Hillary Clinton failed to anticipate Vladimir Putin’s designs on Ukraine territory and should have taken steps to deter Russian aggression, former Bush-era presidential assistant Bradley A. Blakeman charged Wednesday.
Blakeman noted that Clinton, the former secretary of state and leading Democratic contender for the nomination in 2016, played a high-profile role in hitting the “reset button” on U.S.-Russian relations.
“Maybe she could have prevented this if she had done her job correctly,” he said, “and had [used] the power of persuasion with our allies and others to call attention to Russia’s intentions.”
Blakeman, speaking in an exclusive Newsmax interview, said that while Hillary was pressing the reset button with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, “the Russians were pressing the reject button.”
He added: “They saw America as being weak. They saw Obama as being weak, and somebody that could be exploited.”
Clinton has come under increasing attack from Republicans in recent weeks on issues ranging from Benghazi to her advocacy of the individual mandate that became the linchpin of Obamacare. She appeared to try to get out in front of the Ukraine issue Tuesday while speaking to the media in Long Beach, Calif.
She likened Russia’s pretext for the invasion to Nazi Germany’s push for Lebensraum in the 1930s. Said Clinton: “The ethnic Germans, the Germans by ancestry who were in places like Czechoslovakia and Romania and other places, Hitler kept saying they’re not being treated right, I must go and protect my people. And that’s what’s gotten everybody so nervous.”
Any resolution of the conflict, Clinton said, must not sanction a de facto annexation by Russia of the Crimea.
During the 2012 campaign, Clinton criticized GOP standard-bearer Mitt Romney for his view that Russia was America’s No. 1 geopolitical foe. “I think it’s somewhat dated to be looking backwards instead of being realistic about where we agree, where we don’t agree,” Clinton told CNN that April in response to Romney’s statement.
But now it appears Romney had a point, Blakeman said.
“She was so out of touch with foreign policy and relationships,” said Blakeman, “that she couldn’t see the forest for the trees that Romney was right, that Putin was no friend of the United States, and had every inclination in causing us problems whether it was in Syria or Iran, and using his power of division to conquer. And that’s exactly what he did.”
He added that Clinton should have discerned Russia’s interest in seizing Ukrainian territory and taken steps to deter it.
Blakeman is a GOP strategist and former assistant to then-President George W. Bush. Now a faculty member at Georgetown University, he is among a growing number of Republicans taking a second look at Clinton’s record in light of Putin’s unchecked militarism in central Europe.
The full geopolitical ramifications of the Russian occupation of Crimea are only now emerging.
Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, in an appearance Tuesday morning on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program, noted that Ukraine gave up a huge arsenal of nuclear weapons in 1994 in return for Russian guarantees to honor its territorial sovereignty. Kristol said the West’s apparent tolerance for the Russian invasion sends a strong message that encourages nuclear proliferation.
“The signal it sends is not only don’t give up your nuclear weapons, [but] build nuclear weapons!” he remarked. “That will guarantee your safety. Everything else is just talk. It’s a horrible, horrible message to let get out in Europe itself, in Eastern Europe especially.”
Kristol added that the Obama administration’s view that it could induce Putin’s Russia into becoming a cooperative member of the world community — the objective of its much-maligned “reset” strategy — should be fair game for criticism.
“That was a centerpiece of Obama administration policy,” Kristol said. “…I think some of us who have been critical of that for a few years are entitled to say, ‘Can we now acknowledge that was a mistake and has failed?'”
According to Blakeman, Clinton’s role in the administration’s attempt to woo the Russians could become a major issue in the 2016 campaign — particularly if Putin continues to provoke Western powers.
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By David A. Patten