Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) is a member of the Senate Committee on Finance and Committee on Armed Services.
The Senate Finance Committee recently reported a bill that will, among other things, establish permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) with Russia. On the whole, this is a good thing. Russia’s growing middle class has an appetite for high-quality American goods and services, and PNTR will guarantee access to the Russian market for U.S. companies.
Yet at the same time, there are serious doubts about Russia’s willingness to be a responsible actor on the world stage. Its commitment to human dignity and basic freedoms is suspect. Internally, the Russian government seems to be sliding deeper and deeper into lawless autocracy.
One need not look further than current headlines for evidence. In Syria, the Assad regime continues a brutal campaign against its own people with the implicit blessing of Moscow. Attempts by the United Nations Security Council to quell the bloodshed have been systematically blocked by the Russian government. As the death toll rises – by some accounts, more than 17,000 Syrians have been killed – Russia refuses to halt arms shipments to Syria.
With this in mind, I offered an amendment to the PNTR bill that would have delayed the effective date of the bill until the president certified that Moscow had ceased transferring weapons to the Syrian government. The premise is simple: The United States should not reward Russia’s actions with the benefit of normal trade relations.
While my amendment was not adopted, I remain committed to ending Russian support for the murderous Assad regime. I’ve introduced a bipartisan resolution that condemns Moscow for facilitating the mass slaughter in Syria and its longstanding and ongoing support of the Syrian regime. I believe that the United States must send a clear message to the Russians that these actions have consequences.
As Bashar al-Assad loses his tyrannical grip on Syria, and the number of Syrians killed by his forces mounts, Russia should know that the world is watching.