Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

March 29, 2014

Fact Check: Who had more muscular stance against Putin?

Karl Rove says George W. Bush had a more muscular stance against Putin in 2008 Georgia crisis than Barack Obama has had over Crimea

By PundiFact

Some Republicans have been critical of President Barack Obama’s handling of Russia and President Vladimir Putin recently. The critics say that Obama has appeared weak in the face of Russia — first, when it sent troops into the Ukrainian region of Crimea, and then when it quickly acted to annex the territory.

For instance, on Fox News Sunday, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said the Obama administration “is creating an air of permissiveness” toward Russian expansionism. “We do need to show long-term resolve.”

Another Fox News Sunday guest, Republican strategist Karl Rove, took the opportunity to contrast Obama’s actions with those of Rove’s old boss, President George W. Bush. Rove suggested that Bush’s policies were more muscular and effective in countering Putin’s Russia.

Specifically, in 2008, while Bush was serving his final year in office, he faced a foreign-policy crisis that in some ways echoed what’s been happening more recently in Crimea. The conflict involved Russia; Georgia, a former Soviet Republic that was by then independent; and two separatist regions within Georgia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

After several years of restiveness by Russian-backed rebels in South Ossetia, the Georgian government made a military push that attempted to retake control of the region in August 2008. Russia responded militarily, successfully pushing back Georgian troops from both South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Clashes continued for a week, including in portions of Georgia beyond the two breakaway regions, until France helped broker a peace deal. Russia then recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia as sovereign nations, though most other countries have not taken that step.

So how did Bush respond as hostilities were erupting in Georgia? Here’s Rove’s recollection:

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