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Thune, Noem defer to Obama on Ukraine

South Dakota's two Republicans in Congress said they will not criticize the Democratic Obama administration as it responds to the unfolding events in Ukraine.

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Both Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., and Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., said they do not support military intervention but do support aggressive actions such as sanctions to inflict pain on Russia after it is believed that nation sent troops into Ukraine.

"I don't support military involvement, but a number of actions can be taken to make this very costly for the Russian elites," Thune said.

Noem holds the same position and said it is important for American leaders to stand united as the State Department confronts this crisis.

"We need strong leadership out of the United States, but I'm not going to be one to go out and criticize the president at this point. We should be united in our stance that we are willing to take action," Noem told reporters in a conference call. "We have a lot at stake. We are not the entity that can walk away from this and pretend we don't have interest in the region."

Thune said it's important for the United States to amass international support for efforts, especially in Europe, aimed at turning back Russia.

"Building international support for whatever action we take is really important. That the Germans in particular are engaged with us on this really critical," Thune said. "There will be broad bipartisan support for any action the administration takes that would support the forces of freedom and democracy in Ukraine, to support that very young government there."

Russia is "very dependent" on Western financial markets and trade relationships, Thune said.

"We need to build some sort of fence around Russia. There are things we can do to further isolate Russia from international financial markets," he said.

While Thune, too, vowed not to criticize Obama, he did say he believed the president has shown weakness during past international incidents.

"There is concern about his past performance on Syria and Iran, about his ability to project strength in a time he needs to," Thune said. "This is a time when the need for American leadership is very clear. The rest of the world is watching and waiting.

"If the U.S. takes a leadership role and can engage and involve other countries, particularly our NATO allies, we can make a profound impact in making clear there are consequences to this behavior and making clear to the world we support what's happening in Ukraine, that forces of freedom and democracy not be left to fend for themselves."