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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

Angry Trump says Russia ties at 'very dangerous low'

Moscow called the sanctions a declaration of "economic war" that had exposed the US president's weakness

Donald Trump says relations between Washington and Moscow had hit an all-time and "very dangerous" low. AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSON
Donald Trump says relations between Washington and Moscow had hit an all-time and "very dangerous" low. AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSON

Washington // US President Donald Trump said relations with Russia had hit an all-time and "very dangerous" low Thursday, putting the blame on Congress after he reluctantly approved sanctions against Moscow.

After Moscow called the sanctions a declaration of "economic war" that had exposed the US president's weakness, an angry Mr Trump lashed out at his own lawmakers who had overwhelmingly approved the measures.

"Our relationship with Russia is at an all-time & very dangerous low," Mr Trump wrote on Twitter.

"You can thank Congress, the same people that can't even give us HCare!" he added in reference to a recent defeat in the Senate on his health care reform plans.

Mr Trump's outburst came a day after he grudgingly signed off on the sanctions, calling the legislation "significantly flawed" and adding that some of its provisions were unconstitutional.

Mr Trump's presidency has been overshadowed by allegations that his campaign team colluded with Moscow during last year's US presidential campaign in which he defeated Hillary Clinton.

After meeting his Russian counterpart at a G20 summit in Germany last month, Mr Trump said he wanted to work more closely with Moscow on areas such as the conflict in Syria.

But the legislation - which includes measures against North Korea and Iran - greatly limits his room for manoeuvre and underlines the lack of trust from lawmakers, even though his own Republican Party controls both houses of Congress.

The sanctions target the Russian energy sector in particular, giving Washington the ability to sanction companies involved in developing Russian pipelines.

It also places curbs on some Russian weapons exporters and constrains Trump's ability to waive the penalties.

Moscow, which announced a series of retaliatory measures over the weekend, has painted the bill's passage in the Senate as a humiliation for Mr Trump.

Prime Minister Medvedev took to Facebook late on Wednesday to say Trump's signing of the bill "ends hopes for improving our relations with the new US administration."

"It is a declaration of a full-fledged economic war on Russia," Mr Medvedev wrote.

"The Trump administration has shown its total weakness by handing over executive power to Congress in the most humiliating way."

Moscow has already ordered the US to slash staff at its diplomatic mission in Russia by 755 personnel in response.

The Kremlin said Trump's formal approval did not "change anything" and no further retaliation was planned.