Arizona senator cautions chairperson that Senate would reimpose sanctions on Moscow, in statement seconded by fellow Republican senator Tom Portman

Senator John McCain has cautioned Donald Trump that the Senate would promptly reimpose sanctions on Russia if they are lifted by the president, setting up an early showdown between the White House and congressional Republicans over a vital foreign policy issue.

Trump subsequently equivocated on the sanctions, saying at a joint press conference with the British prime minister, Theresa May, that it was very early to be talking about that. He said he would see what happens in a scheduled phone call on Saturday with Vladimir Putin.

Immediately after Trumps remarks, May stated that the UK believed sanctions should be continued until an international peace deal over Ukraine agreed in Minsk in 2014 was properly implemented by Moscow.

As anticipation grew in Washington over a possible move to lift sanctions imposed by the Obama administration, McCain put under a combative statement saying it would be naive and dangerous for Trump to misstep Putins hostile intent towards the US.

For the sake of Americas national security and that of our friends, I hope President Trump will put an end to this speculation and repudiate such a reckless course. If he does not, I will work with my colleagues to codify sanctions against Russia into law, McCain said.

He was soon backed up by the top Republican leadership. Both Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Mitch McConnell, the majority leader in the Senate, told Politico that they were against lifting the sanctions.

Another Republican senator, Tom Portman, argued for Congress to preemptively to ensure we live up to our commitments to our friends and uphold longstanding American values and ideals.

Such legislation would have bipartisan subsistence. Earlier this week, Democratic senators said they would introduce legislation forcing Trump to seek congressional approval before lifting sanctions on Russia.

Barack Obama signed four executive orders in 2014 imposing steadily mounting penalties on Russian individuals and entities for the countrys intervention in Crimea and east Ukraine. The sanctions were coordinated with the EU. A further executive order was issued at the end of December in response to intelligence findings on Russian hacking of the presidential election.

As presidential orders, they could be repealed by a stroke of Trumps pen. If Congress then reimposed the sanctions through legislation, Trump could veto the law but that would pave the way for a struggle that would divided the Republicans and which the president could not be sure to win.

Senator Lindsey Graham, another conservative Republican, recently claimed there were 75 senators ready to support further imposing sanctions on Russia.

Western friends are struggling to maintain the EU consensus over Russian sanctions, and the White House has come under intense lobbying for Trump not to relax pressure on Moscow without a change of behaviour in Ukraine.

Any move to lift sanctions by executive order would also give impetus to investigations in the Senate on whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow.

Daniel Baer, the former US ambassador to the Organisation for Security and Coordination in Europe( OSCE which has a role in monitoring the implementation of the Minsk agreement ), said any move to lift the sanctions would be a grossly irresponsible action in the context of dealing with an aggressive, revanchist, Kremlin.

It would indicate a fundamental misunderstanding of foreign policy, Baer said. My take is that Trump and[ national security consultant] Michael Flynn are either being foolish or being influenced, as it is so obviously not in US interests, and that is not a partisan view.

A spokeswoman for the EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, declined to comment on gossips that sanctions would be lifted by the US. Our restrictive measures were adopted here by 28 member states and that remains to be the case.

EU sources said it was too early to say what would happen, with one making back at suggestions EU unity would crumble. We decide on our sanctions , not the Americans, the source said, adding that the measures were coordinated through the G7, which includes Canada and Japan.

This is a very theoretical debate and a lot of things might change before July, the source added. The one thing that is certain is that everyone will watch this[ US] decision very closely if there is one.

There has been cautious optimism in Moscow in recent weeks about the prospect of a new era of Russia-US relations in which Moscow is not lectured for human rights abuses, and is given free rein to act as it pleases in neighboring countries. State television has given Trump largely positive coverage, a sharp departure from the anti-US rhetoric of recent years. A recent survey found that merely 4% of Russians supposed Trump would be a bad president.

Adding to the uncertainty surrounding executive orders coming out of the Oval Office, the White House pulled back on Friday evening on a draft order that had been widely leaked calling for a 40% cut in US voluntary contributions to the UN and other international organisations and possible withdrawal from treaties. A White House official was quoted as went on to say that no executive order on the issue was expected at this time.

Read more: www.theguardian.com