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.  
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Michael Catalin
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Michael Catalin
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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