Tony Blinken, the White House’s deputy national security adviser, said the president is organizing international opposition to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and warned that a referendum moving Crimea under Russian control would not be recognized.
"What we’ve seen is the president mobilizing the international community in support of Ukraine, to isolate Russia for its actions in Ukraine, and to reassure our allies and partners," Blinken said on "Meet the Press." "We’ve seen the president put together a major international support package. He’s invited the Ukrainian prime minister [Arseniy] Yatsenyuk to come to the White House, on Wednesday, to further demonstrate that support and to consult with him."
Additionally, "If there is a referendum, and it votes to move Crimea out of Ukraine and to Russia, we won't recognize it and most of the world won't either … second, were that to happen the isolation of Russia, the cost it would pay, would increase significantly."
Former Vice President Dick Cheney criticized the president's handling of the crisis in Crimea and the image Obama has created of the United States abroad, calling it weak and indecisive on "Face the Nation."
"I just happened to speak to a couple of members of the European parliament within the last couple of days, who indicated that their quest for the Europeans to cooperate on sanctions is more difficult than it would have been because of what happened with respect to Syria. That in fact, they got ready to go, and then at the last minute, the U.S., President Obama backed off," Cheney said. "So he’s got a much higher mountain to climb in order to try to mobilize European governments to come on board for something other than military action."
Blinken disputed the connection to Syria.
"What Putin is seeing is the president mobilizing the international community both in support of Ukraine and to isolate Russia in response to its action in Ukraine," Blinken said on "State of the Union." "The notion that this is about Syria makes very little sense to me. This is about Ukraine."
Blinken also addressed Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which according to the airline lost contact with air traffic control two hours after take off.
"It is too soon to tell what happened, why it happened, but what we’ve done is this: We’ve made available the FBI, the National Transportation Safety Board, and other experts to aid in the investigation … I’ve seen the reports about the passports, we’re looking into that, but we don’t have anything that we can confirm at this time."
The plane was reported missing late Friday night. Three Americans, two of them children, were among the 239 people on board. Officials say two individuals used stolen passports to book tickets together, increasing concerns of foul play. To date the plane has not been found, and apart from "oil slicks on the surface of the Gulf of Thailand that may have been from a crash," there is no sign of it.
The state of the Republican Party was also a topic of conversation.
Saturday marked the end of the conservative political action conference, CPAC. The event, which is seen as a peek into the presidential field, led to an increased interest in the immediate future of the Republican Party and the viability of candidates who may run in 2016.
Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.), one of the party’s doves, seemed to strike a tougher pose on "Fox News Sunday."
"I'm a great believer in Ronald Reagan," Paul said, "In fact, what Ronald Reagan said in about one sentence sums up, really, a lot of what I believe. He said to our potential adversary, don't mistake our reluctance for war for a lack of resolve. People knew that with Ronald Reagan. They still need to know that with the United States, and part of the problem is I think this president hasn't projected enough strength and hasn't shown a priority to the national defense. That is something that were I in charge, I would."
Paul's foreign policy prescriptions had been criticized when, two days before Putin invaded Crimea, he criticized Sen. John McCain’s (R., Ariz.) calls to "watch out for Vladimir Putin," who McCain said would "try to make mischief" following the collapse of the Russian-backed Ukrainian government.
At the time, Paul said McCain’s comments were misguided, and that "we need to have a respectful—sometimes adversarial—but a respectful relationship with Russia."
Paul won the CPAC presidential straw poll, with 31 percent of the vote. Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) came in second with 11 percent.
Cruz told ABC’s "This Week" that he did not agree with Paul’s view on foreign policy.
"I think U.S. leadership is critical in the world. I agree with him that we should be very reluctant to deploy military force abroad, but I think there's a vital role, just as Ronald Reagan did. When Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an evil empire, when he stood in front the Brandenburg gate and said, ‘Mr. Gorbachev tear down this wall,’ those words changed the course of history," Cruz said.
Cruz also criticized Obama’s foreign policy.
"Their policy has been to alienate and abandon our friends and coddle and appease our enemies. You better believe that Putin sees that in Benghazi, four Americans murdered and nothing happens. No retribution. You better believe that Putin sees that in Syria, Obama draws a red line and ignores it," Cruz said.
Cruz and Gov. Chris Christie (R., N.J.), two additional contenders in the potential 2016 GOP presidential field, gave speeches during CPAC outlining different strategies for attracting voters. Cruz advocated standing on principle, while Christie emphasized the importance of showing what Republicans are for, not what they are against.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) was asked about these two speeches on CBS’s "Face the Nation." Ryan described them as part of a "big tent."
"The disagreements that have occurred have been really over tactics, and so I think we should really put it all in perspective. I call it the battle of ideas. It’s creative tension," Ryan said.