The White House is weighing additional sanctions against Russia, senior administration officials said Wednesday, pushing back against allegations that Donald Trump has been a soft touch on Moscow.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, officials said a “task force” has been set up to address potential meddling in the 2018 congressional elections and work is underway to introduce more sanctions in response to Moscow’s 2016 campaign.
Highlighting one potentially far-reaching step, a senior administration official said they have already warned governments around the world that they could face sanctions for “significant transactions” with the Russian military.
That includes NATO ally Turkey, which has publicly announced the purchase of a Russian S-400 air defense missile system, which is seen as a challenge to US air superiority.
A second official said that “a couple of big countries” were reconsidering their purchases as a result of the global diplomatic “demarche.”
Those type of third country sanctions were part of a package of measures passed by Congress approved last July, that were opposed by the White House.
Trump’s vocal opposition to the package – which entered into law earlier this year – and his regular praise of Vladimir Putin has raised questions about whether the administration is dragging its feet.
Several members of Trump’s campaign have been charged or admitted to lying to the FBI about their contacts with Kremlin-related officials who are accused of trying to sway the 2016 vote in Trump’s favor.
US officials on Wednesday admitted no specific additional sanctions had been introduced yet, but said that was because the administration was doing its due diligence, rather than an attempt to slow-walk the process.
‘National security issue’
The first official also stressed the need to avoid leaks that could tip off potential sanction targets, allowing them to move money out of bank accounts or take other mitigating steps.