Tags: sen. ron johnson | russia | sanctions | moscow | president vladimir putin

Sen. Ron Johnson: Russian Sanctions Should Target Putin Allies

Sen. Ron Johnson: Russian Sanctions Should Target Putin Allies
Sen. Ron Johnson (Getty Images)

By    |   Saturday, 07 July 2018 09:43 AM

Sanctions against Russia would be more effective if they targeted oligarchs and allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., following a trip he took with fellow lawmakers to Moscow, the Washington Examiner reported.

"You do something and nobody ever sits back and analyzes, 'Well, is it working?'" said Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis. "I think you'd be hard-pressed to say that sanctions against Russia are really working all that well."

Johnson, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee for Europe, was part of a congressional delegation that met for roughly five hours last week with Russian diplomats and lawmakers. He voiced skepticism at the effectiveness of recent sanctions the U.S. imposed on Russia following claims of interference in the 2016 elections.

"I've always been concerned about the double-edged sword of economic sanctions can be used by Putin to blame America for any lack of economic progress — but again, on the ground, they don't seem to be having a real horrible economic effect, not in Moscow anyway," he said.

Johnson suggested other sanctions that targeted Putin's allies, such as those that restricted travel to the U.S., would be less likely to alienate the Russian people and could be more effective, saying, "They would love individuals who are sanctioned to have those sanctions released so they can start traveling around again," adding, "They do sting."

While meeting with Russian officials, Johnson, who also chairs the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, emphasized negotiations posed a delicate balance to build trust, but also not to show weakness.

"When ruthless strong people perceive weakness, they pounce," he said. "Russia wants to reconstitute, basically, its sphere of influence that they had in the Soviet Union. So, you understand that, and if you don't want to let that happen, you've got to push back with strength and resolve … but that doesn't mean that we have to be enemies.”

Sanctions have been used against Russia to counter aggressive acts including the 2014 annexation of Crimea and invasion of Ukraine, as well as Putin's support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Russia was also punished following the 2016 elections when former President Barack Obama expelled diplomats and intelligence officers from the U.S.

Johnson maintained claims of Russian interference in U.S. elections had been "blown way out of proportion," adding, "We need to really honestly assess what actually happened, what effect did it have, and what effect are our sanctions actually having, positively and negatively."

Johnson explained talks reached a stalemate when discussing Russian interference in U.S. elections, saying, "Nobody yielded."

"We would bring it up, and they would push back with all the ways we interfere with their politics in terms of funding of NGOs, and Radio Free Europe and Voice of America," he said. "We pushed back hard. I think they're certainly on notice that there should be no meddling in 2018."

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Sanctions against Russia would be more effective if they targeted oligarchs and allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., following a trip he took with fellow lawmakers to Moscow, the Washington Examiner reported. "You do something and nobody...
sen. ron johnson, russia, sanctions, moscow, president vladimir putin
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2018-43-07
Saturday, 07 July 2018 09:43 AM
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