The Crimean Parliament voted this week to officially join Russia, deepening the international diplomatic crisis that stepped onto the world scene following the conclusion of the Sochi Olympics. At CPAC 2014 and surrounding events, conservatives claimed the Crimean crisis has been the logical conclusion of the White House weakening U.S. foreign policy.
"When there is a vacuum of leadership in the world, it is not a good thing for America; it is not a good thing for freedom," said Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, at the National Security Action Summit, which was held concurrently with CPAC.
Mr. Cruz accused the president of "hiding behind diplomatic babble."
"What this administration doesn't understand is weakness and appeasement only invites military conflict," he said. "No rational person is interested in a shooting war between the United States and Russia...there are a host of steps we can take that do not involved direct military conflict with Russia."
The U.S. should immediately sign a free trade agreement with the Ukraine to provide them with natural gas and economic aid to build a more diverse energy sector. Ukraine's — and much of Europe's — dependence on Russian oil and natural gas is a weakness Russian President Vladimir Putin is exploiting to intimidate his opponents, Mr. Cruz said.
In addition, the U.S. should re-install a ballistic missile defense shield in eastern Europe to defend against Russian aggression, he said, and should also work to expel Russia from the G8 summit, a conference of the most powerful and wealthiest nations.
Daniel Schneider, executive director of the American Conservative Union, which organizes CPAC each year, said there are now no easy solutions to Russia's actions, thanks to the way Mr. Obama has been handling foreign policy.
"If you ask a conservative 'What would you do given the mess that has been created by a weak foreign policy?' That's a really tough answer for anybody including this president," he said.
"By hollowing out our military we have made ourselves vulnerable to the kind of moves that we've seen out of Russia," Mr. Schneider said. "So the next president of the United States has to be strong on foreign policy and has to figure out how we are going to become the player in the world that we need to be so that the world can be safer and Americans can be safer."
Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican, lived in the Ukraine as part of a student cultural exchange program when he was younger. He said the U.S. must be more assertive in stopping diplomatic crisis like the one in Crimea.
"When you have a president, an administration, that is perceived as being as weak as this administration is, then it's provocative. If the United States becomes too weak, there's not going to be a safe place in the world," he said. "We should not be the world's police, but we should stand up so we don't have another world war."
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