Republicans call on Obama to act on Ukraine
March 1st, 2014
04:40 PM ET
7 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. TAJ

    Obama is a disgrace...period.

    March 2, 2014 07:50 am at 7:50 am |
  2. Stev

    With all the budget cuts, we have no troops any more.

    March 2, 2014 07:50 am at 7:50 am |
  3. Ben Lara

    How come every time someone does something the U.S. dislikes you idiots use "Regime"? If that is the case then wouldn't we be living under the Obama Regime since we have invaded countries against the world's will and noting that half the country wants him out of the White House....

    March 2, 2014 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
  4. Roy

    John McCain and his republican toads want war so they can follow the money.

    March 2, 2014 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
  5. Dylan

    The UN can't do anything as Russia sits on the permanent security council and all it takes to shoot down an idea is one veto from a permanent member. ANY resolution against Russia will just be vetoed by Russia and that will be the end of it.

    March 2, 2014 07:57 am at 7:57 am |
  6. kevin flannigan

    People in this world are a mess, how much better off this planet would be if humans would go extinct.

    March 2, 2014 08:02 am at 8:02 am |
  7. Charles

    This is Russia and Ukraine's problem. McCain and the other war mongers never met a war that they didn't like. Stay out of it.

    March 2, 2014 08:03 am at 8:03 am |
  8. jonathan

    It's true that Putin is being an a__hole and really has no business doing what he is doing. But the U.S are about the biggest hypocrites on the planet when you consider how many countries they have walked into in order to protect their own interests. Russia and America are both regional bullies and not much has really changed since the Cold War in this respect.

    March 2, 2014 08:09 am at 8:09 am |
  9. sameeker

    The republicans are itching for another war to enrich their corporations. Obama is spot on when he says that our response will be part of an international response.

    March 2, 2014 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  10. Garner Foley

    Loud-mouthed and mindless stances- the noise of the Right wing know- nothings. What do they really think Obama could do other than what he has? Like Eisenhower with Hungary or LBJ with Czechlovaka, really nothing. Ukraine is where Russia was born over 1000 years ago. It is largely ethnic Russian still thus many proRussians are there. Plus on the border of the modern Russian state. Russia has been repeatedly invaded over the centuries as they are a vast plain basically. If we did not have thousands of miles of ocean to protect us from such a situation and Canada was suddenly destabilized enough to really scare us we might do similiar. All we can do is what Ike and bJ did, ie, what Obama will also do. So, Republicans, keep your mouths shut and be adults!

    March 2, 2014 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  11. srcactus

    Frightening, Just frightening! Whatever juice Obama had left will be very short lived unless we see a avery different personality emerge.

    March 2, 2014 08:12 am at 8:12 am |
  12. TL

    GOP are a much of total *orons. The US needs to keep its stinking nose out of the rest of the worlds conflicts. Were 17 trillion in debt thanks to their Bush Wars and poor economic policies, our military is burned out and these stupid GOP idiots want to spend trillions more and kill thousands of more US troops on an issue that is none of our business. Total CLOWNS!!! GFY!!!!

    March 2, 2014 08:14 am at 8:14 am |
  13. rick

    Well empty the missile silos The GOP wants another WAR!

    March 2, 2014 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
  14. Dinaanid

    There goes the GOP again, ready and willing to send other peoples children to die. Now they are playing with fire in their never-ending quest to put down Obama, once again proving that party comes before country for them.

    March 2, 2014 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
  15. Jules

    The president has been taking care of business. There was a national security meeting in the west wing of the white house and he was on the phone for 90 minutes with Putin and I am sure he has been on the phone with other world leaders. What is it the GOP wants him to do right now? Nobody has any idea what he is doing behind the scenes. He cannot set up sanctions or consequences without consulting other world leaders to make sure they are on board. It doesn't do any good for him to do something unilaterally and then the other countries do not do the same. The GOP knows all of this yet even in a world crisis, they don't let the president do his job without criticizing him at every turn. John McCain should be ashamed of himself, because he more than anyone should know what the president is doing behind the scenes. He has become such a bitter old man. I'm so glad he was never president or we would be in more wars than we can possibly afford, just like the most recent GOP president.

    March 2, 2014 08:25 am at 8:25 am |
  16. MIke C

    Only the GOP? That must mean by logic that the Democrats want Obama to do nothing and just pretend that an International act aggression never happened.

    March 2, 2014 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  17. Rick McDaniel

    McCain wants to go to war at the drop of a hat. He is a fool.

    March 2, 2014 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  18. MikeinNM

    "The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Buck McKeon, R-California....[:] 'History judges perpetrators of these actions [in Ukraine] 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."
    Where's McKeon's call-to-action/arms when the victims of perpetrated injustice are in, say, impoverished African countries?

    March 2, 2014 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  19. tsf

    Like every taxpayer, I have paid $75000 to sponsor two pointless wars. I shudder to think how much of my money is going into feeding military families that we do not need. Do not care about Ukraine or Russia – let them figure it out. We should spend money on schools, universities, single-payer healthcare and taking guns out of society so that we head towards civilization. All of this will happen, will take a couple of more generations.

    March 2, 2014 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  20. Manchester United fan

    What does the GOP propose to do? Stop buying Russian Vodka?

    March 2, 2014 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  21. apanda

    No one cares what obama says or thinks. In no way should we get involved in this situation. No military, sanctions maybe but they are just lip service to this situation.

    March 2, 2014 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  22. Cecil

    You can always count on the party of chicken hawks to get us involved in something we shouldn't. At least McWar isn't a chicken hawk but he's still warped.

    March 2, 2014 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  23. KG

    It is pathetic that Obama and Kerry didn't do something proactive like discussing this situation with the EU and Russia during the crisis. It was absolutely predictable that Russia would protect its main warm water naval base in the event of things turning anti-Russian in Ukraine. Now our government once again looks like a bunch of morons on the world stage. I doubt Romney would have done any better. Our national politicians are a bunch of selfish lawyers who have no inkling of what effective governing or foreign relations look like. They are great at manipulating the media and cronyism.

    March 2, 2014 08:37 am at 8:37 am |
  24. NeenerNeener

    They want him to do something so they can trash talk him for it later. SSDD

    March 2, 2014 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  25. Jerry Schull

    What money should we use to act? It cost the USA to interfere in other nations issues. And yes this is inference. It's in Russia's back yard, the vast majority of the people speak Russian, let Russia deal with it.

    McCain and the Globalists on the far right need to shut up.

    March 2, 2014 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
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