GOP, Conservatives Intensify Calls for Strong Action in Ukraine

Image: GOP, Conservatives Intensify Calls for Strong Action in Ukraine

Sunday, 02 Mar 2014 11:03 AM

By Todd Beamon

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Conservatives on Sunday stepped up their call on President Barack Obama to take strong action against Russia after President Vladimir Putin demanded and won his parliament's approval to invade Ukraine — where the new government warned of war, put its troops on high alert, and appealed to NATO for help.

"Putin is playing chess -- I think we're playing marbles," said Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, speaking on Fox News Sunday. Rogers said the Russians have been "running circles around us" in negotiations on such items as Syria and missile defense.

But Rogers conceded that there are no many good choices facing Obama.

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“There is not a lot of options on the table and, candidly, I’m a fairly hawkish guy, sending more naval forces to operate in the Black Sea is really not a very good idea, given that we know that that day has long passed,” the Michigan Republican said. “And unless you’re intending to use them, I wouldn’t send them. Now you’ve got only economic options through the EU.”

Obama should cancel American participation in the G8 summit planned for June at Sochi, Russia. And he warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to annex portions of the Crimean peninsula, where Russia rents a naval base from Ukraine.

“This is the most important territory to Putin himself,” Rogers said. “There’s an old expression that Russia without the Ukraine is a country and Russia with the Ukraine is an empire. I do believe Putin understands that but the most important part for him.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaking on CNN's State of the Union, said "we have a weak and indecisive president," and that "invites aggression.

"President Obama needs to do something," Graham said. "How about this: Suspend Russian membership in the G8 and the G20 at least for a year, starting right now and every day they stay in Crimea after the suspension. Do something.”

Rep. Adam Kinzinger said.House Republicans will stand behind President Barack Obama.

“You’re going to find a House that’s very cooperative with the administration on this,” the Illinois Republican said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Kinzinger said the House will consider legislation calling for increased aid to Ukraine and adding it and Georgia – which Russia invaded in 2008 – into NATO.

“I think it’s important, and I think you’ll see this, to stand very strong with the president and say, ‘We may not be able to respond militarily but we are going to make it clear that Russia is a pariah state, and not just for the next year but for the next decade,’” said Kinzinger, who sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The criticisms of Obama mounted on Sunday, after conservatives slammed him on Saturday for "pontificating" without putting any muscle behind his threats against Russia.

"We have got to exert energy," former National Security Director Michael Hayden told Newsmax in an exclusive interview. "We just can't pontificate and condemn Russian activity.

"The president has to put some measure of his prestige and political capital at risk in order to try to shape an outcome in the Ukraine that's going to be acceptable to all parties — and particularly acceptable to the Ukrainian people.

"You can't do that if you're not present for duty," Hayden said.

"It's a very dangerous time, and the only way the danger can be lifted is if President Obama and Putin talk face to face," William Miller, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, told Newsmax in an exclusive interview. "There's no other substitute, given the danger that's clearly there."

In a statement, GOP Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee said: "Vladimir Putin is seizing a neighboring territory, again, so President Obama must lead a meaningful, unified response with our European allies to bring an immediate halt to these provocative Russian actions, which threaten international peace and security.

"The Russian government has felt free to intervene militarily in Ukraine because the United States, along with Europe, has failed to make clear there would be serious, potentially irreparable consequences to such action."

Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican, said in a statement: “Every moment that 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.

"There is a range of serious options at our disposal at this time without the use of military force," McCain added. "I call on President Obama to rally our European and NATO allies to make clear what costs Russia will face for its aggression and to impose those consequences without further delay.”

McCain and Corker were among 12 bipartisan members of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee who sent a letter to Obama on Friday calling for tougher action against Russian intervention in the country of 46 million.

Rep. Tom Cotton, R-of Ark., said Obama should respond “at a minimum” with several steps: “revoke travel visas and freeze assets of senior Russian officials and Putin cronies, freeze assets of Ukrainian oligarchs who assist the Russian invasion, stop transfers of assets out of Ukraine, support the Ukrainian transitional government and military as it defends Ukraine's territorial integrity, recall our ambassador to Russia, reschedule the upcoming G8 meeting from Russia to Western Europe or the U.S., and suspend Russia from the G8.

