at least for a period of time.”
But then Trump added that sanctions would not be required if Moscow helped Washington in other ways.
“If you get along and if Russia is really helping us, why would anybody have sanctions if somebody’s doing some really great things?” he asked.
Last month, the Obama administration announced a series of economic sanctions against Russia, as well as expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats, over allegations that it interfered in the US election through cyberattacks.
Later on, the Obama administration imposed more sanctions on Russia, targeting five prominent Russians, including a close aide to Putin.
Sanctions related to Ukraine crisis

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) meeting with US President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the UN conference on climate change in the French capital of Paris on November 30, 2015. (Photo by AFP)

Since 2014, the US and some other Western countries have imposed several rounds of sanctions against Russia over accusations that Moscow has been involved in a deadly crisis in Ukraine, which broke out when Kiev launched military operations to crack down on pro-Russia forces in the east.
The sanctions target the Russian energy, banking and military sectors. Moscow has also imposed tit-for-tat sanctions against the EU.
In December last year, the US blacklisted several more Russian companies and individuals over their alleged connection to the Ukrainian crisis and the 2014 reunification of the Crimean peninsula with the Russian mainland.
Crimea declared independence from Ukraine on March 17, 2014, and formally applied to become part of Russia following a referendum in which 96.8 percent of participants voted in favor of the secession. 
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