Press Release

February 22, 2019
Senators Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Hold Russia Accountable

WASHINGTONU.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) today introduced the Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act (DASKA) of 2019. The comprehensive legislation seeks to increase economic, political, and diplomatic pressure on the Russian Federation in response to Russia’s interference in democratic processes abroad, malign influence in Syria, and aggression against Ukraine, including in the Kerch Strait.

The legislation establishes a comprehensive policy response to better position the U.S. government to address Kremlin aggression by creating new policy offices on cyber defenses and sanctions coordination.  The bill stands up for NATO and prevents the President from pulling the U.S. out of the Alliance without a Senate vote.  It also increases sanctions pressure on Moscow for its interference in democratic processes abroad and continued aggression against Ukraine.

“Congress continues to take the lead in defending U.S. national security against continuing Russian aggression against democratic institutions at home and abroad,” said Senator Cardin. “I’m pleased to work with my colleagues on a comprehensive, bipartisan effort to counter Russia’s pervasive attacks on our electoral systems and cyber infrastructure. At least one branch of government fully understands the need to further protect our country and our allies from a Kremlin that shows no sign of abiding by or respecting international norms.”

“President Trump’s willful paralysis in the face of Kremlin aggression has reached a boiling point in Congress,” said Senator Menendez. “Putin’s actions cannot be tolerated, and the consequences of inaction are quickly compounding – further humanitarian disaster in Syria, regional instability, kidnapping of Ukrainian sailors and seizure of ships, and the steady erosion of international norms. One thing is increasingly clear: Moscow will continue to push until it meets genuine resistance. That is why we are introducing a proposal to actually address the realities of the Kremlin threat in a holistic way, all while sending a crystal clear message to our adversaries that the U.S Congress will protect our institutions, allies and values even if the President chooses not to do so.”

“Our goal is to change the status quo and impose meaningful sanctions and measures against Putin’s Russia.  He should cease and desist meddling in the U.S. electoral process, halt cyberattacks on American infrastructure, remove Russia from Ukraine, and stop efforts to create chaos in Syria,” said Sen. Graham. “The sanctions and other measures contained in this bill are the most hard-hitting ever imposed – and a direct result of Putin’s continued desire to undermine American democracy. The sanctions and measures we propose are designed to respond in the strongest possible fashion.”

“Putin’s Russia is an outlaw regime that is hell-bent on undermining international law and destroying the U.S.-led liberal global order,” said Sen. Gardner. “From the invasion of Ukraine, carrying out chemical attacks on NATO soil, support for the heinous Assad regime, violations of arms control treaties, and meddling in U.S. elections, Russia’s actions necessitate the strongest possible response from the United States.  This is why I am glad to join with my colleagues in this legislation to impose additional strong sanctions to deter Russia’s malign behavior, including my provision to require the State Department to determine whether Russia merits the designation as a state sponsor of terror.  With this bill, Congress is demonstrating firm bipartisan resolve against Kremlin’s mendacity and I hope it will move quickly to be signed into law.”

“Russia’s continued aggression against the United States and our allies, and its repeated attacks on Ukraine’s sovereignty must be countered with a clear, bipartisan condemnation from Congress,” said Shaheen. “This legislation builds on previous efforts in Congress to hold Russia accountable for its bellicose behavior against the United States and its determination to destabilize our global world order. I urge Senate Leadership to move swiftly on this legislation, and I’ll keep working across the aisle to prioritize measures that safeguard our nation from adversaries who threaten our democracy.” 

The reintroduced version of DASKA includes the following new elements:

Sanctions in Response to Kremlin interference in democratic institutions abroad 

  • Sanctions on Russian banks that support Russian efforts to undermine democratic institutions in other countries
  • Sanctions on investment in Russian LNG projects outside of Russia
  • Sanctions on Russia’s cyber sector
  • Sanctions on Russian sovereign debt
  • Sanctions on political figures, oligarchs, and family members and other persons that facilitate illicit and corrupt activities, directly or indirectly, on behalf of Vladimir Putin

Sanctions in Response to Kremlin aggression in Ukraine 

  • Sanctions on 24 FSB agents deemed complicit in the Kerch Strait attack, in response to the 24 Ukrainian sailors currently detained by Russia 
  • Sanctions on Russia’s shipbuilding sector in the event that Russia violates the freedom of navigation in the Kerch Strait or anywhere else in the world
  • Sanctions with respect to support for the development of crude oil resources in Russia
  • Sanctions on Russian stated owned energy projects outside of Russia

Other key provisions of the legislation include:

  • A strong statement of support for NATO and a requirement for two-thirds of the United States Senate to vote to leave NATO
  • Provisions expediting the transfer of excess defense articles to NATO countries to reduce some NATO countries’ dependence on Russian military equipment
  • The creation of a National Fusion Center to Respond to Hybrid Threats.  The aim of this center is to better prepare and respond to Russian disinformation and other emerging threats emanating from the Russian Federation
  • The establishment of an Office of Cyberspace and the Digital Economy within the Department of State.  This office will lead diplomatic efforts relating to international cybersecurity, Internet access, Internet freedom, the digital economy, cybercrime, deterrence and responses to cyber threats
  • Provisions aimed to pressure the Russian government to halt its obstruction of international efforts to investigate chemical weapons attacks as well as punish the Russian government for chemical weapons production and use
  • The International Cybercrime Prevention Act which would give prosecutors the ability to shut down botnets and other digital infrastructure that can be used for a wide range of illegal activity; create a new criminal violation for individuals who have knowingly targeted critical infrastructure, including dams, power plants, hospitals, and election infrastructure; and prohibit cybercriminals from selling access to botnets to carry out cyber-attacks
  • The Defending the Integrity of Voting Systems Act which would allow the Department of Justice to pursue federal charges for the hacking of any voting system that is used in a federal election
  • A requirement for the Secretary of State to submit a determination of whether the Russian Federation meets the criteria for designation as a state sponsor of terrorism
  • A requirement for domestic title insurance companies to report information on the beneficial owners of entities that purchase residential real estate in high-value transactions
  • Reinforcement for the State Department  Office of Sanctions Coordination
  • A report on the net worth and assets of Vladimir Putin
  • A report on the assassination of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov
  • A reauthorization of the Countering Russia Influence Fund, which would provide assistance to European countries vulnerable to Kremlin interference