Key House lawmakers on Friday unveiled legislation to aid Ukraine and punish Russia, but the bill did not include International Monetary Fund reforms contained in a Senate proposal that were opposed by House leaders and many conservatives.
The exclusion of IMF reforms, contained in a bill approved last week by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sets up a clash. The Senate bill backs the administration's call to shift $63 billion from an IMF crisis account to its general fund.
Republicans who oppose that shift, including House Speaker John Boehner, say such a move really has nothing to do with the Ukraine crisis. They note that President Obama and Democrats have been pushing the move for some time, and that the president included it in his budget proposal for fiscal 2015.
There was no mention of the IMF flap Friday by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce when he announced the new bill, which his committee will consider Tuesday.
"The U.S. and our European friends should be bolstering the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine. That means aiding Ukraine's fledgling democracy, with its May elections looming, and bolstering its economy, including by helping break Putin's energy grip over Eastern Europe," Royce said in a statement.
Royce said the U.S. should act immediately to increase natural-gas exports to Europe, undermining Russia's monopoly, and also that "strong sanctions against those Russians responsible for this aggression against Ukraine are critical."
Ranking member Eliot Engel, a New York Democrat, described the bill as one that "supplements the President's efforts to impose sanctions on those responsible for violating Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, looting Ukraine's economy, and violating human rights in Ukraine. It sends a clear message to President Putin and his corrupt cronies that we will not tolerate Russian aggression."
The bill, dubbed the Ukraine Support Act, would codify existing executive orders that sanction individuals involved in the violence in Ukraine or who undermine the independence, sovereignty, or territorial or economic integrity of Ukraine.
It also authorizes the president to impose targeted sanctions, including asset freezes and visa bans, on anyone involved in November 2013 in undermining the democratic processes or serious human-rights abuses in Ukraine—violating Ukraine's territorial integrity—or in significant acts of corruption, including misappropriation of Ukrainian assets. In addition, the bill would allow the administration to carefully scrutinize banks, especially Russian banks, to determine if they are involved in the plundering of Ukraine's assets; money laundering; terrorist financing; actively helping to skirt sanctions; or helping to annex Crimea.
In terms of support for Ukraine, the bill would provide for a surge in targeted broadcasting by requiring Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Voice of America to increase broadcasts into eastern Ukraine (including Crimea) and target ethnic Russian communities.
It also would encourage the Overseas Private Investment Corporation to prioritize investments in Ukraine; enhance security cooperation among NATO states in Central and Eastern Europe through military training and exercises; and assist Ukrainian law enforcement to improve protection of human rights.
America and Russia Are 'Tit for Tat'
This article appears in the March 24, 2014 edition of NJ Daily.