US senators look to impose new sanctions on Russia and to tie Trump’s hands

US senators  yesterday reached an agreement on  the wording of new draft  legislation  that could result in the imposition of  new sanctions on Russia – and prevent the White House from easing, suspending or ending any such measures without congressional approval.
The agreement will be  filed as an amendment to an Iran sanctions bill  – that could come up for a vote as soon as this week – and is intended to punish Moscow for a number of perceived misdemeanours including allegedly meddling in the 2016 US election, annexing Crimea  and supporting the Syrian government during its country’s six-year-long civil war.
It would also enshrine in  law sanctions previously established via presidential executive order, including some on certain Russian energy projects and debt financing packages.
“These additional sanctions will … send a powerful and bipartisan statement to Russia and any other country who might try to interfere in our elections that they will be punished,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement.
The sanctions package is rooted in legislation introduced earlier this year amid concerns on Capitol Hill that Trump may seek to lift sanctions against Russia as part of a plan to forge a partnership between the two countries in key areas including counterterrorism. In early January, before Trump was sworn in, a bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill designed to go beyond the punishments already levied against Russia by the Obama administration and to demonstrate to Trump that forcefully responding to Moscow’s election interference is an issue that transcends party politics.
Any  Russians found to be guilty of human rights abuses, supplying weapons to Syria’s government and conducting cyber attacks on behalf of the Kremlin could be subject to the new package, which would also provide for the imposition of sanctions on Russian companies active in the  mining, metals, shipping and rail transport sectors.
Backed by both Republicans and Democrats, and is expected to easily pass the Senate, but to become law would eventually have to be voted on by the House of Representatives and eventually signed off by US President Donald Trump. If he were to object , the amendment’s sponsors are confident that they have enough congressional support to override his veto.
The White House said last week it has no plans to scale back existing sanctions against Russia, as relations have soured. Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders insisted that  the Trump administration was  “committed to existing sanctions against Russia” and  would keep them in place “until Moscow fully honours its commitments to resolve the crisis in Ukraine.”

Source: reuters