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Bridget Johnson


March 1, 2014 - 1:11 pm

WASHINGTON — President Obama had no public events on his schedule today, yet skipped a meeting of his national security team at the White House today as they huddled over the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Seen leaving the meeting at the White House were Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper,  Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, and CIA Director John Brennan.

Vice President Joe Biden reportedly joined the meeting via videoconference, while Obama was briefed later by National Security Advisor Susan Rice.

Obama special adviser John Podesta was seen at the West Wing in mid-afternoon, but he was apparently leading family members on a tour, according to the White House pool report.

There was no word from the White House on whether Obama would issue any statement.

State Department on Secretary of State John Kerry today contacted acting Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov, meaning that Obama has still not had any president-to-president contact with Ukraine since 2012.

A Ukrainian official at the United Nations said an additional 15,000 Russian troops were streaming into Crimea after President Vladimir Putin received formal approval from the upper chamber of parliament to send forces into his neighbor.

Ukrainian military sources also told media outlets that two Russian anti-submarine warships had approached the coastline near Sevastopol, violating the two countries’ agreement on the Russian naval base located there.

These moves came just hours after Obama said in the White House press briefing room Friday afternoon that “indeed, the United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.”

Russian troops will remain deployed until the “political-social situation in the country is normalized,” the Kremlin said in a statement, according to RIA Novosti.

The troop approval from senators in the Federation Council is open-ended, letting Putin decide troop levels.

A small group of protesters began to form in front of the White House around 4 p.m. Ilona Doerfler of Kiev brandished a megaphone and urged economic sanctions and a naval blockade, according to the White House pool report. “NATO ships in the Black Sea should organize a non-invasive blockade to stop Russian ships exiting,” she said. Asked about the dangers of escalation, she replied: “It’s already escalating. It is not about the Ukraine, it’s about the integrity of promises to respect territorial sovereignty.”

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said today that Putin’s “imperialist aspirations are a throwback to the last century.”

“He’s violated the freedom of all Ukrainians, while betraying the Russian people and their 20-year international commitment to ‘respect the independence and sovereignty and existing borders of Ukraine’. History judges perpetrators of these actions poorly, as it does those who stand idly by,” McKeon said. “Our response should demonstrate the U.S. stands by its friends against bullies. We should do everything practical to help Ukraine turn back these invaders.”

“One of the steps that the we and our allies could take would be to place a significant number of international observers on the ground in Ukraine, if requested by the Ukrainian government,” said Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.). “The presence of international observers on the ground could reduce the risk that Russia would make a false claim of provocative acts by Ukraine as an excuse for further violation of Ukrainian sovereignty, and thereby help avoid a conflict that nobody should want.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) penned a piece for Politico outlining eight steps Obama should take against Russia: call it a military invasion, dispatch Kerry and Hagel to Kiev, lead a boycott of the G-8 summit in Sochi this June, suspend any trade discussions with Moscow, put forth a UN Security Council resolution to put the Russian and Chinese vetoes on record, renew a NATO membership push for Georgia, add more Russian officials to the Magnitsky List sanctions, and delay a Senate vote on under secretary of state for arms control and international security nominee Rose Gottemoeller, “who has tried to play down and potentially kept information from Congress and our allies about Russian violations of arms-control agreements.”

“The Obama administration must publicly acknowledge that its ‘reset’ with Russia is dead. The president must now accept that the only way to deal with tyrants like Vladimir Putin is with a clear understanding that they can’t be trusted and that only decisive action will deter their provocative moves,” Rubio wrote.

“This is a critical moment in world history. The credibility of the alliances and security assurances that have preserved the international order is at stake. If Putin’s illegal actions are allowed to stand unpunished, it will usher in a dark and dangerous era in world affairs.”

The United Nations Security Council quickly pulled together an informal meeting on the invasion, but spent two hours just arguing about the format for the meeting.

“We call on the Security Council now to do everything possible to stop aggression of the Russian Federation to Ukraine. There is still a chance,” Ukrainian Ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev said, adding that the number of Russian troops pouring into his nation “is increasing every coming hour.”

“We urge all member states of the United Nations to demonstrate solidarity with the Ukrainian nation to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country,” Sergeyev said.

In Kiev, opposition leader Vitali Klitschko urged Ukrainians to rally against the Russian invasion.

“Come to the streets, express your stance, do not let them destroy your Fatherland. Indeed, you can live anywhere, but you have an only Fatherland,” Klitschko said.

He asked Russians who live in Ukraine to contact their relatives in Russia. “May they also express their support for you and Ukraine as the country where you live,” the UDAR party leader added.

