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. Retired Navy and proud patriot

    It's kind of funny, Romney said Russia would be our greatest threat during his presidential campaign and every liberal commented that Romney was out of touch and that his knowledge of foreign policy was flat out wrong. Well what say the nay sayers now. Putin is a criminal. He was then and he is now. Obozo is not a leader. never was and never will be. He needs to step aside and let the real leaders take over. Maybe Mickey Mouse can take over, he'd make a better leader than what we have now.

    March 1, 2014 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  2. Expat American

    I'm sure he and his toadies in the mainstream media will blame it on Bush, and play the race card on Putin.
    ---------–
    This simplistic unintelligent diatribe makes absolutely no coherent sense, whatsoever. It's really sad to see that some people's global perspective amounts to nothing more than this.

    March 1, 2014 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  3. steve

    Forget the partisan crap – if you can't see how a revival of the Soviet Union and another Cold War threatens America, then you must be blind.

    March 1, 2014 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  4. lloyd roberts

    "The Russian government has felt free to intervene in the Ukraine because of US response", please senator. The Russians have been intervening in the Ukraine before there was a Republican Party. It would be like us sending troops to Canada, what could Russia do. It's on their doorstep, one of their biggest navy bases is there. They have been there for over 150 years. Please chicken hawks, any military intervention is futile. Tough economic sanctions and diplomatic snubs and keeping Russia out of trade deals might help. But remember, the Russians supply most of the energy needs for this region, sure we don't want to take on that responsibility. What is it that you all want the US to do. Attack their Black Sea Naval Fleet?

    March 1, 2014 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  5. Tom

    Of course A.H. McCain has to be the first to blabber about something he knows nothing about. More garbage talk from your war mongering Republican Party. These people are the most ignorant about foreign policy I have ever seen in my almost sixty years. And just what exactly would these inept fellows have the President do that he has not already done. Perhaps we should boycott the Olympics, tell Russia no more oil sales to China, no more shirt-less Putin pics in our print media, take Putins' Facebook page, e-mail and Windows Operating systems and the worst of all – NO more I-Phones.

    March 1, 2014 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  6. Rick Robeson

    Parachute in our most abrasive troops. Ok, well, we don't have James Bond and Halle Berry, but we should strongly consider porting in McCain and Palin. After all, Palin has extensive seal experience. She has interacted with them daily in Alaska. She can also detect Russians, even from Alaska.

    March 1, 2014 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  7. Smitty

    Obammy is doing something, he said there will be consequences. Putin also knows Oblunder won BIGGEST LIAR OF THE YEAR. The only thing Obammy will do is give more lip service. @rs nice try, blame someone else for bammans weakness !!!

    March 1, 2014 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  8. Fitch

    The Western Countries cannot understand the obvious thing: Putin could'nt care less for 'sanctions' but will to all he can to keep his prestige. This is the Russian way of thinking and the so called diplomats from the Western Countries are so incompetent as not to understand this. The only thing Russia respects it force: she backed off when Kennedy played his cards during the Cuban crisis and will do so if the US once and for all acts like the biggest military power it still is. Otherwise, at the end we will see the whole Ukrain occupied by Russia and her people oppressed, tortured and left alone by the democratic countries, including the European Union, which is unable to utter more than outraged empty words.

    March 1, 2014 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  9. Billie Shaffer

    Every time someone sneezes, McCain wants to go to war. I didn't see where the GOP offering any helpful advice. Actually, our country doesn't have the moral high ground. We invaded a sovereign nation with a trumped-up excuse. Now it appears Russia is doing the same thing, and they are not having to go halfway around the world to do it.

    March 1, 2014 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  10. newnereview

    John McCain rushes to ring the bell tower for more war. (Surprise.) It is not our job t police Russia or the Ukraine. Pack your family, Senator, and get over there right of way. You are the landing forces.

    March 1, 2014 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  11. VotingDemocrat

    You can call him "inept", but what is your great idea? Oh you want to send troops? Well are you going to man up and lead them over there?

