The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 3/17/14
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:22 P.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have any announcements to make. Obviously, you heard the President earlier today speak about the sanctions that we announced this morning against individuals over the situation in Ukraine and Crimea. So beyond that, I’ll just take your questions.
Q I’d like to ask, on the sanctions, how President Putin might feel the impact of this. On the call with the senior administration officials today, they said that they don’t begin sanctions -- the United States doesn’t typically begin them with a head of state. But are they under consideration for a possibility in the future, or is that off the table under U.S. policy? And might we see more of Putin’s inner circle affected by these?
MR. CARNEY: I’d say a couple of things, Nedra -- and those are all good questions. The additional executive order that the President has signed allows for a more expansive series of categories that sanctions can then be applied against -- which is not a great sentence. But, in other words, the individuals announced today have specific positions within the Russian government, or the State Duma. The executive order that was announced today, while only one item on that list of -- one category was filled with individuals, there are other opportunities within that executive order to levy sanctions against other individuals who might have influence with Russian governmental officials and Russian policy. So that’s one.
Two, as the President signaled today, we have the capacity and the authority to calibrate our response -- in other words, initiate further sanctions depending on what happens in the coming days and weeks with regards to Ukraine and the actions that Russia decides to take.
As the President made clear, we are still pressing Russia to pursue a diplomatic resolution to this situation in Ukraine, and that opportunity exists. But should it fail to do that, should it take steps that further violate Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, we have the authority to impose further sanctions and to do so more broadly.
Q And could that include President Putin under U.S. policy?
MR. CARNEY: Well, what can I tell you is that the authority exists to apply sanctions to a variety of individuals and entities. We’re going to evaluate what the right step is as this situation evolves. We’re not going to rule out individuals or rule out actions, except to say that there will be costs imposed on Russia -- additional costs imposed on Russia if Russia does not change direction here when it comes to how it’s handling the situation in Ukraine.
Q Another follow-up from that call with the senior administration officials. They said there was concrete evidence that some ballots arrived pre-marked in Crimea, but they didn’t get into specifics. Can you talk more about what that evidence is?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have specifics on that evidence. I don’t have specifics on the referendum itself. As a matter of policy, in our view, it’s irrelevant because the referendum is not valid under the Ukrainian constitution. And the actions that Russia took -- sending military forces into Crimea, basically seizing the peninsula and initiating a referendum that was conducted in the presence of armed Russian military forces -- all render that whole process suspect and illegitimate. So I don’t have specifics on that.
I think that the way that referendum happened, the fact that it was called days after Russian military forces -- basically a foreign power’s military forces seized the peninsula, says all you need to know about the illegitimacy of the process. There is a way in Ukraine, under its laws and constitution, to decide matters of a regent status within Ukraine, or to change in any way Ukraine’s territorial boundaries. The way that Russia has pursued is obviously not legal under the constitution and not valid.
Q Just finally, can you give us more of a readout of the meeting with Abbas? Was there any chance the deadline that’s coming up for the framework could be extended? Or any indication that Abbas would recognize Israel as a Jewish state?
MR. CARNEY: We may have further information about the meetings today. Obviously, the President spoke at the top of the bilateral meeting about the discussion he looked forward to having, because this is such a pivotal time in this process, in the negotiations. As he did with Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Obama made clear that he appreciates the fact that both leaders have made tough decisions, but also underscored the fact that each leader has additional hard decisions to make in order to move this process forward.
When it comes to the matter of the Israeli state, our view is quite clear that this process can and must end in a result that has a sovereign Palestinian state and a safe, secure, democratic Jewish Israeli state. But we’re not going to get into the status of negotiations over these difficult issues. We want each side to press forward so that a framework for negotiations can be agreed to so the process can continue to move forward. These are tough issues.
