The Obama administration’s Russia policy is in disarray. The 2009 “reset” exists now only as a joke. Russia continues to back Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, and it has violated Ukraine’s sovereignty by placing troops in Crimea.
As Russia acts apparently with little fear of Western retaliation and with disregard for American dissatisfaction, here is a look back on the eight most naïve statements Obama and administration officials have made about Russia.
1. President Obama, March 2012: “This is my last election. After my election I will have more flexibility.”
2. Hillary Clinton March, 2009: “We want to reset our relationship, so we will do it together.”
3. Joe Biden, July 2009: “They have a shrinking population base, they have a withering economy, they have a banking sector and structure that is not likely to be able to withstand the next 15 years, they’re in a situation where the world is changing before them, and they‘re clinging to something in the past that is not sustainable.”
4. Obama, October 2012: (Responding to Mitt Romney’s description of Russia as our greatest “geo-political foe”) “You said Russia. Not al-Qaeda. . . . The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because . . . the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.”
5. Kerry, May 2012: “I think that candidate Romney has been breathtakingly off target, and naive and in fact wrong in his judgment about Russia when he said Russia is our number one [geopolitical] foe. I cannot think of any statement that frankly is more inappropriately threatening and simply wrong by any calculus than that.”
6. Obama, February 2014: “Our approach as the United States is not to see these as some Cold War chessboard in which we’re in competition with Russia.”
7. Obama, February 2014: “Over the last several days, the United States has been responding to events as they unfold in Ukraine. Now, throughout this crisis, we have been very clear about one fundamental principle: The Ukrainian people deserve the opportunity to determine their own future.”
8. Obama, March 2014: “I think the world is largely united in recognizing that the steps Russia has taken are in violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty, Ukraine’s territorial integrity, that they’re in violation of international law, they’re in violation of previous agreements Russia has made.”
Okay, these last two statements are true. Unfortunately, obeying international law and caring for Ukraine’s national sovereignty aren’t exactly at the top of Putin’s to-do list.
— Alec Torres is a William F. Buckley Fellow at the National Review Institute.