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An Angry Kremlin Faces New Rounds of U.S. Sanctions

An Angry Kremlin Faces New Rounds of U.S. Sanctions

MOSCOW — From Moscow to Washington to capitals in between, the past few days showcased the way President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia nimbly exploits differences between the United States and its allies — yet also accentuated where he falls short.President Trump had barely finished catapulting a belligerent tweet at Turkey on Friday, doubling the…


MOSCOW — From Moscow to Washington to capitals in between, the past few days showcased the way President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia nimbly exploits differences between the United States and its allies — yet also accentuated where he falls short.

President Trump had barely finished catapulting a belligerent tweet at Turkey on Friday, doubling the tariffs on its steel and aluminum exports to the United States, before Mr. Putin was on the phone with his Turkish counterpart, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Mr. Erdogan, whose country is a NATO member, soon crowed that Turkey’s growing economic and military relations with Russia “make us stronger,” while he fulminated against the “economic war” waged by Washington.

Yet for all the strategic success Mr. Putin has had — including diminishing NATO and the European Union by bolstering populist governments in Europe as well as Middle East autocrats — one key goal has eluded him.

2014 annexation of Crimea. In fact, the State Department threatened last week to enact yet another round of such measures, just days after the United States Senate brandished its own.

The European Union, some of whose members had signaled in the past few years that they were ready to consider granting Moscow some relief, has similarly held tough on sanctions, especially in the wake of the British government’s finding that Russia was responsible for an attempted assassination on British soil using a banned nerve agent.

The failure to make progress in freeing the Russian economy from the sanctions is a setback for Mr. Putin both at home and abroad.

In Mr. Trump, Mr. Putin and some in the Kremlin thought that they had a get-out-of-sanctions-free card. Despite the lack of concrete agreements, the first summit meeting between the two leaders, in Helsinki, Finland, last month, reinforced Russian expectations that the American president would fulfill his campaign promise to mend ties.

“Many hoped that the Helsinki summit would reset U.S.-Russia relations, and if not help lift the existing sanctions, then at least avoid further rounds,” Maria Snegovaya, a United States-based Russia analyst and columnist for the Vedomosti newspaper, wrote in an email.

foreigners flooded Russia in June and July for the World Cup. State television, a virtual monopoly, dropped its habitual xenophobic attacks during those weeks, which came just before the July 16 summit meeting between Mr. Putin and Mr. Trump.

More important, the changing view of the West reflects a general exasperation with domestic problems including plans to overhaul pensions, higher taxes, and several years of rising prices in tandem with decreasing incomes, Mr. Gudkov said.

“It is a way for people to say it is time to end this confrontation,” he said.

Initially, it seemed that the Helsinki talks opened the door for lower-level diplomats, military officers, intelligence agents and other experts to begin discussions about Russian-United States cooperation on at least a few issues, including the wars in Syria and Ukraine, international terrorism and nuclear proliferation.

“We would slowly start moving out of this hole that we have dug for ourselves,” Mr. Kortunov said.

Instead, Mr. Trump’s cozy attitude toward Mr. Putin backfired at home and the confrontation deepened.

Maria Butina, on charges of acting as an unregistered foreign agent.

Then a bipartisan group of senators, dismayed that Mr. Trump had not publicly confronted Mr. Putin over Russia’s election meddling, released draft legislation that would limit the operations in the United States of Russian state-owned banks and that would impede their use of the dollar. Passage of such a bill would impose some of the most damaging sanctions yet.

On Wednesday, the State Department said it would impose new sanctions by the end of August in response to the attempted assassination in March of a former Russian spy living in England, Sergei V. Skripal, and his daughter, Yulia Skripal. American law mandates such sanctions, with a second stage possible later this year, after any attack using chemical weapons.

The August sanctions, targeting goods related to national security, are expected to have little effect because such trade is so low anyway.

The banking sanctions threatened by the Senate are far more serious. Some Russian analysts see the lighter sanctions emerging from the State Department as an attempt by the Trump White House to head off a new, far more damaging round, and to make Mr. Trump look tough on Russia before the November midterm elections.

In either case, Russia has only limited means to respond without bruising its own economy — existing sanctions, including those imposed by Europe, have already damaged economic growth.

On Thursday, the prospect of new sanctions pounded the ruble, which dropped to its lowest level against the dollar in two years. Share prices in Moscow also plunged. The market turmoil prompted sensational headlines in the Russian news media like “The Ruble Drowned in a Wave of Sanctions.”

hacking ofDemocratic Party emails or the poisoning of the Skripals.

Russia has largely skirted the fallout from previous sanctions, and it has the example of countries like Iran, which survived such measures for decades.

Yet each new round feeds the concern that they will be harder to escape, said Aleksandr Morozov, co-director of the Boris Nemtsov Center for the Study of Russia in Prague.

“Now they are in a diplomatic vacuum,” he said.: “It is not clear where and how even minimal contacts can be moved.”

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