Moscow doesn’t expect Trump to end sanctions all at once but ‘cleverly’ over time, Markov says

A two-pound silver coin dedicated to Donald Trump minted in Russia to celebrate his inauguration. The back of the coins shows the Statue of Liberty against a background of the American flag with inscription reading, “In Trump We trust.” Note spelling errors throughout. (Image: Art Grani)

A two-pound silver coin dedicated to Donald Trump minted in Russia to celebrate his inauguration. The back of the coins shows the Statue of Liberty against a background of the American flag with inscription reading, “In Trump We trust.” Note spelling errors throughout. (Image: Art Grani) 

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“Russophobia is so deeply rooted in European-American ideology,” Sergey Markov says, that Moscow doesn’t expect new US President Donald Trump to end all sanctions all at once but rather “in a clever fashion” that avoids problems for him and over a significant period of time.

The words of Markov, a well-connected Russian political analyst, politician and commentator, are important to correct two widely held but mistaken assumption. On the one hand, some appear to have thought that Trump could magically end all sanctions at once, ignoring the reality that the sanctions are varied and not all were imposed by the US.

And on the other hand, others appear to think, especially after the confusion of yesterday when almost simultaneously the US “corrected” some sanctions and stated at the UN that it wouldn’t lift them until Russia withdraws from Crimea, that if he does not lift sanctions now, he won’t until all the goals that they are intended to promote have been reached.

Instead, sanctions can be eased or lifted entirely in one area as the result of a deal about issues unrelated to them, or at least so has President Trump suggested; and on the other hand, the process of easing sanctions can occur sufficiently slowly that some defenders of such an action can deny that anything is taking place.

Markov’s argument about sanctions and their prospects likely reflects the thinking of many in the Kremlin and consequently merits the closest possible attention not only because of the message it send to broader Russian elites but also because of the one it sends to the West.

He suggests that neither Putin nor Trump wants to talk about sanctions at least not now. Putin, for his part, has “several reasons” for that. On the one hand, raising the issue is something a great power doesn’t do. And on the other, Russia has long experience with living with various kinds of sanctions and the current ones are as varied as any.

Moreover, Markov says, “the continuation or lifting of sanctions is the internal affair of the US.” Moscow can’t offer concessions to achieve a lifting of sanctions because to do so would mean that even if these sanctions are lifted, the West would simply re-impose others when it wanted to extract further concessions.

But according to Markov, “it is extremely disadvantageous for Trump to raise the issue about the possible lifting of sanctions in these talks with Putin.” The new American president needs Congressional approval for many things, including his new cabinet, and lifting sanctions now would spark protests on the Hill where anti-Russian feelings are strong.

Getting into an argument with Congress, especially over an issue which for Trump is secondary, simply is “too high a price” for him to pay. “Does this mean that Trump will not lift sanctions? No.” Markov argues that “he will lift them but that he will proceed by another more clever path.”

The American president will, he continues, “begin to lift anti-Russian sanctions following a request from some major American company that will ask that sanctions” affecting its interests be eliminated. That could involve “the development of cooperation with Russia on extracting oil and gas on the Arctic shelf.”

“It is possible,” Markov says, “that Trump will begin to lift them because of the struggle with ISIS and international terrorism.” A joint effort will be difficult if sanctions affecting the Russian defense ministry and even more the Russian security services are left in place.

The Moscow analyst says that “the logical first step” for Trump’s new secretary of state to begin this process would be to reverse the expulsion of Russian diplomats from Washington, a step which, Markov pointedly notes, Putin did not retaliate in the usual tit-for-tit manner.


Russians should remember that “it is in Trump’s power to lift almost all anti-Russian sanctions except the Magnitsky Law … but it would be rational for Trump [to take this step] without angering Congress” that could, if it was so inclined, respond to his action in this area by opposing others.

Moreover, there is a great deal Trump can do that won’t raise the hackles of people on the Hill. Far more important than the formal anti-Russian sanctions the Obama Administration imposed are “the so-called unofficial limitations” involving such things as limiting the ability of banks to make loans or of US organizations to cooperate with anyone in Russia except “the radical opposition.”

“In this silent dialogue with the US president, the issue of American sanctions for Russia is secondary,” Markov says. “For Russia much more important are ties with the EU and therefore more important the lifting of European sanctions. What it needs from Trump is an end to pressure on the EU to maintain sanctions and to signal that the US plans to end its own.

That and the upcoming elections in several European countries will be enough, Markov says, to lead to “the step by step winding up of sanctions in the course of the spring of 2017.”

Once the US and the EU end sanctions, Russia will be under some pressure to end its counter-sanctions, but “here one must be careful,” Markov says. In his view, Moscow should try to extend them “as long as possible,” especially in the agricultural area to allow for more Russian growth there.

Summing up, Markov says that the main impact of sanctions was not on the Russian economy which has done remarkably well or on the political system where national unity is greater than before but rather on the notion widely shared by Russian elites until now that the country could be modernized by drawing on “Western technology, investment and people.”

