Congress Tries To Keep Trump from Going Wobbly on Crimea

Ahead of the meeting between President Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, both Republicans and Democrats in Congress are reaffirming support for sanctions levied against Russia after its annexation of Crimea in 2014.

The Senate resolution, announced Tuesday, also calls on the Trump administration to cement a policy of not recognizing the 2014 land grab. Trump and Putin are set to meet next week in Helsinki, and the president is attending a NATO summit in Brussels this week.

“The United States continues to stand with Ukraine against Russian aggression,” said Ohio senator Rob Portman. “Crimea was illegally seized from Ukraine by Russia, and the United States must never recognize this illegitimate occupation.”

New Jersey senator Bob Menendez, who with Portman led the charge on the resolution, said that the senators are introducing the measure to underscore “unified and enduring opposition” to Russia’s occupation of Crimea.

“Our country should never recognize this aggression and should increase sanctions on Russia until Crimea is returned to Ukrainian control,” he said. Senators Marco Rubio, Dick Durbin, Pat Toomey, Chris Coons, Johnny Isakson, Ed Markey, Ben Cardin, and Sherrod Brown co-sponsored the resolution.

The measure calls on the administration to continue using sanctions legislation, signed by the president last August, to “address and deter those engaged in furthering the illegal occupation of Crimea.” It also calls on the administration to “declare it the foreign policy of the United States to never recognize the illegal annexation of Crimea.”

“The Senate stresses that United States policy should remain that Crimea is part of Ukraine and should reject attempts to change the status, demographics, or political nature of Crimea,” reads an earlier part of the resolution.

The measure further urges the administration, in coordination with its NATO allies and others, “to prioritize efforts to prevent the further consolidation of illegal occupying powers in Crimea,” to “reaffirm unified opposition to the actions of the Russian Federation in Crimea,” and to “secure the human rights of individuals there.”

Trump has said he wants to improve relations with Russia and find areas of cooperation with the Kremlin. He has not been a forceful critic of Putin and has wavered on issues like election interference, though his administration has implemented an array of tough measures punishing malign Russian activities.

Trump said last month that Russia should be let back into the G7 group of leading economies, which it was kicked out of in 2014 over its annexation of Crimea.

Putin and Trump met last July at the G20 summit. Putin denied election meddling when the president raised it. The Kremlin then said that Trump accepted Putin’s denial, a claim that an administration official “immediately denied,” CNN reported at the time.

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