It’s incumbent on both sides to try very hard to put the decades of mistrust if not behind them, then in context as they pursue the interests of their own people, the interests of the Palestinian state that will emerge from a resolution and a secure, democratic Jewish Israeli state that can emerge from a resolution.
As for the Palestinians, they have to recognize that the path to independence, sovereignty and security in their own state can only come through direct negotiations with Israel. We have the opportunity now to achieve that goal, but only if, as I said, hard choices are made. And we believe that, as is the case with Prime Minister Netanyahu, so it is with President Abbas: He is the right leader to make these hard choices and to bring about a peace agreement with Israel.
Q Jay, just in terms of how you calibrate the sanctions -- say that Russia goes ahead and annexes Crimea, do you then come out with a longer list of names of people to sanction? And what is more serious -- the annexation or the fact of the military incursion itself?
MR. CARNEY: They both would be -- in the case of the annexation, and certainly with the military incursion that’s already occurred -- very, very serious and very much in violation of international law and the Ukrainian constitution.
The answer to your first question is, yes, there is the authority that exists in the two executive orders now signed to name additional individuals. And work continues on what further steps we, the United States, can take -- working with our European partners -- to raise the cost to Russia, should Russia decide to continue down this path.
Q And what about military assistance to Ukraine? Senator McCain keeps talking about that. Have you completely ruled that out now?
MR. CARNEY: Well, no, we haven’t ruled any form of assistance out. We are focused presently on providing the assistance that Ukraine needs most at this time, which is economic assistance, assistance in stabilizing its economy in this difficult time. And we are working with Congress to have that occur. We’re working through the IMF, obviously, because any bilateral assistance would complement the assistance provided by the IMF. And we are working with our European partners and allies who are also -- and our allies elsewhere in the world who are also mindful of the need to provide assistance to the Ukrainian government at this difficult time.
But we’re not -- we’re examining all sorts of possibilities when it comes to how we can help Ukraine in this challenging environment. Right now, we’re focused on raising the costs on Russia for the actions that Russia has taken, making clear that there will be more costs and more isolation to Russia if they do not reverse course, and ensuring that steps are taken so that Ukraine is getting the economic assistance it needs.
Q And are you at the point of decoupling the aid package from the IMF reforms that you’ve been assisting?
MR. CARNEY: We are not, because we believe very strongly that the passage of IMF quota reforms serves the interests of providing additional assistance to Ukraine. So if that is an urgent priority for members of Congress, as it is for many members of Congress -- it certainly is for the President -- then that package, the bilateral assistance, the loan guarantee program plus the reforms to the IMF should pass together because that will allow for the greatest benefit to Ukraine. It allows for more flexibility and leverage and greater assistance from the IMF to Ukraine.
Q What happens if Russia goes ahead and makes this decision tomorrow to annex Crimea? I suppose, what really could the U.S. do at that point? You could impose further sanctions; you could widen the net of individuals who are caught up in these sanctions. But have you considered at all that maybe Putin just doesn’t care?
MR. CARNEY: What we have said, what the President made clear, and what I am reinforcing today is that further provocations, further steps along the path that Russia is currently on will result in further costs to Russia and further isolation for Russia. Those costs are real and they are direct costs to individuals named in these sanctions announced today, direct costs when it comes to the individuals named by our European allies.
There have been and will continue to be direct and significant costs to the Russian economy because of the actions that Russia has taken. The Russian stock market has decreased as a result of the actions that have happened. The ruble has lost value as a result of this. And international investors who are looking for safe places to put their money are surely reevaluating any consideration they may give to putting their money in Russia and in Russian industries and the Russian economy. And those effects, those impacts will only compound as time passes and Russia doesn’t reverse course or engages in further provocations.
So the fact is the more Russia does to violate Ukraine’s territorial integrity, to unlawfully seize Ukrainian assets, to ignore Ukraine’s sovereignty, the higher the price will be to Russia and the higher and more intense the isolation that Russia will suffer as a result of it.
