Nikki Haley’s sanctions against Russia, which never happened, aren’t exactly off the table. During a joint press conference with Japanese President Shinzo Abe, President Trump insisted the US will impose new sanctions on Russia “as soon as they very much deserve it.”
This was a somewhat awkward declaration, as Trump was already walking away from the microphone, and came scrambling back amid reporters’ questions. He declared “there has been nobody tougher on Russia than Donald Trump” before talking up the future sanctions.
This is particularly noteworthy because all indications are that Trump personally overruled Haley on the sanctions. It is also interesting that he presented the new sanctions as a question of when, not if, he decides Russia deserves it.
This may suggest that the timing was very important to Trump in overruling Haley. Fear of the Friday attack on Syria escalating into a war with Russia was likely still looming at the time of Haley’s announcement, and Trump may have felt it was too soon to pick another fight with Russia.
Russia’s parliamentary speaker Valentina Matvienko announced later in the day that Russia is prepared to retaliate against such sanctions. She said that the sanctions against the US would be “targeted and painful.”
This is the path the previous sanctions have taken, with tit-for-tat measures and endless retaliation leaving both sides much worse off. The US and Russia never had large amounts of trade to begin with, but have also undermined one another’s economies with the sanctions.
Despite the sanctions war, Russian President Putin says he still is interested in working with Trump to improve ties and reduce the general level of tensions between the two sides.