Pete Hoekstra: Putin Moves Threaten Iran Nuclear Talks

Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 10:46 PM

By Todd Beamon

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Russian President Vladimir Putin's show of strength that led Ukraine to withdraw its troops from Crimea on Wednesday greatly jeopardizes the talks with Iran on curbing its nuclear arsenal, former Rep. Pete Hoekstra told Newsmax on Wednesday.

"If we think the Russians are going to continue to be supportive of the talks dealing with Iran, we're kidding ourselves," Hoekstra said in an exclusive interview. "That's another casualty of what's going on in Ukraine.

"The U.S. has to figure out, 'Now, what are we going to do with Iran?'" he added. "We’ve had a partial lifting of sanctions. It's now clear that a process that most people figured was very unlikely to be successful now has collapsed.

"Are we going to re-impose sanctions on Iran? I don't think we're going to do that. It's just a very, very ugly situation."

Ukraine's acting government conceded defeat to Russia's takeover of its military bases in Crimea and said it would withdraw its troops from the peninsula.

"We are developing a plan that would enable us not only to withdraw servicemen, but also members of their families in Crimea, so that they could be quickly and efficiently moved to mainland Ukraine," Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council chief Andriy Parubiy said at a news conference in Kiev.

Ukraine also proposed that Crimea be declared a demilitarized zone by the United Nations and that a plan be developed for removing Russians troops. Moscow is expected to block that move, as its Black Sea Fleet is based on the peninsula.

"The Ukrainian government will immediately appeal to the United Nations to recognize Crimea as a demilitarized zone and take necessary measures for Russian forces to leave Crimea and prepare conditions for re-deployment of Ukrainian forces," Parubiy said.

Russia also took control of another Ukrainian naval base late on Wednesday.

"This stuff is still spinning in a very negative way," Hoekstra told Newsmax. "Putin sees an opportunity. He sees weakness — and he's going to take advantage of every opportunity to re-establish and strengthen a Russian presence."

The Ukrainian developments have cast a pall over the second round of talks scheduled to begin this week on a permanent agreement with Iran on curbing its nuclear weapons program.

The United States lifted some sanctions against Tehran last month under the preliminary weapons deal negotiated last year. The talks involve the "P5-plus-one countries," which include the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, along with Russia and Germany.

Any resistance by Russia to participate in the negotiations could send a strong signal to Iran that it does not need to reduce its arsenal, said Hoekstra, a Michigan Republican who represented the state's 2nd Congressional District from 1993 to 2011.

"When you've established a record that this president has established over the last five years, the Russians see weakness," he said, referring to President Barack Obama. "Our allies see indecision, and they're very hesitant to line up with this."

Perhaps the greatest threat to a breakdown in talks with Iran is to Israel, he said.

"You've got Israelis who believe that because of what's happening in Egypt and Iran that they got thrown under the bus. They've seen an Iran who has had sanctions lifted. They've got a Sinai Peninsula where now you have a lot of radical extremists."

He also noted that Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said last month that Moscow was looking to establish military bases in Vietnam, Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, the Seychelles, Singapore and several other countries.

In addition, Putin also has charged that plans foreign powers to develop high-precision weapons for use with missile defense systems in Poland and Czechoslovakia would threaten agreements that have ensured the global strategic balance, Hoekstra said.

"Their governments took a risk by accepting the placements of those systems in their countries — and now Obama has pulled them back," he said. "This administration is dealing from a position of extreme weakness, which really, really limits our options.

"We're still America — absolutely. But our allies around the world are not sure how loyal we will be and how supportive we will be in the long run.

"We've got very few, very limited options," Hoekstra reiterated. "You can always do things, but can you do the types of things that will rein in or restrict Putin and Russia and Iran right now?

"We don't have any good options right now to change behavior on behalf on what the Russians are going to be doing. It's scary and it's disappointing to see how our position has deteriorated globally."

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