Bush Made ‘Mistake’ in Not Sanctioning Russia: Hadley

Russian artillery in the South Ossetian town of Dzhava fires on Georgian positions on August 9, 2008.

Photograph by Dmitry Kostyukov/AFP via Getty Images

Russian artillery in the South Ossetian town of Dzhava fires on Georgian positions on August 9, 2008.

Stephen Hadley, who was President George W. Bush’s national security adviser, offered something of a “mea culpa” for the failure of the U.S to hit Russia with economic sanctions after its 2008 war with Georgia.

In that five-day conflict, Russian military forces supporting secessionists overran a weak Georgian army.

Taking economic action against Russia was hardly the most demanding issue at the time, as the U.S. economy was tanking in the latter months of the Bush administration, Hadley said at a conference today held by the Atlantic Council in Washington.

“In retrospect, we failed by not getting economic sanctions in place over Georgia,” Hadley said during a discussion of the current Ukraine crisis.

“We were four months, five months before the end of an administration in the middle of the biggest financial and economic meltdown since the Depression,” he said. “And so when you go to the Situation Room and say, ‘I think we ought to sanction Russia over Georgia,’ people say, ‘Are you not reading the papers?”’

“So it was a difficult time,” he said, “but I think it still was a mistake.”

Mike McFaul, the Obama administration’s former ambassador to Russia, raised this question of opportunities for sanctions missed in the past as he confronted criticism that Obama hasn’t been tough enough in the Ukraine crisis during an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” earlier this week.

He asked how many times the Bush administration or administrations before it reaching back to Ronald Reagan had imposed sanctions on Russia.

Zero times.

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