World News

Trump to Impose New Sanctions on Russia Over Support for Syria

Posted April 15, 2018 4:36 p.m. EDT

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration plans to impose new sanctions against Russia on Monday to punish it for enabling the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons in its civil war, the latest in a series of actions by both sides underscoring the deterioration in relations between Moscow and the West.

The sanctions, coming shortly after U.S.-led airstrikes against facilities linked to Syria’s chemical weapons, are meant to signal that the United States holds responsible not just the Damascus government of President Bashar Assad but also his patrons in Russia and Iran. President Donald Trump has vowed that Syria’s allies will pay a “big price” for permitting his use of poison gas.

The sanctions were announced Sunday by Nikki R. Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and the administration’s leading public voice excoriating Russia in recent days. “They will go directly to any sort of companies that were dealing with equipment related to Assad and chemical weapons use,” she said on “Face the Nation” on CBS. “And so I think everyone is going to feel it at this point. I think everyone knows that we sent a strong message and our hope is that they listen to it.”

Trump has tried through most of his presidency to forge a friendship with President Vladimir Putin of Russia and avoid criticizing him personally even as a special counsel, Robert Mueller, investigated whether his campaign coordinated with Russia during the 2016 election. But in recent weeks, Trump’s administration has taken increasing action against Russia, and the president singled out Putin over Syria’s use of chemical weapons on Twitter and again in a televised speech Friday night.

New sanctions Monday would be the third round enacted by the Trump administration against Russia in the past four weeks. Last month the administration targeted Russian companies and individuals for intervening in the 2016 election and mounting cyberattacks against Western facilities. It followed that this month with penalties against Putin’s inner circle, singling out some of Russia’s richest men and top government officials.

The administration also expelled 60 Russian diplomats and intelligence officers and closed the Russian Consulate in Seattle in response to the poisoning of a former Russian spy living in Britain.

The strikes against Syria in retaliation for a suspected chemical attack that killed dozens in the Damascus suburb of Douma were designed to avoid provoking Russia into a response. By hitting just three targets and limiting the attack to a single night, the Trump administration seemed to keep it limited enough not to compel Moscow to lash back.

But Haley said the administration was determined to make Moscow pay a price for supporting Assad, noting that it had vetoed six U.N. resolutions related to Syria and chemical weapons.

“Assad knew that Russia had its back,” she said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Assad knew that Russia would cover for him at the United Nations and Assad got reckless and he used it in a way that was far more aggressive.”