Congress Should ‘Phone a Friend’ When Sanctioning Russia
Discussion of additional U.S. sanctions on Russia for its interference in the 2016 presidential election and general bad behavior is heating up in Congress, but lawmakers should coordinate with our allies before acting.
The Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs held hearings in March and April to assess options for further penalties — “to impose real costs” on the Kremlin as Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) put it — for Moscow’s aggression in Ukraine and Syria, in addition to meddling in elections in Europe and the U.S. Russian sanctions were again a prominent theme during a May 16 committee hearing for Treasury Department nominees.
The Countering Russian Hostilities Act of 2017 is the most likely vehicle for congressional action to increase economic pressure on Moscow. Modeled on the Iran Sanctions Act, the Countering Russian Hostilities Act would impose economic sanctions on firms and banks doing certain business with Moscow, in particular investment in Russian oil and gas (including export pipelines), nuclear power plants, purchases of Russian sovereign debt and participation in the privatization of Russian state-owned assets.
The legislation also calls for tougher action against Russian corruption and establishment of a high-level task force for “tracing, mapping and prosecuting illicit financial flows linked to the Russian Federation.” Waivers for most of the sanctions on national security grounds require the president to certify that Moscow is taking steps to implement the Minsk agreements to bring peace to Ukraine and “to substantially decrease its military activities in Syria.”