Shaheen, Menendez, Durbin, Blumenthal, Merkley & Duckworth Introduce Russia Bounty Response Act of 2020

September 10, 2020

(Washington, DC) — U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC), joined SFRC Ranking Member Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and a group of lawmakers including Senators Durbin (D-IL), Blumenthal (D-CT), Merkley (D-OR) and Duckworth (D-IL) in introducing the Russia Bounty Response Act of 2020. With the Trump administration’s failure to respond to the Russian Federation’s reported program to pay bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing American and other allied troops in Afghanistan, the legislation would require President Trump to impose new sanctions on any Russian person, government official or entity involved in the program.

The Russia Bounty Response Act also bolsters resources to counter Russian threats and malign influence in South and Central Asia, requiring new and enhanced diplomatic efforts to counter the Kremlin’s influence in the region. The legislation also authorizes $50 million per year in rewards for individuals who provide information on Russian bounties against U.S. Armed Forces, and $30 million per year for the State Department’s Global Engagement Center programming to counter Russian influence in South and Central Asia.

“Every President has a solemn obligation to do everything within their power to protect our men and women in uniform and President Trump is breaking that promise,” said Senator Shaheen. “Congress has an obligation to step in and act. Putin is emboldened by President Trump’s capitulation and is increasing his aggressive behavior which includes putting bounties on American troops and reckless behavior against our forces. The lives of American service members are at stake – I urge Senators on both sides of the aisle to join us in protecting our service members and sending a strong message to Putin.”

The legislation follows Shaheen’s letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sent last week, where she raised serious concerns with the Trump administration’s failure to unequivocally rebuke Russia for its escalatory aggression and harmful actions against U.S. forces around the globe.

A copy of the Russia Bounty Response Act of 2020 is available here

Key provisions of the legislation include:

Responding to the Threat to Our Troops:

  • Requires the President to certify whether or not the Russian government offered, ordered, directed, or was otherwise responsible for bounties for the killing of members of the U.S. Armed Forces or members of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission
  • If the President certifies that the Russian government did so, the President shall impose asset blocking and visa ban sanctions on:
    • President Vladimir Putin or any person acting for or on behalf of him
    • Any senior Russian government official involved in the bounties
    • Any Russian defense or intelligence official involved in the bounties
    • Requires the President to use all available authorities to impose asset blocking sanctions on entities within the Russian government’s defense and intelligence sectors
    • Requires the President to use all available authorities to impose asset blocking sanctions on persons that facilitate illicit and corrupt activities on behalf of President Putin, including oligarchs, political figures, and their family members
    • Authorizes $50 million per year for rewards for individuals who provide information on Russian bounties against U.S. Armed Forces under the State Department’s Rewards for Justice program, running for fiscal years 2021 through 2026

Countering Russian Threats and Malign Influence in South & Central Asia:

  • Requires a report assessing the threats and challenges from the Russian Federation facing the U.S. and the NATO alliance in Afghanistan
  • Directs the Secretary of State to seek to establish a U.S.-Afghanistan Working Group to address the threat the Russian Federation poses to security in Afghanistan
  • Requires a regional strategy for how the U.S. will diplomatically counter Russian influence in the region of South and Central Asia
  • Requires the creation of a Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS) position in the Bureau of South and Central Asia focused on countering Russian influence
  • Requires the appointment of a Special Envoy to Counter Russian Influence in South and Central Asia
  • Authorizes $30 million per year for Global Engagement Center programming to counter Russian influence in the countries of South and Central Asia, running for fiscal years 2021 through 2026
  • Expands the Countering Russian Influence Fund to countries in South and Central Asia that the Secretary of State determines are vulnerable to malign Russian influence
  • Requires a report on the net worth and assets of Vladimir Putin

During a Senate Foreign Relations hearing in July, Senator Shaheen questioned Secretary Pompeo on the administration’s alarming foreign policy decisions and actions, including the surprise announcement to withdraw U.S. troops from Germany and the failure to respond to the news of Russian bounties on U.S. forces. Shaheen has led efforts in Congress to hold Russia accountable for its aggression and election interference. She was the first legislator to call for hearings into their meddling in the 2016 elections. Because of her role as a negotiator on Russia sanctions legislation known as “CAATSA” and her successful efforts to ban Kaspersky Lab software from operating on U.S. systems, Shaheen was sanctioned by the Kremlin in 2017. Senator Shaheen has been warning of the Kremlin’s continued interference and she herself has been the target of a hacking attempt.