President Barack Obama has got to get more "engaged" in the situation in Ukraine that's pitted the new Ukrainian government against pro-Russian separatists, says Sen. John Thune.
Though Obama had been spending time trying to "raise money for Democrats," the United States should take the lead in working with Europeans to craft additional sanctions against Russia, the South Dakota Republican told MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
"The president's got to be more engaged, frankly. I appreciate everything that his people are doing. But, the bottom line is, he's busy. He's traveling the country right now," Thune said Wednesday. "He's got to demonstrate, I think, a level of engagement on this issue and leadership that we aren't seeing today."
Thune said "all signs point back to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin" for the missile attack that downed the commercial Malaysian jetliner on July 17 over eastern Ukraine that killed all 298 people aboard. With reports that pro-Russian separatists could be responsible for striking two Ukrainian military planes on Wednesday, he said it was important "that we get the arms flow stopped that's coming from Russia into Ukraine."
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Because of the tensions in Ukraine, Thune said he hoped it would intensify "pressure on the Europeans to join the United States and others to try and put more pressure on the Russians."
He said there were additional tools available to levy against Russia, but that it would "require American leadership."
"I think the Europeans are looking to us to see what the United States is willing to do. And, I think there is a lot more that can be done, in terms of sectoral sanctions," he said.
Thune explained additional efforts could include opening up liquefied natural gas exports, allowing the U.S. to "become more engaged in providing some of the energy needs for Europe."
"I think that will take some of the economic dependence away, and, hopefully, free them up to be able to put more pressure on the Russians," he said.
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