Western actions concerning the Sochi Olympics, regime change in Ukraine and then sanctions “showed that we cannot modernize the economy relying only on Western technology because access to that can be limited for one or another political reason and, if need be, be an invented one.”

In the post-sanctions period, Markov says, “Russian strategy will be based not only on the idea that sanctions bear a temporary character but on the idea that their lifting also will likely turn out to be a short term affair. Hopes for stable strategic relations with the West, unfortunately, are something that Russia sill not have for many more years.”

This doesn’t mean, he says, that “cooperation between us is impossible.” It isn’t but it will require new forms; and it will be based on Ronald Reagan’s slogan that in such relations it is necessary to “trust but verify.”


Edited by: A. N.

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  1. Avatar Vol Ya says:

    If life is so good in russia, then why are so many people in Russia drinking themselves to death by drinking some sort of alternative form of alcohol. And why is putin trying so hard to get sanctions removed if there are not hurting Russia. Russia is collapsing under putin’s rule.

    1. Avatar Rafael Hernandez says:

      just a little correction: Only very poor Russians drink, and they are almost from all from rural areas. If you heard Trump’s interview a few hours ago, he is keen on ending the sanctions soon

      1. Avatar Kruton says:

        #Commie moron

      2. Avatar Vol Ya says:

        listen you lying rusian troll. you didn’t answer my question. Why is putin trying so hard to get sanctions removed. It is because sanctions are hurting rusia but putin won’t admit it. try telling the truth sometime. also the US congress and senate are interested in increasing sanctions against putin and rusia and not decreasing them. i hope you rusian swine enjoy eating your reindeer meat.

        1. Avatar Rafael Hernandez says:

          Obviously Russia is doing very good right now with the sanctions, but it would be a glorious victory for Putin when he manages to end the sanctions

          1. Avatar Alex George says:

            Except Russia is doing very badly – but you are right, it is mainly Kremlin mismanagement that causes that. Western sanctions are directed only at the elites of Russia, not the entire Russian economy.

      3. Avatar Alex George says:

        “Only very poor Russians drink”

        Right, and since most Russians drink heavily, you have just admitted that m most Russians are very poor. Which is in fact the case.

        “The study, in The Lancet, says 25% of Russian men die before they are 55, and most of the deaths are down to alcohol. The comparable UK figure is 7%.”

  2. Avatar Harald Oslo Norway says:

    “(….)the notion widely shared by Russian elites until now that the country could be modernized by drawing on “Western technology, investment and people.”

    This hope of the “Russian elites” must only be met after serious changes in Russia’s politics, military, and propaganda!
    In spite of modest sanctions, large sums of Western money still flow into Russian war economy!
    Even in the 20’s and 30’s, US business and government contributed significantly to science, technology and military development in barbaric USSR! (And in turn, USSR helped arm and lift Hitler to power!)
    Other countries also contibuted, but the USSR communists had a preference for American quality and know-how!
    Not to mention German military and Wall Street giving (decisive?) funding to Lenin and the Bolsheviks, prior to the devastating 1917 Russian revolution.

    Since 1999, Putin has been militarizing and Stalinizing Russia, steadily being more and more successful at making hybrid and hardware war against the biggest “threat” to his dream of life-long dictatorship: Democracy.
    Thus, the US and the West in general are Putin’s objects of war, and in particular he wages war against the search for democracy in Ukraine.

    This must stop! 99 years of Western government and business build-up of totalitarian, war-mongering USSR / Russia is enough!

    A condition for continued Western – Russian trade and cooperation at today’s level, not to speak of, lifting sanctions, must be, for a start:
    1. Russian troops out of Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia, Moldavia.
    2. Demobilization of 90% of Russian troops in European part of Russia, put them to productive work for the Russian people.
    3. Putin must stop poisioning the Russian people with warmongering, scaring, anti-democratic propaganda.
    4. A much larger part of Russia’s economy must go to building welfare for the Russian people, NOT to building the war machine and enriching the rich.

    President Donald Trump, are you ready for the ride?

    1. Avatar Mephisto says:

      1) Putin does not care about Russia. All he cares about is keeping himself and his selected elite in power
      2) DJ Trump is not ready for the ride. At best, he is clueless and being manipulated by Russia, at worst, he is a conscious Russian puppet.

      1. Avatar Harald Oslo Norway says:

        Hi “Mephisto”, thanks to your link, I found this:

        “President Donald Trump on Saturday told Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko that the U.S. will work with Ukraine and Russia to “restore peace along the border,” according to a readout released by the White House.
        “We will work with Ukraine, Russia, and all other parties involved to help them restore peace along the border,” Trump said during the 5 p.m. call on Saturday, which was described as “a very good call.”
        (Politico, REBECCA MORIN, February 4, 2017: “Trump pledges to ‘restore peace’ along Ukraine-Russia border”)

        Same date, Reuters:
        Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and U.S. President Donald Trump discussed strengthening cooperation on Saturday in a telephone call that also addressed the need to resolve Ukraine’s eastern conflict through diplomacy, Poroshenko said in a statement.
        “The two sides discussed strengthening the strategic partnership between Ukraine and the United States,” the statement said.
        “Particular attention was paid to the settlement of the situation in the Donbass (in eastern Ukraine) and achieving peace via political and diplomatic means,” it said.
        (Reuters: “Ukraine’s Poroshenko and Trump discuss strengthening ties in telephone call.”)

