The scope of potential US retaliatory measures was not exactly clear, but senior Biden officials have previously discussed potentially devastating “secondary sanctions” that target countries that continue to trade with Russia.
The Biden administration could also impose sanctions on sectors of the Russian economy that they have not affected so far, including mining, transportation and additional parts of the Russian financial sector. The world continues to buy billions of dollars worth of Russian oil and gas, giving the Kremlin a direct financial lifeline. Officials stressed that the planning was preliminary and no decisions had been made about possible responses.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CNN on Sunday that the United States and its European partners are discussing new sanctions to impose on Russia “every day.” Blinken stressed that the measures so far are already projected to cause Russia’s economy by 10 percent this year, but he condemned Russia’s “brutality” and said more measures are likely to be needed.
“These sanctions are having a huge impact now. They’re going to have a big bite going forward for as long as this lasts, and every day we make sure they’re not just tightened, but increased,” Blinken said.
Blinken added of the evidence of Russian war crimes: “There must be accountability for it.”
A Treasury spokeswoman declined to comment. State Department spokesman Ned Price said: “We will continue to increase pressure until the Kremlin relents, but we will not anticipate specific sanctions.”
Bucha Mayor Anatoly Fedoruk told The Washington Post that approximately 270 local residents had been found buried in two mass graves. About three dozen were found dead in the streets, including some who had been tied up and executed, Fedoruk told The Washington Post. The bodies of at least 20 men in civilian clothes were found dumped in a single street, according to Agence France-Press. journalists.
Some sanctions experts urged the administration to act quickly to respond to these reports.
“This should open the eyes of those in the West that we need to push harder on sanctions. There is no excuse for continuing to funnel billions of dollars to Putin through oil and gas sales,” said Edward Fishman, a former State Department official who worked on Russia sanctions policy during the Obama administration. “I am sure we will end 10 out of 10 maximalist Iran-style sanctions against Russia. Events like this prompt the West to do so… I don’t see anything rational in waiting.”
Many European officials began openly calling for new sanctions to be imposed as early as Wednesday. Both the German and French foreign ministers I already promised to push for tougher sanctions, citing the atrocities in Bucha, according to the Financial Times.
“We need a fifth round of strong EU sanctions as soon as possible,” Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said on Twitter.
The Ukrainian government has been urging the White House for weeks to expand its sanctions campaign to isolate Russia from the world economy more drastically. Ukraine has pressed the administration to restrict Russian ships’ access to international waterways, block their energy exports and sanction many more government officials and allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Europe continues to rely on Russian energy, and cutting off that vital financial lifeline could devastate European economies.
But it is not clear what escalating issues would be commensurate with the atrocities emerging in Ukraine. Richard Nephew, a senior fellow at Columbia University, said it had long been known that human rights violations would trigger further sanctions. But he noted that Russian military tactics do not appear to be driven by US sanctions, and it would be difficult to design new measures commensurate with the damage caused.
“The real problem they’re going to have with the sanctions response is that it’s going to be seen as insufficient no matter what you do. Humanitarian atrocity committed will always be far worse than a sanctions response,” Nephew said. “There is nothing proportional to the fact that a massacre is being committed.”