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On the eve of August 22, when the United States planned to introduce a new package of sanctions against Russia, Russian experts discussed goals that President Donald Trump is pursuing by exposing Moscow to unprecedented pressure.
Head of the Department of International Organizations and World Political Processes of the Moscow State University, Andrey Sidorov, believes that Trump competes in sanctions race with the Congress: "In this case, Trump protects himself, and overall sanctions policy that the Congress is pursuing is clear - sanctions' main goal is to change Russia's behavior, which is directly associated with leadership of today's Russia, with President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. Sanctions will continue to exist as long as Vladimir Putin remains in power in Russia. Trump is currently responding to the latest forecasts for November elections, according to which, Democrats will become a majority in the House of Representatives. Trump needs to do everything to neutralize this negative trend in the elections. He's playing the Russia card by insisting on change of leadership. Washington believes that Russia should "give up" on helping Bashar Assad, leave Syria, return Crimea, "stop the violence" in Donbass. It's unlikely that the Russian Federation will agree to such conditions."
Ivan Timofeyev, the Ruissna International Affairs Council program director, recalls that sanctions are imposed on the basis of the 1991 Act on the Destruction of Chemical and Biological Weapons: "This act was adopted in completely different conditions and has a completely different meaning, but Americans can formally use it. According to this document, there are 90 days to hold so-called consultations with the country, individuals and legal entities of which are suspected of using such weapons. If after these consultations this country doesn't accept certain conditions, then Americans can impose sanctions.
Since the late 1990s, Americans have been actively imposing financial sanctions, possessing tools to monitor financial system, taking advantage of their leadership in the global financial system. The point is that American financial institutions and banks may be prohibited from providing lending to Russia or Russian banks.
National carriers' access to the US may be restricted. I'm talking about Aeroflot. Many of these sanctions have already been introduced, especially in the field of defense cooperation. As for financial sanctions, sanctions on lending, Russia isn't a large borrower, so it won't hurt us that much."
Speaking about the European Union's reaction to anti-Russian sanctions, Timofeyev called her cautious: "It looks quite reasonable and pragmatic. Investigation into the Skripal case hasn't ended yet. There's a lot of inconsistent information on the Novichok agent. I think that Brussels wants to see some more serious facts concerning the use of chemical weapons. Although the US congressmen also focus on the fact that Russia allegedly hinders investigation into the use of chemical weapons in Syria."
Vladimir Batyuk, head of the Center for Regional Aspects of US Military Policy under the Russian Academy of Science, noted that there were serious changes in the US foreign and defense policy: "New National Security Strategy approved in December of 2017 directly states that Russia, China, Iran and North Korea are America's main opponents in the international arena. Under Obama, international terrorism, followed by Ebola, were the main threats. Everything changed when Trump came to power. The National Security Strategy and the National Defense Strategy come to conclusion that America is facing serious challenges in international arena due to other great powers, including nuclear powers, and America must be prepared to face these challenges."
Batyuk recalled that defense budget, which was approved by Trump, envisages an increase in spendings on strategic nuclear modernization, combat training of the US forces, aimed at going against regular armies, rather than terrorists: "This requires additional costs. Defense budget also envisages an increase in number of American aircrafts. It also differs from what we saw under Obama, when the US military was reduced quite significantly. In the next fiscal year, the number of US Armed Forces' soldiers will increase by 15600. There are also some internal political aspects. Right now Trump can only rely on the military in Washington. The State Department, as well as other American structures, intelligence community, they all hate Trump, so he can only rely on support of the Pentagon, and it's not cheap. That's why Trump desires to satisfy almost all demands of the US military. Under Obama, and even under George W. Bush, the Pentagon didn't have such influence on the US leader. Almost all requests of the military department are immediately complied with."