Sen. Kelly Ayotte: Putin is a bully who needs to be ‘punched in the nose’

Kelly AyotteSen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) referred to Russian President Vladimir Putin as a bully that the United States needs to punch in the nose — economically — during an interview on Sunday.

Ayotte, who was in Ukraine at the time of the interview leading a Congressional delegation, told Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer that the U.S. needs to send a message to Vladamir Putin that his actions against Ukraine are not acceptable. Ayotte recommended providing assistance to Ukrainian military forces and placing stronger sanctions on Russia.

“Understand who he is — a former KGB colonel,” she said of Putin. “He’s a bully, and bullies only understand when we punch them in the nose, and we need to do that economically. That is our strongest move at this point.”

Ayotte said she appreciates the President Barack Obama’s recent action, but there is still more that she wants to see happen to help Ukraine.

“I think we need to do more with sanctions, including sanctioning the entire financial sectors of the Russian economy, as well as looking at the energy sectors,” she said.

Being that Russia is extremely focused on natural gas and oil — a “one-trick pony,” the Senator said — Ayotte noted that tougher sanctions on energy will send Putin a message. Along with economic restrictions, Ayotte recommended providing technical and communication assistance to the Ukrainian military. But the New Hampshire Senator emphasized that there wouldn’t be a deployment of U.S. or NATO troops.

Later this week, the Senate will vote on an economic aid package for Ukraine, something Ayotte strongly urged her fellow Senators to pass.

During Ayotte’s Sunday morning interview, she noted that Ukrainians were lining up in the streets behind her in protest of the Russian occupation of Crimea.

“This is a Russian protest by Ukrainians who want their sovereignty,” she said. “They want their freedom and they’re protesting what Russia did in Crimea.”

Crimea is a primarily pro-Russian part of Ukraine and an area that was formerly under Soviet ownership. More than half of its population considers themselves Russian, and the peninsula has been argued over since the collapse of the Soviet Union. In a recent vote, 97 percent of Crimeans said they would like to rejoin Russia.