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GOP congressman says US should ‘start thinking about hitting back’ at Russia


(WASHINGTON) — Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, a top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, on Sunday called on the United States to “start thinking about hitting back” at Russia as President Joe Biden prepares for a face-to-face meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“You want to go into these talks in a position of strength, not of weakness. I think he’s going in a little bit out of weakness because he’s made all these concessions,” McCaul told ABC “This Week” co-anchor Martha Raddatz, referring to Biden’s response to recent controversies involving Russia, including the poisoning and imprisonment of Putin opposition leader Alexey Navalny, a string of cyberattacks on the U.S. emanating from Russian soil and Nord Stream 2, a natural gas pipeline being built from Russia to the coast of Germany.

“I think sanctions are great but I think it’s time to start thinking about hitting back,” he said. “They need to know that when they do this, there are consequences to their actions and we’re going to hit them back. Until we do that, they’re going to continue with bad behavior.”

Biden and Putin meet in Geneva on Wednesday. Biden, who is on his first overseas trip as president, will not hold a joint press conference with Putin afterward. Asked about that at a Group of Seven press conference Sunday, Biden said, “This is not a contest about who can do better in front of a press conference or try to embarrass each other.”

Some Republicans have argued that Biden should not meet with Putin on his presidential debut on the world stage because of the controversies surrounding Russia. McCaul called the one-on-one meeting with Putin the “most powerful and most dangerous meeting” of Biden’s overseas trip.

“I think the price for admission to the ticket for this seat was way too high,” McCaul said of the meeting, citing as an example the moving forward on construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which some critics have warned will increase Russia’s leverage over Europe.

“The president waived ‘in the national interest’ Nord Stream 2, which would be Putin’s pipeline going into Europe so that European — you know, our partners — will be dependent on Russian energy,” said McCaul.

“I don’t think that’s in the United States’ national interest. Quite frankly, it’s not in Europe’s best interest either, and this really empowered Putin when this happened,” he continued.

When pressed by Raddatz about Germany’s support of Nord Stream 2, despite the criticisms, McCaul replied, “Germany is the only sympathetic country in Europe that wants this. Their former chancellor is a lobbyist for the Russian Federation, which calls into question a lot of this.”

“I think it’s a bad move,” he said.

McCaul also criticized the lack of “repercussions” against Putin on cyberattacks, saying, “I think we need to demonstrate and the president needs to demonstrate to Putin, there will be consequences to your actions if you continue to do this.”

Biden, who is taking a different approach to Putin than the previous Trump administration, said last week that the U.S. is “not seeking conflict with Russia.”

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in an earlier interview on “This Week,” said that Biden is meeting with Putin to talk “directly” and “clearly” about Russia’s recent aggressive actions.

“The president is not seeing President Putin in spite of all of these things, it’s precisely because of them,” he said. “To be able to talk to him directly, clearly about these profound differences, and also to see if we can have a more predictable, stable relationship, but equally to make clear that if Russia chooses to continue to act aggressively — to act recklessly — we’ll respond forcefully, as the president’s already done.”

During Biden’s presidential debut on the world stage he has marked a departure from the Trump administration’s “America First” approach to foreign policy.

Biden is scheduled to attend a NATO summit in Brussels on Monday.

McCaul applauded Biden for attending the NATO and G-7 summits prior to meeting with Putin, calling it a “smart” decision.

“I think it’s important we work with our NATO allies, we work with the G-7,” he said. “I think in the past and (with former president Donald) Trump, the frustration was there was a lot of talk and no action, so that’s why we espoused ‘America First,’ we wanted to espouse our ideals over our European partners.”

“Now I think it’s better when we work together,” added McCaul.

ABC News’ Jordyn Phelps contributed to this report.

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