Sen. Joni Ernst: Russia will never "be a true friend" to the U.S.

Ahead of President Trump's summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Finland later this month, Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, says that she doesn't see how Russia could "ever be a true friend or ally to the United States." She cautioned Mr. Trump against considering working with Russia to oust Iran from Syria in return for the U.S. reducing its troop presence in the country.

"I would be concerned, we need stability in that region and I would just caution the president as we move forward with any discussions with Russia. Obviously Russia is not our friend," said Ernst on CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday. "I would be very cautious in those moves, but if there is a way we can partner and put a lid on Iran, I would support that. But again, being very cautious, because I don't see that Russia would ever be a true friend or ally to the United States of America."

Highlighting ongoing talks with North Korea as an example of taking hostile leaders for their word, Ernst said engaging in productive discussions is "OK" but cautioned against working with world leaders who not "have the the same interests at the United States of America does."

"Just as it is with North Korea, discussions are good and if we can move towards a resolution where the world becomes a safer place, we should always strive for that," Ernst added. "But again, we just need to be very cautious with a number of these leaders."

Ernst said the U.S. should resume military exercises with South Korea should talks with the North fail. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with top North Korean officials for two days in Pyongyang this week in talks the North characterized as "regrettable." 

"We should continue with military exercises. Obviously I believe they have a purpose in keeping the peninsula safe and making sure that should anything happen we are well rehearsed with our allies to engage," Ernst said Sunday. "So I would say soon if we don't see those talks continue."

She said that she continues to support engaging North Korea despite the regime's tough talk. North Korea accused Pompeo of making "gangster-like" demands following this week's talks.

"The ultimate goal is denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and if these talks lead to that, I am very supportive of those efforts. Of course we're going to hear hard talk coming from North Korea, this is not the path that they want to take but it is what the rest of the world wants to see," she added. 

  • Emily Tillett

    Emily Tillett is a politics reporter and video editor for CBS News Digital