Over the past four years, Americans have read much about Vladimir Putin and Russia and the threat to American elections. Putin is a bad actor, and Russia as a nuclear power is a distinct and destabilizing force in Western Europe and the Middle East. We've certainly witnessed that in the catastrophic Obama foreign policy errors of allowing Russian to invade the Ukraine, take over and occupy Crimea, and become an essential co-conspirator in the murder and mayhem occurring in Syria.
For our part, the United States has passed significant sanctions legislation including the Sergei Magninsky Act, which is named for a Moscow accountant killed by Putin in a corruption scandal. More than 50 individuals are designated under this law for human rights abuses and corruption. The success of this law being used against Russia is one reason I supported the Global Magnitsky Human Rights and Accountability Act in the 114th Congress. This bill applied the same sanctions penalties for human rights abuses and corruption across the globe.
Further, the Trump administration has levied sanctions against sectors of the Russian economy and key Russians in the Russian Federation. The United States has imposed sanctions related to the Russian invasion of Ukraine to nearly 700 individuals through the Countering Russian Influence in Europe and Eurasia Act, which I supported in 2017. We have also sanctioned Russian officials and the Russian intelligence agency for its malicious cyber activities, including interference in U.S. elections. We also have sanctioned Russia for propping up illegitimate and dictatorial regimes in Syria and Venezuela. The economic pressure that the United States is putting on Russia today is significant.
Given all that, it's essential that you understand that although Russia is one of the largest physical countries in the world occupying some 6.6 square million miles of territory, it remains a commodity-dependent, vulnerable country. Likewise Russia has a GDP that is roughly the same as Spain, which has a third the population, and a per capita GDP a quarter of Germany, which has half the population.
Moreover, the country is a demographic basket case with low life expectancy of age 66 for men and low birth rates.1 And, analysts expect that by 2040 the Russian national population will shrink below 120 million (compared to 141.7 million today) with ethnic Russians actually being only a tiny majority. This economic insecurity, increased global isolation, and demographic chaos accounts for Putin’s extreme aggression and intimidation of the border states that made up the former Soviet Union.
I believe the goals for any future relationship between the United States and Russia should include:
- Allied unity within NATO
- Resolution of the Syrian civil war and political crisis
- Resolution of the conflict of the Donbass region of Ukraine
- Honest engagement with the United States and China on arms-control issues
- Increased pressure on Putin and his regime through use of financial and economic sanctions