The Obama administration has threatened sanctions but also urged diplomatic solutions, wary of escalating tensions between Ukraine and Russia, the world’s biggest energy producing nation. On Monday, Vice President Joe Biden launched a high-profile visit to Ukraine to push for implementation of an international agreement aimed at de-escalating tensions. The same day, U.S. oil prices reached a seven-week high.
Coats said he’s keenly aware of consequences of U.S. involvement, including a possible turn in public opinion. On Monday, the national pollster Rasmussen reported that 58 percent of Americans want the United States to leave the situation alone – up from 52 percent last month.
But Coats said Ukraine’s stability is connected to the stability of Europe. A civil war there, he said, could unfold like the Balkan wars of the 1990s, which killed more than 100,000 people.
“If American foreign policy and strategic interests have any permanent core, it is interest in Europe’s well-being,” he wrote in an open letter to Hoosiers last month.
Coats is repeating that message in meetings around the state, knowing it’s a tough sell to connect tensions in Ukraine with a stable economy back home.
“What happens in Ukraine is very important to world’s economy and to our economy,” he said in the interview. “This ought to encourage us to take steps now that will prevent a worse situation later.”
Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. Reach her at email@example.com.