Congress shows unanimous support for legislation to rein in Russia

The U.S. House unanimously passed legislation Tuesday authorizing sanctions against any foreign entity that provides material aid to the Syrian government in their fight against rebel militants, a preemptive measure meant to, in-part, quell President-elect Donald Trump’s pro-Russian rhetoric.

Entitled the “Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2016”, the bill’s official objective is “To halt the wholesale slaughter of the Syrian people, encourage a negotiated political settlement, and hold Syrian human rights abusers accountable for their crimes.”

A Senate vote on the bill won’t come until January 2017, but top foreign policy Republicans in both houses of Congress have signaled an eagerness to cut down the Kremlin’s military aggressiveness, as well as designate federal funds to aid U.S. allies in Eastern Europe.

“(Trump) wants to reset with Russia. Maybe he can do it, but here’s my view about Russia: They’re a bad actor in the world, they need to be reined in,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, member of the Armed Services Committee. “I think (Russia) should pay a price heavier than they’re paying now for what they’re doing in Syria and in Eastern Europe.”

There also appears to be congressional bipartisan agreement to hold investigative hearing on Russia for hacking U.S. political campaigns and organizations prior to the general election, dating back to 2015. Graham also said he would like to see “a series of hearings about Russia’s misadventures throughout the world,” which include attempts to sway elections in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, as well as military aggression in Georgia and Ukraine.

Trump made it a point to publicly reach-out to Russia while on the campaign trail this year, particularly after his nomination to the Republican presidential ticket, contrasting his preferred approach with the Obama administration’s failure in to reign in President Vladimir Putin through a so-called “reset” of relations.

Putin reciprocated the New York businessman’s relatively kind words by saying he hopes to get along better with the new administration than he has with President Obama. Republicans on Capitol Hill, however, are not buying into the possibility of a cozier relationship during Trump’s White House tenure.

“We should place as much faith in such statements [by Putin of wanting to cooperate with the U.S.] as any other made by a former KGB agent who has plunged his country into tyranny, murdered his political opponents, invaded his neighbors, threatened America’s allies and attempted to undermine America’s elections,” said Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain.

Trump’s elevation of former Defense Intelligence Agency Director Michael Flynn to a cabinet position as national security adviser has also raised eyebrows on Capitol Hill, due to the retired Army lieutenant general’s praise for Russia.

“I am deeply concerned about (Flynn’s) views on Russia, which over the last 12 months have demonstrated the same fondness for the autocratic and belligerent Kremlin which animate President-elect Trump’s praise of Vladimir Putin,” said Adam Schiff (Calif.), ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence committee.

 

[Washington Post] [The Hill]