There is no moral equivalency between the governments of the United States and Russia. And one needs to look no further than the situation in Syria to see that contrast on display.
As Americans, we believe that human rights violations are unacceptable and that continually defending a nation that commits them is equally unconscionable. Russia does not share this belief. Instead, Vladimir Putin stands on the world stage in support of mass-murderer Bashar Assad while the United States stands with allies like the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Spain and Japan against Assad’s brutal tactics.
Russia’s support of Assad is self-serving, designed to give Putin a foothold in the Middle East. While most of the civilized world abhors the use of chemical weapons and the targeting of innocent people, Putin shows no remorse – dead civilians are collateral damage in his game of chess against the United States.
And as FBI Director Comey and both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate Permanent Select Committees on Intelligence continue their bipartisan investigations into Russian meddling in our elections, now is not the time to ease up on Russian sanctions. In fact, Congress should be considering new and heightened sanctions to isolate an increasingly rogue Russia further.
There is an important role for Congress to play in all these debates. Congress is a co-equal branch of the federal government and it should bear a co-equal responsibility in determining whether or not Russia has done enough to comply with the demands of the United States government. Too often during the Obama administration, Congressional Democrats sided with the administration and robbed both the House and Senate from debating important matters.
The Iran Nuclear Deal never saw a vote in the Senate because of the filibuster and President Obama embraced the Castros in Cuba despite deep beliefs in Congress that such a move would only reward some of the world’s worst human rights abusers.
We should start fresh this year and agree that there be no unilateral change in our position on Russia without Congressional approval. That’s why I’ve added my name as a co-sponsor to the Russian Sanctions Review Act. This bill puts Congress in control of any effort to lift Russian sanctions. There is bipartisan agreement that Russia is up to no good. Now is the time for Congress to pass this legislation and put into statutory law that no action can be taken to relieve Russian sanctions without Congressional approval.
Lance represents New Jersey’s 7th District
The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.