The Washington Post

Sanctions envy on the Potomac?

Dmitry Astakhov / AFP/Getty Images (Dmitry Astakhov / AFP/Getty Images)

Like getting picked last for the playground kickball game, U.S. officials who were not picked for Russian sanctions must be feeling pretty slighted today. After all, if Washington is Hollywood for ugly people, then getting on Putin’s list is like making People Magazine’s “Most Beautiful.”

Many of the nine who were sanctioned quickly sent out pride-filled responses and tweets with the hashtag SanctionedByPutin. The Russians on Obama’s sanctioned list, bragged too, tweeting that they weren’t bothered because they didn’t have assets abroad.

House Speaker John Boehner’s office quickly sent word that he’s “proud to be included on a list of those willing to stand against Putin’s aggression.” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said beforehand that he would be “honored” to be on the list, and on Wednesday lamented:” I guess this means my spring break in Siberia is off, my Gazprom stock is lost, and my secret bank account in Moscow is frozen.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, also on the list, tweeted a warning to Putin: “it’s one thing to pick on me, but I wouldn’t mess with Mary.” He’s referring to Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), also on the list, and who may deserve a five-point uptick in her reelection polls because of it. Knowing the political capital it bears, she tweeted that being on the list was “a badge of honor.”

Curiously, White House aides like deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes and senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer are on the list, but not National Security Adviser Susan Rice. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) is on the list but not his equally worthy House counterpart Ed Royce (R-Calif.).

Can’t help but wonder if these exclusions may be creating a bit of “sanctions envy” on the Potomac.

At first glance, the Obama and Putin lists of aides and legislators might seem parallel. Russian business oligarchs like billionaires Mikhal Fridman and German Khan are left off of the U.S. list and American executives like Google CEO Larry Page or hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer aren’t included on the Russians.

Still, while the lists might appear roughly proportionate in focusing on government officials, let’s not forget that neo-Soviet Russia is a kleptocracy. Washington has nothing even close to comparable.






Colby Itkowitz is the lead anchor of the Inspired Life blog. She previously covered the quirks of national politics and the federal government.
Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments
The Republicans debate tonight. The New Hampshire primary is on Feb. 9. Get caught up on the race.
We have all donors in the audience. And the reason they're booing me? I don't want their money!
Donald Trump, after the debate crowd at St. Anselm's College booed him for telling Jeb Bush to be "quiet."
Play Video
New Hampshire polling averages
Donald Trump holds a commanding lead in the next state to vote, but Marco Rubio has recently seen a jump in his support, according to polls.
New Hampshire polling averages
A victory in New Hampshire revitalized Hillary Clinton's demoralized campaign in 2008. But this time, she's trailing Bernie Sanders, from neighboring Vermont. She's planning to head Sunday to Flint, Mich., where a cost-saving decision led to poisonous levels of lead in the water of the poor, heavily black, rust-belt city. 
56% 36%
Upcoming debates
Feb. 11: Democratic debate

on PBS, in Wisconsin

Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

Campaign 2016
State of the race

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.