The lack of any significant deterrent to Russia’s annexation of Crimea makes more territorial grabs far more likely and is made possible by repeated demonstrations of U.S. weakness throughout the Obama administration.
Meanwhile at least four countries remain vulnerable to Russian aggression and annexation.
On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomed Crimea as part of Russia despite most Western nations declaring Sunday’s referendum illegitimate. In announcing the annexation of Crimea, Putin also declared Russia has no more territorial ambitions, a statement that experts say should send chills down our spines.
“When you hear someone who has just gobbled up a piece of real estate say they’re not going to do it again, the first thing you better look at is where they’re likely to go next,” said Center for Security Policy President Frank Gaffney, who served as assistant secretary of defense for international security policy in the Reagan administration.
“As with Adolf Hitler, who promised after he gobbled up the Sudetenland that he would not take all of Czechoslovakia and did and then proceeded to move rapaciously through the rest of Europe, my feeling is we’re likely to see a similar kind of agenda playing out with Vladimir Putin,” Gaffney said.
He said eastern Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia and Lithuania are all extremely vulnerable to Russian annexation.
WND is now reporting Moscow has flexed its military muscle with jet fighter and helicopter flights over Georgia, a country with which Russia went to war in 2008. Putin also may now be looking to take the rest of Ukraine because of its geo-strategic importance.
“Nobody knows for sure, but what I think is likely is that we’re going to see more of this if there isn’t any appreciable cost to Putin. At the moment, such cost as the United States and its European allies haven’t been willing even to discuss, let alone to impose, are clearly inadequate to the task,” Gaffney said.
Listen to the WND/Radio America interview with Center for Security Policy President Frank Gaffney below:
On Monday, President Obama announced he was tightening sanctions on a handful of key Russian individuals and that the U.S. would be in close consultation with its European allies. Gaffney said Obama's response is "cosmetic" and barely got the attention of Putin and other key officials.
WND is also reporting there is an undertow of resistance among European companies toward further sanctions against Russia. After the initial, tepid sanctions assessed by the EU and U.S., Washington’s interest in further penalties likely will put it at odds with Europe, which relies on Russia as a major trading partner.
"If we were serious about this, what we should be doing, recognizing that what we're up against now is a guy with the ambition of constituting maybe the Soviet Union 2.0 minus the communist ideology, maybe it's just the Russian empire. Whatever it is, it's something very much akin to what we've seen in the past. When we dealt effectively with it in the past under Ronald Reagan, we not only contained this kind of behavior, we rolled it back. I think that's the plan that needs to be adopted now," Gaffney said.
So how much different is U.S. standing with Russia than just five years ago at the close of the George W. Bush presidency? How has Obama's "reset button" and gestures like scrapping plans for a missile shield in eastern Europe hurt America's ability to deter aberrant behavior by Russia?
And how would Putin calculate differently if this were early 2009?
Gaffney sees one major difference that emboldens Putin.
"For one thing, we would not have essentially eviscerated the United States military. We would not have seen the sequence of steps that have been perceived by our enemies. I call it the Obama doctrine, emboldening our foes, undermining our friends and diminishing our country. The combination of hollowing out our armed forces and demonstrating this kind of behavior has created what (former Defense Secretary) Don Rumsfeld quite accurately has described as a phenomenon of weakness that is provocative," he said.
"I think if you were to go back to 2009 and you had not seen these sort of steps, we might have been in a position to check this kind of aggression or deter it in the first place, which we are sadly not able to do today."
But now that we're in our current position, what does Gaffney expect from Obama if Putin seeks to acquire more territory?
"My guess is from what we have witnessed to date – both in this immediate crisis and over the previous five years of this presidency – is that he will basically say never mind about those red lines," he said. "He will find a way to accommodate himself to the new reality, only in this case that reality is going to continue to become uglier by the day."