Sunday 21 October 2018

Bank curbs would be economic war - Russia

Russia PM Dmitry Medvedev. Photo: Reuters
Russia PM Dmitry Medvedev. Photo: Reuters

Sarah Newey

Russia would consider any US move to curb the operations of Russian banks or their foreign currency dealings to be a declaration of economic war, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said yesterday.

The United States announced a new round of sanctions on Wednesday targeting Russia that pushed the rouble to two-year lows and sparked a wider sell-off over fears Russia was locked in a spiral of never- ending sanctions.

Separate legislation introduced last week in draft form by Republican and Democratic senators proposes curbs on the operations of several state-owned Russian banks in the United States and restrictions on their use of the dollar.

Mr Medvedev said that Moscow would take economic, political or other retaliatory measures against the United States if Washington targeted Russian banks.

"I would not like to comment on talks about future sanctions, but I can say one thing: if some ban on banks' operations or on their use of one or another currency follows, it would be possible to clearly call it a declaration of economic war," said the Russian prime minister.

"And it would be necessary, it would be needed to react to this war economically, politically, or, if needed, by other means.

"And our American friends need to understand this," he said, speaking on a trip to the Russian Far East.

The fate of the bill that he was referring to is not certain.

The full US Congress will not be back in Washington until September, and even then, congressional aides said they did not expect the measure would pass in its entirety.

While it was difficult to assess so far in advance, they said it was more likely that only some of its provisions would be included as amendments in another piece of legislation, such as a spending bill Congress must pass before September 30 to prevent a government shutdown.

The Trump administration announced sanctions against Russia over the poisoning of a former British spy after months of discussion about how to respond to the March attack on Sergei and Yulia Skripal.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump's attacks on news outlets in the US seem to be playing well with Republicans. The president has referenced "fake news" or "fake media" 288 times on Twitter since taking office - roughly once every two days - and as recently as Monday he said he was "providing a great service" by identifying which media organisations are "the Enemy of the People".

The fiery rhetoric seems to be rubbing off on Americans, particularly his own party. Polling from Ipsos shows that nearly half of Republicans think the news media is the "enemy of the American people".

But the polling revealed a stark party split in attitudes towards the media, as just 12pc of Democrats agreed. The disparity continued as 43pc of Republicans, compared to 11pc of Democrats, said they thought the president should have the authority to close news outlets engaged in "bad behaviour".

A fifth went further, suggesting Mr Trump should shut down mainstream news outlets like CNN, the 'New York Times' and the 'Washington Post' - despite the fact the president sparked outrage when he banned a CNN reporter from the White House last month.

Trump supporters are critical of his media coverage.

The online survey, which questioned 1,000 American adults, also revealed a dramatic divide in perceptions of the coverage of Mr Trump's presidency. While eight in 10 Republicans said the mainstream media treats him unfairly, just one in 10 Democrats agreed.

A further 84pc of Republicans said the press is more interested about money than telling the truth, compared to one-third of Democrats.

But trust in the newspapers and television networks in the US has been slowly declining for decades.

According to Gallup polling, the percentage of people who had a "great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in newspapers peaked in 1979 at 51pc, while TV news reached a high in 1993 at 46pc.

In 2018, around two in 10 people had confidence in these institutions. In contrast, more than a third of Americans had confidence in the presidency, rising by five percentage points since last year.

It's also clear that the country is deeply divided in perceptions of specific news outlets. Only a third of Mr Trump's party have a favourable view of the 'New York Times' and 'Washington Post', compared to eight in 10 Democrats.

Irish Independent

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