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US grapples with fraught Russia, global challenges

AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting in Vladivostok, Russia, on April 25, 2019.

Foreign policy rose to the forefront of the major Sunday talk shows, with lawmakers and White House officials alike expressing economic and national security concerns emanating from adversaries such as Russia and North Korea.

Officials are grappling with North Korea’s recent ballistic missile launches, OPEC+’s announcement it will cut oil production, and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threats of using nuclear weapons.

After President Biden on Thursday at a Democratic fundraiser described Putin’s threats as “Armageddon,” multiple Republicans on the Sunday shows criticized his characterization.

“Those comments were reckless, and I think that, even more importantly, they demonstrate maybe one of the greatest foreign policy failures of the last decades, which was failure to deter Vladimir Putin in the same way that the Trump administration did for four years,” said former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on “Fox News Sunday.”

“When you hear a president talking about Armageddon as a random thought, just musing at a fundraiser, that is terrible risk to the American people,” Pompeo told host Shannon Bream. “If he truly believes it, he ought to be talking to us in a serious way.”

Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) on NBC’s “Meet the Press” described Putin as a “cornered animal” as his military continues facing losses in four Ukrainian regions Russia annexed earlier this month. 

But like Pompeo, Bacon lambasted Biden’s remark at the fundraiser.

“We got to stand firm towards him,” Bacon said. “You can’t let a bully push you around. I also do think President Biden’s got to be more careful, though. Throwing down the nuclear Armageddon was a little too flippant. President of France, [Emmanuel] Macron, chided him on it. I think the president needs to be more cautious.”

The Biden administration has vowed severe consequences for Russia if Putin follows through on his threats, and White House officials have said they laid out more details of the U.S. response privately to the Kremlin.

“The president, I think, was accurately reflecting the fact that the stakes are very high right now,” White House national security spokesman John Kirby told ABC “This Week” co-anchor Martha Raddatz. 

Journalists also pressed officials on OPEC+’s announcement on Wednesday to cut daily production of oil by 2 million barrels, which is likely to increase the price of oil and bolster Russia’s exporting revenues to finance its war in Ukraine.

The oil-exporting alliance’s move came as a blow to the Biden administration, which has looked to increase supply levels to combat inflation and gas prices that rose in part after Russia’s invasion.

After saying during his 2020 campaign he would make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” for the murder of Washington Post columnist and Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi, Biden in July traveled to the oil-rich country to appeal to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in a controversial visit.

“It didn’t come as a surprise to me,” Allianz chief economic adviser Mohamed El-Erian on CBS’s “Face the Nation” said of the oil cartel’s production cutback.

“OPEC is looking to protect oil prices in the context of declining global demand,” he told guest moderator Major Garrett. “All three major areas in the world — China, Europe and the U.S. — are slowing much faster, which means less demand for oil. So what does OPEC do? They cut back supply.”

The production cutback has also led some lawmakers to reassess the long-standing U.S.-Saudi military alliance.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Middle East subcommittee, on CNN’s “State of the Union” told co-anchor Jake Tapper that the relationship “is broken.”

“We sell massive amounts of arms to the Saudis,” Murphy said on CNN. “I think we need to rethink those sales. I think we need to lift the exemption that we have given this OPEC+ cartel from U.S. price-fixing liability. I think we need to look at our true presence in the Middle East and Saudi Arabia.”

On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-N.Y.), a former CIA and Defense Department official, told guest host Kristin Welker that the Saudis will live with the decision “for a long time.”

“At best they made a decision that didn’t help the rest of the world. At worst, they aligned themselves with Putin,” Slotkin said.

Beyond the wide-ranging challenges posed by Russia’s war in Ukraine, federal officials are also raising alarm bells in the Pacific, where North Korea in recent days has repeatedly launched rounds of ballistic missiles, including two more launched on Saturday.

The launches have led to heightened tensions in the region. The U.S. held joint military drills with South Korea and Japan after some of the recent launches.

“We’re working on better trilateral cooperation between all three of our countries,” Kirby, the White House national security spokesman, said on ABC.

“We’re going to make sure that we have the capabilities in place to defend our national security interests if it comes to that, but there’s no reason for it to come to that,” he added. “That’s the point, Martha. We could sit down, again, without preconditions with Kim Jong Un and try to find a diplomatic path forward. That’s what we’re committed to.”

Tags Biden Don Bacon Don Bacon Elissa Slotkin Elissa Slotkin John Kirby John Kirby Mike Pompeo Mike Pompeo North Korea North Korea missile tests OPEC+ Russia-Ukraine war Vladimir Putin Vladimir Putin
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