And obviously I'm not going to try to psychoanalyze motivations, but it is a fact that Russia loses stature and influence in the world if it incurs these costs. And that carries significance for I think the Russian people and for Russian leaders, and all the individuals surrounding the leaders of the Russian government who have great influence even if they don't hold positions in government. And I would point you to one of the items in the new executive order that identifies as potential targets of sanctions individuals who have great influence on the Russian government and on Russian policymakers but who may not hold themselves government positions.
Q But it does seem, though, that this is sort of all about Putin. You can target the people around him, but isn't it really about him?
MR. CARNEY: The people around him, Jim, have a great deal of influence in Russia and on the actions of the Russian government. And I don't think anyone who has studied the Russian government and the power structure there would doubt that assessment. And again, some of the people identified or who are targeted today are advisors to President Putin as well as senior figures in the Russian parliament, the Duma. So there are costs individually to them, there are costs to the Russian economy. There are costs to Russia’s eminence on the world stage, if you will, its prestige when it comes to international organizations that make a lot of determinations about a lot of things -- determinations that Russia has earned a right over the years to participate in and to play a role in.
But I think I would point you to the United Nations Security Council vote over the weekend in which Russia was completely alone on the matter of Ukraine. Thirteen nations voted against Russia. China abstained, notably, and Russia alone cast a single ballot against. So that should tell you something about the costs that these actions have already incurred to Russia.
Q And on the Malaysian plane, over the weekend the Prime Minister of Malaysia said that evidence existed that would suggest that the plane was deliberately steered off course. Does the U.S. government know enough whether or not to agree or disagree with that assessment?
MR. CARNEY: We are working closely with Malaysian authorities who have the lead in this investigation, and that includes the NTSB, that includes the FAA, and it includes the FBI lending its assistance to the investigation. But we have not seen enough evidence to support any scenario to allow us to draw a conclusion about what happened. And we continue to work very closely with a host of international partners, led by the Malaysian government, in the effort to find out what happened to the plane, locate the plane, and find out the cause of its disappearance.
So we're not prepared to make any assessments about which scenario is most likely until we have more information and more conclusive information.
I’ll move around. Bill.
Q Jay, as has been reported, has the White House abandoned your nominee for surgeon general for the United States?
MR. CARNEY: No. Dr. Murthy is a dynamic, entrepreneurial practitioner who had dedicated a lot of time, energy and passion to health and wellness. As surgeon general, he will be a powerful messenger on these issues in each of the tenets of health: nutrition, activity and resilience. Dr. Murthy, as you know, was approved out of committee with bipartisan support. But after the confirmation vote of Debo Adegbile, we are recalibrating the strategy around Dr. Murthy’s floor vote. We expect him to get confirmed ultimately and be one of the country’s most powerful messengers on health and wellness.
So we're recalibrating our approach, but in answer to your question, no.
Q At the time, there are reported 10 Senate Democrats who said they will not vote for him because of his opposition of the NRA. Is the President talking to these Democrats?
MR. CARNEY: We are recalibrating and assessing our strategy moving forward with the nomination in light of the vote that I just mentioned. Dr. Murthy emerged out of committee with a bipartisan vote of support and we will make assessments about how and when to move forward accordingly.
Q “Recalibrate” does not mean different nominee.
MR. CARNEY: Correct. Yes, Jon.
Q I just want to clarify -- you said to Nedra that you're not going to rule out any individual’s sanctions going forward. Are sanctions on Vladimir Putin -- freezing Vladimir Putin’s assets -- is that something that is on the table, is actively under consideration if Russia goes further?
MR. CARNEY: I'm not going to specify where possibilities lie right now except to say that we have an active effort underway to assess what further steps and what further sanctions we can and could impose should the events dictate the need to do that.
