This article originally appeared on CBS.
The Gaza conflict and a face-off with Russia are just two of the foreign policy crises facing the Obama Administration. General Jim Jones, a former National Security Adviser to President Obama and a former Middle East envoy, addressed the question: are we losing Putin’s dangerous game?
“There’s definitely a seismic shift, if you will, in terms of the relations between Russia and the West and the United States in particular, and it’s one that’s been brought about by Mr. Putin himself,” Jones told CBS News. “If you contrast the relationship between his predecessor and President Obama, and Mr. Putin and President Obama, you have really a marked shift not only in personal relationships but also as a consequence, national relationships.”
The U.S.-Russia relationship has only been further frustrated by the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which Jones thinks should prompt us to take action.
“You’d have to be really naive to try to come to the conclusion that there’s no Russian involvement here,” Jones said. “Now I don’t know if there’s a fingerprint on the launch button, but time will tell. So I think that if this isn’t a defining moment, it should be, and shame on us and shame on our European friends if they don’t react accordingly.”
Jones, who has met Putin, doesn’t dispute claims that he is a “bully and a thug.”
“I was privileged to be with the president in the first meeting that he ever had with Mr. Putin,” Jones said. “It was supposed to be a short meeting, but it turned out to be an hour and a half lecture from Mr. Putin on global events since 1945 and how he interprets them. And basically he is what he appears to be. He’s a longtime KGB agent, he was brought up in the Cold War, the West is his natural enemy.”
According to Jones, Putin holds a grudge towards the U.S. for acting against Russia in the past.
“He has never gotten over the fact of the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Empire,” Jones said. “He believes that the West treated Russia horribly in its hour of need. And he also believes that we reneged on a gentlemen’s agreement that we wouldn’t annex any of the former Soviet states in NATO. All of which he says you did, and you did it with impunity, and that’s something I can never forgive.”
Jones also says that Putin’s actions may be due to him sensing weakness, in particular on the part of President Obama to act in Syria.
“There’s no question that the United States’ influence in various parts of the world is having some difficulties,” Jones said. “Our failure to be stronger in Syria is one, our reaction to the Arab Spring is another.”
Jones thinks that the U.S. should think long-term strategy in properly responding to Putin’s actions.
“Mr. Putin is engaged in a long-term, strategic plan to get as much separation between us and our European allies as he possibly can,” Jones said. “And energy comes into play dramatically here. So, I think our response shouldn’t be completely tactical, it ought to be very strategic as well.”
Jones sees this moment as a critical turning point for global relations, a moment that will be dictated by how we respond to Putin.
“I think this is a moment where our longtime European allies and the newer ones on the East are somewhat divided in terms of how you respond to Russia, and this is one time when a unanimity of opinion would be a good thing,” Jones said. “And I might also add that this is a pretty critical time for some revitalization of NATO also.”