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Dan Coats: US Must Get Tougher With Putin

By Bill Hoffmann   |   Wednesday, 14 May 2014 06:41 PM

Moscow's threat to deny the United States use of the International Space Station after 2020 is a typical tough-guy stunt by Vladimir Putin, says Sen. Dan Coats, who's co-sponsoring a new sanctions bill to punish the Russian president for his bullying.

"This is classic Vladimir Putin . . . I'm not surprised that they have pushed back on this," Coats, an Indiana Republican, told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.

"They're the ones that invaded Crimea, they're the ones that have been threatening eastern Ukraine with tens of thousands of troops on the border.

"They're . . . the guy beating his chest basically saying, 'I'm the biggest kid in the playground and I can do whatever I want to do,''' Coats said Wednesday.

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The U.S. has imposed a number of economic sanctions on Russia already, but the proposed Russian Weapons Embargo Act of 2014 is one of the strongest — and it's gathered support from both Democrats and Republicans.

"It sanctions the export agency of Russia that sends Russian weapons to bad guys, called Rosoboronexport," Coats said.

"[They] send arms, and some of those arms go directly to Syria and Bashar Assad, [and are] being used against his own people. Those weapons [also] go to the Afghan government.''

In addition, Coats said, Afghanistan is purchasing helicopters from Russia with relief money from the United States.

"I mean, can you believe we have something like this going on? We should absolutely insist that if we're going to arm the good guys in Afghanistan, our dollars ought to be used to purchase our own equipment rather than purchasing Russian equipment,'' he said.

Coats, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, was the co-sponsor of a 2012 bill that would have designated Boko Haram, the Islamic extremists who've kidnapped nearly 300 Nigeria schoolgirls, as a terrorist group.

The State Department, during Hillary Clinton's reign, declined to make that designation.

"There's been a long pattern here, this president basically talking strong but acting very weak," Coats said.

"You look around the world at the troubles and problems that we are trying to deal with and take some leadership in, and on each of those the president has basically been very tepid, very weak.

"There is a bully in the schoolyard, it's Putin, it's Assad, it's others across the Middle East, but our guy in the schoolyard is basically saying I don't want to take that on.''

Rep. Peter King of New York accused the U.S. of dropping the ball on Boko Haram during an appearance Tuesday on Newsmax TV's "America's Forum."

The United States has known of the group — also responsible for killing hundreds in Nigerian villages — for years, King said.

He added that while Congress, the FBI, CIA and Justice Department all called for the group to be declared a terrorist organization, the State Department failed to act.

"The significance of that is it gives the Justice Department the opportunity to go after people who fund Boko Haram," King told "America's Forum" hosts J.D. Hayworth and John Bachman.

"It enables us to use more of our intelligence assets against them. The State Department under Secretary Clinton did not want to. They failed to focus attention on them and they also said it may cut off the opportunity to negotiate with Boko Haram.

"Talk about a pre-9/11 mentality," King said. "What in the world ever gave them the idea you can negotiate with someone like Boko Haram?"

Coats said he is now investigating the reasons for Boko Haram's avoiding a terror designation for several years.

"We're trying to get to the bottom of that. I have been told that the Nigerian government at the time strongly advised us not to do that," he said.

"But, you know, our policy should not be based on what the government of a particular country that is harboring a terrorist group that it has no control over [wants]."

Boko Haram has since been tagged a terror group.

"I'm glad that we have labeled them for what they are now. Clearly they deserve this label," Coats said.

"Clearly we're in a situation here with probably one of, if not the most, violent, aggressive terrorist groups in the world today."

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