WASHINGTON — The Latest on U.S. relations with Russia and possible new sanctions (all times local):
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the U.S. relationship with Russia is at an all-time low and deteriorating further.
Testifying Tuesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Tillerson says talks with Moscow on stabilizing the conflict with Syria are progressing but it’s too early to tell if the discussions will bear fruit.
Tillerson’s appearance comes as the Senate is considering a new package of sanctions against Russia in retaliation for Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election and its aggression in other parts of the world, including Syria and Ukraine.
Tillerson says he’s still reviewing the package. He told the committee it’s important to have the flexibility “to turn the heat up” on Russia if necessary. But he also says he doesn’t want promising channels of communication preemptively shut down.
Senate Republicans and Democrats have reached agreement on a new package of sanctions on Russia amid investigations into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Top lawmakers on two committees — Banking and Foreign Relations — announced the deal late Monday. It would require a congressional review if a president attempts to ease or end current penalties.
The plan also calls for strengthening current sanctions and imposing new ones on corrupt Russian actors, those involved in human rights abuses and those supplying weapons to the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Penalties also would be slapped on those responsible for malicious cyber activity on behalf of the Russian government.
Lawmakers are looking to add the Russian sanctions to current Senate legislation imposing penalties on Iran.