Senate Democrats introduce bill with sanctions on Russian aggression against Ukraine

Senate Democrats on Wednesday unveiled a bill to sanction Russia should it take any action over Ukraine in an effort to counter Sen. Ted Cruz’s own measure on the issue. 

The Biden administration has backed the newest bill, which includes measures to strengthen Ukraine’s border security and sanction top Russian officials – even President Vladimir Putin. 

“This legislation makes it absolutely clear that the U.S. Senate will not stand idly by as the Kremlin threatens a re-invasion of Ukraine,” Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., the Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who introduced the bill, said in a statement.

Committee chairman Sen. Bob Menendez, D-NJ, questions Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Tuesday,  Sept. 14, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington. Blinken was questioned about the Biden administration's handling of the U.S. withdraw from Afghanistan. (Drew Angerer/Pool via AP)

Committee chairman Sen. Bob Menendez, D-NJ, questions Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Tuesday,  Sept. 14, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington. Blinken was questioned about the Biden administration’s handling of the U.S. withdraw from Afghanistan. (Drew Angerer/Pool via AP) (Drew Angerer/Pool via AP)

Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., praised the measure as a way to ensure that Russia understands “any further aggression against Ukraine will be met by severe penalties.” 

“This bill makes crystal clear in advance that Putin and Russia will face punishing consequences if he makes the drastic miscalculation to invade Ukraine and further infringe on its sovereignty,” Hollen said in a statement. 

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The Washington Post wrote that the bill would impose “sweeping” sanctions against top Russian officials as well as key banking institutions if Russia attempted any hostile action against Ukraine. The bill would also target Russian companies that offer secure messaging systems, potentially compromising financial institutions even further. 

“Putin need not collapse his entire economy nor does he need to sacrifice the lives of his own people in a futile attempt to rewrite the map of Europe,” Menendez said. 

FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a thumbs-up as he attends a foundation-laying ceremony for the third reactor of the Akkuyu nuclear plant in Turkey, via a video link in Moscow, Russia March 10, 2021. 

FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a thumbs-up as he attends a foundation-laying ceremony for the third reactor of the Akkuyu nuclear plant in Turkey, via a video link in Moscow, Russia March 10, 2021.  (Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin via REUTERS  ATTENTION EDITORS – THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY./File Photo)

But the bill’s true purpose would be to serve as an alternative to Texas Senator Cruz’s bill, which would punish Russia over the activation of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Critics of the pipeline argue that it would lead to a greater European reliance on Russian resources, providing Putin with a stronger hand in any future negotiations.

The Cruz bill would aim to punish companies linked to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which carries gas from Russia to Germany. Cruz agreed to release several Biden nominees in exchange for a vote on his bill, but some senators said that the administration made a persuasive argument that the Cruz bill could harm relations with a fledgling German administration at a critical time. 

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German officials remain divided over the matter of the pipeline, with one official in December warning Russia of “severe consequences” to the pipeline if Russia attacked Ukraine while another official this week urged politicians to “leave the (dispute) behind us.” 

Kevin Keuhnert, the Secretary General of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), said discussion of any sanctions against Russia needed to remain separate from any issue regarding Nord Stream 2, according to Reuters

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz delivers a speech during a meeting of the German federal parliament, Bundestag, at the Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021. 

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz delivers a speech during a meeting of the German federal parliament, Bundestag, at the Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021.  (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

“Everything in me resists the idea of conflicts being conjured up just to bury a controversial project,” Kuehnert said.

Nord Stream 2’s activation appears a foregone conclusion after the Biden administration waived sanctions against the pipeline early in 2021. 

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“These sanctions would do more harm than good,” James Roberts, research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told Fox News Digital. “The Biden administration already capitulated to Russia a year ago when they allowed the Nord Stream 2 to go forward, which the Trump administration had blocked. That was the leverage that counted.” 

Roberts argued that as soon as the German public grows reliant on the pipeline, any attempt to shut it down will only prove damaging. 

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And the sanctions aren’t likely to put Russia in any tight spot, despite the ongoing situation in Kazakhstan. 

“In terms of that being something that would tie Putin’s hands? I don’t think so,” Roberts said. “Putin’s made real threats of war on the European continent for the first time since 1945, and he’s getting the attention that he’s apparently been seeking.” 

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