The US and its allies are planning more sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, a senior Biden administration official told senators Wednesday, as lawmakers lamented that punishments so far haven’t deterred President Vladimir Putin.

“There will be more packages,” Ambassador James O’Brien, who heads the State Department’s Office of Sanctions Coordination, told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing. “We are working on more sanctions. Our European colleagues have said they will continue.”

O’Brien said the US will target sectors including finance, technology, human rights and energy, as well as technology that’s used for both military and commercial purposes.

“We’ll keep coordinating,” he said of the US and its European allies. “Everything is on the table.”

Ambassador James O’Brien

Expressing Dismay

Senators questioning O’Brien and Assistant Treasury Secretary Elizabeth Rosenberg expressed dismay that sanctions on Russia haven’t done more. They cited how Russia is still selling oil, gas, and other commodities to the global market as evidence that Putin can still fund his war in Ukraine and prop up his country’s economy.

Rosenberg pointed to the Treasury Department’s push, along with other Group of 7 nations, to impose a cap on the price of Russian oil as a way to limit the revenue. 

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced the eighth package of sanctions Wednesday targeting Russia, including plans for a cap on the price of Russian oil. But EU sanctions must be approved unanimously by the EU’s 27 member states before they can be imposed.

Senator Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat, brought up his legislation with Senator Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, to impose secondary sanctions on countries outside the G7 and EU that purchase Russian oil. He said the lack of an enforcement mechanism for the price cap leaves “a big hole in what is a really good idea and concept.”

Senator Mitt Romney, a Utah Republican, expressed some skepticism about the price cap plan and asked for a better assessment of the impact of sanctions.

“The indications so far are that it wasn’t as crippling as we thought on Russia,” Romney said of the sanctions campaign. “I wonder whether that teaches us a lesson that should be important to us as we consider the impact of sanctions regimes in the future.”