WASHINGTON - Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed disappointment Saturday over possible new sanctions to be levied against his country by the United States, but said it is too early to speak of “retaliatory actions.”
“This will, indeed, complicate Russia-American relations. I think this is harmful,” Putin the told state-run RIA news agency.
The U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly this week to strengthen sanctions against Russia as punishment for its campaign to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
The new sanctions, passed Wednesday, target Russians involved in serious human rights abuses, supplying weapons to the Syrian government, carrying out malicious cyber activities and doing business with Russian intelligence and defense.
Putin to wait and see
The proposed sanctions still must gain approval from the House of Representatives and be signed by President Donald Trump, which is why Putin said he would wait to see how the situation moves forward.
“We need to see how it is all going to be. That is why it is premature to speak publicly about our retaliatory actions,” Putin said.
The White House has not said if Trump would sign or veto the legislation, but Secretary of State Rex Tillerson testified on Capitol Hill this week and warned against measures that would cut off dialogue with Moscow.
He asked that Congress give the Trump administration “the flexibility to turn up the heat” on Russia, should the need arise in the future.
McCain backs strong message
Republican Senator John McCain, a leading critic of Russia in the Senate, said after the sanctions vote that America has “no time to waste” in punishing Russia and the U.S. needs to send a strong message to Putin that “we will not tolerate attacks on our democracy.”
Putin downplayed the effectiveness of the proposed sanctions, saying Russians would have to “adjust something” or “do something extra,” but the new sanctions will not lead to a “deadlock or a collapse” in Russia.