Top Democrat proposes crushing sanctions if Russia invades Ukraine

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) has introduced an amendment that would trigger a cascade of sanctions against top Russian officials, the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, major financial institutions, sovereign debt transactions and more in the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Why it matters: U.S. officials have been sounding the alarm about Russia’s massive military buildup on the eastern border of Ukraine. The sanctions threat is intended to serve as a powerful deterrent against Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Driving the news: Menendez’s proposal was introduced late Thursday night as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, a must-pass defense-spending bill on which the Senate will vote after the Thanksgiving break.

  • It would require President Biden to impose sanctions and visa bans against top Russian military and intelligence officials engaged in planning or executing an invasion of Ukraine, and authorizes additional military assistance to Kyiv.
  • The amendment also calls for sanctions against Russian banks, state-owned enterprises, and the critical oil, gas and mineral sectors. It would ban primary and secondary sovereign debt transactions, which would deal a major blow to the Russian economy.

The intrigue: The amendment would sanction any company or corporate officer involved in planning or operating Nord Stream 2, a pending natural gas pipeline that will allow Russia to circumvent Ukraine and deliver energy directly to Europe via Germany.

  • Senate Republicans have been pushing for a vote on their own amendment to sanction the pipeline project now — before any potential Russian invasion.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky took to Twitter this week to publicly plead with senators to back that amendment in a last-ditch effort to block the pipeline. Ukrainian officials contend that stopping the pipeline from becoming operational is the clearest remaining route to preventing a Russian invasion.
  • Flashback: The administration waived sanctions this spring on the Swiss company that was working to complete the project, arguing that it was not worth jeopardizing the relationship with Germany to try to block a pipeline that was already 98% finished.

Between the lines: The sanctions in Menendez’s amendment require a determination from the president that the hostilities toward Ukraine warrant sanctions. That leaves room for interpretation about what kind of Russian behavior would cross the threshold.

Behind the scenes: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has refused to allow a vote on the Republicans’ amendment thus far, citing a technical issue with the bill’s language, according to sources familiar with the situation.

  • That has infuriated several Republicans, who believe Democrats are abandoning a position that once had bipartisan support at the request of the Biden administration.
  • Menendez’s inclusion of Nord Stream sanctions came after Republican pressure and “shows the debate slowly heading in our direction again, even as the actual legislative process is mired in make believe procedural violations,” a GOP aide told Axios.

The state of play: Secretary of State Tony Blinken has warned that Russia could “rehash” its 2014 invasion of Ukraine in the coming months, though Putin’s intentions in massing troops near the border have been hotly debated.

  • Menendez’s amendment is intended to serve as a trip wire that Russia won’t want to cross.

What to watch: It’s still unclear whether either amendment will receive a floor vote when the Senate reconvenes.

(c) Axios

10 comments

  1. “Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) has introduced an amendment that would trigger a cascade of sanctions against top Russian officials, the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, major financial institutions, sovereign debt transactions and more in the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.”

    We have heard all this before. Whatever happened to Lindsay Graham’s sanctions from hell?

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Democrats… How about crushing military assistance? Are these people that stupid or do they pretend to, in exchange for roubles? Putin only responds to counter-violence, not words, not sanctions.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Like some Republicans say, sanction the fucker now, not after he invades. Sanction Russia into oblivion, and only remove them bit by bit as they become a civilised country, and remove their holidaymakers from Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

      Liked by 4 people

  3. Russia has already invaded Ukraine. Where are the crushing sanctions?
    The US and UK could inflict very severe economic blows on putlerstan without any help from the EU’s Russia shills.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. The miniature Napoleon knows all too well that any threats from Washington will get watered down significantly by the time they reach the point of implementation. And only if it will get passed by the old sleepy-head fart Biden, who has shown everything but strength and defiance to mafia land (or bat virus land).

    Liked by 4 people

    • I see he’s going into hospital for a colonoscopy, let’s hope the doctors see something resembling a spine, and not just shit when they stick a camera up his ass.

      Liked by 4 people

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