OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: G-7 countries shun Russia

The Topline: President Obama and the Group of Seven leaders have booted Russia out of the club.

The G-7 leaders effectively suspended Russia’s membership in the Group of Eight by announcing they would hold a G-7 summit in Brussels in June to replace the planned G-8 summit Russia was set to host in Sochi.

In a statement, the countries indicated they were willing to impose coordinated sanctions against Russia in response to its military intervention in Ukraine.

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Deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said that "as long as Russia is flagrantly violating international law and the order that the G-7 has helped to build since the end of the Cold War, there's no need for the G-7 to engage with Russia."

The move was dismissed by Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, who said Russia would not be affected by the exclusion.

"If our Western partners believe the format has exhausted itself, we don't cling to this format. We don't believe it will be a big problem if it doesn't convene," Lavrov told reporters in Amsterdam, according to Reuters.

Monday’s move to a G-7 summit is the latest in a series of steps taken against Russia since it annexed Crimea last week.

The G-7 includes Japan, Canada, Germany, France, Italy and Britain, and was expanded to include Russia in the 1990s after the fall of the Soviet Union.

The announcement was made while President Obama was in Europe, where he and the other G-7 leaders met at an emergency meeting on the sidelines of a nuclear summit in The Hague.

Russian President Vladimir Putin did not attend the summit, but Lavrov met with Kerry on Monday to talk about Ukraine.

During that meeting, Kerry “expressed strong concern about the massing of a large number of Russian forces on the border and of the treatment of Ukrainian military forces, including many Ukrainian service members who are missing,” according to State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf.

Senate moves on Ukraine aide bill: The Senate voted 78-17 on Monday to advance its bill to provide Ukraine aid and impose sanctions on Russia.

More than 20 Democrats joined Republicans in voting for the motion to proceed to the bill.

The bill’s fate remains up in the air, however; some Republicans have objected to provisions in the package to reform the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The House Foreign Affairs Committee plans to mark up its own bill, which does not have the IMF provisions, on Tuesday. That measure has Democratic support in the House.

The Senate bill from Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) would provide $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees and spend more than $100 million to promote democracy and security in Ukraine.

The bill also codifies steps being taken by the Obama administration on sanctions and expands the potential target list.

Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.), who was sanctioned by the Russians last week, introduced an amendment to the bill Monday to slap sanctions on Rosoboronexport, the Russian state arms firm.

It’s unclear if he will get a chance to offer the amendment, however, as Congress is trying to quickly pass the legislation this week after failing to do so before the March recess.

Military ramps up Kony mission: President Obama is doubling its military assets on a mission to find the African warlord Joseph Kony, the White House announced Monday. 

The U.S. first authorized its mission in 2011, sending 100 special operations forces to Uganda, but the warlord and leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army has managed to evade capture. 

On Monday, the Pentagon confirmed it is sending 150 additional U.S. troops, four CV-22 Osprey aircraft, two MC-130 medium-lift aircraft and two KC-135s aerial refuelers for the mission. 

The move won praise from Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), usually a fierce Obama foreign policy critic and a long-time advocate for stopping Kony. 

“Joseph Kony’s reign of terror has gone on far too long, and we cannot go on another year without bringing him and the LRA to justice,” said Inhofe, the ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee. 

Kony has killed more than 100,000 people, displaced more than a million Africans and abducted tens of thousands of children for his terrorist group, Inhofe said. 

“I am glad to see the President respond to my requests as well as the requests of many Americans to support those in Africa working to stop Kony and eradicate the LRA,” Inhofe said. 

Rogers, Ruppersberger to introduce FISA bill: The heads of the House Intelligence Committee will introduce their own legislation on Tuesday that would make changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

The bill would make tweaks to the law that’s used by the National Security Agency to conduct bulk phone surveillance that has come under fire.

The bill from Rogers and Ruppersberger will be announced at an 11 a.m. press conference.

The Intelligence Committee chairman and ranking members have been two of the biggest congressional defenders of the NSA’s surveillance. That has privacy critics expressing skepticism that their bill will go as far as other proposals, like Rep. James Sensenbrenner’s (R-Wis.) legislation, to curb the NSA’s data collection. 

 

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