The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday called on President Biden to “dramatically escalate” sanctions to penalize Russia for “this act of naked aggression by the Kremlin dictator.”
Emerging from a classified briefing on Capitol Hill, Rep. Adam Schiff, California Democrat, said Russia should be cut off from the international financing system and Western capital.
“We have to hope that the sanctions that are imposed now are far more severe than anything we posted in 2014 and that they’re sustained as long as Russian forces occupy Ukraine,” Mr. Schiff said. “And I hope some will go on indefinitely.”
“The Russian people need to be made to understand the folly of their dictator,” he said.
Earlier this week, Mr. Biden announced a package of sanctions in response to Mr. Putin’s recognition of Moscow-backed separatist areas in eastern Ukraine and is expected to further penalize Russia following the full-scale invasion.
Congress failed to pass a package of concrete penalties aimed at the Kremlin after negotiations ground to a halt over competing proposals.
Negotiations between the two parties broke down largely over the timing of when sanctions would take place.
Republicans insisted that Russia face severe consequences before an invasion, while Democrats’ original proposal was to guarantee a bevy of sanctions after an attack.
Mr. Schiff said he stood by the Democrats’ position to delay sanctions.
“The sanctions were never going to deter Putin if he was determined to evade,” he said. “And as I said from the very beginning of the Russian accumulation of forces, it seemed to be apparent that this is what Putin was going to do and nothing was going to stop him.”
But he said the U.S. can now use economic leverage to “make the costs to the Kremlin unsustainable.”
The administration has warned that the U.S. itself may be impacted by the sanctions levied against Russia in the form of higher energy costs.
Republicans have been critical of President Biden for pursuing a climate agenda that burdens domestic energy producers and not taking steps to shore up the U.S. energy independence. Critics say the administration’s policies, such as halting domestic pipeline projects, give Russia key leverage over the global energy markets.
Mr. Schiff said on Thursday that now is not the time to walk back the U.S. climate change initiatives, despite Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
“I don’t think the response to Putin making war on Ukraine to be the dismantling of our protections against climate change,” he said. “I do think what ought to prompt is a wholesale effort to wean Europe off of Russian oil and gas so that Russia can no longer use that as leverage against Europe.”