INDIANAPOLIS – U.S. Sen. Dan Coats wants tougher sanctions against Russia for its growing involvement in Ukraine, despite signs of wariness back home.
“If there is a bully in the schoolyard, the sooner you realize that and stand up to that bully, the less grief you’re going to endure,” said Coats, a member of Senate Intelligence Committee.
Coats, in Indiana for Congress’ Easter recess, stops short of calling for the United States to arm the Ukrainian military to combat pro-Russian forces, as some of his Republican colleagues have done. But he’s pushing for action by the United States and its European allies before civil war erupts in Ukraine.
During an interview in Indianapolis, Coats said when he returns to Washington this week, he plans to join a group of Senate Republicans who will call on the Obama administration to ratchet up sanctions against Russia’s banking and energy industries.
A former U.S. ambassador to Germany, Coats said he’s scheduled to have dinner with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and plans to push her to adopt a more hardline approach against Russia, the biggest supplier of natural gas to the European Union.
“I’m for taking tough diplomatic, economic and financial sanctions now,” he said, “so we can send a message to Russia that this is going to hurt them in the long run.”
Coats is a prominent critic of Russia’s military actions in the disputed Ukrainian territory of Crimea. In early March, he joined Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois in a resolution calling for harsh international punishment for Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government.
He followed that with legislation to prevent the United States from recognizing Russian sovereignty in Crimea. It also would prohibit U.S. investment in Crimea involving Russia, and it would oppose international assistance to Crimea via Moscow.