July 13, 2017

Cardin, Schumer, Van Hollen, Gillibrand Urge State Dept. Not to Return MD, NY Compounds to Russians

“Simply put, the Russian government has done nothing to deserve renewed access to these compounds.” Russia sanctions legislation that passed Senate 98-2 contains Congressional review process for compounds; awaits House action

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) wrote to Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Tom Shannon Thursday ahead of his meetings with Russian officials next week, urging him not to return the Russian compounds in Maryland and New York that were seized last year because of the Kremlin’s spying operations and treatment of American diplomatic personnel.

“S. 722, which passed the Senate on June 14 by a vote of 98-2, includes a provision that could make the return of the Maryland and New York compounds subject to Congressional review. There is clearly very strong support in Congress for vigilance with regards to the Russian government presence in the United States. We urge you to be similarly vigilant as you broach negotiations on a range of bilateral issues with the Russians on Monday, and to deny the Russian government the ability to advance its interests from within our own states,” the senators said in part.

The full text of the letter follows:

Dear Undersecretary Shannon:

We strongly urge the State Department not to return the diplomatic compounds in Maryland and New York to the Government of the Russian Federation at this time. Simply put, the Russian government has done nothing to deserve renewed access to these compounds.

As you know, the Russian diplomatic compounds were seized based on the harassment, sometimes violent, of U.S. personnel in Russia. Since the seizure of these compounds, we are unaware of any evidence or assessment that the treatment of U.S. personnel in the Russian Federation has markedly improved.

It is also widely suspected and reported that these two compounds were used not simply for diplomatic purposes, but as bases for Russian spying operations. The Russian government’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election makes abundantly clear the Kremlin’s nefarious intentions toward the United States, which also remain unchanged. As you engage in a July 17 bilateral dialogue with the Russian government, we strongly urge you to consult closely with the Federal Bureau of Investigation on relevant counterintelligence considerations.

S. 722, which passed the Senate on June 14 by a vote of 98-2, includes a provision that could make the return of the Maryland and New York compounds subject to Congressional review. There is clearly very strong support in Congress for vigilance with regards to the Russian government presence in the United States. We urge you to be similarly vigilant as you broach negotiations on a range of bilateral issues with the Russians on Monday, and to deny the Russian government the ability to advance its interests from within our own states.

Sincerely,