Over the weekend, Congress passed the Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014, a bill which would impose stricter sanctions on key Russian sectors like weapons and energy, and which authorizes the President to provide lethal aid to Ukraine for the first time, The Guardian reports:
The measure hits Russia’s defense and energy sectors, punishing companies like state defense import-export company Rosoboronexport.It requires Obama to impose conditional sanctions on the defense sector should Russian state-controlled firms sell or transfer military equipment to Syria, or to entities in Ukraine, Georgia or Moldova without the consent of the governments in those nations.
Russia has criticized the bill, calling the West hypocritical. From Moscow’s perspective, though, it could have been worse: after passing the Senate unanimously on December 11, the bill went to the House on December 12, who then kicked it back to the Senate with a key passage granting major non-NATO Ally Status to Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova removed.President Obama so far appears to be holding back from signing the bill immediately, despite bipartisan pressure for him to put pen to paper. With the economic situation rapidly deteriorating in Russia, however, having the bill hanging over the Kremlin’s head, maximizing uncertainty and unease may not be the worst strategy.[Update: President Obama has announced he will sign the sanctions bill, according to the NYT.]