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This isn't the first time somebody has suggested that Russia, fresh off its largely bloodless conquest of Crimea, isn't punching at its Cold War weight. But President Obama, of course, isn't just another pundit or erudite Russia scholar. On Tuesday, at a press conference in The Hague alongside Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Obama said that Russia is a "regional power" with flagging influence whose leader, Vladimir Putin, is striking out against Russia's neighbors "not out of strength, but out of weakness."
Those are some strong words about Putin. But actually, Obama was responding to criticism of his Russia policy from Republicans, especially 2012 election rival Mitt Romney. When Romney called Russia America's No. 1 geopolitical foe in 2012, Obama shot back that the 1980s are "calling to ask for their foreign policy back." His response to Romney's new critique is the same, Obama said:
Russia's actions are a problem. They don't pose the No. 1 national security threat to the United States. I continue to be much more concerned when it comes to our security with the prospect of a nuclear weapon going off in Manhattan. [Obama, via The New York Times]
Comforting? Not for New Yorkers. But for what it's worth, the American public seems to largely agree with Obama's assessment, according to a new poll from Pew's Center for the People and the Press:
I guess as long as this remains a war of words, nobody gets hurt.