What Congress Can Do About Russia

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

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends on May 8, 2012 a State Duma meeting in Moscow. Russia's lower house of parliament on May 8 overwhelmingly confirmed former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev as prime minister after he was nominated by Putin.  
National Journal
Elahe Izad
Add to Briefcase
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 »
HUFFINGTON POST EFFORT ID’D PROBLEMS
Inauguration Committee Admits to Faulty Donor Records
7 minutes ago
THE DETAILS

The Presidential Inaugural Committee "acknowledged late Monday that a final report it filed with the Federal Election Commission this month was riddled with errors, many of which were first identified through a crowdsourced data project at HuffPost." The committee raised about $100 million for the festivities, but the 500-page FEC report, which detailed where that money came from, was riddled with problems. The likely culprit: a system of access codes sent out by the GOP's ticketing system. Those codes were then often passed around on the secondary market.

Source:
WHITE HOUSE BLOCKING DOC REQUEST
Michael Flynn Remains A Russian-Sized Problem
2 hours ago
BREAKING

The Michael Flynn story is not going away for the White House as it tries to refocus its attention. The White House has denied requests from the House Oversight Committee for information and documents regarding payments that the former nationals security adviser received from Russian state television station RT and Russian firms. House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz and ranking members Elijah Cummings also said that Flynn failed to report these payments on his security clearance application. White House legislative director Marc Short argued that the documents request are either not in the possession of the White House or contain sensitive information he believes are not applicable to the committee's stated investigation.

Source:
SENATE JUDICIARY HEARING
Sally Yates to Testify on May 8
3 hours ago
THE LATEST
MESSAGE TO PUTIN
U.S. To Conduct Exercises In Estonia
4 hours ago
THE DETAILS

The U.S. deployed "F-35 joint strike fighters" to Estonia on Tuesday. The "jets will stay in Estonia for several weeks and will be a part of training flights with U.S. and other NATO air forces." The move comes at a time of high tension between the U.S. and Estonia's neighbor, Russia. The two nations have been at odds over a number of issues recently, most of all being Vladimir Putin's support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in light of Assad's chemical weapons attack on his own people in the midst of a civil war.

Source:
BIPARTISAN SUPPORT YIELDS 87 VOTES IN FAVOR
Senate OKs Perdue as Agriculture Secretary
6 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

It took long enough, but the Trump administration finally includes an Agriculture secretary. "The Senate easily approved Sonny Perdue on Monday" by a count of 87-11. Perdue enjoyed the support of Democrats like Delaware's Chris Coons and Wisconsin's Tammy Baldwin, both of whom spoke in his favor.

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login