- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A group of influential Senate Republicans called on the Obama administration Wednesday to take more aggressive steps toward containing Russian President Vladimir Putin and preventing Russian military aggression in Eastern Europe.

With frustration mounting in Washington over what the administration has described as Russian meddling in Ukraine, the senators proposed legislation that would require ramped up U.S. support for NATO while paving the way for far more sweeping sanctions against Russia than the White House has yet been willing to apply.

Specifically, the “Russian Aggression Prevention Act of 2014” would push the Obama administration to bite down with sanctions against Russia’s government-owned gas monopoly Gazprom, weapons exporter Rosoboronexport and oil giant Rosneft.

“Rather than react to events as they unfold, which has been the policy of this administration, we need to inflict more direct consequences on Russia prior to Vladimir Putin taking additional steps that will be very difficult to undo,” Sen. Bob Corker, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in introducing the legislation.

The bill takes a “three-prong approach to prevent the situation from becoming far worse,” said Mr. Corker, who was joined by 20 Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, John McCain of Arizona, and others, as co-sponsors to the legislation.

“This bill will strengthen NATO, impose tough sanctions to deter Russia and support non-NATO allies of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia,” Mr. Corker added.

The administration has already made moves to level sanctions against a growing number of Russian officials and corporations over the deteriorating situation in Ukraine, but has stopped short of targeting such key Moscow-run outfits as Gazprom and Rosoboronexport.

The legislation proposed Wednesday would change that.

If Mr. Putin has not “substantially” withdrawn Russian military forces from the Ukrainian border or “halted its destabilizing activities” in Ukraine within seven days of the bill’s enactment, the United States must respond by imposing sanctions against Russia’s state-controlled energy- and weapons-exporting monopolies, along with their related banking interests, the legislation states.

The sanctions would specifically target “Sberbank, VTB Bank, Vnesheconombank, Gazprombank, Gazprom, Novatek, Rosneft, and Rosoboronexport; along with their Russian-owned subsidiaries and senior Russian national executives, the legislation states.

Separately, the bill calls for beefing up overall U.S. assistance “and force posture” in Europe and Eurasia, including expanded support for Poland and the Baltic states, along with a strengthening of U.S.-German cooperation on global and European security issues.

It also calls for an acceleration of European and NATO missile defense efforts currently being pursued by the Obama administration.

It was not immediately clear Wednesday afternoon how quickly the bill could be expect to move through committee or reach the Senate floor for a full vote.

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