Sen. Barrasso: Sanctions are 'good first step'

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said sanctions the Obama administration imposed against nearly a dozen Russian officials on Monday are a "good first step."

Barrasso, who visited Ukraine over the weekend, reiterated the point that Russian President Vladimir Putin only understands "strength and power."

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"I don't think he has made a final decision about what he is going to do," Barrasso said on CNN. "He is continuing to calculate the credibility of the opposition by the United States and our partners around the world to his actions.” 

Barrasso said Putin continues to mount troops along the eastern border of Ukraine and is "ready to pounce" if he sees the opportunity.

If Russia continues its aggression in Ukraine, Barrasso said the United States should consider helping Ukraine build up its military, which Barrasso said was weakened under former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and others have also called for the step, noting it would not require boots on the ground. McCain said he has talked to Secretary of State John Kerry about it and the administration is “considering” it.  

The U.S. sanctions against Russian officials' visas and assets come after Crimea voted overwhelmingly to gain independence from Ukraine and join Russia on Sunday. Russian troops have been massed in the peninsula since late last month. 

The move came in tandem with the European Union, which imposed sanctions on a number of Russian and Ukrainian officials as well.