On Monday, United State Senators reached an agreement which seeks to strengthen current sanctions on Russia, and impose new ones on targeted Russian actors. The agreement would also limit President Trump’s ability to suspend or end sanctions without congressional approval.
The agreement will be filed as an amendment to an Iran sanctions bill, and is intended as retribution for Russia’s annexation of Crimea, support for the ruling Syrian regime, and their alleged meddling in the 2016 US elections. The bill is expected to be brought to the floor for a vote later this week.
“It’s as comprehensive as we could make it, and it’s going to be a very good piece of legislation,” Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) said.
The bipartisan agreement was announced by lawmakers Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Sheerod Brown (D-OH) on the Banking committee, and Senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) from the Foreign Relations panel.
Passing similar Russian sanctions proved to be difficult for Democratic lawmakers who faced numerous obstacles from the GOP. Former FBI Director Comey’s recent Senate testimony, combined with the numerous ongoing House and Senate committee investigations into Russia’s alleged US election meddling and links to the Trump campaign, has forced the hand of Republican lawmakers who can no longer put aside their concerns.
The bipartisan agreement seeks to codify existing sanctions and place new economic restrictions targeting specific individuals and Russia’s economy. Sanctions would be placed on Russians who violate human rights laws, supply weapons to the Syrian al-Asad regime, or are involved in the Russian defense and intelligence industry. The agreement would also allow new sanctions on Russian shipping, railways, mining and metals.
“By codifying existing sanctions and requiring congressional review of any decision to weaken or lift them, we are ensuring that the United States continues to punish President Putin for his reckless and destabilizing actions. These additional sanctions will also send a powerful and bipartisan statement to Russia and any other country who might try to interfere in our elections that they will be punished,” Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) stated.
Many of the sanctions that would be codified were enacted in the final months of Obama’s presidency. In late December of 2016 Obama ordered sanctions on Russian spy agencies, closed two Russian compounds located with the US, and expelled 35 diplomats accused of being spies. Many of the sanctions imposed on Russia have managed to damage Russia’s economy, but has had little impact on President Putin’s actions.
Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee has said the Trump administration “is committed to existing sanctions against Russia” and expected to keep them in place “until Moscow fully honors its commitments to resolve the crisis in Ukraine.” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told the House Armed Services Committee that he has seen nothing to indicate that Russian President Putin is interested in cooperation and collaboration with the United States. Secretary Mattis referred to Putin as a ‘strategic competitor’.
Russian officials have continued to deny all allegations that they made any attempt to interfere in the 2016 US election, or colluded with members from he Trump campaign, and continue to assert their interest in repairing their governments relationship with the West.
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