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US Senate passes bill toughening anti-Russia sanctions
The US Senate has passed the bill toughening the country's unilateral sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea. Senators voted 98-2 on the bill on Thursday.
Since it has passed through both chambers, the document titled "Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act" will be sent to President Donald Trump. The White House has recently signaled that Trump favors toughening of restrictions against the three countries, though he will take a decision after revising the final version of the draft law.
Initially, the new package of sanctions against Iran and North Korea was developed separately, but eventually they were put into one document with anti-Russia restrictions.
The US bill contains restrictive measures against Russia taken by the previous Barack Obama administration on the basis of executive orders - the sanctions introduced on March 6 and December 18, 2014, on April 1, 2015 and on July 26 and December 29, 2016. The measures posed major obstructions to cooperation by Russian and US military and also secret services and military-industrial complexes of the two countries and to borrowings by Russian energy companies on the Western markets. Bilateral cooperation in space, specifically, products and services NASA acquires from Russia, is immune from these restrictions.
The bill also allows for introducing new sanctions (such as a freeze on banking assets and refusal to issue US entry visas) for activity undermining cybersecurity in the interests of the Russian government. Moreover, the bill alters the content of a number of laws passed in the US in recent years to oblige the president to use sanctions against Moscow in certain situations, and not just advise him to consider such a possibility.
The draft law virtually leaves no opportunity for the US President to use the authority to ease or fully remove the existing restrictions, as it provides that the head of the US administration can only make such a step with the Congress' permission.
President will have to notify the legislative branch of the power with special reports about the intention to make considerable changes in the policy regarding Russia. The Congress plans to discuss the proposed adjustments within 30 or 60 calendar days (depending on how fast those reports are sent to Capitol Hill), and then adopt a resolution allowing or restricting the head of the state to make the proposed changes into Washington's course regarding Moscow.
It will only be possible to lift the toughened sanctions regime by passing a separate law in pursuing these aims, which will require much effort.
The bill mentions the US intention to put spokes in the wheels of Russia's Nord Stream-2 project but does not explain the specifics. It argues that the project would have detrimental impacts on the European Union's energy security, the development of the gas market of Central and Eastern Europe and energy reforms in Ukraine. The US government, the bill says, "should prioritize the export of United States energy resources in order to create American jobs help United States allies and partners."
[Source: Itar Tass, Washington, 28Jul17]
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