Former Ambassador to Russia defends Obama's sanctions strategy

Former Ambassador to Russia defends Obama's sanctions strategy
© Getty Images

Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul on Tuesday defended President Obama’s handling of the crisis in Ukraine.

A number of Republicans have criticized Obama for not acting tough enough, but McFaul argues former Republican presidents never even sanctioned Russia.

“Do you know how many Russian government officials the Bush administration sanctioned? Zero. Do you know how many Ronald Reagan sanctioned after the crackdown in Poland? Zero. President Eisenhower, who ran on rollback communism? Zero. So, you know, have a little perspective here,” McFaul said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” [WATCH VIDEO]

“I think we should judge this eight years from now, not what happens eight days from now,” he added.

The only way to deter Russia from annexing more of eastern Ukraine is to threaten “serious sanctions,” McFaul said.

McFaul also defended the decision to not target Russian President Vladimir Putin with specific sanctions.

“It doesn’t do any good to sanction somebody to change their behavior,” he said.

Congressional Republicans have been urging Obama to sanction Putin, and question why he hasn’t done so already. Obama announced a new round of sanctions on Monday targeting Russian government officials, businessmen and institutions. 

The former ambassador suggested even if the U.S. moves forward with sanctions that directly target Russian oil companies, it could invite further aggression from Putin.

“If they go in, they’re going to sanction Russneft; they’re going to sanction Gazprom,” McFaul said. “But if they do that, Putin is going to dig in.” 

McFaul resigned as ambassador in February and said Putin was not a fan of his.

“He didn’t really like me, frankly. He thought I was interested in things like freedom and liberty, if you want to know the truth."