    March 1, 2014 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  12. Joseph Cavano

    this is Hungary 1956. This is not our sphere of influence. We cannot risk WWIII in this situation. The GOP is laughable- a bunch of folks of Volunteer Army age who never enlisted, and a bunch of baby boomers 62+ who did all things image able to duck the draft and avoid going to Vietnam. And yeah, that includes those in the national Guard and reserves at that time- you know you needed someone of influence to be placed there at that time period.

    March 1, 2014 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  13. Sceptical

    Somehow GOP feels it is OK to interfere in Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Libya, Sudan and Syria but not in Ukraine. They ought to explain better

    March 1, 2014 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  14. Anonymous

    I believe if the not very bright McCain had been elected, we might have had a nuclear explosion somewhere in the world by now. Everything to him suggests oddball, irrational military solution that' doesn't work and is sure to fail (Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Korea, Ukraine, etc., etc). More confrontation with Russia means incompetence, irrationality, and in McCain's case senility

    March 1, 2014 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  15. heebeejeebee

    so uh. What can we realistically do other than impose sanctions? We all knew this was coming and it wouldn't have made any difference who was sitting in the Oval Office.

    March 1, 2014 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  16. grafixer

    Of course the GOP wants Obama to "act". Take us into a war so that their corporate owners can get war contracts and make millions – like they did with Bush. Take us into a war so that when it fails, they can blame Obama. Take us into a war so that when it fails, and millions or billions are spent, they can blame Obama for the cost. Seriously??? What is the matter with the GOP? Are they war mongers, ignorant, want to spend spend spend to make profits for their donors, or are they simply looking for a way to blame the Dem Black President for what will likely be another GOP-driven massive spending of American tax dollars – with no gain to the American people or our country?

    March 1, 2014 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  17. John

    I wish the American media would realize that not everything that happens in the world has to do with the United States. What happens in Ukraine has little impact on the US. It is battle between Russia and the EU for influence in the country. Stop blowing up the situation like it is the apocalypse.

    If anything, the situation shows how far Russian influence has fallen that a large portion of the population of one of their closest neighbors and trading partners would rather look to the western Europe than live under the recently ousted corrupt Russian backed government.

    March 1, 2014 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  18. jeff warino

    Imagine that? The repubs and their military industrial complex want to go to. What a shock.

    March 1, 2014 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  19. John Pickett

    Things will work out on their own It's not America's job to cure every wrong in the world ogf course those on the right & the un American fringe will blame Our President for every thing

    March 1, 2014 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  20. jeff warino

    Imagine that? The republicans and their military industrial complex want to go to. What a shock.

    March 1, 2014 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  21. Just a thought

    Let me tell you what I consider a truly treasonous act is... A sitting US Senator from Tennessee who puts getting headlines and camera time above his nations best interest. This is not a time to get in front of camera's and call the US President weak and lacking the backbone to lead. Now is a time you get behind your Leader and help with the cause instead of call names. Corker needs to be censored and be made to apologize for his treason speech.

    March 1, 2014 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  22. Victor

    Americans are sick of US military intervention in other nations. Don't start WWIII because of stupid Republicans.

    March 1, 2014 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  23. Anonymous

    Putin has just started , he will also take large chunks of the Ukraine as a next step . Putin knows he is dealing with a major league Milquetoast and is going to grab what he can to increase his empire. Ultimately, a deal will be struck , Putin gets what he wants (the Sudetenland) , the Ukraine lose a huge chunk of their country and O'Bama declares "peace in our time" and the Liberals hail him as a peacemaker. It's all been played out before .

    March 1, 2014 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  24. Julie

    There is not a lot the US can do. The last thing we need is pressure to over react. We really don't have too many options. And the public is sick of putting it's nose into other countries affairs. The republicans know this too. Both countries are
    notoriously corrupt. These huge billionaires that magically appeared after the fall of the old Soviet Union is the bank the a Ukraine should go after all the way to the Swiss bank.

    March 1, 2014 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  25. Tampa Tim

    Oh great. McCain will be on the Sunday talk shows, saying he wants more war. Fortunately, only the brain dead want another war. When you read the wingnuts stupidity, they have no solution, only criticism. No plans, just sitting on the sidelines complaining like the children they are.

    March 1, 2014 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
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