Nine Republican senators have signed a letter calling on President Donald Trump to take a tough stance when dealing with Russia, though they did encourage the president to “seek common ground.”
The letter, spearheaded by Senator Corey Gardner and signed by several other high-profile Republicans, including John Cornyn and Lindsey Graham, said it is important to cooperate with Russia when necessary, but also stresses the need to confront Moscow on issues like cyber hacking and its aggressive actions in Ukraine.
The letter which was made public Thursday says although the senators believe the United States "should seek common ground with Russia in the areas of mutual interest, [but] never pursue cooperation with Russia at the expense of our fundamental interests of defending our allies and promoting our values."
The senators said they would like to see Trump impose new sanctions on Russia, if necessary, to stop Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine. The senators also said there should be no commitment made with Russia to end the violence in Syria until Russia gives up its support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Trump statements on Russia
Trump, during the opening weeks of his presidency, has repeatedly expressed interest in rebuilding relations between the United States and Russia. In a recent interview he said that while he “respects” Russian President Vladimir Putin, he doesn’t know how well the two will get along.
"I say it’s better to get along with Russia than not. And if Russia helps us in the fight against ISIS [Islamic State], which is a major fight, and Islamic terrorism all over the world, that’s a good thing," Trump told Fox News in an interview aired Sunday. "Will I get along with him? I have no idea," he added.
Reuters reports that during his first call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on January 28, Trump criticized several deals made by the Obama administration, including the New Start treaty, which limits the number of nuclear warheads that can be deployed by either country.
Putin brought up the idea of extending the treaty for another five years, according to the Reuters report. If the two sides do not agree to extend or renegotiate the deal, it would allow both sides to deploy an unlimited number of warheads.