Sen. Robert Menendez, who is chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, is in Brussels until Sunday to meet with leaders of the European Union and NATO regarding global hot spots, including Russia, Syria and Iran.

Menendez’s trip comes as Russia slapped a travel ban Thursday on the New Jersey Democrat and eight other U.S. lawmakers and officials — the first retaliation against the United States for its sanctions against Russia for annexing Crimea.

Menendez has been a vocal critic of Putin's annexation of Crimea as a "reckless and unacceptable act that contravenes all international norms and laws" and said it called for a swift response from the U.S., Europe and other allies.

Menendez tweeted: "If standing up for democracy and sovereignty in Ukraine means I'm sanctioned by Putin, I'll take it."

About his Brussels visit, the senator said in a statement: “Principles of democracy and freedom, values that respect the rule of law and promote tolerance need to define societies throughout the world but they require constant vigilance based on strong leadership from the United States and Europe.”

He said that in his meetings with NATO and European Union leaders he planned to discuss Russia's actions regarding Crimea and Ukraine, the civil war and humanitarian crisis in Syria and Iran's nuclear ambitions.

In an interview with MSNBC earlier this week, Menendez said that Europe can get tougher towards Russia.

“They have the greatest bite at the end of the day,” said Menendez, who introduced legislation recently calling for $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine and sanctions against Russia.

On Saturday, Menendez is scheduled to deliver the keynote address at the German Marshall Fund’s Brussels Forum.

The Russian Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, announced the ban on U.S. officials minutes after President Barack Obama announced a new round of sanctions. The ministry said "the use of sanctions is a double-edged sword that will boomerang against the United States."

Other lawmakers banned entry into Russia are House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., Dan Coats, R-Ind. Daniel Pfeiffer, a senior adviser to Obama, Caroline Atkinson, a deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs, and Benjamin Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser.

As for being on Russia’s persona-non-grata list, Coats tweeted Thursday: "While I'm disappointed that I won't be able to go on vacation with my family in Siberia this summer, I am honored to be on this list."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Follow us on
Like us at