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

    RS – You are correct. After 5 years of Obama's Doctrine, there is nothing that can be done.

    March 1, 2014 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  2. mbw

    As usual, the republican party has put the interests of the republican party ahead of the interests of the American people as a whole. The republican party is not interested in the long term security of the U.S., only the short term to
    play politics in order to insure a monopoly of both houses of congress along with the presidency. Their aim is to return to the one party rule which they enjoyed under George Bush. Instead providing a united front behind Obama, they intend to play the spoiler, with whatever strategy that Obama comes up with. And to be sure, there are not many
    strategies that Obama can employ. First and foremost, we have used the excuse of national interests to incur in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Ukraine is contiguous to Russia, has a large population of Russian speaking people, was once part of the Soviet Union, and contains a Russian naval base. How could they not be threatened by the current
    activities in the Ukraine. The U. S. position should be to support conciliation between Russia and the Ukraine. Economic sanctions would be as effective as they have been on Iran or Syria. How can you get any leverage
    on the major supplier of oil and natural gas to Europe. Cutting Russia off would be tantamount to cutting Europe off.
    Come on republican party, stop using your mouth and start using your brains.

    March 1, 2014 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  3. carol

    The reason that Putin thinks he can get by with this is because he understands the GOP will weaken what ever the president does by under cutting him. This is unpatriotic and hurts the country. If the international community can count on division here they are able to do what ever they want.

    March 1, 2014 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  4. Wes

    The uhbama better draw a line. That will show them.

    March 1, 2014 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  5. FWACBAR

    Send McCain over, that'll scare them Ruskies.....

    March 1, 2014 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  6. E D Hans

    Do SOMETHING, the GOP screams, even if it's what the GOP wants, they will be screaming, WHY did you do THAT?!

    March 1, 2014 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  7. STFU

    its not worth it . if its important the E.U will deal with it . republicans are stupid and couldn't make a exit strategy to save there lives so why would any one listen to them ?

    March 1, 2014 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  8. John Bantou

    The president had a long talk with Putin, which is not a bad thing. Dialogue is paramount. I reject the idea that we should be at the forefront of intervention in all these conflicts around the world. This is why we created the U.N., and Europe has a greater vested interest in seeing this matter resolved peacefully. McCain is a respected national hero, but he operates in a time warp. The electorate understood this and picked Obama in 2008. Though I agree that we must lead in finding solutions, We can't unilaterally fix all these global conflicts. Obama's careful and understated approach demonstrate the high level of intellectualism this guy operates in. From an educated and intellectual point of view, He's the smarted president we've had in recent memory. I don't care for the high decibel muscle flexing approach of his detractors.

    March 1, 2014 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  9. Shadow Diver

    Laziest prez would be the one that took the most vacations you ranting fkhd.

    March 1, 2014 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  10. The Republican Party Is Dead To Me

    What the republicans want is war. They seem to love this endeavor. Other interests that have to do with the building of societies or helping people never occur to them, but conflict with the chance for death and destruction is right up their ally.

    March 1, 2014 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  11. Hogarth

    People are criticizing the President for his restraint, when it is precisely restraint which is called for. Calm down, everybody.

    March 1, 2014 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  12. ESPNGenius

    McCain is so out of touch with reality and it is not funny anymore.

    March 1, 2014 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  13. Alina1

    You Americans are funny or have no idea about the culture of these people..(as usually), you are going to war having no clue with whom..(as usual).. STOP .. Nobody can do or should do anything until the legitimate President will be elected .. only new Ukrainian President can ask Putin questions , and WILL tell him to leave. If Putin so worried about Russian speaking population in Ukraine , there is always President for it ...Until then "Welcome to Ukraine " for now.

    March 1, 2014 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  14. Logictox

    We need to stay the hell out of this and other world issues. We can't afford to be the world police.

    March 1, 2014 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  15. qqqqqjim

    John McCain, still fretting over his 2008 loss to Obama and trying to get even, would have had us at war in Libya and now wants to go to war with Russia. GOP are a bunch of morons!!!

    March 1, 2014 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  16. Glenn NM

    Typical GOP loudmouths.......the last thing we need right now is some knee-jerk reaction to satisfy the Right, who either have no concept of international diplomacy or do but simply want to take advantage of the situation to further embarrass and criticize Obama.

    March 1, 2014 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  17. aep

    If we followed McCain's advise we would be in at least 3-4 new wars, Those boys are just being political since no matter what happens they ARE NOT responsible, Stuffitu your an idiot, channeling Murdock, maybe you are Rupert??? It IS bush's fault....

    March 1, 2014 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  18. CS

    Obama will do nothing except talk, sorta like he has done his whole presidency....

    March 1, 2014 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  19. Jetranger

    Ohh well, just wait, I'm sure that Idiot & moron Sen. Harry Reid will open up his Big Mouth and screw it up even more, somebody needs to send Harry Reid to Russia and let them deal with his Degenerate worthless,you know what – good Ridence !

    March 1, 2014 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  20. Ralf Smith

    What about those that voted for Yanukovych?

    Shouldn't power have been transferred through the ballot box – at election time?

    What's happening here is that a coup occurred, and Crimea, which supported Yanukovych, finds that the elected leader of ukraine is out – Washington declares he abdicated when left Kiev.

    But that's not a legitimate claim. Did Obama abdicate when he leaves Washington DC?

    So Washington stood by, as usurper through out the elected leader, they immediately recognized the coup – as if they were legitimate and then expected them to run the Ukrainian army down to autonomous Crimea.

    First, no disrespect to Ukraine – whats going on there is a tragedy for all citizens of every region.

    But where are those that respect rule of law? Where are those who will call on countries to wait for elections – or at least legitimate impeachment proceedings to come to a trial – before declaring someone else as president?

    March 1, 2014 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  21. steven

    The republicans think American ready for another war. Don't forget the Russians have nuclear weapons as we do. I'm tired of war

    March 1, 2014 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  22. Steve

    Hitler hosted the Olympics, created a crises by burning down the Reichstag, invaded Poland and Austria to unit German speaking people. Putin hosts the Olympics, creates a crisis in the Ukraine then invades using the excuse to unit Russian speaking people.

    March 1, 2014 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  23. Surthurfurd

    Opportunity to blast Obama for not having a policy while refusing to offer any suggestions but "do something."

    March 1, 2014 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  24. John F

    Just like with Health care, Republicans make a lot of noise and offer no ideas, leadership, or support. Everytime they open up their mouth they lose credibility. They need to just keep their clap traps shut. Be contructive, stand behind the President, or go home.

    March 1, 2014 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  25. pintodw

    There is a missing persons alert out for our president

    March 1, 2014 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
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