To Russia with tough love, new Senate sanctions

Because years of economic sanctions on Russia, Russians and Russian institutions for fomenting rebellion, supporting Syria’s dictator and annexing Crimea have done virtually nothing to change Vladimir Putin’s bully behavior, maybe more sanctions will.

That’s how Washington thinks. So, late Monday night the Senate unveiled a new, broad package of alleged punishments on Russia with a legislative twist to corner President Trump in case he decides to ease the existing ones in an effort to improve relations with Moscow.

This time the sanctions are said to also be in response to Russian efforts to meddle in the 2016 U.S. election as well as targeting human rights abuses, cyber-attacks on Western institutions and large arms sales to Syrian dictator Bashir al-Assad. The proposed bill was drafted by both party’s members on the Senate Banking and Foreign Relations Committee.

“These additional sanctions,” Sen. Chuck Schumer said with impressive optimism, “will also send a powerful and bipartisan statement to Russia and any other country who might try to interfere in our elections that they will be punished.”

Putin has denied any Russian government involvement, though admitting that some “patriotic Russians” may have been involved in the hacking.

Of course, to have any effect, even unusual bipartisan legislation like this must still be passed by both houses of Congress and — oh, look! — signed by the president whose freedom of movement it would limit. A looming test of will between a GOP-controlled Congress and White House.

The Obama administration levied a long series of sanction packages on Russians and various economic sectors beginning in 2014 with Putin’s annexation of Crimea. Obama announced another package shortly before leaving the White House.

So far, Russia still holds Crimea. It is backing the armed rebellion in eastern Ukraine. It is backing Assad with arms and military support. It is selling sophisticated arms to Iran and training Iranian forces fighting rebels in Syria. And Russian planes have been harassing U.S. naval vessels and aircraft operating in international airspace and waters.

Other than that, U.S. economic sanctions have totally intimidated Putin.