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U.S. Senator: Strong Hand Needed To Deal With Putin, Islamic State

  • RFE/RL's Balkan Service

PRAGUE -- U.S. Senator Roger Wicker says "freedom-loving" countries have to be united and firm in responding to both an aggressive Russia and the rise of the Islamic State (IS) militant group.

Wicker (Republican-Mississippi) said in an interview with RFE/RL's Arbana Vidishiqi in Prague on July 4 that the world's response to Russian President Vladimir Putin's actions in Ukraine must include "resolve and a show of strength."

Wicker, the co-chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, said that Moscow's annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and its support of separatist forces in Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine violate "almost every principle" from the Helsinki Accords, as well as the UN Charter.

He said it is important for the "free world" to "stand firm and speak the truth and let the rest of the world know that we recognize the actions of Mr. Putin for what they are. And they are violations of almost every principle of freedom, respect for other countries, and respect for the rule of law."

Despite the Crimean annexation, Wicker said the Helsinki Accords -- which promote guiding principles on relations between countries -- are "not dead."

He said their principles will be reaffirmed at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organizaton for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) that begins in Helsinki on July 5.

He also reaffirmed Washington's support for the Russian people but said that it will probably take a "change of leadership" before freedom comes to Russia.

Wicker said Russians should not feel any "animosity" from Americans or Europeans and that "the freedom-loving people around the world want to be friends with the Russian people."

Wicker said a similar show of strength by the international community is needed in dealing with the IS group, which he called a "very, very dangerous cancer."

"[IS] is not going to go away because of diplomacy," he said. "They are not going to go away because they are denounced in the United Nations or on the airwaves. They are going to have to be defeated militarily."

Wicker says the 2014 U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq was premature and that it was a mistake by the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama not to keep a "follow-on force" in the country.

He said the U.S. troop withdrawal left a power vacuum that was filled by IS.

The IS controls large parts of northern and western Iraq as well as swaths of Syria.

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