Senators: Response to tragedy 'too timid'

Lauren Schneiderman

The leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said on Sunday the U.S. response to the attack on a commercial airliner above eastern Ukraine that killed nearly 300 people has been too weak.

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Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) each said that the United States could be doing more to hold Russian President Vladimir Putin responsible for the attack.

Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday said there is evidence that links Russian-backed militants to the downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, stopping just short of directly linking the attacks to the Russian government.

Several lawmakers echoed that connection, and lamented that the United States has not done enough to support Ukraine.

“Clearly President Putin has created the set of circumstances and has supplied the resources … to the rebels so that this tragedy could take place,” said Menendez, the chairman of the panel, said on the "Fox News Sunday" program.

“For me, I think the West, including the [United States], has to have a far more significant response than we’ve seen to date,” he said.

Corker, the committee's top Republican, told Fox's Chris Wallace that the United States is only emboldening Putin by not helping Ukraine.

“This incident is incredibly tragic, to watch what's happening with these bodies,” he said. “What is also tragic is the response that the West has given up until this point. And in many ways, because of that cautious response, Russia has continued to foment all the problems that they've created in Eastern Ukraine.”

In addition to being disappointed with the U.S. response, he said that he hoped European governments would also be acting more forcefully.

Corker also said that, in speaking with State Department officials, that shipments of night-vision goggles and bulletproof vests that had been promised to the Ukrainians had not yet been delivered.

Both lawmakers expressed a hope, though, that this could be a turning point for how Western countries handle both Russia and Ukraine.

“This is a despicable act that needs to resolve with the West,” Menendez said. “I'm not worried or thinking what Putin will do, we've seen what he will do. It's what we in the West will do.”

Kerry said on Sunday that he is working with the Europeans to get tougher with Putin.

 

This post was updated at 1:40 p.m.

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