US lawmakers set to expand White House authority over Russia sanctions

U.S. lawmakers decided on Tuesday to give President Joe Biden’s administration expanded power to apply sanctions to Russia for the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine earlier this year.

Republican Sen. Pat Toomey and Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen presented a framework supporting the administration’s efforts, along with G-7 leaders, to cap the price of Russian oil exports.

FILE – Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Oct. 2, 2018.

“We are effectively depriving the Russian government of profits that they are probably using to fund this war,” Toomey told reporters during a press call on Tuesday. “We are going to demonstrate whether or not the free world has the will to stop a brutal autocrat from redrawing international borders because he thinks he can.”

The United States and G-7 allies are expected to agree on a price cap for Russian oil exports by December, around the time a European Union oil embargo also comes into effect.

“If you want to set a global price cap on Russian oil, you need to make sure it’s enforced evenly. And to do that, we think you need the support of secondary sanctions. Otherwise, Russia will exploit big loopholes And there are other countries like China that are already dramatically increasing their imports of Russian oil,” Van Hollen told reporters on Tuesday.

FILE - Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., interviews a witness on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 16, 2019.

FILE – Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., interviews a witness on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 16, 2019.

“If the price cap works, just as the administration hopes and we hope it does, then the sanctions never get triggered, because you have a global price gap. Those sanctions will only trigger if the administration doesn’t fails to achieve this uniform price,” Van Hollen said.

The framework calls for monitoring Russian oil purchases and would allow Biden to impose sanctions on countries and financial institutions that try to take advantage of a cap on Russian oil.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the United States has imposed harsh sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russian oligarchs, and the Russian banking industry.

The United States and its allies have also cut off Russia’s access to Western banking institutions and prevented many of Putin’s family and friends from traveling abroad.

The U.S. Treasury Department “has sanctioned hundreds of Russian individuals and entities, and this includes the majority of Russia’s largest financial institutions, key nodes and Russian military and industrial supply chains, as well as the oligarchs and cronies who helped perpetuate Putin’s war,” Elizabeth Rosenberg, assistant secretary for terrorism financing and financial crimes at the Treasury, told lawmakers on Tuesday.

“The United States was joined by more than 30 countries collectively representing more than half of the global economy and imposing sanctions, the largest sanctions regime in modern history,” Rosenberg said.

Rosenberg told lawmakers that the threat of a price cap is already impacting the global market, changing the behavior of countries that have not imposed it.

“None the less they can use the existence of the price cap to take advantage of lower prices from Russia. And in fact, we are already seeing that where Asian buyers have used the price cap in order to take advantage of the lower prices, reduced prices for Russian energy. It is this policy that is already at work,” she said.

The Toomey-Van Hollen framework is set to become the first major Russian bipartisan sanctions legislation introduced in Congress since February.

USA voanews

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