Ukraine is teetering toward civil war because "the United States has been missing in action," Former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Pete Hoekstra told Newsmax on Thursday.
"It's devastating," Hoekstra said in an exclusive interview. "America's standing on the sidelines … has put them in a very difficult — if not an impossible — situation through our silence and inaction."
"They're advocating for more freedom, more democracy, more economic freedom, and opportunity. It's highly probable that these folks are going to fall back under the orbit of Russia rather than uniting with the European Community."
In skirmishes throughout Kiev on Thursday, more than 70 people died as protesters hurled firebombs and government snipers fired back. Nearly 100 people have died in the bloodshed
The latest battles erupted after protesters ignored calls for a truce on Wednesday by President Viktor Yanukovych, whose resignation they are demanding.
The protests started out peacefully three months ago after Yanukovych spurned a deal with the European Community in favor of strengthening ties with Russia. Neither side now appears willing to compromise.
In Washington, the White House continued to condemn the violence Thursday — and conservatives mocked President Barack Obama's promise of "consequences" for those who "step over the line" in Ukraine.
Republicans likened Obama's words to last year's threats about Syria crossing a "red line" in its use of poison gas. The administration, however, retreated once it learned that several gas attacks by President Bashar al-Assad's military had killed hundreds of people.
Sen. John McCain also slammed
Obama's handling of relations with Russia, describing him as "the most naïve president in history."
McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., have called for
targeted economic sanctions against Yanukovych's government.
In his Newsmax interview, Hoekstra cited the "red line" threat to illustrate the overall ineffectiveness of Obama's foreign policy agenda. The Republican served eight terms in the U.S. House of Representatives before leaving office to run unsuccessfully for Michigan governor in 2010.
"The problem is that these words have been repeated over and over and over. We had the 'red line' in Syria. We’ve had other uses of these kinds of phrases.
"What we get from the president is we get rhetoric — and in the case here of Ukraine, it's too little, too late," he added. "There's not a lot of substance behind this.
"What people in the Ukraine were looking for was American leadership six months ago, nine months ago, to help them forge these ties. We’re hearing words from the president, but they don't carry a lot of meaning.
"They don't carry a lot of substance — and they’re way too late," he said.
Perhaps the closest observer of the Ukranian unrest is Russian President Vladimir Putin, Hoekstra said, even though the Winter Olympics are being held in Sochi.
"Putin is not tied up with the Olympics. He knows exactly what's going on in Ukraine.
"President Putin has a very clear foreign policy, which is to re-exert Russia into international politics," Hoekstra added. "He's doing it. He's doing it effectively.
"He's working on behalf of Assad in Syria. He's, I think, not helping us in Iran. He's re-establishing relationships with the government in Egypt. He's doing everything he can to bring Ukraine back into the orbit of the greater Russia.
"Whereas our president may be missing in action, Putin and Russia have not been missing in action in the Ukraine. They haven't been missing in action in the Middle East or Northern Africa.
"They've got a plan. They've been executing it," he told Newsmax. "They know where they're going and what they want to get done.
"What Putin is seeing is that the United States is kind of a paper tiger. He sees opportunities for Russia, or for increasing Russian influence, and he's going to do it."
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