US-Russia relationship at 'all-time low' - Trump

  • 04/08/2017
Trump and Putin in July.
Trump and Putin in July. Photo credit: Getty

US President Donald Trump says Washington's "relationship with Russia is at an all-time and very dangerous low" and blames Congress for the situation.

Mr Trump's comment, in a post on Twitter early on Thursday, comes one day after he signed new sanctions against Russia into law.

During the election campaign, Mr Trump promised to improve relations with the United States' former Cold War rival.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on Wednesday evening the measure showed the Trump administration was utterly powerless. The sanctions amounted to a full-scale trade war and the hope of improved relations with the new administration in Washington was over, Mr Medvedev said in a Facebook post.

Even while campaigning for the White House, Mr Trump's stated desire for improved ties with Moscow raised eyebrows among his fellow Republicans, as well as Democrats. Prospects for a rapprochement largely evaporated once he took office in January over US intelligence agencies' findings that Russia meddled in the 2016 US election campaign.

Congress passed the new sanctions to punish Russia for the election interference and the annexation of Ukraine's Crimea in 2014, and included provisions allowing lawmakers to stop Mr Trump from easing the penalties.

Mr Trump, who has publicly expressed frustration with Congress, lashed out again at lawmakers on Thursday.

"Our relationship with Russia is at an all-time & very dangerous low," he said in a Twitter post.

"You can thank Congress, the same people that can't even give us HCare!" he added, referring to a bitter setback this month when Republicans failed to push healthcare legislation through the Senate.

Republicans, who control both chambers of Congress, and Democrats are strongly divided on many issues but the sanctions measure drew wide support from lawmakers in both parties.

McCain refutes Trump's claim

Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a leading voice on foreign policy in the party, was among the Republican lawmakers pushing back hard at Mr Trump's tweet.

"Our relationship w/ Russia is at dangerous low. You can thank Putin for attacking our democracy, invading neighbors & threatening our allies," Mr McCain said on Twitter.

Mr Trump had little choice but to sign the legislation because Congress clearly had the votes to override his potential veto. He strongly criticised the bill as "significantly flawed" and complained it infringed on his presidential powers to shape foreign policy.

Russia has loomed large over the first six months of the Trump presidency. US congressional panels and a special counsel are investigating the election interference in probes that also are looking into any potential role by Mr Trump's aides.

Moscow denies any meddling and Mr Trump, regularly denouncing the investigations as a political witch hunt, denies any collusion by his campaign.

Republican US Senator Tom Cotton, asked about Trump's tweet in an MSNBC interview, agreed US-Russian ties were "at a very low point" but rejected the President's blame.

"Ultimately, the responsibility falls primarily on Vladimir Putin," Mr Cotton said, pointing to Russian actions over Ukraine, arms control treaty violations and alleged meddling in various Western nations.

He and other Republican lawmakers pointed to previous presidential administrations' policies, including under Mr Trump's Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama.

"You can thank years of Russian aggression met by a feckless US response and devastating defense cuts for the current situation," Republican US representative Mike Gallagher wrote in a Twitter post responding to Trump's tweet.

The Kremlin dismissed the sanctions on Thursday.

"Nobody should doubt that Russia will protect and defend its interests," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said at a conference call with reporters. "We in general believe that this policy of sanctions is short-sighted, unlawful and hopeless."

Even before Mr Trump signed the bill, Mr Putin on Sunday ordered the United States to cut about 60 percent of its diplomatic staff in Russia by September 1 and took away a summer house used by US embassy staff.

The sanctions will affect a range of Russian industries and could hurt the country's economy, already weakened by 2014 sanctions imposed after the annexation of Crimea. Several provisions target the Russian energy sector, with new limits on US investment in Russian companies and restrictions on energy exploration involving Russian firms.

The sanctions also affect North Korea and Iran.

Reuters / Newshub.