Russian President Vladimir Putin promised Thursday to retaliate against any new sanctions imposed by the United States, which he said would be a violation of international law that other countries should ignore.
"We are behaving very composedly and patiently but we will have to respond at a certain point," Putin told reporters while traveling in Finland. "It is impossible to constantly tolerate loutish behavior towards our country."
Putin said that the details of such retaliation will depend on the final sanctions approved by Congress. Lawmakers are on the cusp of sending President Trump a sanctions package that has passed both the House and the Senate, despite Trump's desire for "flexibility" that the bill doesn't provide. Russia's comparatively small economy limits the threat of U.S. retaliatory sanctions, but Russian officials hope that European leaders won't go along with the new measures.
Putin said the sanctions bill "destroys international relations and international law," and argued that it corroborates his long-standing claim that the United States is a bully. "How other states in the world react to this, it depends on the degree of their sovereignty and their readiness to defend their own national interests," he said.
The new sanctions punish Russia for invading Ukraine, interfering in the 2016 presidential election, and backing Syrian President Bashar Assad in a civil war despite Assad's use of chemical weapons and attacks on civilians.
"For too long, the message to Vladimir Putin has been that Russia can invade its neighbors, threaten U.S. allies, intensify its cyber-attacks, and interfere with foreign elections with very little repercussion," Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., said in June when the bill passed the upper chamber. "Unless and until Russia pays a price for its actions, these destabilizing activities will continue."
Putin's comment about third-party states' sovereignty isn't just a criticism of the United States. It points to a Russian effort to convince Europe not to implement the sanctions, which might appeal to European nations with energy companies trying to do business in Russia.
"If new artificial restrictions are imposed on Russian energy projects, Europe may find itself in a predicament where America will potentially be imposing its products on European consumers," Alexey Gromov, an expert at an independent energy institute that develops "strategic documents" for the Russian government, said in remarks carried by Kremlin-run media.