(CNSNews.com) - Senate Republican leaders emphasized on Tuesday that "the European Union countries are our friends, and the Russians are not," as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell put it; NATO is "significant" and "valuable"; and "we understand the Russian threat."
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) went even further, raising the possibility that Russia might be declared a state sponsor of terror:
Four years ago today, nearly 300 people were killed when a Russian missile system was used over eastern Ukraine to shoot down a Malaysia airlines flight. Russia has not only downed the commercial airliner, it invaded its neighbors Georgia and Ukraine, supports the murderous Assad regime and its -- and our enemies in Afghanistan.
It's engaged in active information warfare against western democracies, including meddling in the United States elections in 2016 and elsewhere. Earlier this year, they crossed yet another line when they poisoned two individuals on allied soil in a chemical agent attack.
I've introduced legislation to require the State Department to consider within the next 90 days whether or not Russia should be listed as a state sponsor of terror, and I hope that legislation will be heard soon.
Gardner, in a tweet, said, "The moral case for such a designation is sound."
If the State Department agrees with him, Gardner said Russia would face restrictions on American foreign assistance, a ban on American defense exports and sales, limits on American sales of certain items that have both civilian and military uses, and other financial and other restrictions.
At Tuesday's news conference, McConnell said he thinks it's "important for our friends and allies to hear from us," following President Trump's much-criticized European trip, where he got tough with NATO and went easy on Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"Well, I mean, I think it's important for the Europeans to know how the Senate Republican Majority feels about the structures that were painstakingly set up over decades that have worked to maintain world peace and to have some process by which we can enter into trade agreements and other things," McConnell said.
McConnell also had a warning for Russia. He noted that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has sponsored a bill that would penalize the Russians if they interfere in the 2018 midterm election:
"So yeah, there's a possibility that we may well take up legislation related to this. In the meantime, I think the Russians need to know that there are a lot of us who fully understand what happened in 2016, and it really better not happen again in 2018."