Sen. Toomey: Make sanctions hurt Putin personally

 

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) said Monday that it’s time for the United States to impose sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin himself.

“What we know now is Putin deserves some blame for this,” Toomey said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” about the downing of Flight MH17 last week in Ukraine. 

“One of things we can do is go after financial sanctions on him that hit Putin personally, hit people close to him, his crony capitalist buddies who have collectively robbed the Russian people from so many billions of dollars,” he said. “We have some ability to do that, and we should.” 

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Some of Putin's closest allies have been hit by sanctions, including Yuri Kovalchuk, the largest shareholder of what the U.S. government has described as the personal bank of the Kremlin, and Andrei Fursenko, a presidential aide in Russia since 2012.

President Obama should make it clear Putin is an “international pariah,” Toomey said, adding that Putin is a “thug” and “an authoritarian dictator at this point.”

Toomey said tougher sanctions could undermine Putin’s authority but suggested they might not do much to change his behavior.

“I don’t think you’re necessarily going to get him to become a better actor, except maybe in the short-run out of his own personal interest,” he said. 

Russia’s role in the plane crash doesn’t matter so much at this point, but it eventually needs to be investigated, Toomey added.

The U.S. suspects Russia of recently transferring weaponry to pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. The U.S. suspects the rebels launched a Buk missile to take down the passenger jet last Thursday, which left nearly 300 people dead.

On Sunday, a representative for British Prime Minister David Cameron said he spoke directly to Putin in an evening phone call.

“The PM said that the tragedy had brought into sharp focus the consequences of destabilization in Eastern Ukraine,” the representative said. “The G-7 and EU had repeatedly called on President Putin to cease support for the separatists and to work with the rest of the world to find a peaceful resolution. Russia’s failure to do so had contributed to an appalling tragedy.”

European leaders are scheduled to meet Tuesday to discuss the possibility of further sanctions against Russia.