Republicans hit Obama foreign policy over Ukraine

1:50 PM, Mar 2, 2014   |    comments
President Obama and Vladimir Putin
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(USA TODAY) President Obama has only limited options to punish Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin over military action in Ukraine, but some Republicans say that is partly the result of Obama's own foreign policy.

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

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."

Secretary of State John Kerry said the Obama administration is working with U.S. allies to hit Russia with economic penalties if it continues its aggression in the Crimea region of Ukraine.

American allies "are prepared to go to the hilt in order to isolate Russia with respect to this invasion," Kerry said on CBS' Face The Nation. "They're prepared to put sanctions in place, they're prepared to isolate Russia economically."

On NBC's Meet The Press, Kerry said Russia could also face visa bans, asset freezes, and trade and investment penalties.Kerry also said the U.S. is prepared to boycott the Group of Eight Summit this June in Russia (in Sochi, site of last month's Winter Olympics). It may also move to have Russia expelled from the G-8.

In another television appearance, on ABC's This Week, Kerry said that "the hope of the U.S. and everybody in the world is not to see this escalate into a military confrontation."

Rogers, Graham, and other officials who appeared on Sunday interview shows seconded the call for new sanctions, and suggested that Russia be kicked out of the G-8. They also called for economic assistance to Ukraine and help for other developing democracies located near Russia.

During a 90-minute phone call with Putin on Saturday, Obama "made absolutely clear" that a Russian invasion of the Crimea region of Ukraine "is unacceptable, and there will be serious repercussions if this stands," Kerry told CBS.

A White House statement on the Obama-Putin call said "the United States calls on Russia to de-escalate tensions by withdrawing its forces back to bases in Crimea and to refrain from any interference elsewhere in Ukraine."

Putin appeared unmoved. In its statement on the call, the Kremlin said that "Russia retains the right to protect its interests and the Russian-speaking population of those areas."

The Kremlin also said that Putin told Obama about "provocative and criminal actions on the part of ultranationalists who are in fact being supported by the current authorities in Kiev. The Russian president spoke of a real threat to the lives and health of Russian citizens and the many compatriots who are currently on Ukrainian territory."

Obama also spoke Saturday with a pair of prominent allies, President Francois Hollande of France and Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada.

"The leaders affirmed the importance of unity within the international community in support of international law, and the future of Ukraine and its democracy," said a White House statement. "The leaders also pledged to work together on a package of support and assistance to help Ukraine as it pursues reforms and stabilizes its economy."

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