Not to be outdone, Russian President Vladimir Putin is striking back at the U.S. with his own sanctions against American officials, just moments after President Obama announced expanded sanctions on Russia.
Russia’s financial hit list targets a handful of senior White House officials, such as senior adviser Daniel Pfeiffer and deputy national security advisers Ben Rhodes and Caroline Atkinson.
The list, on Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, also includes key members of Congress, such as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid; House Speaker John Boehner; Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez; and Sen. John McCain, who just returned from a trip to Ukraine.
The U.S. officials on the list are now barred from entering Russia — but they don’t seem to be too concerned about it. In fact, the officials appeared pretty pleased to be caught up in this high-stakes diplomatic tit-for-tat.
“The speaker is proud to be included on a list of those willing to stand against Putin’s aggression,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said.
Another Boehner spokesman, Brendan Buck, tweeted to Pfeiffer a one-word missive after the news broke: Congratulations.
On a more sober note, Menendez used the news of his sanctioning to condemn Putin. “President Putin’s military invasion and annexation of Crimea is brutal, totally unacceptable, and sadly returns us to a period of Cold War aggression and hostility,” he said in a statement. “It doesn’t have to be this way, but if standing up for the Ukrainian people, their freedom, their hard-earned democracy, and sovereignty means I’m sanctioned by Putin, so be it.”
And McCain, amid rumors Russia’s sanctions list would come soon, told the Daily Beast this week he “would be honored” to be on that list.
“I guess this means my spring break in Siberia is off, my Gazprom stock is lost, and my secret bank account in Moscow is frozen,” McCain said in a statement after the sanctions list was announced. “Nonetheless, I will never cease my efforts on behalf of the freedom, independence, and territorial integrity of Ukraine, including Crimea.”
Reid, for his part, seems to have invented his own hashtag in a tweet addressed to the Russian leader: “President Putin, it’s one thing to pick on me, but I wouldn’t mess with Mary. @SenLandrieu #SanctionedByPutin.” Reid was referring to Sen. Mary Landrieu, who was also on the sanctions list, presumably because of her past criticism of Russia for barring American adoptions of Russian children.
Obama, speaking from the White House on Thursday, announced a raft of new sanctions to ramp up the economic pressure on Russia after it violated international law to annex Crimea. The new sanctions will apply to 20 senior members of the Russian government and other “cronies,” officials said, and the St. Petersburg-based Rossiya Bank will be “frozen out of the dollar.” The sanctions will also target Russia’s financial services, energy, mining, and engineering sectors.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin was rumored to be on the list as well, and he welcomed the possibility. “My Lithuanian-born mother would be proud her son made Vladimir Putin’s American enemies list,” Durbin said earlier this week. Unfortunately for the senator, he didn’t make the cut. We’ve reached out to Durbin to see how he feels about being left off the list.