As tensions rise over uprisings by pro-Russian forces in Ukraine, speculation mounts over whether the Obama administration will consider sanctions against the financial assets of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
During a briefing at the White House on Tuesday in which all but two questions were about the Ukraine crisis, press secretary Jay Carney was asked whether sanctions against Putin's own assets were under discussion.
"I am not going to go through a list of the kinds of things that are under consideration with any specificity," Carney said, "except to say that we have broad authorities under the executive orders that the president signed to level sanctions. We are coordinating directly with our European partners and others on these issues."
Asked if he could say anti-Putin sanctions were off the table "without getting specific," the president's top spokesman replied that he was "not going to get into individual proposed sanctions and whether or not they are actively under consideration except to say that we are actively reviewing potential sanctions."
"And we'll certainly let you know if and when we take action in that arena."
After Putin's incursion into Crimea, the White House imposed sanctions against the personal assets of 31 Russians and one bank.
The idea of imposing sanctions on the Russian president's personal assets has been discussed increasingly by both Republicans and Democrats in Congress as the situation in Ukraine unfolds.
From India, where he was taking part in meetings on terrorism and security, Republican Rep. Robert Pittenger of North Carolina told Newsmax he favored anti-Putin sanctions.
"Putin is on the march, and Poland and all the former Soviet states are threatened again," said Pittenger, chairman of the House Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare.
Pittenger recalled a recent luncheon with ambassadors from the former Soviet states that was hosted by the German Marshall Fund of the United States, and said "they are all concerned about what Putin is doing. He's on a personal crusade to rebuild the former Soviet Union. I do support freezing his personal assets, because we have to do whatever we can to stop him."
But this opinion is by no means unanimous in Congress, even among conservative Republicans in the House.
"I think Putin would laugh at such a gesture," Republican Rep. Tom McClintock of California told Newsmax hours after Carney's remarks. "I doubt personal sanctions would affect him that much because he cultivates power. And he understands strength."
McClintock said "it appears to me that leveling the harshest possible economic sanctions against Russia and providing Ukraine with whatever it needs in military equipment is all Putin will understand."
"And we need to replace Russia as the top source of natural gas for Europe."
McClintock went on to quote Winston Churchill's famous October 1939 radio address: "I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. But perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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