As the geopolitical landscape takes on shades of the 1970s, President Barack Obama might be wise to take a page from Jimmy Carter’s playbook.
Russia dismissed U.S. sanctions against it this week by annexing the Crimean region of Ukraine, and Israeli-Palestinian negotiations are once again faltering.
Elliott Abrams, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and former deputy national security adviser for President George W. Bush, told "The Steve Malzberg Show" that Obama needs to show decisive leadership in both situations – just as President Carter did in similar times nearly 40 years ago.
"The Europeans are not going to lead on this," Abrams said. "If there are going to be real and commercial sanctions, we're going to have to lead and, oddly enough, one of the places to look is what Jimmy Carter did after the Russians invaded Afghanistan."
Abrams recalled Carter’s frank television address to the nation, in which he said that his Russian policy had been wrong. "And then he did a lot of things like commercial sanctions, financial sanctions, and he started to increase the defense budget, and that I think is something we ought to think seriously about doing. That's a really serious reaction to the Russians."
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Abrams said Obama’s reaction to Russia, and in particular to Russian President Vladimir Putin, was thus far too timid, and that Obama’s legacy – as well as the balance of international power – are at stake.
"Obama spoke to Putin for 90 minutes and the White House said that was a great thing. That's a mistake," Abrams said.
"He shouldn't be chatting with him for 90 minutes. He should be talking to him for 90 seconds and saying, ‘You do this, you're going to pay a price that you will regret,’ and then you hang up.
"I don't think they take us serious and the president, at some level, has got to recognize what this is going to do to his image," Abrams said.
Meanwhile, Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are faltering after early signs of promise.
Abrams said the Obama administration needs to be firm with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, but he doubts the talks will succeed. Abrams' new book, "Tested by Zion: The Bush Administration and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,
" discusses the situation.
"Abbas is never going to sign anything," Abrams said. "He is not going to sign. You might be able to keep him at the table, but you're kidding yourself if you think this guy is ultimately going to do a peace deal. He's not."
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