Politics
2:28 pm
Mon March 17, 2014

U.S. Sen. Nelson Says Putin Wants To Rebuild Russian Empire

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson said Russian President Vladimir Putin can’t get over the fact that the Soviet Union no longer exists and that he wants to rebuild the Russian Empire.

But Nelson said Monday that Putin would be risking severe economic sanctions if he proceeds with further aggression into Ukraine or elsewhere.

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson speaks with reporters in his Jacksonville office on Monday.
Credit Kevin Meerschaert / WJCT

Nelson said the vote by Crimea to join Russia shouldn’t be a surprise given the region’s Russian-centric population but what happens next is the major concern.

Nelson said there are many options the U.S. and the European Union can use to tighten economic sanctions against Russia. He said it’s up to Putin how severe those sanctions would be.

"What he wants to do, you can just see the lust in his eyes, he wants to recreate the Russian empire, and this move on Crimea is his first step," he said. "Now whether or not he continues is simply going to be is he willing to pay the economic price."

Nelson said he supports freezing assets and travel bans for prominent Russian officials.

Nelson said because Russia depends on European countries purchasing its oil and natural gas, Putin would face internal pressure if sanctions begin to harm his nation’s already struggling economy.

You can follow Kevin Meerschaert on Twitter @KMeerschaertJax.