New Russia Sanctions from Departing Congress

New Russia Sanctions from Departing Congress

On its way into the history books, the 113th Congress is ladling up a fresh batch of sanctions on Russia, especially targeting the energy sector and authorizing military aid, in a bid to force Moscow to end its aggressive and destabilizing incursions into the eastern Ukraine.

The lame-duck Senate passed the Ukraine Freedom Support Act Thursday. The House quickly signed off on a nearly identical version before leaving town. The bill is expected to easily pass the Senate again Friday, moving the legislation to President Barack Obama’s desk for his signature.

The bill seeks to ramp up both U.S. support for embattled Ukraine and also intensify the economic pressure on key segments of the Russian defense and energy sectors. The bill authorizes, but does not mandate, $350 million in military aid for Ukraine to help beat back Russian aggression. That includes both military training and also defense items such as anti-tank weapons, counter-battery radars, and surveillance drones.

“This legislation sends a very direct message to President [Vladimir] Putin who must change his calculus in Ukraine and abandon this disruptive path,” said the bill’s co-sponsor, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) The House last week condemned Russia’s role in Ukraine.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry lashed out at the bill on Friday, calling it “overtly confrontational.”

The White House had no immediate comment regarding the bill’s passage.

The measure intensifies U.S. economic pressure against the energy sector, one of the key pieces of the Russian economy, which is already reeling from earlier sanctions, a crumbling ruble, and collapsing oil prices. The bill directs Obama to impose at least three sanctions on any company worldwide that makes “significant investments” in a wide range of Russian energy projects, including most offshore oil exploration, Arctic oil projects, and projects meant to tap Russia’s abundant deposits of shale resources.

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