McCain: Keep Russian trade, Syria issues separate

The Hill

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a leading critic of President Obama’s policies on Russia and Syria, said Wednesday that Russia’s role in suppressing Syrian dissent should be kept separate from an upcoming vote on trade.

McCain reiterated that he supports permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) with Russia as long as the bill establishing it is paired with a human-rights bill designed to punish those responsible for the death of Russian whistle-blower Sergei Magnitsky.

The United States accused Russia this week of supplying Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad with attack helicopters to kill his own people. But when asked if the Russia PNTR bill should have Syria language in it, McCain said it should not.

“I would not think that would be the case, but look — the Russians are behaving in a way that our least optimistic assessment of [Vladimir] Putin’s behavior … has been realized,” he told The Hill.

He added that, while the PNTR bill should only be used to advance Magnitsky legislation, the Syrian episode underscored that a tougher line needs to be taken with Russia.

“I don’t know how exactly you punish Russia. It calls for us to start looking at Russia from a more realistic viewpoint, and stop pushing the reset button,” he said.

McCain also repeated his calls for the United States to immediately begin arming the Syrian rebels and establish a safe haven for them in the country.

“It is disgraceful … they do nothing,” he said of the White House.

Russia will join the World Trade Organization (WTO) this summer whether or not the United States acts on PNTR. Only once the United States votes to grant Russia PNTR, U.S. exports will enjoy the lower tariffs that Russia has promised other WTO members.

For this reason, the business community is arguing that PNTR is not a good vehicle with which to pressure Russia, as not passing PNTR really only hurts U.S. economic interests.

This week, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said that he will move the Magnitsky bill, sponsored by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), in conjunction with PNTR through his committee. The move was seen as a major boost to McCain and other Magnitsky bill supporters.

Asked Wednesday about the Russian support for Syria, Baucus told reporters that “I feel confident we’ll get PNTR passed.”

But some Republicans, like Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah), have expressed concerns about moving forward with the PNTR process.

Hatch, the ranking Republican at Finance, joined seven other GOP senators this week in saying that several concerns, including the Russian support of Syria, needed to be addressed as lawmakers consider granting Moscow PNTR status.

On Wednesday, Hatch also criticized the White House’s handling of the Syria situation, and said that Russia “will not act properly without the right restraints.”

“I think it’s important to establish that we expect certain standards of conduct from countries that we grant PNTR to,” Hatch told The Hill. “I would like to do PNTR, but I’d like to do it under the right circumstances.” займ срочно без отказов и проверок займы онлайн на карту срочно https://zp-pdl.com/apply-for-payday-loan-online.php https://zp-pdl.com/best-payday-loans.php микрозайм онлайн

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