You’ve seen today the actions that we've taken, the individuals that we've identified. You’ve seen the executive order that widens the net, if you will, and allows for sanctions to be imposed to a broader array -- against a broader array of individuals. We'll make assessments accordingly. But I'm not going to get into a game of hinting or indicating who might be next or the steps we might take next except to make clear that should Russia engage in further provocation, should it not avail itself of the opportunity to resolve the situation in Crimea and, more broadly, with Ukraine in a diplomatic and legal way, that there will be more costs and there will be more sanctions.
Q So you're not taking sanctions against Putin off the table?
MR. CARNEY: I think I've said that already. I'm not putting on or off any individual. You can see the scope provided by the executive orders that have been signed and how individuals can fall into the categories outlined in those executive orders. But beyond saying that we are assessing regularly additional steps we could take and sanctions we could impose, I'm not going to label individuals or predict who might be next, if anyone is.
Q And by taking these actions and saying that they are targeted, those responsible for Russia’s activity in Crimea, the White House is not suggesting that Vladimir Putin is not responsible for what Russia has done there?
MR. CARNEY: Certainly we're not. The authorities are --
Q So why not sanction him? I'm just --
MR. CARNEY: Jon, I feel like this is Groundhog Day from a briefing I had last week.
Q Well, now you’ve done this today, and Putin is not on the list, so I’m asking why.
MR. CARNEY: I would suggest that we have identified individuals today. We have the authorities to more broadly identify individuals and entities in the future, and we will do that as necessary if the costs to Russia need to be increased because of Russian actions.
What I won't do is speculate about who might be on a list of individuals who are sanctioned in the future. I can point you to the list of individuals who have been identified today, and they include obviously advisors to President Putin, as well as senior figures in the Duma.
Q And let me ask you just something on -- it was on Russian television, state-controlled television, the main state-controlled channel. Dmitry Kiselyov, a prominent Russian television anchor, posed in front of a mushroom cloud and warned that Russia is the only country in the world capable of turning the U.S. into “radioactive dust.” I mention this because this is state-controlled Russian television, which, as we know, doesn’t generally broadcast stuff that is not signed off by the government of Russia. What is your sense when you hear something like that?
MR. CARNEY: I mean, that people say crazy things on TV all the time.
Q Yes, but this is Russian state-controlled TV. I take your point entirely, but -- (laughter) -- but this is –
MR. CARNEY: We’re focused on the actions of the Russian government. We’re focused on the support we’re providing to the Ukrainian government. We’re focused on marshalling a strategy with our partners around the world, especially in Europe, for how to deal with this challenge posed by Russia. And we are making sure that Russia is incurring costs for the provocations it has engaged in and the actions that it’s taken. That’s what we’re focused on right now, and those costs are real and they will increase if Russia continues down this path.
Q Variations on the theme. Is it possible that the United States would sanction the head of state of another nation with which it has normal relations under any circumstances?
MR. CARNEY: I’m not going to speculate about that, Bill. I will simply say that I haven’t ruled out any individual who might be covered under the categories that are provided in the executive orders. We have identified individuals today; we’ve made clear that other individuals can and will be named if Russia continues down the path it’s on.
Q And President Putin is reputed to have amassed sizeable wealth. Is any of it in the United States? Is the U.S. aware that there are assets here which could be targeted?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have any information of that nature to provide, Bill. I think that we are focused, again, on the sanctions we’ve taken today; on the support we’re providing to the Ukrainian government; on the consensus that the United States and our partners have built around the idea that Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty must be respected. And we’re going to continue to work to persuade Russia to pursue a different course here, which is to address its concerns when it comes to ethnic Russians in Ukraine, when it comes to its interests specifically in Crimea, through internationally lawful means that will allow it to ensure that those interests are protected and observed.
We have offered, and our European allies have offered, a way out of this for Russia, an off-ramp, that makes clear that there’s an opportunity for Russia to take steps that do not require it to violate a sovereign nation’s territorial integrity and will allow it to reduce the cost of this action on Russia. So we hope that, and will work with our partners in trying to bring about Russia availing itself of that option.
