US President Donald Trump has signed legislation that imposes new sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea and limits his ability to ease sanctions without approval from Congress. Both chambers of Congress had passed the bill with veto-proof majorities.
Trump signed the bill on Wednesday morning, according to the White House statement, without holding an official signing ceremony as he has done with other major pieces of legislation.
The administration will carry out the law, but has concerns about its impact and the constitutionality of some of its provisions, Bloomberg reported citing a signing statement Trump appended to the law. Trump’s statement says the US administration will execute the law, but is concerned over the constitutionality of some of its provisions, including the fact that it encroaches on presidential authority.
The US president also fears that the newly signed law could harm US companies and businesses, as well as international US allies, according to the report.
Trump’s statement also says the law limits the flexibility of his administration to cooperate with allies in dealing with Russia.
According to the statement, Congress encroached on presidential authority and the sanctions will hurt US ability to work with allies. The law limits the US president’s ability to ease any sanctions on Russia by requiring Congress’ approval to lift any restrictions. For instance, Trump would now need Congress’ permission to reverse measures imposed by his predecessor Barack Obama. He would also need lawmakers’ approval to return Russian diplomatic properties that were seized under the previous administration.
Trump had little option but to sign the bill, as the Senate approved it by a vote of 98-2 on July 27, and the House of Representatives voted 419 to 3 in favor the day prior.
The new sanctions cite Russia’s 2014 “annexation” of the Crimean peninsula and the alleged interference in the 2016 US presidential election, as well as Moscow’s military intervention in Syria. While the US is describing Russia’s actions in Syria as aggression, Russian forces were officially invited by the internationally recognized Syrian government, while the US presence in that country falls outside international law.
The new sanctions have been criticized by several senior politicians in Europe, including the Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern and German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel. Critics of the US government’s move argue the sanctions could affect European energy security and serve Washington’s economic interests – in line with Trump’s stated “America First” foreign policy.
“We deem it absolutely unacceptable when a bill demands that Europeans give up on Russian gas so that they could sell American instead, at a much higher price,” Gabriel said.
Russian energy giant Gazprom currently supplies a third of European gas demands, having delivered a record 179 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas to Europe in 2016. Construction of additional delivery infrastructure would diversify the supply of Russian gas and make the delivery of fuel much cheaper than the costly US alternative of liquefied natural gas (LNG).
The law also imposes punitive measures against Iran over the country’s ballistic weapons program, detention of US citizens, human rights abuses and terrorist activities across the Middle East and North Africa.
In addition, it targets North Korea over its ballistic missile tests and human rights abuses.