Decision time for President Obama on arming Ukraine

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • President Obama approaching critical decision juncture on Ukraine
  • Obama, Merkel news conference 11:40 a.m. EST
  • White House may-runs gear up their travel, domestic and international

President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are scheduled to speak at a joint press conference at 11:40 a.m. today. Watch that in the player above.

What to do about Ukraine: President Obama’s meeting today with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Washington is fraught with all kinds of geopolitical consequences. The president has been reluctant to intervene militarily in the fighting between Ukraine and pro-Russian separatist rebels. He thought sanctions that appeared to be weakening Russia’s economy would lead to a de-escalation of violence, but fighting has been taken to new heights in recent weeks in the Eastern part of the country and Obama is facing new pressure to arm Ukraine. Chancellor Merkel is opposed to arming the rebels, as she tries to broker a peace deal and tries to balance her economic relationship with Russia and Putin. They meet at 10:25 a.m. EST, then hold a joint news conference at 11:40 a.m. EST.

Potentially ‘one of the most important’ decisions of Obama’s presidency: The president has to make a decision on something he personally opposes — arming Ukraine and potentially inciting a proxy war with Russia — or risking looking weak while U.S. military and State Department officials, as well as Republicans, apply pressure for him to act. Bloomberg notes: “Obama’s delay in making his move until after Merkel’s visit reflects not only the gravity of the situation and the dueling arguments, but his emphasis on international alliances, his own deliberative nature and the degree to which he’s concentrated power on foreign policy in the White House. … A U.S. official who is also close to the debate declined to predict what Obama will decide after meeting with Merkel. The official, who also requested anonymity, added that Obama’s decision may prove to be one of the most important of his presidency.”

Campaigns Crossing the Skies: 2016 travel is picking up fast. Let’s start with Iowa and Rand Paul. The Kentucky senator held a rally at a winery in Des Moines Friday, then Saturday went to an Iowa State basketball game and spoke to students at the university.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is starting to fill in his calendar with a few more road trips, including a stop in Munich, Germany, this weekend for an international security conference. Speaking to ABC’s “This Week,” from the Bavarian capital, Cruz called on the U.S. to arm Ukraine in its fight against Russian rebels.

Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor, rounded out his 43-stop book tour with events in Texas, Louisiana and his home state.

As for the contest on the left, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke at the Pennsylvania Progressive Summit, stressing to mid-Atlantic liberals that he is not Hillary Clinton.

Coming up: Scott Walker crosses the Atlantic for a four-day trade mission in the United Kingdom beginning today. And Chris Christie, back from his foreign-credential-boosting trip to Great Britain, is in Iowa tonight, headlining a night for the Dallas County speaker series in West Des Moines.

For more details on the 2016 landscape, see the top news stories on the race, in line items below.

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1825, the House of Representatives elected John Quincy Adams president. Why did the House have to decide the election? Be the first to tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to roy wait ‏(@ind22rxw) for guessing Thursday’s trivia: How many Supreme Court justices did Roosevelt appoint? The answer: 8.


  • In Iowa this weekend, Rand Paul was trying to send his own message to Republicans and distance himself from his dad.

  • Moderate Republicans in Iowa are getting more involved in the caucus process, which means the Hawkeye State could go for any one of two dozen Republicans.

  • The AP reports that Spencer Zwick, the venture capitalist who helped Romney raise millions in 2012, has spoken to Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Chris Christie, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio by phone or in person in just the last week.

  • New York’s Working Families Party wants Sen. Elizabeth Warren to run.

  • Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio are considered great running mate material within GOP ranks. The problem is all three are up for re-election in 2016, and would have to choose between the White House and their Senate seats in key states.

  • Rubio’s twice-weekly lectures at Florida International University provide a window into the campaign themes and rhetoric he might employ in 2016.

  • The Quad City Times in Iowa sees Chris Christie’s vaccine comments as an attempt “consistent with a plausible Iowa caucus strategy: an attempt to lock up a small faction of voters.”

  • Hillary Clinton has heard from some 200 economists and policy experts, many pushing her toward “inclusive capitalism,” as she struggles to craft an economic message that will resonate with voters without sacrificing her ties with Wall Street or alienating the wealthy.



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