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Former Top U.S. Officials Call For New Sanctions, More Aggressive Action On Russia


Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Michael Carpenter in Minsk in March 2016

WASHINGTON -- The United States should impose new sanctions and move more aggressively to "shape Russian thinking" in response to Moscow’s actions in Ukraine and elsewhere, former top State and Defense department officials said.

Michael Carpenter, who was the Pentagon’s top Russia official until January, said the measures Washington should take should include deploying an armored brigade permanently to the Baltics and restricting some Russian surveillance flights over U.S. territory now authorized under the 2002 Open Skies treaty.

"If we do not check Russian aggression with more forceful measures now, we will end up dealing with many more crises and conflicts, spending billions of dollars more in the defense of our European allies, and potentially see our vision of Europe whole and free undermined," Carpenter told a hearing of the U.S. Helsinki Commission on May 17.

Carpenter, along with former State Department arms control director Stephen Rademaker, also suggested that the United States should consider returning intermediate-range cruise missiles to Europe, in response to Russia’s alleged violations of a key Cold War-era arms agreement.

Rademaker told the commission that Russia will comply with important treaties like Open Skies, Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces, and Conventional Armed Forces in Europe but only when it is in Moscow’s interest.

When it isn’t in Moscow’s interest, "it will seek to terminate them…or violate them while continuing to play lip service to them...or it will selectively implement them," he said.

Russia, for its part, has repeatedly denied violating the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty and instead accuses the United States itself of violating the agreement.

Carpenter called for more financial sanctions that leverage U.S. dominance in financial markets, for more pressure on top Russian officials, and he said that the so-called Magnitsky Act, a 2012 law that puts restrictions on alleged Russian human rights offenders, had been "vastly underutilized."

Steven Pifer, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, said the list should be expanded to include relatives of Kremlin-connected oligarchs and other powerful government officials, for example, to keep their children from enrolling at U.S. colleges and universities or spouses from "going on London shopping trips."

During last year's election campaign, U.S. President Donald Trump repeatedly expressed a conciliatory approach toward Moscow, saying more cooperation was needed in the fight against terrorism. Since taking office, however, the administration has largely maintained the stiff-armed policy initiated by Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama.

The Helsinki Commission is a U.S. government agency that monitors international adherence to the 1975 Helsinki Accords on human rights.

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