Sanctions against Russia for Ukraine actions working – and more may be on the way
April 16th, 2014
10:05 PM ET
4 months ago

Sanctions against Russia for Ukraine actions working – and more may be on the way

(CNN) – Sanctions imposed against Russia are working as a deterrent, President Barack Obama and other White House senior administration officials said Wednesday in a detailed defense and explanation of the U.S. response to the escalating crisis in Ukraine.

And new sanctions could be imposed as early as Friday, with key Putin allies, institutions and top oligarchs among the targets, other senior administration officials said.

Obama told CBS News Wednesday that the current sanctions are hurting Russia’s economy and will have negative long-term consequences.

“What I’ve said consistently is that each time Russia takes these kinds of steps that are designed to destabilize Ukraine and violate their sovereignty, that there are going to be consequences,” he said. “And what you’ve already seen is the Russian economy weaker, capital fleeing out of Russia. Mr. Putin’s decisions are not just bad for Ukraine, over the long term, they’re going to be bad for Russia.”

Senior administration officials are in Brussels coordinating the rollout of the new sanctions with European allies. All parties are waiting for the results of talks set for Thursday involving Russia, Ukraine, the United States and the European Union. Secretary of State John Kerry is representing the United States in those talks in Geneva. Expectations for a breakthrough at the talks are low.

White House officials now say that sectoral sanctions – those that cut off a portion of the Russian economy - will not be enacted unless Russia attempts a full-on invasion of Ukraine. Last month, Obama signed an executive order giving the United States the power to impose such sanctions.

Administration outlines state of play in Ukraine

During meeting with journalists Wednesday, senior administration officials laid out their analysis of the militants in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s thinking and what might be next.

The groups of heavily armed, highly coordinated militants who have stormed government buildings and caused violent unrest in cities and towns across eastern Ukraine are viewed by the United States as still very small - for example, a hundred or a thousand people within a city of more than a million - and not at all reflective of the desires of the vast majority of the population there.

When asked why the United States won’t provide arms to Ukraine to assist in quickly quashing the Russia-backed elements, U.S. officials said they don’t want to risk a violent escalation or start a proxy war with Russia. The White House lauds the restraint that Ukraine itself has employed. And the administration has dismissed Putin’s claims that Ukraine is on the brink of civil war.

Obama said that Putin doesn’t want a military conflict, either, and emphasized that Ukraine should determine its relationships with other countries.

“They’re not interested in any kind of military confrontation with us, understanding that our conventional forces are significantly superior to the Russians. We don’t need a war,” he said. “What we do need is a recognition that countries like Ukraine can have relationships with a whole range of their neighbors and it is not up to anybody, whether it’s Russia or the United States or anybody else, to make decisions for them.”

The senior administration officials elaborated on their view of Putin’s mindset: The takeover of Crimea wasn’t planned, but Putin took advantage of Ukraine’s instability after the ousting of its pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych. They believe Putin positioned some 40,000 troops along Ukraine’s eastern border to keep exploiting Ukraine’s vulnerabilities and to see what he might get away with. The move also provides an option to invade.

The White House believes Putin was truly surprised by the international reaction to Crimea because of previous inaction after other incidents, such as Russia’s movements into Georgia. Ultimately, they believe that Putin wants to establish a sphere of direct influence to control Ukraine’s foreign and economic policy.

Senior officials say Putin has deeply wanted two things: broader international influence and an expanded Russian economy. But his actions thus far have crushed both of those goals and in fact have pushed Ukraine far closer to alignment with the West and away from Russia. It has even potentially strained Russia’s relationship with China. In addition, Crimea, which is enormously expensive to maintain, will now bring far more burden to Russia than benefit.

The senior administration officials believe that Putin keeps initiating contact with Obama and other world leaders to show the world that he still has the ability to engage and to appear reasonable. He is also calibrating his moves to see how far he can go.

