The Crisis in Ukraine
Over the last few months, the world has watched in horror as Russia invaded its democratic neighbor Ukraine in an attempt to rebuild the Soviet Union. High schoolers in Ukraine traded science experiments for making Molotov cocktails. Pediatric cancer patients huddled in basement bomb shelters. Architects, teachers, and even grandmothers took up arms to protect their lives as Russians indiscriminately attacked civilians.
In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Sen. Cornyn has introduced and cosponsored a broad range of legislative items that would work to provide the Ukranian people with the tools they need to defend themselves.
Sen. Cornyn introduced the Strategy to Reduce Russian Energy Influence Act, which would direct the U.S. Department of State, in consultation with the U.S. Department of Energy, to evaluate how existing federal laws and authorities can be used to counter Russian energy influence globally and submit a report to Congress within 90 days.
“Vladimir Putin is not afraid to weaponize Russia’s energy sector, threatening global energy security and economic stability. The situation Russia has created with its invasion of Ukraine underscores the importance of providing our allies with alternative energy sources free from the whims of a Russian tyrant.”
In 2020, Russia was the world’s third-largest producer of petroleum and second-largest producer of dry natural gas. Europe secures 29 percent of its petroleum imports and 33 percent of its natural gas imports from Russia, leaving these countries vulnerable to a tyrant with a history of weaponizing the country’s energy resources.
The report required by the Strategy to Reduce Russian Energy Influence Act would include a strategy to reduce or replace the Russian Federation’s supply of energy products in global markets and a plan for working with U.S. allies and partners to counter Russian energy influence.
Sen. Cornyn introduced the Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act, which would authorize the President to enter into lend-lease agreements directly with Ukraine and provide military equipment necessary to protect vulnerable civilian populations from a Russian military invasion.
“There’s no question weakness is a provocation to authoritarian figures like Vladimir Putin, and the threat of sanctions or financial support for Ukraine will not be enough to deter an invasion. This legislation would allow us to once again serve as the arsenal of democracy and provide Ukraine with lethal weapons against the Russian threat to its sovereignty.”
As part of his Arms Export Control Act authority, the President can currently lend and lease defense articles to U.S. partners and allies when it is in the United States’ national security interest. However, bureaucratic barriers and other limitations make these authorities impractical for the current crisis facing Ukraine.
This enhanced lend-lease authority would be specific to Ukraine to help remove obstacles to lending arms to Ukraine. It would not create a new program but would streamline the President’s current authority to lend the defense articles necessary to defend civilian populations in Ukraine. In addition, this legislation would:
- Require the President to certify to the appropriate congressional committee that any military equipment provided under this authority is necessary to protect vulnerable civilian populations;
- Require the President or his designee to establish expedited delivery procedures for any military equipment loaned or leased to Ukraine to ensure timely delivery to Ukraine; and
- Categorize any cyberattack on major critical infrastructure originating from within Russia against Ukraine to be treated as an armed attack by Russia
- Remain in effect until Russia restores its troops’ presence on the Ukraine border to pre-March 2021 levels.
Sen. Cornyn led a group of colleageus to introduce the Stop Russian Government and Oligarchs from Limiting Democracy (Stop Russian GOLD) Act, which would apply secondary sanctions to anyone transacting with or transporting gold from Russia’s central bank holdings or selling gold physically or electronically in Russia.
“Russia has taken a page out of Venezuela’s book by exploiting a loophole in current sanctions that allows them to launder money through the purchase and sale of gold. This legislation would apply secondary sanctions to parties who help Russia finance their war by buying or selling this blood gold.”
Currently, Russia is exploiting a loophole in the sanctions placed on its central bank that are allowing the government and oligarchs to launder money through gold. The Russian Federation is purchasing gold to offset the devaluation of its currency, the ruble, and is then selling that gold on international markets in exchange for high-value currency.
The secondary sanctions in this legislation would deter the purchase of Russian gold and close this loophole that allows the Russian Federation to soften the financial impact of sanctions.
Sen. Cornyn’s legislation, the National Cybersecurity Preparedness Consortium Act, recently passed in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill would authorize the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to work with the National Cybersecurity Preparedness Consortium (NCPC) to help prepare for and respond to cybersecurity risks at the national, state, and local levels. Due to amendments, the bill will return to the Senate for final passage.
“In the face of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, the United States must remain extra vigilant against potentially disastrous cyber threats from Russian hackers that would weaken our infrastructure and military readiness. This crucial bill will ensure our critical infrastructure operators and local governments are prepared for dangerous Russian cyber-attacks, and I’m proud to be joined by Senator Leahy in helping usher it into law.”
The NCPC is comprised of university-based training entities including the University of Texas at San Antonio, Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service, the University of Arkansas, the University of Memphis, and Norwich University.
