DC Dispatch: Iowa lawmakers call for action against Russian invasion of Ukraine

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As tensions mount with Russia, US senators from Iowa pushed for foreign policy action in Washington this week.

Iowa lawmakers have also worked to expand disclosure by foreign lobbyists and have called for an investigation into a Chinese company’s land acquisition near a US military base.

US Senator Joni Ernst has called on the United States to refuse to recognize Russia’s sovereignty claims in Ukraine. She presented the law on non-recognition of Russian annexation of Ukrainian territory alongside Republican Senator Marco Rubio and Democratic Senator Dick Durbin.

The action follows referendums in four Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine, in which voters overwhelmingly supported joining the Russian Federation, according to Russian news reports. Ukrainian state officials and international allies said the referendums were fraudulent and illegal under international law.

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree Friday annexing the four regions to Russia on Friday.

Legislation presented by Ernst would prevent the US government from recognizing Russian sovereignty over “any part of the sovereign territory of Ukraine”. This would prevent government departments and agencies from taking action or offering assistance recognizing Russian control over eastern Ukrainian territories. The bill is a way to show that the United States stands in solidarity with Ukraine, Ernst said in a press release.

“No kind of propaganda from Putin can change what the world knows,” Ernst said. “His claims on Ukraine are illegitimate and hostile.”

The annexation is the latest escalation in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which began in February. US Senator Chuck Grassley introduced the Justice for War Crimes Victims Act in May with a bipartisan group in response to reports of war crimes committed by Russian soldiers in Ukraine. The legislation would allow US courts to prosecute war criminals for acts committed overseas against non-Americans. It also extends the statute of limitations for war crimes.

The House also sent legislation at President Biden’s office on Friday providing an additional $12 billion in aid to Ukraine to continue its defense against Russia.

Grassley brought up the act again on Thursday in response to the posting of a United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine earlier in September, which alleged that Russia committed war crimes during the invasion of Ukraine. The bill should be passed to show that people who commit war crimes are not welcome in the United States, no matter when or where the offense was committed, he said.

“This disturbing report confirms that Russian troops are carrying out heinous attacks on innocent Ukrainians as they continue to wage an unjust war,” Grassley said in a statement Thursday. “These inhuman and unprovoked crimes, committed under Putin’s watch, cannot go unpunished.”

Grassley hails Senate action on foreign lobbyist disclosures

Grassley also praised the Senate for passing legislation he introduced alongside Democratic U.S. Senator Gary Peters targeting foreign lobbying efforts. Although lobbyists and lobbying organizations are required to disclose their activities and relationships, a report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a DC-based think tank, found that the influence of the Chinese Communist Party on Chinese companies and organizations can mean that private companies push Chinese interests, even when companies are not not officially affiliated with the state.

The law would require foreign governments and parties to disclose their lobbying activities, regardless of direct financial contribution. While Grassley focused on potential covert China lobbying efforts, Democratic supporters of the legislation said the bill could also help track potential Russian influence on US policy.

“By improving transparency about foreign lobbying activities, this bipartisan bill will help prevent foreign adversaries, including the Chinese and Russian governments, from influencing our political process and advancing agendas that go against best interests of the American people,” Peters said.

Iowa lawmakers join call to investigate Chinese company’s land purchase

In the House, U.S. Representatives Ashley Hinson and Randy Feenstra also raised concerns about the actions of Chinese companies in the United States. The two Iowa Republicans attached a letter to 49 other House Republicans calling on members of President Joe Biden’s administration to investigate the Fufeng Company’s purchase of land near Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota. Fufeng USA, which purchased the property for a wet corn milling plant, is owned by China‘s Fufeng Group Ltd.

Lawmakers have called on the Biden administration to take action to address potential national security risks they say could stem from the company’s proximity to a U.S. military base.

“The presence of a CCP-affiliated company near a military installation potentially undermines the integrity of our high-capacity military bases, jeopardizing our strategic interests,” they wrote.

Feenstra said he spoke with Iowans who are concerned about the “Chinese Communist Party’s mission to buy American land.”

“As the strongest nation in the world, we cannot allow groups with close ties to the CCP to purchase US land near our military bases, which poses a direct threat to our national security,” he said. Feenstra in a press release. “I will continue to work with my colleagues to hold the CCP accountable and stand up for Iowa farmers and our troops.”

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