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Congress United on Punishing Russia, Divided on How We Got to This Point

Graham: "It started with Benghazi. When you kill Americans and nobody pays a price, you invite this type of aggression."

by
Bridget Johnson

Bio

March 5, 2014 - 8:03 pm

WASHINGTON — Just days after Russia invaded the Crimean Peninsula, Congress is moving full-speed-ahead on a series of symbolic and punitive measures directed at President Vladimir Putin as the Kremlin vows to retaliate against any sanctions.

The White House has been dialing back sanctions threats as it claims Putin is on “pause,” with press secretary Jay Carney today urging Russia to take the “easy off-ramp” and allow UN or OSCE monitors in occupied Crimea. “There is an easy way out here for Russia, and we certainly hope they take it,” he said.

On Thursday, the House debates a fast-tracked bill from Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) and Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) to modify current appropriations law and extend U.S.-backed loan guarantees to Ukraine as it tries to find its financial footing during the rocky transition period.

“Ukraine is a friend and valued partner to the United States, and as partners, we assist when another is in need,” Rogers said. “This legislation will help the government of Ukraine restore economic stability, and show the world that America supports the Ukrainian people.”

At the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) introduced a resolution condemning the violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and calling for sanctions on Russian officials and banks.

“It is important that Congress support tough sanctions on Russia to pressure it to end its military aggression and provide assistance to bolster Ukraine’s new government. This resolution is the first step toward accomplishing that,” Royce said. “We must place tough sanctions on Russian high-ranking officials, state-owned banks and commercial enterprises, and key individuals behind the Russian intervention.”

State Department officials have been called before Royce’s panel on Thursday as well as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. At the House Intelligence Committee, lawmakers are probing why the invasion apparently took the administration by surprise. And lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were advocating the addition of names to the Magnitsky List sanctions originally passed to target human-rights violators.

It’s a spectacularly bipartisan affair — until it comes to discussing how Putin felt so emboldened to do as he pleases on the world stage in the first place.

“Can you think of any place in the world, any place, where we’re better off now than we were when [President Obama] came to office?” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters after a policy luncheon on the Hill Wednesday. “I’m hard-pressed to think of any single place in the world where we’re better off. And it takes you back to the speech that the president made in Cairo in 2009, where he seemed to be questioning American exceptionalism, and the uniqueness of our own country. And he’s acted in such a way, almost amounting to passivity in many instances.”

“…We seem to be pulling back everywhere. And so it’s no wonder that Putin looks at the United States, and sort of concludes that no matter what he does, he doesn’t pay a price for it.”

“Russian reset has been a total failure; that we have projected weakness in our foreign policy and now in our defense policy with our military budget that the president’s proposing,” House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said on CNN. “…And I think when you have the world superpower having a foreign policy that, in my opinion, is weak and a defense policy now that shows weakness, I think it invites aggression. I think that it create as vacuum that’s filled by these types of actions.”

The past chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), said “Putin is putting us to the test.”

“Are we going to back up our words with actions or is this going to be a situation like Syria where the president said, this is a red line, the use of chemical arms will — weapons will not be tolerated, we will do limited airstrikes and then he pulled back on that?” she told CNN. “…Let’s see what this administration is willing to do. But I hope that we don’t talk a big game and then just play small ball.”

The criticism also came from the Senate floor. “This president does not understand Vladimir Putin,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said on Tuesday. “He does not understand his ambitions. He does not understand that Vladimir Putin is an old KGB colonel bent on restoration of the Soviet, of the Russian Empire.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), however, went back one administration when talking to reporters outside the Democrats’ policy luncheon on Wednesday.

“Well, remember, one of our prior presidents said that he looked into his eyes,” Reid said when asked about Obama and Putin.

“Now, I wonder if the Republicans who are — the right wing who are criticizing the president — do they think that we should be in Iraq mode, maybe? I don’t understand what they’re saying. I think the cautious direction of the president has been very good,” Reid said.

Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) gave a report on Ukraine sanctions legislation in the caucus meeting, but Reid said he didn’t know when it would move onto the floor for a vote.

“Senator Corker tried to move forward with an aid package we should be able to get out of here as soon as we can. Whether I can do it next week, I don’t know. The weather has really hurt us,” Reid said. “…It’s my understanding they’re going to have legislation on… certain gifts, aid to the Ukrainian government, and let them know that we support their efforts.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) tied Crimea to an earlier Obama scandal. “It started with Benghazi. When you kill Americans and nobody pays a price, you invite this type of aggression,” he tweeted Tuesday. “Putin basically came to the conclusion after Benghazi, Syria, Egypt – everything Obama has been engaged in – he’s a weak indecisive leader.”

When asked if he agreed with Graham, though, Ryan said, “Oh, I don’t know about that.”

“Look, first of all, who is to blame for this? Vladimir Putin. I mean, the Russians invaded the sovereignty of the Ukraine,” the 2012 vice presidential nominee said. “So let’s put the blame where it belongs.”

Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She is an NPR contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.

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Top Rated Comments   
That's in spite of him, not because of him.

You're a few orders of magnitude below being a fit troll for this fora.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
We've also been closing coal and oil plants as fast as the EPA can. This winter for the first time ever a warning was issued to minimize power usage during a snow storm for fear that demand would overload the system and cause failures. EPA rules will close still more plants in the coming years with nothing but green dreams and unicorn sparkles to replacing them.

US oil supply has also increased because people can't afford to drive as much as they once did what with the high gas prices, high unemployment and that so many jobs are now 28 hour/week posts rather than full 40+ hour/week posts.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Here in Ukraine, we're eagerly waiting to see Putin's Russia stopped, not punished. Meanwhile, the Russian Nazis in Crimea proceed with the invasion unperturbed.

Did I say "Nazis"? Well, people who deny the right of Ukraine to exist; people who invade Ukraine; people who seek to tear Ukraine apart, all the while spreading their Goebbels-style propaganda—they're just as good as Nazis for us.

Oh, did I say "good"?
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (25)
All Comments   (25)
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This is not a Left/Right issue. If you don't see how the Deep State operates then you will stay stuck in the Left/Right divide spinning in opposition. If you see how the US uses NGOs and agent provocateurs in support of Ukrainian fascist groups (like Svoboda and Right Sector) you are then peeking into the Deep State which is run by the sociopaths that rule over us serfs.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Those silly Ukrainians should have remembered Prince Sirik Matak's letter to the US Ambassador as Cambodia fell to the Khmer Rouge: "I thank you very sincerely for your letter and for your offer to transport me towards freedom. I cannot, alas, leave in such a cowardly fashion. As for you and in particular for your great country, I never believed for a moment that you would have this sentiment of abandoning a people which has chosen liberty. You have refused us your protection and we can do nothing about it. You leave us and it is my wish that you and your country will find happiness under the sky. But mark it well that, if I shall die here on the spot and in my country that I love, it is too bad because we are all born and must die one day. I have only committed the mistake of believing in you, the Americans."

Why anyone would trust the US to come to their defense is beyond me.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yes. I live in Israel - but then again, we have never asked the US to.

As someone who grew up expecting to serve in VietNam, the betrayal of VietNam and Cambodia by such people as Ted Kennedy (a greater crime than his responsibility for the death of Mary Jo) and the racist "anti-war" movement is a black mark on the history of the United States.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
OUCH!!
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
First, our sanctions will not work, if nothing else the Europeans will not be on board: too much money too much vulnerability.

When a dog gets on the meat wagon you don't blame the dog, you blame the people that weren't paying attention. He got the chicken and we got the feathers.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
The power of stupid people in large groups in full effect. There is nothing the US can do now that Putin would take seriously.

