Ayotte: 'Bully' Putin needs an economic 'punch in the nose'

Calling for broader sanctions on Russia, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) this weekend characterized Vladimir Putin as a "bully" who needs an economic "punch … in the nose."

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The Russian president has been defiant in the face of the Western condemnation of his recent annexation of Crimea, a Ukrainian peninsula in the Black Sea.

Speaking from Kiev, Ayotte, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, ruled out direct military involvement by the United States. But she proposed both indirect military aid and an expansion of U.S. sanctions of Russia's vital industries.

"He's a bully. And bullies only understand when we punch them in the nose, but we need to do that economically," Ayotte said Sunday in an interview with CBS's "Face the Nation" program.

Obama on Thursday announced new sanctions on top aides and close associates of Putin, warning that much broader penalties would follow if Russia intensifies its invasion of Ukraine.

Ayotte said she "appreciates" Obama's move, but "we need to do more with sanctions, including sanctioning the entire financial sector of the Russian economy, as well as looking at the energy sector," she added.

"The Russian economy is a one-trick pony. They're totally focused on natural gas and oil. And so if we were to impose greater sanctions on economic sectors, I think we could have a significant impact on Putin and then he would get the message," she said.

Ayotte is among a growing chorus of lawmakers from both parties who are applauding Obama's aggressive move toward sanctions while simultaneously calling on the president to broaden them to affect larger parts of the Russian economy.

Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.), the senior Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered a similar message on Thursday.

"He [Obama] should target a number of state-owned companies to send shock waves into Russia’s economy, demonstrating to the Putin regime that this is just the beginning if they intervene further in Ukraine,” Corker said in a brief statement.

The House and Senate are both likely to vote this week on legislation expanding Obama's powers to sanction.

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