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Opinion

Obama must get over his weakness to stop Russia

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Opinion,Op-Eds,Barack Obama,Russia,Vladimir Putin,Foreign Policy,Ukraine

Can you hear the Russian national anthem playing in President Vladimir Putin's private suite while he and his oligarch comrades sip vodka martinis, laughing at how they played the predictable U.S. president and boasting of their future conquests?

Putin clearly stated his objectives years ago when he said that the worst tragedy of the 20th century was the collapse of the Soviet empire. Forget the holocaust or the AIDS epidemic ravaging Africa or the atrocities of too many wars. The glory of Mother Russia was gone, and Putin saw an opportunity to restore it through a weak U.S. leader, who could be maneuvered into conforming to Russian interests.

Consider the history:

- Putin didn't want missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic. President Obama said he understood and scrapped the plans.

- Obama made an impetuous statement about protecting Syria, but then allowed his “red line” to dissolve, turning to Putin to broker and save the chemical weapons deal. Russia's position in the Middle East was strengthened with its ally Bashar Assad still in power, while Syria has resisted compliance.

- Obama agreed to let Iranian mullahs keep their current levels of uranium and plutonium, their 16,000 centrifuges, and continue their research and development, as long as they promised not to build a nuclear bomb. More troubling, the International Atomic energy Agency inspectors can't go anywhere in Iran beyond 17 negotiated nuclear sites. Not exactly transparent disclosure, and the consequences could well birth nuclear proliferation in the most volatile part of the world.

- When it came time to help the Egyptians defeat the Muslim Brotherhood in the Sinai, Obama wouldn't even send spare parts for Egypt's helicopters. After a 40-year relationship with Egypt, he opened the door for Russia to step in, and we needlessly lost a close and important friend in the Middle East.

- Just weeks ago, Obama proposed significant reductions in the U.S. military budget, which would lead to the smallest Army since before World War II, coupled with an already-diminished Navy and Air Force.

- Putin is sitting on the largest cache of military and intelligence secrets in the history of the United States, more than 1.7 million documents related to specific operations, courtesy of his guest, National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.

America and the world have been at peace when America was strong. President Ronald Reagan forced Soviet Chairman Mikhail Gorbachev to back down by never wavering on missile defense, building the military and forcing internal economic challenges in the Soviet Union. Reagan never fired a shot, but the Iron Curtain came down.

We all recognize that the best deterrent to a bully is to stand up to his assertive actions.

Yet today, we hear echoes of a naive Neville Chamberlain, who was not convinced of Hitler's ambition of world domination. Allowing Putin to disregard the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, under which Ukraine dismantled its nuclear arms in exchange for assurances of security, will only foster greater Russian adventuring and contribute to nuclear proliferation.

Ironically, by Obama's feckless actions against Iran, North Korea and now Russia, our foes and some of our friends will more likely seek to obtain nuclear weapons, knowing America will never punish them nor protect them.

So what is the answer?

Announce immediately that we will deploy missile defenses to protect Europe. Lift the mindless regulations restricting export of liquid natural gas to Europe and authorize the Keystone XL pipeline, with the added bonus of creating American jobs.

Right now, Europe receives 35 percent of its natural gas from Russia. Although our relationship with Mideast allies has been weakened as a result of missteps in Iran, Syria, and Egypt, we should still actively seek the support of friends like the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia (along with Canada and Mexico) to supply energy for Europe while America builds its infrastructure for LNG exports.

Our objective should be to cause severe economic disruption for the corrupt Russian oligarchs through unified and severe economic sanctions, break Russia’s stranglehold on Europe’s economy by promoting energy independence and force Putin to look inward, putting the brakes on his aggression.

Europe needs American leadership and the world needs America to be strong. We don’t need our foes to like us. Instead, they need to respect us — and they will when we demonstrate strength through action, not hollow threats or inadequate sanctions against a few people.

Further expansion by Putin in the 15 former Soviet satellites (which includes NATO allies we are obligated to defend) is conceivable. We must pay attention to Putin today or we could pay an even bigger price tomorrow.

But for now, I guess, the gang at Putin’s pad are about to enjoy another vodka martini. They don’t believe Obama will do anything. They just see a roaring lion with no teeth.

Rep. Robert Pittenger, R-N.C., is chairman of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and a member of the House Financial Services Committee. Thinking of submitting an op-ed to the Washington Examiner? Be sure to read our guidelines on submissions for editorials, available at this link.
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