As Russian President Vladimir Putin works quickly to consolidate Russia's new hold on the Ukrainian province of Crimea, the West is trying to come up with a united and appropriate response. Most people are trying to find the right middle ground between sending in U.S. Marines to liberate Crimea and ignoring Putin's naked expansionist aggression. --Peter Weber
Kneecap Putin's cronies
The sanctions leveled against Russian officials by the U.S. and Europe are too weak and irrelevant to make any difference, says Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny in The New York Times. To get to Putin, "Western nations could deliver a serious blow to the luxurious lifestyles enjoyed by the Kremlin's cronies who shuttle between Russia and the West." After naming names, Navalny adds:
The invasion of Ukraine has polarized members of Russia's elite, many of whom view it as reckless. Real sanctions, such as blocking access to their plush London apartments, will show that Mr. Putin's folly comes with serious costs. [New York Times]
Meet Putin's fire with a thick blanket
The West needs to isolate Putin completely until he pulls out of Crimea, says Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in The Washington Post. "The Russian people should see that Putin's actions will bring about a decline of Russia's status as a global power, not a return to supposed Soviet glory." The U.S. and its NATO allies should also impose an arms embargo and open up NATO membership to "all interested partners in Europe." Finally, Rubio adds, Obama should up his reassurances to the former Soviet satellites nervous about Putin's neo-imperialist actions, providing "lethal military support" and deploying "additional military assets and even U.S. personnel to our allies, including Poland and the Baltic states."
Walk softly but carry a big stick
The point of U.S. and European actions should be to keep Putin out of the rest of Ukraine — Crimea is already in Russia's hands, says Fred Kaplan at Slate. But the key to boxing in Putin is understanding that his "actions have been driven less by a belief that the West is weak than his knowledge that Russia is." That doesn't mean the West can ignore Putin — "a bitter autocrat with a head full of grandiose daydreams can be a dangerous creature." What's needed is a ratcheting up of penalties while leaving room for diplomacy, he says:
Draw up plans for containing and countering Russian troops in the event of an incursion into Ukraine — not sending U.S. or NATO troops, but shipping arms, maybe some advisers and black-bag Delta forces — and talk about these plans with the allies, and Ukrainian officials, on open phone lines. Putin surely knows the limits of his army.... Over those same unencrypted phone lines, a senior official should also talk about some moves that would really isolate Russia from the rest of the world.... These are threats of actions to take place if Russia goes deeper into Ukraine — not reprisals for the seizure of Crimea, which would have no effect and probably wouldn't be enforced anyway. [Slate]
Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders made a brief cameo on Saturday Night Live alongside host Larry David. The sketch featured the two men on a sinking ship, with David's character asserting that he should be saved due to his wealth. Sanders played Bernie Sanderswitzky, a nod to his Jewish upbringing, and labeled David's character as the 1 percent.
Watch the uncanny duo below. Julie Kliegman
Turkey is at capacity with accepting refugees, but will continue to do so as people flee Syria, the nation's deputy prime minister said Sunday, The Associated Press reports.
"In the end, these people have nowhere else to go," Numan Kurtulmuş said. "Either they will die beneath the bombings and Turkey will...watch the massacre like the rest of the world, or we will open our borders."
Turkey's border has been closed for three days as they provide aid to 35,000 Syrians on the other side. The nation has 3 million refugees, 2.5 million of whom fled Syria. The European Union has encouraged Turkey to host refugees, offering the nation 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion) in incentives to do so. Julie Kliegman
International powers condemned North Korea for defying international warnings Sunday by launching a long-range rocket that the United Nations and others believe is a cover for a test of a ballistic missile that could reach the United States mainland, The Washington Post reports. It comes a month after the rogue state claimed to have detonated a hydrogen bomb.
U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice called it "yet another destabilizing and provocative action" and "a flagrant violation of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions." South Korea, Japan, China, Russia, Britain, France, and the European Union also condemned the launch, CNN reports.
The U.N. Security Council is set to hold an 11 a.m. emergency meeting in New York to go over a potential response to North Korea. Julie Kliegman
During Saturday night's Republican debate, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said he doesn't criticize President Obama's recent visit to a mosque, but believes he "continues to put out this fiction that there's widespread, systematic discrimination against Muslim Americans."
Rubio said he recognizes and honors Muslims who have fought in the military, but "by the same token, we face a very significant threat of homegrown violent extremism." He said Muslims need to report mosques that are "inciting violence against us," then said he knows a group that is actually suffering from discrimination: "We are facing in this country Christian groups and groups that hold traditional values who feel, and in fact are, being discriminated against by the laws of this country that try to force them to violate their conscious."
Rubio made his comments as he stood next to rival Donald Trump, who last year called for a ban on letting Muslims enter the United States. Trump didn't respond to Rubio's remarks, but New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie did, saying he has long worked with Muslim American groups across New Jersey and knows they are "good, law abiding, hard working people. What they need is our cooperation and our understanding. They don't need broadsides against them because of the religious faith they practice." Catherine Garcia
At Saturday night's GOP debate, Ted Cruz opened up about his personal connection to the heroin epidemic in a moving moment that left the room quiet. In response to the moderators' question about how New Hampshire residents could know he stood with them on this key issue for the state, Cruz told the story of his half-sister's struggle with drug addiction and her death from a drug overdose.
"This is an absolute epidemic. We need leadership to solve it," Cruz said. "Solving it has to occur at the state and local level." He also promised a focus on securing the borders to stop the flow of drugs into the U.S.
Watch his full answer below. Becca Stanek
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) February 7, 2016
On the topic of waterboarding, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz told the audience at Saturday's presidential debate it's not torture but "enhanced interrogation." For his part, Donald Trump said he'd come up with a technique that would put it to shame.
Because there are people "in the Middle East" who are "chopping the head off Christians," he would not only "bring back waterboarding," but he'd "bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding." Cruz declared that waterboarding "does not meet the generally recognized definition of torture," but he would not bring it "back in any sort of widespread use."
Jeb Bush said waterboarding was "used sparingly," but Congress has changed the laws and now, "I think where we stand is the appropriate place." Rubio warned that the candidates shouldn't talk about specific tactics, but did say he believed "we should be putting people into Guantanamo, not emptying it out." Catherine Garcia
When asked during the ABC News Republican presidential debate what he would say to the 68 percent of Americans in favor of raising taxes on people making more than a million dollars, Jeb Bush came out in favor of the wealthy.
"I'd like to see more millionaires," he said. "I think we need to grow more millionaires." Bush continued: "We need to create a prosperity society where people can rise up. This notion that we're somehow undertaxed as a nation is just foolhardy when we have entitlements growing far faster than our ability to pay for it." Catherine Garcia
— ABC News (@ABC) February 7, 2016