One day after the United States levied sanctions against Russia for its incursion into the Crimean Peninsula, Russia responded by signing a treaty to annex the disputed territory.
Russia’s apparent dismissal of U.S. sanctions shows a lack of respect for U.S. leadership, Ret. Lt. Col. Oliver North told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.
"Every signal that's been given by the American president is one of weakness, ambivalence, uncertainty, and of course [that] America is no longer an exceptional place, so we shouldn't be the leaders of the free world," he said Tuesday.
Human civilization has always featured a great power that other societies contend with, and Russia is vying to become that power at precisely the moment the U.S. seems to be abdicating that position, North said.
"[Russian President Vladimir] Putin wants desperately to try to rebuild, if not the Soviet empire, than the old Russian empire," North said. "There's nobody standing up to this guy. The sanctions that have been put in place by the European Union, by the United States and a handful of others, aren't affecting him a bit."
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North said the inability of the United States to influence the Ukraine crisis broadcasts a message to U.S. allies that they are on their own to handle the threats they face, putting them in a position where they have to defend themselves and cut unsavory deals.
"And so, the end result of America's weakness — and we're not weak, but the weakness of American leadership — leaves us very vulnerable over the long term," North said.
Russia’s control of natural resources and transmission lines in Europe and Asia gives it a leg up as it tries to assert global authority.
"[Putin] can shut off the gas in Luxembourg tonight by simply flicking a switch and stopping the pipelines that go through Ukraine into Western Europe. He's got them over the barrel," North said.
The good news, North said, is that Russia is not as strong as it wishes to be.
Unlike China, which has a massive and growing population, Russia’s population has been dwindling for the past two decades, he said — though in 2013 it did record its first natural population
growth since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
"Vladimir Putin is leading a dying country," North said. "Vladimir Putin's regime exports three things: petroleum products – coal, natural gas, and hydrocarbon energy in the form of petroleum. Number two, it exports arms, and, number three, it exports people."
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