Russian legislators "made fun" of President Barack Obama for being "too soft" on Russia after it annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014, according to a NATO expert.
"The U.S. and the international community had a lot of powerful non-military options to raise the cost to Russia and make it more willing to stop killing Ukrainians," Jorge Benitez of the Atlantic Council told Business Insider on Wednesday. "Obama’s sanctions are so soft, some Russian legislators made fun of him and begged the U.S. to sanction them."
Benitez also blamed the European Union and United Nations, among others, for not doing enough to stand up to Russian aggression.
"Yes, Obama was too soft on Russia," Benitez said. "But so were Germany, France, the UK, the EU, the UN, and Congress."
In response to the media's reaction to Trump's dealings with Russia, Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas) tweeted out a video from 2012 in which Obama promised then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that he would have "more flexibility" after he was reelected. Cruz through his tweet seemed to insinuate that the media did not devote nearly as much outrage to Obama's attempts to soften the relationship with Russia as they have to President Trump's.
Breaking: ABC releases video of POTUS promising "more flexibility" w/ Russia after election. Media outraged: https://t.co/KF0Bw7qSgt
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) February 15, 2017
Benitez said Russia's actions in Ukraine and attitude on the matter stemmed from the lack of a response to Moscow's invasion of Georgia in 2008.
He added that "the softness" was a driving factor behind "Putin’s willingness to break international treaties like the INF [Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces] and probably attack another of his neighbors in the future."
Benitez said that legislators in the Kremlin taunted Obama because the United States had options to counter Moscow's actions in Ukraine but did not act.
He said that Russia's dependency on trade with Europe, specifically from the energy that the Russian Federation provides, could have been used as leverage over Russia.
"Russia is so dependent on Europeans buying their energy, that if Europe did even a partial embargo and cut its energy purchases from Russia in half, it would have a crippling impact on the Russian economy and make it impossible for Putin to pay for his foreign aggression," Benitez said.