National Security Subcommittee Demands Answers on Russian Sanctions

Sep 10, 2019
Press Release

Washington, D.C. (Sept. 10, 2019)—Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security, sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo related to the process by which the Trump Administration chose to impose sanctions on the Russian Federation, as required by the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination (CBW) Act of 1991, following their use of a chemical nerve agent against a political opponent. 

“Your Department has claimed on multiple occasions that ‘we condemn in the strongest possible terms the use of chemical weapons anywhere, by anyone, under any circumstances’,” Lynch wrote.  “These words ring hollow if they are not enforced through timely, meaningful sanctions and remedial action.  I am particularly concerned this may be the case with respect to the Administration’s enforcement of the CBW Act against Russia.  Specifically, the more than eight-month delay in announcing a second round of sanctions, coupled with the relative ineffectiveness of the sanctions chosen, raises serious questions about the Trump Administration’s willingness to hold Russia accountable for its use of chemical weapons and commitment to deter additional chemical weapons use in the future.”

Today’s letter is following up to a request made on August 5, 2019. To date, the Department has not provided a response.

On March 4, 2018, British citizen and former Russian military intelligence officer Sergei Skripal, his daughter, and a police officer were exposed to the nerve agent Novichok. 

On August 6, 2018, the Department of State determined that the Russian attack met the standard under the CBW Act, and on August 27, 2018, the United States imposed a first round of sanctions on Russia as required by the CBW Act.

In addition to an initial round of sanctions for the use of chemical or biological weapons, the CBW Act requires the President to impose further punitive measures, unless he certifies within three months that the offending government is no longer using chemical or biological weapons, has provided reliable assurances it will refrain from using them in the future, and will allow on-site inspections by internationally recognized, impartial observers to ensure it is not using chemical or biological weapons.

After months of bipartisan prodding and repeated assurances from the Department that additional sanctions were forthcoming, on August 2, 2019, the State Department finally announced that the United States would impose a second round of sanctions on Russia for its use of a “novichok” nerve agent.

“According to former officials from the National Security Council, State Department, and Department of the Treasury, these sanctions, while long-overdue, are ‘insignificant’ and will ‘put barely a scratch’ on the Russian economy,” Lynch wrote. … “Moreover, the restrictions on licensing for exports are excessively narrow’ and limited,’  as they apply only to components of chemical and biological weapons.  Finally, Russia’s reliance on international financial institution assistance is minimal, and the United States would have voted against [any such assistance] anyway.’  

Chairman Lynch requests that Secretary Pompeo provide all of the previously requested information by September 20, 2019. This includes any and all transcripts, records, or notes related to the President’s July 31, 2019, call with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Click here to read Chairman Lynch’s letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

116th Congress