- Sanctioning Putin could completely dismantle US-Russia ties, the Kremlin warned on Thursday.
- Senate Democrats introduced legislation that would sanction Putin, among others, if Russia invades Ukraine.
- Russia has gathered tens of thousands of troops along Ukraine’s border in recent weeks.
The Kremlin on Thursday warned of a complete rupture of US-Russia ties if Washington moves to sanction Russian President Vladimir Putin over the Ukraine crisis.
“The imposition of sanctions against the head of state and against the head of Russia, I repeat once again, is an outrageous measure that is comparable to a break in relations,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said, per Russian state news agency Tass.
This came after top Senate Democrats on Wednesday, led by Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, unveiled a new sanctions bill that would penalize Russia if it invades Ukraine.
“This legislation makes it absolutely clear that the US Senate will not stand idly by as the Kremlin threatens a re-invasion of Ukraine,” Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement.
“As the Biden administration seeks a diplomatic path forward this week in Europe to avoid another bloody escalation in Ukraine, I find little reason to believe that Putin is negotiating in good faith nor do I believe he has any newfound respect for Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Menendez added. “Putin need not collapse his entire economy nor does he need to sacrifice the lives of his own people in a futile attempt to rewrite the map of Europe.”
The White House said it supports the legislation, which would impose sanctions on top Russian officials — including Putin.
“We support Senator Menendez’s legislation, which would trigger severe costs to Russia’s economy and support additional security assistance to Ukraine should Russia further invade,” National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne said of the bill, per The New York Times. “We will keep working with Congress on maximizing potential costs to Russia.”
The legislation offers an alternative to a bill introduced by GOP Sen. Ted Cruz to impose sanctions on Nord Stream 2, an undersea Russia-to-Germany natural gas pipeline that opponents worry could give Moscow major leverage over Europe and hurt Ukraine. The pipeline, which is completed but not yet operational due to pending German certification, is set up to deliver gas from Russia to Germany. It goes through the Baltic Sea, bypassing Ukraine and Poland.
Though the pipeline is controversial and the Ukrainian government supports sanctions against it, top Senate Democrats opposed Cruz’s bill and accused the Texas Republican of attempting to hurt President Joe Biden by undermining transatlantic ties amid delicate diplomatic talks over Ukraine.
“Let’s be clear, the Cruz bill we are debating this week has nothing to do with stopping a Russian invasion of Ukraine,” Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut said in a tweet on Tuesday. “In fact, it makes it more likely because the bill’s chief impact is to break up transatlantic unity right at the moment that unity is key to deterring Russia.”
The Biden administration, eager to stay on Germany’s good side, has opposed sanctions on Nord Stream 2 and recently contended that the pipeline would offer Europe leverage over Russia.
“Some may see Nord Stream 2 as leverage that Russia can use against Europe. In fact, it’s leverage for Europe to use against Russia,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last week.
Cruz’s bill narrowly failed to pass in the Senate on Thursday.
Murphy on Thursday told Insider that Menendez’s bill was the “right way to go,” in spite of the fact Russia threatened to cut ties with the US if Putin is sanctioned.
“If Russia engaged in a conventional invasion of Ukraine, it shatters post World War II norms. This would be virtually unprecedented in the post-World War II world. And it needs to be treated as a serious, significant, and world-shattering breach of…