Sen. Bob Corker said Thursday that although the conflict in Ukraine may not be on many Tennesseans’ radars, the situation with the eastern European country poses a “defining moment” of U.S. credibility on the world stage.

The ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee applauded new economic sanctions against Russia announced by the president earlier in the day. But he said he fears they may be a “day late and a dollar short.”

“Our real recourse to Russia is [economic] isolation from the rest of the world,” he said. “Even though I know we have limited arrows in our quiver-there’s only so much we as a country can do-I know we’re not going to send men and women in uniform to Ukraine.

“So we have to use the sanctions that we have judiciously,” he said. “But I just wanted to make sure yesterday that we communicated clearly to Putin that if he comes into eastern Ukraine, all bets are off. And we are going to do everything we can to crush their economy through the sanctions that we would put in place.”


The Tennessee senator and former Chattanooga mayor addressed a noon luncheon of the Rotary Club, where in addition to recent events in Ukraine, he spoke about partisan gridlock in the nation’s capital and the remarks he made prior to VW autoworkers’ vote to not bring the United Auto Workers Union to Chattanooga. The UAW cited those remarks, and those by other Republican officials, as a key reason for its appeal to the National Labor Relations Board.

“I’m glad I voiced my opinion,” Corker told a packed hall at the Chattanooga Convention and Trade Center.

He later told reporters that he plans to continue expressing his opinions about how counterproductive the UAW is to the state.