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Senate Foreign Relations Committee Approves Comprehensive Russian Sanctions Bill

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), ), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,  Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) issued the following statements after the Senate Foreign Relations Committee overwhelmingly voted to approve the Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act (DASKA) of 2019. Adopted in a vote of 17-5, the comprehensive, bipartisan bill significantly increases the political, diplomatic, and economic pressure on the Russian Federation in response to its malign activities around the world.

The legislation, which now heads to the Senate floor for full consideration, is designed to bolster the United States’ ability to confront Russian aggression on several fronts—by strengthening our commitment to NATO, establishing an elite State Department cyber unit, and levying wide-ranging sanctions on Russian entities and individuals.

“This bill is the expression of the Senate’s views on how to protect U.S. national security against Russia,”  said Senator Menendez. “By passing DASKA, the Senate Foreign Relations committee is saying we intend to hold Vladimir Putin accountable, and that we will be proactive in standing up for U.S. national security.  This comprehensive legislation will ensure our diplomats have the tools to advance our interests and stand up to the bully in the Kremlin. It includes new sanctions as well as provisions designed to harden our democratic institutions and make us less vulnerable to another attack. I thank my colleagues for their commitment to getting this critical bill passed, and look forward to working together again to ensure the full Senate swiftly takes it up early next year.”

“Incredibly pleased with the overwhelming bipartisan support for my legislation with Senator Menendez sanctioning Putin’s government, the Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act (DASKA) of 2019,” said Senator Graham. “This strong vote indicates an overwhelming desire by the Senate as a whole to push back against Russian interference in our election and Putin’s misadventures throughout the world. I am committed to working with my colleagues to improve this legislation, but it must be strong to be meaningful. Our bill sanctions the Russian energy sector, goes after the illicit gains of Putin and his oligarch friends, and makes strong statements about the value of NATO to the United States. I look forward to working with my Senate colleagues to ensure that this legislation is taken up on the Senate floor and we continue to push back against Putin’s malign behavior. If this bill becomes law, it will be the strongest statement yet by Congress that we are tired of the discord that Putin is sowing throughout the world and the threat that he poses to the neighborhood in which he resides.  I have very much enjoyed working with Senator Menendez and appreciate all those who have helped draft this legislation.”

“Congress continues to take the lead in defending U.S. national security against continuing Russian aggression against democratic institutions at home and abroad,” said Senator Cardin. “I’m pleased to work with my colleagues on a comprehensive, bipartisan effort to counter Russia’s pervasive attacks on our electoral systems and cyber infrastructure. I hope the full Senate will take it up quickly. We must be united in our effort to fully protect our country and our allies from a Kremlin that shows no sign of abiding by or respecting international norms.”

“Putin’s Russia is an outlaw regime that is hell-bent on undermining international law and destroying the U.S.-led liberal global order,” said Senator Gardner. “From the invasion of Ukraine, carrying out chemical attacks on NATO soil, support for the heinous Assad regime, violations of arms control treaties, and meddling in U.S. elections, Russia’s actions necessitate the strongest possible response from the United States. This legislation imposes additional strong sanctions to deter Russia’s malign behavior, including my provision to require the State Department to determine whether Russia merits the designation as a state sponsor of terror. With the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passage of this legislation, Congress is demonstrating firm bipartisan resolve against Kremlin’s mendacity and I hope it will move quickly to be signed into law.”

“This bipartisan legislation sends a clear message that Congress will not stay on the sidelines while Russia continues to interfere in our elections, threatens Ukraine’s sovereignty and sows discord in the transatlantic community,” said Senator Shaheen. “Our bill levies additional sanctions against Russia and reaffirms the Senate’s voice and role in support of NATO to ensure the United States stands with our allies against Russian aggression. I urge Leader McConnell to bring this bill to the floor immediately.”

Among its many provisions, DASKA creates a fusion center within the government to better address challenges posed by Russia.  The bill also gives U.S. prosecutors the ability to shut down botnets and other cyber tools that are used to attack election infrastructure.  And it increases transparency in the U.S. real estate market, making it more difficult for Russian oligarchs to buy high end property.

Sanctions in Response to Kremlin interference in democratic institutions abroad 

  • Sanctions on Russian banks that support Russian efforts to undermine democratic institutions in other countries
  • Sanctions on investment in Russian LNG projects outside of Russia
  • Sanctions on Russia’s cyber sector
  • Sanctions on Russian sovereign debt
  • Sanctions on political figures, oligarchs, and family members and other persons that facilitate illicit and corrupt activities, directly or indirectly, on behalf of Vladimir Putin

Sanctions in Response to Kremlin aggression in Ukraine 

  • Sanctions on Russia’s shipbuilding sector in the event that Russia violates the freedom of navigation in the Kerch Strait or anywhere else in the world
  • Sanctions with respect to support for the development of crude oil resources in Russia
  • Sanctions on Russian stated owned energy projects outside of Russia

Other key provisions of the legislation

  • A strong statement of support for NATO and a requirement for two-thirds of the United States Senate to vote to leave NATO
  • Provisions expediting the transfer of excess defense articles to NATO countries to reduce some NATO countries’ dependence on Russian military equipment
  • The creation of a National Fusion Center to Respond to Hybrid Threats.  The aim of this center is to better prepare and respond to Russian disinformation and other emerging threats emanating from the Russian Federation
  • The establishment of an Office of Cyberspace and the Digital Economy within the Department of State.  This office will lead diplomatic efforts relating to international cybersecurity, Internet access, Internet freedom, the digital economy, cybercrime, deterrence and responses to cyber threats
  • Provisions aimed to pressure the Russian government to halt its obstruction of international efforts to investigate chemical weapons attacks as well as punish the Russian government for chemical weapons production and use
  • The International Cybercrime Prevention Act which would give prosecutors the ability to shut down botnets and other digital infrastructure that can be used for a wide range of illegal activity; create a new criminal violation for individuals who have knowingly targeted critical infrastructure, including dams, power plants, hospitals, and election infrastructure; and prohibit cybercriminals from selling access to botnets to carry out cyber-attacks
  • The Defending the Integrity of Voting Systems Act which would allow the Department of Justice to pursue federal charges for the hacking of any voting system that is used in a federal election
  • A requirement for the Secretary of State to submit a determination of whether the Russian Federation meets the criteria for designation as a state sponsor of terrorism
  • A requirement for domestic title insurance companies to report information on the beneficial owners of entities that purchase residential real estate in high-value transactions
  • Reinforcement for the State Department  Office of Sanctions Coordination
  • A report on the net worth and assets of Vladimir Putin
  • A report on the assassination of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov
  • A reauthorization of the Countering Russia Influence Fund, which would provide assistance to European countries vulnerable to Kremlin interference