Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper: I wish we were more aggressive in 2014

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Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said that he wished the Obama administration had done more to punish Russia for invading and annexing the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 on “The Lead with Jake Tapper” Tuesday. 

Tensions are broiling between the West and Moscow amid the former Soviet country’s decision to recognize and roll into a separatist region in Eastern Ukraine. President Biden said during a press briefing Tuesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin was beginning an “invasion.” He said the stockpiles of blood on the Ukrainian border were an imminent sign of aggressive military intentions. “You don’t need blood unless you plan on starting a war,” Biden said. 

Host Jake Tapper asked Clapper, “Do you wish Obama had done harsher, stricter sanctions in 2014?” 

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“Oh, yes, I do. I wish we as an administration had been more aggressive in 2014,” Clapper responded.

Then-Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama (2015) 

Then-Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama (2015) 
(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

The Biden administration – along with Europe –  launched some sanctions on oligarchs and banks but withheld the most crippling sanctions pending further action from Moscow, according to The Associated Press. Biden said the sanctions went “far beyond” the Obama administration’s response to the Crimean invasion. 

A Russian "Uragan" self-propelled multiple rocket launcher system launches a rocket during military exercises at the Opuk training area in Crimea, February 15, 2022. 

A Russian “Uragan” self-propelled multiple rocket launcher system launches a rocket during military exercises at the Opuk training area in Crimea, February 15, 2022. 
(Russian Defence Ministry/Handout via REUTERS)

However, some GOP leaders believed the White House response wasn’t strong enough. 

“Sadly, President Biden consistently chose appeasement and his tough talk on Russia was never followed by strong action,” House Republicans, such as Kevin McCarthy, said in a statement.

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Clapper said Russia has become “more emboldened than he was eight years ago” when he invaded Crimea. 

President Putin 

President Putin 
(Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

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During a January Senate hearing, Biden’s pick for assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs also blasted the Obama White House’s response to Russia-Crimea. 

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“I believe that our response in 2014 was too slow and too incremental. And it’s confirmed by the lessons that I learned, and that I believe others in the national security community learned, to better address Russia’s ongoing aggression,” Celeste Wallander said. She added that, in retrospect, “it would have been appropriate and necessary to provide” weapons to Ukraine. 

“I believe one of the lessons I learned is that it would have been appropriate and necessary to provide Ukraine with what it needed to defend its territory, including the weapons you suggest,” Wallander, who was confirmed Wednesday in an 83-13 vote, said. 

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