President Barack Obama's cordial phone conversations with Vladimir Putin are doing nothing to ease the Russian strongman's grip on Ukraine — and America's commander in chief needs to lay down the law, says Elliott Abrams, a former security adviser for George W. Bush.
These calls are a mistake in the sense they're having a sort of chat, a schmooze relationship … while these actions [in Ukraine] go on," Abrams told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.
"These are the kinds of calls you have with friendly leaders in Britain, in France, in Canada.
"[Obama] should have a one-minute conversation with Putin saying you do this, you're going to pay. That's all he needs to say. Unfortunately … we're not making him pay."
On Wednesday, a push by the Ukrainian Army to retake control of Slovyansk and other cities from pro-Russia forces failed, The Wall Street Journal
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Abrams — a senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and Bush's onetime deputy national security advisor for Global Democracy Strategy — said Putin is seeing little consequence for his military push into Ukraine.
"The striking thing to me is he’s not paying any price. You know, we can't determine exactly what he's going to do, but we can see it, we can watch it," he said.
"The best way for us to deter him from doing more is put a price on it. We have a list of a dozen guys who can't come to the United States anymore, big deal. What we have not done is to hurt his economy sufficiently."
Ultimately, Abrams believes, Putin's goal is to destabilize Ukraine.
"He wants to make sure he's got a veto power over everything that happens in Ukraine and he can do that without invading," Abrams said.
"He'll do it with the usual KGB tactics that we now see him using in Ukraine."
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