Politics Expert: ‘Obama Is Perceived To Be Weak’ Dealing With Putin
WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — President Barack Obama is taking a hit on the world stage.
From Russia, to Syria, to the National Security Agency reportedly spying on allies, Obama’s global power has waned from when he first took office in 2009.
The president has been fielding criticism recently in regards to international incidents as the Syrian civil war continues to wage after Obama initially threatened military intervention before taking it off the table. Now, Russian President Vladimir Putin is seemingly not taking Obama’s actions seriously on Ukraine.
The latest Putin rebuff came after he spoke with Obama Thursday by telephone for an hour over Russia’s military intervention in Crimea.
“Russia cannot ignore calls for help and it acts accordingly, in full compliance with international law,” Putin said, according to Reuters.
In response to Russia’s actions, the White House put new visa restrictions on pro-Russian opponents of the new government in Ukraine and Obama himself issued an executive order to initiate economic sanctions against individuals and businesses that might be undermining Ukraine’s new government.
Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, told CBSDC that Putin’s actions are allowing Obama to be perceived as weak.
“It’s never a good thing for the United States when the president speaks and an adversary doesn’t listen. Power is partly perception, and in circumstances like this, Obama is perceived to be weak,” Sabato said. “Of course, Putin isn’t listening to the other world powers opposed to his move either. Those leaders know that the only potentially effective solution in the short term would be military action — and that’s a nonstarter because of public opinion.”
Danielle Pletka, the vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, says there is a global perception that the U.S. “is stepping back.”
“One of the reasons that you have a large and a capable and a multi-faceted military is not so you can fight; it’s so you don’t have to fight,” she told “Face the Nation” this past Sunday. “And that deterrent power, I think, is being diminished substantially.”
Sabato stated that Russia is holding the cards during this crisis in Ukraine.
“Obama lucked into winning, of a sort, with Syria. He avoided unpopular military action and yet appeared to have made major progress on the use of chemical weapons,” Sabato told CBSDC. “The president needs some more luck, though Russia holds a large majority of the cards in this dangerous game. Maybe Russia will decide sustaining the invasion is too costly, or will keep only Crimea and cede the status of the rest of Ukraine.”
Several Republicans have taken shots at Obama’s foreign policy, blaming his diplomatic strategy for what’s going on in Ukraine right now.
“The fundamental problem is that this president doesn’t understand Vladimir Putin,” McCain said on the Senate floor Tuesday. “He does not understand his ambitions. He does not understand that Vladimir Putin is an old KGB colonel bent on restoration of the Soviet empire. This president has never understood it.”
McCain added: “This president believes the cold war was over. Vladimir Putin doesn’t believe the cold war is over.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham told CNN that Putin is showing that Obama is a “weak and indecisive president.”
“Stop going on television and trying to threaten thugs and dictators; it is not your strong suit,” Graham told CNN. “Every time the president goes on national television and threatens Putin or anyone like Putin, everybody’s eyes roll, including mine. We have a weak and indecisive president that invites aggression.”
CBS News senior national security analyst Juan Zarate believes it will be “extremely difficult to push the Russians back” on their Ukraine stance.
“It will take diplomatic and political capital and sacrifice if we are serious. I’m not sure we or the international community have proven we’re willing to sacrifice much in recent years — even in other cases when the costs are lower and the solutions less complicated,” Zarate told CBS News.
Crimea’s parliament has called a March 16 referendum on whether the semi-autonomous region should join Russia outright, a move Obama has called a violation of international law.
Putin said Tuesday that Russia has no intention of annexing Crimea, but Valentina Matvienko, the speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament, made clear that the country would welcome Crimea if it votes in the referendum to join its giant neighbor. About 60 percent of Crimea’s population identifies itself as Russian.
Russia has called Ukraine’s new government “illegitimate” after months of protests upended President Viktor Yanukovych’s rule and sent him fleeing to Russia.
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