McConnell calls for stronger sanctions on Russia and larger focus veterans claims backlog

03/17/2014 06:43 PM

LOUISVILLE — Flanked by veterans and Republican colleagues, Kentucky U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell called for tougher action to be taken against Russia as the situation in Crimea escalates.

President Barack Obama announced Monday that he is leveling new sanctions against Russian officials. The announcement comes one day after the Crimean region of Ukraine voted overwhelmingly to join Russia in a referendum that the United States and western allies vowed not to recognize.

In a press conference Monday afternoon, Republican U.S. Sens. Mitch McConnell and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire said the United States and the international community implement tougher sanctions to send a stronger message to Russia.

McConnell said Russian officials offered a “ridiculous rationale” for entering Crimea and said he would like to see Russia dropped from the G-8 summit.

Watch McConnell and Ayotte’s statements here:

In a statement to Pure Politics, Democratic candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes said she believes the vote in Crimea was illegitimate and she stressed that the chief goal is to make sure the situation doesn’t escalate.

“The United States and its European allies must be firm that Russian aggression — including a unilateral decision to annex Crimea or to intrude on other regions of Ukraine — will carry a stiff economic and diplomatic price, which must begin to be exacted now and will increase if Russia escalates its illegal actions,” Grimes said in the statement.

However, former Northern Kentucky Congressman Geoff Davis said times of international tensions reveal the contrast between McConnell’s experience on foreign affairs and his opponents.

“Literally he has forgotten more than either of his opponents will ever learn in five lifetimes about dealing with federal defense issues,” Davis said.

Before the press conference, McConnell and Ayotte sat down with a group of veterans to hear their concerns.

McConnell later told reporters that the two issues that came up most were the backlog of the Veterans Affairs claims and the veteran cost of living adjustment decrease that was initially part of the bipartisan budget deal.

McConnell said if the country is going to have a successful volunteer army, the United States needs to make the treatment of those serving a priority.

Ayotte, who was elected to the Senate in 2010, noted the importance of veterans issues to her personally as the wife of a veteran, and she said that McConnell’s leadership is needed to get things done on veterans issues as well as other important issues.

“Mitch McConnell invited me to go to Afghanistan and he said to me that it is so important he felt that the first place you go when you serve in Congress is to go visit out men and women in uniform on the ground who are serving in harm’s way and from that moment, I could see what a leader Mitch McConnell is not only for Kentucky but for our nation,” Ayotte recounted.


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