Under this bill, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security would be authorized to work with the NCPC to:
- Provide training to state and local first responders and officials, develop curriculums, and provide technical assistance;
- Conduct cross-sector cybersecurity training and simulation exercises for state and local governments, critical infrastructure owners and operators, and private industry;
- Help states and communities develop cybersecurity information sharing programs; and
- Help incorporate cybersecurity risk and incident prevention and response into existing state and local emergency plans and continuity of operations plans.
Sen. Cornyn introduced the Safely Accessing Telecommunications (SAT) Act, which would authorize the U.S. State Department and Department of Defense to enter into contracts with satellite cellular and internet providers to provide direct connectivity in conflict regions.
“Winning the war of public perception is a crucial part of armed conflict today, and as we’ve seen in Ukraine, the internet is the best way to gain support for your country’s cause globally. This legislation would ensure our allies can stay connected via American satellite providers, blunting cyberattack threats from countries like Russia.”
Keeping civil society, first responders, essential services, and the general population connected to the internet in conflict zones provides open source intelligence for U.S. use, but it also augments the capacity of allied governments to win the information war against aggressors. Satellite service does not require operational equipment to be connected to the larger national telecommunications infrastructure, which is likely to be targeted by advanced militaries like those of Russia.
The SAT Act would:
- Authorize the Department of Defense to provide service for the purposes of providing military aid;
- Authorize the State Department to provide service for the purpose of providing humanitarian aid;
- Authorize both departments to procure the end-point infrastructure necessary to service, such as satellite phones and receiver dishes;
- Allow these agencies to enter into agreements with other nations to offset the costs of the service, including reimbursements after the fact;
- And prohibit an agency from compelling a service provider to provide the service and from providing the service longer than needed to address the conflict.
Agencies must consider the costs and benefits of providing the service and choose the services that provide the maximum benefit. They may not enter into contracts with entities on the Commerce Entity List, which prevents U.S. funds from going to adversary nations.
Sen. Cornyn joined a majority of his Republican colleagues to introduce the Never Yielding Europe’s Territory (NYET) Act, which would provide the critical support Ukraine needs to defend itself and deter Russian aggression while imposing real costs on the Kremlin for its ongoing and potential future aggression against Ukraine.
“Vladimir Putin is testing the waters in Ukraine to see how much he can get away with, and the rest of the world is watching. This legislation will ensure Ukrainian forces have the resources and support they need to deter – and defend – against Russian invasion, and I hope the Senate will take action soon to reaffirm America’s position as the lead defender of global peace and security.”
The NYET Act imposes real costs on Russia:
- Immediately stops construction of the Nord Stream 2 project and would mandate sanctions on the project without a waiver should Russia invade. Prior to an invasion, the bill suspends sanctions for as long as the German government continues to suspend the certification process.
- Sends a clear deterrent message to Putin that an invasion of Ukraine will result in massive economic consequences to Russia’s economy, including:
- Sanctions on major Russian banks; and
- Secondary sanctions on banks that continue business with sanctioned Russian banks.
- Sanctions Putin’s cronies, enablers, and major banks before Russia further invades Ukraine to ensure Putin pays a price now for hybrid attacks already launched.
- Allows any chairman or ranking member of a national security committee to force a determination from the president on whether Russia’s aggression against Ukraine constitutes a major escalation and fulfills conditions to trigger sanctions.
The legislation also supports Ukraine before, during, and after a Russian escalation:
- Provides $500 million in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) for Ukraine, including $250 million in emergency funding, with $100 million for emergency lethal assistance for critical capabilities like air defense, anti-armor, and anti-ship capabilities.
- Creates a new Ukraine Resistance Fund to help Ukraine resist attempts to occupy or subjugate any new territory Russia seizes, while sending a clear message to Putin that his military will pay a price for advances into sovereign Ukrainian territory.
- Authorizes a new Lend-Lease authority for Ukraine.
- Expedites congressional review of arms sales and security assistance to Ukraine.
Lastly, it counters Russian malign influence and aggression throughout Europe:
- Doubles funding for U.S. military exercises in Europe.
- Creates a new State Department FMF program for Eastern Europe to help European allies strengthen their own defensive capabilities and incentivize greater burden-sharing.
- Boosts funding for State Department efforts to counter Russian disinformation, including the Global Engagement Center, and expands broadcasting by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
Sen. Cornyn joined a group of his colleagues to introduce legislation that would ban the United States from purchasing Russian oil in response to its invasion of Ukraine, a sovereign democracy.
“There is absolutely no reason for a country as resource-rich as the United States to be reliant on Russia for oil, sales of which are funding their military campaign against Ukrainian sovereignty. We should not be financially supporting Russia’s mission to rebuild the Soviet Union, especially when domestic oil production in states like Texas can help provide energy without enriching Putin’s authoritarian state.”
In 2021, the U.S. imported hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil a day from Russia, unnecessarily contributing to the industrial success of a hostile competitor seeking to weaponize its energy exports. This legislation would stop financing the Russian invasion of Ukraine and remove Russian fuels from American supply chains. This prohibition would take effect 15 days after enactment and exclude shipments already in transit at that time. Canada has already taken this important step to ban imports of crude oil from Russia.