A group of Senate Democrats introduced a bill on Wednesday that would impose sweeping sanctions on Russia and expand military aid to Kyiv if the president determines Russia is being hostile towards Ukraine.
Introduced by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and 25 other Democrats, the Defending Ukraine Sovereignty Act of 2022 would require that the president determine whether the Russian government is “engaged in or knowingly supporting a significant escalation in hostilities or hostile action in or against Ukraine, compared to the level of hostilities or hostile action in or against Ukraine prior to December 1, 2021.”
The wording of the legislation means that even if Russia doesn’t invade Ukraine, the president could claim Moscow is “hostile” enough to impose the sanctions anyway. The sanctions would target Russian government officials, including President Vladimir Putin, and Russian financial institutions.
The legislation would require the Biden administration to review sanctions waivers for the Russian-German Nord Stream 2 pipeline. And if the president determines Russia is hostile to Ukraine, the bill would mandate sanctions aimed at stopping the pipeline.
The president’s determination would also authorize an additional $500 million in military aid to Kyiv on top of the $300 million allocated for Ukraine under the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The bill specifies that “lethal assistance” would be authorized, including “anti-armor weapon systems, mortars, crew-served weapons and ammunition, grenade launchers and ammunition, anti-tank weapons systems, anti-ship weapons systems, anti-aircraft weapons systems, and small arms and ammunition.”
The White House issued a statement backing the bill. “We support Senator Menendez’s legislation, which would trigger severe costs to Russia’s economy if Russia further invades Ukraine, just like President Biden and our allies and partners have made clear we will do,” National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne said.