Lawmakers in Russia Call for Retaliation Against New U.S. Sanctions. Oleg Khokhlov for New York Times
MOSCOW — Russian legislators called on Wednesday for “painful” measures against the United States in response to plans for new American sanctions, while the Kremlin focused more on the damage to relations between Washington and Moscow.
Apart from demanding a tough response, many in Russia declared dead any hope for improved relations with Washington under a Trump administration, and there were suggestions that European pique over the proposed measures created an opening for an anti-American alliance.
Dmitri S. Peskov, spokesman for President Vladimir V. Putin, noted that the proposed American law was still a draft. The House and the Senate must reconcile their versions before submitting it for President Trump’s signature.
Any substantial response by Mr. Putin would require more study, Mr. Peskov said. Using one of Mr. Trump’s favorite adjectives in describing the law, he said, “In the meantime, it can be said that the news is quite sad with regard to Russia-U.S. relations and prospects for their development.” He added that it was “no less depressing with regard to the international law and international commercial relations.”
Similar sentiments emerged from several European capitals. In Paris, the Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that the new sanctions, targeting Iran and North Korea as well as Russia, appeared to contradict international law because of their global reach.
There is concern in Europe that the American sanctions could ripple through the energy market because they target companies that contribute to the development, maintenance or modernization of the pipelines exporting Russian energy.
That would most likely affect a hotly debated natural-gas pipeline project linking Russia with Germany, called Nord Stream 2, which is owned by the Russian state oil giant, Gazprom, but in which European firms hold financial stakes.
Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the foreign relations committee in the Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian legislature, said Moscow must respond even if it waited for the final law.
The reaction should be “painful for the Americans,” he wrote on Facebook. He also suggested a temporary alliance with Europe.
Sergei A. Ryabkov, the Russian deputy foreign minister, said that the new sanctions would bury any prospect of improving relations, calling the measures “beyond common sense.”
“The authors and sponsors of this bill are making a very serious step toward destruction of prospects for normalizing relations with Russia and do not conceal that that’s their target,” Mr. Ryabkov said, according to the Russian news agency Itar-Tass. Despite that, he added, Moscow remained ready to cooperate on shared concerns, including fighting terrorism.
Last December, former President Barack Obama ordered the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats and the closing of two Russian diplomatic estates near Washington and New York. Mr. Putin, anticipating better relations under a Trump administration, did not respond at the time. Many say they believe the Russian leader’s most likely first step will mirror those actions, and Moscow has been threatening to take such measures for weeks.
The American bill, passed by a vote of 419 to 3 by the House of Representatives on Tuesday, bolsters economic sanctions against Russia that were imposed after Moscow annexed Crimea and destabilized Ukraine in 2014.
The measures reflect Congress’s growing unease with Mr. Trump’s relatively warm attitude toward Russia despite repeated assertions from United States intelligence agencies that Moscow hacked the American election. The law would require Mr. Trump to seek congressional approval before lifting any sanctions — a curb on executive authority that has prompted mixed signals from the White House about whether Mr. Trump will sign any final version of the bill.
Russia, effectively ignoring the fact that its election meddling had prompted the measures, used the push for tightened sanctions as further proof that deep forces in the American government were continuing to thwart Mr. Trump’s wish, expressed during the campaign, to improve ties with Moscow.
Mr. Trump will sign the bill because he is “a prisoner of Congress and anti-Russian hysteria,” Aleksei K. Pushkov, another Russian legislator and frequent commentator on foreign relations, wrote on Twitter. He called the sanctions “a new stage of confrontation” and mused whether the restaurant chain McDonald’s should be targeted in response.
There has been concern in the American business community that the sanctions would harm their interests. In previous rounds, Washington consulted with Europe on sanctions to ensure that everyone was on the same page. Alexis Rodzianko, the president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia, said the lack of consultation and the cementing in place of the sanctions would put American firms at a disadvantage.
“If there is no coordination, everyone goes their own way,” he said. “We don’t like them,” he added, referring to the sanctions.
In response to Western sanctions in 2014, Moscow banned the import of many foods from the West, including cheese and fish. Those counter-sanctions are often lauded in Russia as helping foster agricultural development at home.
It is considered unlikely that specific American companies would be targeted in any retaliation from Moscow, because Russia is just emerging from a recession. John F. Tefft, the American ambassador to Russia, noted recently that American firms employed about 175,000 people in the country, including many local executives.
More than anything else, the proposed law left the impression that the American sanctions, whether effective or not, would endure.
“There were sort of expectations that the sanctions would be gradually lifted because there would be progress in the political settlements in Ukraine,” said Oleg Khokhlov, a partner with Goltsblat BLP, the Russian arm of Berwin Leighton Paisner, a London-based law firm.
“The question was when would it happen,” Mr. Khokhlov said. “With these sanctions now about to be converted into law, that makes it much more difficult, and you just have to realize that it is going to be for a long time.”
If you would like to receive our legal alerts and updates highlighting current legal issues relevant to your areas of interest and providing expert commentary by our lawyers, please click on "Sign Up" and fill out the form.