- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) blasted the Obama administration Tuesday for its weak response to Russian aggression in Syria, saying the White House is “floundering.”

Russia’s military intervention in Syria on behalf of President Bashar al-Assad is the latest disastrous turn in the Middle East under the Obama administration — and another humiliating setback for the United States. But as in past crises, the White House is once again floundering,” Mr. McCain, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, wrote in an op-ed for CNN.

He argued that Russian President Vladimir Putin had defied the U.S. in every step of his military campaign in Syria, forcing President Obama to acquiesce to his first formal meeting with Mr. Putin in two years. 

He added the Mr. Putin “must be stopped” and said the ongoing conflict in Syria represents an “opportunity” to push back against a defiant Russia

“We cannot shy away from confronting Russia in Syria, as Putin expects the administration will do. His intervention has raised the costs and risks of greater U.S. involvement in Syria, but it has not negated the steps we need to take. Indeed, it has made them more imperative,” Mr. McCain wrote.

He called on the U.S. to directly confront Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s military, suggesting the U.S. military should “destroy his air force’s ability to operate” if the regime uses barrel bombs against its own citizens. 

“We must back up our policy in ways that check Putin’s ambitions and shape his behavior. If Russia attacks our opposition partners, we must impose greater costs on Russia’s interests — for example, by striking significant Syrian leadership or military targets,” he wrote.

Mr. McCain added that the U.S. must not confine its response to Russian aggression just to Syria, but instead should pressure the Kremlin in other areas as well. 

“We should provide defensive weapons and related assistance to Ukrainian forces so they can take a greater toll on Russian forces. To weaken Putin at home and abroad, we should make more information public about the corruption of the Russian leadership, including the president himself, and how Russia uses graft as a tool of state policy,” Mr. McCain said.

“And if Putin continues to strike Syrian civilians and our opposition partners, we should ramp up targeted sanctions on Russia. Low energy prices are battering Russia’s economy and currency. We should increase that pain.”

The Senate’s version of the annual defense bill, passed earlier this year, would allocate $300 million to the administration for Ukrainian security assistance, but half of the funding would be withheld until at least 20 percent of the money is spent on lethal aid.

The administration has so far held back from providing lethal aid to Ukrainian troops.


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