Republican House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Rogers accused the Obama administration of misunderstanding Russia’s imperial ambitions over the years, emboldening President Putin.
“I think Putin is playing chess, and I think we’re playing marbles,” he declared.
Rogers spoke with Fox News’ Chris Wallace Sunday about the surprise Friday invasion of Crimea, a key strategic region in southern Ukraine. The Michigan congressman was unimpressed by the White House’s threat to pull out of a planning session for a G-8 meeting scheduled in Russia later this year.
“If any of that would’ve gotten [Putin's] attention, he would’ve have been there in the first place,” Rogers said. “This is not an isolated incident. They’re expanding their border. Russia has moved out its borders some 11 kilometers in Georgia — nobody said a word.
“This is in direct relation to what happened in Syria — the negotiations there, they thought they did well. They’re holding their position,” he continued. “So if you look at a series of events, Russia believes that nothing is going to stop them, which is why they’ve been so aggressive in Crimea. There are not a lot of options on the table.”
Wallace asked whether there is a disconnect between the way President Obama approaches Russia and President Putin approaches the United States. “Well, I think Putin is playing chess, and I think we’re playing marbles,” he responded. “I don’t think it’s even close.”
Rogers noted that, whether it comes to nuclear negotiations, missile defense or Syria, “they’ve been running circles around us. And I think it’s really the naive position on the National Security Council and the president’s advisers that if we just keep giving things to Russia, they’ll finally wake up and say, ‘Boy, the United States isn’t all that bad.’”
“That is completely missing the motivations of why Russia does what Russia does,” Roger charged. “Again, they have an interest in expanding their buffer zones — by influence, I don’t think by Russian occupation — but by influence in cases like the Crimea, I think Moldova next and other places.”
Rogers explained that Congress will likely play a leading role in the economic sanctions he sees forthcoming. “If you recall, all of the sanctions that happened in Iran happened in Congress,” he said. “The president acquiesced — didn’t support them, but acquiesced in the end. I think that Congress is going to have to play a very important role in this, if we believe its important to tone down the military options of civil war in Ukraine.”
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