Jan 30, 2022 - World

Pentagon spox: U.S. considering Russian sanctions "the likes of which we haven't done before"

Screenshot: "Fox News Sunday"

If Russia invades Ukraine, the Biden administration will consider sanctions and other economic consequences "the likes of which we have not looked at before," Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said on Sunday.

Why it matters: Kirby's comments come as the leading Democratic and Republican lawmakers on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee announced progress on a major congressional sanctions package.

  • The sticking point remains whether the most forceful deterrent would be to sanction now or underscore the threat of future sanctions, which is the strategy adopted by Kirby and the White House.
  • The U.S. has warned of an "imminent" Russian invasion, though Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has pushed back on Western warnings and media coverage, warning that the "panic" is destabilizing Ukraine's economy.

Driving the news: Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and ranking member Jim Risch (R-Idaho) said on Sunday they are moving toward a bipartisan package that can be taken up when the Senate returns from recess.

  • "I believe that we will get there," Menendez said on CNN's "State of the Union." "We have been working in good faith. We've been accommodating different views and we are committed, jointly, in a bipartisan way to defend Ukraine and to send [Russian President Vladimir] Putin the message: it'll be bloodily and consequential."
  • "I would describe it as that we are on the one-yard line and hopefully we will be able to conclude successfully," the New Jersey Democrat told host Dana Bash.

Menendez earlier this month introduced what he called the "mother of all sanctions" bill, which would go into effect if President Biden determines that Russia has escalated its hostilities toward Ukraine.

  • The measure would ultimately give Biden discretion on when to impose sanctions, which he already has the authority to do. The Republican version of the bill would force the president's hand now.
  • Appearing on "Fox News Sunday," Kirby told guest host Dana Perino:"I think we've been very clear with Mr. Putin about the economic consequences that could come his way and the way the Russian people should he further incur — invade inside Ukraine. And one of the things about sanctions is once you trip that, then the deterrent effect is lost."

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