The crisis in Ukraine has brought out a fresh round of critics of President Obama’s foreign policy who see a pattern emerging: the president tries to assert his authority and direct events on the world stage with empty threats, which inevitably have no follow through. With each instance, U.S. power grows weaker as foreign powers view Mr. Obama as the president who cried wolf.
The latest case: Mr. Obama’s public warning to Russia to stay out of Ukraine was followed by an invasion just days later.
It’s just the latest failure, say critics who point to Syria as an example. As the country spiraled into civil war and evidence emerged that President Bashar Assad had used chemical weapons against his own people – a “red line” the president had laid down in the past – the president went to the Rose Garden and said he planned to seek congressional approval for a military intervention in the region. Less than two weeks later, he had to abandon the option and pursue diplomatic solutionsamid low congressional interest. Even now, the Syrian regime has missed deadlines for destroying its chemical weapons stock with little more than a public scolding in return.
And Russia similarly flouted U.S. warnings by sending troops into the Crimean peninsula over the weekend in what Secretary of State John Kerry called “an incredible act of aggression.”
“President Obama does have a credibility problem. 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,” said Washington Post columnist David Ignatius on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” Sunday.
The president isn’t even entertaining military options in Ukraine, and is instead looking to isolate Russia and expose its inconsistent rhetoric about sovereignty rights. Kerry has threatened a variety of economic sanctions, and the U.S. has already suspended planning meetings for the June G8 conference scheduled to be held in Sochi, Russia.
Even so, some experts say President Obama is not strong enough to force Russia’s hand with just a diplomatic strategy.
“I think that there are numerous non-military options for us out there. The problem is I don’t think that the president right now is very credible. And I think that Putin thinks he has got Obama’s number. And so he’s going to do what he wants to do and dare the president for the next step,” said Danielle Pletka, the vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute.
Republican leaders in Congress were more blunt in their assessment of the situation on the Sunday talk shows.