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Rubio: Obama not doing enough to punish Russia, help Ukraine

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said Saturday that President Obama has "not gone far enough" to deter Russia from meddling in Ukraine and Eastern Europe, touting a new Republican effort in the Senate to stiffen penalties for Russia if it continues its aggression.

"President Obama talks tough about Vladimir Putin, but his actions have not gone far enough to change Putin's calculation that the benefits of his aggression outweigh the costs," Rubio said in the weekly GOP address. "And that's why this week Senate Republicans introduced a bill that would increase sanctions. It would provide Ukraine with defensive military assistance. It would impose tough new sanctions on sectors of Putin's economy and on President Putin and his cronies."

The bill would also increase natural gas exports to reduce Europe's dependence on Russian energy, Rubio said, and it would urge the president to expedite the deployment of missile defense installations in Eastern Europe.

Mr. Obama unveiled a new raft of sanctions against Russia Monday, but the expanded penalties stopped short of sanctioning entire sectors of the Russian economy - a step that would constitute a significant escalation, but one that some Republicans have urged the administration to take regardless.

The European Union, moreso than the United States, has been reluctant to impose sector-wide sanctions on Russia, largely because many of its member states are more linked to the Russian economy than the U.S. is. Some states fear that harsher sanctions against Russia could end up taking a deep bite out of their own growth.

Still, on Friday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Mr. Obama stood side by side in a press conference at the White House to stress their unity, saying they are both prepared to levy stronger penalties if Russia does not cease its military buildup in Eastern Europe.

"We have a range of tools at our disposal, including sanctions that would target certain sectors of the Russian economy," Mr. Obama said. "If we see the disruptions and destabilization continuing so severely that it impedes - [Ukrainian] elections on May 25, we will not have a choice but to move forward with additional sanctions."

"I am firmly convinced ... the United States and European Union need to act in concert here," added Merkel.