Hard-Hitting Russia Sanctions Package U.S. Senate – press release & full text

On 1 August 2018, the U.S. Senate introduced a bipartisan proposal for a new bill, the Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act of 2018. The bill proposes ‘comprehensive legislation that would increase economic, political, and diplomatic pressure on the Russian Federation in response to Vladimir Putin’s continued interference in our elections, malign influence in Syria, aggression across Eastern Europe, and other destabilizing activities.’

The text of the bill (S.3336) has been introduced, read twice, and referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations, but has not been published on congress.gov yet, perhaps due to summer recess.

Awaiting its formal publication, we have obtained and, for public transparency, uploaded the text here.

U.S. Senators published this press release on 2 August, which has a useful overview of the bill:

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Ben Cardin (D-MD), John McCain (R-AZ) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) introduced the Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act of 2018, comprehensive legislation that will increase economic, political, and diplomatic pressure on the Russian Federation in response to Russia’s continued interference in our elections, malign influence in Syria, aggression in Crimea, and other activities.

“The current sanctions regime has failed to deter Russia from meddling in the upcoming 2018 midterm elections,” said Senator Graham. “Our goal is to change the status quo and impose crushing sanctions and other measures against Putin’s Russia until he ceases and desists meddling in the US electoral process, halts cyber-attacks on US infrastructure, removes Russia from Ukraine, and ceases efforts to create chaos in Syria. The sanctions and other measures contained in this bill are the most hard-hitting ever imposed – and a direct result of Putin’s continued desire to undermine American democracy. I strongly believe that DNI Coats’ assessment – that the warning lights are blinking red when it comes to Russian meddling in the 2018 election – is accurate. These sanctions and other measures are designed to respond in the strongest possible fashion.”

“Vladimir Putin continues to pose a growing threat to our country and allies. While Congress overwhelmingly passed a strong set of countermeasures last year, unfortunately, the Administration has not fully complied with that legislation. This bill is the next step in tightening the screws on the Kremlin and will bring to bear the full condemnation of the United States Congress so that Putin finally understands that the U.S. will not tolerate his behavior any longer,” said Senator Menendez. “The Kremlin continues to attack our democracy, support a war criminal in Syria and violate Ukraine’s sovereignty. With the passage of this legislation, Congress will once again act to establish a clear U.S. policy to hold Russia accountable with one clear message:  Kremlin aggression will be met with consequences that will shake Putin’s regime to its foundation.”

“The United States must continue to take strong actions against Vladimir Putin’s Russia for their global violations of international law and repeated attempts to undermine U.S. democratic institutions,” said Senator Gardner. “I fully support this bipartisan measure that will impose further economic sanctions against the Kremlin and also includes my language requiring the State Department to determine whether Russia merits the designation of a State Sponsor of Terror, along with Kremlin allies Iran and Syria that are already designated.  Unless Russia fundamentally changes its behavior, we must not repeat the mistakes of past Administrations of trying to normalize relations with a nation that continues to pose a serious threat to the United States and our allies.”

“It is once again up to Congress to strengthen America’s resolve against Vladimir Putin’s pattern of corroding democratic institutions and values around the world, a direct and growing threat to U.S. national security,” said Senator Cardin, a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and one of the co-authors and lead negotiators of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). “Importantly, a number of the recommendations from the report on Russian interference I commissioned six months ago are included in this legislation. I’m pleased to partner with my bipartisan colleagues to build on CAATSA and further protect ourselves and our allies from a Kremlin that shows no sign of abiding by or respecting international norms.”

“For nearly two years, our nation’s top intelligence officials have repeatedly warned that the Kremlin is continuing its efforts to target our elections and sow chaos among our citizens,” said Senator McCain. “Until Putin pays a serious price for his actions, these attacks on our democracy will only grow. This bill would build on the strongest sanctions ever imposed on the Putin regime for its assault on democratic institutions, violation of international treaties, and siege on open societies through cyberattacks and misinformation campaigns. Moreover, this legislation would modernize our diplomatic tools and secure our critical infrastructure to better deter and defend against Putin’s aggression. We must confront this challenge — not as Republicans or Democrats, but as Americans. Because ultimately, Putin’s true aim is to undermine all of us — our country, our freedom, and all that America stands for.”

“We must stand arm-in-arm with our allies against the Kremlin’s hybrid attacks on the U.S. and democracies across the world,”said Senator Shaheen. “This bipartisan legislation sends a strong message of unity and deterrence against the Kremlin, while closing security gaps that leave our nation and its citizens vulnerable. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to advance this bill and harden our defenses against malign foreign influence.”

Key elements of the legislation include:

  • 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 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.
  • Making interfering in our elections a ground of inadmissibility under immigration law
  • 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
  • New 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
  • Sanction on transactions related to investment in energy projects supported by Russia state-owned or parastatal entities
  • A prohibition on and sanctions with respect to transactions relating to new sovereign debt of the Russian Federation
  • Sectoral sanctions on any person in the Russian Federation that has the capacity or ability to support or facilitate malicious cyber activities
  • 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 prohibition on licenses for United States persons to engage in activities relating to certain projects to produce oil in the Russian Federation
  • 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
  • An extension on the cap of Russian uranium imports
  • Reinforcement for the State Department  Office of Sanctions Coordination
  • A report on the net worth and assets of Vladimir Putin
  • 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.
  • A reauthorization of the Countering Russia Influence Fund