WASHINGTON — Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today was joined by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) in introducing the Russia Bounty Response Act of 2020. With the Trump administration’s failure to respond to the Russian Federation’s reported program to pay bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing American and other allied troops in Afghanistan, the legislation would require President Trump to impose new sanctions on any Russian person, government official or entity involved in the program. 

The Russia Bounty Act also bolsters resources to counter Russian threats and malign influence in South and Central Asia, requiring new and enhanced diplomatic efforts to counter the Kremlin’s influence in the region. The legislation also authorizes $50 million per year in rewards for individuals who provide information on Russian bounties against U.S. Armed Forces, and $30 million per year for the State Department’s Global Engagement Center programming to counter Russian influence in South and Central Asia.  

“As we continue to learn the lengths that President Trump is willing to go to downplay Putin’s aggressions against our nation, we are once again forced to mandate what should be common sense: The U.S. government will always stand up for our service members and against any foreign actor who seeks to harm them,” said Senator Menendez. “We are introducing this legislation today because this President’s deference to Vladimir Putin demands that Congress proactively shape U.S. foreign policy toward Russia, especially with respect to sanctions. Incredible that we have reached this point – but we actually need laws that force the President of the United States to protect American lives and our interests.”

“Every President has a solemn obligation to do everything within their power to protect our men and women in uniform and President Trump is breaking that promise,” said Senator Shaheen. “Congress has an obligation to step in and act. Putin is emboldened by President Trump’s capitulation and is increasing his aggressive behavior which includes putting bounties on American troops and reckless behavior against our forces on land, water and sea. The lives of American service members are at stake – I urge Senators on both sides of the aisle to join us in protecting our service members and sending a strong message to Putin.”

“Rather than fight back against Russian threats against our troops, the President has neglected his responsibility to our military as Commander-in-Chief.  The President’s inaction and deafening silence has only demonstrated that he is more concerned with the approval of the Kremlin than bounties on the lives of our soldiers,” said Senator Durbin.  “By introducing the Russia Bounty Response Act, my colleagues and I are taking the stance the President should have months ago.  We will not stand idly by when a foreign leader puts a bounty on the heads of American soldiers.” 

“This action is necessary to protect Americans against Putin’s bounty-driven killing and Trump’s reprehensible inaction. Strong sanctions and other steps will give Putin the only incentive he understands – hitting him and his surrogates where it hurts,” said Senator Blumenthal. “This administration has turned a blind eye to Russian aggression since day one. Intelligence powerfully shows that the Kremlin offered the Taliban bounties for killing Americans in Afghanistan, but the Trump administration prefers catering to Putin rather than protecting our servicemen and women. The Russia Bounty Response Act will sanction anyone who paid for killing American servicemembers, and push back on Putin’s anti-American ambitions.”

“Men and women in uniform risk everything to defend our nation, and they should know that political leaders have their backs," said Senator Merkley. “The fact that the Trump administration apparently knew Russia was paying to kill Americans yet did nothing about it is a horrific betrayal. Donald Trump and his enablers are not willing to stand up to Putin, so it’s clearly up to Congress to deliver swift and decisive action to hold Russia accountable.” 

“Donald Trump’s silence in the face of reported Russian bounties on the heads of our troops is a complete dereliction of duty,” said Senator Duckworth.“This bill will force Trump to act by putting important policies in place to ensure our nation addresses the threat of Russia’s alliance with the Taliban and influence in the South and Central Asian region over the long term and by enacting sanctions, if warranted. Even if Trump refuses to say it publicly, we know that Vladimir Putin is no friend to democracy, which is one of the reasons why I’m proud to join my Senate colleagues in taking a stand for the safety of our troops and against malign action from Putin.” 

A copy of the Russia Bounty Response Act of 2020 may be found HERE


Key provisions of the legislation include:

Responding to the Threat to Our Troops:

  • Requires the President to certify whether or not the Russian government offered, ordered, directed, or was otherwise responsible for bounties for the killing of members of the U.S. Armed Forces or members of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission
  • If the President certifies that the Russian government did so, the President shall impose asset blocking and visa ban sanctions on:
    • President Vladimir Putin or any person acting for or on behalf of him
    • Any senior Russian government official involved in the bounties
    • Any Russian defense or intelligence official involved in the bounties
  • Requires the President to use all available authorities to impose asset blocking sanctions on entities within the Russian government’s defense and intelligence sectors
  • Requires the President to use all available authorities to impose asset blocking sanctions on persons that facilitate illicit and corrupt activities on behalf of President Putin, including oligarchs, political figures, and their family members
  • Authorizes $50 million per year for rewards for individuals who provide information on Russian bounties against U.S. Armed Forces under the State Department’s Rewards for Justice program, running for fiscal years 2021 through 2026 

Countering Russian Threats and Malign Influence in South & Central Asia:

  • Requires a report assessing the threats and challenges from the Russian Federation facing the U.S. and the NATO alliance in Afghanistan
  • Directs the Secretary of State to seek to establish a U.S.-Afghanistan Working Group to address the threat the Russian Federation poses to security in Afghanistan
  • Requires a regional strategy for how the U.S. will diplomatically counter Russian influence in the region of South and Central Asia
  • Requires the creation of a Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS) position in the Bureau of South and Central Asia focused on countering Russian influence
  • Requires the appointment of a Special Envoy to Counter Russian Influence in South and Central Asia
  • Authorizes $30 million per year for Global Engagement Center programming to counter Russian influence in the countries of South and Central Asia, running for fiscal years 2021 through 2026
  • Expands the Countering Russian Influence Fund to countries in South and Central Asia that the Secretary of State determines are vulnerable to malign Russian influence
  • Requires a report on the net worth and assets of Vladimir Putin