Tougher Russia Sanctions Measure Moves Ahead in US Senate

Alvin Kelly
June 20, 2017

They also agreed, by 97-2, to set up a process by which Congress can block any attempt by President Trump to scale back those sanctions.

The measure calls for strengthening current sanctions and imposing new ones on a broad range of people, including Russians engaged in corruption, individuals in human rights abuses and anyone supplying weapons to the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

A day earlier on Wednesday, the Senate added another set of sanctions on Russian Federation for meddling in last year's United States election, its reunification with Crimea and support for Syria's government in that country's six-year-long conflict.

If the legislation passes the House, it would head to Trump for signing.

Trump officials have been eager to crack down on Iran's non-nuclear illicit activities, and have squeezed the country with additional sanctions while they conduct a comprehensive Iran policy review. Senators Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders were the only two "no" votes.

"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. So far, at least, that has been a bet worth taking for the White House, though the new penalties against Russian Federation are also built into a bill that gives Trump something he wants: new sanctions on Iran - so that raises the stakes for the president should he threaten a veto.

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On Wednesday, the US Senate approved, by an overwhelming majority, a measure that would expand sanctions on Russian Federation and limit the US president's ability to lift said sanctions.

"We can not let Russia's meddling in our elections go unpunished, lest they ever consider such interference again, nor any other nation in the world", said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat.

Sen. Sherrod Brown of OH, the top Democrat on the Banking Committee, said Trump's failure to act could embolden Russian Federation and lead to interference in future USA elections.

"I'm concerned about it, but I don't really have the ability to dictate what the White House says to the House", Virginia Sen. It would also allow new sanctions on state-owned entities of the Russian economy, including mining, metal, shipping and railways.

The Russia amendment include provisions to limit transactions and exports, put into law existing punishments laid out by the Obama administration and condemn the country's interventions in Ukraine and Syria. Tillerson had asked for some time to try and change the direction of U.S. -Russia relations before Congress levied new sanctions on the Kremlin.

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