Republicans criticized President Obama for a foreign policy strategy they say enabled Russia's intervention in Ukraine, but lawmakers from both parties appear closer to an agreement on how to respond.
Republicans and Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday called for possible sanctions against Russia and expressed support at a measure to provide an economic aid package to Ukraine worth $1 billion.
Both parties also agreed that sending U.S. forces into the region is out of the question.
“Do we have a military option? No,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Tuesday. “But we have other options.”
McCain and other lawmakers called for financial sanctions, a ban on visas, trade embargoes and tossing Russia out of the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations.
Earlier in the day, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md. said the United States should not attend the G8 summit scheduled for June in Sochi, Russia and that if Moscow does not withdraw military forces from Ukraine, “we ought to consider sanctions and move on those relatively quickly.”
McCain and other Republicans on Tuesday chastised Obama for what they believe is his overall weak foreign policy strategy and naiveté about Russian President Vladimir Putin's ambitions in reclaiming neighboring territory.
“The fundamental problem is that this president does not understand Vladimir Putin,” McCain said on the Senate floor. “He does not understand that Putin is an old KGB colonel bent on restoration of the old Soviet empire.”
Republicans also want the Obama Administration to lift restrictions on sending natural gas to Ukraine, which would ease the country's dependence on Russia for fuel.
“The U.S. Department of Energy's excruciatingly slow approval process amounts to a de facto ban on American natural gas exports that Vladimir Putin has happily exploited to finance his geopolitical goals,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement. “We should not force our allies to remain dependent on Putin for their energy needs.”
The administration is working with Congress on legislation that would provide Ukraine with $1 billion in loan guarantees, while Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J, is weighing a sanctions bill.