The officials said they want to keep that window of diplomacy open in continued hopes of de-escalation, even though they now say they have very little confidence that a reduction of tension will come via Thursday’s talks. The White House sees this as a fluid crisis that will evolve for a long time, and in the short term - maybe even the medium term or long term—Crimea will effectively be Russia’s.


Filed under: Obama administration • Russia • Ukraine • Vladimir Putin
soundoff (40 Responses)
  1. Andrew T

    Are the biblical prophecies in the book of Revelations falling into place one by one? This one – that no one without the mark of the beast (today's Sodom and Gomorrah, the US with its gay rights, etc) may buy or sell.

    April 17, 2014 03:04 am at 3:04 am |
  2. freddie nerk

    What nonsense. Japan stock market is off by 14% too. The overall economy is sick. Hurting Russia is dumb now. Better to pressure Kiev to tone down their fascism and negotiate with Russia. It was silly for the US and EU to meddle.

    April 17, 2014 03:15 am at 3:15 am |
  3. Алексей

    I do not fell any sunctions right here in Moscow. Our company sales 1.5Xed since the beggning of april. SO continue to push Oligarchs to invest back in Russia.

    April 17, 2014 04:06 am at 4:06 am |
  4. Daveyo

    Sanctions my asso USA and E.U. You the ones started this mess in the first place by your western Oligarches elite who attempted to seize Crimea to shut off the Russian Naval Fleet of access to the Med Sea, and now you also targeted the rich farmland of Ukraine so you can control the worlds food supply. Shame – Shame on you in your efforts to put and strengthen your plans for the NWO.

    I can't hardly wait for the day when your T-Notes gets put on the market for the run, and then your bigshot USA currency goes bankrupt and declared worthless, and your economy goes completely into ruin, albiet you declaring Martial Law at the same time and putting your citizens into the FEMA camps and killing your own USA Citizens and seizing everything in USA so you can stay afloat and be above water. Don't think for one minute you declaring yourself bankrupt will get you out of 18 Trillion of Debt. No sireee, you gonna pay it off even if it means you selling all you have in USA to cover that debt. Understand???? If not you will be bye bye, and the world will put the financial and economic sanctions on you.

    See how easy it can get, nice huh. What you do to others, others will do the same to you. What goes around will come around.

    So help me that day is coming and when it does, hands down, USA will be finished forever. Your dominance comes to an end, you will destroy yourselves by your own selves. Its that simple.

    April 17, 2014 04:12 am at 4:12 am |
  5. M

    You underestimate the tradition of Soviet violence against its present and potential future citizens. Where they come, people suffer, get tormented and, if they are lucky, quickly die – in millions, and then they come in and take over all that's left. It is not about mere political or economic influence.

    April 17, 2014 04:13 am at 4:13 am |
  6. Isobel

    Unbelievable lies by the White House. Sanctions 'working' how exactly? The US has destabilised Ukraine by interfering in the politics, the result of which was unpopular with many people in the south and east of the country, where there is a large ethnic Russian population.

    The US encouraged the rise of the 'ultranationalists' including the Svoboda party, members of which were banned from the US just last year for anti Semiticism/Nazis beliefs; they are well known as a neo Nazi Party. When Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov expressed concern to Sec Kerry about them recently, Sec Kerry's response was that Svoboda wanted to become 'more mainstream'. Just like the National Socialist Party in Germany in the 1930s?

    Obama has falsely stated Kosovo had a referendum, stated support for the Iraq war having always denounced and made false allegations about Russia.

    Sec Kerry has falsely denied that the neo Nazis in Kiev are a threat to ethnic Russians in Ukraine, despite the proof existing that they are.

    I question the statement about the strain on relationship with China; in fact both Russia and China have just reaffirmed their close ties.

    “What I’ve said consistently is that each time Russia takes these kinds of steps that are designed to destabilize Ukraine and violate their sovereignty, that there are going to be consequences,” he said. After what the US did in Kiev, with I have to say as a Brit, UK Government disgraceful support, and we also have Hague making similiar false statements to Sec Kerry, re denying threat to Russians from neo Nazis in particular.

