By Elise Labott
The Obama administration has given itself extraordinary tools to sanction any Russian official or any of the leadership’s “cronies” over the crisis in Ukraine.
The question is, will the United States use them?
Senior officials told CNN there was a two-hour meeting at the White House on Monday to discuss next steps.
The United States and Europe earlier imposed travel bans and froze assets of senior Russian and Crimean officials.
The administration went a step further by banning entry and freezing all U.S. assets held by any Russian government official or people with close financial ties to 11 people, including advisers to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Obama administration is already preparing a list of additional Russian officials and “cronies” to be targeted under an Obama executive order that serves as a blueprint for sanctions.
Action could be taken even if Russia does not take any additional steps beyond its intervention in the strategic Crimean peninsula.
“We are already working on more than the 11 named today,” one senior administration official said, adding more names could be added to the list by the end of the week.
As promised earlier, there will be more sanctions if Russia moves to annex Crimea or moves further militarily into Ukraine. Crimeans voted in a referendum on Sunday to rejoin Russia, and Putin has signed a decree recognizing their independence.
Identifying and adding to the list of those already named takes time and is labor intensive.
“We are working like hell on this to be ready if and when Putin moves,” another senior administration official said.
Under the current authority, the United States can go after any institution, bank or energy company that invests in Crimea.
As the second official said, “If I was a Russian company, I would be very careful about investing in Crimea. We can get you and we will be working very carefully.”
Officials say the additional authority to add officials working in the arms sector, which was announced on Monday, is the tip of the iceberg in terms of potentially targeting other industries.
In discussions with the Europeans, officials said there is broad agreement about eventually considering other broad economic sanctions on banking or energy sectors.
However, officials acknowledge these are the types of biting sanctions that will be needed to really impact the Russian economy and make the government feel the pinch.
“Sanctions aren’t a magic wand and don’t work immediately, but they have tremendous consequences over time if you mean them,” the second official said. “But we have come this far and that is pretty far for a few weeks.