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. Kris

    This is what happens when you have a spineless leader. Every time in history that the US retreated, a major global conflict has started. Barry, go smoke and check out, let a leader take over

    March 2, 2014 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  2. Grahame Rhodes

    Poor Obama. No matter what he does the GOP will never be satisfied. So much counter productive hate for this President. In 1935 there was the Berlin Olympics, Adolph Hitler was there and then he invaded Poland. In 2014 it was the Sochi Olympics, Vladamir Putin was there and then he invaded Ukraine. How history repeats itself.

    March 2, 2014 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  3. laclone

    "Republicans call on Obama for action"?

    The Republicans are the least qualified body on the planet to make a demand for anything. They can't even control their own party, with that cancerous Tea Party Tumor causing hate & discontent within their own ranks. Any action Obama attempts, and I mean ANY action at all, they will immediately oppose anyway. 2 & 3 yr. old children going through that "NO" phase demonstrate better reasoning and co-operative ability.

    As a result, Congress as a whole has, or will, paralyzed any attempt at all from the U.S. to do anything about the Ukraine situation. Putin knows this. Putin depends on it.

    The GOP needs to get their head out of a particular orifice, and start working with the rest of Congress and the President to get things done, instead of acting like a child throwing a tantrum in a Toys-R-Us until they get what they want!

    March 2, 2014 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  4. vidal808

    Yes, right on Republicans, start another war with Russia! That is exactly what we are waiting for. Another conflict that we can not afford, another idiotic move by an idiotic party. Thanks The Lord we have Obama in the WH who is using common sense and restrain. We don't need those trigger-happy conservatives to drive us in to another war!

    March 2, 2014 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  5. E.R. White

    Have the Republicans ever met a war they didn't want the United States of America to get involved in?

    March 2, 2014 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  6. Pastor Mitchell

    Regardless who is president whether I agree or disagree with their policy, I would never bend so low to disrespect the office with name calling. Our president is hesitate not engage in another war. My question to you, would you want your love one fighting every country that decides they want to fight out their problems. I pray that God gives him wisdom to do the right thing. We have lost so many young people in war. My husband is a Vietnam vet and suffers from that war. Let us stop being critical. It should not be about race, but fairness and love towards one another. I don't know you but I can truly say I love you. Be blessed all who reads this post. PEACE!!!!!

    March 2, 2014 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  7. lynnmarie2u

    Translation of what McCain wants: Let's send our troops into this,we need diversions from the mess we are in here at home!

    March 2, 2014 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  8. Brian

    Awesome! More war! What is our goal, Mr. McCain? 10,000 American dead? Or better yet, World War III and a million American dead?

    March 2, 2014 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  9. lynnmarie2u

    Translation:Let's send our troops into this,we could use a diversion from the mess we have here at home!

    March 2, 2014 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  10. Geo Bruno

    Bush and Georgia

    March 2, 2014 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  11. uncleric

    "Do Something":
    1) Send NATO/USA troops into Ukraine proper as 'Peace Keepers'. - merely populating Ukraine with Western supporters will at the minimum complicate Russia's efforts to dominate Ukraine.

    Come on people: the USA has all the resources to stop this. It doesn't have to me arms-for-arms; merely having a physical presence in Ukraine.

    Consider that MILLIONS of citizens of Ukraine have been STRUGGLING to free themselves from foreign control for a millennium (with a couple years of 'freedom'). Ukraine is experiencing a second chance at freedom within the decade and it is at SEVERE risk.

    Doing nothing, turning a blind eye will loose Ukraine for another generation.

    And no, I'm not a Conservative.
    I'm a so-called bleeding McGovern/MoveOn Liberal.

    March 2, 2014 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  12. carlin123

    When ever anything drastic happens in countries around the world the U.S. Military or (World Police) must spring into action. American tax payers must spend precious gold and spill their own blood to do the bidding of our King, I mean President. Unless there is a DIRECT threat to the United States. I say stay out!

    March 2, 2014 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  13. jleoxii13

    There's nothing we can do. We are evenly matched...and overmatched when we get closer to the borders of Russian. We can bark loudly, but our bite is nothing. On the other hand, Putin has every incentive and probably some necessity to intervene. The real error was committed a few weeks ago, when the EU and US botched handling the initial phases of this crisis. Even if the EU and US were perfect, there was a good chance this would go south. The end result is that Russia will annex much of the Ukraine. And nobody will try to change that.

    March 2, 2014 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  14. Maryellen

    I suppose they want the President to send troops into Russia! Grow-up and come up with solutions for a change, their endless complaining and lack of action on all fronts is so old!

