Barack Obama is the second U.S. president in a row to badly misjudge Vladimir Putin. In 2001, after his first meeting with Putin, George W. Bush famously told Colin Powell, his secretary of state, that he thought the Russian leader was religious. “Powell, I looked into Putin’s eyes and I saw his soul.” To which Powell replied: “Mr. President, I looked into President Putin’s eyes and I saw the KGB.”
Barack Obama hasn’t made that mistake. But in the wake of Russia’s invasion of the Ukranian region of Crimea, it’s worth remembering that in 2008, Obama ridiculed John McCain for warning about Russia after its invasion of independent Georgia. In 2012, he mocked Romney for identifying Russia as our top geopolitical foe, sneering, “The Cold War has been over for 20 years.”
But Vladimir Putin has long acted as if he can’t wait to bring the icicles of the Cold War back. At their joint public meetings, Putin has dismissively looked away from Obama, treating him as someone he could dupe or roll over at will. Critics say that attitude was on display in Putin’s handling of Edward Snowden and in his moves regarding Syria. In both cases, he embarrassed the United States.
Senator John McCain says it is now obvious that not only Obama but also Hillary Clinton got Russia wildly wrong. Of Clinton, he says, “She believed there would somehow be a ‘reset’ with a guy who was a KGB colonel who always had ambitions to restore the Russian empire,” McCain told the Daily Beast. McCain noted that as late as last Thursday, Secretary of State Kerry and other U.S. officials accepted assurances from Russia’s foreign minister that Russia had no intention of violating Ukraine’s sovereignty. The occupation of Crimea began the following day.
Unless the West shows egregious weakness in the face of the Russian aggression, Putin is unlikely to grab more of Ukraine. With Crimea under his control, he can build a new pipeline to Western Europe, which gets one-third of its natural gas from Russia. With this pipeline in place, which will be routed around Ukraine, Putin will hold Ukraine in a stranglehold: He can credibly threaten to turn off the current pipeline, which runs through and also supplies Ukraine, without endangering sales to Western Europe. He’s done this before. In both 2006 and 2009, Russia’s state-controlled Gazprom corporation shut off deliveries to Ukraine, supposedly over pricing disputes.
More at link: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/372352/beware-russian-bear-john-fund