March 16th, 2014
04:24 PM ET
4 months ago

Sunday Chatter: Putin, 2014 and the missing Malaysian airplane

Two international events filled the Sunday political talk shows: Russian President Vladimir Putin’s next move in Crimea and Ukraine and the mystery surrounding the bizarre and puzzling disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

If you missed any of the Sunday political chatter, we've got you covered:


Referendum in Crimea: It has become clear that voters in Sunday’s referendum in the Crimean region of Ukraine have backed joining Russia.

What’s unclear is if Sen. John McCain will win his bet. He said in an exclusive interview with CNN’s Candy Crowley on “State of the Union” that he has a bet with the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine that the people will vote either 70% or 80% in Russia’s favor.

Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Illinois, was much more blunt on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” calling Sunday’s vote “a Soviet-style election” where the outcome is predetermined.

The real question is what happens next. How does the United States respond? What about Europe? What does Putin do next?

The United States’ stance: Dan Pfeiffer, senior adviser to President Barack Obama, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the Crimean referendum “is in violation of international law” and that the United States won’t recognize it.

“The costs are economic,” he said. “The more they escalate, the longer this goes, the greater the cost (to Russia) will be.”

Politicians who appeared on the Sunday shows came from both sides of the political aisle, but they all backed economic sanctions against Russia.

“Russia is a gas station masquerading as a country,” said McCain, the Arizona Republican who just returned from Ukraine. “It’s a nation that is really only dependent on oil and gas for their economy, and so economic sanctions are important.”

While economic sanctions against Russia are not controversial, aid to Ukraine is. A package was stalled in Congress last week that included $1 billion in U.S loan guarantees, $50 million to enhance democracy building and $100 million for improved security cooperation. Reforms to the International Monetary Fund are partly to blame for the hold up.

Even on the Sunday talk shows, where the message was largely monolithic toward the U.S. response, some disagreements surfaced about what type of aid should be provided.

McCain backs both humanitarian and military support.

“Get some military assistance to Ukrainians at least so they can defend themselves,” McCain said, adding that military aid should be a “long-term commitment” that would help the country regain Crimea.

Sen. Jeff Flake, McCain’s Republican colleague from Arizona, on “Meet the Press” agreed that military aid is necessary because the Ukrainian military has been “hollowed out over the past couple of years.”

“According to some Ukrainians, we have nothing that shoots, runs or flies because the Russians have had such close ties with the previous government, they hollowed the military out.”

On ABC’s “This Week,” Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut was a bit more wary of military assistance. “There's a lot of ways we can assist in the resistance. I'm not sure we're to the point in providing arms, but they need all sorts of nonlethal assistance, like MREs, that we can put on the ground.”

Rep. Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that despite economic pain, Putin believes he “has had the upper hand.”

But Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on “Fox News Sunday” that Putin’s actions are more like “a game of Russian roulette,” which underscores the need for decisive action.

Europe’s role: U.S. politicians Sunday insisted that Europe must be involved in invoking meaningful economic sanctions for Russia to feel severe impact. It’s a tough proposition for countries that rely on Russia for energy and investment, including Germany and Great Britain, which would endure some hardship as a result of the sanctions.

Pfeiffer said the United States is “working with” countries in Europe on sanctions.

“It will be interesting to see to what degree our European friends will join us,” McCain said.

Putin’s next move : It’s unclear what Putin will do next. He has moved troops to Ukraine’s eastern border, which some say is a provocative move.

“This will be a major miscalculation on behalf of Putin if you were to move in to eastern Ukraine,” Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Corker said the United States must respond with “long-term resolve” or else “Putin will continue to do this. He did it in Georgia a few years ago. He's moved in to Crimea. And he will move in to other places.”

Russian reset?: While the issue of Ukraine and Russia was mostly void of partisan politics, it did seep into the discussion momentarily.

McCain said the United States should put aside any talk of a “reset,” have a “fundamental reassessment” of its relationship with Russia and treat Putin for “what he is.”

“That does not mean we issue a Cold War. But it does mean treating him in the way that we understand an individual who believes in restoring the Old Russian Empire,” McCain said.

Missing airplane mystery: Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said one thing is for sure about the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, a Boeing 777 with 239 people aboard that went missing on March 8 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing: It was not an accident.

“It was an intentional, deliberate act to bring down this airplane,” McCaul said on “Fox News Sunday.”

McCaul, a Texas Republican, points to “warning signs,” including a switched-off transponder, an abrupt change in flight pattern and two Iranian passengers with stolen passports.

He said, however, that there is no evidence that the disappearance was terrorism-related.

“Although you can’t rule that out at this point in time,” he said.

Meanwhile, on ABC’s “This Week,” Rep. Peter King, who is a member of the House Intelligence Committee and former chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, said, “There’s been no terrorist connection whatsoever; no terrorist chatter.”

“It doesn’t mean it’s not, but so far, nothing has been picked up by the intelligence community from day one.”

But King, R-New York, expressed frustration with the pace and effectiveness of the investigation.

Now that the focus has turned to the pilot and the co-pilot, a week after the plane’s disappearance, King said that should have been “ordinary” procedure early on.

“I wish the FBI were over there,” he said.

But Pfeiffer, the senior Obama adviser, said Malaysia is taking the lead, and the FBI, the Navy, and the National Transportation Safety Board are providing assistance.

Now back to politics: No Sunday show would be complete without at least some politics.

After a tough loss for Democrats in Florida’s 13th congressional district special election last week, Pfeiffer dismissed accusations that the President isn’t doing enough to help Democrats in 2014.