    The White House is entirely responsible for what happened in Crimea, Putin reacted to what happened in Kiev. The majority population of Crimea are Russian and they voted to join Russia. Some of them have expressed extreme anger about the reaction of the world trying to prevent their choice.

    The US has a great deal to answer for in particular in the encouragement of the rise of neo Nazis in Kiev; so far, Sec Kerry has failed to explain why he and John McCain had meetings with Svoboda and why the US administration (and their allies) have openly encouraged known neo Nazis to take office and become, as Sec Kerry put it, 'more mainstream'.

    April 17, 2014 05:10 am at 5:10 am |
  7. Jacob

    All covert operations in Ukraine has not secrets to the world.
    CIA Director John Brennan secretly arrived in Kiev on April 12 , but the mystery was already in the media on the same day in Ukraine and Russia . In Kiev, the Director of the CIA gave the green light for the operation to neutralize the Russian invaders by Ukrainian military and mercenaries Greystone Limited. In Youtube has a lot of evidence that Ukraine had Greystone. After leaving the CIA director , began operation in Ukraine sent troops against the Russian invaders , but all around the world know that the Russian invaders in Ukraine is not, in Ukraine the people revolted against the new Ukrainian authorities , this information is not only aware of the CIA, is simply ridiculous . As a result, local civilians suffered 13 wounded , 3 killed, none of the Russian military had not seen since they were not there and then the Ukrainian army sided with the people. The result is zero . A failing operation , CIA intelligence zero .
    CIA gets paid for such children fighting , how can you be so blind ?

    April 17, 2014 05:32 am at 5:32 am |
  8. letmeeatcake

    ...hahaha...sanctions working...hahaha!...sanctions never work iraq, iran, north korea...but sanctions working...OH! biting!
    sanctions working in russia! hahaha! doyou think if russia willing to risk war that it never consider the sanctions...hahahahahahaha!...so funny!

    April 17, 2014 05:50 am at 5:50 am |
  9. Rous

    EU must stop buying Russian oil first of all.
    Oil sales give Russia $ 198 billion, whereas natural gas only $ 20 billion.
    So why EU is thinkling about gas, while the main source of income for Russia comes from oil?

    April 17, 2014 06:02 am at 6:02 am |
  10. Madex

    Shoot yourself on the foot and accuse your opponent of feeling the pain. Funny indeed!. These sanctions in the eyes of the world are seen as toothless.

    April 17, 2014 06:12 am at 6:12 am |
  11. Gurgyl

    -–USSR needs bread, not wars. Communism fail while capitalist society survives without greed.

    April 17, 2014 06:52 am at 6:52 am |
  12. Tampa Tim

    McCain is salivating at the possibility we will be involved in another war. We are lucky he was not elected, but are unlucky that he stayed on as a senator to make sure government doesn't work.

    April 17, 2014 07:11 am at 7:11 am |
  13. Arnold Lockshin

    "Obama:t the current sanctions are hurting Russia’s economy and will have negative long-term consequences."

    Barak's childish glee is unmistakable. But ill-placed.

    He ought to be worriedabout saving the rump, CIA-installed regime in Kiev The Ukrainian people "are hurting" and will suffer "negative long-term consequences."

    Arnold Lockshin, political exile from the US living in Moscow

    April 17, 2014 07:20 am at 7:20 am |
  14. Simon Reez

    Surely the embargo has worked and is working. Putin must be on the way to surrender to the Americans while his soldiers are on their way out of Crimea and Eastern Ukraine. The people of Ukraine are celebrating the capitulation of Russia. We can hear the fireworks and see people dancing on the streets. Wow, the embargo has worked wonders. Everything was resolved without a single shot, and how quickly! Obama must be a genius.

    April 17, 2014 07:34 am at 7:34 am |
  15. The Real Tom Paine

    Cue right wing Daffy Duck response:

    " Its a lie! Its a lie!!"

    April 17, 2014 07:51 am at 7:51 am |
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