Senate votes in favor of imposing stiff sanctions against Russia, Iran

UPDATE — 6/17, 8:47 a.m. EDT: Germany responded negatively to a sanctions bills passed by the Senate this week against Russia, threatening Friday to retaliate against the U.S. government if penalties imposed on Moscow hamper German business, particularly companies involved in the construction of a Russian gas pipeline.

“(These sanctions) must not happen,” said a spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel, who also called the Senate’s action “peculiar” and “strange”.

The Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which will run across the Baltic Sea to Germany, is opposed by Eastern European and Nordic countries, and is set to begin operating in 2019.

 

In what will certainly lead to a confrontation with the White House, the U.S. Senate passed a motion Thursday to widen sanctions against both Russia and Iran.

Congress’ upper chamber took the steps to punish Russia for interfering with the 2016 U.S. presidential election and to penalize Iran for its support for terrorism and its ballistic missile program.

Viewed as a push back against the Trump administration, the bill overwhelmingly passed the Senate, 98–2, and included language which requires Senate approval for the White House to lift sanctions against either country.  Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) voted against the bill.

“This is the way the Senate is supposed to exercise its prerogatives as it relates to foreign policy,” said chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.). “The legislation sends a very, very strong signal to Russia, the nefarious activities they’ve been involved in.”

Under the expanded sanctions, Russia’s energy sector is targeted and demands the executive branch sanction global firms which conduct business with ongoing Russian oil-exploration projects.  Further, the bill targets for sanctions a massive energy project, the Nord Stream II pipeline with Germany, which is sure to draw the ire of Germany’s European allies.

The motion also seeks to apply pressure to Russia’s mining and railway sectors.

Ranking Senate intelligence committee Democrat, Mark Warner of Virginia, commented that the cost of Russia hacking into the elections of Western democracies has cost the Kremlin very little to-date.

“You add up, without firing a shot or shooting a missile, the amount of disruption the Russians have caused in Western societies at large — all that for less than 5 percent of the cost of a new aircraft carrier,” he said. “Pretty good rate of return.”

Responding to the Senate’s action, Trump administration spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters the White House was intent on reviewing the bill.

Regarding Iran, the bill sanctions individuals involved with Tehran’s ballistic-missile program and those with whom Iranians transact business.

Russian President Vladimir Putin declared the bill to be the product of American domestic politics.

The bill now heads to the House for approval.  If passed, the bill would require President Trump’s signature.

 

[AP] [Reuters] [Photo courtesy Getty Images via Daily Express]