As if anticipating protests in Russia, opposition leader Alexei Navalny was placed under house arrest in Moscow on Friday with all Internet access forbidden.

UPDATE 5:15 p.m. EST: The White House issued a lengthy readout of what it says was a 90-minute phone call between Obama and Putin.

“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,” the White House said. “…President Obama told President Putin that, if Russia has concerns about the treatment of ethnic Russian and minority populations in Ukraine, the appropriate way to address them is peacefully through direct engagement with the government of Ukraine and through the dispatch of international observers under the auspices of the United Nations Security Council or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).  As a member of both organizations, Russia would be able to participate. President Obama urged an immediate effort to initiate a dialogue between Russia and the Ukrainian government, with international facilitation, as appropriate. The United States is prepared to participate.”

“…President Obama made clear that Russia’s continued violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity would negatively impact Russia’s standing in the international community. In the coming hours and days, the United States will urgently consult with allies and partners in the UN Security Council, the North Atlantic Council, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and with the signatories of the Budapest Memorandum. The United States will suspend upcoming participation in preparatory meetings for the G-8. Going forward, Russia’s continued violation of international law will lead to greater political and economic isolation.”

The Kremlin said in a statement that “the two presidents discussed in detail various aspects of the extraordinary situation in Ukraine.”

“In reply to Mr Obama’s concern over the possibility of the use of Russian armed forces on the territory of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin drew his attention to the provocative and criminal actions on the part of ultranationalists who are in fact being supported by the current authorities in Kiev,” the Kremlin said.

“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. Vladimir Putin stressed that in case of any further spread of violence to Eastern Ukraine and Crimea, Russia retains the right to protect its interests and the Russian-speaking population of those areas.”

UPDATE 6 p.m. EST: The White House released an official photo of Obama on the phone with Putin.


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   
Facts within the article that are not original reporting are properly attributed, as you'll see in all of the news articles reported by our Washington team of correspondents. When we get statements directly from a lawmaker or the White House, there is no secondary source or outside link.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
Who would Frank Marshall Davis root for?

Bill Ayers?

Van Jones?

The Daily Duranty?

EVERY major influence in Obama's lifetime MUCH more sympathetic to communists than capitalist, free market democracies. The political tension between small c communists and their large C idols is not nearly as deep a divide as the loathing of US/Israel.

Obama skipped class and wants just the Cliff's Notes, because he is basically a lazy, dorm room, BS artist who doesn't like doing the day to day work of BEING President, as opposed to the celebrity play acting role of APPEARING as a regal.

He is not merely not up to the task of handling a world in implosion, his weakness and leftist corruption is the catalyst for that implosion.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
“The Obama administration must publicly acknowledge that its ‘reset’ with Russia is dead."

Correction: it was never alive to begin with.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (73)
All Comments   (73)
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Kind of make you wonder what obama meant when he said he'd have "more flexibility" after the election, doesn't it?
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
I think he skips a lot of meetings. He knows more than anyone on his staff. After the Chinese air drops and landings on Tiawan, I bet he skips that National Security meeting too. According to the UN, Tiawan is already a province of China so it won't count as an invasion.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
Giving it some more thought, Tiawan is the only country to lose its seat and UN membership and cease being an independent country (South Vietnam was never recognized by the UN). The Vatican was never a member and Kosovo still isn't. The South Sudan has an application in the works as well as the Palestinians. Apparently the two state solution or the two China's was considered redundant and so Tiawan lost the UN vote. One state, one vote, one time. Hmm. Maybe there is a method to the man's madness? Maybe Obama will do for Israel with his lead from behind diplomacy what Nixon did for Tiawan with his ping pong diplomacy?
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
Who's running the government while this shiftless asshat plays with himself?

He's not even voting "present" anymore -- now he's voting "absent."
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm sure that Putin's reaction was similar to Will Smith's, in the movie, I, Robot, when he rages after an accident:

"Does it look like I give a sh** what you think? Do I look like I care?"
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
Obama missed the Security meeting so he can claim not to know something the s...t hits the fan.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
POTUS: Big job. Small man.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
Look, he's already sending his lunch money to Putin, and the WH photo doesn't show that Obama wedgied himself, just lake Vlad told him to do. Maybe he can have Biden and Hagel come over and help him give himself a swirlly.

And all these meetings, when "O" has to work up his March Madness brackets.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
He must have found a pick-up game
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
Obama's statement about accommodating Putin's alleged concern about mistreatment of ethnic Russians in Ukraine says most of what anyone needs to know. He is legitimizing the Russian military action/invasion inadvertently by acknowledging a claimed basis that is probably 98.5% false.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
Previous golf appointment.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
That was my first thought.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
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