Republicans are urging President Joe Biden to take a stronger stance on punishing Russia for its recognition of two breakaway regions of Ukraine as fears mount that Moscow will soon launch a full-scale invasion.

On Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to escalate and will resort to increasingly aggressive moves if nothing is done to hold him accountable. In a statement, McConnell urged Biden to impose the "toughest possible sanctions now" against the Russian government.

"Every indication suggests these actions will almost certainly be used as a prelude to even further aggression and an even larger invasion," said McConnell. "The world is watching. Our allies, our adversaries and neutral countries will all judge the West by our response — and plan their futures accordingly."

In the House, Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, and Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., the top Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services committees, urged Biden to follow through on his administration's promises of a "swift and firm" response to any Russian move against Ukraine. With Russian troops en route to the Ukrainian separatist states in Donetsk and Luhansk, the two demanded that Biden impose "real costs" in response.

"Now is the time for President Biden to impose sanctions that strike at the heart of the Russian economy ... as he promised the world he would do," the two Republicans said in a joint statement.

On Monday, Putin convened a meeting of his Security Council where attendees endorsed a move to recognize the two separatist territories. Later that day, the Russian leader delivered a speech announcing the move alongside a litany of historical grievances against Ukraine and the West. A day later, the Russian parliament authorized the deployment of “peacekeepers” to the Donbas region and announced a drawdown of its embassy in Kyiv.

NATO allies and Ukraine were swift in their condemnation of Putin’s decision. On Tuesday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced the termination of the much-maligned NordStream 2 pipeline meant to deliver gas from Russia, a move long sought by U.S. officials. Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson also acted by imposing sanctions on three Russian billionaires close to Putin and a freeze on the assets of five Russian banks.

Gas prices soared by 10 percent in Europe after Germany suspended the certification of Nord Stream 2.
Gas prices soared by 10 percent in Europe after Germany suspended the certification of Nord Stream 2. AFP / John MACDOUGALL

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was quick to condemn the move to recognize the separatists, but the White House dithered in explaining whether or not the advance of Russian troops into the occupied region constituted an invasion. Biden later announced sanctions forbidding Americans from trading or investing with the Donbas statelets, but Republicans were unimpressed.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a longtime hawk on Russia, criticized the administration's response as "minimalist" and urged tougher actions be taken. Graham assured Biden that he would find support among many Republicans if he took this approach.

"I promise you there are a bunch of Republicans that will stand firmly with you to push back against this outrage by Putin and to reset the world order. I also promise you if you try to soft sell this and don't push back hard, the Republican Party will be an alternative to what you're suggesting," Graham said on Tuesday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has sternly questioned Ukraine's right to exist as an independent state
Russian President Vladimir Putin has sternly questioned Ukraine's right to exist as an independent state SPUTNIK via AFP / Mikhail KLIMENTYEV

Democrats were similarly incensed by Russia’s actions. Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said Putin "must be held accountable" and called for a strong, coordinated response by the U.S. and its allies. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez, D-N.J., said the response to Russia should include "crushing" sanctions.

“This illegal recognition is an attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty. To be clear, if any additional Russian troops or proxy forces cross into Donbas, the Biden administration and our European allies must not hesitate in imposing crushing sanctions,” said Menendez in a statement.