Becerra: Don't rush Ukraine response

Lauren Schneiderman

The head of the House Democratic Caucus warned Wednesday that a hurried response to Russian aggression in Ukraine could lead the United States into the next Iraq.

A number of Republicans on Capitol Hill have said that President Obama's "weak" foreign policy has enabled Russia's recent invasion of Crimea.

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But Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) said the GOP criticism essentially promotes the kind of "rushed" and "unprepared" response that's left U.S. troops fighting in Iraq for more than a decade.

"Personally, it scares me when I hear some politicians talk about how we can just resolve this in Ukraine ourselves, or that we should be acting much faster to take care of the Russian issue in Ukraine, or take out the Russians in Ukraine," Becerra said during a press briefing in the Capitol. "It reminds me too much of Iraq.

"We owe it to our men and women in uniform to act very carefully," he added.

The remarks come as lawmakers from both parties are pushing a harder line against Russian President Vladimir Putin as his forces continue to push back against Ukraine's newly installed government, which took power after toppling President Viktor Yanukovych, a Russian ally.

On Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry unveiled a $1 billion aid package to the new Ukrainian government, and warned that further action against Russia could follow if Putin doesn't draw down his troops in the region.

Meanwhile, Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is putting together a proposal that would apply "crippling sanctions" on high-ranking Russian officials.

Amid the response from Capitol Hill, a number of Republicans have suggested Putin's invasion would never have happened if Obama had been tougher throughout his tenure in the face of overseas hostilities.

“We have a weak and indecisive president that invites aggression,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told CNN on Sunday.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) echoed that message, saying Obama has adopted “a feckless foreign policy where nobody believes in America’s strength anymore.”

Former GOP Sen. Jim DeMint (S.C.), who now heads the conservative Heritage Foundation, said Obama's “weak statements” will “only invite aggression.”

But Becerra cautioned that a more bellicose response from the White House risks committing to another drawn-out overseas conflict, like the 11-year war in Iraq.

"We saw the consequence of going into a war in a rushed, unprepared and, now we know, less than frank ... reason to go in," Becerra said. "We have to do this the smart way, not the rushed way."