Washington, July 8: The economic sanctions imposed by the US on Russia were not working, the country's senator from Wisconsin, Ron Johnson, told Washington Examiner.
Johnson, who was a member of the delegation of US congressmen which visited Russia between June 30 and July 5, said the sanctions didn't seem to produce a "real horrible economic effect" but added that the measures targeting oligarchs close to Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared to be more effective.
"And I think you'd be hard-pressed to say that sanctions against Russia are really working all that well," Johnson told Washington Examiner.
Johnson believed targeting people in Putin's inner circle would also ensure that the US didn't alienate the people of Russia., Washington Examiner said.
The American sanctions against Russia were imposed to punish Moscow's alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election and other aggressive moves in its foreign policy conduct.
The conciliator in Johnson, 63, was known when he said that he was trying to find ways to rebuild trust between the US and Russia.
"Russia wants to reconstitute, basically, its sphere of influence that they had in the Soviet Union. So, you understand that, and if you don't want to let that happen, you've got to push back with strength and resolve ... but that doesn't mean that we have to be enemies," Johnson told Washington Examiner.
The veteran senator also said that the Congress over-reacted to Russia's alleged electoral interference and that it led to a legislation which restricted US President Donald Trump's hands with compulsory sanctions.
In August last year, Trump signed into law Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) which imposed new sanctions on Iran and North Korea besides Russia.
"I've been pretty upfront that the election interference - as serious as that was, and unacceptable - is not the greatest threat to our democracy," he said. "We've blown it way out of proportion - [as if it's] the greatest threat to democracy ... We need to really honestly assess what actually happened, what effect did it have, and what effect are our sanctions actually having, positively and negatively," Johnson said.
The American lawmakers' visit to Russia and meeting top Russian leaders, including foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, was held in the run-up to the first summit between Trump and Putin in Helsinki, Finland, on July 16.