President Trump on Thursday appeared to suggest that his immediate predecessor’s Russia policy resulted in Russian’s invasion and annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014.
Crimea was TAKEN by Russia during the Obama Administration. Was Obama too soft on Russia?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 15, 2017
As a candidate, Donald Trump suggested he would recognize the annexation—a position his spokesman, Sean Spicer, contradicted Tuesday when he said Trump “expects the Russian government to … return Crimea.” But leaving aside confusion about the current administration’s Russia policy, is Trump right about the previous one’s?
There are two parallel narratives here: one political; the other historical.
First, the political: In 2012, Mitt Romney, who at the time was seeking the presidency, called Russia the United States’s Number 1 “geopolitical foe.” He was roundly mocked for his assessment, including by President Obama, who was then seeking re-election. Just three years earlier, the Obama administration famously “reset” U.S. relations with Russia that had been damaged by Moscow’s conflict with the former Soviet republic of Georgia. As part of this initiative, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented her Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, with what was intended to be a “reset” button. A translation error rendered the Russian word on the button “overload” instead—a term perhaps more reflective of the turn U.S.-Russian relations took in subsequent years.