Reid: Putin plays the role of ‘schoolyard bully’

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Thursday that the Senate would continue to pass legislation aimed at punishing Russian President Vladimir Putin if he keeps acting like a “schoolyard bully.”

“Today is an important day for Ukraine,” Reid said in the Senate floor. “This bill is a reality check to [Putin] that the United States will not stand idly by while he plays the role of a schoolyard bully.”

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Later Thursday, the Senate will pass a Ukraine aid package that includes sanctions against anyone deemed by the president to have undermined Ukraine's security or independence, or to have engaged in corruption in Ukraine or Russia. 

President Obama has called for aid to Ukraine since Russian forces centered the Crimean peninsula weeks ago. Russia annexed Crimea last week, making it a part of Russia.

“I say to President Putin, operating by intimidation and belligerence won’t work,” Reid said. “Consequences for his continued bullying will not end, certainly not with this bill. … What we’re doing here today is just the beginning.”

The House is expected to pass a similar package later Thursday as well. But several senators voiced other ideas to economically pressure Putin to stop his aggressions against his neighbors, such as exporting more U.S. natural gas to Europe and Ukraine, which rely heavily on Russian energy.

Reid said he was open to debating these ideas in coming weeks if Putin doesn’t back down.