House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, Michigan Republican, flatly acknowledged on “Fox News Sunday” that Mr. Putin was a cunning and dangerous adversary who wasn’t afraid of Mr. Obama’s administration. Russia “is playing chess, and I think we are playing marbles,” Mr. Rogers said.
Mr. Putin has long maintained that the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 remains his greatest regret, and to this day nurtures his dream of a Greater Russia that would include Ukraine and other Soviet-bloc nations.
The former KGB agent has ruled Russia with an iron fist, imprisoning opponents and critics on trumped-up charges, and still nurtures a brutal Cold War mentality with an utter hatred of the West and the United States.
In a telephone conversation with Mr. Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel questioned whether Mr. Putin “was in touch with reality,” and said he was “living in another world.”
Mr. Obama came into office in 2009, naively promising to “reset” future relations with Russia in a new era of hope and change.
“Obama’s reset policy is partly to blame for what is unfolding in Ukraine, after giving Putin a pass on his human rights abuses, aggressive policies toward his neighbors and support for murderous regimes like the one in Syria,” writes David J. Kramer, president of Freedom House and a former deputy assistant secretary of state for Russia and Ukraine in George W. Bush’s administration.
Last month, seven Russians who demonstrated against Mr. Putin were sentenced to up to four years in prison.
When 200 people protested outside the court building, they were detained, as were an additional 420 protesters a few days later. Mr. Putin’s prisons are filled with his foes.
“All too often, Obama and his team looked the other way. That neglect is coming home to roost in the worst way possible,” Mr. Kramer said.
Mr. Putin needs to be taught a lesson by the United States and the West that he will never forget, including sanctions against state-owned banks, an end to all trade negotiations, a boycott of the Group of Eight in Sochi, expulsion of Russia from the group, an immediate economic-aid package to Ukraine, and for good measure, a blistering U.N. condemnation of Mr. Putin and his actions.
Meantime, we need to launch a broader, long-overdue re-examination in Congress of Mr. Obama’s foreign policy to date that has led us to this shameful and sorry state of affairs.
Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and contributor to The Washington Times.