Obama Rolls Out Visa Bans in Anti-Putin Retaliation

But the administration has yet to target any individuals.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin gestures during his meeting with Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev and Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko in Putin's Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, on March 5, 2014.
National Journal
Jordain Carney
March 6, 2014, 4:44 a.m.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion sent Rus­sia a warn­ing shot Thursday, say­ing it will tar­get in­di­vidu­als and groups tied to the crisis in Ukraine with fin­an­cial sanc­tions and visa bans.

The State De­part­ment will block visas needed to travel to the U.S. for Ukrain­i­an and Rus­si­an in­di­vidu­als who it be­lieves have threatened the “sov­er­eignty and ter­rit­ori­al in­teg­rity of Ukraine,” White House press sec­ret­ary Jay Car­ney said.

The visa bans are in ad­di­tion to the 20 Ukrain­i­an of­fi­cials tar­geted by the de­part­ment for the gov­ern­ment’s crack­down against demon­strat­ors last month.

Pres­id­ent Obama also signed an ex­ec­ut­ive or­der that will al­low fin­an­cial sanc­tions against in­di­vidu­als and of­fi­cials who have un­der­mined the Ukrain­i­an gov­ern­ment, vi­ol­ated the coun­try’s ter­rit­ori­al in­teg­rity, mis­used state funds, or tried to take con­trol of part of the coun­try without the ap­prov­al of the gov­ern­ment in Kiev, a seni­or ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial said.

The of­fi­cial ad­ded that these sanc­tions can tar­get Ukrain­i­an and Rus­si­an in­di­vidu­als, or those who have provided sup­port or are con­trolled by them.

Car­ney called the ex­ec­ut­ive or­der “a flex­ible tool that will al­low us to sanc­tion those who are most dir­ectly in­volved in destabil­iz­ing Ukraine, in­clud­ing the mil­it­ary in­ter­ven­tion in Crimea.”

And though no in­di­vidu­als have yet been hit with the sanc­tions or a visa ban, an­oth­er seni­or ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial stressed, “This au­thor­ity is now in place. and we will be look­ing to use it as ap­pro­pri­ate.”

The State De­part­ment can also re­voke visas if a tar­geted in­di­vidu­al already has one. 

“We’ve been pre­par­ing very quickly this ex­ec­ut­ive or­der; we be­lieve that there need to be costs and con­sequences for Rus­sia for what they’ve already done in Crimea,” a seni­or ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial said, adding that in­di­vidu­als in­volved in the re­cent ten­sions should be “on no­tice.”

Thursday morn­ing’s an­nounce­ment is the latest move by the U.S. gov­ern­ment to try to isol­ate Rus­sia for its in­cur­sion in­to Crimea. The Pentagon an­nounced earli­er this week that it sus­pen­ded all dir­ect mil­it­ary in­volve­ment with Rus­sia.

How Thursday’s de­cision will im­pact Rus­si­an Pres­id­ent Vladi­mir Putin’s de­cision mak­ing is murky at best. As a seni­or ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial said earli­er this week, “We in this ad­min­is­tra­tion have made it a prac­tice to not look in­to Vladi­mir Putin’s soul.”

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