Will new US sanctions put Putin under pressure?
The US Secretary of State has imposed new sanctions on Russia in response to the poison attack on the Russian double agent Skripal and his daughter in Britain. While some commentators believe Putin is immune to Trump's unpredictable Russia policy, others see tough times ahead for the Russian president.
Strategy more like a child's scribbling
Trump's Russia policy lacks a clear strategy, Die Presse notes:
“There are good reasons to show Putin where the limits are. He who annexes foreign territory and violates international laws must reckon with consequences. The same goes for he who poisons his opponents or uses troll lies to meddle in elections in Western democracies. ... But rather than a clear line being discernible in Trump's Russia policy it's more like a child's careless scribbling, with lots of confused lines. In Helsinki he pandered to Putin in a disturbing and embarrassing way. Three and a half weeks later Trump is rubber-stamping unsubstantiated sanctions. Explanations according to which the US president just wants to divert attention from the issue of the Russians having helped him in the election campaign don't go far enough. The man simply doesn't have his shop in Washington under control.”
Don't forget the carrot
The US should make clear what Moscow must do for the sanctions to be rescinded, the Financial Times advises:
“Sanctions should provide, too, some certainty that if Moscow does turn over a new leaf, they will be lifted. By putting the original sanctions imposed over Russia's intervention in Ukraine into law, and layering new measures on top, Congress risks convincing the Kremlin they are never intended to be reversed but rather to place it under permanent pressure. Moscow may then decide complying is futile, and step up efforts to undermine the west.”
Sanction fever in run-up to November elections
The US Senate had already announced new sanctions against Russia over the war in Ukraine. Now Trump is following up with the midterm elections in November in mind, Vedomosti believes:
“It's not to be ruled out, however, that the Republicans (including Trump) could lose their majority. The senators' project is tougher: trading in Russian bonds is limited, Russian state banks are prohibited from carrying out operations in US dollars, and Russia is condemned for sponsoring terrorism. The first stage of the sanctions announced by the State Department only bans the export of military grade electronic components. ... Trump's sanctions look very much like an attempt to seize the initiative from Congress and put the senators' sanction project out of the running.”
Nothing but problems for Putin
The US sanctions come at an inconvenient time for Putin because he's under domestic pressure right now too, Rzeczpospolita observes:
“The US sanctions against Russia are coinciding with an attempt in Russia to hold a referendum on the law raising the retirement age. ... Both actions - that of Washington and that of the Russians themselves - have coincidentally emerged at the same time. Each on its own would be a problem for the government in Russia, but together they're a problem squared.”