Russia has moved well past simple posturing, says Michael Rubin, author of a book about the dangers of rogue regimes.
"They moved past posturing a long time ago. We just had the Winter Olympics, and they were held just 30 miles away from Russian-occupied Georgia and the international community said nothing, so certainly President [Vladimir] Putin has concluded that he can get away with murder," he told Newsmax TV's John Bachman on "America's Forum" on Tuesday.
"If [President] Barack Obama acts sometimes like Neville Chamberlain, Putin is Machiavellian. When you put Chamberlain up against Machiavelli, Chamberlain's never going to come out on top."
Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School.
His book, "Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engaging Rogue Regimes,"
traces the history of U.S. diplomacy with North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Libya, the Taliban’s Afghanistan, and Pakistan. It was published last month.
Asked whether Russia can really rely on China for support in Ukraine, Rubin replied, "Well, China's playing a double game here too, because while Putin says that China has accepted his logic of protecting the Russian minority in the Crimea, Putin better watch himself, because in eastern Siberia, which is very resource-rich, there's an increasingly large Chinese minority, and Putin may have just handed China what it wants for an excuse down the road to make its own sort of land grab."
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As for Putin's phone conversation with Obama, Rubin said, "Well, President Obama's never been known for his concision. The fact of the matter is — I hate to say this — at best perhaps Barack Obama said, 'hey, look, we're going to put you on double secret probation if you don't knock it off.'
"Now Putin has given a press conference in which he has stepped back. I wouldn't credit President Obama with that, because unfortunately the pattern we see is that Putin will take two steps forward, one step back, and oftentimes it's that one step back which is enough to ruin the momentum of any Western action against him."
Rubin said the West has to carefully assess its response going forward, explaining, "Well, first of all, we need to recognize that what happens in Kiev doesn't stay in Kiev, and had we supported the Ukraine when Russian tanks rolled into Georgia, maybe we wouldn't be in this position today. So, we need to ask some hard questions about whether we're willing to go forward and support Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania."
He continued, "Estonia, of course, has a large Russian minority. Poland, as well. Remember, Poland wanted an antiballistic missile system. They volunteered to host it and President Obama undercut them because — he threw them under the bus for the sake of a reset with Russia."
"Now, we can also sanction Putin, and that may hurt a little bit. Russians are starting to compare Putin to the late Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev simply because of the stagnation, but ultimately, Putin doesn't care. He figures that if he can grab back a good portion of the former Soviet Union, then the Russian nationalists will thank him at the polls."
Rubin also pointed out that Putin has leverage to respond to sanctions.
"Number one is the gas pipelines. And lest we think that his leverage is only on Europe, remember, President Obama has created an artificial deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, and most of the equipment and many of those forces are going to come through Russia. If Putin decides to cut off that pipeline, then we're stuck with Pakistan. That's like going from the frying pan into the fire," he said.
Rubin also doesn't think the Obama administration's pledge of $1 billion
in loan guarantees to Ukraine is enough to offset the help that Kiev normally gets from Moscow.
"That probably won't be close to enough. Ukraine, even before the start, it needed about $15 billion in aid. That was the price that Putin offered to their president before doing a cut-and-switch and offering them only $2 billion. But, you know, bailing out the Ukraine is going to be a lot harder than bailing out Greece or Italy or Spain," Rubin said.
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