Trump wants 'good relations' with Putin, delays Russia sanctions

Trump wants 'good relations' with Putin, delays Russia sanctions
A senior administration official said the US president is unlikely to impose new sanctions on Russia unless Moscow conducts another cyber attack or provocation.
3 min read
17 April, 2018
Trump wants good relationship with Russia's Putin [Getty]
The US president is unlikely to impose new sanctions on Russia unless Moscow conducts another cyber attack or provocation, a senior administration official said on Monday, despite Washington's earlier talks of imminent punitive economic measures for Moscow's role supporting Syria's chemical weapons programme.

Donald Trump still wants to maintain a good relationship with Russia Vladimir Putin should Russia changes its behaviour, the official said.

"The president has been clear that he's going to be tough on Russia, but at the same time he'd still like to have a good relationship with them," said press secretary Sarah Sanders.

​"The president would still like to sit down with him, he feels like it's better for the world if they have a good relationship.

"But that's going to depend on the actions of Russia. We've been very clear in our actions what we expect and we hope they'll have a change in their behaviour."

On Sunday, US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said new sanctions would be announced on Monday by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

Haley said the measures would target companies that supplied Damascus with equipment and other material related to chemical weapons, following a suspected regime strike which killed more than 40 people in Douma on April 7 and prompted US-led retaliation.

But the White House said it was weighing the fresh Russia sanctions, noting "a decision will be made in the near future," in a message that appeared to tap the breaks on the move.

"We are evaluating but nothing to announce right now," Sanders said.

"With the political and diplomatic actions that we're taking now, we wanted their friends Iran and Russia to know that we meant business and that they were going to be feeling the pain from this as well," she said.

With an announcement seemingly imminent, officials at the Departments of State and Treasury referred queries back to the White House.

It is not clear exactly what has caused the apparent delay, but sanctions decisions are usually weeks if not months in the making. 

The United States and European allies had discussed a sanctions package in the build up to last week's strikes against targets in Syria, with the American measures said to be further along in the planning process than Europe - where consensus among member states is needed.

Adding to the complication is the lack of a Secretary of State after Rex Tillerson's departure, as well as President Donald Trump's desire to improve relations with Russia.

Meanwhile, a Washington Post report suggested Trump had been furious with aides over the recent decision to expel 60 Russian diplomats, believing each European country - rather than Europe as a whole - would match that figure.