Sanctions could target Russian arms sector

The White House promised more economic sanctions against Russia after that country’s president, Vladimir Putin, moved Tuesday to formally annex the breakaway Ukrainian region of Crimea.

Press secretary Jay Carney suggested Russia’s arms sector could be targeted for additional sanctions, though he did not offer specifics.

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“There are individuals who fall into that category who have both a great deal of influence in Russia and on the Russian government and who also have substantial assets that can and would be affected by these kinds of sanctions,” Carney said.

President Obama on Monday signed executive orders permitting the government to levy financial penalties and travel restrictions on Russian business and government officials.

The White House also formally condemned Putin’s move to sign a draft treaty with political leaders in Crimea that would allow Russia to assume control of Crimea.

“Such action is a threat to international peace and security, and it is against international law,” Carney said. “We would not recognize this attempted annexation. As we have said, there are costs with such action.”

Obama has spoken with German Chancellor Angela Merkel about the next steps toward Ukraine.

Germany is seen as more reluctant to impose sanctions given its stronger economic ties to Russia, but Carney noted Merkel has made public comments that have been “quite clear and strong … on the need for further steps to be taken in response to Russia's actions.”

Germany will be among the Group of 7 countries meeting with the United States on the sidelines of an upcoming nuclear security summit in The Hague next week. Carney said Ukraine would be the “principle subject” of that discussion but refused to speculate about whether Russia might be expelled permanently from the G-8.

The White House defended the scope of the existing sanctions, despite a rebound in the Russian stock market suggesting investors were happy about the limited scope of the financial penalties implemented by the U.S. and Europe.

Carney said that, over the long term, Russia's actions would continue to “have an impact on their economy.”

“I wouldn't, if I were you, invest in Russian equities right now, unless you're going short,” Carney said.

Voters in Crimea on Sunday voted overwhelmingly to secede from Ukraine in a referendum denounced by the U.S. and its allies as illegal under Ukrainian and international law.