        Politico, February 3, 2017:
        “While Trump had suggested during his campaign that he might be willing to ease sanctions against Russia related to its aggression against Ukraine, Tymoshenko said Trump assured her he would do no such thing — unless Russia withdrew from Ukraine, according to the people who attended the briefings.”
        (Politico: “Trump tells Ukrainian politician he won’t lift Russia sanctions.”)

        New York Times, February 2, 2017, title: “Trump’s U.N. Envoy, Nikki Haley, Condemns Russia’s ‘Aggressive Actions’ in Ukraine.”
        Further: “She made it clear that American sanctions imposed after Russia’s annexation of Crimea would remain in place.”

        “Mephisto”, I think those are promising statements, don’t you?
        To help ensure good follow-up, in the interest of the US, Ukraine, a democratic Russia (-to be, hopefully), and in the interests of humanity:
        Critical observation of and inputs to Trump and other heads of states are paramount. That’s a normal and important feture of democracy.

        But give Trump a chance! Don’t stay in the trenches from the US presidential campaign! Try to work together, Democrats and Republicans, to promote humanity’s most urgent needs!

        Best regards, Harald

        1. Avatar Andrew Chmil says:

          You wrote on Ukraine Today USA:

          Harald Oslo Norway
          Hoping for Peace

          “So, why does “Ukraine Today USA” post Muscovy garbage like this?
          Those who might want to read the statements of Muscovy scaryclowns, know
          where to find it!
          Some people, for example school children / youth /
          students might think articles at Ukraine Today USA have passed som kind
          of quality and reliability control!
          There is so much real and
          important information, from realiable, democratic and sivilized sources,
          that you could help spread, instead!
          Eventually, if you insist: Put Sputnik articles in a seperate tragicomic section, clearly countering the BS!”

          Because Harold. Ukraine Today USA is a Ruski Troll & *MOLE* site.
          ALL THE MODERATORS ARE TROLLS & *MOLES* …. to infiltrate.
          They *claim* they put BS LYING articles “just for laughs” — NOPE!
          It’s why I & a few other posters are BANNED — so I tell you this “here” 🙂

          did ” Ларисса ” claim that CRIMEA is Russian, and when ” slavko ” asked
          & challenged her about it, ignored him and ONLY wrote “stupid &
          empty stuff” — as these MOLES ALWAYS DO…. all of the “most regular
          posters there” just make EMPTY NOISE while “mostly” pretending to be
          pro-Ukr. — but WILL “ban” you if you EXPOSE any of them as
          trolls…. Besides ALL the “moderators” —- & “Mike” — “Vasyl P.” etc.
          are MOLES.

          So now you know! It’s just a “sneakier” Ruski way.
          Maria L.

        2. Avatar Andrew Chmil says:


          Ukraine Today USA



  3. Avatar veth says:

    Trump; Sanctions will be removed already when Russia returns Crimea to Ukraine.

  4. Avatar Eolone says:

    Did the Russian delegation walk out at the UN when Nikki Haley condemned the country for its seizure of Crimea and the conflict in Ukraine? Didn’t see any such report. Churkin, the Russian Ambassador to the UN said, perhaps, equanimously (from CNN): “‘there is a change in tone” with the new US administration. He
    added that he wasn’t surprised by Haley’s speech.” If this is the harshest reaction from Russia, you are correct to wonder if the fix is in.

  5. Avatar Murf says:

    More Russian wishful thinking.
    Trump has ade his position clear;
    He is not opposed to sanctions per say.
    He is not going to lift the sanctions related to Crimea and Donbas until the original conditions are met.
    The sanctions he has lifted were not related directly to the Ukraine crisis.
    But they are a “Good Faith Gesture” that shows he is serious about lifting thm IF Russia does it’s part.
    Remember the lifted sanctions are an Executive Order and can be slapped back in place at the speed of on coming Trump temper tantrum.
    As removing them “Cleverly”, Markov fails to realize the bi partisan nature of the Anti Russian sentiment in the US. That includes the government bureaucracy, the military and the media and allies that even Trump does not want to pi$$ off(Japan). If Trump does try a “Stealth” lifting of the sanctions Congress is going to know about it quickly and they can make good on their treat to impose their own.
    Again the bipartisan opposition to Putin, there will be little chance that a Trump veto will stick.
    So I wouldn’t make to many plans for the “Post Sanctions” era.
    It’s going to be a while before that happens.

    1. Avatar Vol Ya says:

      You are absolutely correct. The US congress and senate are interested in increasing sanctions against putin and Russia and not decreasing them and there is broad support for this, enough to override a presidential veto. I would say the russians should get used to sanctions and eating reindeer meet.

  6. Avatar Victor Victory says:

    Business ($$$) is much more important then anything to Trump, Putin, Rex

  7. Avatar Alex George says:

    What truth? You don’t appear to have managed anything like it.