The PJ Tatler

Congress Wants to Hit Russia with Harsher Sanctions

About time.

U.S. lawmakers were expected on Friday to approve new sanctions on Russian weapons companies and investors in the country’s high-tech oil projects, putting more U.S. pressure on President Vladimir Putin for interference in eastern Ukraine.

Late on Thursday, the Senate and House of Representatives unanimously passed the Ukraine Freedom Support Act. A House panel made a small change and sent the bill back to the Senate for a last vote expected as soon as late Friday.

President Barack Obama has said he opposes further sanctions on Russia unless Europe is on board.

The bill, which will be sent to Obama to sign, requires him to apply sanctions on Russian state-owned arms exporter Rosoboronexport and other defense companies Congress says contribute to instability in Ukraine, Georgia and Syria.

It requires Obama to penalize global companies that make large investments in crude oil drilling projects in deep waters and the Arctic.

The penalties go beyond U.S. and EU sanctions imposed in September on the world’s largest oil companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp and BP Plc.

Whether President Obama is willing to sign this is still up in the air — he’s in his typical “lead from behind” mode and is awaiting approval from European allies to do anything else. The bipartisan support for new sanctions should put pressure on him to be bolder. Then again, he isn’t exactly known for being respectful of the legislative branch’s wishes or responsibilities.