What would’ve been the second round of economic sanctions levied at Moscow since the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal has been walked back by the White House, which apparently has put its latest round of sanction plans “in a holding pattern” following a coordinated missile strike in Syria late Friday.
The sanctions were developed in recent weeks as part of a ready menu of potential retaliatory measures in the event of another chemical weapons attack in Syria or some other provocative behavior by the Russians. Trump had complained in March that he didn’t have a set of options ready to retaliate after a small scale chemical weapons attack in Syria.
It was unclear to the Washington Post whether UN Ambassador Nikki Haley had misspoke or overstepped her authority when she teased that more sanctions would be forthcoming late Sunday – or whether “internal confusion” at the White House was to blame for the miscommunication.
President Trump on Monday put the brakes on a preliminary plan to impose additional economic sanctions on Russia, walking back a Sunday announcement by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley that the Kremlin had swiftly denounced as “international economic raiding.”
Preparations to punish Russia anew for its support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government over the alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria caused consternation at the White House. Haley said on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” that sanctions on Russian companies behind the equipment related to Assad’s alleged chemical weapons attack would be announced Monday by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
But as officials in Moscow condemned the planned sanctions as overly punitive, Trump conferred with his national security advisers later Sunday and told them he was upset the sanctions were being officially rolled out because he was not yet comfortable executing them, according to several people familiar with the plan.
Administration officials said the economic sanctions were under serious consideration, along with other measures that could be taken against Russia, but said Trump had not given final authorization to implement them. Administration officials said Monday it was unlikely Trump would approve any additional sanctions without another triggering event by Russia, describing the strategy as being in a holding pattern.
Sometime after Haley’s comments on CBS, the Trump administration notified the Russian Embassy in Washington that the sanctions were not in fact coming, a Russian Foreign Ministry official said Monday.
The Trump team decided to publicly characterize Haley’s announcement as a misstatement. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement Monday: “We are considering additional sanctions on Russia and a decision will be made in the near future.”