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Tougher Sanctions May Be Headed Russia’s Way

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A bipartisan group of senators agreed late Monday on a new package of sanctions against Russia as well as curbs against any attempts by President Trump to roll back existing penalties.

The agreement, which passed through the Senate’s Banking and Foreign Relations Committees, would add new and tougher sanctions against the Russian government for the invasion of Crimea in 2014, its cyber warfare campaign during the presidential campaign last year, and its support for Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

The agreement, announced by Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo and Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown of the Banking Committee and Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker and Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin of the Foreign Relations panel, will add an amendment to an Iran sanctions bill currently being considered by the Senate.

If enacted, the amendment should assuage lawmakers concerned that the Trump administration plans to relax sanctions against the Kremlin by requiring a mandated congressional review “if sanctions are relaxed, suspended or terminated.”

The White House has sent mixed signals about whether the penalties will be softened, stoking fears among many lawmakers on both sides of the political spectrum.

During the presidential campaign, Trump said that he was open to revisiting sanctions imposed by the Obama administration. And during the presidential transition, Trump’s eventual national security adviser, Michael Flynn, discussed sanctions issues with Russia’s ambassador, Sergey Kislyak.

The FBI is currently investigating whether members of the Trump campaign colluded with the Kremlin by promising sanctions easements in exchange for help defeating Hillary Clinton. The White House has denied any collusion.

Some in the administration have said that sanctions imposed by the Obama administration will remain in place until the Russian government makes some concessions.

Sec. of State Rex Tillerson and UN Amb. Nikki Haley have publicly reiterated the U.S.’s commitment to the sanctions regime. Both have said that sanctions will not be relaxed until Russia leaves Crimea.

In addition to codifying and strengthening existing sanctions implemented by the Obama administration, the proposed amendment imposes new sanctions against “corrupt Russian actors” as well as human rights abusers and Russians who attempt to evade sanctions.

Computer hackers and arms dealers who sell weapons to the Assad regime will also face sanctions.

The amendment also opens a path to new sanctions against Russia’s mining, metals, shipping and railway industries.

It will also require a study “on the flow of illicit finance involving Russia.”

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