April 27th, 2014
11:09 AM ET
6 months ago

Russia, Syria, Middle East: Is the U.S. losing its ability to sway allies?

(CNN) – President Barack Obama's sweep through Asia has been peppered with one international crisis after another and has left critics questioning whether the United States is losing its footing abroad.

Noting the ongoing mess in Syria, Russia's power stance on the border of Ukraine, and the breakdown of progress toward an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, CNN's Candy Crowley asked lawmakers and White House officials on Sunday - where does the United States stand?

"Right now, worldwide, our enemies don't fear us, our friends don't trust us. And when we show weakness, it emboldens people around the world who are our enemies, whether they are in Iran, Syria, Russia or North Korea," said Sen. John Barrasso, a Republican from Wyoming who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee, appearing on CNN's "State of the Union."

But while some have blamed the White House for failure to control the ongoing crises, Tony Blinken, Obama's deputy national security adviser, said the President's trip to Asia has proven the opposite is true.

"We are stronger now than we were five years ago," he said.

Putin's broken promises

Blinken said economic isolation of Russia is growing by the day, thanks in part to Obama's leadership role in rallying G7 leaders to put additional pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin's and the Russian economy.

Blinken said Crimea, a region with strong Russian ties recently annexed from Ukraine by Russia, has become a "dead weight on Russia." He said Putin has broken a promise of economic security for his people.

"He had a compact with this people and the compact is this - I'll deliver economic growth for you if you remain politically compliant. Right now, he's not delivering growth. The pressure that we’re putting on him, in coordination with other countries around the world, is forcing that choice on him," Blinken said.

Barrasso said the pressure hasn't gone far enough. Sanctions, he said, "need to be consequential," and he pushed for the United States to supply lethal weaponry to Ukraine.

Sen. Ben Cardin, who also sits on the Foreign Relations Committee, opposed the idea that the United States should supply weapons and underscored what the Obama administration has already provided Ukraine from a military preparation standpoint.

"The key thing is that you can't believe anything that Putin says, so we have to be prepared. We have NATO responsibilities of countries that are on the borders, so there's presence that we have in that region," the Democrat from Maryland said.

Israeli-Palestinian peace, crisis in Syria and nuclear Iran

The consensus is split on where the United States should focus its efforts in an area of the world fraught with turmoil, the Middle East.

After the Palestinians announced they would combine rival movements Fatah and Hamas to form a unity government, Israel's Security Cabinet announced last week the country won't hold peace negotiations with a Palestinian government backed by the militant Hamas movement.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told CNN, "We're not going to negotiate with a government backed by Hamas unless Hamas changes its position and says it's willing to recognize Israel."

"I call on President Abbas: Tear up your pact with Hamas," Netanyahu said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union."

Cardin agreed with Netanyahu's stance that there should be two separate states, but said the more pressing issue is in Syria.

"We need to have two states - one representing that Palestinians and one representing a Jewish state, so it's important that we keep focus on the Palestinian-Israeli issue. But also Syria is an area that we have to continue to make sure (not only) that they don’t have chemical weapons, but that we have a government that's responsive to all the people in Syria."

Just last week, the Syrian army dropped barrel bombs on a vegetable market in Aleppo, killing 24 people, according to opposition activists. That came days after several U.S. officials said the Syrian government may have used chlorine gas in a deadly attack on its people.

Blinken said there's no way forward in Syria with President Bashar al-Assad in power.

"Assad has forfeited any right he has to lead his country, and it's clear that there is no way that Syria can find peace and stability with Assad in power."

Barrasso said Iran and the U.S. effort to roll back parts of its nuclear program are a "bigger pivotal point in that area of the world.”

Watch State of the Union with Candy Crowley Sundays at 9am ET. For the latest from State of the Union click here.

soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. rs

    Let's be a little real here shall we? How well did the last administration sway allies (or enemies)?
    The Middle East has been a mess since the '60s. The closest we got to a peace deal was under Carter.
    Iraq? Bush senior had a credible allied force, Bush the son had some allied involvement (critical ones too), but many fell into the realm of sympathy more that real assistance- and the proof is the bill we're paying.
    Russia? A financial cripple after the fall of the Soviet Union. Do we expect NATO to otherwise engage it's largest energy source now that it flexes it's muscles? Like wise the oil exporters of the Middle East.
    I suppose as long as we have deep-pockets of cash to give away, we'll be "respected allies", but the Republicans have seen to it that won't happen again- and now they whine about our lack of sway on the world's stage. It well fits their "break government then complain it doesn't work" meme.

    Meanwhile, we might as well examine the bang for the buck the largest military buys us- ours is first in the world, and bigger than the next 10 nations combines as far as cost. Time to trim that, I'd say.

    April 27, 2014 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  2. HenryMiller

    The contempt Obama gets here in the US is matched only by the contempt he gets from other governments. He's a liar, he can't be trusted, and he has no spine, and the world knows it.

