By Erik Wasson - 04/20/14 11:11 AM EDT
Corker calls on Obama to up Russia sanctions
The top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Sunday called on President Obama to immediately impose harsher sanctions on Russia.
“Our foreign policy is always a day late and a dollar short,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said as a fragile Geneva accord appeared to be in trouble. “I think we need to step on out and do the things we have threatened.”
Corker said the U.S. should impose “sectoral” sanctions on energy companies like Gazprom and some large Russian banks, as well as increase security cooperation with Ukraine.
As it stands, Obama is giving Russia a signal that it can continue to disrupt Ukraine by supporting separatists militias covertly, Corker argued on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Last week, Secretary of State John Kerry negotiated an agreement with Russia in Geneva, but already pro-Russia separatists have said they will not stop their occupation of Ukrainian government buildings because the deal does not apply to them. The U.S. has called on Russia to pressure the groups to comply with the accord.
“I think the administration is basically saying don't do anything overt,” Corker said. “Don't embarrass us but you can continue the black ops activity, you can continue doing the other things you are doing.”
Democratic committee member Sen. Chris Murphy (Conn.) said he agreed with Corker that sanctions need to be increased.
"I think the time is now to rapidly ratchet up our sanctions, whether it's on Russian petrochemical companies or on Russian banks," Murphy said.
Earlier on Sunday, Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak warned sanctions would backfire and that Russia is strong enough to ignore them.
“We can withstand pressures,” he told Fox New Sunday.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk told "Meet the Press" that Ukraine needs financial support from the U.S. to modernize its military.
He also warned Russia to stop giving advice to Ukraine about how to give more autonomy to Russian-speaking Eastern Ukraine.
“They have our own country, we have our own country,” he said. “Any Russian ideas ... are aimed at only one thing: to eliminate Ukrainian independence.”