Politics

 

McCain tells Obama how to punish Putin

McCain tells Obama how to punish Putin

President Obama promised Friday there would be “costs” if Russia moved troops into Ukraine, but he didn’t specify what those costs might be. Sen. John McCain has several suggestions for Obama, including the sanctioning of high-level Russian officials; restarting missile defense plans in Eastern Europe; and bringing Georgia, a former Soviet republic, into NATO. McCain plans to push from the Congressional side, he told The Daily Beast in an exclusive interview Saturday evening.

McCain wants the administration to expand its threat to pull out of the G8 Summit in Sochi scheduled for June. That limited move is unlikely to convince Putin to give up his control of Crimea, where Russia has its 15,000-man strong Black Sea Fleet and where unmarked but Russian-controlled paramilitary troopscontrol the two main airports

“I think Obama’s threat is laughable,” McCain said. “But I think we ought to do it and every other international gathering of leaders, because the one thing that Putin enjoys is strutting on the international stage.”

McCain added that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton -- who inaugurated the Obama administration’s “reset” of relations with Russia in 2009 -- had totally misjudged Russia.

“Of course she got it wrong,” said McCain. “She believed that somehow there would be a reset with a guy who was a KGB colonel who always had ambitions to restore the Russian empire. That’s what this is all about.”

Next, McCain wants the administration to more broadly apply a law that enables the U.S. government to sanction Russian officials guilty of human rights violations. The Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law and Accountability Act, which Obama signed into law in 2012, has so far only been used against low-level Russian officials. But McCain said that if top Russian officials were involved in the decision to send troops into Ukraine, they should be added to the list as well, which would subject them to visa bans, asset freezes, and international scorn.

“We must consider legislation to respond to this,” McCain said. “The Magnitsky bill can be expanded for holding people responsible for these acts of aggression.”

Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking Republican Bob Corker also calledSaturday for targeted sanctions against senior Russian officials. McCain said additional economic sanctions against Russia writ large were also called for.

After that, McCain wants the Obama administration to reverse its decision to scuttle missile defense plans for Eastern Europe, plans that Putin objected to strongly. The Obama administration claimed that its decision to scrap the plans was not a concession to Russia, but it came at a time when Obama wanted to work with Russia on further reducing nuclear-weapon stockpiles. Such cooperation now seems far-fetched.

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