Congress Votes to Suspend Normal Trade Relations With Russia
The suspension of trade relations allows Biden to impose tariffs on imports from Russia’s major industries.
Congress voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to suspend the United States’ normal trade relations with Russia, placing further economic pressure on Russian leader Vladimir Putin to reach a settlement in Ukraine.
The bill suspending trade relations has now been sent to President Joe Biden, and White House press secretary Jen Psaki indicated yesterday that the president would sign it imminently.
The bill was supported by wide bipartisan majorities in both the House and the Senate. With the exception of the three Republican representatives—Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Thomas Massie (R-KY), and Matt Gaetz (R-FL)—who voted against the measure, every member of the House supported the suspension of trade relations. Greene and Gaetz have previously criticized Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky for alleged corruption and human rights abuses.
In the Senate, the vote was unanimous, with all 100 senators voting in favor. A similar piece of legislation approved the same day, codifying a ban on Russian energy after Biden banned it via executive order, was supported by a 413-9 vote in the House and a second unanimous vote in the Senate.
Although the legislation does not ban trade with Russia outright, it is intended to strengthen the Biden administration’s ability to restrict trade within certain categories of goods. The suspension of normal trade relations allows Biden to impose tariffs on Russian imports, including steel and aluminum, two of the country’s largest industries.
The existence of a formal law also means that sanctions against Russia are likely to outlast the war in Ukraine, even if the two sides in the conflict reach a settlement in the coming weeks or months.
The United States has imposed harsh sanctions on Russia since the onset of its “special military operation” against Ukraine. Over the past week, the Biden administration implemented further sanctions against Russia in response to the Bucha massacre, a series of killings in a northern suburb of Kyiv attributed to Russian soldiers. Among other sanctions, Biden forbade Americans to invest directly in Russia and enacted personal sanctions, including travel restrictions, on members of Putin’s family and other Russian officials. The bill also contains restrictions on neighboring Belarus, which has supported Russia in the ongoing war and allowed Russian troops to enter Ukraine from its territory.
Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.