National Security

Dem senator chides Trump: US two months late on new Russia sanctions

Stefani Reynolds

A Democratic senator is admonishing the Trump administration for not yet imposing a new round of sanctions on Russia for its poisoning of an ex-Russian spy in Britain as mandated under law.

“These sanctions are more than two months overdue,” Sen. Bob Menendez (N.J.), the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday and released Thursday.

“I urge you to impose these sanctions immediately to ensure that the statutorily mandated sanctions regime is not undermined,” Menendez added.

In August, the Trump administration sanctioned Russia for using a military-grade nerve agent against ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury, England, earlier in the year.

{mosads}The U.S. brought the sanctions under a 1991 law known as the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act, or CBW Act. Moscow has denied any involvement in the poisoning, which Skripal and his daughter survived.

Under the law, a second tranche of sanctions is automatically triggered unless Russia meets a number of strict criteria, including showing it is no longer using chemical or biological weapons and allowing for independent inspections.

The State Department alerted Congress in November that Moscow had not complied with the requirements to avoid a second round of sanctions. However, the U.S. has not formally announced new sanctions on Moscow in the more than two months that have passed.

“I am deeply concerned the State Department, despite its formal determination that the Russian Federation used chemical weapons in the attack, has not implemented the second round of sanctions against the Russian Federation,” Menendez wrote in the letter to Pompeo. 

The State Department did not immediately return a request for comment. 

The administration must choose three from a list of six categories of sanctions under the law. The options include further restrictions on U.S. exports from Russia; import restrictions; a suspension of diplomatic relations with Russia; a suspension of air travel to and from the U.S. by Russian-owned air carriers; and sanctions barring Russia from receiving multilateral development bank assistance or U.S. bank loans. 

Menendez’s letter comes as the administration faces fresh scrutiny over sanctions on Moscow. Earlier this month, House Democrats hauled Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to Capitol Hill to testify behind closed doors about the administration’s plans to lift sanctions on companies linked to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

The administration also missed the first deadline to determine whether Russia violated the CBW Act, but officials blamed it on the slow pace of government bureaucracy at the time.

Tags Bob Menendez Mike Pompeo Steven Mnuchin

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