What Congress Can Do About Russia

Lawmakers weigh everything from sanctions to aid in response to Ukraine invasion.

National Journal
Elahe Izad
See more stories about...
Elahe Izad
March 3, 2014, 7:40 a.m.

As the crisis in Ukraine con­tin­ues to es­cal­ate and U.S. of­fi­cials is­sue sharp words for Rus­si­an Pres­id­ent Vladi­mir Putin, some mem­bers of Con­gress are lay­ing down mark­ers for what they want to do next. Here’s a roundup of what they’re say­ing:

New Eco­nom­ic Sanc­tions

Con­gress has long been a fan of passing eco­nom­ic sanc­tions as a way to in­flu­ence U.S. for­eign policy. Sen­at­ors, such as Con­necti­c­ut Demo­crat Chris Murphy and the top Re­pub­lic­an on the Sen­ate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee, Bob Cork­er, are call­ing for just that. “The United States and our European al­lies should im­me­di­ately bring to bear all ele­ments of our col­lect­ive eco­nom­ic strength to stop Rus­si­an ad­vances in Ukraine,” Cork­er said in a state­ment. “Con­gress will con­sider tar­geted sanc­tions against Rus­si­an per­sons and en­tit­ies that un­der­mine the sov­er­eignty and ter­rit­ori­al in­teg­rity of Ukraine.”

Un­like a pro­posed set of sanc­tions against Ir­an, which has re­ceived a lot of push­back from the White House, the ad­min­is­tra­tion hasn’t is­sued any veto threats or harsh words to Con­gress, ur­ging it not to pass sanc­tions against Rus­sia. Seni­or of­fi­cials told The Wall Street Journ­al that the ad­min­is­tra­tion has be­gun dis­cus­sions with Con­gress about po­ten­tial eco­nom­ic and fin­an­cial sanc­tions on spe­cif­ic Rus­si­an com­pan­ies and lead­ers.

Ex­pand­ing the “Mag­nit­sky List”

The new tar­geted sanc­tions that some want could also come in the form of ex­pand­ing a round of sanc­tions already in place. The Mag­nit­sky Act bans U.S. travel and freezes Amer­ic­an bank ac­counts of cer­tain Rus­si­an hu­man-rights vi­ol­at­ors.

Sen. Marco Ru­bio, R-Fla., wants the ad­min­is­tra­tion to add more Rus­si­an of­fi­cials to the Mag­nit­sky list. It’s something that Sen. John Mc­Cain also backs.

“Liv­ing in Miami, I have seen in re­cent years the wave of Rus­si­an tour­ists com­ing to our city and state to spend money and buy prop­erty,” Ru­bio said in a Politico Magazine op-ed. “Many are gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials or al­lies whose wealth stems from al­le­gi­ance to Putin, and we should lim­it their abil­ity to travel here.”

Some top-rank­ing mem­bers pushed the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion to add ad­di­tion­al names earli­er this year. The ini­tial 2012 pas­sage of Mag­nit­sky spurred a blow­back from Rus­sia in the form of a ban on Amer­ic­ans ad­opt­ing Rus­si­an chil­dren.

In­ter­na­tion­al Ob­serv­ers

Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Chair­man Carl Lev­in said that one of the first steps the U.S. and al­lies could take is to “place a sig­ni­fic­ant num­ber of in­ter­na­tion­al ob­serv­ers on the ground in Ukraine, if re­ques­ted by the Ukrain­i­an gov­ern­ment.”

“The pres­ence of in­ter­na­tion­al ob­serv­ers on the ground could re­duce the risk that Rus­sia would make a false claim of pro­voc­at­ive acts by Ukraine as an ex­cuse for fur­ther vi­ol­a­tion of Ukrain­i­an sov­er­eignty, and thereby help avoid a con­flict that nobody should want,” the Michigan Demo­crat said in a state­ment.

Aid to Ukraine

Many Re­pub­lic­ans and Demo­crats want to see more aid go­ing to Ukraine right now. The top Demo­crat on the House For­eign Af­fairs Com­mit­tee, Eli­ot En­gel, is push­ing for “a ro­bust in­ter­na­tion­al eco­nom­ic as­sist­ance pack­age and the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pro­pos­al to provide U.S. loan guar­an­tees and oth­er as­sist­ance to Ukraine.”