IF the US still had a strong and vibrant economy. IF the US was building up energy instead of tearing it down. IF the US government weren't at war with a large portion of the population (Conservatives, Christians, business owners, gun owners, etc.). IF all these things were so and backed by a strong military and an unsquandered Diplomatic strength, then maybe Putin, China and others would take the president seriously. However, since they see all these things and know Obama is the architect of it all, they just laugh.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
Agreed. Any move by Congress to punish Russia would be a waste of time. If Congress really wanted to make some progress, they should render Obama powerless to pursue his goals. The citizens need to realize what those goals are, not what BHO tells them they are. Obama told Russia he would have more flexibility after he was reelected, so we know what side Obama is on. Keep rejecting the asinine appointments he tries to make, reject his demand for more spending, hold him accountable for giving our enemies billions of tax dollars in aid, take him to court and get him removed. The majority of Congress is useless, just tools for Obama to use for ruining our nation.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Jay Carney today urging Russia to take the “easy off-ramp” and allow UN or OSCE monitors in occupied Crimea. “There is an easy way out here for Russia, and we certainly hope they take it,” he said.

Like Russia gives a rats bazooka, Jay baby.

"The Crimean parliament voted unanimously "to enter into the Russian Federation with the rights of a subject of the Russian Federation"."

"rights of a subject" sounds a bit contradictory.

http://news.yahoo.com/big-power-talks-ukraine-crisis-little-progress-003521587--business.html
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
Congress is "Divided" on how we got here?

Here, let me help with their math...

Ob+ama = Obama.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
Somehow, I get the feeling that Putin and Obama are helping each other; how else can we explain the, "I'll have more flexibility in my second term" comment?
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
Here in Ukraine, we're eagerly waiting to see Putin's Russia stopped, not punished. Meanwhile, the Russian Nazis in Crimea proceed with the invasion unperturbed.

Did I say "Nazis"? Well, people who deny the right of Ukraine to exist; people who invade Ukraine; people who seek to tear Ukraine apart, all the while spreading their Goebbels-style propaganda—they're just as good as Nazis for us.

Oh, did I say "good"?
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
I wish you the best. The CNN comments are full of Russian trolls (undoubtedly some of whom are organized by the Russian press office).
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
It is certainly most fitting to call them Nazis, rather than call those opposing them Nazis as the Russians and even some Americans do.

In addition to his other amiable characteristics, the Russian has no regard for human life and they are all out sons-of-bitches, barbarians, and chronic drunks. - George S. Patton
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
That actually sounds like a good description of Patton.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
“Can you think of any place in the world, any place, where we’re better off now than we were when [President Obama] came to office?” [asks] Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

Yes, Imperial City, aka Washington DC. The people there, especially the politicians and consultants and crony capitalists and real estate agents, are getting rich. And you, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, are one of them.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
Graham: "It started with Benghazi. When you kill Americans and nobody pays a price, you invite this type of aggression."

No, Lindseed Gramnesty, it didn't start with Madam Depraved Indifference's Benghazi, which you yourself helped to bring about by pushing, along with Juan McLame and Mucko Rubio, for the removal, with extreme prejudice, of a largely secular tyrant and his replacement with your "rebel" Mohammedan friends.

It started with the Iraq and Afcrapistan debacles that you and your fellow neonitwits, with their "Democracy projects"/"Winning Muslim [dark] hearts and [small] minds", so strongly supported. You have turned a majority of the American people against "foreign adventures" whether they be wise or foolish.



30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
I see. So it was OK for bin Ladin to bomb the WTC, and we should have done nothing? It was OK for Saddam Hussein to shoot at American planes, and we should have done nothing? Which do you hate more, American soldiers or American civilians?
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Lindsey Graham is one of the "Republicans" who has been talking and voting like a RINO for some time. May his conservative challenger be successful in Primarying him and sending him to retire in shame. I can only imagine how disappointed Jim DeMint is in Graham's performances of recent years. Graham is one of the people who DeMint said needed to be replaced years ago in order for the Senate to work properly.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
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