Calling Russia unpredictable, but also desperate and overestimated, U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger told Newsmax TV
on Thursday that a united West can punish Russian aggression against Ukraine and hasten Russia's demise as a global military and economic power without firing a shot.
"This idea that it's the old Soviet Union we're facing against — it's not," Kinzinger, an Illinois Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner. "This is a ragtag military, [and] a weak economy based simply on energy exports."
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"So let's crush their energy exports, and help Europe develop their own energy, and make Russia a 20th-century gas station that will be irrelevant in the future," said Kinzinger.
Kinzinger said the immediate response to Russia massing troops on the Ukraine border
should be diplomatic, economic, and military.
"This is where it's going to take President Obama and European leaders standing tough, ratcheting up the economic pressure, giving weapons to the Ukrainians, both light and heavy weapons to help them defend themselves," he said. "Get them all the intelligence they need on Russian positions."
He said the longer term project is to marginalize Russia by strengthening U.S.-Europe cooperation on energy — first by boosting U.S. exports of oil and gas to Europe to reduce the EU's dependence on Russian supplies, and then by helping Europe to become more energy-independent overall.
Kinzinger said there are obstacles to getting Western powers all on the same page: France
has not canceled its sale of a $1.5 billion Mistral-class warship to Russia; and Germany, in Kinzinger's estimation, appears content to let its corporate CEOs dictate policy toward Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"They're more interested in their economic situation right now than they are in really having a moral center of standing against aggression," Kinzinger said of some European countries.
He said that Putin lashing back at the United States and Europe with sanctions
of his own, including a blockade on food imports to Russia, will "hurt his country probably worse than it's going to hurt us."
But he also said that there's no guarantee that Russia won't invade Ukraine, even if doing so means that Putin makes himself "a pariah to the rest of the world."
"Putin's position's becoming increasingly desperate, which means he's becoming increasingly unpredictable," Kinzinger said.
"As he's massing troops along of border of Ukraine, if he sees that Ukraine could fall, he very well may be in a desperate enough position to invade the eastern part of Ukraine, call it a humanitarian crisis and protecting ethnic Russians," he said. "Never mind the fact that it was in World War II that they ethnically cleansed the eastern part of Ukraine [in order] to call it Russian."
He said U.S. leadership in this crisis is critical.
"And the president's in a much better position to lead this than maybe he likes to think," said Kinzinger. "He kind of talks and operates under this impression that, 'Boy, America's just one of many powers in the world, and what can we do? I can only do what I tried to do.' I don't think he quite realizes that America is the power in the world, and Russia's not our equal."
In a follow-up segment on "MidPoint," Florida radio talk-show host Ed Dean agreed that the United States doesn't need to go to war with Russia over Ukraine. Dean said direct U.S. military involvement would be a tough sell, anyway.
"Can you get the American people behind this president, if this president wanted to do that? I don't see that happening," said Dean.
But he said there are even more severe economic measures, such as devaluing Russia's already weak currency, the ruble, that ought to be pursued.
Dean also questioned making Europe energy-independent, arguing that it's preferable to replace Europe's Russian supply line with an American one — "and instead of relying on Russia they have to rely on us," he said.
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