National Public Radio’s national political correspondent, Mara Liasson, told Weekend Edition on Sunday that Republican criticism of the Obama administration on the Crimea was misplaced since, arguably, it was their own inaction when Russia’s Vladimir Putin invaded Georgia in 2008 that led to intervention in Ukraine in 2014.
Liasson is normally rather fair to Republicans, but here she has stepped over the line with some significant historical revisionism. Liasson neglects to mention that President George W. Bush did, in fact, respond to the Russian invasion of Georgia with swift condemnation and sanctions–which Obama undid just months later.
That was the essence of the “reset” with Russia–which Liasson mentions, but only as a kind of policy posture. Obama not only responded weakly to the invasion of Georgia when it happened, but effectively ratified Russia’s occupation of Georgian territory by dropping the sanctions amidst smiles and promises of new concessions.
So not only is Liasson wrong about the Republican response at the time, but she also leaves out the fact that it was never given a chance to run its course. Liasson also neglects to mention that Gov. Sarah Palin, then the GOP nominee for Vice President, warned at the time that Obama’s approach would lead to an invasion of Ukraine.
It is certainly possible to trace the roots of the Crimea crisis further back than Syria and Benghazi. Russia grew bolder in the lame-duck years of the Bush administration–which had come to office, like Obama, seeking to find new ways to accommodate Putin’s regime. Yet Obama has turned accommodation into appeasement.
In the context of Obama’s outright capitulation on missile defense, and his infamous promise to then-President Dmitry Medvedev in 2012 that he would have more “flexibility” after his re-election, Republican criticism looks to be spot-on–even if many of the party’s suggested alternatives are, as Liasson notes, rather underwhelming.
This post has been updated to reflect the fact that Palin predicted an invasion of Ukraine, not the Crimea specifically.