During an interview with a gaggle of reporters in Berlin on Wednesday, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush called Russian President Vladimir Putin a “bully” and said that the U.S. should deal with him from “a position of strength.”
“He’s all-powerful in Russia,” Bush said, referring to Putin. “But I guess my point was — we don’t want to make it sound like we’re ‘against Russia.’ Ultimately, Russia needs to be a European country, and ultimately, I think the deal with Putin, [is] you need to deal from strength. He’s a bully.”
Bush continued, according to footage shot by Reuters:
You enable bad behavior when you’re nuanced with a guy like that. And I think, just being clear — I’m not talking about being bellicose, but saying, ‘Here are the consequences of your actions.’ That would deter the kind of bad outcome we all don’t want to see.
Let’s be clear. Russia invaded a neighboring country. It occupies a sizable chunk of that country… And so, this is a different time than it was five years ago, and I think the United States, and our friends and allies in Europe need to be resolute, for sure.
The video captured only a portion of Bush’s remarks. Reuters quotes him more extensively:
If [Putin] thinks we’re resolute, I think that that’s the greatest possibility of restricting any kind of further aggressions. There are things that we could do given the scale of our military to send a strong signal that we’re on the side of Poland and the Baltics and the countries that truly feel threatened by the little green men and this new cyber warfare and these other tactics that Russia now is using.
According to the New York Daily News, Bush also suggested that the U.S. could put on a greater show of military force in Ukraine to curb Putin’s aggression.
“They’re deploying tens of thousands of people in the region, I mean, literally next door to our allies and our response is far less meaningful,”Bush said. “From the outside, without having any kind of classified information, it appears we could have a more robust presence.”
In a Tuesday speech to a standing-room-only crowd of politicians and businessmen, Bush declared, “Russia must become a European nation.” He called Putin a “ruthless pragmatist,” whose ambitions will cause him to “push until someone pushes back.”
“We’re beginning to realize the ‘reset’ button didn’t turn out too hot,” Bush said, swiping at the Obama administration’s attempt to repair relations with Russia after the country invaded Georgia.
The White House’s overtures got off to a bumpy start. Back in 2009, a grinning Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov with a wrapped box. Inside was a plastic button with the word “reset” written on it. Unfortunately, the word was misspelled.
“It should be ‘perezagruzka,” laughed Lavrov at the time.”This says ‘peregruzka,’ which means ‘overcharged.’”
While both diplomats laughed off the incident, relations between the two nations became more and more strained over the years. NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden sought refuge in Moscow after revealing that the agency ran a bulk phone collection program that secretly collected metadata on every American’s phone records. Obama was further incensed by Putin’s support for Bashar al-Assad. In 2014, after the invasion of Crimea, talks between Secretary of State John Kerry and Lavrov broke down; Kerry said they had “no common views” on Syria.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Bush wants to toughen up the U.S. and use its influence to counter Russia’s designs.
“Ukraine, a sovereign European nation, must be permitted to choose its own path. Our alliance, our solidarity and our actions are essential if we want to preserve the fundamental principles of our international order,” Bush added.