- Graphic by Samantha Lee (Business Insider)
By the time President Donald Trump signed a bill slapping Russia with a new set of sanctions Wednesday, Russian columnists were already writing on why doing so would be a very bad idea.
The law, which had overwhelming approval in Congress, targets those who attempt to “undermine US cybersecurity,” invest into Russia’s energy-export pipelines, or make “significant” transactions with Russian defense or intelligence agencies.
It additionally puts new sanctions on North Korea and Iran.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev accused the US shortly after the signing of instigating a “full-blown trade war” against Russia.
The Kremlin retaliated before Trump even signed the bill into law by demanding Monday that the US cut its embassy staff in Russia by 755 people.
Throughout Trump’s presidency, the Russian media has overwhelmingly hypothesized that Trump would prevent Congress from going forward with the extended sanctions. But the bill had veto-proof support in Congress, and once Trump did sign the bill, which prevents him from ending the sanctions unilaterally, the emerging media narrative ranged from analyzing how Trump was “pressured into” signing it to issuing heavy warnings about its effects.
“The president should have been the one to decide the fate of the sanctions,” wrote Rostislav Ischenko, a correspondent for the state-owned MIA Rossiya, adding that “Congress took such an opportunity away from Trump, and now he cannot remove them independently.”
The idea that Congress and the “American establishment” have prevented Trump from tightening US’s ties to Russia has been heavily pushed forward by the Russian media. But now that the sanctions bill is law, state-owned outlets have been loudly declaring how sanctions will hurt everybody except Russia.
The Kremlin’s Federal News Agency wrote an extensive article detailing how Russian companies could actually come out stronger by selling only within their borders and thereby bringing up the world price of gas. The news website Ria Novosti and the news station Vesti FM insisted that countries with significant economic dealings with Russia, particularly those in the European Union, would be hit hard by the sanctions.
“The conflict, which is still only theoretical, could lead to the forming of a new, united West-Europe opposition to the sanctions of the USA,” Natalia Goncharova wrote for Vesti FM.
But despite the bluster and bravado from certain outlets, the sanctions still have the power to wreak significant damage on the Russian economy. In follow-up articles, many writers remained optimistic that Trump would eventually reverse course on the law – an unlikely outcome considering Congress’ view on it.
“You can view Trump’s actions as a step backward that will, possibly, bring about two steps forward over the heads of Congress,” Oleg Obukhov wrote for the state-owned Sputnik Radio.