WASHINGTON - President-elect Donald Trump accepts the US intelligence community's conclusion that Russia engaged in cyber attacks aimed at disrupting the presidential election and may take actions in response, his incoming chief of staff said on Sunday.

Reince Priebus, the former Republican National Committee chairman, said Trump understands that Moscow was behind the intrusions into the Democratic Party organizations. "He accepts the fact that this particular case was entities in Russia so that's not the issue," Priebus said on "Fox News Sunday."

Priebus' comments marked a major shift. Trump has repeatedly dismissed claims that the Russians were trying to help him, arguing that those charges are the product of his political opponents trying to undermine his victory. It was the first acknowledgement from a senior member of the president-elect's team that Trump has accepted that Moscow was involved in the hacking and subsequent disclosure of Democratic emails during the 2016 presidential election.

In a statement on Friday after receiving his intelligence briefing, Trump did not refer specifically to Russia's role in the presidential campaign. Priebus said Trump plans to order the intelligence community to make recommendations as to what should be done. Depending on those recommendations, "actions may be taken," he said. He did not elaborate.

Meanwhile, two senior Republican senators urged President-elect Donald Trump to punish Russia in response to US intelligence agencies' conclusion that President Vladimir Putin personally directed efforts aimed at influencing the outcome of the November election.

In a joint appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday, Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain said evidence was conclusive that Putin sought to influence the election - a point that Trump has refuted repeatedly by arguing it might be impossible to tell who was responsible. "In a couple weeks, Donald Trump will be the defender of the free world and democracy," Graham said. "You should let everybody know in America, Republicans and Democrats, that you're going to make Russia pay a price for trying to interfere."

Both senators said they remain unsure if they will support Trump's pick for secretary of state, former Exxon Mobil Corp Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson, who has been criticized for his close ties to Putin. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on Wednesday to consider Tillerson's nomination.

The top Republican and Democrat on the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee Sunday cast doubt on whether Russia can become an ally of the United States, an idea President-elect Donald Trump has embraced. Republican Devin Nunes, chairman of the committee, said on "Fox News Sunday" he would like to see a U.S.-Russia friendship but does not know if it is possible. Adam Schiff, the committee's ranking Democrat, said on CNN it would be great if Russia could be an ally, but, "It's not realistic and we need to be clear eyed and sober about just what the Russians are about."

In Germany, The US military vowed to increase the scope and complexity of its European training exercises to deter Russian aggression, as more US tanks, trucks and other equipment arrived in Germany for a big buildup on Nato’s eastern flank. "Let me be clear: This is one part of our efforts to deter Russian aggression, ensure the territorial integrity of our allies and maintain a Europe that is whole, free, prosperous, and at peace," US Air Force Lieutenant General Tim Ray, deputy commander of US European Command, said in prepared remarks.

Ray underscored the United States' "rock-solid commitment to Europe" in the northern German port of Bremerhaven, where he marked the arrival in recent days of some 2,800 pieces of military equipment that will be used by nearly 4,000 U.S. troops in exercises in NATO states near Russia. Ray said the US military's nearly 70,000 service members in Europe were adapting to rapidly changing strategic challenges such as Russia's military operations in Ukraine, migrant flows from Syria, and Islamist radicalism, as evidenced by a truck attack in Berlin that killed 12 people in December.