Democratic US Senators Introduce 'Defending Ukraine' Bill That Would 'Collapse' Russian Economy
17:35 GMT 12.01.2022 (Updated: 18:45 GMT 12.01.2022)
Several Democratic lawmakers have introduced a new bill in the US Senate that would impose "crippling sanctions" on Russia's financial sector if it were to invade Ukraine. The US has postured as standing up to Moscow on Ukraine's eastern border, but Russian President Vladimir Putin's administration has made clear it has no hostile intent.
The bill, titled the "Defending Ukraine Sovereignty Act of 2022," has been brought by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
According to a news release from Menendez's office, if Russia launched an invasion of Ukraine, the bill would trigger "crippling sanctions on the Russian banking sector and senior military and government officials." It would also authorize further sanctions targeting Russian extractive industries, which form a sizable portion of Russia's exports, as well as on international bank wire services like SWIFT. The bill would also prohibit transactions on Russia’s primary and secondary sovereign debt.
In addition, a Russian invasion of Ukraine would also trigger $500 million in "supplemental emergency security assistance" for Ukraine. It also "expands US efforts to counter Kremlin disinformation and strengthen ties with key regional partners facing Kremlin aggression."
The bellicose bill comes a day after talks between envoys from Russia and the United States in Geneva, Switzerland, aimed at defusing the crisis. Little headway has been made so far, however, as Western leaders have demanded Russia cease its deployment of troops inside its own borders and sworn off any promises not to expand NATO further eastward. In response, Moscow said it will continue to hold drills inside its own territory such as its own security interests require.
Following the Tuesday talks with NATO in Geneva, Russian envoys are meeting with NATO representatives in Brussels, Belgium, on Wednesday, and the Permanent Council of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) will holds its own discussions in Vienna, Austria, on Thursday.
"As the Biden administration seeks a diplomatic path forward this week in Europe to avoid another bloody escalation in Ukraine, I find little reason to believe that Putin is negotiating in good faith nor do I believe he has any newfound respect for Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity," Menendez said in a statement. "That is precisely why we are coming together to send a clear message - 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."
The White House reportedly supports the bill over a Republican effort focusing on the Nord Stream II gas pipeline that it says would be inadequate.
Russia has said that its security red lines include Ukraine joining the NATO alliance and NATO stationing offensive weapons in Ukraine. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the socialist Warsaw Pact alliance between it and several Eastern European states, NATO has spread steadily eastward, incorporating many former Soviet allies and even former Soviet republics.