Senate vote on July 27 for more sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea follows 419-3 vote in House of Representative on July 25.
Introductory note by New Cold War.org:
Reporting by Western news agencies of the votes in the U.S. Congress (House of Representatives on July 25 and Senate on July 27) to increase sanctions against Russia (also against Iran and North Korea) are punctuated by the claim that sanctions run counter to a desire by Donald Trump for improved U.S.-Russia relations. See a July 28 interview by RT with analyst Dan Glazebrook in which he calls this claim “naïve”. In the hands of Western media, the claim is part of the madcap, ‘Russia truther’ drive that has seized the U.S. Democratic Party and its media echo chamber.
A corollary to the ‘Trump wants better relations with Russia’ interpretation is the claim that European Union governments are vigorously opposed to more sanctions against Russia (example here). No, the EU imperialist governments are opposed to further sanctions by the U.S. if those should infringe upon their sovereign right to lord over the world as they see fit. For example, the EU is concerned that U.S. prerogative might interfere with their sovereign decisions to purchase Russian oil and gas.
Moscow has told the U.S. to reduce the number of its diplomatic staff in Russia to 455 people, and is also halting the use of embassy storage facilities in the capital, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry. [Below, full statement of the foreign ministry.]
The retaliatory move comes after the U.S. Congress approved new sanctions against Russia.
“The Russian side is suspending the use of all storage facilities on Dorozhnaya Street in Moscow, and a cottage in Serebryaniy Bor by the U.S. Embassy in Russia as of August 1,” the ministry said in a statement.
The number of U.S. diplomatic service staff in Russia should be reduced to equal the number of Russian diplomats in the U.S. by September 1, Moscow says. “This means that the total number of personnel involved in the American diplomatic and consular institutions in the Russian Federation is reduced to 455.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin has approved the move, according to his spokesman, Dmitry Peskov.
Russia has also threatened to resort to additional retaliatory measures in case of new moves by Washington to reduce its diplomatic corps. “In the case of new unilateral actions of the U.S. authorities to reduce the number of our diplomats in the U.S., it will be followed by a tit-for-tat response,” the Foreign Ministry stated. “We reserve the right on other mutual measures, which can affect U.S. interests.”
On July 14, Moscow warned that it was running out of patience in light of the stalemate that followed the closure of two Russian diplomatic compounds in the U.S., and mentioned possible retaliatory measures including the expulsion of diplomats.
“We have something to retaliate with: the personnel of the U.S. embassy in Moscow greatly exceeds the number of our embassy staff in Washington,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova stated.
Russian diplomatic property was confiscated by the Obama administration in 2016, in response to alleged Russian meddling in the U.S. election. The U.S. also expelled 35 Russian diplomats and denied Russian diplomatic staff access to the New York and Maryland compounds.
The Russian Foreign Ministry strongly criticized the latest package of sanctions approved by U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday. The bill targeting Russia’s major defense, mining, shipping and railway industries is yet to be approved by U.S. President Donald Trump. However, Moscow sees the Senate approval of the new round of sanctions as an almost final decision, according to Peskov.
“The United States insistently implements rough anti-Russian sanctions one after another under the absolutely far-fetched pretext of Russian meddling in their internal affairs,” the Russian Foreign Ministry stated, adding that such moves violate international law and UN principles.
Statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation on the July 27 vote of the U.S. Congress on sanctions against Russia
On July 27, the U.S. Congress passed a new bill on tougher anti-Russia sanctions. This measure is further proof of the Unites States’ extremely hostile foreign policy. Hiding behind its own “exclusiveness”, the United States arrogantly ignores the stances and interests of other countries.
It is common knowledge that the Russian Federation has been doing everything in its power to improve bilateral relations, to encourage ties and cooperation with the U.S. on the most pressing issues on the international agenda including fighting terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, illegal drug trafficking, illegal migration, cybercrime, etc. Our understanding has been that we can only solve these global problems if we work together. We believe the majority of people in the world share this approach.
Meanwhile, the United States is using Russia’s alleged interference in its domestic affairs as an absolutely contrived excuse for its persevering and crude campaigns against Russia. This activity contradicts the principles of international law, the UN Charter, WTO regulations and, simply, the common standards of civilised international communication.
