Cotton: Obama 'Undermined' Congressional Efforts to Confront Russia

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Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said during  an appearance on this week’s “Fox News Sunday” that President Obama’s recent sanctions against Russia mark Obama as a latecomer to efforts to take a harder line on Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin.

Cotton said Obama had actively “undermined” earlier legislative efforts by Congress to confront Russia. The Obama administration did lobby members of Congress against such legislative efforts, claiming that the legislation would hurt the State Department’s diplomatic efforts with Russia.

Here’s the exchange between Cotton and Shannon Bream hosting the show for Chris Wallace. It begins with Cotton answering Bream’s question did Obama’s sanctions go far enough:

COTTON: It’s not enough, Shannon, and it’s certainly too late. Vladimir Putin is KGB. He always has been. He always will be.

President Obama has consistently looked the other way from Russia’s provocations and aggressions. The DNC hack last year was just one minor item in what Russia has done over the last eight years, to include things like invading and occupying Crimea and supporting rebels in eastern Ukraine, as well as threatening NATO airships — or aircraft and ships and so forth.

But what has Barack Obama done for eight years?  In the very early years of his administration, just months after Russia had invaded Georgia, he sent Hillary Clinton to push the reset button with the Russian foreign minister. In the middle of his re-election campaign in 2012, he told the Russian president that he would have more flexibility after the election.  When Mitt Romney characterized Russia as our number one geopolitical adversary, Barack Obama mocked him and said that the 1980s wanted their foreign policy back.

I’m glad the president has finally realized the threat that Russia poses to the United States and our interests but I wish he had recognized this eight years ago.

BREAM: Well, Russian President Vladimir Putin has responded.  Here’s a bit of what he had to say.  “As it proceeds of international practice, Russia has reasons to respond in kind.  Although we have the right to retaliate, we will not resort to irresponsible kitchen diplomacy but will plan our further steps to restore Russian/U.S. relations based on the policies of the Trump administration.” He went on to invite all diplomatic children who are in Russia to New Year’s and Christmas parties at the Kremlin. What does his response say to you?

COTTON:  Well, it’s very heartwarming of President Putin. . . .

Look, what Vladimir Putin needs is a sense of new boundaries. He’s had free rein throughout the world over the last eight years. He needs to have a sense of boundaries and to know that costs are going to be imposed if he crosses those boundaries.

The administration has not drawn those boundaries and they have imposed a cost, and in fact, they have gone farther than just being weak on Russia action. They have actively opposed measures to toughen up on Russia. I proposed measures in our annual intelligence bill, for instance, that would enforce existing travel restrictions on Russian diplomats — by which I mean Russian spies in the United States — that would force the government to crack down on these Russian spies who are traveling all around America without the proper approvals.

I got a call just weeks ago from a senior administration official after the election, after the hacking, asking me to remove that from the bill because it would be too provocative. So, it’s not just that Russia has — that the president and his administration has been weak on Russia, they have actively stopped other efforts by people like me and other Republicans and Democrats in Congress from trying to draw a firmer line.

BREAM: Well, my understanding is you went to the White House with a concept of something more formal, putting together a number of representatives from government agencies to fight back against Russian interference or coercion in our politics and what’s going on here domestically. My understanding of that is that you got a response basically from the administration saying it was duplicative of what was already in place, it wasn’t necessary. Can you tell us more about the response you got?

COTTON: So, this is a second measure in the intelligence bill that the administration threatened to veto the bill over.

So, in the days of the Soviet Union, the Soviet Union had something called “active measures”.  They’re influence operations.  They’re propaganda.  They’re covert activities trying to undermine Western democracy.

I proposed to create an interagency panel in our government, like we’ve had in the days of the Soviet Union that would counteract these so-called “active measures.” The Obama administration assured us that this was duplicative and they didn’t need it.  I would simply point out whatever they have in place right now must not be working given all that Russia has continued to do.  In fact, just yesterday, the administration acknowledged that Russia has continued to try to hack U.S. information systems, even after Barack Obama reportedly told Vladimir Putin to, quote, “cut it out.”

So, whatever measures they have in place have not been working. I wish they wouldn’t have gone to such great lengths to undermine the efforts of Congress to take a tougher line on Russia the last eight years.

It is pathetic that it took President-elect Donald Trump defeating Hillary Clinton for Democrats to finally realize that Russia poses a serious threat to the United States. But don’t forget, the danger posed by Russian President Vladimir Putin was just as obvious four years ago, back when Obama, Democrats and the biased media wing of the Democrats’ Party were mercilessly ridiculing former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for saying, “Russia [is] without question, our number-one geopolitical foe.”

Obama and Company ignored the 2008 Russia-Georgia conflict which was a clear warning to the West. And they ignored all the cyberattacks that Russia had already launched against the United States prior to the 2012 election.

Don’t forget about  Obama asking then Russian President Medvedev to tell Putin that after his reelection he could be more flexible on issues like missile defense

In the time between the 2012 and 2016 U.S. elections, Russia annexed Crimea. Putin regime has also been linked to downing an airliner, killing approximately 300 passengers, conducted a stealth invasion of Eastern Ukraine and has helped turn much of Syria into rubble.

The hacking of the Democrats’ National Committee was widely reported in June. But it wasn’t until last week that Obama chose to do anything about it.