During eight years of former President Barack Obama's weakness towards Russia, the country invaded Ukraine, annexed Crimea, propped up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and interfered in the 2016 election.
At the beginning of his administration, Obama and his administration were eager to "reset" the United State's relationship with Russia. The reset began with the infamous photo of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presenting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov with a red "reset" button in 2009. One of Obama's first foreign policy decisions was to scrap missile defense in Poland and the Czech Republic, which prompted celebration in Moscow.
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In addition to scrapping missile defense, Obama announced in 2010 a historic Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) treaty with Russia. The agreement was supposed to reduce the number of nuclear weapons held by the United States and Russia by a third. Over the course of the Obama administration, the Washington Free Beacon reported numerous violations of the START treaty by Russia as early as 2012.
Obama was caught on a hot mic in 2012 telling then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to give him "space" and that he would have more "flexibility" on missile defense after being reelected.
President Obama: "On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved but it’s important for him to give me space."
President Medvedev: "Yeah, I understand. I understand your message about space. Space for you…"
President Obama: "This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility."
President Medvedev: "I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir, and I stand with you."
During the 2012 election, Obama mocked his opponent, Republican candidate Mitt Romney, for his comments about Russia being the "number one geopolitical foe" of the United States.
"Gov. Romney, I'm glad that you recognize that al-Qaida is a threat, because a few months ago when you were asked what's the biggest geopolitical threat facing America, you said Russia, not al-Qaida. You said Russia … the 1980s, they're now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because, you know, the Cold War's been over for 20 years," Obama said in the third presidential debate.
Democrats and some in the media joined in on Obama's mocking of Romney's Russia comments.
From 2014 to 2016, Russia appeared to prove Romney's comments right. In 2014, Russia-backed separatists invaded Ukraine and Russian President Vladamir Putin annexed the Crimean peninsula. Russia has defended Assad in Syria and even deployed members of its military to the region. Russian forces attacked U.S.-backed rebels and the Kremlin has provided cover for the Syrian government use of chemical weapons.
The Obama administration and Democrats bragged from 2014 to 2016 about removing chemical weapons from Syria with the help of the Russian government, until it was determined the Syrian regime again used chemical weapons on its own citizens.
Obama continued to dismiss the threat Russia posed and called the country a "regional power." Meanwhile, top military officials testified before Congress, stating Russia was the number one threat to the United States.
In 2016, Putin interfered in the U.S. election despite a stern call from Obama telling him to "cut it out."