US senators to introduce tougher Russia sanctions bill

We ‘must make it abundantly clear that we will defend our nation and not waver,’ senators Graham, Menendez say
WASHINGTON: A pair of senior senators are prepping bipartisan legislation that would ramp up U.S. pressure on Russia, including bolstering sanctions on Moscow.
Senators Lindsey Graham and Bob Menendez are fleshing out the details of the legislation, which would increase sanctions on Russia’s energy and financial sectors, its sovereign debt and oligarchs and other individuals who wield political clout in the country.
“We are fully committed to ensuring Congress maintains an active role in both confronting Russian aggression and ensuring that the Executive Branch takes the necessary steps to protect the U.S. and our allies,” the senators said in a joint statement released Tuesday.
“Just as Vladimir Putin has made clear his intention to challenge American power, influence, and security interests at home and abroad, the United States must make it abundantly clear that we will defend our nation and not waver in our rejection of his effort to erode western democracy as a strategic imperative for Russia’s future,” they added, referring to the Russian president.
In addition to placing sectoral sanctions on Russia’s cyber actors, the legislation would further require the Senate to sign off on any U.S. exit from NATO, amid bipartisan criticism of President Donald Trump’s commitment to the transatlantic alliance.
It is unclear when the legislation will be introduced.
Trump came under widespread criticism following his handling of a summit with NATO’s leaders and his meeting last week with Putin.
The U.S. intelligence community determined in January 2017 that Russia sought to interfere in the 2016 presidential election in a bid to undercut Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Trump appeared to back Putin’s denials of any role in the effort during their meeting before reneging on his comments after he returned to Washington.
Putin acknowledged at the summit that he favored the then-Republican nominee because Trump “was the one who wanted to normalize relations with Russia,” but has consistently maintained the Kremlin had no part in interfering in the election.
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have been seeking to respond to the alleged effort, and the Graham-Menendez prospective legislation is part of the campaign.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to be questioned Wednesday during testimony on the U.S. response as well as Trump’s meeting with Putin.–AA

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