Corker: Obama has ‘failed to affect’ Putin

Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said Monday that the Senate must pass a bipartisan sanctions bill to stop Russia’s invasion of Ukraine because the administration's actions aren't enough.

Corker’s comment came the same day President Obama announced he would impose sanctions against top Russian government officials involved in Russia’s military action against Crimea.

ADVERTISEMENT
“The president’s announcement of additional sanctions against Russia represents a step in the right direction, but won't do enough to modify Russian behavior,” Corker said. “‎So far, the administration’s calibrated actions have failed to affect [Russian President] Vladimir Putin’s decisions, and that has to change.”

After Obama’s announcement, Putin said a Sunday vote in Crimea proves that the region wants to be independent from Ukraine and would rather align itself with Russia. U.S. lawmakers have decried the poll results, saying the presence of the Russian military intimidated Crimea voters.

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) tried to set up a vote on a bipartisan bill from Corker and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) but some Republicans objected to proceeding to the bill. 

Reid said he wanted to vote on the bill before the Senate left for a weeklong recess, but since he was unable to get agreement from other Republicans, passing the bill would be his first priority when the Senate returns next week.

“We should pass the bipartisan Senate bill to assist Ukraine, expand the breadth of our sanctions further by targeting more of Russia's economic and political elites, and enhance our military cooperation with our partners in central and eastern Europe,” Corker said. “As events unfold, the United States should explore direct security assistance to the government of Ukraine.”

The Senate bill would provide loan guarantees to Ukraine, imposes broader sanctions against Russians involved in the invasion of Crimea and reforms parts of the International Monetary Fund so that it can act more quickly to aid countries in a similar situation before things get out of hand.

The House passed a different Ukraine aid package, that included Obama’s $1 billion pledge in loans to Ukraine to promote democracy, but senators have said that bill doesn’t do enough to pressure Russia to back out of the region.