Coons Says 'Putin Will Only Stop When We Stop Him' When Pressed on US Troops

Senator Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat, warned Sunday that Russian President Vladimir Putin "will only stop when we stop him" as he was pressed about whether the United States should send troops to support Ukraine in the ongoing war.

Putin launched the full-scale invasion of Russia's Eastern European neighbor on February 24, drawing swift international condemnation. The U.S. and NATO allies quickly implemented severe sanctions targeting the Russian economy and Moscow elite, while also transferring billions of dollars in weapons and humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

The Biden administration has been consistent, however, in repeatedly asserting that U.S. troops will not get involved directly in the conflict. Coons suggested in remarks during an address to the University of Michigan last week that there could be a point where U.S. troops are sent.

"We are in a very dangerous moment where it is important that on a bipartisan and measured way we in Congress and the administration come to a common position about when we are willing to go the next step and to send not just arms but troops to the aid in defense of Ukraine," the senator, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said. "If the answer is never, then we are inviting another level of escalation in brutality by Putin."

Chris Coons and Vladimir Putin
Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware said Sunday that Russian President Vladimir Putin "will only stop when we stop him." Above to the left, Coons speaks during a Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on March 23 in Washington, D.C. Above to the right, Putin speaks during the Valdai Discussion Club's plenary meeting on October 21, 2021 in Sochi, Russia. Drew Angerer/Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

During an interview with CBS News' Face the Nation, host Margaret Brennan pressed him on the suggestion that U.S. boots on the ground should be an option under consideration.

"Are you arguing that President Biden was wrong when he said he would not send troops to Ukraine? Are you asking him to set a red line?" Brennan asked.

Coons didn't answer directly. Instead, he said that "those of us in Congress who have a critical role in setting foreign policy and in advising the president in terms of his decisions at commander in chief, need to look clearly at the level of brutality."

The senator said that if Putin "is allowed to just continue to massacre civilians, to commit war crimes throughout Ukraine without NATO, without the west coming more forcefully to his aid, I deeply worry that what's going to happen next is that we will see Ukraine turn into Syria."

"The American people cannot turn away from this tragedy in Ukraine. I think the history of the 21st century turns on how fiercely we defend freedom in Ukraine, and that Putin will only stop when we stop him," Coons asserted.

Representative Adam Kinzinger, an Illinois Republican, shared a similar assessment in a Sunday tweet.

"It's time to understand that Ukraine must win... and negotiation is not in the cards at the moment," the GOP lawmaker, who has been a staunch supporter of providing Ukraine with further assistance since the outset of the Russian invasion, wrote in the Twitter post. "Our generations are getting a lesson that our grandparents understood: the only way to defeat evil is to destroy it."

Biden, as well as Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky, have accused Putin's forces of committing war crimes and carrying out a genocide in Ukraine. International journalists and Ukrainian officials have reported instances of civilians being shot in the back of the head with their hands tied behind their back, as well as mass graves containing hundreds of bodies in areas the Russians occupied for several weeks.

However, the U.S. and NATO remain deeply concerned about escalation and being drawn into the conflict. As Russia has the world's largest stockpile of nuclear weapons, followed by the U.S., analysts fear a direct conflict between the West and Russia significantly increases the risk of nuclear conflict.

Austria's Chancellor Karl Nehammer, who on Monday became the first Western leader to sit down with Putin since he launched the war, told NBC News' Meet the Press on Sunday that the Russian president "knows exactly what's going on." He contended that Western leaders need to continue to "confront" the Russian president directly.

"We need to look in his eyes and confront him with what we see in Ukraine," the Austrian leader said.

Zelensky, in an interview with CNN's State of the Union on Sunday, stressed that Ukraine is still hoping for further dialogue with Russia, but he lamented that talks appear to be growing less likely to resolve the war.

"We must find at least some dialogue with Russia if they are capable and if we are still ready. But the chances of this are growing less by the day," the Ukrainian president said.

Putin declared on Tuesday that peace talks with Ukraine had failed. "We have again returned to a dead-end situation for us," the Russian leader said at a news conference.

Newsweek reached out to the Russian embassy for comment.