Oleksandr Turchynov, Ukraine’s acting president announced that he has put the Ukraine military on high alert after the Russian parliament unanimously voted to grant President Vladimir Putin permission to mobilize the country’s military in Ukraine.
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill made clear they back an immediate response by President Obama. A bipartisan group of lawmakers, including Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and Marco Rubio (R-FL), said they are willing to work with President Obama to impose sanctions to “dissuade individuals who would foment unrest to undermine Ukraine’s territorial integrity .”
President Obama told Russian President Vladimir Putin in a 90 minute phone call that sending troops into Ukraine is a “clear violation” of their country’s sovereignty, and called on Russia to de-escalate tensions by pulling forces back to bases in Crimea, according to the White House.
Earlier, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, CIA Director John Brennan, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, all gathered at the White House for a high level to craft a response to Russia. Officials say the U.S. has not prepared “any military contingencies” for Ukraine.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), said Putin would not take Obama’s “vague threats” seriously and urged the administration to consider suspending Russian membership in the World Trade Organization and the United Nations Security Council.
“The United States should stand with Ukraine,” Cruz said.
Obama issued a “vague threat” to Russia on Friday, stating at a press conference that “there will be costs” for any military intervention in Ukraine.
Sen. John McCain, a committee member and military hawk, said on Twitter that Russia’s efforts, which already reportedly including sending military guards into Ukraine’s Crimea region, were “straight out of [the] Soviet playbook.”
He also tweeted “Obama needs to impose ‘costs’ now,” referring to the president’s remarks Friday.
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) March 1, 2014
Putin says a military-backed Russian intervention is needed to protect ethnic Russians and the personnel of a Russian military base in the strategically imperative region of Crimea in Ukraine.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee called on Obama to lead an immediate international effort to stop the Russian military intervention in Ukraine, which included targeted sanctions.
“The United States and our European allies should immediately bring to bear all elements of our collective economic strength to stop Russian advances in Ukraine,” both Democrats and Republicans on the committee wrote.
They committee said Congress will also consider targeted sanctions against Russian people and entities that “undermine the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine” and that the Russian government “felt free to intervene militarily in Ukraine” only due to the fact the U.S. and Europe were not assertive enough in conveying to Putin that there will be serious consequences.
The bipartisan group of lawmakers echoed critics, such as Charles Krauthammer, who picked up on the subtle yet significant choice of language by the president, which failed to underscore that the security of Ukraine and stability of the entire region is in fact in U.S. interest.
Michigan Congressman Mike Rogers, the chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, issued a statement saying, “It appears that the Russian military now controls the Crimean peninsula. This aggression is a threat not only to Ukraine, but to regional peace and stability. Russia’s latest action is yet another indicator that Vladimir Putin’s hegemonic ambitions threaten U.S. interests and allies around the world.”
Rogers was echoed my Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who called the Russian military aggression a “grave concern.”
“It is essential that the United States, our European and NATO partners, and the international community stand up to any aggression,” Cantor said. “We need strong American and European leadership now to forestall any further threats to international peace and stability. Russia’s leaders must understand that military intervention and further interference in Ukraine’s affairs are unacceptable, and would result in significant consequences for Russia.”
In the House, Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard P. “Buck” McKeon called Putin’s aspirations “a throwback to the last century.”
“Our response should demonstrate the U.S. stands by its friends against bullies,” said McKeon, R-Calif. “We should do everything practical to help Ukraine turn back these invaders.”
Whether or not lawmakers would find a military response practical is unclear, but what is clear is that a bipartisan coalition supporting an immediate response by the president is clearing building.