Senior senators in both parties on Monday night reached a bipartisan deal to add new sanctions on Russia and allow Congress to disapprove of any attempt by President Donald Trump to ease penalties on Moscow, U.S. Senator Bob Corker said.
"I think we’re there. We’re going through the [legislative] language in here now, but we’ve reached an agreement," Corker told a small group of reporters.
A senior Senate aide said they are “getting close to a deal, but are still reviewing language.”
Corker added that the language “definitely” includes congressional review, which would give Congress oversight over the lifting of sanctions, but Corker didn’t specify if it includes new sanctions on Moscow.
"It’s what we did on Iran. So I would like to have congressional review on everything we do. … It’s basically set up much like we’ve done on other places," Corker said.
The agreement, set for consideration as part of a bipartisan Iran sanctions bill, also would codify existing sanctions against Moscow into law, making their removal or rollback potentially more difficult for the Trump administration.
The agreement imposes new sanctions including "malicious cyber activity" on behalf of Moscow, individuals supplying weapons to Syrian President Bashar Assad's government or individuals tied to Russia's intelligence and defense sectors.
The deal would also give Congress 30 days—or 60 days around the August recess—to review and potentially block Trump from lifting or relaxing Russia sanctions.
It would also codify the sanctions on Russia imposed by executive order by the Obama administration and allow the Trump administration to impose new sanctions on sectors of the Russian economy.
"There is a concern that there may be some conversations taking place between Russia and the United States that may very well deal with relaxing sanctions," the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee Ben Cardin said.
"That to us would be the wrong signal. We want to make sure that the current measures are not relaxed until there is an understanding what is being achieved and that me made a significant progress," he added.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer immediately praised the deal, urging the House to also pass it quickly.
The director of the Roosevelt Fund of Study of the US at Moscow State University, Doctor of Historical Sciences, Yuri Rogulev, speaking with a correspondent of Vestnik Kavkaza, noted that Russian-US relations are part of the internal political struggle for the US, and in both directions at the same time. "First of all, it is a general confrontation between the executive and legislative powers. And second, now it involves political confrontation as well," he said.
As for Moscow's position on this issue, the expert stressed that President Vladimir Putin has already voiced it. "We will wait. In fact, sanctions have a very remote impact on Russia's policy. Moreover, Russia and the Soviet Union have been living under sanctions for almost all of the history of Russian-US relations, so there is nothing new for Russia here," the director of the Roosevelt Fund of Study of the US at Moscow State University, Doctor of Historical Sciences pointed out.
Yury Rogulev complained that the restrictions hamper the normal development of Russian-US relations, stressing that it is the main damage they cause.
The deputy dean of the Faculty of Global Economics and International Affairs of the Higher School of Economics of the National Research University, Andrei Suzdaltsev, also expressed confidence that this step directed not so much against Russia as against the Trump team. "This law is an attempt of the Congress to frame the Trump administration. Congressmen seek to limit Trump's ability to influence foreign policy," he noted, adding that this struggle is still very dangerous.
"The fact is that the US authorities are using a nuclear country for their domestic political games. This thoughtless practice is dangerous for the US itself. In terms of real policy, this law will drive Russian-US relations to a standstill. It's about the absence of dialogue and such behavior of the US authorities, as if Russia is a country that is at war with the United States," Andrei Suzdaltsev drew attention.
In his estimation, Russia will not react to this cementing of anti-Russian sanctions. "Undoubtedly, toughening of sanctions and complicating the procedure for their withdrawing are not good for us, but if we start to react, we will immediately be accused of interfering in the US domestic political process," the deputy dean of the Faculty of Global Economics and International Affairs of the Higher School of Economics of the National Research University concluded.