Republicans call on Obama to act on Ukraine
March 1st, 2014
04:40 PM ET
5 months ago

Republicans call on Obama to act on Ukraine

Washington (CNN) - As the Ukrainian military readied for a possible widespread Russian incursion into its Crimea region, Republican lawmakers urged President Barack Obama to take action to prevent the situation from descending into chaos.

In a statement released Saturday, Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said he is "deeply concerned" Russia's presence in Ukraine could expand if the President does not outline consequences for President Vladimir Putin's regime.


"President Obama said that Russia would face 'costs' if it intervened militarily in Ukraine," McCain said. "It is now essential for the President to articulate exactly what those costs will be and to take steps urgently to impose them."

On Saturday, Obama spoke by phone with Putin for 90 minutes, and expressed "his deep concern over Russia's clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity," according to a statement released by the White House.

Putin requested and received unanimous approval from Russia's upper house of Parliament to send Russian military forces into Crimea to secure the lives of Russian citizens and military personnel he says have been threatened.

Despite a flurry of activity Saturday in Washington, including a confab of the President's national security team, the White House remained mum on how the United States intended to respond to the situation.

A member of the Senate Armed Services and Senate Foreign Relations Committee, McCain called Russia's actions an "ongoing military intervention" that would only worsen in severity so long as the President and the international community sit on the sidelines.

"Every moment the United States and our allies fail to respond sends the signal to President Putin that he can be even more ambitious and aggressive in his military intervention in Ukraine," McCain said.

McCain, the President's former Republican rival in the 2008 presidential election, has routinely criticized the Obama administration's foreign policy, painting the White House as rudderless in their dealings with other nations.

In a February interview with a Phoenix radio station, the Arizona senator branded Obama as "the most naive president in history," sentiments he echoed Saturday.

"None of us should be under any illusion about what President Putin is capable of doing in Ukraine," McCain said.

President's foreign policy a favorite GOP target

McCain's pronouncement was one of a growing number of GOP statements demanding the White House act on Ukraine, but only the latest in a long line of Republicans taking aim at the president's foreign policy.

Now in his sixth year as commander in chief, the President has tried, mostly to no avail, to quiet a constant din of skeptics questioning his overseas priorities. His moves to end the war in Iraq and draw down the U.S. presence in Afghanistan reflect the Obama administration's evolving policy goals.

But the White House's handling last year of Syria's spiraling civil war renewed questions over whether Washington had abdicated its leadership role in world affairs and Obama was content to "lead from behind."

At January's World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Secretary of State John Kerry protested that reports of America's demise as a foreign policy power were greatly exaggerated.

"I am perplexed by claims that I occasionally hear that somehow America is disengaging from the world - this myth that we are pulling back or giving up or standing down," Kerry said. "I want to make it clear today that nothing could be further from the truth."

But a September CNN/ORC reflects a disconnect between the administration's words and the public's perceptions; only four in 10 Americans approved of the President's handling of foreign policy, the lowest level ever recorded on that issue in CNN polling.

According to a CBS News/New York Times poll released Wednesday, Obama's ratings on foreign affairs have yet to recover in the face of a new crisis. The survey found 39% of Americans currently approve of his approach to foreign policy.

Rubio: Time to punish Russia

The President's vulnerability on the issue has sparked a flurry of criticism, including from a potential Republican 2016 presidential contender. In an op-ed published Saturday morning in Politico, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, enumerated eight steps he believes Obama "must take to punish Russia" for encroaching on Ukraine's sovereign territory. Rubio framed the ongoing crisis as "a critical moment in world history."

"The credibility of the alliances and security assurances that have preserved the international order is at stake," Rubio said in the piece. "If Putin's illegal actions are allowed to stand unpunished, it will usher in a dark and dangerous era in world affairs."

"The President must now accept that the only way to deal with tyrants like Vladimir Putin is with a clear understanding that they can't be trusted and that only decisive action will deter their provocative moves," Rubio wrote.

Though Rubio and other 2016 hopefuls might use Ukraine's plight to bolster their foreign policy bona fides, their calls for decisive action have limited real world recourse.

As the rhetoric on both sides of the aisle escalates, the United States and its European allies have limited options - short of engaging the military - for impacting the situation on the ground in Ukraine.

The lack of avenues available to the administration did not silence the GOP's rancor.

Ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, said Obama must "lead a meaningful, unified response" to the crisis, something he has thus far failed to do.

"The Russian government has felt free to intervene militarily in Ukraine because the United States," Corker said in a statement, "along with Europe, has failed to make clear there would be serious, potentially irreparable consequences to such action."

