Over the course of the past three months, the Senate Banking Committee, on which I serve as chairman, has held hearings assessing the impacts of the current sanctions regime against Russia. The committee found that despite existing sanctions, Russia remains a hostile, recalcitrant power, and that in Russian President Putin’s calculus, the costs of the sanctions do not outweigh the benefits of occupying Crimea and contributing to unrest in Ukraine, continuing to support the Assad regime’s assault on civilians in Syria, and conducting cyber-attacks on people, companies, and institutions.
Many on both sides of the aisle feel that the United States needs to be much stronger in its response. The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed, by a bipartisan vote of 97-2, legislation I introduced that would expand and strengthen sanctions on the Russian Federation to uphold America’s respect for territorial integrity, human rights and liberty.
The legislation was accepted as an amendment to the underlying Iran sanctions bill, which ultimately passed 98-2, and it represents a bipartisan agreement among the leadership of the two Senate committees of jurisdiction: Banking Committee Ranking Member Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and me as Chairman; and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tennessee) and Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-Maryland). In a speech before the Senate, I had the opportunity to detail the legislation that would maintain and substantially expand sanctions against the government of Russia in response to the violation of the territorial integrity of the Ukraine and Crimea, its brazen cyber-attacks and interference in elections, and its continuing aggression in Syria.
This legislation has four main objectives: it would escalate and expand the current sanctions regime against Russia; it would create new sanctions against Russia; it would engage Congress at a higher level than before by ensuring that Congress is notified when the President wants to impose certain sanctions or when he lifts others; and it would increase the U.S. Treasury Department’s ability to track illicit finance, including illicit flows linked to Russia.
The need for this legislation was underlined by the fact that many Americans have deep concerns about Russia’s behavior over the past few years. Since coming to power, Putin has become increasingly belligerent, nationalistic and autocratic. Currently, the United States has imposed sanctions on Russia for: Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea and its role in supporting the separatist movements in eastern Ukraine; Russia’s increasing cyber-attacks and cyber espionage against the United States; Russia’s support for the Assad Regime in Syria; and Russia’s complicity for corruption.
Although this is not an exhaustive list, it demonstrates the lengths to which Putin will go to seize power and influence in the international arena.
The times call for clarity of purpose, and a correct amount of pressure. This step taken by the Senate signals to the world the United States’ unflagging commitment to the sanctity of territorial integrity, human rights and good governance.
Mike Crapo is a Republican senator who represents Idaho in Congress.