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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday the U.S. and Russia “agree to disagree” on Moscow’s annexation of Crimea, days after President TrumpDonald TrumpOvernight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Interior returns BLM HQ to Washington France pulls ambassadors to US, Australia in protest of submarine deal MORE refused to rule out recognizing the controversial move.
“We do not recognize Russia’s attempt to annex Crimea. We agree to disagree with Russia on that front and our Crimea sanctions against Russia will remain in place until Russia returns the peninsula to Ukraine,” Sanders told reporters.
Sanders was attempting to quell speculation that Trump would agree to recognize Moscow’s seizure of Crimea during his July 16 summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. But the spokeswoman did not rule out the move entirely.
Trump last Friday raised the possibility of recognizing Russia’s claim on the peninsula, telling reporters “we're going to have to see."
Sanders’s comments come one day after national security adviser John Bolton gave a similar answer about Trump’s comments on CBS News’s “Face the Nation.”
Asked by host Margaret Brennan if the U.S. supports the idea that countries can redraw international borders by force, Bolton responded “that’s not the position of the United States.”
But when pressed about whether the issue is up for negotiation, Bolton echoed Trump, saying, “well, we’ll see.”
Russia garnered international condemnation in 2014 when it seized Crimea during its military intervention in Ukraine. The country was kicked out of the then-Group of Eight world economic powers and was sanctioned by the U.S. and the European Union.
Moscow claimed it has a rightful claim to the territory because many people who live their speak Russian, an argument Trump reportedly echoed during a closed-door meeting at last month’s Group of Seven summit in Canada.
Recognizing Crimea’s annexation would almost certainly spark widespread criticism of Trump, who is already under scrutiny by special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE for any links between his campaign and Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election.