Lew: US prepared to slap more sanctions on Russia

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said Tuesday that the United States is prepared to take further action against Russia if the country doesn't move toward a peaceful resolution with Ukraine. 

Lew said the goal remains for the two nations to reach a negotiated peace agreement where Russia steps back from any aggression in Ukraine. 

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“I don’t think the goal here is to tighten sanctions, the goal here is for Russia to change its actions," Lew said during an event to discuss the upcoming U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue.

Lew said that while the situation is fluid, Russia is very aware that the next steps could plunge its already slow-growing economy into a recession. 

"The combination of political instability and economic impact based on sanctions has taken a very modest growth rate and brought it close to zero," Lew said during an event with the U.S.-China Business Council in Washington. 

The U.S. expectation is that Russia would prefer to avoid a hit to its economy. 

“We’ve made clear that the goal here is for Russia to change its actions to stop supporting separatists and to help reach a diplomatic resolution,” Lew said.

He said the Europeans also have made their intentions clear.

On Tuesday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko suspended a 10-day cease-fire that had done little to quiet clashes with pro-Russian separatists and hadn’t led a peace deal.

Lew said a negotiated resolution in Ukraine is needed where the “Ukrainian people get to control their own destiny.”

But he cautioned that every day there are new developments and that the United States hasn't laid out a specific threshold for when additional sanctions would kick into place.  

"We have made clear that we’re very prepared to take the next steps, should we need to on sanctions."