The Cable

Leading Lawmakers Wonder Why Trump Is Dragging Feet on Russia Sanctions

McCain and Cardin ask Trump what’s taking so long.

John McCain and Ben Cardin confer in Sept. 2013. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
John McCain and Ben Cardin confer in Sept. 2013. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

On Wednesday, leading senators from both parties — Maryland Democrat Ben Cardin and Arizona Republican John McCain — criticized the Donald Trump administration for not meeting a deadline for implementing new sanctions on Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors.

“The delay calls into question the Trump administration’s commitment to the sanctions bill which was signed into law more than two months ago, following months of public debate and negotiations in Congress,” they said in a statement.

“In addition to the administration’s lack of responsiveness on this deadline, there does not appear to be a significant diplomatic effort to engage our allies in Europe and lead an effort to increase pressure on Moscow,” they added. Several European countries bristled at the stepped-up sanctions provisions, especially those dealing with energy, fearing it could scupper business ties between Europe and Moscow.

The lawmakers also noted that after writing to the administration on Sept. 28 urging an implementation plan for these sanctions, they have yet to receive a response.

Cardin, ranking member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and McCain, chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, were the chief sponsors of the sanctions legislation in question, which passed the Senate by a 98-2 vote. The measure was part of a legislative push to give Congress more control over Russia sanctions, and to increase the scope of U.S. economic pressure on Moscow.

President Trump was openly displeased with the tougher sanctions legislation and argued that Congress was impinging on his executive powers, though he signed them into law. The question hanging in the Senate now is whether they’ll actually be implemented.

Photo credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Emily Tamkin is a staff writer at Foreign Policy covering ambassadorial and diplomatic affairs in Washington. @emilyctamkin

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