WASHINGTON (CBS DC/AP) — Critics believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin is toying with President Barack Obama on the world stage.
In a speech Friday, Obama said “there will be costs” for Russia for any military intervention in Ukraine. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told CNN on Sunday that the president’s threat is hollow.
“Stop going on television and trying to threaten thugs and dictators, it is not your strong suit,” Graham said. “Every time the president goes on national television and threatens Putin or anyone like Putin, everybody’s eyes roll, including mine. We have a weak and indecisive president that invites aggression.”
Washington Post columnist David Ignatius told CBS News Sunday that Obama has a credibility problem following the “red line” he set in Syria and not taking military action in the end.
“President Obama does have a credibility problem,” Ignatius said. “He talks about a red line in Syria for chemical weapons and then he lets it be blurred. He says that Russia will have to pay costs if it intervenes in Ukraine. And then within hours, the military intervention begins.”
Secretary of State John Kerry made the rounds on the Sunday morning talk shows, warning that the U.S. and Europe could take economic sanctions against Russia.
“They’re prepared to put sanctions in place. They’re prepared to isolate Russia economically. The ruble is already going down. Russia has major economic challenges. I can’t imagine that an occupation of another country is something that appeals to a people who are trying to reach out to the world, and particularly if it involves violence,” Kerry said.
Kerry planned to travel to Kiev on Tuesday for meetings with the Ukrainian government. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said the United States is ready to work with other countries and the International Monetary Fund to provide support for Ukraine’s economy.
Beyond economic sanctions and visa bans, freezing Russian assets, and trade and investment penalties, Kerry said Moscow risks being booted out of the powerful Group of Eight group of world powers as payback for the military incursion.
Senior Obama administration officials said they believe Russia now has complete operational control over Crimea and has more than 6,000 forces in the region. The U.S. was also watching for ethnic skirmishes in other areas of eastern Ukraine, though the officials said they had not yet seen Russian military moves elsewhere. The officials were not authorized to publicly discuss the situation and spoke on condition of anonymity.
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