Senate Dem: The West Is Afraid to ‘Provoke Putin’

by Joel Gehrke

President Obama needs to rethink his unwillingness to provide Ukrainian military forces with lethal weapons to fight Russia, according to a Senate Democrat who scoffed at political leaders who fear “provok[ing] Putin.”

“I think that was his initial assessment,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Menendez (D., N.J.) said on CNN’s State of the Union when asked whether Obama was right to withhold weaponry. “And there are those in Europe and elsewhere who says, you know, we don’t want to provoke Putin. Well, Putin doesn’t need provocation. In this case weakness is a greater provocation for Putin act than strike.”

Menendez was clear that some of the fearful political leaders are in Europe — where is “elsewhere?”

He sharpened the point during an MSNBC interview Sunday. “The West has constantly held back because we didn’t want to ‘provoke Putin,’” he said. “The European Union’s reticence to vigorously pursue sanctions and our reticence to provide the Ukrainians with the ability to defend themselves so that the cost to Russia would be so significant that they’d have to think twice about continuing this aggression has, I think, invited Putin to pursue the actions that he has done to date.”

Menendez then offered a peace-through-strength sort of rationale for arming the Ukrainians.

“Putin only understands two things and that’s strength either because of the economic consequences that we can levy upon Russia and hopefully the European Union will move with us into more significant sectoral sanctions,” he said. “And also the costs to Russians as they send their sons and daughters back in body bags to Russia and Russian mothers say, What is happening here?”