    March 2, 2014 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  15. jleoxii13

    The US is overmatched in the Ukraine. Russia has every incentive and some necessities that drives their intervention. We can do nothing. The real mistake was made early in the crisis, when the US and EU pushed Ukraine back in the arms of Russia. Russia will annex most of the Ukraine, and we can and will do nothing.

    March 2, 2014 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  16. Political crook

    The Repubs sound more concerned about Ukraines freedom than our own since they do not mind stepping over Consitutional lines here.

    March 2, 2014 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  17. Jim

    The US has no fight in the Ukraine issue. Obama and congress need to go the sanctions route and leave it at that. Where is the EU on this? Ukraine is in their back yard, but I don't see any of the US news networks talking about the EU stand... if there is one. This is not up to any unilateral decision by the US or NATO. The EU leaders need to define their policy quickly and execute. If not, let the domino fall.

    March 2, 2014 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  18. Mark

    And just what would the mighty midgets of the Right want the President to do? "Do something" is hardly constructive and the bright readers will note the GOP provided no actual policy or action the President might entertain-

    >> Oops. Looks like you failed to read the entire article.

    The republicans did, in fact, propose a number of things that the President should have done already:

    "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."

    I also recall that during one of the presidential debates, Mitt Romney pointed out that Russia wasn't an ally of the US and that they were, in fact, a bully on the world stage.

    Obama, made the glib comment that "The 80s called and they want their foreign policy back". He went on to lecture Romney about how the cold war was over and that Russia was an ally.

    Romney may not have had the glib, cosmopolitan one-liners that Obama apparently had during the campaign, but my sense is that we need a president who can put on his 'big boy pants' and see the world as it is – not as we wish it to be.

    March 2, 2014 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  19. rdc

    It seems like the US cannot keep its nose out of other countries business. rs was correct, this is a NATO problem.
    As for McCain's comments, I sure wish he would ride off into the sunset, and take his big mouth with him.

    March 2, 2014 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  20. Elliotu

    If politicians in the GOP want us to get involved militarily, they should buy some guns in their local gun shops or gun fairs and go over their do their own fighting. Just leave American troops out of it.

    March 2, 2014 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  21. Peter M Sandford

    Senator John McCain is part of the problem instead of the solution.Maybe if he was supportive of the current administration our enemies would think twice . Instead we have to hear him critcsize and do What ? We cannot police and or fight every crisis in the world. How much more can we ask of our military ? How many more have to sacrifice body and mind only to return home and have their V.A. benefits cut by our do nothing, chicken hawk congress. They are a JOKE !!!

    March 2, 2014 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  22. Rich Davis

    I hope that Obama has learned from the quagmire of Afghanistan and Iraq that it is ultimately not in American taxpayer interest to further empty our coffers at the behest of GOP leaders whose mantra has been that they wish to "see him fail" – they are just praying for him to make a misstep on this issue. Let Ukraine sort out its own issues. Where Obama should flex his muscle is on the Russian ship in Cuba, it should be blockaded and boarded – not be allowed to leave Cuban waters. The Russians probably delivered mini subs or worse yet, portable nukes. The timing of the ship's presence in Cuba coinciding with the activity in Ukraine is very, very bad for U.S. national security and a shrewdly calculated move on the Russian's part. They think they caught us sleeping post from post Olympic euphoria – LOL.

    March 2, 2014 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  23. Jack Lowe

    It appears to me that Russia is dealing with still another terrorist threat and insurrection at a peripheral nation. If the same were happening in Texas or New Mexico I'm wondering how we would react. To think that the Ukraine is a completely sovereign nation, or that Russia does not have paternal obligations is wrong.
    Russia's intervention should have a stabilizing effect, and if the internecine killing stops – it could only be a good thing.

    March 2, 2014 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  24. zappo15

    If Romney were president he and the knight in shining armor Republicans headed by the super good McCain would pull the US into another senseless costly conflict.

    March 2, 2014 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  25. We the People are the Government!

    I idiots are out. Anyone who believes in the GOP as a reasonable party that represents us are in such denial that they should have a mental examination. As far as Democrats go fire them too. Politics is about Power. We don't need another escalation and dedication of resources towards war. The GOP and Corporations go hand in hand to the Bank. The Democrats have tried the strategy of going to the people but under the lining wall street has deep pockets to undercoat the democrats corruption. The TEA party is an abomination of an attempt to take over and dismantle our Government by the Wealthy. We the People by design are The Government. Since that is no longer true we have to rid ourselves of all corruption and fire them all: even on the State level. The Love feast of people who believe in the GOP or any political party are the reason this Country is going to fall. Fire Them All.....

    March 2, 2014 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
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