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

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"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. gman11

    Ah,the right wing capitalist will do their usual and try to blame this adminiostration for not acting wothout all the information,but wait they do have WMD's and the war mongerers are foaming at the mouth again

    March 2, 2014 04:43 am at 4:43 am |
  2. charles

    what do the Republican think we should do go to war with Russia? We can not do that that would destroy the world.
    To me wath we should do is stay out and shout up. It well that care of it's self in a mount or two.

    March 2, 2014 04:48 am at 4:48 am |
  3. charles

    what do the Republican think we should do go to war with Russia? We can not do that that would destroy the world.
    To me what we should do is stay out and shout up. It well that care of it's self in a mount or two.

    March 2, 2014 04:49 am at 4:49 am |
  4. Johan S

    I guess we have to look the other way. In the old days we'd handle this by giving weapons to Ukraine's "freedom fighters". The only way to deal with an enemy as powerful as Russia without risking nuclear war is by proxy wars.

    March 2, 2014 04:56 am at 4:56 am |
  5. Coffee Party


    The GOP continues with their policies of wanting America to police the world.

    Why is it our responsibility to travel halfway across the globe to prevent chaos in a country that has almost no bearing on our well being?

    And then the GOP will complain about our debt and scream how we can't afford to let old people retire comfortably.

    March 2, 2014 05:08 am at 5:08 am |
  6. Steve

    You see the difference between Repubs and Dems? The former rush in to battle cause they dont care about your son's life. Dems try to work with allies, find alternate solutions. Personally, I feel Russia can have Crimea. Everything about it says "Russia".

    March 2, 2014 05:21 am at 5:21 am |
  7. Dave

    President Obama is a prudent man. He is not going to jump headlong into anything. Considering the history of Crimea this is almost an internal Russian affair, in my opinion. As TS above points out, "Do something" is hardly constructive advice. Perhaps the GOP wants to start another war...with Russia? No thanks, maybe I'm just naive, but I don't see that we have that much at stake there.

    March 2, 2014 05:35 am at 5:35 am |
  8. Bob Johnson

    Easy to spout off hot air when your words will never result in action. Very different when you are the one whose decision can direct world history. Just a bunch of little men trying to thump their chests with self importance.

    March 2, 2014 05:38 am at 5:38 am |
  9. Steve

    John McCain apparently thinks he's the president. Sorry McCain, we the people rejected you. Now sit down and shut up and let the president do his job.

    March 2, 2014 05:41 am at 5:41 am |
  10. Down with Nazis

    Peremptory and unilateral action against a superpower – that's the solution? That's the way to get involved in another pointless war.

    March 2, 2014 05:51 am at 5:51 am |
  11. Wire Palladin, S.F.

    I read the right wing posts earlier, and every GOPer wants something done immediately, but they don't know what. Even the clown Rubio wants something done immediately, on our own, indicating his immaturity. As this clearly will be the beginning of World War III, it might take a little planning, unlike the unnecessary wars we are still suffering through.

    While the republicans offer nothing but criticism, I am reminded that in the last world war, where there actually was a strategy. So be patient grass hoppers, it looks like you will get the war you so desperately want.

    March 2, 2014 05:52 am at 5:52 am |
  12. Jetranger

    I Agree maybe he should ACT, like in the Gong Show or something, he'd fit right in perfectly !!!

    March 2, 2014 05:53 am at 5:53 am |
  13. Wire Palladin, S.F.

    Today, military genius McCain will probably offer a military plan, like sneaking into Russia from Alaska, marching across 6 time zones, and arriving in eastern Ukraine in 2026.

    March 2, 2014 05:56 am at 5:56 am |
  14. MrRickinNH

    McCain would have started a 3rd world war by now if given the chance.

    March 2, 2014 05:57 am at 5:57 am |

    HILARIOUS watching Guns Over People tea potty wingnuts walk the plank toward another November. They can run(voter ID) but they can't hide from the American people.

