WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today joined Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer and Rep. Adam Schiff, Ranking Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, at a press conference on the Russia Sanctions Review Act, bipartisan legislation which would require Congressional approval of any sanctions relief provided to Russia. A transcript of Rep. Engel’s remarks follows:
“Thank you Steny, I’m pleased to be here with my colleagues Mr. Hoyer and Mr. Schiff to say that what Russia has done and is doing is very alarming and therefore, they should not be allowed to weasel out of sanctions.
“There is a Russian spy ship floating thirty miles off Groton, Connecticut where the United States builds nuclear submarines. Russia continues to carry out missile tests—over there—in defiance of their thirty year old INF treaty obligations. It is obvious and clear that Putin is testing the new Administration. At the same time, Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea and Eastern Ukraine continues and fighting escalates.
“The last thing the United States should be considering, in the face of this provocation is dialing back sanctions on Russia now. If anything, we should probably increase them. But for now we need to do all we can to ensure that these measures remain in place so long as Putin’s hostile and illegal activities continue.
“That’s what this bill does and I am grateful to Whip Hoyer for offering it. It will give Congress a stronger voice on this issue. It will give us a say into whether sanctions on Russia can be lifted. And if you notice, as Steny mentioned to you, we’re not playing politics. There’s bipartisan support for this bill. We’ve got republicans and democrats saying that they will support this bill. A bipartisan group of senators is offering a similar companion bill.
“So what this is, is the bill is about America’s security, about dealing with a bully in Vladimir Putin who means us harm, and I hope the House acts quickly to pass this legislation.
“When historians look back at what happened at this time and discuss who did the right thing, they’ll ask who ducked and covered and who stood up to Putin’s threats to American democracy. What happened during the general election is shocking and shameful. We cannot and will not tolerate Russian interference in our democratic process. We certainly should not reward Russia for that and we should, as Democrats and Republicans, be angry—no matter who it was that Russia attempted to help.
“The last thing we want is an undemocratic, adversarial country interfering with American political tradition and American elections. And so we ought to be sending a message now that we are ramping up sanctions, not that sanctions can be taken away by one person, even the President of the United States. Congress has a very, very important role to play and that’s what we’re doing here.
“So I think the Members up here will be remembered for doing the right thing. We’re not ducking and covering and we’re not bowing down to Putin’s threats to American democracy. We’re standing up strong and saying unless Congress concurs, there can be no lifting of sanctions against Russia.”