The United States is acting like a nation in decline in its dealings with Russia over Ukraine rather than projecting strength, say former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton.
The problem, Rumsfeld says, is that President Barack Obama has no strategy based on U.S. interests.
Obama doesn't care about U.S. national security issues, Bolton agreed Monday on Fox News Channel's "On the Record with Greta Van Susteren."
"This is not a problem of today. It's not a problem of what Obama didn't do on Friday or what he's not going to do tomorrow," Bolton said. "It's a problem of having five years of no thinking about what America's interests are. When the crisis hits, your options are very limited."
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Rumsfeld, appearing on the same program, said, "Yesterday it was Syria, today it's Ukraine, tomorrow it could be the Republic of Georgia again. It could be central Asia, Iran, North Korea. At this stage, near-term options are few."
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After Russia's invasion
of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea over the weekend, with threats to move into the capital city, Kiev, the Obama administration threatened economic and diplomatic sanctions. Military intervention is off the table, both Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry said.
That was a mistake, retired Army Gen. Bob Scales told Van Susteren. The Russian military is very weak outside its nuclear arsenal, while the United States still has a strong military, he said.
"We ought to leverage that asymmetry," Scales said.
Scales suggested the United States start an anti-ballistic missile initiative with the Czech Republic "tomorrow," station ships in the Black Sea and initiate troop maneuvers in Poland.
"That's not going to start a war, but it tells [Russian President Vladimir] Putin we're serious," he said. "The only thing he respects is power, and he knows that America is still more powerful than he is."
Rumsfeld said that neither the United Nations nor NATO is willing to act, so the United States should fashion a coalition built on a specific mission: putting maximum pressure on Putin and the Russian Federation.
Putin, Rumsfeld said, is "punching way above his weight class, and the United States is punching way below ours."
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, disagreed on strategy but also thinks the United States is projecting weakness on the world stage.
Graham told Van Susteren he thinks economic sanctions alone will get Putin's attention. He wants to see the "oligarchs" have their European travel restricted so they can't continue to "live a high life" while trampling on the rights of their citizens and invading Ukraine and other countries.
Putin, he said, thinks Obama is "all talk and no action."
Graham says the lack of respect for the United States began when no action was taken against the attackers in Benghazi, Libya, who killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
"When you kill Americans and nobody pays a price, you invite this type of aggression," Graham said.
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