    March 2, 2014 05:59 am at 5:59 am |
  16. Kevin

    54% of the people on the Crimean Peninsula are Russian citizens while only 24% are Ukrainian. If you ask me, I would say Russia has a valid concern.

    March 2, 2014 06:03 am at 6:03 am |
  17. shan

    Redumblicans are always in a hurry and make mistakes like invasion of Iraq.
    President Obama is correct now. We need to coordinate with our allies and make a decision.

    March 2, 2014 06:03 am at 6:03 am |
  18. mp

    I believe the previous adminstration easily topped this one for incompentency, ineptness etc. At least this president looks and thinks out his options before "shooting from the hip" like the previous idiot in chief did. Like the 1st poster mentioned, what would they suggest other than blathering about. The GOP of today is a paper tiger that couldn't find their own butt with both hands and a flashlight.

    March 2, 2014 06:24 am at 6:24 am |
  19. Michael

    Here we go again with the "Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran" crowd on the right. They didn't get the wars they wanted so badly in Iran and Syria, so now let's try for Russia. Is there any war the cons do not like?

    March 2, 2014 06:27 am at 6:27 am |
  20. Toltec1

    If one reads history you might notice that Ukraine has almost always been a country divided, with the west, pro west, and the eastern region pro east. This has been the case for centuries. My grandparents came from the Ukraine in the early 1900's. My moms parents from the west, my dads from the east. They were not cordial. My moms side did not consider my dads side "real" Ukrainians. Kind of funny at the time, but now quite sad. Ukraine has been a country of suffering for a long time, the result of being a gateway between east and west. It has been invaded and occupied numerous times throughout it's history. I doubt it will ever be a peaceful, unified country, no matter how the US and our allies respond. Peace

    March 2, 2014 06:28 am at 6:28 am |
  21. oldgeek60

    I see nothing at all illegal in Russia's actions toward the Ukraine. The duly elected government of a sovereign country was ousted via violent "coup d'├ętat", and that government is asking assistance from Russia to intercede on it's behalf.

    March 2, 2014 06:29 am at 6:29 am |
  22. Sharron

    There is nothing Odummer can do. He has gutted the military and has the United States citizens pitted against each other in class warfare. I am not talking about military intervention on our part, I am talking about showing strength. He is playing for the other side. He opened his mouth about Syria crossing a red line. They did and nothing happened. Putin is laughing at him and running the show. The Russians are negotiating with Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Vietnam, Singapore, Algeria and The Seychelles to put ports in their countries. Odummer took away the missle defense shield program. I am sure Poland and other former eastern bloc countries are very nervous. They will be next. Odummer is playing and has always been playing for the other side. We have a party boy in the White House, Biden is as dumb as dirt, Kerry and Hagel are feckless. If Obama did threaten Putin they would shut off the natural gas to Europe and they would freeze. We are in deep trouble. Anyone who voted for this man should be ashamed of what you have to America

    March 2, 2014 06:35 am at 6:35 am |
  23. Tampa Tim

    How are the republicans going to find the money to pay for whatever they want Obama to do?

    March 2, 2014 06:38 am at 6:38 am |
  24. RayJacksonMs

    Start moving in on Syria. Let them now if they touch the Ukraine their ally Assad and his whole family are dead. If he goes down his army will fall apart and the "good" rebels and the "bad" rebels will tear into one another and Syria will take care of itself. Europe needs to get off their aas for once and do something too. Of course then the idiot republicans will start screaming about whatever Obama does. They are on Russia's side after all.

    March 2, 2014 06:45 am at 6:45 am |
  25. Maria Rivera-Carvalho

    Republican chicken hawks are very quick to shout they empty bravado and macho threats. After all, they are hiding in their ivory towers while telling us plebeians what to do. Devoid of a sense of reality, morals or perspective, they talk they empty, tragicomic talk of the jester. Fortunately we have a president that knows his duty to the country and the world and is not distracted by the cowardly rethoric of the ritht wing sophists.

    March 2, 2014 06:51 am at 6:51 am |
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