Senate Bill Has Tough Russia Sanctions 03/12 10:43
Congress will weigh some of the most significant U.S. sanctions on Russia
since the end of the Cold War in a bid to pressure President Vladimir Putin to
pull Russian troops out of Crimea, according to a copy of a new Senate bill
obtained by The Associated Press.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Congress will weigh some of the most significant U.S.
sanctions on Russia since the end of the Cold War in a bid to pressure
President Vladimir Putin to pull Russian troops out of Crimea, according to a
copy of a new Senate bill obtained by The Associated Press.
The legislation authorizes the Obama administration to impose economic
penalties on Russian officials complicit in Ukrainian corruption or anyone
responsible for Moscow's military takeover of Ukraine. The bill stops short of
going after Russian banks or energy companies as some legislators proposed,
giving Secretary of State John Kerry more leeway ahead of diplomatic talks with
his Russian counterpart in Europe later this week.
Testifying before a House Appropriations subcommittee, Kerry said he'd
travel Thursday to London for discussions with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey
Lavrov. While Washington has no desire to isolate Russia internationally, Kerry
said, "We'll do what we have to do if Russia is not prepared to make the right
"Our interest is in protecting the sovereignty, the independence, the
territorial integrity of the Ukraine," Kerry said. He has unsuccessfully sought
for more than a week to broker a meeting between Russian and Ukrainian
diplomats to ease the situation.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee plans a vote on its bill Wednesday
"Putin has miscalculated by playing a game of Russian roulette with the
international community, but we refuse to blink and will never accept this
violation of international law," said Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., the chairman
of the Foreign Relations panel, who introduced the legislation.
Beyond sanctions, the bill enables the administration to make good on a
pledge of $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine's new, pro-Western
government. And it would enhance the lending capacity of the International
Monetary Fund, a provision some House Republicans oppose because they fear
increasing the exposure of U.S. taxpayers in overseas bailouts.
The House overwhelmingly backed a measure providing only the assistance to
Ukraine last week and passed a resolution calling for sanctions on Russia
Tuesday. Neither included language on the IMF, which the United States,
European countries and others are working with to provide billions of dollars
in loans to Ukraine's cash-depleted authorities.
Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Wednesday reshaping the IMF isn't
"necessary for dealing with this Ukraine crisis." He called for the Senate to
take up the House's version of the assistance bill: "They could move it today."
The U.S. is the only major country that hasn't signed off on a 2010 package
of IMF reforms that increases the power of emerging countries in the lending
body and shifts money within its accounts so it can deliver more cash to
countries in economic peril. Ahead of a possible dispute between House and
Senate, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said blocking Ukraine aid over the issue of
the IMF would be "disgraceful."
The Senate bill condemns Russia's "unjustified military intervention" in
Crimea and instructs the president to target with visa bans and asset freezes
"any person ... for ordering, controlling or otherwise directing" acts that
undermine Ukraine's sovereignty.
Putin and other Russian officials have threatened retaliation for any
Western punishment over Russia's occupation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula. But
with the U.S. and its European allies ruling out military options, a broad
consensus has emerged among the Obama administration and Democratic and
Republican lawmakers that sanctions are the strongest option available.
McCain said the economic penalties needed to hit Russia "very hard."
Tensions are increasing ahead of a Russian-backed referendum this weekend in
Crimea, where voters may declare the territory independent and propose becoming
a Russian state. The U.S. and the European Union have both declared the vote as
Washington has been more strident in its measures thus far against Russia,
with European countries from Germany to Britain fretful that a sudden
deterioration in relations with Moscow could be harmful for their manufacturing
exporters and financial institutions. Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy
Yatsenyuk will meet Obama at the White House Wednesday.
Last week, Obama issued an executive action slapping visa restrictions on
Russian and other opponents of Ukraine's government in Kiev and authorizing
wider financial penalties against those involved in the military intervention
or in stealing state assets. None of the measures appeared aimed at Putin
European Union countries are also looking at tougher measures against
Moscow, though they are divided about how fast and how severe to set the
economic penalties. British and French diplomats say travel bans and asset
freezes are being considered for Russian officials.
In recent days Russian forces have extended their control over the
peninsula, where ethnic Russians are the majority. The Kremlin doesn't
recognize the Ukrainian government that came to power after protesters ousted
the country's pro-Russian president last month, and Putin and other officials
have cited strategic interests as well as the protection of ethnic Russians in
making the case for intervention in Crimea. Russia leases a major navy base
The Senate bill also directs the Obama administration to help Ukraine's
government recover assets stolen by deposed leader Viktor Yanukovych, his
family and former government officials. It provides $50 million for democracy
assistance and $100 million to help Ukraine and its neighbors with security.