President Barack Obama would be authorized to arm pro-Ukrainian forces and sanction Russian banks and oil companies under legislation introduced by the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The bill by Bob Corker of Tennessee will serve as the minority party’s counter-proposal in the Democratic Party- controlled Senate to steps taken by the administration.
Obama already has signed an executive order laying the basis for imposing sanctions on sectors of the Russian economy, including banking and energy. The administration has taken a slower approach to turning up the heat on economic sanctions, avoiding some of the very companies Corker’s bill would target for punishment.
Obama also has dismissed calls for arming Ukrainians.
“Do people actually think that somehow us sending some additional arms into Ukraine could potentially deter the Russian army?” he said April 28.
The measure would authorize sanctions on OAO Sberbank, VTB Group, Vnesheconombank, Gazprombank, NovaTek, OAO Rosneft and Rosoboronexport, as well as executives of those companies.
It would require Obama to impose visa bans and block their assets -- or issue a justification for waiving sanctions -- within a week of enactment, if Russia doesn’t remove forces from the Ukrainian border and cease activities that the U.S. believes are aimed at destabilizing the Kiev government.
The executive branch also would be authorized to spend as much as $100 million to send small arms, anti-tank and anti- aircraft weapons to Ukraine.
Speaking on the Senate floor, Corker said his measure seeks to “hit several important entities in the banking sector and the energy sector” until Russia pulls its troops bank and “they remove the black ops from inside the country that are fomenting” attacks.
“This bill imposes much deeper sanctions on Russia and signifies to them what price they would pay,” he said.
Officials from the Treasury Department and Obama’s national security staff have met with company executives as well as mutual-fund and hedge-fund managers to brief them on sanctions plans and the potential for impact on U.S. businesses.
Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew said earlier this week he has spoken with “quite a few” U.S. CEOs in the past couple of weeks as the administration prepared its latest round of sanctions.
“While they do express concerns -- on some occasions -- in terms of what it means for their business, they also express a deep understanding of the geopolitical importance of what we’re doing and unity with us,” Lew said April 28 on MSNBC.
Lew said the U.S. is moving on sanctions “in a systematic way, in a careful way” to give Russia a way to back away from their current policy.
The U.S. also has been coordinating sanctions with the European Union.
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