Trump looks to get back on good terms with Putin

Developments on Day 452 of the Trump Administration:

Donald Trump overrules his national security officials and rejects new sanctions that were due to be imposed on Russia on Monday.

The US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, had announced in TV interviews on Sunday that the administration would place sanctions on Russian companies found to be assisting Syria’s chemical weapons program, just over a week after the Assad regime’s attacks on an area near Damascus.

See Syria Daily, April 17: OPCW Inspectors Blocked from Reaching Chemical Attack Sites

But the White House pulled back the commitment on Monday, saying Trump had not approved the measures.

“We are considering additional sanctions on Russia and a decision will be made in the near future,” Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. Later she told reporters aboard Air Force One as Trump headed to Florida, “The president has been clear that he’s going to be tough on Russia, but at the same time he’d still like to have a good relationship with them.”

Another White House official said Trump had rejected the sanctions as unnecessary, because Russia’s response to US-UK-French missiles strikes on Assad regime targets on Saturday was “mainly bluster”.

Trump — a professed admirer of Vladimir Putin and possibly compromised by Russia’s intervention in the 2016 Presidential election — has long held out against sanctions on Moscow. He opposed Congressional sanctions that were passed in July 2017, and then refused to implement them by a January deadline. Limited measures were finally put in place in March.

Trump has also been muted about a suspected Russian nerve agent attack in southern England against a former spy.

A week ago he expressed anger against Moscow — and a promise to “make [it] pay a big price” — after he saw images of the victims of the April 7 chemical attacks by the Assad regime. However, proclaiming “Mission Accomplished” with last Saturday’s missile response, he appears to have resumed his stance against further pressure on Putin.

The White House official said Trump was annoyed with Haley for her comments in two Sunday interviews.

Administration officials said new sanctions could still be imposed at some point if Russia takes further action which justify the restrictions. But, barring this, they could not how Trump will Russia pay its “big price” over the chemical attacks in Syria.