Q Yeah, but Russia clearly doesn’t believe that it has violated a sovereign nation’s territorial integrity.
MR. CARNEY: Well, together with North Korea and I think Syria, the Syrian regime, they are alone in that belief.
Yes. Kristen, sorry.
Q Thank you. I want to go back to the issue of military assistance; you’ve said that it’s something that’s under consideration. Is it something that could happen in the next few days, or is it something that’s dependent on further provocations by Putin?
MR. CARNEY: I can say that we’re reviewing requests by the Ukrainian government and military, but our focus continues to be on supporting economic and diplomatic measures to deescalate the situation, not escalate it. In terms of specific requests, I’d refer you to the Department of Defense.
But again, our focus is on steps that Russia can take to deescalate, and that includes returning Russian military troops to their bases and restoring the levels of the Russian military presence in Crimea to those agreed to with the Ukrainian government. Principally, it means –
Q So it sounds like you’re not going to make a decision about this –
MR. CARNEY: I’m not going to speculate about what further assistance we might provide or actions we might take should Russia continue down its current path. Instead, we’re going to make sure that we, in concert with our allies, are providing economic assistance to Ukraine, which is what Ukraine most needs right now, and that we are taking steps to make sure that Russia is paying a price for the action that it’s taken and that Russia understands clearly that that price will rise if they continue down this path.
Q Senator John McCain says that sanctioning seven people is a timid response. He said earlier today, “Vladimir Putin must be encouraged by the [absolute] timidity.” Can you react to that? And do you think that these sanctions are going to cause Putin to reverse course and not annex Crimea, which is the goal ultimately at this point?
MR. CARNEY: What we have done is named individuals who will be sanctioned because of their actions in support of an effort that defies international law and violates Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. We have -- the President has, by signing an additional executive order, created more authorities for more sanctions that can be more broadly applied against individuals, for example, who have very significant influence in Moscow and over the Russian government and Russian leaders, but who themselves do not hold governmental positions.
We believe strongly that those costs are real and that they will grow if Russia does not change course. So that’s the path we’re taking. And we think that part of the effort should include action by the Congress to ensure that the United States is providing loan guarantees in the form of bilateral assistance and passing IMF quota reform so that the International Monetary Fund can provide additional assistance to Ukraine. That’s, in our view, the right course at this time.
Q But, I guess, based on all of the reporting that I’ve seen out of Crimea, it seems like a foregone conclusion that Russia is going to annex Crimea. Is that the President’s understanding? Does he think that Crimea is now Russia’s?
MR. CARNEY: No, we do not at all acknowledge or recognize the referendum, and would not under any circumstances.
Q But does he think anything can be done to prevent Putin and Russia from moving forward?
MR. CARNEY: Russia will pay a cost if it continues down this path, and the cost will be significant. It has already incurred costs to its economy and to its currency. And the United States will not recognize that sort of action by Russia and nor will most nations across the globe. And that is significant when you consider the role that Russia seeks to play internationally.
Q I just want to ask you one on Malaysia. Apparently, there were only a few FBI officials there who were helping out, and that is in part because, according to a report today in the New York Times, Malaysia has been refusing a larger-scale effort on the part of the United States. Can you comment on those reports? Are they accurate? And is there anything that the United States is doing or can do to push back against that and provide more assistance with the investigation, particularly whether this was an act of terrorism?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have information on that specific report. I can tell you that the NTSB, the FAA, and the FBI are all assisting in different ways in this effort. The Department of Defense has obviously provided assets as part of the search effort. I can also say that the Malaysian government has been working very hard to deal with a unique and unusual set of circumstances, and we appreciate that and understand it. And we are working closely with the Malaysian government, and have had and appreciate good cooperation with the Malaysian government. We’re doing everything we can to assist that investigation as that investigation seeks to find out what happened and what caused it.
