President Joe Biden must be tough and speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday in a way that reflects how he knows what "Putin is," Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez said Tuesday.
"Putin is a killer," the New Jersey Democrat said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." "He said it. He was right when he said it, and that is what (Putin) is."
The United States does want a "stable, predictable relationship," said Menendez, but "we have to understand who we're speaking to."
Putin is a person who "uses chemical weapons to assassinate his opponents" and who tears territories away from his countries neighbors, such as he did with Crimea, said Menendez.
"We are speaking about someone who committed war crimes in Syria," the senator added. "I think President Biden clearly understands what he's confronting and he wants to send him a very strong message."
Menendez said that he thinks Biden will speak with Putin about the war crimes that are continuing in Syria, and about the wrongs Russia and its leader have done to the United States, including the SolarWinds attack, cybercrimes, and the "continuous challenges to our own national security.'
"This is the new frontier, and if you have a cyberattack that could undermine critical infrastructure in the United States and affect Americans, that would be the equivalent of dropping a bomb," said Menendez.
He said he does think that Biden has started to find some common ground with Putin and Russia, when he extended the New START Treaty, which is important on the questions of nuclear weapons.
"Everyone has enough who possesses them for mutual self-destruction," said the senator. "We don't need to move further, that is an area that we could engage in. In a question of international terrorism, that is the opportunity to engage in. On the question of global pandemics, that is an opportunity to engage in."
With his call for Biden to be more aggressive, Menendez said that means there are "more sanctions that could be levied" that would affect Putin's oligarchs.
"Go after those people, stop their visas to the United States, get Europe to join in the same effort, freeze their accounts, said Menendez. "You'll see how you get Putin's attention, and there are mandatory chemical weapons sanctions under the law that have not been levied yet that need to be levied as well. These are three very powerful actions."
Meanwhile, Putin "knows he doesn't have a blank check" with Biden, said Menendez. "As recently as just a few days ago, former President (Donald) Trump said that he had a great meeting with Putin in 2018 and that he believed Putin over his own intelligence agencies. He's not going to get anything like that from Joe Biden. He's going to be challenged by Joe Biden, he's going to understand there is a new day and a new sheriff in town."
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