New York (UCCA) – On August 2, 2017, President Trump signed into law the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act or CAATSA (H.R. 3364), codifying into law all existing sanctions imposed on Russia for its illegal annexation of Crimea and its military invasion of Ukraine. Several weeks prior, CAATSA had been passed by both Houses of Congress by an overwhelming and veto-proof majority – 98-2 in the Senate and 419-3 in the House – conveying the strong, bipartisan support for Ukraine in the United States.  As the first major piece of legislation of this Administration, this bill will further punish Moscow for its “significant” cyber attack and influence campaign during the 2016 presidential election, increase US sanctions on Iran, require the Administration report to Congress on Iran’s collaboration with North Korea, and authorizes the expansion of existing US sanctions against all three countries, including their potential applicability to non-US firms. The Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA), the largest grassroots representation of Americans of Ukrainian descent, welcomes the news of this law’s signing, having repeatedly called upon supporters of Ukraine in this country to contact their elected Representatives to pass this critical legislation. We however, are concerned that the President, upon signing the bill, signaled that he is not necessarily bound by it. We call upon President Trump to stand firm with the United States Congress and openly denounce Russia's attacks on American democracy, our NATO partners, as well as Russia’s invasion and occupation of America’s strategic ally, Ukraine.

As reported by the newly-appointed United States’ Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations, Ambassador Kurt Volker, "there are more Russian tanks in [Ukraine] than [tanks] in Western Europe combined." Since the beginning of 2017, there have been nearly 2,000 recorded attacks by Russian forces across the 'ceasefire' line in Ukraine, with dozens of civilians killed this year alone, bringing Russia’s death toll in Ukraine to over 10,000. Russia’s daily violation of international law calls for bold action like CAATSA, until they are forced to fully comply with their international obligations - including a withdrawal of any territorial claim over the Crimean peninsula, the release of political prisoners, and the removal of all covert and overt Russian forces and equipment from Ukraine.

 

In order to counter Russia’s offenses and reestablish Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, the President should follow up this legislation by signing off on any recommendations from the State Department and the Pentagon that would supply Ukraine with antitank systems and other defensive weaponry, as already authorized by Congress. With such support, a democratic, independent Ukraine can and will stand together with the United States as stabilizing partners of the Euro-Atlantic security structure, raising the price for Russia’s attempts at re-establishing its empire, and allowing the Democratic nations of the world to address such urgent crises as in Syria and North Korea.

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