Business Groups Warn Against Russia Sanctions Before Panel Vote

Daniel Flatley

(Bloomberg) -- Two business groups are warning a key Senate committee against enacting sanctions on Russia, arguing that the measure would be disruptive to business and counterproductive in advancing U.S. interests.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Petroleum Institute separately wrote to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee urging members to proceed with caution on sanctions targeting foreign governments. The letters come the day before the Republican-led panel plans to consider a long-stalled bill to sanction Russia for meddling in the 2016 election.

“Sanctions are used as a blunt instrument when circumstances call for a scalpel,” the Chamber wrote in a white paper referenced in the letter. “At times, the United States has applied sanctions in a sweeping manner without sufficient regard for their effectiveness.”

The business group asked the committee to “reconsider the legislation and refine it further” to avoid harming U.S. companies and competitiveness.

The American Petroleum Institute went a step further, urging a “no” vote on the bill introduced by Senators Lindsey Graham and Robert Menendez that would impose sanctions on Russian individuals, cyber operations and liquid natural gas export facilities in response to Russian interference in elections and other offenses.

“Many American and Western companies fear they will be inadvertently harmed by the excessive international sanctions in this bill,” wrote Chris Kelley, the federal relations director for API. “The proposed sanctions could disrupt energy companies operating globally.”

Graham called the legislation the “sanctions bill from hell” when he first introduced it in August 2018, referring to the harsh provisions including sanctions on Russian sovereign debt. He introduced a revised version of the bill, S. 482, earlier this year.

The Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act, or DASKA, calls for the president to prescribe regulations for sanctions on sovereign debt issued 90 days after the law is enacted and would create a new cyberspace office within the State Department. It would also restrict any attempts to remove the U.S. from NATO.

Concerns about foreign influence in next year’s election has brought a renewed focus on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, and the committee’s Democratic minority pressured Republicans to act on the measure.

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