U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley’s claimed during an interview that new sanctions will be imposed on Russia to send a “strong message” against their support of the Syrian despot Bashar al-Assad.
However, President Donald Trump directly contradicted the U.S. envoy and decided to not impose any new sanctions on Russia. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders also addressed the issue in a statement, “We are considering additional sanctions on Russia and a decision will be made in the near future.”
The incident, once again, highlighted the division between Trump and his aides.
Russian analysts assessed the developments and said the back and forth in the policy towards Russia shows that the Trump administration is struggling to logically and coherently deal with the Kremlin.
“Trump seems to think that if he accepts what his advisers recommend on even days of the month and rejects their recommendations on odd days, the result will be a strategy. By and large, other governments don’t know whether to laugh or cry at all this. But in Russia, laughter is getting the upper hand,” said Stephen Sestanovich, a scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations and Columbia University who served as ambassador to former Soviet states in the 1990s.
Trump’s recent decisions and approach towards Russia prove as an evidence of a turbulent policy towards the Kremlin.
In March 2018, Trump’s national security advisers reportedly told him in written briefing materials, “DO NOT CONGRATULATE” Russian President Vladimir Putin on his re-election victory.
However, Trump went ahead and congratulated Putin for his victory during a phone call. However, he did not press Putin on concerns about Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election or bring up the poisoning of a former Russian spy in the United Kingdom.
“I had a call with President Putin and congratulated him on the victory, his electoral victory.” Trump said about the phone call.
He added they “will probably get together in the not-too-distant future” to talk about the international arms race and other mutual concerns, such as the war in Syria and North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons.
Days later after the congratulatory call, the United States expelled 60 Russian diplomats, joining governments across Europe punishing the Kremlin for a nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy in Britain that they have blamed on Moscow.
In another example of policy shift, Trump ordered “precision” strikes targeting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons capabilities, in response to a suspected chemical gas attack on a rebel-held town in Eastern Ghouta, Syria.
The military strike was reportedly conducted to deter Assad’s brutal behavior with its citizens and to give a message to Russia and Iran, which have backed his government. The president also gave Russia and Iran a heads up that he would fire missiles.
And then just a week after the strikes Trump opted for a softer approach and contradicted Haley by deciding not to impose new sanctions on Russia.
The developments show that the Trump administration is extremely confused and can’t decide whether to take a firm stance against Russia or to opt for a softer policy.
Banner/Thumbnail Credits: Reuters, Sergei Karpukhin