Cantor Wants to Punish Putin

The House majority leader says he’s asked committees to look at additional penalties against Russia.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin chairs a government meeting in his Novo-Ogaryovo residence, outside Moscow on March 5, 2014.
National Journal
Jordain Carney
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Jordain Carney
March 18, 2014, 2:41 p.m.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion is warn­ing that it could take ad­di­tion­al steps against Rus­sia, and it looks like it will have an un­usu­al ally: House Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Eric Can­tor.

The Vir­gin­ia Re­pub­lic­an, a fre­quent crit­ic of the pres­id­ent, said Tues­day that he’s asked com­mit­tees to “ex­am­ine ad­di­tion­al steps that can be taken to im­pose great­er costs on Rus­sia.”

Can­tor’s com­ment fol­lows heightened ten­sions between the two coun­tries, as Rus­si­an Pres­id­ent Vladi­mir Putin, ig­nor­ing dir­ect warn­ings from U.S. and EU of­fi­cials, signed a treaty to make Crimea part of Rus­sia.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion an­nounced sanc­tions against sev­en Rus­si­an of­fi­cials Monday, a move Can­tor said that he backs. But he ad­ded that the “list must be dra­mat­ic­ally ex­pan­ded to ex­ert real pres­sure.”

And White House spokes­man Jay Car­ney warned Tues­day that more steps could be com­ing.

“You have seen some des­ig­na­tions already, and there are more to come,” Car­ney said. “I wouldn’t, if I were you, in­vest in Rus­si­an equit­ies right now un­less you were go­ing short.”

Can­tor didn’t spe­cify what ac­tion com­mit­tee mem­bers could take, but he said Rus­sia’s mem­ber­ship in the G-8 should be re­voked, the United States should con­sider provid­ing mil­it­ary sup­port to the Ukraine, and the U.S. should work with NATO to “re­as­sure oth­er coun­tries threatened by Rus­sia.”

The House passed a res­ol­u­tion last week con­demning Rus­sia for its in­cur­sion in­to Crimea and back­ing a push to send in­ter­na­tion­al mon­it­ors to the re­gion. It also backed giv­ing $1 bil­lion in loan guar­an­tees to Ukraine, but the Sen­ate is push­ing to in­clude In­ter­na­tion­al Mon­et­ary Fund re­forms — which House Re­pub­lic­ans have balked at.

Can­tor also pressed for a boost in nat­ur­al-gas ex­ports to Ukraine. Re­pub­lic­ans in both cham­bers have ar­gued that this could help lessen that coun­try’s de­pend­ence on Rus­sia.

And though Sec­ret­ary of State John Kerry last week de­fen­ded the “re­set” of the U.S.-Rus­si­an re­la­tion­ship un­der the pres­id­ent, Can­tor said that a re­as­sess­ment of “our en­tire strategy” is needed, adding that he looks “for­ward to work­ing with Pres­id­ent Obama and his ad­min­is­tra­tion to con­front the brazen chal­lenge to in­ter­na­tion­al se­cur­ity posed by Pres­id­ent Putin’s ag­gres­sion.”

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