Russia: Trump Administration 'Utterly Powerless,' New Sanctions Mean 'Full-scale Trade War'

White House says Trump 'supported' new sanctions, wants to pressure Russia; denies U.S. president spoke with Putin before signing bill into law

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) speaks with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in the rain during a wreath-laying ceremony marking the anniversary of the Nazi German invasion in 1941, by the Kremlin wall in Moscow, Russia June 22, 2017.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) speaks with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in the rain during a wreath-laying ceremony marking the anniversary of the Nazi German invasion in 1941, by the Kremlin SERGEI KARPUKHIN/REUTERS

Russia blasted Wednesday the U.S. after President Donald Trump signed legislation for new sanctions against Moscow, placing the two sides on a diplomatic collision course.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said the new sanctions, which were pushed on Trump by U.S. lawmakers, proved that his administration was “utterly powerless.” He further said that the sanctions were tantamount to a “full-scale trade war” between the two powers.

"The hope that our relations with the new American administration would improve is finished," he wrote in a Facebook post.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry blasted the sanctions as “short-sighted” and said they risked harming global security.

Trump shakes hand with Putin before the first working session of the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, July, 2017.
Steffen Kugler/AP

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Trump signed into law new sanctions against Russia on Wednesday but he slammed the legislation as infringing on his powers to shape foreign policy, saying he could make "far better deals" with governments than Congress.

However, the White House said that Trump "supported" that new sanctions, and wanted to pressure Russia, Iran and North Korea, attempting to dispel claims he was pressured by lawmakers to accept the sanctions. The White House denied that Trump spoke with Putin about the legislation before signing the bill into law.

The new law allows Congress to stop any effort by Trump to ease sanctions on Russia. 

After signing a bill that Congress had approved overwhelmingly last week and which runs counter to his desire to improve relations with Moscow, the Republican president laid out a lengthy list of concerns.

His criticism of the sanctions, which also affect Iran and North Korea, raised the question of how much Trump is prepared to enforce the measures and to pursue action against Russia.

"While I favor tough measures to punish and deter aggressive and destabilizing behavior by Iran, North Korea, and Russia, this legislation is significantly flawed," Trump said in a formal signing statement.

Trump, who has made clear he wanted to improve relations with Russia, grudgingly accepted the new congressional sanctions, which also included Iran and North Korea. The bill had enough support in Congress to override a presidential veto.

Trump's signing of the bill followed some conflicting signals from the administration in recent days about the sanctions.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters on Tuesday that he and Trump did not believe the new sanctions would "be helpful to our efforts" on diplomacy with Russia. Vice President Mike Pence said that the bill showed Trump and Congress were speaking "with a unified voice."

White House adviser Kellyanne Conway confirmed the signing during an interview with Fox News.

Trump's desire for better relations with Moscow has been hamstrung by findings of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia interfered to help the Republican against Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. U.S. congressional panels and a special counsel are investigating. Moscow denies any meddling and Trump denies any collusion by his campaign.

The Russian rouble weakened slightly following the initial report that Trump had signed the bill.