WASHINGTON — Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress on Tuesday called on President Joe Biden to impose severe sanctions on Russia after the country declared a broad section of eastern Ukraine independent before sending troops into the region.
Members of Congress appear unified, for the moment, that the most the United States should do is restrict Russia’s economy, not send U.S. soldiers to face Russian troops in the streets of Ukraine. Leaders also began discussing emergency supplemental funding that would allow the U.S. to financially penalize Russian oligarchs.
New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Russian President Vladimir Putin declaring Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics independent was “an act of unprovoked aggression and a brazen violation of international law.”
“Despite repeated efforts to open the door to diplomacy, Vladimir Putin has chosen the path of conflict,” Menendez said, while calling for the U.S. and European countries to impose “crushing sanctions.”
The panel’s ranking Republican, Jim Risch of Idaho, said in a statement Russia’s actions “are tantamount to an invasion.”
“The U.S. and our allies must immediately implement harsh sanctions that Putin cannot ignore,” he said.
Risch’s statement also included an appeal to pass a bill imposing sanctions on Russia and providing more assistance to Ukraine.
Biden on Monday issued sanctions on new investment, trade and finance in the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic — the two separatist regions Putin declared independent earlier in the day.
Biden announced additional sanctions against Russia on Tuesday after that country’s legislature gave Putin authority to send military forces outside the country. Those sanctions will hit two Russian financial institutions, Russian sovereign debt and Russian elites and their families.
Biden also said that he had authorized moving U.S. forces and equipment already in Europe to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — all of which are members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Speaking from the East Room of the White House, Biden said he believes “Russia is poised to go much further and launch a massive military attack against Ukraine.” If that happens, the administration will impose more sanctions on Russia, he said.
With Congress on recess, some lawmakers who are leaders on foreign affairs are in Europe and issued statements from there.
U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-2nd District, who represents a large population of Ukrainian-Americans in his district, is leading an emergency meeting of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Brussels.
“The West must enact severe sanctions on the Russian regime, including on Putin and the oligarchs personally,” he wrote on Twitter. “It’s time to freeze their assets.”
U.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, D-6th District, an Air Force veteran, took to Twitter, saying “Putin has shown us who he is,” with his actions Tuesday.