Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said Sunday that the United States should provide "defensive weapons" for Ukraine, calling Russia's alleged incursion into the country a "direct invasion."

“Thousands of Russian troops are here with tanks, missiles, heavy artillery,” Menendez said from Ukraine during an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union."

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J). (J. Scott Applewhite/AP).
Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J) said on CNN that "thousands of Russian troops" were in Ukraine. (J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press).

Menendez added that Russian President Vladimir Putin has "sized up the West and figured that the most difficult sanctions against Russia and the weapons Ukrainians need to defend themselves is not coming from the West.”

“We have to prove him wrong,” he said.

President Obama last week refrained from using the word "invasion" to describe Russia's recent actions in Ukraine, but Menendez showed no such restraint Sunday.

“This is a direct invasion by Russia, and we must recognize it as that,” the senator said. “The European Union, NATO, as well as the United States, has to consider that this is dramatically different.”