Sen. Bob Corker, the senior Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has emerged as one of the toughest critics of the Obama administration’s handling of the Ukraine crisis.
“We know that they [the Russians] are using black ops to foment problems inside Ukraine. We are stating that publicly, and yet we are not doing anything about it,” the Tennessee lawmaker told The Daily Beast on Tuesday.
Russia’s economy “is very vulnerable right now, and we were to take steps to punish them. It could change their behavior, but we’re not doing that,” he added.
For Corker and many others on Capitol Hill, Obama’s reluctance to impose broader sanctions so long as uniformed Russian soldiers do not invade Ukraine only encourages Putin to ramp up his subversion by covert means.
“The administration is sending the signal to Russia, ‘Hey, you can have your way in eastern Ukraine. Just don’t embarrass us.’ ”
Corker – who travels to Kiev Wednesday to pledge support for the embattled government – believes the administration is making the same mistakes in Ukraine that it made in Syria last year: warning about “consequences,” but doing little to change the situation on the ground.
Corker supports sending lethal weapons to the Ukrainian military to make sure Moscow understands “they’re going to pay a price if they do come in” to seize more Ukrainian territory.
President Obama opposes such aid, and the administration has resisted imposition of broad sanctions against entire sectors of the Russian economy unless the Russian Army invades eastern Ukraine. But Corker wants the administration to impose the broader sanctions now.
Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Kiev Tuesday, pledging to stand by the Ukrainian government and calling on Russia to "stop supporting men hiding behind masks and unmarked uniforms sowing unrest in eastern Ukraine."
"You will not walk this road alone. We will walk it with you," Biden told Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.
To Corker, the administration’s handling of Ukraine is reminiscent of what he regards as the its failed approach towards Syria.
Late last year, Washington talked to the Ukrainian opposition, and “as we did on Syria, we drew them out, we talked about getting them organized, we talked about how supportive we were, and then we did nothing. We left them hanging,” Corker said. “The West lured them out, the West encouraged them to move West, and yet we’re not doing those things that I think we should be doing to push back against Russia.”
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