Lt. Col. Shaffer: US Weakness, Aging Nukes Embolden Putin

Tuesday, 02 Sep 2014 03:41 PM

By Sean Piccoli

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America's lack of foreign policy resolve and its aging, '70s-era nuclear missile force have convinced Russian President Vladimir Putin that he can escalate his military attacks on Ukraine and even threaten nuclear strikes, a military security analyst told Newsmax TV on Tuesday.

The return of Cold War-style saber-rattling by Russia is one result of "our diminished position in the world," retired U.S Army Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer, senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research, told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner.

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Putin told kids at a Kremlin-sponsored youth camp Friday, "It's best not to mess with us. … I want to remind you that Russia is one of the leading nuclear powers."

Ukraine's defense minister charged on Monday that Russia has gone well beyond hinting at nuclear self-defense.

"The Russian side has threatened on several occasions across unofficial channels that, in the case of continued resistance they are ready to use a tactical nuclear weapon against us," read a statement posted Monday on defense minister Valeriy Heletey's Facebook page.

Shaffer said that a nuclear weapons threat by Russia would have been easier to dismiss back before Russia had started to upgrade its nuclear weaponry — allegedly violating its treaty obligations in the process — while the U.S. arsenal was allowed to further decay.

"I don't know if you know anybody that still drives a '79 Pinto — I don't — but that's the level of technology of our missile fleet right now," said Shaffer. "We've not upgraded or updated. So the credibility of our own nuclear force is a question."

Shaffer said President Barack Obama's irresolute foreign policy also casts doubt on the country's willingness to stand up for its allies and stare down a nuclear threat.

"Ten years ago, there had been no doubt that this sort of provocation, the idea of nuclear weapon use, would have been completely passé, by the fact that we could have guaranteed a massive retaliatory response," said Shaffer. "Because of President Obama's lack of resolve, that very system of deterrence is now in question.

"Now, there is definitely a thought by the Russians that maybe they could use nuclear weapons, and maybe they could get away with it. This shows you how far our foreign policy's diminished in the eyes of those who threaten us," said Shaffer. "They may think this is actually credible."

Shaffer said that Obama's non-interventionist posture is also to blame for the rise and spread of the Islamic State. He cited a Fox News report that the president has received "detailed intelligence briefings" for a full year on the Sunni radicals who are now terrorizing Iraq and Syria and executing Americans.

"This is what happens when bad policy meets good intelligence," said Shaffer. "The intelligence is ignored."

"We could have acted six months ago and done one-third as much of what we're going to have to probably do now to actually counter them," he said.

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