GOP senators want Obama to take further steps against Russia

President Obama should expand sanctions against Russian human rights violators, Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Thursday. 

The two senators issued a joint statement that said they “obviously agree” with Obama’s decision to cancel a planned meeting next month with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

But the two said Obama should go much farther. 

They called on the president to finish the last phase of a European missile defense shield that’s been scrapped and push for a new round of NATO expansion to include Georgia.

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“Now we must move beyond symbolic acts and take the steps necessary to establish a more realistic approach to our relations with Russia,” McCain and Graham said. “That means demonstrating to the Russian government that there will be consequences for its continued actions that undermine American national interests.”

All of the moves recommended by the two senators would surely be condemned by Moscow, which said Wednesday it was “disappointed” that Obama wasn't attending the bilateral meeting planned for September.

Obama chose to skip the summit with Putin after Moscow granted NSA leaker Edward Snowden temporary asylum in Russia. The Obama administration wanted Snowden returned to the United States to be tried on espionage charges.


The White House downplayed the significance of Snowden in the summit decision, saying there had been a “lack of progress on issues such as missile defense and arms control, trade and commercial relations, global security issues, and human rights and civil society.”

Obama earned praise from Republicans and Democrats alike on Wednesday for skipping the summit, as hawks from both parties have been incensed with Putin for supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad, as well as the Snowden affair.

But Thursday’s statement from McCain and Graham highlights the fact that the bipartisan support is likely to be short-lived unless there is a change in the U.S.-Russia relationship, whether it’s policy changes from Moscow or further U.S. actions against the Kremlin.

Obama has an uneven relationship with Graham and McCain on foreign policy. They have been his biggest detractors on issues like Syria, but he dispatched the pair to Egypt this week to speak with members of the military, the interim government and Muslim Brotherhood.

However, McCain said Monday in Egypt that the overthrow of President Mohammad Morsi was a coup — a designation the Obama administration has resisted.