So I don’t have more insight into that, except to say that we’re working closely with the Malaysian government. We have had good cooperation in that effort. And this is obviously a unique and challenging circumstance that everybody is involved in investigating.
Q Jay, right now you’ve been saying that the costs are going to be significant, that the costs are real. Is there any indication that the costs are going to be beyond what Russia is willing to pay, beyond the cost of doing business for their foreign policy goal? And also, has the President made any commitments to our allies or to the Russian government that Crimea will never be a part of Russia, at least through this process?
MR. CARNEY: We’ve made clear to Russia -- as have our allies and as have most nations, and as have all the nations that voted in the United Nations Security Council -- that the referendum is not valid; any annexation, as you describe it, would not be valid. It would not be recognized under international law. And such an action would result in more cost to Russia through further isolation and further sanctions. And again, going to the discussion we had earlier, the potential for those costs to be high is real. And the nature of the power structure in Russia is such that these kinds of costs applied to individuals can and will have an impact on that structure, in our view.
It’s not necessary for further costs to be incurred if Russia assesses or reassesses the situation and decides to pull back its forces in Crimea, to engage in dialogue with the Ukrainian government. The Ukrainian government has made clear its willingness to accept the presence of international monitors who can assess whether or not the rights of ethnic Russian citizens are in any way being violated. There are other means, lawful means, by which Russia’s interests in Crimea and Ukraine can be protected, and that is the path by which Russia can avoid further isolation and sanction. But the costs are real and they will grow if Russia does not change course.
Q Is the administration at all disheartened that the Russian government seems fully willing to pay the real and significant costs of these sanctions so far?
MR. CARNEY: Jared, I mean, that is a snapshot of today. Russia has not changed course, there is no question. But there are costs associated with that. And you can see what has happened to the Russian economy, the Russian markets, the Russian currency. You can imagine the decisions being made by the leaders of multinational corporations and other big and potential investors about the wisdom of investing in a country that flagrantly, using military personnel, violates the territorial integrity of a sovereign nation in violation of the United Nations Charter, in violation of its specific treaty obligations. Those are real consequences.
So we will pursue a path that continues to encourage Russia to change course, provides a set of steps that will allow Russia’s interests to be protected. And we will continue to support the Ukrainian government and we’ll continue to raise the price on Russia for the actions it’s taken if it doesn’t change course.
Q Thank you. Is there a chance that -- well, next week when the President goes to the nuclear summit, is it your understanding that President Putin is going to pass up a chance to talk with the other world leaders there? He’s sending Foreign Minister Lavrov. And so do you think President Obama would like to have Vladimir Putin come hear from the rest of the world on this next week?
MR. CARNEY: President Obama spoke with President Putin yesterday. He’s been speaking with some regularity with President Putin about the situation in Ukraine. So I haven’t heard anyone phrase it that way. I think President Putin understands the position of all the nations that will be participating in that meeting and understands the views of the United States about Russia’s violation of international law. And it’s a violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
So I don’t doubt that next week there will be, while we’re in Europe, a focus on Ukraine in addition to the other business that has to get done there. But I think President Putin understands the actions that are necessary for him to take and for the Russian government to take in order to alleviate some of the cost.
Q There are reports that President Obama will meet with the President of China next week.
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have any updates on the schedule.
Chris -- sorry, and then Wendell.
Q On St. Patrick’s Day, a number of beer companies announced they wouldn’t sponsor parades in New York City and Boston as Mayors Bill de Blasio and Marty Walsh personally boycotted the ones in their own cities because LGBT contingents weren’t allowed to identify themselves as such during the march. Does the President believe those boycotts were the right decision?
MR. CARNEY: I haven’t spoken to the President about those boycotts.
Q You said before, though, that the President opposes discrimination. Wouldn’t that principle apply to these parades here?
MR. CARNEY: The President does oppose discrimination, but I haven’t talked to him about boycotts of those parades.
