'A full blown trade war' -- How Russia reported on the sanctions bill recently signed by Trump

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 bill, which had earlier been overwhelmingly approved by Congress, targets those who attempt to “undermine US cybersecurity,” invest into Russia’s energy export pipelines, or make “significant” transactions with Russian defence 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 days before the actual bill signing by demanding Monday that the United States 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 once Trump did sign the bill, the emerging media narrative ranged from analysing how Trump was “pressured into” signing the bill to issuing heavy warnings about its aftereffects.

“The president should have been the one to decide the fate of the sanctions,” wrote Rostislav Ischenko, a correspondent for state-owned MIA Rosiya. “But […] 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 has been signed, 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 only selling within their borders and thereby bringing up the world price of gas. News website Ria Novosti and news station Vesti FM
insisted that countries which conduct significant economic dealings with Russia, particularly those in the EU, 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 — somewhat irrationately — optimistic that Trump would go back on the bill in due time.

“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 state-owned Sputnik Radio.

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