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Democratic Rep. Schiff, GOP Sen. Blunt: Take Harder Line on Ukraine

By John Gizzi   |   Thursday, 08 May 2014 11:33 AM

Although they almost certainly differ on most issues before Congress, liberal Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California and conservative Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri found themselves in near-complete agreement Wednesday on a stronger U.S. approach to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

During separate appearances before the 25th annual Legislative Forum of the BakerHostetler law firm in Washington, D.C., Schiff and Blunt addressed the continued threats from Russian President Vladimir Putin as Ukraine readies for presidential elections on May 25.

In what seemed to many of the 300 guests at the daylong forum a revival of the bipartisan U.S. foreign policy of the 1950s and early 1960s, both lawmakers agreed that the issue of Ukraine has now put foreign policy on the proverbial front-burner in Congress, where it rarely has been in recent years.

Although Schiff did not believe Putin would try to seize more territory militarily from Ukraine after the secession of its former state Crimea to join Russia, the Californian is convinced that Putin will support disruption of the elections through his allies in eastern Ukraine.

Such actions, Schiff said, "will allow Putin to claim that the elections were unfair" to pro-Russian voters in eastern Ukraine and accentuate moves toward another secession of territory from Ukraine to become part of Russia.

Recalling how he has voted for sanctions against Russian officials and businessmen, Schiff said that for now, "I support more sanctions."

Blunt noted there is an attitude in Congress that "we ought to get everybody out of everywhere in a hurry." But he also quoted former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that "when the U.S. leaves a vacuum in foreign policy, bad things follow."

Blunt said: "A strong America makes a difference. I don't think Ukraine would have happened if Syria didn't happen."

Blunt added that he "particularly supports giving the Ukrainians weapons" to defend themselves and backs further development of U.S. energy to ensure Ukraine can end its reliance on Russian energy.

Quoting John McCain's withering axiom that "Russia is a gas station masquerading as a country," Blunt said if ever there was a time to make the case that U.S. energy development can do good things for other countries, "this is it."

Blunt referred to a recent international forum he attended in Germany where German President Joachim Gauck talked about the strong role his country is playing in the Ukraine situation.

Blunt said he believed Gauck made such an obvious reference to Germany assuming such a role because the United States has not.

Gauck, the senator recounted, said that "for 70 years, we've thought about what things we did wrong. It's time we now did things right."

Recalling how in 1994 Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons capacities in an agreement with the United States, the United Kingdom, and Russia, Blunt noted that "we agreed we will guarantee territorial integrity for Ukraine."

With platoons of U.S. troops in Latvia, Poland, and Estonia, Blunt said, "We've brought to the attention of NATO just how vulnerable these countries are."

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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