President Obama's inaction after drawing a "red line" during previous foreign crises encouraged Russian President Vladimir Putin to send troops into Crimea, Sen. Ron Johnson says.
"The president will set red lines and when the red line is crossed, do nothing, and that certainly emboldens people like Putin, which gives him sort of the green light to do what he did," the Wisconsin Republican told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.
Johnson believes a weak United States policy has allowed Putin to flagrantly flex his muscles.
"We've got to recognize what gives Putin … impunity this way? It's because America's been showing weakness," he said.
"We are weakened economically after five years of this administration, we are weaker in world opinion because we have been leading from behind. We've been withdrawn from the world. So we actually have to show some resolve for once."
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The U.S. must make Putin "feel the pain" of his lawless actions in Ukraine, Johnson says.
"You need to start turning the heat on Vladimir Putin … and hope that eventually Russia will roll back and let Ukraine decide for Ukraine in terms of exactly what their governmental structure is going to be doing.
"Obviously Vladimir Putin's been lying. He's entered into Crimea under false pretenses, and again the real danger is more expansive and the only way you check somebody like Vladimir Putin is he actually has to feel the pain.
"Sanctions are actually a pretty good idea …. That's not a bad first step, but we actually have to do it."
On Thursday, Secretary of State John Kerry promised to continue talks with Russia, which remains locked in a tense stand-off with the Ukrainian military in the Crimea region.
Putin has claimed the new Ukraine government in Kiev came to power via an “unconstitutional coup,” and force may be needed to restore order as “a last resort.”
Johnson says President Barack Obama is "talking the right talk," but actions speak louder than words.
"We need to do everything we can, again, through action to dissuade them, to create any disincentive for them not to continue their march into more of eastern Ukraine."
Johnson said the U.S. must think long term on Russia and the underlying reasons for its aggression.
"What props Putin up is high energy prices which is why I've never felt Putin and Russia to be a reliable partner in the Mideast. Mideast chaos is in their benefit. It props oil prices up which is the only thing that keeps that economy going," he said.
"So we need to look at this economically. We've got to show resolve over a very long period of time …. The administration claims they're going to do that. They're going to be steady, they're going to be determined…. Well, the proof will be in the pudding."
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