U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said Wednesday (Jan. 16) the Trump administration has been plenty tough on Russia although an easing of sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin ally Oleg Deripaska should not be allowed. The state’s junior senator also discounted reports that President Trump may want to exit NATO.
This week, Cotton joined 10 GOP colleagues, including Arkansas’ other Senator John Boozman, and all Senate Democrats in voicing support for a measure that would oppose an easing of sanctions on Deripaska, an oligarch close to Putin. The Trump administration through the Treasury Department wants to relax sanctions on Russian companies Rusal, EN+ and EuroSibEnergo, which had been targeted because of their ties to Deripaska. The firms produce aluminum and electricity.
In a “Connect to Congress” interview on KATV with Talk Business & Politics host Roby Brock, Cotton said he considers Deripaska a “gangster.”
“I do have a disagreement with the Treasury Department on this one specific issue. Although I generally support all the sanctions that have been imposed, I don’t think there’s been enough steps taken by this gangster oligarch to divest from his Russia aluminum company to lift sanctions on them. Some of my colleagues have a difference of opinion, but I disagree. He may be below 50 percent of a controlling stake share in that company, that may work for the United States, but on the streets of Moscow, that’s not the way the world works,” Cotton said.
Cotton contends that the U.S. and Trump have been plenty tough on Russia, moreso than the previous administration, despite claims that Trump has an affinity towards Russia and Putin.
“In general over the last two years, we’ve seen a much tougher policy towards Russia than we did for eight years under Barack Obama’s administration,” Cotton said. “Remember, Barack Obama was president when Russia invaded Crimea and eastern Ukraine, when they’ve surged back into Syria and became a power broker in the Middle East again. And he largely stood by and watched those things happens. By contrast, under this administration, with the support from the Congress, we provided defensive weapons to the Ukrainians, we’ve twice bombed Vladimir Putin’s client in the Middle East, Bashar Al-Assad, we’ve closed diplomatic facilities, we’ve expelled some of their diplomats for spying.”
When asked if he was concerned about news reports that Trump has asked about withdrawing the U.S. from the North American Treaty Organization (NATO), Cotton said he doubts the reporting, but is fully supportive of NATO’s critical necessity.
“NATO’s a very successful military alliance. Of course, we should not withdraw from it. I don’t necessarily credit reports that I’ve seen in the New York Times or Washington Post though about the president’s private conversations. They’ve been notoriously wrong before,” he said.
Cotton will appear on this Sunday’s edition of Talk Business & Politics, where he’ll discuss the government shutdown and border security.