MANILA, Philippines —
The Syria scenario has trickled into Obama's relationship with Asia, where anxious allies spent much of the last week seeking assurances from the president that he would have their back if China used military force to take the advantage in the region's numerous territorial disputes. And Russian President Vladimir Putin's flouting of Western sanctions in response to his alleged provocations in Ukraine has stirred fresh criticism that the president's strategy lacks teeth.
That line of thinking was evident Monday after the Obama administration announced new sanctions on seven Russian officials, as well 17 companies with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a Republican from New Hampshire who has been a frequent Obama foreign policy critic, called the measures "tepid," ''incremental" and "insufficient." Other GOP lawmakers have called on Obama to provide lethal assistance to the Ukrainian military, a prospect he roundly rejected once again Monday.
"Do people actually think that somehow us sending some additional arms into Ukraine could potentially deter the Russian army?" Obama said. "Or are we more likely to deter them by applying the sort of international pressure, diplomatic pressure and economic pressure that we're applying?"
While Obama did not call out any of his critics by name, the White House has often been frustrated with two sets of foreign policy critics: Republican lawmakers like Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who takes a more hawkish position than Obama on nearly every issue, and foreign policy commentators who use their platforms on television or editorial pages to push the president to take a more aggressive approach.
"Frankly, most of the foreign policy commentators that have questioned our policies would go headlong into a bunch of military adventures that the American people had no interest in participating in and would not advance our core security interests," Obama said. He added that he's not inclined to make policy decisions because "somebody sitting in an office in Washington or New York think it would look strong."