Q On Russia, if the President will impose sanctions on officials because of a military incursion into Ukraine, why hasn’t he done the same for the officials responsible for the anti-gay laws in Russia, say by freezing their assets under the Magnitsky Act?
MR. CARNEY: We’ve made our views abundantly clear about that kind of legislation and about efforts to undermine the civil rights of Russian citizens. But the actions we’ve taken today and the sanctions that have been announced today are focused on the very real violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity that we’ve been talking about.
Q And, lastly, the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” enabled openly gay people to serve in the U.S. military, but transgender people are still barred because of medical regulation. Last week, an independent commission led by a former surgeon general issued a report saying there was no “compelling medical reason” to prohibit this ban, and called on the Commander-in-Chief to lift it. Will the President direct the Pentagon to lift the ban on transgender service?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have anything on that. I’d have to direct you to the Pentagon at this point.
Q In practical terms, Jay, what does it matter to the people of this country if the majority ethnic Russian population of Crimea wants to once again be a part of that country of Russia as they were 50, 60 years ago?
MR. CARNEY: I think that’s a great question, Wendell, and I appreciate it. First of all, what matters here is the principle of territorial integrity and sovereignty under the United Nations Charter and under international law. What matters is the ability of a nation to decide for itself any changes in its territory, its borders, the status of regions within its borders. The implications of accepting Russia’s action, in not sanctioning Russia, in turning a blind eye to it, are profound for every nation, and for every nation that grapples with issues of ethnic minorities or regions that have to define their relationship to the center of the country, for example.
So these are very important issues. And we’re mindful of the fact that, and point out the fact that there are means by which individuals in Crimea working with the government in Kyiv can take steps to evaluate and alter their relationship with the central government. But they have to be done in keeping with international law and in keeping with the principles embodied in the constitution of Ukraine. So that’s why it matters and that’s why the referendum itself is not viewed as lawful or legitimate.
Q Is it our feeling that the referendum itself was fraudulent, i.e. fake votes cast? Or was it the --
MR. CARNEY: I was asked about evidence of that. I don’t have --
Q -- the way it was set up improper?
MR. CARNEY: There’s no question, as we’ve said repeatedly, that the way it was conducted violates the Ukrainian constitution. And, therefore, whatever its results, it does not and cannot -- it is not being and will not be recognized by the international community. In terms of the conduct of the actual referendum and whether there was fraud, I don’t have further information on that because the event itself was not lawful.
Q And, finally, if I could push you once again on Senator McCain’s assertion that the U.S. response has been “timid,” is it the President’s contention that, well, as time goes on it will become more powerful? Or is it his contention that it has not been timid to date?
MR. CARNEY: I didn’t see Senator McCain’s comments. I have noted that they have fluctuated somewhat in terms of his evaluation of the President’s performance every several days. The President is focused on making sure that we support the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian people; we rally the international community behind support for the principles of territorial integrity and sovereignty; and making sure that we work together so that Russia pays a price for violating Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. All of those things are happening. More costs will be incurred by Russia should it not change its course here.
And on the specific matter that was raised when it comes to other forms of assistance, we’re evaluating requests and we’re evaluating all the ways by which we can provide support to the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian people. Principally, right now, the support we can supply Ukraine and which Ukraine desperately needs is economic support, working with our international partners and the IMF. And we are working with Congress so that Congress gets that done, so that that bilateral assistance can be provided.
We are working with the international community to ensure that our efforts are coordinated so they have the maximum effect, both in terms of the costs that are incurred by Russia and the assistance that’s provided to the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian people. And, further, we’re working together with our partners to make sure that Russia understands that there is a path out of this confrontation that would allow it to get right with international law and ensure that its interests are acknowledged and assessed.
Q Thanks, Jay -- just one. You said before that the power structure in Russia is such that these sanctions will really have an effect. Can you elaborate on what you mean by that?
