President Donald Trump signed on August 2 the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, imposing sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea.
The bill received virtually unanimous bipartisan support in the Congress, with the House of Representatives adopting the bill on July 25 with 419 members in favor and three against and the Senate endorsing it on July 27 with 98 votes in favor and two against.
With President Trump’s signature on August 2, the sanctions bill entered into force.
The Sanctions Act allows Congress to block any changes by the President in the sanctions imposed by the United States against the Russian Federation. It also codifies existing sanctions, which until now used to be based on President’s executive orders, besides introducing new ones. While some of the sanctions envisioned by the law are mandatory, others are designated as optional for the discretion of the President.
Among other issues, the Sanctions Act refers to Georgia. It states that Russia continues to violate the Helsinki Final Act of 1975, which envisions inviolability of borders, by “its illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, its illegal occupation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia in Georgia in 2008, and its ongoing destabilizing activities in eastern Ukraine.”
It is also pointed out in the Sanctions Act that “the Government of the Russian Federation continues to ignore the terms of the August 2008 ceasefire agreement [which ended the Russo-Georgian War of 2008] relating to Georgia, which requires the withdrawal of Russian Federation troops, free access by humanitarian groups to the regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and monitoring of the conflict areas by the European Union Monitoring Mission.”
The Congress asks the U.S. President to call on the Russian Government “to withdraw all of its forces from the territories of Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova; to return control of the borders of those territories to their respective governments; and to cease all efforts to undermine the popularly elected governments of those countries.”
The Sanctions Act refers to additional threats as well, stating that “the Government of the Russian Federation has applied, and continues to apply, to the countries and peoples of Georgia and Ukraine, traditional uses of force, intelligence operations, and influence campaigns, which represent clear and present threats to the countries of Europe and Eurasia.”
The Act calls on “the countries of Europe and Eurasia” to “redouble efforts to build resilience within their institutions, political systems, and civil societies” in response to Russian pressure.
Countering Russian Influence Fund
Besides imposing sanctions on Russia, the Act authorizes appropriation of $250,000,000 for fiscal years 2018 and 2019 for the Countering Russian Influence Fund.
The purpose of the Fund is to support the states potentially vulnerable to Russian influence, among them NATO and EU members, as well as the “countries that are participating in the enlargement process of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization or the European Union,” including Georgia.
The Countering Russian Influence Fund will assist these countries in protecting critical infrastructure and electoral mechanisms from cyber-attacks, improving participatory legislative processes and strengthening civil society and media.
The Fund will also focus on addressing the humanitarian crises and instability “caused or aggravated by the invasions and occupations of Georgia and Ukraine by the Russian Federation.”