Putting American boots on the ground in the Baltic states is the solution to stopping Russia's further territorial ambitions, which are rooted in President Vladimir Putin's inability to accept the end of the Cold War, said former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
In an interview with Carlos Watson, co-founder and CEO of Ozy.com,
a new daily digital magazine, Rice also signaled her support for the investigations into the Benghazi scandal, saying it does not need to be a partisan issue, but Congress has a constitutional right to continue investigating — particularly since there are "still unanswered questions."
Asked her views on the Obama administration's response to the escalating conflict caused by Russia in Eastern Europe, Rice said, "I've really been critical first and foremost of Vladimir Putin for trying undo the end of the Cold War. He's never accepted it."
Rice, an expert on Soviet affairs and a former national security adviser, elaborated on Putin's mentality, which she says is the source of increasing tensions in the region.
"His own view is that the Soviet Union was taken advantage of when it broke up, that Russia has been pushed back to the borders of Peter the Great, that Russians have been left outside of Russia-proper in places like Ukraine and Poland and the Baltic states and that he, Vladimir Putin, is going to reunite the Russian people and bring back Russian greatness again."
She added, "If you are the American president, that's a direct challenge."
Rice said that while she agreed with the sanctions imposed by President Barack Obama on Putin and his inner circle, the real solution to halting further Russian advancement is to increase America's military presence in the region.
"I would favor putting American troops in the Baltic states. We've put 600 there. I would put many more," she said, suggesting a brigade, or tens of thousands of troops, would be needed to be an effective deterrent to Putin and the way to reassure our allies that they will be protected.
"Vladimir Putin is not going to move against American forces. He does not want to take on the United States of America. He wants to push as far as he can without real resistance, but he is not going to fire on a country in which American forces are stationed."
Rice also discussed the ongoing controversy over the Benghazi terrorist attack and suggested that the administration should not view the investigations as a partisan battle.
"I think there are still unanswered questions about Benghazi. They could be easily answered, and I think they need to be answered," she said. "I don't think people feel we know fully what happened in that period during the attack. I don’t think people know fully what the security situation was on the ground prior to the attack."
She added that the purpose of investigations should be in the spirit of trying to avoid a repeat of any mistakes that may have been made.
"This isn't a question of blaming anybody. Those situations are extremely difficult. But you do need to say, 'Did we address the security situation on the ground or not?' This can be handled, and it can be handled in a way that is open and is not political theater."
Rice pointed out that Congress has the constitutional right to investigate the issue, but that it should be done in a "low-key" way.
"Done in the right way, with the right cooperation, we can put this to rest. That's how I would handle it at this point."
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