Congressional Republicans on Wednesday said President Joe Biden is backing down to Russian president Vladimir Putin by delaying legally required sanctions on the strongman's regime.
House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Michael McCaul (R., Texas) and Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Jim Risch (R., Idaho) called on the president to impose sanctions on Russia that are mandated by the 1991 Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act. Although the administration enforced sanctions in March in response to the Putin regime's poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, it is required to enforce a second round of sanctions within 90 days if Biden is unable to certify that Russia no longer uses chemical weapons.
Risch and McCaul said Biden's delay in enforcing sanctions "projects weakness" amid the president's meeting Wednesday with Putin in Geneva to discuss national security and human rights issues.
"We are concerned that the delay of the imposition of these mandatory sanctions appears to be part of a larger pattern to avoid confronting the Putin regime ahead of the U.S.-Russia summit," the lawmakers wrote in a letter to the president. "Forgoing this second round of U.S. sanctions, especially directly before your meeting with the Russian president, signals an unwillingness to stand up for the rule of law and democratic values and to truly hold the Putin regime accountable for its continued efforts to undermine them."
Before the summit, the Biden administration also waived sanctions on Nord Stream 2, a pipeline that will transport gas directly from Russia to Germany. The Biden administration has also yet to respond with legal action against Moscow after Russian hackers—likely permitted by the Putin regime—conducted a cyberattack that shut down American energy company Colonial Pipeline last month.
Following the Geneva summit, Biden said there is a "genuine prospect" of significantly improving Russian-American relations in the months ahead, but also criticized Putin for the continued detention of Navalny and the arbitrary imprisonment of two former Marines, Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed. Putin, who spoke to the press alone after the summit, likened Navalny's opposition coalition to the Black Lives Matter movement. Former secretary of state Mike Pompeo said Biden's absence at Putin's post-summit press conference allowed the strongman to "spout Russian propaganda."
"He was allowed to go up there and spout Russian propaganda to create the context for moral equivalence between the United States and Russia on every front, whether it was talking about BLM or protesters or our judicial system," Pompeo said. "I hope that President Biden is able to confront this."