Senators Urge Obama To Get Tough With Putin Over Ukraine

| by Jared Keever

United States senators are urging President Barack Obama to get tough with Russian President Vladimir Putin and tell him to stay out of Ukraine’s ongoing political crisis.

According to Fox News, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said that the Obama administration needs to be clear with Putin that Ukrainians should be allowed to determine their own future. 

The unrest in Ukraine began last year when President Viktor Yanukovych rejected an economic deal with the European Union in favor of a bailout from Russia. Reuters reports that violent protests there have led to 75 deaths so far.

"They want to be Western," McCain said of the Ukrainian protesters. "That's what this whole hundreds of thousands in the square was all about. They don't want to be Eastern.”

Joining the chorus of Senators recommending tough talk with Putin was Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H. Ayotte is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“I believe the president needs to up his game and send a clear unequivocal public message to Putin not to interfere in what is happening in Ukraine,” Ayotte told Fox News on Sunday. “This is an opportunity for the president to really be unequivocal with Putin right now.”

The calls for tough language are a continuation of criticism for the Obama administration’s handling of Russia. Critics believe Putin has maintained the upper hand through the crisis in Syria as the Russian president backed Syrian President Bashar Assad, who has managed to stay in power amid allegations that he used chemical weapons on Syrian citizens. Obama’s detractors remain upset, as well, that Putin granted asylum to former NSA contractor and leaker Edward Snowden.

Obama declared in 2010 that he was attempting to “reset” relations with Russia.

His efforts have not been good enough, according to Ayotte. "It's time to reset the reset,” she said.

Tough talk for Putin hasn’t been the policy yet. In an effort to maintain friendly relations with Russia, Obama spoke with Putin by phone Friday. The conversation came following the announcement of a deal with opposition leaders in Ukraine aimed at stopping the violence.

USA Today quoted a White House statement that described the conversation:

"They exchanged views on the need to implement quickly the political agreement reached today in Kiev, the importance of stabilizing the economic situation and undertaking necessary reforms, and the need for all sides to refrain from further violence.”

Sources: Fox News, Reuters, USA Today