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Senate spurns Russia despite Trump’s G7 overtures

August 28, 2019

Despite Donald Trump’s deep devotion to the Kremlin, U.S. lawmakers on both sides of the aisle aren’t feeling the love, Politico reports.

Tensions between Russia and the Senate are rising, the news outlet notes—with Russia barring senators in both parties from visiting and Democrats urging Trump to keep President Vladimir Putin out of the G-7.

Senators Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut) and Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin), both members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Russia denied their visas as part of a congressional delegation.

Those revelations were quickly followed by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and other Democrats arguing to Trump that “under no circumstances” should Putin be allowed to take part in the next G7 meeting of global powers. Russia was expelled in 2014 after illegally annexing Crimea.

Murphy warned in a statement Tuesday morning that denying visas to members of Congress could further stymie dialogue between the United States and Russia, Politico said. He emphasized that it’s in the world’s best interest to prevent conflict between the two countries.

“Unfortunately, the Russian government is further isolating their country by blocking our visit and several others in recent months,” Murphy said. “ With the collapse of recent arms control agreements and significant domestic opposition to Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian rule, this is potentially a perilous moment for our two nations’ fragile relationship, and it’s a shame that Russia isn’t interested in dialogue.”

Johnson also said Monday evening that he too was denied entry to the country; the Wisconsin senator was part of a Republican delegation that visited last summer. Indeed, on August 26, Johnson criticized Putin for his recent actions in the region—including failing to hold free and fair elections, supporting Syria and annexing Crimea.

In a formal statement on his own website, Johnson said,” “Eventually, a new generation of leaders will emerge in Russia. Working with Ambassador [John] Huntsman, I had hoped direct dialogue with Russian parliamentarians could help set the stage for better future relations between our two nations. Unfortunately, Russian officials continue to play diplomatic games with this sincere effort and have denied me entrance to Russia. Regardless of this petty affront, I will continue to advocate a strong and resolute response to Russian aggression — and frank dialogue when possible.”

The Wisconsin Republican, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation, has led and co-sponsored legislation to get tough on Russia for its actions in Ukraine, but voted against keeping some sanctions on Russia earlier this year, Politico reported.

The denial of visas to the senators highlights an ongoing conflict between members of the Senate and the White House when it comes the United States’ relationship with Russia.

Trump said on Monday that his “inclination is to say yes, [Russia] should be in” the G-7, again rattling U.S. beliefs that the country should remain on the sidelines of the international groups. Trump said there were discussions in France about the matter and said that he found agreement that “having them inside the room is better than having them outside the room.”

In the letter to the president, Schumer and other Democratic leaders argued that [theory] was misguided, because “Russia does not currently possess the democratic institutions nor the economic capacity to rejoin the group.”

The letter was also signed by Senators. Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island), Mark Warner (D-Virginia), and Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey.), who lead Democrats on key national security committees.

Research contact: @politico