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

·4 min read

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 will meet face-to-face in two sessions in Geneva on Wednesday. Biden, who is on his first overseas trip as president, will not hold a joint press conference with Putin afterward, according to the White House.

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 the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which some critics have warned will increase Russia's leverage over Europe.

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"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, calling the pipeline a "bad move."

"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.

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, has said the U.S. is "not seeking conflict with Russia."

"We are not seeking conflict with Russia. We want a stable, predictable relationship," the president said last week when speaking with U.S. troops stationed at a Royal Air Force base in the United Kingdom. "I've been clear, the United States will respond in a robust and meaningful way when the Russian government engages in harmful activities."

Biden's presidential debut on the world stage -- he met with close allies at the Group of Seven summit, which just wrapped up in Cornwall -- has overall marked a departure from the Trump administration's "America First" approach to foreign policy.

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The members of the G-7 championed multilateralism at their meeting. The leaders of the seven countries declared a shared commitment to a global vaccination campaign and pledged cooperation on topics from girls' education to climate change.

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

McCaul applauded Biden for attending the NATO and G-7 meetings 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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