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On Ukraine, HASC's Turner More Outspoken Than Rivals for Gavel

Mar. 17, 2014 - 03:22PM   |  
By JOHN T. BENNETT   |   Comments
Rep. Mike Turner is striking a more aggressive public tone on the Ukraine crisis than the other frontrunners for the House Armed Services Committee gavel. (House of Representatives)
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WASHINGTON — Rep. Mike Turner is striking a more aggressive public tone on the Ukraine crisis than the other frontrunners for the House Armed Services Committee gavel, hammering the president in Moscow — and the one in Washington.

The Ohio Republican’s repeated rhetorical onslaughts at Vladimir Putin’s invasion and occupation of Ukraine’s Crimea region and Barack Obama’s failed attempts to “reset” Washington-Moscow relations show a contrast in styles and focus to the approach taken by Reps. Mac Thornberry and Randy Forbes, the other HASC chairmanship contenders.

For the most part, the Texas and Virginia Republicans have picked their spots to comment on the Ukraine crisis.

Turner’s Washington office has issued about a half-dozen statements focused solely on the Ukraine situation since Russian troops entered Crimea in late February.

Forbes’ office has issued plenty of statements since Russian soldiers, helicopters, aircraft and vehicles began appearing in the southern Ukrainian region on Feb. 27 and 28. But those statements have been focused on Forbes’ longtime preferred issues, such as the Asia-Pacific region and the Navy’s shipbuilding budget, as well as his reactions to the Pentagon’s 2015 quadrennial defense review.

Thornberry, considered by many congressional sources and defense insiders as the leading contender to replace retiring HASC Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., next January, has been largely silent on the Ukraine crisis, and on many defense issues. He has questioned Pentagon brass during public hearings on defense-acquisition reform, an issue on which he has taken the lead for the panel.

Shipbuilding. QDR. Acquisition reform. Russia-US relations. The latter could signal Turner’s focus as panel chairman would differ from that of Thornberry or Forbes.

To that end, some aides to GOP committee members are privately beginning to express frustrations that the Armed Services panel lacked a robust voice on foreign-policy issues.

Turner’s stance since the onset of the Crimea crisis has been consistently hard on Obama and Putin, blaming the former for failing to be tough enough on Russia since he took office and calling the latter a dangerous leader out to take back Soviet-era lands.

“As the President has sought secret deals with Russia, abandoned portions of our missile defense system, reduced our nuclear weapons capabilities and significantly cut our military through his sequester, Russia, China, Iran and North Korea see a weak United States,” Turner said in a March 1 statement. “This is a very dangerous message to send to the world and especially to Russia, who seeks to regain lost territories from the former Soviet Union.”

Fast forward to Sunday, when Turner again had harsh words for Obama and Putin on the heels of reports that Russian forces seized a gas plant on Ukrainian soil, but outside Crimea.

“This act further entrenches what we have known for weeks,” Turner said in a Sunday statement. “Russia is an aggressor state and the reset policies employed by the Obama administration were sorely misguided.” ■

Email: jbennett@defensenews.com.

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