WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — Former Vice President Dick Cheney says President Barack Obama is looking weak among global leaders as the Ukraine crisis continues to unfold.
Speaking to CBS News’ “Face the Nation” Sunday, Cheney stated that the president “hasn’t gotten any credibility with our allies.”
“We have created an image around the world not just for the Russians, of weakness, of indecisiveness,” Cheney said.
The former VP under President George W. Bush said European Parliament members have told him it’s hard to back sanctions Obama is laying out for Russia after his handling of Syria last year.
Cheney also called for Obama to reinstate the proposed Bush-era missile defense program in Poland and the Czech Republic that the president ended up scrapping in 2009. Ten ground-based interceptors would have been placed in Poland while a radar would’ve been placed inside the Czech Republic.
“My answer is reinstate the ballistic missile defense program and policy. [Russian President Vladimir Putin] cares a lot about that,” Cheney told “Face the Nation.” “Conduct joint military exercises with our NATO friends close to the Russian border. Offer up equipment and training to the Ukrainian military.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday warned Secretary of State John Kerry that U.S. sanctions could “backfire,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement. During a telephone call, Lavrov urged the U.S. not to take “hasty, poorly thought-out steps that could harm Russian-U.S. relations, especially concerning sanctions, which would unavoidably boomerang on the U.S. itself,” the statement said.
In a separate statement on Friday, the Russian Foreign Ministry also warned the European Union that any sanctions it imposed would not go unanswered and would harm “the interests of the EU itself and its member nations.”
Kerry underscored to Lavrov the importance of finding a constructive way to resolve the situation diplomatically, which would address the interests of the people of Ukraine, Russia, and the international community. Kerry and Lavrov agreed to continue to consult in the days ahead, according to the State Department.
Declaring his determination not to let the Kremlin carve up Ukraine, Obama on Thursday slapped new visa restrictions on Russian and other opponents of Ukraine’s government in Kiev and authorized wider financial penalties against those involved in the military intervention or in stealing state assets. Obama emphasized his resolve in an hourlong telephone call with Putin, affirming his contention that Russia’s actions violate Ukraine’s sovereignty.
Showing greater caution than Obama on sanctions, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said European penalties against Russia depend “on how the diplomatic process progresses.” EU President Herman Van Rompuy said travel bans, asset freezes and the cancellation of an EU-Russia summit could still come. Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk acknowledged “no enthusiasm” in Europe for economic sanctions.
In some ways, the debate over sanctions echoes the Cold War doctrine of military strategy in which if two opponents fired off nuclear weapons, both sides would be annihilated.
“There is a kind of mutually assured destruction relationship here,” said Steven Pifer, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and analyst at the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington. “Russia could say, ‘Well, we’re going to cut off your gas, and you guys can now scramble and buy extra gas and pay big prices.’
“It would hurt the Europeans, but it also would cut off the biggest source of cash that flows into Russia today,” he said referring to oil and gas sales that account for about 60 percent of Russia’s exports and half of its government revenue. “So the Russians may threaten some things, but they also have to consider that if they do that what it would do to the Russian economy.”
The State Department sought to allay fears that Europe might find itself short on Russian gas.
“We understand that European gas inventories are well-above normal levels, due to a milder than usual winter, and could replace a loss of Russian exports for several months, if necessary,” spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. “Naturally, we take the energy security of our friends very seriously.”
Ariel Cohen, an expert on Russian and Eurasian affairs at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, said he doesn’t know whether the Europeans would be willing to impose tough sanctions, particularly against Russia’s banking and financial systems. Even if the Europeans don’t, the U.S. needs to take the lead or risk allowing Russia to alter current world order, he said.
“Either we take a lead or the international system goes back to the chaos and high-risk levels that existed before World War I and between World War I and World War II,” he said. “This is very serious. I cannot emphasize that enough. People who talk about ‘Oh, we won’t get cheap gas from Russia’ or ‘The Russians will get angry’ — they do not look at it beyond the current geopolitical and international order.”
If Russia grabs Crimea, Iran would be less willing to give up an ability to develop nuclear arms. “The message to Iran would be: If you have nuclear weapons you will not be attacked, your regime will be intact. If you don’t have nuclear weapons, your regime can be toppled and pieces of your territory can be taken away.”
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