WASHINGTON – At a hearing on the U.S. response to the crisis in Ukraine, U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today questioned why the Obama administration is “hiding beyond Europe” and waiting “until the damage is done” by Russia in Ukraine before applying tougher sanctions against some significant entities in key sectors of Russian economy. Last week, President Obama declared the U.S. trigger for applying “broad-based sectoral sanctions” on Russia would be the Kremlin’s interference with upcoming Ukrainian elections on May 25.
“We’ve got 40,000 [Russian] troops [on the Ukrainian border] intimidating people on the inside [of Ukraine]. We’ve got [Russian] black ops, little green men, doing the things they’re doing on the inside. We know it. We know [Russia’s] goal is to disrupt the election and discredit it so there is a massive setback to this young government [in Kiev],” said Corker. “I don’t understand the thinking of waiting until the damage is done and Russia has won to put in place things that matter.”
In defending the administration’s policy toward Russia’s actions in Ukraine, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland said, ”I don't think any of us should be satisfied with what we're seeing on the ground in Ukraine.”
Freedom House’s David Kramer warned against the U.S. holding off on further sanctions, arguing Russia is already engaged in disrupting the elections.
“U.S. strategy should shift to preventing Putin’s next moves by imposing crippling sanctions against more Russian banks, energy firms, and state-owned entities…It is a mistake, in my view, to wait either for Putin to move Russian tanks across the Ukrainian border or for him to disrupt the May 25 election…he has already done the latter,” said Kramer in his prepared testimony.
Senator Corker and 24 Senate Republicans have offered new legislation providing a strategic U.S. response to Russian aggression in Europe, which threatens regional security and prosperity that is critical for maintaining economic growth in the United States. In addition to strengthening NATO and supporting non-NATO allies of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia, the bill imposes tough sanctions to deter Russia, including four key Russian banks: Sberbank, VTB Bank, VEB Bank, Gazprombank, as well as on the Gazprom, Novatek, Rosneft energy monopolies, and Rosoboronexport, the major Russian arms dealer.