Wednesday, 15 August, 2018

As penalty for 'election-meddling', US Senate approves new Russian Federation sanctions

Alfredo Watts | 25 June, 2017, 01:05

Lawmakers who backed the measure also cited Russia's aggression in Syria and Ukraine.

President Donald Trump campaigned on easing tensions with Russian Federation, arguing that it would be in America's best interest to try warming relations with Vladimir Putin. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) told Politico in an interview.

"It's time to respond to Russia's attack on American democracy with strength, with resolve, with common objective, and with action", said Republican Senator John McCain. John McCain of Arizona.

The sanctions package is rooted in legislation introduced earlier this year amid concerns on Capitol Hill that Trump may seek to lift sanctions against Russian Federation as part of a plan to forge a partnership between the two countries in key areas, such as counterterrorism. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told a Senate panel Tuesday he was wary of actions that could interfere with the administration's efforts to improve relations with Russian Federation. Besides, the document contains a provision that does not allow President Donald Trump to weaken or cancel the measures taken without the approval of the Congress.

"This bill will impose sanctions on Iran for its non-nuclear violations", Cardin said. So the White House would have to reject stricter punishments against Iran, which it favors, in order to derail the parts of the legislation it objects to.

However, Sen. Robert Menendez was skeptical, telling Politico, "I just cannot fathom how House Republicans could ultimately, with everything that's going on with Russia's nefarious actions, try to either deep-six the bill or dramatically change it".

With passage of this legislation, the Senate reasserts congressional authority-while providing the Trump administration appropriate national security flexibility-and sends a clear signal to both Iran and Russian Federation that our country will stand firm in the face of destabilizing behavior and that Congress will play a leading role in protecting our national interests.

White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders echoed Tillerson's sentiment on Thursday, telling reporters that, "We believe the existing executive branch sanctions regime is the best tool for compelling Russian Federation to fulfill its commitments".

The discussions gathered steam late last month after Sen.

"We see destabilizing act after destabilizing act [by Iran], from missile launches to arms transfers to terrorist training to illicit financial activities to targeting Navy ships and detaining American citizens", said the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Republican Bob Corker of Tennessee. "What I wouldn't want to do is close the channels off".

"Whenever the United States does something that Russia doesn't like, Russia picks things to do that the U.S. wouldn't like", says Simon Saradzhyan, founding director of the Russia Matters Project at Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

The deal was forged amid the firestorm over investigations into Moscow's possible collusion with members of Trump's campaign.

Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, one of the Senate bill's cosponsors, told reporters on Wednesday that the White House was already lobbying against the measure, Business Insider reported. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is conducting a separate probe.

The Russian provisions would add people involved in the alleged Russian hacking attacks on the USA election to the sanctions list and impose penalties for delivery of weapons to the Syrian regime, hitting areas of the Russian economy such as mining and the energy sector.

The bill establishes a review process for Congress to have a say whether the White House eases Russian Federation sanctions. That measure reflected Republican complaints that Obama had overstepped the power of the presidency and needed to be checked by Congress.