The Republican senator John McCain on Sunday repeated his call for stronger sanctions against Russia and said the US could only improve its relations with Moscow by taking a tough stance against President Vladimir Putin.
On a tour of the Baltic states, Ukraine, and Georgia, McCain and other senators assured the former Soviet-dominated countries that the US would support them, despite Donald Trump’s praise of Putin and expressions of doubts about Nato.
We will strongly urge our colleagues toward more meaningful and stronger sanctions against Russia because of their attack on the United States of America,” McCain told reporters in Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi.
“I believe that we must continue to improve our relations and to understand that Vladimir Putin – unless we stand up to him – will continue his aggression and we must stand up to Vladimir Putin.”
On Thursday, Barack Obama ordered the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats and imposed sanctions on two Russian intelligence agencies, over what US intelligence agenciesbelieve to be the hacking of US political groups during the election, in favour of Trump.
Trump signalled during his campaign that he might take a softer line with Moscow, and on Friday congratulated Putin for not retaliating to the expulsions, using Twitter to say: “Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!“
I send the message from the American people – we are with you, your fight is our fight and we will win together,” McCain was quoted as saying by the press service of Petro Poroshenko, the Ukrainian president.
“In 2017, we will defeat the invaders and send them back where they came from. To Vladimir Putin – you will never defeat the Ukrainian people and deprive them of their independence and freedom.”
Reinforcing the idea that Congress could oppose any move by Trump to take a softer line on Russia, South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham, travelling with McCain and others, said it was time “to push back against Putin, to be a better friend to our allies here, including Georgia.
“So 2017 is a year of offence and we’re going to tell our colleagues what’s at stake if we don’t push back.”