Top Dem: Time to get tough with Putin

The top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee wants the U.S. to get more aggressive with Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop Moscow from undermining America’s efforts in Syra.

“Frankly, it’s time to get tough with Mr. Putin,” Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said on C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” in an interview set to air Sunday.

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“I think we’ve been too lenient with him in terms of Ukraine, we’ve been too lenient with him in terms of all the other mischief he’s making, and how he’s doing it in Syria. But the United States can’t do it alone,” he said.

Engel’s comments underscore the simmering frustration in the U.S. as Russia launches airstrikes against Syrian rebels.

The Kremlin’s military efforts have vexed the Obama administration this week. While Moscow claims that its intended target is the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), its bombs have apparently targeted moderate rebels who have reportedly received backing from the CIA.

American officials claim that Moscow is coming to aid embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad, a longtime Kremlin ally.

“It’s clear that Putin is a liar and that he is not into Syria to defeat ISIS,” Engel said on C-SPAN. “He’s there to keep Assad in power.”

Still, U.S. options are few.

“We don’t want U.S. ground troops on the ground. We don’t want that kind of involvement,” Engel said.

“We’re sort of treading water because we don’t quite know what to do, and Putin’s entry into the field makes it all that much harder.”