The United States would increase sanctions against Russia and provide small-arms weapons to Ukraine and other countries under legislation introduced Wednesday by several Republican U.S. senators, including Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire.
“The goal is basically to decrease the likelihood of a military conflict,” Ayotte said.
The bill would expand economic sanctions by targeting individuals involved in last month’s annexation of the Ukraine state of Crimea by Russia, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as several Russian banks, energy suppliers and a Russian arms dealer.
She labeled as “tepid” the current sanctions imposed by the administration of President Barack Obama, saying they have had no effect on the broader Russian economy and haven’t slowed Russia’s moves. On Tuesday, more government buildings in eastern Ukraine were seized by pro-Russian armed militants.
“My sense is Vladimir Putin is emboldened,” Ayotte said.
The bill comes one month after Ayotte visited the troubled region. The bill authorizes Obama to provide up to $100 million in small arms anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons to Ukraine, but Ayotte said senators sponsoring the bill do not advocate a U.S. military “boots on the ground” approach.
“(The bill) provides, through tougher sanctions, an incentive for Russia to stop further aggression,” she said.
The bill, though, may have a tough road, as the White House has already indicated in media reports that it would reserve such sanctions if Russia engages in more severe actions.
“My question is what is the administration waiting for? Are they waiting for full-fledged Russian troops over the border of Ukraine? Well, then it’s too late,” she said.