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16 Feb, 2022 21:00

US Russia sanctions plan stalls in Senate

Lawmakers from different parties could not agree on punitive measures
US Russia sanctions plan stalls in Senate

A proposal to sanction Russia in the event of an invasion of Ukraine has hit a legislative obstacle in the US Senate, with Republicans moving to impose measures even before any potential attack begins.

Lawmakers admitted on Tuesday that they were far from reaching an agreement on the sanctions bill, despite bipartisan support for taking a tough stance on Russia. Republicans led by Idaho’s Jim Risch, a senior member of the Foreign Relations Committee, have introduced their own legislation, which would target allies of President Vladimir Putin before an invasion, as well as reserving measures for if Russia did attack. It would also provide Ukraine with $500 million in military aid.

Risch said that the bill “sends a powerful deterrent message, imposes heavy economic and military costs on Russia, strengthens U.S. allies and partners, and supports Ukraine via new authorities, funds, and tools.”

Democrats have argued that the threat of sanctions is a more effective deterrent than imposing them preemptively, and say that Risch’s legislation would actually give the US less leverage at the negotiation table.

Despite the bill’s halting progress, Democratic  majority leader Chuck Schumer and Republican minority leader Mitch McConnell released a joint statement pledging to “fully support the immediate imposition of strong, robust, and effective sanctions on Russia” if Moscow ordered an attack on Ukraine.

“Make no mistake: the United States Senate stands with the people of Ukraine and our NATO allies and partners most threatened by Russian aggression,” the senators said. “Our troops stand ready to reinforce the defenses of our Eastern European allies and we are prepared to respond decisively to Russian efforts to undermine the security of the United States at home and abroad.”

Western leaders have been warning for months that Russia could attack Ukraine, with some alleging recently that an invasion could be planned for this week. Moscow has repeatedly denied that it has aggressive intentions, and on Tuesday, ordered some of the troops it had deployed for military drills near the Ukrainian border to return to their bases.