The crisis in Ukraine has the potential for spiraling out of control and could lead to “serious problems in the heart of Europe,” says former Secretary of State James Baker.
“It is clearly the most serious East-West confrontation since the end of the Cold War,” Baker said Sunday on “Meet the Press.”
“For someone who was the last U.S. secretary of state during the Cold War, it’s very disappointing to me to see that we’re moving now from cooperation with Russia to confrontation again.”
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Baker was secretary of state for President George H.W. Bush from 1989 to 1992.
Baker said he has no substantial disagreement with the way the Obama administration has handled Russia’s invasion of Ukraine so far, but added, “I’m not sure that all of this would have happened had we stuck with our red lines.”
Many Republicans have blamed President Barack Obama’s waffling over a “red line” he set with Syria over use of chemical weapons. When it was revealed last year the Bashar Assad regime had used the weapons on Syrian civilians, Obama first promised action, then went to Congress and allies.
Both Congress and the United Kingdom balked at backing an attack, and the situation was resolved only after Russian President Vladimir Putin offered to monitor Syria’s elimination of its chemical weapons stockpile.
Baker said he doesn’t agree with those who think Putin sees Obama as weak after that confrontation. But he does think Putin sees Obama as inconsistent.
Baker said he hopes a diplomatic solution can be reached because he thinks there’s no good endgame for the Russian Federation.
The risks are “very substantial,” Baker said, of the situation turning into more than a “small new Cold War, which I think we are pretty much in right now. I look at this as a Cold War lite.”
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By Greg Richter