Global Geo-political Series: US Senate overwhelmingly supports new sanctions on Russian Federation


The Senate-passed sanctions bill also converts existing penalties against Moscow into law, potentially making them more hard to remove, and prevents the Trump administration from returning two Russian diplomatic compounds seized in December by the Obama administration as punishment for alleged electoral disruption.

The measure also included language toughening sanctions against Russian Federation in the wake of their accused efforts to influence the outcome of the 2016 election, converting some of the penalties put in place by former President Barack Obama's administration into law, and forbidding Trump from weakening existing Russian Federation sanctions without first seeking Senate approval.

Several U.S. senators struck a bipartisan deal to expand existing sanctions against Russian Federation and let Congress review any move by President Donald Trump to lift existing penalties, a sign of congressional frustration amid probes of interference in the 2016 election.

In December, the Obama administration responded to Russia's provocations with a slate of sweeping measures that included the expulsion of "intelligence operatives" and sanctions on Russia's central intelligence services.

The Iran bill is due come up for a vote as soon as this week.

Trump has said several times that he hoped to work with Russian Federation on fighting terrorism around the world, specifically the Islamic State group that has taken hold in Iraq and Syria.

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The legislation is backed by both Republicans and Democrats, and is expected to easily pass the Senate.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has already indicated his mixed feelings for the measure, saying publicly that while he agreed "with the sentiment" that Russian Federation be held accountable for its election meddling, he also wanted Congress "to ensure any legislation allows the president to have the flexibility to adjust sanctions to meet the needs of what is always an evolving diplomatic situation". Bob Corker (R-TN), the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who noted that in many ways it was developed "under the radar" because it was bipartisan in nature.

The legislation was filed as an amendment to an Iran sanctions bill.

The Senate and House of Representatives still need to sign off on the full bill before it would reach Trump's desk for final approval.

Corker told reporters that "I only have talked a little bit with" Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who testified twice this week that the White House would prefer "flexibility" to adjust Russian Federation sanctions as needed. US intelligence reports have concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a cyberattack with the intention of boosting Trump's chance to win.