The list of Russian officials and tycoons put together to comply with a U.S. sanctions law is a hostile and “stupid” move spearheaded by President Donald Trump’s political foes, President Vladimir Putin said, according to The Associated Press.
Putin, however, added that the Kremlin would refrain from retaliating for now.
In America, Democrats in Washington lodged the opposite complaint, attacking Trump for being too soft on Putin. They chastised the president for declining to punish anyone under a part of the sanctions law that was intended to isolate Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors for Moscow’s alleged meddling in the 2016 election.
Putin’s reluctance to criticize Trump suggested the Russian leader still harbors hopes for normalizing ties with the United States. At the same time, the blanket list of 210 names — a who’s who of Russian officialdom and business elite — could help him win re-election in March by fueling anti-Western sentiment.
Mixing sarcasm and scorn, Putin immediately struck that chord Tuesday, saying that the people the U.S. named control companies employing millions of Russians. The list has spooked rich Russians, who fear it could get them informally blacklisted in the global financial system. But Putin cast the action in Washington as a blow to ordinary people.
“All of us, all 146 million, have been put on some kind of list,” he said at a meeting with activists for his election campaign. “Certainly, this is an unfriendly move, which further exacerbates the already strained Russia-U.S. relations and hurts international relations as a whole.”
Yet in the U.S. capital, the so-called “Putin list” was greeted with a collective shrug — mocked by some after it was revealed that the Treasury Department had prepared it by simply copying and pasting Forbes’ list of Russians worth $1 billion or more.
Instead, Russia hawks and Trump’s opponents were focused on why his administration opted not to punish anybody — at least for now — using new sanctions authority that took effect Monday.
“The president of the United States is not taking action to defend this nation,” charged Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, the top-ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee. Alluding to potential future election-meddling, Cardin said that if Putin “sees softness in the U.S. resolve, he will do more.”
Both requirements — that the U.S. issue a list of powerful Russians and start using sanctions to punish those doing “significant” business with Russian defense and intelligence companies — were included in a law Congress passed last year in response to alleged Russian interference in the U.S. presidential campaign. Trump’s administration had until Monday to take both steps.