US needs the 'resolve' to take on Russia, says GOP Sen. Johnson


WASHINGTON — Republican Sen. Ron Johnson said Sunday that the U.S. and Western allies must stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin in the face of "aggression" and "provocations" from Moscow.

"We have to have the resolve, I mean, we have to," the Wisconsin lawmaker and chairman of the Senate's Homeland Security Committee said in an exclusive interview on "Meet The Press."

"I wish Russia were no more than a friendly rival," Johnson said. "But unfortunately, they're an unfriendly adversary. And it's been their aggression, their provocations, that have really resulted in a relationship that is not healthy for the world, for world peace."

Johnson specifically cited Russia's involvement in Iran and Syria, invasion of Crimea and threats to eastern Europe, and the need to enforce sanctions on North Korea as points of tension between the two countries.

"We need to work with Russia," he added. "They have 7,000 nuclear weapons. So I understand the president's desire to try and improve relations with Russia. But you have to look at the reality of the situation and react accordingly, as well."

Russia's ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, said Friday on "Today" that he can't remember a period of worse relations between the two countries.

The United States announced a decision earlier this week to expel 60 diplomats from Russia and close the Russian consulate in Seattle following the poisoning of a former Russian spy in the U.K. Russia responded by announcing the move to expel 60 U.S. diplomats and close the U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg.

SEE: U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg, Russia

16 PHOTOS
US consulate in St. Petersburg, Russia
See Gallery
US consulate in St. Petersburg, Russia
ST PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - MARCH 29, 2018: A view of the US Consulate General at Furstatskaya Street in St Petersburg. Peter Kovalev/TASS (Photo by Peter Kovalev\TASS via Getty Images)
A view through a fence shows the building of the consulate-general of the U.S. in St. Petersburg, Russia March 29, 2018. REUTERS/Anton Vaganov
A man walks near the building of the consulate-general of the U.S. in St. Petersburg, Russia March 29, 2018. REUTERS/Anton Vaganov
A view through a fence shows the building of the consulate-general of the U.S. in St. Petersburg, Russia March 29, 2018. REUTERS/Anton Vaganov
Policemen stand guard outside the building of the consulate-general of the U.S. in St. Petersburg, Russia March 29, 2018. REUTERS/Anton Vaganov
The state flag of the U.S. flies outside the building of the country's consulate-general in St. Petersburg, Russia March 29, 2018. REUTERS/Anton Vaganov
The flag of the U.S. flies outside the U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg, Russia, July 31, 2017. REUTERS/Anton Vaganov
Security officers watch a consulate car entering the U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg, Russia, July 31, 2017. REUTERS/Anton Vaganov
A security officer speaks with a driver near the U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg, Russia, July 31, 2017. REUTERS/Anton Vaganov
A police officer walks outside the US Consulate building in St.Petersburg on March 29, 2018. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on March 29, 2018 Moscow would expel 60 US diplomats and close its consulate in Saint Petersburg in a tit-for-tat expulsion over the poisoning of ex-double agent Sergei Skripal. / AFP PHOTO / OLGA MALTSEVA (Photo credit should read OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP/Getty Images)
A security officer stands guard outside the U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg, Russia, July 31, 2017. REUTERS/Anton Vaganov
A photo taken on March 29, 2018 shows the US Consulate building in St.Petersburg. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on March 29, 2018 Moscow would expel 60 US diplomats and close its consulate in Saint Petersburg in a tit-for-tat expulsion over the poisoning of ex-double agent Sergei Skripal. / AFP PHOTO / OLGA MALTSEVA (Photo credit should read OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP/Getty Images)
ST PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - MARCH 29, 2018: A view of the US Consulate General at Furstatskaya Street in St Petersburg. Peter Kovalev/TASS (Photo by Peter Kovalev\TASS via Getty Images)
ST PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - MARCH 29, 2018: A view of the US Consulate General at Furstatskaya Street in St Petersburg. Peter Kovalev/TASS (Photo by Peter Kovalev\TASS via Getty Images)
ST PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - MARCH 29, 2018: A view of the US Consulate General at Furstatskaya Street in St Petersburg. Peter Kovalev/TASS (Photo by Peter Kovalev\TASS via Getty Images)
ST PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - MARCH 29, 2018: A view of the US Consulate General at Furstatskaya Street in St Petersburg. Peter Kovalev/TASS (Photo by Peter Kovalev\TASS via Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Johnson added that he has "no idea" whether the way President Donald Trump talks about Putin is influenced by special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian attempts to meddle in the 2016 election.

But he did say that he "absolutely" believes Mueller's investigation has hampered the ability of concurrent investigations in Congress to get information.

MORE: People reportedly interviewed in Robert Mueller's Russia probe

11 PHOTOS
People reportedly interviewed in Robert Mueller's Russia probe
See Gallery
People reportedly interviewed in Robert Mueller's Russia probe

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions 

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Former FBI Director James Comey

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer

(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

White House Director of Strategic Communications Hope Hicks

(Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Trump advisor Stephen Miller

(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

President Trump's son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner 

(bBRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Don McGahn, general counsel for the Trump transition team

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Christopher Steele, the former MI6 agent who compiled the reported Trump dossier 

(Photo by Victoria Jones/PA Images via Getty Images)

Sam Clovis, a former member of the Trump campaign

(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

CIA Director Mike Pompeo
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

"I would've much rather had the Senate and House Intelligence Committees complete their report," he said. "Because I know what happens. When you have a criminal investigation, it's that much more difficult for Congress to get the information, to allow the American public to understand what's happening."

Johnson said he felt Mueller was appointed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to lead the probe "too soon."

"I would've rather had the process play out," he said. "Because I think public disclosure, the public's right to know, trumps everything else."

Read Full Story