Sens. Bob Menendez and Jim Risch, the two top senators on the Foreign Relations Committee, said Sunday they are confident they will get a bipartisan deal on Russian sanctions when the Senate comes back from recess.
“I believe that we will get there,” Menendez told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union.” “We have been working in good faith. We’ve been accommodating different views and we are committed, jointly, in a bipartisan way to defend Ukraine and to send (Russian President Vladimir) Putin the message: it’ll be bluntly and consequential.”
On the package, Menendez, who chairs the committee, said some sanctions could happen upfront and others would go into effect if Russia were to invade Ukraine.
“I would describe it as that we are on the one-yard line and hopefully we will be able to conclude successfully,” said Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey. “Look, there are some sanctions that really could take place upfront because of what Russia has already done. Cyberattacks on Ukraine, false flag operations, the efforts to undermine the Ukrainian government internally, those are just some examples of sanctions that could take place now.”
He added: “But then the devastating sanctions that ultimately would crush Russia’s economy and the continuing lethal aid that we are going to send, which means Putin has to decide how many body bags of Russian sons are going to return to Russia, the sanctions that we’re talking about would come later on if (Russia) invades. Some sanctions would come up front for what has been done already, but the lethal aid will travel no matter what.”
Risch, a Republican from Idaho, said a major sticking point in negotiations for the economic sanctions package continues to be the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
“We’ve had a disagreement on that, continuing disagreement, since the administration took office,” Risch said. “But look, there’s been something happened on the ground that is changed the dynamics and open the door, really, for us to reach agreement on that and that is that the Germans have signaled that they are suspending, pausing if you would, certification, thus completion of the pipeline for six months.”
He added: “That’s going to be the last T crossed, I dotted before we put the ball across the finish line.”
Biden pledges to move US troops to NATO allies
The White House has warned that a Russian invasion into Ukraine is “imminent” as a build-up of Russian forces on the country’s border continues. And on Friday, President Joe Biden said he will move US troops to NATO allies in Eastern Europe in the “near term.”
CNN reported Saturday that the US has seen indications that Russia has positioned supplies of blood near Ukraine’s borders, as part of its accumulation of medical supplies, troops and military equipment in the area.
Ukraine has denied that Russia has moved any blood supplies to the front lines and the White House has said Ukraine has been downplaying threats of an invasion in a way that could lead the country to be unprepared for a potential Russian attack.
Menendez said he believes Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is in a “difficult position,” which is why he is asking for the US to stop dire warnings about an invasion.
Risch said this potential invasion of Ukraine is very different than when Russia invaded Crimea in 2014.
“This is not the same as the Crimea, when he did this last time,” Risch said, referencing the previous invasion from Russia. “There is substantially, substantially more worldwide opposition to (Putin’s) thoughts this time.”
CNN’s Chandelis Duster, Oren Liebermann, Natasha Bertrand and Matthew Chance contributed to this report.