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.



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Colby Itkowitz · March 20, 2014

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