(CNN) – Gay rights, Edward Snowden, Syria and now Ukraine: They’re all recent issues in which the United States and Russia have had disagreements.
Tension has always seemed to exist between the two countries, and that’s certainly been the case for President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Some days, it almost seems like the Cold War never went away.
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In the latest example, Ukraine, it appears the Russian-backed government of President Viktor Yanukovych has been removed from office after deadly protests, setting up a power vacuum in a country known for Russian meddling.
The U.S. stands with Ukrainian opposition forces hoping to increase democratic reforms and decrease influence from Moscow, while Russia slams the opposition, saying they failed to honor international agreements made last week aimed at ending the crisis.
The issue is a tough one for Obama. On one hand, he needs to act tough when dealing with Putin to please those who want the U.S. to stand up to Russia.
On the other hand, the President needs to be somewhat conciliatory. Russia and the U.S. are still dealing with the host of aforementioned problems that require cooperation, and despite their struggles over the past couple decades, Russia is still a global power.
But are all these issues the start of another Cold War? Not so much, Obama indicated last week.
“Our approach as the United States is not to see these as some Cold War chessboard in which we’re in competition with Russia,” Obama said Wednesday at a summit in Mexico.
“Our goal is to make sure that the people of Ukraine are able to make decisions for themselves about their future.”
But Sen. John McCain, a staunch critic of the Obama administration’s foreign policy and in particular its dealings with Russia, said that Obama is the most naïve president of his lifetime and that this situation is the latest example.
"The president said this had nothing to do with the Cold War," the Arizona Republican said on CBS’s “Face The Nation.” "In the eyes of Vladimir Putin, it does. He wants to restore the Russian empire.”
But Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, said that dealing with Putin is tough, especially given his background.
“Let's remember that each president tries to find a positive track, but let’s not forget that Vladimir Putin wasn't just a member of the KGB, he was the head of the secret police, the Soviet KGB. This is a man that we should take very seriously,” Durbin said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Still, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-New Hampshire, said that issues in Ukraine give Obama another opportunity to engage Putin and the Russians.
“I believe the President needs to up his game and send a clear, unequivocal, public message to Putin not to interfere in what is happening in Ukraine. To let the Ukrainian people determine their future, to ensure that there is no interference in their sovereignty, and I think this is an important time for him to do that,” Ayotte said, also on Fox.
For all of the criticism about not being tough enough on Putin, National Security Adviser Susan Rice said that the President has held his ground but that the U.S. still must be pragmatic.
"The President is very plain and very forceful in his dealings with Putin. But it's not necessary, and it's not in our interest to return to a Cold War construct which is long out-of-date and doesn't reflect the realities of the 21st century," Rice said on NBC’s “Meet The Press.”