House Republicans Push for Stronger Strategy on Russia

Lawmakers want to suspend military involvement until Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel determines that Putin’s troops are no longer in Crimea.

An armed man, believed to be Russian serviceman, patrols outside an Ukrainian military base in Perevalnoye on March 17, 2014. The United States and Europe aimed sanctions directly at Vladmir Putin's inner circle Monday to punish Russia's move to annex Crimea, deepening the worst East-West rift since the Cold War. The move came hours after the Ukrainian regime voted to join Russia in a referendum the West deems illegitimate and as Crimea embarked on the next political steps to embrace Kremlin rule. 
National Journal
Jordain Carney
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Jordain Carney
April 8, 2014, 9:13 a.m.

House Re­pub­lic­ans moved their battle over the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s hand­ling of Rus­sia to a new front, but their en­dgame re­mains the same: for­cing the Pentagon to re­vise its strategy.

House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee Chair­man Buck McK­eon un­veiled le­gis­la­tion Tues­day af­ter­noon that aims to boost United States mil­it­ary’s pos­ture and cap­ab­il­it­ies in Europe to counter “Rus­si­an ag­gres­sion to­wards Ukraine and NATO al­lies,” ac­cord­ing to the com­mit­tee. 

The bill, backed by Re­pub­lic­an Reps. Mike Turn­er and Mike Ro­gers, calls for the United States to sus­pend mil­it­ary activ­ity with Rus­sia un­til it is no longer oc­cupy­ing Crimea and in com­pli­ance with a pair of treat­ies. It also calls for the United States to provide mil­it­ary ad­vice and tech­nic­al as­sist­ance to the Ukraine.

The push is the latest move in a tug-of-war between House law­makers and the Pentagon over the U.S.-Rus­sia re­la­tion­ship.

McK­eon in­tro­duced a res­ol­u­tion last month that calls for the United States to main­tain its mil­it­ary pres­ence in Europe. It also calls for us­ing a NATO sum­mit later this year to boost en­gage­ment with coun­tries — some of which be­longed to the So­viet Uni­on — that want to join the or­gan­iz­a­tion.

And Re­pub­lic­ans have cri­ti­cized the Quad­ren­ni­al De­fense Re­view, a re­cently re­leased strategy doc­u­ment from the De­fense De­part­ment, for, among oth­er things, scarcely men­tion­ing Rus­sia.

But Derek Chol­let, the as­sist­ant sec­ret­ary of De­fense for in­ter­na­tion­al se­cur­ity af­fairs, told law­makers Tues­day that “we’re not plan­ning to re­write the QDR.”

Christine Wor­muth, a top Pentagon of­fi­cial, told law­makers last week that the de­part­ment would have “ad­ded some ad­di­tion­al sen­tences” to the re­view if Crimea’s an­nex­a­tion had happened be­fore the doc­u­ment was re­leased.

“That’s hardly a reex­am­in­a­tion of the na­tion’s policy to­ward Mo­scow,” McK­eon said.

A com­mit­tee staffer said the Cali­for­nia Re­pub­lic­an will use the House’s Na­tion­al De­fense Au­thor­iz­a­tion Act to re­quire the Pentagon to re­sub­mit the strategy re­view.

And though Chol­let said Rus­sia’s ac­tions — and any fur­ther steps — will cause the United States to reex­am­ine troop levels in Europe, he de­fen­ded the ana­lys­is, say­ing: “I think fun­da­ment­ally the strategy sub­scribed in the QDR is cor­rect.”

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