Could Barack Obama and the EU have prevented Russia from seizing Crimea? Not according to former President Jimmy Carter, who claimed to have faced down the Soviets with his own tough stand after their invasion of Afghanistan — including, according to Carter, a threat to launch nuclear weapons if they invaded anywhere else. Vladimir Putin’s seizure of Crimea was a foregone conclusion after the revolution in Kyiv, Carter estimates, but said that Obama should follow his example to prevent Russia from invading Ukraine:
Former President Jimmy Carter said President Obama couldn’t have done anything to prevent Russian President Vladimir Putin from annexing Crimea.
“I think that was a foregone conclusion,” Carter said on MSNBC. “He was going to do it regardless of the consequences. I think now, that’s far enough.”
In comments Monday on “Morning Joe,” Carter compared Obama’s response to his own decisions at the White House in 1979, when he decided to boycott Moscow’s Summer Olympics after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.
The United States and its European allies, Carter said, should take the same stand today as they did back then.
“I withdrew our ambassador, I put in place a grain embargo. I began to help the freedom fighters push out the Soviet troops and I warned Russia—the Soviet Union then—that if they went into a different country, we would respond militarily with all of the weapons we had at our disposal,” he said.
Over the weekend, Carter complained that Obama wasn’t seeking his input on foreign policy:
As it happens, I agree with Carter on the inevitability of Russia’s seizure of Crimea. The bases there were too valuable and the identity of the peninsula too Russia to ignore. Part of that inevitability, though, came from a perception of the West as being too weak to do much about it, with the lack of consequences over the 2008 seizure of South Ossetia and Abkhazia playing a large role in that context. The “reset button” Obama foreign policy started just a few months later, but the EU is just as responsible for the situation, if not more so. Unlike Carter, I don’t see a strong enough response from the West to dissuade Putin from seizing eastern Ukraine as well, nor do I think the West has made it very clear that Crimea is “far enough,” at least up to now.
Carter’s advice, meanwhile, is rather ironic. One reason that the Soviets felt enabled to invade Afghanistan was because of Carter’s own fecklessness about the nature of Soviet/Russian power. He chided Americans for their supposed paranoia of the Soviets and kissed Leonid Brezhnev’s cheek at the SALT II disarmament talks prior to the invasion of Afghanistan. The Soviets at that time controlled all of eastern Europe in an iron grip while Carter blithely dismissed their danger. If Obama isn’t calling Carter on the phone for advice on how to project strength, that’s one of the more hopeful signs we’ve seen from this administration.
Meanwhile, Russian ambassador Vitaliy Cherkin assures us that Vladimir Putin is not on a messianic mission to take over Ukraine: