President Barack Obama will sign legislation ramping up economic sanctions on Russia for its actions in Ukraine, but with some reservations.
Russian President Vladimir Putin listens during a meeting in Moscow's Kremlin, Russia on Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014. The surprise Central Bank decision to raise the rate to 17 percent from 10.5 percent came in the early hours on Tuesday in a desperate attempt to prop up the troubled currency. It’s the biggest interest rate hike since 1998, the year when Russia defaulted on its sovereign bonds. (AP Photo/RIA Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Presidential Press Service)
“The president does intend to sign the piece of legislation that was passed by Congress, but we do have some concerns about that legislation because, while it preserves flexibility, it does send conflicting messages to our allies because it includes some sanctions language that does not reflect the consultations that are ongoing,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday.
Congress gave final approval over the weekend to the “Ukraine Freedom Support Act,” as Russia is currently facing a plummeting currency. The bill authorizes new sanctions on weapons companies, high-tech oil projects, and provides lethal and non-lethal military aid to the Kiev government. It also authorizes the federal government to apply sanctions to state-owned arms exporters that members of Congress say are contributing to the instability in Ukraine.
“Typically these kind of consultations we’ve had that have allowed the successful implementation of he strategy, have allowed us to have private conversations with our European allies about our strategies and next steps forward,” Earnest added. “This is a rather public airing about other elements of our strategy that we would prefer not have.”
The sanctions bill doesn’t mandate sanctions, providing Obama with flexibility.
The measure was sponsored by Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and ranking member Bob Corker (D-N.J.).
Earnest believes that the Russian people will eventually see that Russian President Vladimir Putin is the cause of the country’s economic problems.
The rouble reportedly dropped about 10 percent against the dollar to its lowest level since 1998. This is in part because of U.S. sanctions, but other factors also play a role, said Jason Furman, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.
“If I was chairman of President Putin’s council of economic advisers, I would be extremely concerned,” Furman joked Tuesday. “They are between a rock and a hard place on economic policy. The combination of our sanctions, the uncertainty they’ve created for themselves, and the falling price of oil has put their economy on the brink of crisis.”