A bipartisan group of senators is putting increasing pressure on the Obama administration to further sanction Russian President Vladimir Putin and provide Ukraine weapons to take on Russian-backed rebels.
Led by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), 10 senators wrote Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday raising concerns after news reports out of Europe indicated a faltering ceasefire agreement between Ukraine and Russian separatists. The lawmakers said that without more intervention from the United States and its allies, “a Russian-imposed military outcome will continue to unfold in Ukraine.”
“We urge the immediate tightening of international sanctions against Russia and the provision of defensive weapons to Ukraine so that it can defend its territorial sovereignty,” the senators wrote Kerry. “We must redouble allied efforts to ensure Ukraine’s long-term economic and political future as it undertakes courageous economic reforms in the face of Russian destabilization.”
The alarm in the Senate comes as a cease-fire that went into effect this week appears increasingly fragile, with rebels advancing further into Ukraine. U.S. officials have said they see Russian equipment continuing to roll into Ukraine over the border.
The senators show open disdain for Putin in the letter, calling him “delusional” for denying Russian backing for the separatists in eastern Ukraine and concluding that the Russian president has “selfishly gambled his own nation’s economic and international standing and the futures of the Russian people on this tragically misplaced paranoia.”
Such barbs from U.S. lawmakers have clearly aggravated Putin in the past. Last year, Putin put Durbin and McCain on a list of officials to be sanctioned by Russia, a move that was greeted as a badge of honor by the duo. The United States has sanctioned Russia repeatedly since the conflict with Ukraine began last March, but the lawmakers said Friday the Obama administration should “consider imposing additional sanctions and penalties that will increase the cost of Putin’s actions,” including booting Russia off a global financial system.
The letter to Kerry on Friday was also signed by Republican Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire as well as Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Bill Nelson of Florida.