Sen. Menendez calls Russian incursion into Ukraine ‘unacceptable’

    Secretary of State John Kerry looks at a barricade at the Shrine of the Fallen in Kiev

    Secretary of State John Kerry looks at a barricade at the Shrine of the Fallen in Kiev

    As tensions escalate between the U.S. and Russia, NewsWorks Tonight Host Dave Heller speaks with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Sen. Robert Menendez about the Senate’s plan to provide support to Ukraine.

    Diplomatic measures are proceeding on multiple fronts to defuse the crisis in Ukraine. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Ukraine’s new government in Kiev today. NATO members have scheduled talks tomorrow with Russian officials, and the EU’s 28 heads of state and government will hold an emergency meeting Thursday to decide whether to impose sanctions against Russia.

    Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate is preparing legislation to provide support to Ukraine. NewsWorks Tonight Host Dave Heller spoke with Sen. Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey), who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

    In addition to authorizing loan guarantees of up to a billion dollars for Ukraine, Sen. Menendez says the committee is considering punitive actions against Russia. According to Menendez, these include “freezing of assets [of senior Russian officials], the withholding of visas for travel, suspension of the sales of military related and dual use items, withholding of U.S. investment assistance…and if Russia continues to persist…calling on a NATO arms embargo that would politically and economically isolate Russia.”

    “It’s incredibly important,” says Menendez, “to both have an open door for the Russians to move away from their present course of actions…by the same token, there must be a very clear message to the Russians that this is unacceptable.”

    Despite Republican criticism of President Obama’s foreign policy, Menendez says the Foreign Relations Committee’s course of action has broad bipartisan support. “There may be those who criticize overall foreign policy and the lack of greater engagement or greater actions earlier on, but that will not diminish…support of the initiative that we are pursuing here. So Russia should understand that in this respect, the Senate is united, as is the Congress.”

    While Sen. Menendez says there’s little appetite for military intervention, the use of sanctions against Russia shouldn’t be underestimated. “Russia is no longer the Russia of old. Under what was the Soviet Union, a command and control economic structure was somewhat impervious to being economically buffeted from without,” says Menendez. “The reality is that Russia’s economy is far more integrated, and as such, there are real consequences that can be levied on the Russian economy that can make Putin recalculate if he has a very clear sense from the United States and our European allies that we are committed to that course of action if we cannot get him to a diplomatic settlement.”

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