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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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March 3rd, 2014
06:25 PM ET

Roundtable: What's Obama's next move in Ukraine?

(CNN) – President Barack Obama's words from a 2012 presidential debate against Republican candidate Mitt Romney must be haunting him.

"A few months ago, when you were asked what is the biggest geopolitical group facing america, you said Russia – not al-Qaeda," Obama said to Romney. "And the 1980's are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back, because the Cold War has been over for 20 years."

Meanwhile 2008 vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin is doing a bit of a victory lap today.

"After the Russian army invaded the nation of Georgia, Senator Obama's reaction was one of indecision and moral equivalence – the kind of response that would only encourage Russia's Putin to invade Ukraine next," Palin said in October 2008.

Panned at the time for the prediction, Palin now says of the crisis in Ukraine: "Yes, I could see this one from Alaska."

The big question: Should the White House have seen this coming?

The crisis in Ukraine will be a bigger test for Obama than either Iran or Syria, says National Journal correspondent Michael Hirsh.

"The world and the West are looking to him for leadership in a way that they haven't been necessarily on Syria, or the other issues. This is clearly something with strong Cold War echos, and of course the leader of the free world ... was seen as the person who was going to take the lead as any then-Soviet incursion. Because this has so many echos of that period, I think that he's being cast in that role," said Hirsh.

The administration said it does not view the conflict through the prism of a Cold War chess board, but some worry that attitude may have emboldened Putin.

"I think what's been happening here is Putin has ... re-submerged himself into this kind of Cold War mentality mixed with a Russian imperial mentality," says senior editor at The New Republic Julia Ioffe.

"Part of the reason that he's taking back Crimea, and might go further into eastern Ukraine ... is that he feels that this is part of a larger Russian universe, which includes Belarus, and includes Ukraine," said Ioffe.

For more analysis from our political roundtable, check out the video above.

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