Republicans call on Obama to act on Ukraine
March 1st, 2014
04:40 PM ET
6 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. Robert Breisch

    Though we are divided by our views-its still possible that all of us-as a nation-can address these issues and each party take responsibility for all our future actions as a team!
    We are America! We can be a success at anything we want to do-if-We all work together!
    How hard is that?

    March 2, 2014 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  2. robtemery

    Obama's foreign policy is he has no policy. When Morsi was overthrown in Egypt, the US demanded his reinstatment as the legitimately elected yet now supports a facist government.

    When both sides have nuclear weapons there are no winners

    March 2, 2014 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  3. bcrunner

    @Enough is Enough: I have a suggestion. STAY OUT OF IT!

    What's your solution? Want another war to show how tough we are? Want to send our young men and women to get killed? And, last but not least, how are you going to pay for it???

    Please answer my questions

    March 2, 2014 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  4. Jamal

    Lets everybody take a deep breath and relax the last thing we need to have going on is anybody threatening anybody so just quit it.

    March 2, 2014 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  5. 2_indy1600

    Since Ukraine is the #3 bread basket country in the world, you can bet Putin means business, folks. Communists aren't famous for peace and breaking and bread together.

    March 2, 2014 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  6. Zachary Zarko

    To Republicans, the military is a hammer – and every problem is a nail.

    March 2, 2014 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  7. Anonymous

    exactly

    March 2, 2014 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  8. TLORop

    Heres what going to happen. Obama will come out with some kind of plan to deal with Russia. The GOP will accuse Obama of trying to start another war and then complain that the president isn't doing anything.

    March 2, 2014 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  9. Robert Breisch

    Its chess folks-thats all that is needed to both stop a war in Ukraine and stabilize the region.Putin will not attack any NATO unit-as Russia would be fighting 28 other countries if it engaged NATO.
    We can all blame each party later-I support a NATO intervention to prevent another Syria-chemical agent warfare event!

    March 2, 2014 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  10. Robert Breisch

    The correlation between Ukraine and Syria-is that Russia supplied all of Syria's WMD including chemical and bio chemical nerve agents. They have no issues poisoning everyone with a nerve agent and blaming those trying to protect Ukraine from Putins forces.

    March 2, 2014 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  11. Davie Dice

    Wow. One pile of idiots in the same place. How convenient.

    March 2, 2014 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  12. jerryab

    Just wait for Obama to ask conservatives for a vote to fund the military and to send in troops. What will Boehner, Cruz, Rubio, etc do? And how will they pay for it? LOL !!

    March 2, 2014 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  13. karlj324

    I have not heard any of these so called politicians utter one concrete thing they would do to stop Russia...Short of all out military intervention...Not one

    March 2, 2014 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  14. TLORop

    Chris-E...al "We are all be repubs one day soon. you just dont kn0w it yet ."

    How will you manage that? Cut all funding to education so people don't know any better. "We are all be repubs..." A little education might have prevented you from going down the wrong path.

    March 2, 2014 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  15. Gurgyl

    McCaine, what did Bush the thush do when Georgia was invaded by Russia? GOP is total garbage.

    March 2, 2014 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  16. TLORop

    "Comments are not pre-screened before they post." Yet every time my comment requires moderation. I bet if I post a single letter "I" it will require moderation.

    March 2, 2014 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  17. Dougtunh

    If you like your insurance ,you can keep it. If you like your doctor, you can keep him.PERIOD . Do we really need a president that spouts lies on a constant basis getting involved in this. The Russians are laughing at him and getting revenge on him for pushing his gay agenda at the Olympics.

    March 2, 2014 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  18. Gordon

    The president could threaten to go on national TV and declare that the Sochi games were the worst winter olympics ever. That would make the Russians quake in their ushankas! :)

    March 2, 2014 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  19. TLORop

    I was right. 1 letter post requires moderation. I haven't said anything offensive. What's up with that?

    March 2, 2014 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  20. paul

    The GOP likes to make political hay out of any situation. They want Obama to act? How? Be more specific. You control Congress.

    March 2, 2014 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  21. Gurgyl

    Sorry, Mcinsane, Georgia is not the one in USA–the nation invaded by Russia in Bush era–bush said I looked into his eyes, his soul about Putin.

    March 2, 2014 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  22. Matt

    The GOP are just war hungry. It's been over a decade since we started a war. They are desperate. Personally, I don't think starting a war with Russia is a very good idea.

    March 2, 2014 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  23. Tommy

    SO "senator" McCain.....how many BILLIONS are you willing to spend in order to put Putin back in the toilet where he belongs?

    How many LIVES are you willing to END senator......?

    March 2, 2014 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  24. barbara

    So Obama misses a security team meeting and gets briefed by Rice. Where the heck was he..... I guess either in Vegas or on a golf course.

    March 2, 2014 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  25. Humberto

    It's easy to criticize from thre sidelines GOP.

    March 2, 2014 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
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