MR. CARNEY: I think that it’s fair to say that in Russia there are individuals with a great deal of influence over a course of Russian governmental policy and the economy who do not hold positions in the government, for example. So the authorities provided within the executive order signed today expands the parameters or the categories under which individuals could be targeted for sanctions. There’s no individuals who fill those descriptions who have been targeted as of yet, but the authorities now exist, should those decisions be made.
Q And the sanctions that you imposed there, that the U.S. imposed today -- specifically the, I guess, fact sheet on the sanctions -- specified that this doesn’t attack or it doesn’t go after any businesses or companies associated with this. Is that possible that that might change in the future?
MR. CARNEY: It is true that the sanctions attached to those individually named are targeted at the individuals and their individual wealth and their capacity to get visas and to avail themselves of any property or assets overseas or in the United States, in our case. But there are European sanctions as well.
In terms of what further sanctions might be imposed, the answer is it’s certainly possible that further steps could be taken, again, in keeping with what I’ve said, which is that we will calibrate our response and raise the price, if you will, if Russia doesn’t change course.
Q You mentioned that the sanctions in place already might make some multinational conglomerates kind of reconsider doing business with Russia. Is the administration talking with any of those multinational companies to suggest maybe this might not be --
MR. CARNEY: I wasn’t attempting to imply that. I think that it’s almost self-evident that that kind of assessment would be ongoing, because investors tend to make assessments about where to put their money based on stability and transparency and rule of law in the countries where they’re investing. And that an action like this and the approbation that Russia has suffered because of it, and the isolation and the sanctions would play into any decisions an investor might make. I think you’ve seen that impact felt in the economy and in the stock markets and in the currency, and I think it’s likely that it will only get worse for Russia, should they consider down this path.
Q When you talk about this expanded authority and say that there are individuals who have got great economic and political influence, are you suggesting that the administration could choose to target oligarchs in Russia in the future?
MR. CARNEY: I would just point you to the language in the executive order that notes that those -- the authority to impose sanctions against individuals who have influence on those in power in governmental positions but who do not themselves hold positions in the government.
Q You mean the crony provision, right?
MR. CARNEY: Some have described it that way. I didn’t see that language in the executive order. (Laughter.)
Q I thought it was in the executive order -- or one of the senior officials mentioned it; kind of pejorative -- you call somebody a crony. (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: It is indeed. It is indeed.
Q A bit of a follow-up to Jared’s question. You talked about the businesses and stuff like that. Senator Barrasso was one of several in Ukraine over the weekend. He said earlier today that the U.S. should target Russian banks and its petrochemical industry. How would the White House view something like that in that --
MR. CARNEY: Again, I’m not going to speculate about what further steps would be taken should there be further provocations from Russia or a refusal by Russia to change course, except to say that if you look at the breadth of the authorities provided by the executive orders, you can get a sense of what is possible. But I’m not going to speculate about which future targets might exist if further action is taken.
All the way in the back.
Q Jay, any sense -- of those who were named today -- how many of them may have assets in the United States and how much they may have in the United States?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have that information. And to the extent that we would answer questions like that, I’d refer you to the Treasury Department, but I’m not sure that we would provide that.
George, last one.
Q Over the weekend, Taoiseach Kenny told Irish reporters that he voiced great concern to President Obama on Friday about the year-long delay in naming an ambassador. Why has it taken so long? And they’re taking it as a sign of disinterest on this White House’s part in Dublin. Why shouldn’t they?
MR. CARNEY: Well, certainly that’s not the case. I don’t have any updates for you on the process of selecting or naming or nominating a new ambassador to Ireland. I know that the President values the relationship we have with the Republic of Ireland and that he has with the Taoiseach of Ireland. But I will assure you that that relationship remains as strong as ever, I think as evidenced by the events of late last week, and that when we have an announcement to make, we will make it.
2:10 P.M. EDT