Acting in concert with Senate Foreign Relations and Judiciary hearings today on Russian-related threats, the Senate Banking Committee held the first of several hearings on Russian sanctions. Despite additional Treasury sanctions today on the Russian shipping industry, senators made clear that existing sanctions are not doing enough to dissuade Russia’s “malign” activities. Chairman Crapo (R-ID) indicated an openness to additional sanctions legislation and also raised imposing possible prohibitions on buying Russian sovereign debt. Sen. Menendez (D-NJ) stated flatly that Congress will move sanctions legislation with or without the Trump Administration’s input. While Treasury Under Secretary Mandelker and State Department Assistant Secretary Ford generally seemed satisfied with existing sanctions authorities, they agreed also to work with Congress. Sen. Kennedy (R-LA) asked what sanctions would bring the Russian economy “to its knees,” without necessarily endorsing doing so. Sen. Perdue (R-GA) expressed concern that ratcheting up sanctions too high could lead the EU to abandon cooperation. In this report, we evaluate these issues and the broader debate over whether, how, and when to sanction Russia.
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