White House officials say that they expect the Saturday phone call between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin to include discussions of US sanctions against Russia, and that is fueling a lot of speculation about a possible near-term move toward sanction relief.
A large number of the US sanctions imposed on Russia in the last three years were done by executive order, so it would be relatively easy for President Trump to lift a massive number of sanctions on Russia unilaterally in short order, and despite condemnation of the idea from Congressional hawks, there appears to be little they could really do about it.
Trump is downplaying the chances of actually doing so, however, saying he is only in the very early stages of considering sanctions relief for Russia. Previously, Trump has also suggested he’d try to use the sanctions as leverage to get deals out of Russia, potentially on nuclear disarmament.
There seems to be little doubt, however, that Russia wants sanctions relief sooner rather than later, and the Trump Administration’s foreign policy goal of normalizing US-Russia relations is likely to be impossible to pull off so long as all the sanctions are in place.