“This President wrote the book on running and winning modern campaigns. We're going to help Democrats up and down the ballots,” he said.

He also said, “I believe we will keep the Senate” in Democratic control.

Reince Priebus, head of the Republican National Committee, disagrees: “I think we're going to win the U.S. Senate.”

Republicans must pick up six seats to regain control.

Priebus also said that Republicans have expanded their outreach to women and minorities by putting operatives in diverse communities across the country.


Filed under: Dan Pfeiffer • Dick Durbin • Jeff Flake • John McCain • Mike Rogers • Peter King • Reince Priebus • Ukraine • Uncategorized • Vladimir Putin
soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. hellsyeahs

    The GOP just loves spending federal dollars don't they.

    March 16, 2014 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  2. Tony in Maine

    Putin need not worry about angering all those who are either allied with Russia or intimidated by them. He has gained new admirers right here in the uS – one might even wonder if they could be considered allies. Princess Sarah positively swooned describing the Russian President. Rudy Guiliani even spoke several sentences without mentioning 9/11 or his role that day. Ted Cruz's spittle probably reached the fourth row as he described how Putin had outplayed Obama. If all others abandon him – Putin has the Tea Party.

    March 16, 2014 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  3. olin aguas alvarado

    We have a very short memory. That is the same way we took away half of mexican's land. Can we remember?

    March 16, 2014 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  4. Gurgyl

    I don't care for Russia, nor Ukraine, nor Crimea. I care potholes on I-95, LaGuardia airport etc. I feel bad for those passengers in that lost flight. God save them. Save USA, from greedy GOP thugs that want war and Halliburton type contracts to looooooooooot.

    March 16, 2014 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  5. rs

    "Priebus also said that Republicans have expanded their outreach to women and minorities by putting operatives in diverse communities across the country."
    ________________
    Someone needs to tell Mr. Priebus that taking away the rights of these groups (reproductive rights in the case of women, and voting rights of minorities, never mind their "poverty is good" chatter) isn't traditionally the way a political party conducts "outreach".

    Meanwhile, I am surprised that the GOP hasn't yet gotten to the point of blaming the President for the disappearance of the Malaysian jet liner.... maybe Mr. Issa is working on that.

    March 16, 2014 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  6. don in albuquerque

    Could care less about either one. Neither one is any of our business.

    March 16, 2014 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  7. Smitty

    Im sure Putin will listen to Obumbles, in his lil bike helmet and mommy jeans, what an embarrassment.

    March 16, 2014 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  8. TomGI

    McCain found another excuse to get on Sunday morning talk shows.

    March 16, 2014 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  9. Stuffitu

    Obama: I've got a pen and a phone.
    Putin: I've got a tank and helicopters
    Kerry: Di I mean this Monday?

    March 16, 2014 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  10. hellsyeahs

    McCain stole the plane. It crashed. He's the expert on crashing planes.

    March 16, 2014 11:20 pm at 11:20 pm |
  11. YoonYoungJo

    I love Sen McCain lol. A gas station masquerading as a country. That was a hilarious analogy. What's not funny is if Crimea really splits. I know it doesn't have the significance as Iraq's oil for the world, but it's the precedent and symbol it sets. We can go into any country, rig their elections, bring our corruption and there is nothing, nothing anyone can do about it.

    March 16, 2014 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  12. Nimrode

    Mccain talking on the outside of the box looking in at the Ukraine. No mention of restoring fled Pres , seems the Only thing to restore to make peace .Mccain wants piecemeal. If the Ukraine is so divided, then this peaceful, aided translation is appropriate.Just like what usa would do...

    March 17, 2014 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  13. Nimrode

    Why not welcome the change n let all proceed n just allow the Eu and trade to go forth.no sanctions.If we interfere exactly who are we trying to please? But a people who do not want to be saved and for a coup our traitors wont admit....McCain wont recognize the invasion of illegals and is against our rights to rule and to control our borders...he only wants to fund our war machine and good photo opps for his ugly mug.

    March 17, 2014 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
  14. Nimrode

    Our govt is Embellishing an obvious lie...another one. NO CREDIBILITY.NO RESPONSIBILITY. NO TRUTH.TRAITORS.

    March 17, 2014 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  15. emilyhmiller

    The first sentence of this article should suggest these two events may possibly be one big event....

    March 17, 2014 01:02 am at 1:02 am |
  16. danieladarc1

    I wonder if Putin has anything to do with the disappearance of this flight 370! not sure what the motive would be but the KGB and GRU would be definitely capable to recruit pilots and land it somewhere in Kazakhstan. Just a thought...

    March 17, 2014 04:47 am at 4:47 am |
  17. Minnie Mouse

    My heart goes out to these innocent passengers and the families who are devastated waiting, to find out what happened to the flight 370 Malaysia plane and the people on it.

    All planes need cameras on them. If we can stick cameras on everything else, then the technology and equipment is available to put hidden cameras onto all airplanes. Hidden to where no one on the plane including the pilots know where they are so people can't go in and try to disconnect ect.. The planes need to be watched in the background from the tower and the airports. This really is necessary. Right now there's no 100% answers to anything. If you had cameras you would know exactly who's flying the plane ect.. everything that's going on. At least more than what you have now, to give people answers. Black boxes, satellite pings, radar ect.. are obviously not enough.

    March 17, 2014 06:56 am at 6:56 am |
  18. Anonymous

    The russians are being aided by the same aliens that stole that plane.. problem solved... and republicans putting "operatives" around different places seems like there on a mission to steal something... if a win is what they want then take it. "bye any means necceary!" i guess is what this country has become...

    March 17, 2014 07:10 am at 7:10 am |