Sen. Christopher Coons (D., Del.) said the escalating crisis between Ukraine and Russia is partly a result of "our perceived weakness" in Syria Monday at the AIPAC Policy Conference.
"The United States needs to be thoughtful," Coons said. "Less rhetoric, more action. More multilateral. Work with our western allies to ensure that Russia steps back and that Ukrainians are allowed to solve what is a Ukrainian political crisis. I frankly think this is partly a result of our perceived weakness because of our actions in Syria."
The Obama administration came under intense criticism last fall when it was out dueled on the world stage by Russian president Vladimir Putin over the issue of Bashar al-Assad's chemical weapons usage. Though Obama had drawn a "red line" and sternly warned of consequences if crossed, it was Putin who received credit for brokering a deal to remove them from Syria after a chemical weapons attack in August on Assad's own people.
Yet well over 90 percent of the destructive weapons remained behind by the end of January, an open defiance making Obama's foreign policy look even more feckless. Now, some lawmakers believe an emboldened Putin thinks he can push around Obama and defy him on the world stage.
Coons received applause from the crowd after making the remarks, which came in the context of discussing the latest Russian aggression in the Crimean region and its broader implications for American diplomacy.
CHRISTOPHER COONS: We are relying on Russia and Russia's partnership with us to close sanctions, to push Iran to an agreement and to make progress. We are working in some partnership in Syria to try and secure and remove from the country their chemical weapons. We have to remember this isn't the Soviet Union. This is a much smaller, much paler form of our former Cold War adversary. Putin is working towards international respect, towards Russia being taken seriously on the world stage. We've just seen the end of the most expensive Winter Olympics ever. I do think as Putin takes increasingly aggressive steps by deploying troops and armored carriers and overflights of jets in Crimea, in Ukrainian territory, the United States needs to be thoughtful. Less rhetoric, more action. More multilateral. Work with our western allies to ensure that Russia steps back and that Ukrainians are allowed to solve what is a Ukrainian political crisis. I frankly think this is partly a result of our perceived weakness because of our actions in Syria.
[H/T David Weigel]