Senate Democrats unveil bill sanctioning Russia over Ukraine

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) addresses reporters during a press conference on Wednesday, November 3, 2021 to discuss state and local tax caps.
Greg Nash

Senate Democrats on Wednesday unveiled legislation aimed at imposing sanctions on Russia should it invade Ukraine as U.S. and European allies seek to prevent the move.

The Defending Ukraine Sovereignty Act of 2022, led by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and 25 of his colleagues, would impose mandatory sanctions on a variety of Russian entities should it escalate hostile action against Ukraine 

The measure would also call on the State and Defense departments to bolster Ukraine’s defensive capabilities and enhance the delivery of security assistance to Kyiv.

“This legislation makes it absolutely clear that the U.S. Senate will not stand idly by as the Kremlin threatens a re-invasion of Ukraine,” Menendez said in a statement.

“Ultimately the most effective sanction on Russia is a strong and unified Ukraine, and I look forward to working with my Democratic and Republican colleagues so that we can provide the people of Ukraine the type of support they need to confront the bully in Moscow,” he continued.

White House National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne issued a statement backing the legislation.

“We support Senator Menendez’s legislation, which would trigger severe costs to Russia’s economy if Russia further invades Ukraine, just like President Biden and our allies and partners have made clear we will do,” Horne said. “The bill also supports efforts to increase security assistance to Ukraine in the event that Russia escalates hostilities against Ukraine.”

The bill from Menendez is the second piece of legislation introduced by lawmakers this week and reflects the bipartisan sentiment on Capitol Hill that the U.S. should take a tougher stance against Russia.

On Monday, a group of House Republicans introduced the Guaranteeing Ukrainian Autonomy by Reinforcing its Defense Act, which is similarly aimed at bolstering Kyiv’s defense capabilities and rejecting Russia’s security demands.

The Kremlin has denied intentions to invade Ukraine and is demanding the U.S. and NATO deny Ukraine membership in the alliance and roll back its military posture in Eastern Europe.

U.S. and Russian officials met on Monday to discuss Moscow’s security demands and were slated to meet Tuesday for a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council. 

Under Menendez’s legislation, President Biden would have to determine whether the Russian government is knowingly pushing hostilities against Ukraine and if they are for the purposes of taking over the former Soviet state.

Such determination would trigger mandatory sanctions on Moscow’s banking sector, as well as several military and government officials including Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The legislation would also direct the administration to review its waiver of sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline — which carries natural gas from Russia to Germany — in light of Moscow’s military posture near Ukraine. 

This provision comes as the Senate is expected to vote on a separate proposal from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), which would impose Nord Stream 2-related sanctions.

President Biden nixed sanctions related to the pipeline last year, and representatives from the State Department briefed Senate Democrats on Monday night arguing that Cruz’s bill wouldn’t stop Russia from invading Ukraine.  

In addition, the bill would authorize $500 million in supplemental emergency assistance for fiscal 2022 if Russia reinvades Ukraine and would authorize $3 million for international military and education training.  

Updated: 12:00 p.m.

Tags Bob Menendez Democrats Joe Biden NATO Robert Menendez Russia-Ukraine conflict sanctions Senate Ted Cruz U.S.-Russia relations Vladimir Putin
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