U.S. Prepares Aid to Ukraine, Sanctions on Russia

A plan of action is coming together.

Berkut riot police hang a Ukrainian flag from a street light on Independence Square on February 19, 2014 in Kiev, Ukraine.
National Journal
Elahe Izadi
March 4, 2014, 3:35 a.m.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has be­gun to show how it’s go­ing to re­spond to the crisis in East­ern Europe: aid to Ukraine, and sanc­tions on Rus­sia.

As Sec­ret­ary of State John Kerry ar­rives in Ukraine, the White House an­nounced an aid pack­age of $1 bil­lion in loan guar­an­tees to the na­tion, meant to help Ukrain­i­ans suf­fer­ing from re­duced en­ergy sub­sidies. Ad­di­tion­ally, the U.S. is of­fer­ing tech­nic­al as­sist­ance with elec­tions, and to com­bat cor­rup­tion and re­cov­er stolen as­sets.

The State De­part­ment began pre­par­ing sanc­tions Monday that it would en­act if Rus­sia con­tin­ued its ag­gres­sion in Ukraine, spokes­man Jen Psaki told re­port­ers. Those sanc­tions could be levied on top-rank­ing Rus­si­an of­fi­cials.

Pres­id­ent Obama likely won’t face much op­pos­i­tion to sanc­tions in Con­gress. Key mem­bers of Con­gress have signaled that they sup­port sanc­tions on Rus­sia and aid to Ukraine. Sen­ate For­eign Re­la­tions Chair­man Robert Men­en­dez said his com­mit­tee is pre­par­ing a $1 bil­lion aid pack­age. House Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Eric Can­tor said “the House will re­view how we can ex­ped­i­tiously con­sider as­sist­ance to Ukraine in the form of loan guar­an­tees.” He ad­ded that the House will see what it can do it provide ad­di­tion­al sanc­tions on top Rus­si­an of­fi­cials, sim­il­ar to the Mag­nit­sky Act, which bans travel and freezes cer­tain as­sets of Rus­si­an hu­man rights vi­ol­at­ors.

House For­eign Af­fairs Com­mit­tee Chair­man Ed Royce told CNN’s Jake Tap­per that Con­gress is go­ing to be ” very bullish on do­ing what we need to do to make … Putin feel the heat.”

There is con­cern, though, that Amer­ic­an sanc­tions without European back­ing won’t do much to sway Rus­si­an Pres­id­ent Vladi­mir Putin, par­tic­u­larly since Rus­sia ac­counts for less than 2 per­cent of Amer­ic­an trade. Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel, a key fig­ure in the European Uni­on, ap­pears to fa­vor in­ter­na­tion­al mon­it­ors and dir­ect talks over sanc­tions on Rus­sia.

Putin ar­gued at a Tues­day press con­fer­ence that an “un­con­sti­tu­tion­al coup” meant Rus­sia re­served the right to use force as “a last re­sort.” He also didn’t sound wor­ried about sanc­tions.

“All threats against Rus­sia are coun­ter­pro­duct­ive and harm­ful,” Putin told re­port­ers.

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