Corker said Congress would consider targeted sanctions against Russia but pressed again for immediate action from the White House.

"The United States and our European allies should immediately bring to bear all elements of our collective economic strength to stop Russian advances in Ukraine," he said.

Warning about standing on the sideline

The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Buck McKeon, R-California, painted the administration's hesitance to intervene in even starker terms.

"History judges perpetrators of these actions poorly, as it does those who stand idly by," McKeon said in a statement. "Our response should demonstrate the U.S. stands by its friends against bullies."

Calling Putin a would-be empire builder whose actions are a "throwback" to the Cold War, McKeon continued, saying Russia's military maneuvering has "violated the freedom of all Ukrainians."

Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, gave perhaps the most cutting critique of the Obama administration's response.

"Emboldened by President Obama's trembling inaction, Vladimir Putin has invaded the Crimea region of Ukraine," Cotton, who sits on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said in a statement.

Cotton, the GOP challenger for incumbent Democrat Mark Pryor's senate seat, sketched out a series of potential actions President Obama could take against Russia should they not withdraw from the Crimea: revoking travel visas, freezing assets of senior Russian officials, rescheduling the G-8 summit in Sochi, suspending Russia from the forum of governments, and recalling the U.S. ambassador to Russia.

"Putin must be punished for his outlaw actions and the Russian people and elites must recognize they will pay a price for them," Cotton said.

Still, the Arkansas lawmaker believes the fate of Ukraine hangs in the balance.

"The hours ahead will decide whether this invasion of Crimea is repelled or expanded to the whole of Ukraine, and whether the West finally confronts Putin or again blinks in disgrace," he said.


Filed under: Bob Corker • Buck Mckeon • House Republicans • John McCain • Tom Cotton • Ukraine
soundoff (642 Responses)
  1. whodathunk31

    How do you expect a President to conduct foreign policy when he's constantly being stabbed in the back by the GOP?

    March 1, 2014 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  2. Bill oreilly

    That goofy McLame would have us in wars with Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, Pakistan, Somalia, Iran, Libya, Afghanistan AND Iraq........if he were President. We as a people are SOOOOO fortunate he picked Sarah for his VP.

    March 1, 2014 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  3. bspurloc

    and if Obama intervened the GOP would whine....
    GOP said stay out of Lybia, Syria, etc etc etc
    but an ex soviet state with Soviet troops on the border where there is absoutely NOTHING the USA can do not that I can think of WHY we would... the GOP is go go go.... The party of opposite never fails.

    March 1, 2014 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  4. whodathunk31

    How do you expect the President to conduct foreign policy when he's constantly got to worry about a knife in the back from the GOP? The right wing nuts are channeling the ghost of Madame Chennault.

    March 1, 2014 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  5. Tom in Desoto, TX

    McCain, like he chosen running mate, Palin, apparently are unaware where exactly the Ukraine in relation to Russia. The U.S. is powerless to send troops there. Absolutely no chance. Imagine Russia sending troops to Canada. The Republicans should all broad jets with their equipment and head over. It's shouldn't surprise anyone republicans are in their usual dream world.

    March 1, 2014 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  6. dante delk

    Rs is exactly correct, the idiot Republicans are trying to get the President painted into a corner on the Ukraine issue. Nothing he can do will go without an onslaught of conservative rage. In the eyes of the Republican party there is noting he can do that will be right. They just want him to do something soon so they can begin the cries of outrage, incompetence and impeachment. What a total waste the Republicans have become. Why don't McCain and his cohorts get together and come up with some suggestions fot the President... oh, I'm sorry, that would mean they would actually have to do something... exactly what they are totally incapable of! And for "stuffitu", how can you call President Obama corrupt, incompitent and inept after the eight years of "W" and his worlds most corrupt Vice President in the history of mankind
    Dick Cheney? An invasion of another nation based on a complete and total fabrication of facts that they new were total lies. You forget "shock and awe" and "Mission Accomplished"! How much more clueless can you be? Then once they got us comitted to a war we could never, ever win Mr Cheney followed that up by ensuring that his most recent former employer, Haliburton, received every contract the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force had to give, most they didn't even have to bid on as required by law!! Now these two, "W" and Cheney set the corruption/incompetence bar so high that no other Presidency could ever hope to come close.

    March 1, 2014 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  7. David

    Yes, GOPer's lets go to war against Russia for interfering in a bordering country once part of the Soviet Union... we can keep the nuclear exchange to a limited I'm sure ... there are too many cold warriors and military-industrial complex interests out there who pine for the Cold War and maybe the chance for a new war, even a world war ...