“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 in a statement.

Ukraine is situated between Russia and Western Europe — and the unrest began peacefully almost four months ago after President Viktor Yanukovich scrapped a plan for the country to join the European Union and align itself more with Russia.

Putin's actions on Saturday marked the biggest confrontation between Russia and the West since the Cold War ended with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. They were a direct rebuff to Western leaders, who had repeatedly urged Russia not to intervene in Ukraine.

President Obama warned on Friday that Moscow would face "costs" if it acted militarily in the Ukraine.

On Saturday, Obama and Putin talked for 90 minutes, in which the American president said that he was suspending U.S. preparations for the G8 meeting of industrial nations in Sochi, Russia, in June.

The president also "expressed his deep concern over Russia’s clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity," the White House said in a statement.

Ukraine mobilized for war on Sunday and Washington threatened to isolate Russia economically, after Putin declared he had the right to invade his neighbor.

"This is not a threat: this is actually the declaration of war to my country," Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk, head of a pro-Western government that took power when Russian ally Viktor Yanukovich fled last week, said in English.

Putin secured permission from his parliament on Saturday to use military force to protect Russian citizens in Ukraine and told U.S. President Barack Obama he had the right to defend Russian interests and nationals, spurning Western pleas not to intervene.

Russian forces have already bloodlessly seized Crimea - an isolated Black Sea peninsula where Moscow has a naval base.

On Sunday they surrounded several small Ukrainian military outposts there and demanded the Ukrainian troops disarm. Some refused, leading to standoffs, although no shots were fired.

All eyes are now on whether Russia makes a military move in predominantly Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine, where pro-Moscow demonstrators have marched and raised Russian flags over public buildings in several cities in the last two days.

In his Newsmax interview, Hayden called the Russian move into Crimea "bad. It needs to be responded to. Actions have consequences, but I would even be more alarmed if the Russian army were moving into Eastern Ukraine."

He said Putin's actions smacked of the Russian invasion of Georgia, another former Soviet republic, in 2008.

In that crisis, Republican President George W. Bush demanded that Russia abide by a cease-fire agreement that had been brokered by France and withdraw its troops or risk its place in “the diplomatic, political, economic and security structures of the 21st century,” according to news reports.

Russia stopped its assault on Georgia, but — six years later — it has not fully abided by the terms of the agreement. The United States sent in troops to oversee a humanitarian mission in Georgia. Putin was prime minister at the time.

"The Russians invaded Georgia — and, frankly, didn't suffer many consequences for it," Hayden told Newsmax. "A little public outcry. A little bad publicity. But not much more than that — and they weren't excluded from international processes or institutions.

"Three months later, we had an election — and two months after that, the new administration is talking about 'reset' with the Russians. The implication was that they were forgiven for the invasion of Georgia, and they didn't spend much time in the penalty box.

"In one sense, we've taught the Russians that you might be able to get away with this kind of behavior," Hayden added. "That's really, really unfortunate."

Miller, who served in the Ukraine from 1993 to 1998, is now a senior policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington. He told Newsmax that the 1994 Budapest Memorandum — whose signers included President Bill Clinton, British Prime Minister John Major, and Russian President Boris Yeltsin — required the U.S. and Britain to protect Ukraine.

The memorandum required the country to destroy its huge nuclear arsenal — bigger than that harbored by Britain, France and China combined — "and it was all aimed at the United States," Miller said.

"Clearly that has been violated," he said, adding that Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry "are obliged to tackle it head on."

In an interview with CNN, Corker said that "in the end, Russia needs to be isolated. To even think that they're a member of the G8 is almost an insult.

"This is an autocratic petro-state," he added. "The G8 is something that is set up among industrialized democracies. The fact that they’re even a member should be blatantly questioned."

He endorsed Obama's pulling out of the June meeting.

"What you're going to see is an orchestrated course of isolation," the senator told CNN. "We need to do everything we can to isolate this country.

"It's still smarting from the breakup of the Soviet Union by a leader who is nothing more than an autocrat."

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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