- The Washington Times
Sunday, March 9, 2014

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Sunday the Obama administration’s attempts to deter Russia from further aggression in Ukraine and across the region are likely to fail.

Speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” Mr. Gates said Russian President Vladimir Putin has ambitions beyond just annexing the strategically important Crimean peninsula, which will vote next week on whether to split from Ukraine and join Russia.

Ultimately, Mr. Gates said, Russia wants to rebuild the old Soviet bloc, and Crimea is just the first step. The United States’ only effective option is to build stronger relationships in Europe and amass greater influence in the region to counter the heavy hand of Moscow, Mr. gates said.

The White House’s attempts to punish Russia for its excursion into Ukraine with travel restrictions, the revocation of visas, economic sanctions and other steps won’t stop Mr. Putin, according to the former defense secretary.

“This is part of a longer-term effort to stop the expansion of NATO but more importantly to bring the states of the former Soviet Union back under the influence of Moscow. And frankly I don’t think he will stop in Ukraine until there’s a government in Ukraine, in Kiev, that is essentially pro-Russian,” Mr. Gates said.

“There really aren’t any direct military options that we have. I think that some of the sanctions that are being discussed and the actions being taken — whether it is limitations on visas or on travel, on potentially freezing assets of specific individuals — frankly I don’t believe are going to be any deterrent for Putin. I think our greatest response is to have our own strategy for countering this long-term strategy of Putin’s to gather these states back under Moscow’s control.”

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

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