Former Vice President Dick Cheney accused President Barack Obama on Sunday of appeasing Russian President Vladimir Putin and said there's "no question" that Putin "believes he is weak."
Cheney said in an interview on CBS's "Face the Nation" that Obama and his advisers "have created an image around the world, not just to the Russians, of weakness. ... The Syrian situation is a classic. We got all ready to do something — a lot of the allies signed on — and at the last minute, Obama backed off."
Cheney said that in responding to Russia's seizure of Crimea, "there are military options that don't involve putting troops on the ground in Crimea. We could go back and reinstate the ballistic-missile defense program that was taken out, that was originally going to go in Poland (and) the Czech Republic, and Obama took it out to appease Putin."
He also suggested that Obama offer military equipment and training to the Ukrainians and do joint training exercises in Poland.
Cheney did admit that the Bush administration's responses to the 2008 Russian invasion of Georgia "were not effective in terms of driving Putin out." Some observers see Putin's successful invasion of Georgia as the template for Russian actions in Crimea.
Cheney's comments came as Robert Gates, who served as defense secretary under both President George W. Bush and Obama, said on "Fox News Sunday" that Putin's seizure of Crimea appeared to be irreversible. "I do not believe that Crimea will slip out of Russia's hand," he said.
More Republican criticism of Obama's handling of the Ukraine crisis came from Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, a potential Republican presidential contender. In an interview on ABC's "This Week," Cruz said Obama's foreign policy was "to alienate and abandon our friends and to coddle and appease our enemies. You better believe that Putin sees in Benghazi four Americans are murdered and nothing happens, there's no retribution. You better believe that Putin sees in Syria (that) Obama draws a red line and ignores a red line."
Also commenting on the Ukraine crisis, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., another potential 2016 presidential contender, said on "Fox News Sunday" that if Putin "creates a Syria out of Ukraine, what's going to happen is 80 percent of his oil and gas is going through Ukraine. It will be a disaster for him."
Paul said he would "immediately get every obstacle out of the way for our export of oil and gas, and I would begin drilling in every possible conceivable place within our territories in order to have production that we could supply Europe with if it's interrupted from Ukraine."
Defending a comment in which he'd said the U.S. ought to have "a respectful — sometimes adversarial but a respectful — relationship with Russia," Paul said Obama "hasn't projected enough strength and hasn't shown a priority to the national defense. That is something that were I in charge I would."
First published March 9 2014, 9:04 AM