President-elect Donald Trump would keep sanctions imposed by the Obama administration against Russia in place “for a period of time,” he told the Wall Street Journal, adding that he’d consider lifting them once Vladimir Putin proves he can be an ally.
“If you get along and if Russia is really helping us, why would anybody have sanctions if somebody’s doing some really great things?” Trump was quoted as saying during an hour-long interview with the paper a week before he is inaugurated as U.S. president.
At stake is whether Trump will take a conciliatory stance against Russia after President Barack Obama’s decision last month to hit Russian intelligence officials and agencies with sanctions for cyberattacks aimed at interfering with the 2016 presidential campaign. After 35 Russian operatives were expelled from the U.S., Russia’s president said his government wouldn’t retaliate because he was waiting for Trump to take office. Trump responded with a tweet in which he called Putin “very smart.”
At a news conference on Wednesday, Trump acknowledged for the first time that Russia was responsible for hacking e-mail accounts of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman. He has nonetheless stressed that he hopes to have a better relationship with Moscow and that he thinks there has been too much attention paid to the issue.
Trump was also quoted by the newspaper as saying he would only commit to a One China policy after assessing the progress the world’s second-largest economy makes on trade and currency issues. The president-elect said he isn’t prepared to declare China a currency manipulator on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20. Trump threatened during his campaign to brand China a currency manipulator immediately upon taking office, and to slap 45 percent tariffs on its exports to the U.S.
“I would talk to them first,” Trump was quoted as saying. “Certainly they are manipulators. But I’m not looking to do that.”
Trump has questioned the U.S.’s longstanding policy of recognizing Beijing over the government in Taiwan, and criticized China for a perceived failure to further pressure North Korea over its nuclear program. China considers the One China policy as bedrock, not the negotiating chip as Trump does.
Trump has signaled he’s looking to shake up relationships with the two superpowers. He wants closer ties with Russia and says the U.S. can work with the Kremlin to combat Islamic terrorism. He’s vowed to get tough with China. His pick to lead a newly formed White House National Trade Council, Peter Navarro, a University of California at Irvine economics professor, is a frequent and vocal critic of that country.