WASHINGTON Senior Republican lawmakers said on Monday the latest sanctions imposed on Russian individuals and companies are too mild to deter Moscow from further action in Ukraine and promised to offer legislation as soon as this week to pressure the Obama administration to take stronger action.
Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who earlier this month visited Ukraine and neighboring countries, called the new sanctions "just a slap on the wrist," and said it was time for measures that would affect the Russian economy.
"Until you hit three or four of the large banks - the financial institutions - until you hit one of the energy producers at least, Gazprom, or someone, I just don't think it's going to have the effect on Putin to change his behavior," Corker told reporters at the U.S. Capitol.
He said he likely would introduce legislation this week seeking to strengthen NATO, impose tough sanctions on Russian energy and some of its "significant" financial institutions and provide military aid and other assistance to Ukraine and neighboring countries.
Another Republican working on sanctions legislation, Indiana Senator Dan Coats, a former U.S. Ambassador to Germany, said he was confident both Republicans and President Barack Obama's fellow Democrats would back tougher sanctions if Obama were to back more diplomatic, economic and financial sanctions.
The United States imposed new sanctions on allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, prompting Moscow to denounce "Cold War" tactics amid more violence in eastern Ukraine. Banning visas and freezing assets of the likes of Putin's friend Igor Sechin, head of oil giant Rosneft, the new sanctions came as European allies wrangled over how to follow suit without badly hurting their own economies.
Obama's fellow Democrats were more positive, but said they thought more sanctions would be needed. They also stressed the importance of imposing sanctions in connection with Europe.
U.S. Senator Chris Murphy, chairman of the Senate's Europe subcommittee, said the sanctions announced Monday "send a strong signal to Moscow." However, the Connecticut Democrat added that Washington's European allies must also impose sanctions and that tougher measures might be needed without "real action" from Russia.
Democratic U.S. Representative Adam Schiff also said the U.S. sanctions announced on Monday must be matched quickly by Europe, and that he thought wider measures would be required over time.
"Regrettably, it will likely be necessary to go further and sanction whole sectors of the Russian economy - their banking, mining, energy and arms industries among others," Schiff, a California representative, said in a statement.
Many members of Congress have been clamoring for the Obama administration to impose broad sectoral sanctions on Moscow. Several have urged more aid for Ukraine's military, including light weapons.
(Editing by Doina Chiacu and G Crosse)