It’s very hard to run foreign policy from a Congress of 535 lawmakers. The executive branch is institutionally and constitutionally better suited to make decisive judgments, utilize the array of American powers and rally the country. But in the case of this president, it’s Congress that is leading while the administration wallows, confers and spins.
With the power of the purse, the House is trying to shore up Ukraine. A leadership aide explains that in a proposal put forth Tuesday, the United States would expand existing loan guarantees to Ukraine by adding it to the list of countries eligible for such guarantees. This would provide loan guarantees with no new funding. Rory Cooper, communications director for Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), explains, “Clearly there is a dire situation unfolding, so the House is moving as quickly as possible to provide the administration with authority to issue loan guarantees for Ukraine.” It is remarkable, when you think about it, that in a dire situation the House is pushing the executive branch to act. Power abhors a vacuum, I suppose.
Meanwhile, the Senate Republican Policy Committee has put out a list of suggested steps the United States can take:
- Propose a U.N. Security Council Resolution condemning Russia’s violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter requires all states to refrain from the “use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence” of any other state.
- In the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances attending Ukraine’s forsaking of Soviet legacy nuclear weapons, Russia promised “to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine” and “to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine.”
- Take steps to support Ukraine’s interim government and its military, namely through financial and technical assistance.
- Reverse President Obama’s capitulation to Russia on missile defense by supporting programs providing increased missile defense capabilities protecting the U.S homeland and European allies.
- Announce the intention to move this summer’s G8 summit out of Sochi, Russia.
- Announce the intention to return the G8 to its rightful construct as the G7. The G8 is described as a meeting of major industrial democracies. The recently released State Department human rights report on Russia catalogs the continued regression of democratic values in Russia under President Putin.
- Revoke travel visas and freeze assets of senior Russian officials and of Ukrainian officials supporting the Russian invasion. . . . Furthermore, the United States should halt all arms control negotiations with Russia until this matter is resolved.
Democrats — who stoked the anti-war flames while President George W. Bush was struggling to win the Iraq War — are shocked, just shocked, to hear Republicans criticize a president. Despite the administration’s extraordinary display of incompetence in managing Russia, all they can manage to do is circle the wagons around a faltering president. But unlike the Democrats in 2006, Republicans are trying to help the president “win” and not demand he retreat and fail.
Republicans — in concert with some Democrats, including those on the House Foreign Affairs Committee — are doing precisely what the loyal opposition should do: Identify the challenge, propose its own solutions and implore the other party to get on board. It is what responsible lawmakers do when the president is AWOL.
UPDATE: Goaded by Congress, the president has finally done something constructive. The Post reports that the president has signed an executive order freezing assets and blocking visas for an unspecified list of Russian officials. At least it is something.