Four weeks after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. Senate finally passed legislation on Thursday to support Ukraine and condemn Russia’s aggression in Crimea. Regrettably, the past few weeks in Washington have been a series of conflicted priorities, hesitation and missed opportunities. Unnecessary delay was caused by the Obama administration’s attempt to add irrelevant pet initiatives to the Ukraine aid bill. The Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, even attacked Republicans for wanting to focus on the Ukraine crisis itself rather than partisan issues.
Ultimately, the Senate coming together to take action is a positive step. But the legislation could have included much more, and it could have been agreed upon much sooner. A week after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, I proposed a resolution listing a number of serious, specific ways the United States could punish and isolate Russia in response to Vladimir Putin’s banditry. The following week, I joined with Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., on a bipartisan resolution that included many of the steps I had originally recommended.
Our resolution passed the Senate unanimously, and it signaled a bipartisan willingness to work with the administration to define a further set of specific, hard-hitting sanctions that would strike Russia where it matters most — in the pocketbook. Such sanctions still have not been proposed. President Obama, our friends and allies in the G-7 all continue to warn that such sanctions are just around the corner unless Russia changes its behavior — but time is running out.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and I tried to toughen up the sanctions portion of the recently passed Ukraine Aid Act by offering an amendment that targeted Russia’s arms dealer, Rosoboronexport. This state agency, established by Putin, is entitled to export the entire range of Russian armaments officially available for export. It has supplied arms to the Assad regime in Syria, enabling mass atrocities. Obstructing this agency’s work and the income it provides the Russian state would be among the most effective ways to demonstrate our condemnation of Russian actions by force of arms.