Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein thoroughly condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin for his role in empowering Ukraine's pro-Russian separatists, during an interview with CNN on Sunday, largely laying the blame at his feet for the downing last week of a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet.
Regardless of Putin's level of involvement in the plane crash, Feinstein said, U.S. relations with Russia had dipped to a new low.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein on the Cold War
When asked by CNN's Candy Crowley if U.S.-Russia relations were now "at Cold War levels," Feinstein did not hesitate. "Yes," the California Democrat replied.
"The issue is, where is Putin? I would say, Putin, you have to man up," Feinstein said. "You should say if this was a mistake, which I hope it was, say it. Even if it was a mistake, it was a horrendous mistake to make. And I think it points out the futility of what's happening in the Ukraine."
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, also appearing on CNN, agreed with Feinstein. "I believe, as you asked Senator Feinstein that Mr. Putin is returning to a Cold War mentality," he said. "When I was over there, you could see this nationalistic pride, a sort of resurgence to regain the glory of the old days of the Soviet Empire, and so we're seeing that happen with Crimea being annexed."
Already-strained U.S. diplomatic relations with Russia have deteriorated in recent months, as a wave of unrest in Ukraine led to Russia's annexation of the Crimean Peninsula. That action and armed separatist movements in other regions of Ukraine have prompted tightening international sanctions on Russia, the most recent of which were announced by President Obama last week.
On Sunday, pro-Russian separatist militiamen took custody of about 200 of the 298 bodies found at the wreckage site of Fight 17, which was shot down by a surface-to-air missile on Thursday, according to Ukrainian officials.
Sen. Feinstein: "Putin, You Have to Man Up"
This article appears in the July 21, 2014 edition of NJ Daily.