Why is the U.S. Senate reintroducing the Russian sanctions ‘bill from hell’ now?
US senators re-introduce Russian sanctions ‘bill from hell’
A group of senators have introduced a bill suggesting a wide range of sanctions against Russia.
The bill, sponsored by Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (South Carolina) and Democrat Bob Menendez (New Jersey) will target Russia’s banking and energy sectors, as well as its foreign debt. The Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act (DASKA) of 2019 may affect individuals who the US would deem to “facilitate illicit and corrupt activities, directly or indirectly, on behalf of Putin.”
Graham introduced a similar bill last year, dubbed the “sanctions bill from hell.” The bill that failed to pass would have also called on Congress to declare Russia a “state sponsor of terrorism,” would have make it harder for the US to leave NATO, and would have accused Russia of committing war crimes in Syria, among a laundry list of other provisions. Similar ideas were relocated to the new proposal.
“President Trump’s willful paralysis in the face of Kremlin aggression has reached a boiling point in Congress,” Menendez said in a statementon Wednesday. Graham, an ally of Trump, echoed the sentiment of the fellow lawmaker, minus his criticism of the president.
“The sanctions and other measures contained in this bill are the most hard-hitting ever imposed – and a direct result of Putin’s continued desire to undermine American democracy,” he wrote.
Russian interference in American elections has never been proven. A handful of Russian nationals have been charged with interference, but those indictments are largely symbolic.
Graham and Menendez’ bill comes one day after the Senate Intelligence Committee announced it had found no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election. Another House investigation came to the same conclusion last year.
Regardless of the committee’s conclusion, Graham and Menendez’ bill promises a raft of hard-hitting sanctions on Russia. These sanctions target banks that “support Russian efforts to undermine democratic institutions in other countries,”sanctions on Russia’s cyber sector, and sovereign debt.
The proposed sanctions also include penalties on Russia’s shipbuilding sector, a response to the confrontation between Russian and Ukrainian vessels in the Kerch Strait last November. Russian authorities accused the Ukrainian navy of performing dangerous maneuvers and denounced their actions as “provocation.”They also include sanctions on Russia’s energy sector, mainly its crude oil projects inside the country and liquefied natural gas projects abroad. Russia currently provides almost 40 percent of Europe’s natural gas imports, a share that the US is keen to muscle in on. Despite both Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker promising to step up the US-EU gas trade, business has floundered, mostly due to the logistical headache of transporting the gas across the Atlantic Ocean.
Many of the bill’s other measures are carried over from Graham and Menendez’ failed legislation last year. It includes a statement of support for NATO and a two-thirds Senate vote to leave the alliance, as well as weapons shipments to any NATO countries that rely on Russian military equipment.
Provisions that would punish the Russian government for alleged chemical weapons production remain in the bill, as does the call for Russia to be declared a “state sponsor of terrorism.”
The reintroduced bill is “the continuation of the insane campaign conducted by the US,” said deputy chairman of the Russian Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, Aleksey Chepa, adding that he was certain that the bill won’t float. Russian MP Leonid Slutsky earlier dismissed the planned sanctions, saying whatever damage they would do if imposed would not be critical. “Russia will certainly not perish,” he said.