Obama: Crimea Invasion Reveals Putin’s ‘Weakness,’ Not His Strength

Russian President Vladimir Putin, shirtless, and armed on a hunting excursion. (Photo: Flickr)

Russian President Vladimir Putin, shirtless, and armed on a hunting excursion. (Photo: Flickr)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been chesty since invading, occupying and annexing Crimea. In fact, he has portrayed himself as protecting ethnic Russians and standing up to the West. But his American partner-turned-rival says Putin shouldn’t be as confident as he appears.

Speaking Wednesday evening at a Democratic National Committee dinner in Chicago, US President Barack Obama took a few shots at Putin — a further sign that his efforts to re-set relations with the enigmatic former KGB officer have been put on ice. Obama’s comments follows his recent declaration that Russia is merely a “regional power,” not a global superpower.

Obama blasted Putin’s Crimea invasion by comparing Russia to America, suggesting Putin’s bold military action was intended to stoke nationalistic feelings in a domestic population that has few reasons to otherwise possess them.

Obama described the “story of Chicago,” as one of people “starting off with nothing and building something.”

He said that’s just not possible in Russia. And the Russian people — and Putin — know it.

“I’ve had to explain to people, Russia’s moving troops into Ukraine wasn’t a sign of strength; it was a sign of weakness,” according to a White House transcript of Obama’s remarks. “Because you’ve got a country that isn’t attracting people from the outside; a population that’s shrinking.

“[Russia] feels surrounded, in part because people look at the West and they look at Europe and they look at America and they say this is a place where, if we put in effort, without connections, without being born to the right place, without having to pay a bribe, we might be able to succeed,” Obama said. “Whether it’s setting up a cheesecake business, or it is going into the helping professions, we can succeed.”

Though critics will no doubt say Obama’s inclusion of “might be able to succeed” is evidence of a declining belief in the American dream, his description of Putin’s Russia — and of Putin as a desperate leader — shows those mulling a run for the White House in 2016 better be crafting a plan to either contain Putin, confront him, or try anew to re-set relations.

John T. Bennett

Bennett is the Editor of Defense News' CongressWatch channel. He has a Masters degree in Global Security Studies from Johns Hopkins University.