A Democratic senator on the Foreign Relations Committee said it should be more up to Europe to stop Russian President Vladimir Putin’s territorial sweep of yet-to-be-determined magnitude.
But he suggested that a major sanctions effort focused on the financial sector could stop Putin’s hegemony in its tracks.
“I think we should go into this eyes wide open. It’s been pretty clear for awhile that Putin has an ambition to essentially recapture what he calls the near abroad, which is the group of former satellite states and republics,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said this morning on MSNBC.
“That’s what was going on in Georgia in 2008, that’s the motivation behind his invasion of Ukraine. And I guess what’s frustrating to me is why the Europeans aren’t more exercised about this, because, you know, five years ago, it was ridiculous to think that Putin would invade Ukraine and today maybe it’s ridiculous to think that he might someday take action against a country like Poland or Hungary or the Baltics,” he added.
“But it’s frankly in Europe’s interest to get tougher than the United States on an issue like economic sanctions. They really hold the power in terms of trying to tighten the purse strings on Putin because who knows who is next in this guy’s extraterritorial ambitions?”
Murphy said senators have been talking over the weekend and predicted that “you’ll see Republicans and Democrats pretty easily joining together to support a tough sanctions regime.”
“But, again, the importance here is convincing our Europeans that as dependent as they have become on Russian money over the years, it’s in their interest to draw a hard line,” he said.
Secretary of State John Kerry is planning to visit the new government in Kiev on Tuesday.
“What I hope he goes there to talk about is the fact that the IMF now, with the United States’ support, has to step up with a pretty big aid package, it’s gonna be in the neighborhood of, you know, $15 billion to $20 billion and it can’t come with strings attached that are too tough because that could undermine the political support for the new regime in Kiev,” Murphy said.
“Russia can’t operate without European banks, many of which are, frankly, laundering money from illicit activities,” he added. “There is an estimate that suggests that two-thirds of the money coming out of Russia every year come from illicit activities. If there was a combined sanctioning of the three largest Russian banks from the United States and from Europe, it would effectively shut down Russia’s economy. Add to that, visa restrictions on the old guards in Russia moving to and from their vacation homes in Europe and you would start to have a different dynamic on the ground.”