The United States continues to pass more unlawful sanctions against Russia, to seize Russia’s diplomatic property, which is formalised in binding bilateral documents, and to deport Russian diplomats. This is clearly a violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and generally recognised diplomatic practices.
The adoption of the new sanctions bill is an obvious indication that relations with Russia are in thrall to the political infighting in the United States. Moreover, the new bill sets to a goal to create a dishonest competitive advantage for the U.S. in the global economy through the use of political means. This blackmail aimed at restricting Russia’s cooperation with its foreign partners threatens many countries and international businesses.
Despite Washington’s constant outbursts, we have adhered to responsible and reserved behaviour and have not responded to express provocations until now. However, the latest events confirm that certain circles in the U.S. are fixated on Russophobia and open confrontation with our country.
– Therefore, we suggest our American counterparts bringing the number of diplomatic and technical staff at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, the consulates general in St Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok, into strict correspondence with the number of Russian diplomats and technical staff currently working in the United States, until September 1, 2017. This means that the total number of American diplomatic and consular office employees in the Russian Federation must be reduced to 455 people. In the event of further unilateral action on behalf of U.S. officials to reduce the Russian diplomatic staff in the U.S., we will respond accordingly.
– Starting August 1, the use of all the storage facilities on Dorozhnaya Street in Moscow and the country house in Serebryany Bor will be suspended from use by the U.S. Embassy.
Russia reserves the right to resort to other measures affecting U.S.’ interests on a basis of reciprocity.
Comments by Vladimir Putin on the July 27 decision of the U.S. Congress to increase sanctions against Russia
Published on the website of the President of Russia. [The comments were made in Finland during a press conference on July 27, 2017 with the president of Finland.]
… Pavel Zarubin, Rossiya TV channel: Good afternoon, my name is Pavel Zarubin, Rossiya TV channel. I have a question for both leaders. I would like to continue with the high-profile issue of the new US bill on toughening anti-Russian sanctions. Naturally, this issue is high-profile also because in the last few days and weeks we have been hearing very tough criticism of this bill from many key European politicians and European agencies.
After all, what is happening is that the United States wants to apply its laws to the territories of other countries, EU countries, and to make its bill transnational. Have you discussed this issue? What is your attitude to it? After all, as far as I understand, the independence and economic security interests of other countries are at stake.
And I have a question for the President of Russia. If this bill is adopted, what will be Russia’s response? What will it be like? Are any Russian-US contacts possible on this matter? For instance, a telephone conversation with the US President. Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: As for the transnational character of US legislation, I have been talking about this for a long time, since 2007 (I think I spoke in Munich about this). It is exactly as I said. This practice is unacceptable – it is destroying international relations and international law. We have never accepted it and will not accept it. As for the reaction of other states of the world, it depends on the extent of their sovereignty and readiness to defend their own national interests.
If the same happens in this case, it will cause particular regret because these actions will have aggravating factors. I would call them particularly cynical because they amount to an obvious attempt to use one’s geopolitical advantages in the competitive struggle in order to protect one’s economic interests at the expense of one’s allies, as in this case.
We have not seen the final version yet and we do not have a final opinion on this matter. But we see that for a long period of time, there have been ongoing attempts to provoke us – many Russian diplomats were expelled with no explanation of the reason and diplomatic property was seized, which is beyond comprehension as it violates fundamental norms of international law regarding diplomatic relations. The sanctions are absolutely illegal from the perspective of international law and they violate the principles of international trade and World Trade Organisation rules. As you know, we are being very restrained and patient, but at some point we will have to respond. We cannot tolerate this loutish behaviour towards our country forever. But how we respond will depend on the final version of the bill that is being debated in the US Senate.
In any case, we believe that whatever happens in the immediate future, in the long term we will certainly reach some strategic level of cooperation and agreement. I hope that ultimately this is what will happen. [End reply to question.]
Russia retaliates against new round of U.S. sanctions, Reuters, July 27, 2017
Moscow warns new sanctions take U.S.-Russia ties into ‘uncharted territory’, Reuters, July 26, 2017