As President Obama's administration prepares a new slew of sanctions on Russia in response to the country's annexation of the Crimea region in Ukraine, there remains an ongoing debate among congressional lawmakers regarding whether America has acted with sufficient strength.
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., the ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, warned Sunday that U.S. inaction toward Russia is analogous to America's gloves-on reaction last year to mass killings ordered by Syrian President Bashar Assad.
"I think the Administration is basically saying to Russia, 'Look, don't do anything overt, don't come across the border with 40,000 troops, don't embarrass us in that way, but you can continue to undermine the sovereignty of Ukraine by doing the things that you've done,' " Corker said on NBC's "Meet The Press." "I've urged in every way I can for this Administration to go ahead and push back now."
But, Corker warned, "It's going to be too late, just like in Syria," referring to the Syrian civil war in which thousands were killed, many at the hands of their own government, before the United States worked with its allies to intervene diplomatically to prevent the further use of chemical weapons.
"I hate to say such a crass thing on Easter Sunday morning," Corker continued, "but the wisest thing Assad did was to kill 1,200 people with chemical weapons, because, in essence, we said, 'Don't embarrass us anymore that way. You can go ahead and kill another 60,000 people with barrel bombs and by other means, but don't embarrass us.' "
"And I think that's what we're saying to Russia today by the actions that we're not taking," Corker added. "'Don't embarrass us, but you can continue the black ops activities. You can continue the other things that you're doing.'"
So far, President Obama and American allies abroad have preferred adopting diplomatic options to punish Russia for its encroachment into Ukraine, reflecting a larger goal of containing Russia and President Vladimir Putin, rather than actively pushing back.
"I think the time is now to rapidly ratchet up our sanctions," said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., another member of the Foreign Relations Committee, during the same interview with Corker.