House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) criticized President Obama’s foreign policy on Monday, claiming it has made America and the world "less safe."
The Republican lawmaker said the president has exhibited "weakness" that has incited President Vladimir Putin of Russia to unlawfully seize territory in Ukraine and bolster military activity in Syria to aid Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
"We rolled out the red carpet for Putin’s regional ambitions," McCarthy said during an address on foreign policy at a book launch for the John Hay Initiative in Washington, D.C., Monday.
"This administration has seesawed from an ill-advised courtship of Putin’s Russia to scrambling to respond to Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and a ground war in eastern Ukraine that continues today that’s virtually unacknowledged by this White House," McCarthy said. "The challenge within Ukraine is the greatest threat to European security since World War II."
McCarthy skewered Obama for allowing Putin to "set the agenda" and "turning a blind eye" to his aggression in Ukraine. The majority leader, who on Monday announced he will run to replace John Boehner as Speaker of the House, also called on the administration to arm the Ukrainians.
"It’s time for America to step up, not back down. And that starts with providing Ukrainian fighting forces with lethal aid," McCarthy said.
"The Obama administration has argued that providing defense weapons will only encourage additional Russian aggression; I disagree," the California congressman added. "It is weakness that fuels Russian aggression, not western action."
He also dealt a veiled jab to Obama’s decision to meet with Putin regarding Moscow’s military buildup in Syria following the Russian president’s remarks to the United Nations General Assembly in New York Monday.
Ignoring warnings from the administration, Russia has flown troops and military equipment to an airfield south of the Syrian port city of Latakia where it appears to be constructing a military base.
"The president’s response to Putin’s aggression should not be to sit down and talk, but to consider serious sanctions that target him personally," McCarthy said, suggesting the administration consider sanctions against the Russian gas company Gazprom.
"It’s time to make it much tougher for them to do their dirty business," McCarthy added.
The Republican leader likewise slammed the Obama administration’s approach to the Iran nuclear deal, the Islamic State’s expansion in the Middle East, and the Syrian refugee crisis.
He called on the United States to adopt an "entirely new policy" in both Iraq and Syria, which would include putting limited boots on the ground in Iraq to combat the Islamic State.
"The U.S. and our allies should … consider putting a limited number of U.S. special forces personnel on the ground and outside the wire to help call in truly effective airstrikes and provide more effective support to the Iraqi army, the Sunni, and the Kurdish units directly engaged in the fight," McCarthy explained.
"When we ask our brave men and women to risk their lives everyday, we must fight to win and empower them to fight and win."
He also suggested the United States create a no-fly zone in Syria to allow refugees to escape Assad’s reign and Syrian rebels to strengthen their capabilities to fight the Islamic State.
"I think we should work with our allies to establish a no-fly zone over northern Syria," McCarthy stated. "This safe zone would create a stable flow of refugees and allow sanctuary for rebooted Syrian rebels to take on ISIS and al Qaeda affiliated groups and prevent Assad’s future attacks on his own people," he said, using another name for the Islamic State.
McCarthy criticized Obama for not acting when Assad crossed his red line by using chemical weapons against Syrian civilians, a move he said "caused insurmountable harm to America’s credibility."
The civil war in Syria has caused about 4.1 million refugees to flee the country. Obama, in response, has ordered the U.S. government to accept 10,000 more Syrian refugees in the next fiscal year despite concerns from political and intelligence leaders that IS terrorists may infiltrate crowds of Syrian refugees flooding the West.
"We have lost the respect of our allies and adversaries alike," McCarthy said. "Wherever you look, the world is less safe and less secure because America is less engaged. The America we need and deserve is strong, respected, appreciated, and feared."