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Congress puts focus on Russian warships

The US Congress has amended a Bill for the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act to require the Department of Defense to report to Congress on countries that allow Russia naval vessels to dock at their ports.

The move was in part motivated by US concern about Russian warships refuelling in Ceuta.

“Governments across the globe should be isolating the Russian Navy, not accommodating it,” said Republican Congressman Joe Pitts said. “The countries that are subtly enabling Russia’s expansion should not escape international attention.”

“My amendment would increase accountability by directing the U.S. Secretary of Defense to report to Congress - and by extension, the American people - on instances of countries allowing Russian naval vessels to use their ports.”

“Such accountability is particularly important in the case of Spain, who, although a cherished NATO ally, grants Russia access to the ports in its enclaves across the strategically important strait of Gibraltar, where the United Kingdom has a Permanent Joint Operating Base that hosts U.S. ships. I hope this amendment will cause governments to think twice before offering up their ports to Putin’s navy.”

In 2014 Russia invaded Crimea and in 2015 it directly intervened militarily to shore up the Assad regime. Available warm water ports for the Russian Navy was the common thread linking both of these invasions: Crimea’s port in Sevastopol and Syria’s port in Tartus provided Russia with access to the warm waters of the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, both essential to Russia’s reach of aggression.

Additional countries have allowed Russia to strategically use their ports. Nations like Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua have allowed high-profile visits by the Russian navy, and Malta and NATO ally Greece have also allowed for such accommodations.