LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — As the world watches the situation between Russia and Ukraine escalate, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is calling for the "toughest possible" sanctions to be placed on Russia immediately.
At a Commerce Lexington event on Tuesday, McConnell called Russia's latest action an "invasion" of parts of Ukraine.
"It should warrant the toughest possible sanctions, which in my view means maximum sanctions now - not at some future date," said McConnell. "Plus, an announcement that Nord Stream 2 is never going to be open. Not paused, but never going to be opened."
Nord Stream 2 is a key Russian natural gas pipeline that connects Russia to Germany. McConnell said scrapping the pipeline, plus tough sanctions, is needed to teach Russian President Vladimir Putin a lesson.
"Putin needs to learn out of this incident that he can't start grabbing pieces of other countries in order to rebuild what he would like to rebuild - something similar to the old Soviet Union," said McConnell.
McConnell emphasized the importance of implementing the toughest possible sanctions because he believes countries like Russia and China got the wrong message when the United States left Afghanistan. He believes they interpreted the move as a sign of American weakness.
"This is the moment to indicate American strength. Both Vladimir Putin and President Xi of China took the wrong message out of our precipitous withdrawal from Afghanistan. It looked not only chaotic, but it looked weak," said McConnell. "And so, they are pushing the limits everywhere in reaction to the perception of American weakness and loss of resolve."
However, McConnell doesn't mean military force. He believes the likelihood of U.S. military involvement in Ukraine is "zero," because the country is not a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
"They're not part of NATO," said McConnell. "So, no one is advocating the use of U.S. Military troops in Ukraine."
However, he does support "beefing up" American troop presence in other Eastern European countries that border Russia.