    March 1, 2014 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  8. crop1981

    Short of declaring war just what the Hell is there to do? Stuffitu, your description fits GWB to a tee.

    March 1, 2014 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  9. Moe

    What would your response be Stuffitu ? Your nothing but talk big mouth

    March 1, 2014 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  10. republiderp

    Calm down folks. This is nothing more than the Republicans jobs plan. All they are trying to do is put our unemployed vets back to work. 7 tours in Afghanistan and 6 in Ukraine earns you a hefty $20/month pension.

    March 1, 2014 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  11. CM

    Be careful Republicans not to politicize this too much lest you be viewed as seditionists. I hear and read a lot of rhetoric and criticism of the actions of the current government and it's administrative decisions and some of it borders on anarchy by sound. Let's all remember that we are all Americans and must stand together in the face of world threat. To undermine the leadership of our elected officials and the ability to perform their assigned tasks in a time of strife could most certainly be seen as acts of treason.

    March 1, 2014 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  12. Professormit

    All the leaders in the world now know that President Obama's warnings are just words, no action.
    Be the case with Chine, Syiria, Egypt, or Ukraine.

    March 1, 2014 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  13. Ryan Farnham

    Act on what, there is nothing to act on yet. Lets jump the gun once again putting our country and our troops in harms way! Got to love them war mongers. Seriously, we have no huge vested interest at this time in Ukrain, if the UN determines more needs to be done, then we could consider joining with other forces, but it is not our job to babysit the world, that will lead to other countries ganging up on us in the future and then what do ya know, no more USA, great plan!

    Perhaps Putin is doing as he says, maybe not, but if we go in and he was doing just what he said, we risk WWIII because our stupidity once again..

    March 1, 2014 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  14. joe

    "do something"
    read:
    "you try to take some action, so we can criticize it!"

    seriously GOP, for once in the last 6 years, put forth a piece of legislation for specific positive action.

    March 1, 2014 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  15. HorseMan

    Typical american hipocrysy. US can invade any country at will...Irack ,Afghanistan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Libia, Grenada,..( just to name a few)..., killing tens of thousands of it's own soldiers, and HUNDREDS of thousands of those countries' civilians, but are always too quick to "preach" good behavior/restrain on everybody else.

    March 1, 2014 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  16. Clint H

    Days like this remind me why I voted for Obama and Not McCain. A from the hip response is not what is needed here. Moving our troops to respond is not what is needed here. A well coordinated response from Western Economic Powerhouses is what is needed here. Nothing would make Putin more happy than to have us respond militarily. It gives him the power he needs to rally his people behind him. What is needed is a economically crippling response that sends Russia back to the cold war days... people hungry, people mad and wanting and demanding a change as they see the rest of the world thriving. STUFFITU could not be more wrong and I understand why the uneducated do not run this world.

    March 1, 2014 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  17. sammy750

    Let's send John McCain and B. Corker over there to be commanders. They love wars and would do a great job at running up a big war debt. Sen. Corker, the Union Killer, the hater of workers.

    March 1, 2014 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  18. Moe

    Remember Bush said Putin was his buddy and I bet you watch a lot of Fox News where they do nothing but make up lies Mr. Stuffitu

    March 1, 2014 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  19. oldguy51

    The cold wars back

    March 1, 2014 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  20. Raoul Duke, Jr.

    Laziest president we've ever had Stuffitu? Look up how many vacations days Obama has taken compared to your boy Bush. It's not even close.

    March 1, 2014 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  21. Daniel

    Is this how WWIII get started?

    March 1, 2014 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  22. Ex Republican

    GOP wants the President to act, yet they plan on not passing anything in the House that would help Americans until after the election. The President should be like them and DO NOTHING.

    March 1, 2014 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  23. James

    Why are Republicans asserting that the American taxpayer should stop Russia's behavior??? This is Germany, France, England's problem more than it is ours. It's time they took the lead for a change. Time for the Republicans to shut up and think for a change.

    March 1, 2014 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  24. clownshoes Mcgun from Kentucky

    Wait the GOP want to get involved in another conflict...YA DON'T SAY?!?!?

    Yeah Mr. President...do SOMETHING. We have no ideas ever, we just don't like what you are doing. Just remember, had you sent troops in and actually did something...we wouldn't like that either

    March 1, 2014 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  25. Gisela

    I guess McCain and his party want us to put "boots on the ground"? Another war? That's just what we need!

    March 1, 2014 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
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