Menendez: Europe has 'greatest bite' in responding to Russia

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said Wednesday that Europe would have “the greatest bite” in terms of a response to Russia.

Given Russia's economic ties with Europe, he said sanctions from European countries would have the greatest impact.

“They have the greatest bite at the end of the day,” Menendez said in an interview on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports.”

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The United States and European Union both announced a first set of sanctions against Russia on Monday.

EU ministers agreed to sanction 21 Russian and Ukrainian mid-ranking officials, while the U.S. targeted senior aides to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Menendez insisted steps the U.S. has taken so far are significant.

“We’re not finished. First of all, the threats aren’t empty, they’re significant,” he said. 

Bolstering NATO and instituting tougher sanctions against Russia, Menendez added, should now be the focus.

“Otherwise Putin will calibrate where else he will go to next,” he said.

On Tuesday, however, Putin said he would not try to acquire any other part of Eastern Ukraine.

Menendez noted the op-ed the Russian president wrote for The New York Times last September, just days after Russia helped bridge a diplomatic agreement with Syria on its chemical weapons arsenal. 

“We must stop using the language of force and return to the path of civilized diplomatic and political settlement,” Putin wrote.

“He needs to listen to his own rhetoric,” said Menendez.