President Barack Obama is treating the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine as "something akin to a police homicide investigation" instead of drawing "vital strategic lessons," John Bolton wrote in a commentary in The Wall Street Journal
"Tectonic power and political forces — not legalisms — are now clashing in Europe," Bolton wrote. Russian President "Vladimir Putin, though a lawyer like the American president, understands this. Mr. Obama does not."
Obama allows legal procedures and restraints to inform his handling of international affairs, according to the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. The president's red lines "ultimately prove illusory" and "retribution never materializes."
In the face of "Putin's iron determination" the Obama administration's weariness weakens Europe's readiness to "do more than simply wring its hands," according to Bolton, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
Events in Ukraine and Crimea have been carried out "under Russian command and control." Beyond sanctions, the Western response needs to address Putin's strategic menace, Bolton said. Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine earlier this year. Ukraine is now battling pro-Russian separatists.
"The larger strategy must rest on recognizing that Russia has assumed an adversarial position against the West. Accordingly, we should not merely aid Ukraine militarily, but also renew President George W. Bush's 2008 proposal to put Ukraine (and Georgia) clearly on track for NATO membership," Bolton wrote.
The United States should move ahead with missile-defense in Poland and the Czech Republic, Bolton said. Nuclear-arms talks should be dropped; nuclear readiness stepped-up. Instead of pursuing gradual economic sanctions, Russian institutions should be banned from Western financial markets, he wrote.
The former ambassador said Washington needs to move full speed ahead to tap energy reserves in North America to provide Europe an alternative to Russian oil and gas.
Eastern and Central Europe are likely to embrace Washington's leadership which could sway other European Union countries like Germany to follow suit, he said.
How the United States responds to Russia is being watched in Beijing and will influence China's behavior in Asia, Bolton wrote.
"Yet it is not just Europe and Asia that need U.S. leadership," Bolton wrote. "America, for its own safety's sake, needs it too. On the evidence of recent days, such leadership is still not forthcoming."
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