Jabbing Obama, Senate Republicans Seek New Russia Sanctions

GOP senators call for sanctions and $100 million in direct military aide to Ukraine.

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 12: Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) speaks to reporters before going into the Senate Chamber to vote, on October 12, 2013 in Washington, DC. The shut down is currently in it's 12th day.  
National Journal
Michael Catalini
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Michael Catalini
April 30, 2014, 7:09 a.m.

The Sen­ate’s top Re­pub­lic­an and the lead­ing GOP sen­at­or on the For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee are in­tro­du­cing le­gis­la­tion Wed­nes­day aimed at de­ter­ring Rus­si­an ag­gres­sion in Ukraine, and de­liv­er­ing a muted re­buke of Pres­id­ent Obama’s hand­ling of the crisis in the east­ern part of the coun­try.

“The cur­rent sanc­tions have failed to im­pose the type of cost that will change Vladi­mir Putin’s cal­cu­lus,” ac­cord­ing to a state­ment out­lining the le­gis­la­tion ob­tained by Na­tion­al Journ­al. “Ab­sent such costs, Putin will con­tin­ue to destabil­ize Ukraine and may in­vade.”

Sen. Bob Cork­er of Ten­ness­ee, the rank­ing Re­pub­lic­an on the For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee, spoke on the Sen­ate floor Wed­nes­day about the need for le­gis­la­tion, say­ing that NATO should be strengthened, Rus­sia should be pen­al­ized for its ac­tions, and non-NATO mem­bers should be sup­por­ted, as well.

The bill, whose back­ers also in­clude Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell of Ken­tucky, Minor­ity Whip John Cornyn of Texas and Sen. John Mc­Cain of Ari­zona, comes after the pas­sage of sanc­tions against Rus­sia that had bi­par­tis­an sup­port and sug­gests a grow­ing rift between con­gres­sion­al Re­pub­lic­ans and the White House.

Cork­er, who said he and his col­leagues wrote the bill as if they were “sit­ting in the White House”, non­ethe­less said Re­pub­lic­ans felt as if they could not wait to un­veil the bill un­til some Demo­crats ap­proved of it. Cork­er also said he told his Demo­crat­ic com­mit­tee coun­ter­part, Chair­man Bob Men­en­dez of New Jer­sey, of his in­ten­tions be­fore in­tro­du­cing the bill and that Re­pub­lic­ans went ahead after Demo­crats balked at Ir­an sanc­tions earli­er in this Con­gress.

“We just felt like with the es­sence of time and just our sin­cere con­cern about what’s hap­pen­ing in east­ern Ukraine, it was bet­ter to just go ahead and get something out there and hope that it’ll have some ef­fect on be­ha­vi­or,” Cork­er said.

“The lack of a force­ful, ef­fect­ive re­sponse by the ad­min­is­tra­tion and West­ern lead­ers has giv­en Putin little reas­on to ex­pect that fur­ther ag­gres­sion will be pun­ished,” Sen. Dan Coats of In­di­ana, a co­spon­sor, said in an email. “We are in­tro­du­cing tough dip­lo­mat­ic, eco­nom­ic, and fin­an­cial sanc­tions, and I am hope­ful that Pres­id­ent Obama will sup­port our ef­fort. If he is will­ing to lead by tak­ing ac­tion that demon­strates Amer­ic­an dis­ap­prov­al of Rus­sia’s ac­tions, I am con­fid­ent that a bi­par­tis­an ma­jor­ity in Con­gress will stand with him.”

The sen­at­ors poin­ted to vi­ol­ence in east­ern Ukraine, in­clud­ing the shoot­ing of the may­or of Kharkiv and the tak­ing of host­ages af­fil­i­ated with the Or­gan­iz­a­tion for Se­cur­ity and Co­oper­a­tion in Europe, as part of their im­petus for push­ing the le­gis­la­tion, al­though its pro­spects for pas­sage ap­pear slight.

The le­gis­la­tion calls the an­nex­a­tion of Crimea il­leg­al and calls for new sanc­tions against Rus­si­an of­fi­cials in­volved with the takeover. It would also give $100 mil­lion in dir­ect mil­it­ary aid to Ukraine and au­thor­ize the ex­port of U.S. nat­ur­al gas to Ukraine, which re­lies heav­ily on Rus­sia as a source of en­ergy.

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