Tillerson warns against steps that cut off talks with Russia

by Garry Watts June 14, 2017, 3:58

Senators on Monday evening reached a bipartisan deal to impose new sanctions on Russian Federation over its attempts to meddle in the 2016 election, its involvement in the conflict in Syria, and its invasion of Crimea.

Bob Corker, the Republican Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair, announced details of a bipartisan deal to increase sanctions on Russian Federation.

A group of U.S. Senators agreed Monday on legislation to strengthen sanctions against Russian Federation, including a provision that would require congressional review if the White House relaxed, suspended or terminated sanctions already in place.

The agreement imposes new sanctions including "malicious cyber activity" on behalf of Moscow, individuals supplying weapons to Syrian President Bashar Assad's government or individuals tied to Russia's intelligence and defense sectors.

The measure would be attached to a larger bill that would impose new sanctions on Iran, which the president has supported.

The sanctions package is rooted in legislation introduced earlier this year amid concerns on Capitol Hill that Trump may seek to lift sanctions against Russian Federation as part of a plan to forge a partnership between the two countries in key areas, such as counterterrorism.

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Both proposals could be voted this week, a significant shift from last month, when the Republican leaders seemed reluctant to move forward on sanctions against Moscow.

On Tuesday, Bloomberg News reported that an anonymous USA senior official disclosed Russian hackers had infiltrated systems in 39 states, scores more than previously reported. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, of the Banking Committee, and Sens.

Experts say that the fact that the bill is a bipartisan, limits the ability of the White house to reject the document. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Ben Cardin, D-Md., of the Foreign Relations panel.

The bill includes a provision that the U.S. President must obtain the approval of Congress for any weakening of the sanctions regime against Russian Federation.

The fresh sanctions would also see Russian mining, metals, shipping and railways affected, with the Senate also planning on putting into law some previous sanctions touching Russian energy projects and debt financing.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer immediately praised the deal, urging the House to also pass it quickly. The review language would be structured "much like we did in other places", such as the 2015 legislation that required former President Barack Obama to submit his administration's nuclear pact with Iran to Congress, Corker said. Then they will head to the president's desk. "There was serious consideration by the White House to unilaterally rescind the sanctions", said Dan Fried, a veteran State Department official who served as chief US coordinator for sanctions policy until he retired in late February.


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