By Joe Battaglia
A day after calling Barack Obama “the most naive president in history,” Arizona Sen. John McCain continued his assault on the president’s foreign policy in an op-ed piece in Friday’s New York Times.
Specifically addressing Russia’s invasion of the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine, McCain wrote that the United States’ response “has exposed the disturbing lack of realism” of the Obama administration and made the country look weak in the eyes of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the rest of the world.
According to McCain, President Obama’s belief that “the tide of war is receding” around the world so the United States can afford to scale back its military presence is a miscalculation.
That “reset” policy, coupled with Syrian President Bashar Assad’s crossing of Obama’s “red line” without consequence, has emboldened Chinese and Iranian loyalists, al-Qaida terrorists, and aggressive actors like Putin, whom he called “an unreconstructed Russian imperialist and KGB apparatchik.”
“To people like Mr. Putin, weakness is provocative,” McCain wrote.
He added, “What is most troubling about Mr. Putin’s aggression in Crimea is that it reflects a growing disregard for America’s credibility in the world.”
McCain echoed that sentiment in a fundraising letter penned for the Republican National Committee on Thursday.
“A secure world relies on a strong America. And a strong America relies on a robust military,” McCain wrote, according to The Washington Examiner. “Yet, sadly under President Obama, America’s military strength has been weakened and our country’s leadership in the world has been questioned. As a result, the world’s most dangerous players are flexing their muscles. Extremists are gaining ground. And these conflicts are becoming more dangerous by the day for our allies — and for us.”
Earlier in the day, McCain told Phoenix radio station KFYI, “The naivete of Barack Obama and [Secretary of State] John Kerry is stunning,” adding that Putin, whom he described as “amoral,” “cold,” “distant,” and “tough,” had “played us so incredibly.”
While McCain condemned Obama’s stance on Crimea to date, he outlined a plan he believes would change the course of events in Ukraine and regain global standing for the United States.
The first step McCain called for was a shoring up of Ukraine and reassuring of the Baltic states that the United States and the world will not stand for Putin bringing Russia’s neighbors “back under Moscow’s dominion.” McCain did not call for military action, but suggested an increased military presence by NATO in the region.
He also said Russia should be ostracized through a boycott of the G-8 summit scheduled for April 24-25 in Sochi, suggesting a Group of 7 meeting be convened elsewhere.
McCain added that the United States should “support and resupply Ukrainian patriots, both soldiers and civilians, who are standing their ground in government facilities across Crimea” as a way to stand with the Ukrainian people in defiance of the dismemberment of their country.
“We need to work with our allies to … show Mr. Putin a strong, united front, and prevent the crisis from getting worse,” McCain wrote. He added that the United States needs to “rearm ourselves morally and intellectually” to prevent Putin from attempting to occupy other nations along Russia’s borders.
McCain remains convinced that strong U.S.-led support of Ukraine will expose Putin’s Russia as being “not a great power on par with America,” but “a gas station run by a corrupt, autocratic regime.” Eventually, he said, the Russian people will revolt against him the same way the Ukrainians ousted Viktor Yanukovych.
“If Ukraine can emerge from this crisis independent, prosperous, and anchored firmly in Europe, how long before Russians begin to ask, ‘Why not us?'” McCain wrote.
While McCain said that there is still hope for a reversal of course in the region, he cautioned that “hopes do not advance themselves.”
“The darkness that threatens [Ukraine] will not be checked by an America in denial about the world as it is,” McCain wrote. “It requires realism, strength and leadership. If Crimea does not awaken us to this fact, I am afraid to think what will.”
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