Skip to main content

U.S. moving fast on possible sanctions over Ukraine

By Elise Labott, CNN Foreign Affairs Reporter
March 3, 2014 -- Updated 2253 GMT (0653 HKT)

(CNN) -- The Obama administration is moving fast to prepare possible sanctions against Russia over the situation in Ukraine, if President Barack Obama decides to act, senior officials say.

Over the weekend, the Treasury Department and other officials began drafting possible language for sanctions that would, if imposed, take the form of a Presidential Executive Order.

That means they would not need congressional approval.

Officials caution no decision has been made on whether to impose sanctions against Russia for its military moves in Crimea that Obama says violate international law.

Officials note the United States has already taken several diplomatic steps in the past few days. These include suspending preparations for the annual G8 summit of the world's industrial powers, which is scheduled for the Russian Olympic venue, Sochi, in June.

Obama looking to give Putin a way out?
Graham: Obama is 'weak and indecisive'
How will Ukraine affect Obama?

The Obama administration also has canceled trade and energy talks and has withdrawn the American delegation for the Paralympics in Sochi.

One official said decisions are "expected very soon" on sanctions and it could be a "pretty fast process."

But that official added "people have to decide what we are really going to do" and, additionally, there are a number of factors Obama has to consider.

"We have to look at where the Europeans are, how much you want to lean forward and how much you want to keep in reserve," the official said.

Some European allies, particularly Germany and France, are balking at sanctions before giving diplomacy a chance.

"But four days ago we weren't even having this decision with them and now we are. So a lot can happen in four more days," another senior administration official said.

The official said the administration is "a step shy" of having an executive order ready to go for the President's signature.

Right now the administration is deliberating who to target, the official said.

Because the U.S. response would be in response to Russia's military activities in Crimea and moves toward separatism, the official said top Russian government and military officials would likely be targets, as could Russian-speaking separatists in Ukraine.

But Russian companies and businessmen are unlikely to be sanctioned.

A congressional source said there seems to be more interest among the Europeans for 'isolation' rather than sanctions - severing military exercises and action around visas and the G8 -- rather than steps that could hurt Europe.

READ: What can Obama do about Russia's invasion of Crimea?

READ: Get caught up on the latest in Ukraine

READ: West may ultimately have to accept Crimea as part of Russia

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 9, 2014 -- Updated 1258 GMT (2058 HKT)
Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 broke apart in the air after it was hit by a burst of "high-energy objects" from outside, a preliminary report by Dutch aviation investigators said Tuesday.
September 9, 2014 -- Updated 1134 GMT (1934 HKT)
"There were many scenes that defied logic," writes OSCE spokesman Michael Bociurkiw, who was one of the first international observers to arrive at the site.
September 3, 2014 -- Updated 1611 GMT (0011 HKT)
On a country road in eastern Ukraine, a scene of bucolic tranquility was suddenly interrupted by the aftermath of carnage.
September 2, 2014 -- Updated 2019 GMT (0419 HKT)
In the city of Donetsk, the devastation wrought by weeks of fighting between pro-Russia rebels and Ukrainian forces is all too apparent.
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 0000 GMT (0800 HKT)
CNN's Diana Magnay reports from the front lines in the Ukrainian conflict.
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 1126 GMT (1926 HKT)
A few miles south of the town of Starobeshevo in eastern Ukraine, a group of men in uniform is slumped under a tree.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1327 GMT (2127 HKT)
It's been building for months. And now, according to some, Russia has launched a "full-scale invasion" of Ukraine.
August 23, 2014 -- Updated 1343 GMT (2143 HKT)
A shopkeeper's mutilated body, relatives' anguish, homes destroyed ... this is Donetsk.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 1112 GMT (1912 HKT)
A 20-minute drive from Kiev takes you to a neighborhood that feels more like Beverly Hills than central Ukraine.
October 1, 2014 -- Updated 1351 GMT (2151 HKT)
Photos illustrate the ongoing crisis in Ukraine as fighting continues to flare in the region.
August 7, 2014 -- Updated 1234 GMT (2034 HKT)
Western leaders stepped up sanctions, but the Russian President shows no sign of backing down.
July 31, 2014 -- Updated 1631 GMT (0031 HKT)
Future imports, exports between the EU and Russia are now banned -- but existing contracts continue.
July 20, 2014 -- Updated 1540 GMT (2340 HKT)
Some contend that larger weapons have come into Ukraine from Russia.
August 1, 2014 -- Updated 2037 GMT (0437 HKT)
Information about Ukraine, the second-largest European country in area after Russia.
Learn more about the victims, ongoing investigation and the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 0925 GMT (1725 HKT)
The downing Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 put the pro-Russia rebels operating in Ukraine's eastern region center stage.
ADVERTISEMENT