McConnell may work with Dems on new Russia sanctions

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hinted that if the administration wanted further sanctions on Russia for their support ofr Syria's dictator Bashar Assad, he would be open to working with Democrats to make it happen.

Washington Times:

“If [the administration] feel they need additional sanctions, or we can come up with something that seems to enjoy bipartisan support, I’d be open to it,” Mr. McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said when asked if he’d support additional sanctions on Russia, The Hill reported.

Mr. McConnell added he’s “willing to talk” to Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, Tennessee Republican, specifically with respect to sanctioning Russia for continuing to support the Syrian president.

“I think it’s certainly good that the administration’s not lifted any of the existing sanctions,” Mr. McConnell told reporters. “The Russians are not our friends. I think they’ve demonstrated that over and over and over again.”

While the White House has indicated a willingness to sanction Russia itself, the Trump administration been anything 

Russia was sanctioned several times by Mr. Trump’s predecessor, former President Barack Obama, most recently in January when the White House took action against “nine entities and individuals” believed to have interfered in last year’s general election, in addition to expelling dozens of Russian diplomats.

Previously the U.S. and European Union both sanctioned Moscow separately after Russia seized territory from neighboring Ukraine in 2014.

A bipartisan group of senators floated a proposal earlier this year that would implement new sanctions against Russia, but the bill has failed so far to advance within the chamber’s Foreign Relations Committee, The Hill reported.

Mr. McConnell, meanwhile, is hardly the only Senate Republican to weigh new sanctions in the wake of Tuesday’s gas attack. Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, told reporters on Friday that he’ll be editing a previously introduced bill of his own to address Russia’s ongoing support for the Assad regime.

“I want to amend my own bill and add supporting Assad — the use of weapons of mass destruction [and] enabling him to do that — as a reason he should be sanctioning Putin,” Mr. Graham said Friday.

There are two considerations when imposiing new sanctions on Russia; will they work and will those who've been sanctioned be able to avoid them.

Previous sanctions imposed by NATO and the US targeted the bank accounts of Putin cronies as well as restricting their travel. Other restrictions on energy exports to western Europe and banking restrictions on the Kremlin have impacted the Russian economy.

But realistically, what else can be done? We could add to sanctions imposed on Putin's inner circle but the oligarchs are largely impervious to that kind of pressure. Besides, their influence on Putin's actions in Syria is limited. Putin has his own agenda in Syria and what his cronies want is not necessarily the same as what Putin is after.

Unless new sanctions can be shown to be more effective than previous ones, it doesn't really make sense to impose them. We ran into the same problem with sanctions on Iran. Eventually, after years of upping the ante, new sanctions lost their bite.

But perhaps the effort would be more symbolic than concrete. Putting the Congress on the record in opposing Russia's unwavering support for Assad - even when he commits heinious crimes against humanity - might serve as a warning to Putin that the US is losing patience with Russia and that it would serve Russian interests for Putin to use his considerable influence on President Assad to end the bloody civil war.

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