Sen. Menendez Urges 'Far More Significant Response' to Russia

By Susan Jones | July 21, 2014 | 7:50 AM EDT

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) (AP File Photo)

( - Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the Democratic Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, says he advocated stronger sanctions against Russia, even before a passenger jet was shot out of the sky over a Russian-backed area of Ukraine:

"So, for me, I think that the West, including the United States, has to have a far more significant response than we've seen to date. It's what I thought before the shoot-down, and certainly this is a despicable act that needs to resolved by the West.

"I'm not worried or thinking about what Putin will do...It's what we in the West will do," Menendez told "Fox News Sunday."

President Obama announced tougher sanctions on Russia last week, but he did that the day before the Malaysian plane was shot down, apparently by a missile supplied to the Ukraine rebels by Russia.

In comments he made on Friday, after the plane crashed, Obama said the U.S. has "a capacity to increase the costs" imposed on Russia, but he also said "it's very important for us to make sure that we don't get out ahead of the facts." He ruled out U.S. military support for Ukraine.

Appearing with Menendez on "Fox News Sunday," Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said the "cautious response" by the United States simply encourages Russia to "foment all the problems that they created in eastern Ukraine."

"So, I hope this will be a catalyst for the West to step forward," Corker said. "I've been incredibly discouraged by not only the U.S. response but candidly Europe's response. The night vision goggles, the bulletproof vests -- in a conversation this weekend with the State Department, I understand they're not even delivered yet to Ukraine.

"So, look, I don't know how anybody can say our response has been anything but timid and cautious and has kept Putin from really hanging a price inside his country for the actions that have been taken. So, hopefully, again, on the positive side, this will galvanize the international community to take the kind of steps that should have been taken months ago to push back on Putin and to cause him to pay the kind of price that he should pay for this outrageous act."

Secretary of State John Kerry, appearing on all of the Sunday talk shows, suggested the onus was now on European countries to take tougher steps against President Vladimir Putin, since Europe does significantly more business with Russia than the U.S. does.