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POLITICS: PennAve

Hill Republicans say Obama partly to blame for Russian action in Ukraine

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White House,Congress,The Pentagon,Russia,Syria,PennAve,Sean Lengell,Defense Spending,Vladimir Putin,Ukraine,Jim Inhofe

Capitol Hill Republicans on Monday suggested President Obama was partly to blame for Russia's military intervention in Ukraine, saying foreign and military policy mistakes by the administration have emboldened Russian President Vladimir Putin to act without fear of American pushback.

"President Obama's attempt to seek peace through apologetic diplomacy while defunding and dismantling our military has failed," said Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee. "Today our enemies don't fear us and our allies no longer respect us."

Inhofe said the administration's decision to cancel funding for the F-22, C-17 and other military aircraft, for example, as well overall cuts to Pentagon spending have compromised the United States' ability to respond to global crises like the one unfolding in Ukraine.

"Throughout this administration, I have also warned that if the United States does not maintain a ready and capable military, we would surrender our global influence and leave a vacuum that will be filled by Russia," he said. "I warned this day was coming, and it is here."

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., suggested that Obama's failure to prevent Syria from using chemical weapons on its own people last year gave Putin confidence the U.S. wouldn't threaten his military action in Ukraine's Crimea region.

"When you put a red line down — as done in Syria — and you fail to enforce that red line, this is the result you get, people that are willing to test you," Kinzinger told Fox News' "Fox and Friends." "Russia [moved] into Ukraine. They've done it, and now we're just going to have to sit back and see what happens, because the president has not been strong enough in the past.

"This is going to get worse before it gets better."

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif. said Obama's decision to pull out of an anti-ballistic missile defense program with Poland and the Czech Republic makes it more difficult of the administration to rally European allies against Russia.

"That [program] gave us some real credibility with the Russians because we were setting up a program there to help defend Europe and the United States against Iran," Royce told CNN. "The fact that we signaled that we were willing to do that in the face of Russian pressure makes the administration look weak."

Royce added a key way to exert "leverage" with Russia is levying economic sanctions against the country.

A response "has to be financial. It has to recognize that the Achilles heel for Russia is their economy, the ruble," Royce said. "We have to lead and we have to rally Europe around a series of steps that would actually impact the Russians economically, sanctions against state-owned banks."

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