Top Armed Services Dem to propose bill to address Russian aggression

Top Armed Services Dem to propose bill to address Russian aggression
© Greg Nash

The ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee will introduce in the coming weeks a bill aimed at forcing the Trump administration to craft a comprehensive policy to deter Russian aggression, he said Tuesday.

“Today, we are witnessing some of the most fundamental threats to our democratic values and to the cohesion of our alliances since the beginning of the post-World War II era. President Putin’s campaign to erode our institutions poses a genuine threat to our system of government and our way of life,” Rep. Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithCongress, cut the continuing resolutions so Defense can do its job Week ahead: Lawmakers look to break deadlock on defense funding Pentagon eyeing West Coast missile defense sites: report MORE (D-Wash.) said in a statement.

“President Trump has only exacerbated this problem, belittling our allies and partners, embracing dictatorships and calling into question our collective security commitments. In this situation, Congress has a responsibility to do its utmost to push back against these dark trends.”

The bill is the latest in lawmakers’ attempts to force Trump’s hand on Russia, with which he has expressed a desire to improve relations even as his campaign continues to be investigated for possible collusion. In the Senate, there have been efforts to attach Russia sanctions to an Iran sanctions bill.

Smith’s bill, which he said he hopes will be folded into the upcoming annual defense policy bill, would require the Pentagon to develop and implement a comprehensive Russia strategy.

The bill cites a slew of examples of Russian aggression, including its interference in the U.S. election, violations of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, its stated defense strategy of “escalating to de-escalate” that allows for the use of nuclear weapons and its annexation of Crimea and support of separatists in eastern Ukraine.

“It is time for us to recognize that this challenge must become one of the central concerns of U.S. national security strategy, and that if we do not stand up to this menace, we stand to lose much of what we have sacrificed to build and preserve during the life of our country,” Smith said. “This threat merits a comprehensive response that will deter Russian aggression, strengthen allied and partner defenses, and boost our cohesion while including measures to reduce the risk of nuclear war and avoiding a reckless plunge into a new nuclear arms race.”

The bill would address the INF violations by requiring the president to submit a plan to Congress on imposing sanctions until Russia is back in compliance with the treaty. 

In addition to the overall Russia strategy, the bill would require the Pentagon to craft a plan to reduce the risk of nuclear war in the face of Russia’s “escalate to de-escalate” doctrine. It would also require a strategy to increase conventional precision-strike weapons stockpiles in Europe.

The bill would also require a plan to counter Russian military modernization and capabilities, such as drones, electronic warfare and long-range precision strike capabilities. The bill would further require a plan to train allied forces to counter Russian cyber and information operations.

Another report required by the bill would have to look at the location, capabilities and capacities of U.S. training areas in Europe.

The bill would also require a report on maintaining and expanding U.S. military presence in Europe that would have to assess new locations to permanently station troops in Europe and whether existing infrastructure can handle more troops, among other aspects.

“This bill represents a forceful and responsible counter to Russia’s provocations,” Smith said. “It is an attempt to lay the foundations for a new security effort to combat the spread of Putinism and increase the resilience of democratic societies.”