- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 21, 2014

President Obama doesn’t believe that he’s been “rolled” by Vladimir Putin, rejecting the idea that the Russian president has outmaneuvered the U.S. in a geopolitical chess match.

In an interview with CNN, the president said economic sanctions on Moscow are working, crediting the American-led effort with a downturn in Russia’s economy and the decline of its currency. Even though Russia has yet to pull back from its aggressive posture in Ukraine, Mr. Obama denied that his policy has been ineffective, saying that his slow and steady course is better than the notion of “shooting first and thinking about it second.”

“This was said about Mr. Putin, for example, three or four months ago. There was a spate of stories about how he was the chessmaster, and outmaneuvering the West and Mr. Obama and this and that and the other. And right now he’s presiding over the collapse of his currency, a major financial crisis and a huge economic contraction. That doesn’t sound like somebody who has rolled me or the United States of America,” Mr. Obama said. “There is this knee-jerk sense, I think, on the part of some in the foreign policy establishment that shooting first and thinking about it second projects strength. I disagree with that.”

But Republican critics say Russia’s economic woes largely are the result of other factors, such as a global decline in oil prices, not U.S. sanctions.

Also speaking on CNN on Sunday, Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, said it’s “bizarre” to think the American sanctions have had any impact of Russia’s actions, as evidenced by the fact Mr. Putin refuses to stop interfering in Ukraine.

“There has been no relaxation or drawback of Vladimir Putin’s part as a result of this,” he said.

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

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