The good meeting that Donald Trump recently had with Vladimir Putin appears to have been totally undone.
The prolonged American refusal to restore the properties of the Russian Embassy in the US that were seized under Barack Obama combined with both the House of Representatives and Senate passing globally unpopular sanctions on Russia (as well as Iran and North Korea), has been met with a Russian response, as promised by Russian President Putin.
Russia has retaliated by suspending the access to warehouses in Moscow that are used by the US Embassy. Additionally, Sputnik reports that Russia is preparing to offer the US a proposal to cut American diplomatic presence in Russia to 455 people in a clear downgrade in bilateral relations.
It is of note that this is still less than fully proportional retaliation as US Embassy property that includes living and working space has not been cut off while Barack Obama seized such places belonging to Russia in the US.
According to Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov,
“Of course such measures are impossible without authorization by the president”.
This is a further confirmation that US relations with Russia that seemed to have improved after the Trump-Putin meeting at the G20, have now become worse due to the actions of the US Congress.
Donald Trump still has the ability to veto the sanctions and then try and persuade a Congress not to use a super-majority to override his veto. At this point it would also seem that Trump would have to address the lingering diplomatic property crisis with great haste in order to avoid a further plunge in relations with Moscow.
If Donald Trump’s hands were somewhat tied by Obama in this respect, they are now being actively stomped on by Trump’s own Congress. Trump can attempt to right these errors, but it will not be easy at this stage.