    April 27, 2014 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  3. Chris-E...al

    0bama does not have no clue about domestic issues . And foreign policy is just beyond his mental capacity i would not say this if other nations did not know this . .

    April 27, 2014 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  4. HenryMiller

    Obama is a liar, he can't be trusted, he has no spine, and the world knows it. Why would any of our allies pay the slightest bit of attention to him?

    April 27, 2014 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  5. Rick McDaniel

    No........it is losing its ability to front for its allies........doing most of the dirty work for them.

    April 27, 2014 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  6. Wes

    If the US is losing the ability to "sway" allies, it is because we are an economically crippled nation with huge debt and lacking the ability to go to war the way we used to be able to do, plus our standard of living is no longer the best in the world or even close to it. This sorry state of affairs goes much farther back than January 2009.

    April 27, 2014 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  7. stingerhp

    No reason to be concerned about this, bi den will straighten it out.. Look at how easy he handled the Ukraine problem and didnt mess his hair up ... The O voters must be loving this...

    April 27, 2014 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  8. Gurgyl

    -liar, yes on WMD, Halliburton, ha, what nonsense, venom you spew!! Yes, Obamacare is a Law, saving millions. Just shut up.

    April 27, 2014 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  9. anthny76

    After reading what @rs said... theres really no need to read another comment.
    Considering most are only going to bash President Obama anyway.
    Well said, rs.

    April 27, 2014 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  10. king

    Ahh can you just love the repubs break it, and when it's not working, then blame Obama. These repubs attack this president if he blows his nose. They somehow believes that we are the only ones seeing this blatant obstruction, let me tell you a secret repubs. Our allies and enemies are taking notes.they know Obama is weakened because of the illogical stance these repubs have taken up. If Obama tries and get involved the repubs will just do what they normally do and fight him. They gives a rats booty if the policies work or not, they just want to play politics

    April 27, 2014 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  11. don in albuquerque

    With the great amount of good we have done for the world over decades, one would think they would just be falling all over themselves to bow to us. LOL

    April 27, 2014 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  12. don in albuquerque

    Wes

    Nail on the head, nail on the head alert.

    April 27, 2014 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  13. Blake

    Yes you do "lose influence" when someone who is level headed and war is a last resort is in office. Bad guys know that as long as they don't go over the top, the US and the west will not intervene militarily. A downside, but better than the alternative since the price of this "influence" is to constantly be boasting and getting into wars which alienates everyone and gets Americans soldiers and sometimes more innocents killed. Case and point the Middle East. Statements like "appear weak," "losing influence," "failure to control crisis" etc. are code for "Shouldn't we just give an ultimatum and go to war now? Because this diplomacy stuff is hard and doesn't make us look strong or in control." Basically the whispers from those who didn't learn anything from the last decade and talking/acting tough is their best thoughts on any foreign crisis, even though they themselves don't agree with what the outcome of that would be (War).

    I respect leaders that are willing to take the bullet for not appearing "Strong, bold, decisive" and instead doing things the smart, right and the harder way, in order to save lives and avoid conflict when there doesn't have to be one. Bullies don't get this and never will. It shows a strength of character that a leader won't be peer pressured or bullied into a bad decision just so he can looking "strong."

    April 27, 2014 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  14. don in albuquerque

    HenryMiller

    Henry Miller is a liar, he can't be trusted, he has no spine, and everyone knows it. Why would anyone pay the slightest bit of attention to him?

    April 27, 2014 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  15. rs

    Wes
    If the US is losing the ability to "sway" allies, it is because we are an economically crippled nation with huge debt and lacking the ability to go to war the way we used to be able to do, plus our standard of living is no longer the best in the world or even close to it. This sorry state of affairs goes much farther back than January 2009.
    ___________
    Nicely stated.

    April 27, 2014 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  16. J.V.Hodgson

    NATO and the countries its made up of are predominantly European with more than twice the population of the US and are Allies of the US in all major conflicts existential at this time. And so far as Ukraine is concerned Mr Barroso it is in their backyard or on thier front porch and we are 7000 to 8000 miles. They have a say bigger than ours. Push too hard and PUTIN will win quick with tanks and overwhelming force of arms in Ukraine , over inside a week, and please remember Georgia ( not Georgia state in the US) but the country and BUSH and Republicans did nothing other than huff and puff and no sanctions.
    The problem is that todays GOP has three gods
    1) The military industrial complex, and all diplomatic or terrorist activity its best to respond by war.
    2) Big business especially big oil, casinos and
    3) To keep the money rolling in to the party, being kind to the rich and screw the middle class. The Koch bros, Sheldon gun lobby other PAC's run by Cheney et al war mongers and lower taxes so we can get more rich.
    Finally icing on the cake, make it harder because the poor can't afford all the documents and fees needed or because they work long hours cant get to voting stations that close to soon and don't open weekends when Y'all know the churches and NAACP uses Sundays to out a big part of the democratic vote.
    Regards,
    hodgson

    April 28, 2014 02:41 am at 2:41 am |