Russian President Vladimir Putin's surprise order of military exercises near Ukraine on Wednesday shows he is undeterred by a possible U.S. response, says former U.S. Rep. Allen West.
"If anyone believes that Vladimir Putin at this time is afraid of the United States of America and President [Barack] Obama militarily, obviously they did not pay attention to the announcement that Chuck Hagel just made a couple of days ago," West told Newsmax TV's John Bachman on "America's Forum."
West was referring to the defense secretary's proposal to cut the U.S. military to its smallest size since before World War II.
Story continues below video.
"So, he's looking at 'this is a great opportunity to flex my muscle,' and he's being set up once again by this administration to hit the three-pointer," West, a former lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, said, using a basketball reference.
West took office in January 2011 as the first black Republican member of Congress from Florida since 1876, and served on the Armed Services and Small Business committees.
He rejected the notion that the White House might be making the right move by taking a step back and letting Putin self-implode.
"Well, this whole thing about leading from behind is what we call 'following' in the military, and when there is a vacuum that is created by a lack, a dearth of American leadership globally, this is what you're going to get as a response," West argued.
"This is not a time to sit back and think that Vladimir Putin is going to implode. We continue to erode the confidence that our allies have in us, and when you have people that are stepping up for liberty and freedom — you know when Ronald Reagan said, 'Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall' — that gave an incredible encouragement to people that were behind this wall."
"The bold move that the Obama administration needs is to come and say we're going to talk about bringing Ukraine into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization," West added.
Asked how Europe fits into the picture, West responded, "The European Union should be doing what it can to reach out and bring Ukraine into the fold like we did, with many of the other Eastern European countries."
"Putin has to understand that this is not a threat to him; this is not a threat to Russia. This is an opportunity for him to get on the right side of history with liberty and freedom and making sure that the destiny of the Ukrainian people is up to the Ukrainian people," he said Wednesday.
West acknowledged that Europe is not in a position to help economically, saying, "America's not in an economic situation either to help . . . This is what happens when your economic security that is not properly tied to your energy security and your national security is faltering as well."
© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.