SEN. KELLY AYOTTE: Thanks, Bob.
BOB SCHIEFFER: --on the scene. What's up? What's happening?
SEN. KELLY AYOTTE: In Maidan Square right now, Bob, you see thousands of Ukrainians protesting the Russian occupation of Crimea. So this is a Russian protest by Ukrainians who want their sovereignty, they want their freedom, and they're protesting what Russia did in Crimea.
BOB SCHIEFFER: You are just back, I understand, from a meeting with some of the Ukrainian leaders. What are they telling you about these Russian troops that are poised on the border of Ukraine?
SEN. KELLY AYOTTE: Well, we met with the prime minister; we also met with other ministers of cabinet. And essentially, they're very worried about the Russian amassing of troops on the eastern Ukrainian border. Also, yesterday, they arrested three Russian armed agents in eastern Ukraine.
And the reason that they are there is to actually create a protest, to actually create a conflict. And so it was good that they arrested them, but you can see the actions that the Russians are trying to take in eastern Ukraine. And so it's so important that we take actions to deter further Russian aggression against the Ukrainian people.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, what actually could we do, in your view, Senator?
SEN. KELLY AYOTTE: Having heard here from the leaders, I appreciate what the president did this week with sanctions. I think we need to do more with sanctions, including sanctioning the entire financial sector of the Russian economy, as well as looking at the energy sector.
The Russian economy is a one-trick pony. They're totally focused on natural gas and oil. And so if we were to impose greater sanctions on economic sectors, I think we could have a significant impact on Putin and then he would get the message.
In addition to that, I think further military assistance. President Yanukovych, the deposed president, essentially he gutted the Ukrainian military. And so I think we could provide some more assistance to them in that regard.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Though do you think the United States would actually be willing to do that? I mean, they asked for military aid and we sent them, as I understand it, military meals for the troops. Should we do more? What kind of military aid do you think we ought to send them?
SEN. KELLY AYOTTE: Well, first of all, I think we could do more in terms of communications equipment that we can help them with, technical assistance. In addition to that, they've put in a request to us and N.A.T.O. for some small arms. I think there are some things that we could do that don't involve our boots on the ground to really help them also stand up and help their military really at this time. I think that's very important.
In addition to that, Bob, you know, we had the U.S.S. (UNINTEL) in the Black Sea. I think that needs to be returned to the Black Sea. It was on exercises; it's now been removed. I think we should return it there.
BOB SCHIEFFER: The administration had proposed a huge economic package for Ukraine, but the Senate did not seem to see that this was something that needed to be done immediately. You all adjourned and went on vacation. Do you think that you'll get around to passing that aid package this week?
SEN. KELLY AYOTTE: As I understand it, we're going to take up that aid package tomorrow in the Senate. I think it's important that we do this right away. Obviously they need those loan guarantees, they need our assistance. And in addition to the sanctions that the administration has put forward, and I think that they'll do additional sanctions, this is very important that the Congress do this right away. That was one of the messages that the prime minister certainly gave to us today.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Are they worried, in Kiev, that Putin will actually move those troops that are on the border into Ukraine? Is that a worry there now?
SEN. KELLY AYOTTE: I think that's always a consideration and a worry. You see the troops, a significance presence he has on the Ukrainian border. You know that the agents, the Russian agents, were arrested yesterday in eastern Ukraine. And that's why it's really important that we turn this around quickly.
I think the president has to appreciate what he's done in terms of sanctions, but to be even stronger. And then also to reassure our allies in the region. Our allies are asking for greater presence of N.A.T.O., particularly Poland, the Czech Republic, those countries surrounding Ukraine. So this is a very important time for the United States, I think, also to help turn this around. It's a wakeup moment in terms of our relationship with Russia. And so we need to deter Putin from further actions, because this is a very real threat, Bob.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Could you foresee military forces being put in there, either N.A.T.O. or U.S. forces, or a combination? We are part of N.A.T.O., of course.
SEN. KELLY AYOTTE: Of course. I don't see any boots on the ground right now, nor are they asking for that. I think that what we can do though is strengthen N.A.T.O.'s presence, particularly in the countries surrounding Ukraine, and also provide assistance to the Ukrainian military.
But most importantly, we need to send a message to Vladimir Putin through stronger sanctions. We need him to understand that the sanctions that we put in place can have a significant impact on his economy, that we need to deter further action from him. And understand who he is: A former K.G.B. colonel. He's a bully. And bullies only understand when we punch them in the nose, but we need to do that economically. That is our strongest move at this point.
BOB SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, Senator Ayotte, thank you so much for joining us.
SEN. KELLY AYOTTE: Thanks so much, Bob. Appreciate it.