The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said Wednesday he shares a top admiral’s concern that Russia has not paid a high enough price to deter it from future actions like its meddling in the 2016 election.
“An aggressor will always push forward and do until he meets resistance,” Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) told reporters. “We’ve seen that time and time again over history. There has to be a price to be paid.”
Thornberry was responding to a question about Adm. Michael Rogers’s testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee the day before.
Rogers, commander of U.S. Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency, told senators that he has not been given specific direction from President Trump to disrupt Russian cyberattacks targeting U.S. elections.
Rogers pushed back on the notion that the administration has done nothing to counter Russian interference, but he acknowledged that the response so far has been insufficient in deterring such behavior.
“They haven’t paid a price, at least, that has significantly changed their behavior,” Rogers said. “You know, broadly — not just the sanctions, but broadly — my concern is I believe that President [Vladimir] Putin has clearly come to the conclusion there’s little price to pay here.”
Lawmakers, mostly Democrats, have expressed concern that the Trump administration has yet to implement sanctions approved overwhelmingly by Congress last year.
Last month, the State Department declined to begin imposing sanctions using a provision of the law that allows for the department to decide against going through with sanctions if companies are winding down their business dealings with Moscow.
Asked Wednesday if he believes the Trump administration should have started imposing sanctions last month, Thornberry said, “Sure. Of course.”
Asked why the Trump administration has not done to call out Russia, Thornberry said he had no inside information, but suggested there could be a tension between publicly shaming Moscow and revealing classified information.
“I am very much on the side of calling them out and exposing what they are doing,” he said. “You always have a tension about revealing what you learn through classified measures, because the risk is you expose what you know and how you know it.”
Still, Thornberry praised the administration for “finally” allowing sales of lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine, which is battling Russian-backed separatists.
“There’s a broad range of activities here. They’re not all online. Some of them are on the ground. And I think that’s a very positive step,” Thornberry said. “But as a country, we’re going to have to come to grips with how to deal with this attempt to manipulate us and our decisions.”