House Passes Crimea Annexation Non-recognition Act

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Washington, March 12, 2019 | comments
Today, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 596, the Crimea Annexation Non-recognition Act, bipartisan legislation introduced by Representatives Gerry Connolly (D-VA) and Steve Chabot (R-OH) that would prohibit federal agencies from taking any action that recognizes Russian sovereignty over Crimea. The legislation was previously introduced in the 115th, 114th, and 113th Congresses and passed the House 427-1.

“Russia’s forcible and illegal annexation of Crimea has sent shockwaves throughout the former Soviet-occupied territories, many of whom are now NATO allies, including the Baltic States,” said Rep. Connolly. “Failure to stand up against Putin’s illegal annexation of Crimea will set a dangerous and irrevocable precedent.”

“There is a bipartisan and international consensus that many of us have worked hard to establish in combatting Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and we heard that consensus loud and clear from both Democrats and Republicans,” added Connolly. “Our legislation makes clear that Congress will continue to stand with Crimea.”

The FY 2016-FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Acts included similar language to this bill, prohibiting Department of Defense funds from being used on any action that recognizes Russian sovereignty over Crimea. This Connolly-Chabot legislation would apply that prohibition to the federal government writ-large.

Text of the legislation is available here.

Connolly’s full Floor remarks follow:

I rise today in support of H.R. 596, the Crimea Annexation Non-recognition Act, which I introduced with my colleague Rep. Steve Chabot.

This bill states that it is the policy of the United States not to recognize the Russian Federation’s claim of sovereignty over Crimea, its airspace, or its territorial waters. Furthermore, this bill prohibits the U.S. government from taking any action that implies recognition of Russian sovereignty over Crimea.

Putin’s forcible and illegal annexation of Crimea – the first forcible seizure of territory in Europe since World War II – undermines Ukrainian sovereignty and threatens the stability of European borders. Acquiescence on the part of the United States threatens the security of all sovereign nations. Who’s next? Moldova? Georgia? The Baltic states?

It is the longstanding policy of the United States to not recognize territorial changes elected by force, as dictated by the Stimson Doctrine – established in 1932 by then Republican Secretary of State, Henry Stimson. We upheld that doctrine with the issuance of the Welles Declaration in 1940, which stated emphatically that the United States would not recognize the illegal annexation of the Baltic states by then the Soviet Republic. That policy remained in effect for 50 long years.

For more than 50 years, we stood by the Baltic republics of Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia—sometimes in the face of ridicule. Today they are independent sovereign states and good members of NATO.

The collective wisdom of the previous and current administrations, Congress, our European allies, and the American public is that similar principles must be adopted with respect to Crimea. Crimea was Putin’s original violation in the Ukraine, and we have limited credibility objecting to Russia’s subsequent invasion of the Luhansk and Donetsk if we do not take a stand firm with respect to Crimea. Russian occupation of Crimea has inflicted grave harm within Ukraine, throughout former Soviet-occupied territories, and beyond.

What has happened in Ukraine – Russia’s forcible and illegal annexation of Crimea, invasion of eastern Ukraine, and continued occupation in Crimea, Luhansk and Donetsk – has precipitated an international crisis and the resulting conflict has claimed more than 10,000 lives. Russia has subjected Crimeans who refuse Russian citizenship to discrimination in accessing education, health care, and employment; and Russian authorities have attacked travel rights and the free press.

The matter of rejecting the forcible and illegal attack on sovereign territory is so important we should be satisfied with nothing less than absolute clarity about our position, which is one that supports Ukraine’s sovereignty over Crimea. The Obama Administration established a non-recognition policy towards Russian sovereignty over Crimea and levied sanctions against individuals and entities enabling Russia’s occupation. Our allies in Europe have stood with us, shoulder-to-shoulder in emphasizing and enforcing those sanctions.

Congress codified President Obama’s Crimea sanctions and has repeatedly used the power of the purse to prohibit the use of government funds for any action that would recognize the de jure or de facto illegal annexation of Crimea. The FY 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) included similar language to H.R. 596 in order to prohibit the use of defense funds in a manner that recognizes Russian sovereignty over Crimea. That language has remained in the NDAA every year since. And in the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, Congress reiterated its support for the Stimson Doctrine and its application to the illegal invasions by Russia, and occupations of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia, Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, and the Transnistria region in Moldova.

The United States must lead the way in refusing to recognize or legitimize Russia’s illegal and forcible annexation of Crimea. That is why I am glad to offer this bill, which expresses the will of Congress as a loud and declarative voice for sovereignty, and I urge my colleagues to support it.

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