Mem­bers of the Sen­ate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee also en­dorsed loan guar­an­tees to Ukraine. Sec­ret­ary of State John Kerry has already pledged that the U.S. will provide $1 bil­lion in such loan guar­an­tees, which could come with even more aid after con­sulta­tion with Con­gress.

Don’t Re­spond Mil­it­ar­ily

Un­like in re­cent crises, such as in Syr­ia, no mem­bers are call­ing for the U.S. to use mil­it­ary force in the Rus­sia-Ukraine con­flict.

“We do not seek con­front­a­tion with Pres­id­ent Putin and his gov­ern­ment, but simply [want] to en­sure that Rus­sia abides by its com­mit­ments and ad­heres to core prin­ciples of in­ter­na­tion­al law,” a bi­par­tis­an group of sen­at­ors who sit on the For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee wrote in a let­ter to Obama.

Even hawk­ish Mc­Cain em­phas­ized, “There is a range of ser­i­ous op­tions at our dis­pos­al at this time without the use of mil­it­ary force.”

What We're Following See More »
“CLINTON MUST BECOME THE NEXT PRESIDENT”
Bernie Sanders Seeks to Unite the Party
7 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Instead of his usual stump speech, Bernie Sanders tonight threw his support behind Hillary Clinton, providing a clear contrast between Clinton and GOP nominee Donald Trump on the many issues he used to discuss in his campaign stump speeches. Sanders spoke glowingly about the presumptive Democratic nominee, lauding her work as first lady and as a strong advocate for women and the poor. “We need leadership in this country which will improve the lives of working families, the children, the elderly, the sick and the poor,” he said. “Hillary Clinton will make a great president, and I am proud to stand with her tonight."

“MUST NEVER BE PRESIDENT”
Elizabeth Warren Goes After Donald Trump
7 hours ago
THE DETAILS

In a stark contrast from Michelle Obama's uplifting speech, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren spoke about the rigged system plaguing Americans before launching into a full-throated rebuke of GOP nominee Donald Trump. Trump is "a man who has never sacrificed anything for anyone," she claimed, before saying he "must never be president of the United States." She called him divisive and selfish, and said the American people won't accept his "hate-filled America." In addition to Trump, Warren went after the Republican Party as a whole. "To Republicans in Congress who said no, this November the American people are coming for you," she said.

FLOTUS OFFERS STRONG ENDORSEMENT OF CLINTON
Michelle Obama: “I Trust” Hillary Clinton
8 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"In this election, and every election, it's about who will have the power to shape our children for the next four or eight years of their lives," Michelle Obama said. "There is only one person who I trust with that responsibility … and that is our friend Hillary Clinton." In a personal and emotional speech, Michelle Obama spoke about the effect that angry oppositional rhetoric had on her children and how she chose to raise them. "When they go low, we go high," Obama said she told her children about dealing with bullies. Obama stayed mostly positive, but still offered a firm rebuke of Donald Trump, despite never once uttering his name. "The issues a president faces cannot be boiled down to 140 characters," she said.

SANDERS BACKER CONFRONTS STUBBORN SANDERS SUPPORTERS
Sarah Silverman to Bernie or Bust: “You’re Being Ridiculous”
9 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Many Bernie Sanders delegates have spent much of the first day of the Democratic National Convention resisting unity, booing at mentions of Hillary Clinton and often chanting "Bernie! Bernie!" Well, one of the most outspoken Bernie Sanders supporters just told them to take a seat. "To the Bernie-or-bust people: You're being ridiculous," said comedian Sarah Silverman in a brief appearance at the Convention, minutes after saying that she would proudly support Hillary Clinton for president.

‘INEXCUSABLE REMARKS’
DNC Formally Apologizes to Bernie Sanders
13 hours ago
THE LATEST

The Democratic National Committee issued a formal apology to Bernie Sanders today, after leaked emails showed staffers trying to sabotage his presidential bid. "On behalf of everyone at the DNC, we want to offer a deep and sincere apology to Senator Sanders, his supporters, and the entire Democratic Party for the inexcusable remarks made over email," DNC officials said in the statement. "These comments do not reflect the values of the DNC or our steadfast commitment to neutrality during the nominating process. The DNC does not—and will not—tolerate disrespectful language exhibited toward our candidates."

Source:
×