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March 5th, 2014
05:54 PM ET

Obama’s response to Russian invasion not that different from Bush’s

(CNN) – Russia's invasion of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula echoes the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008.

The situations were different in many ways of course – Vladimir Putin was prime minister of Russia then, not president, though he was widely regarded to have been calling the shots. But in both cases, Russia sent troops into another sovereign country, a former Soviet Socialist Republic, upsetting an American president who had tried to improve relations

This week Republicans slammed President Barack Obama's response to the crisis.

"I've always believed that this administration was incredible naive about Putin," said Sen. John McCain.

"Our lack of a concise and clear foreign policy has destabilized parts of the world," said former Sen. Jim DeMint.

"We have a weak and indecisive president that invites aggression," said Sen. Lindsey Graham.

Obama and former President George W. Bush are quite different, but it turns out, looking back to 2008, their responses to Russia's belligerence are not that unique.

"John Kerry is going to be traveling to Kiev to indicate our support for the Ukrainian people," Obama said this week.

"Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice is in Tbilisi, she's conferring with (then-Georgian President Mikheil) Saakashvili, and is expressing America's wholehearted support for Georgia's democracy," Bush said then.

Obama now: "The steps Russia has taken is a violation of Ukraine's sovereignty, Ukraine's territorial integrity."

Bush then (August 16, 2008): "We will continue to insist that Georgia's sovereignty, and independence, and territorial integrity be respected."

Back then, conservatives largely excused Bush.

"Obviously it's beyond our control," Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer said on Fox in 2008. "The Russians are advancing. There is nothing that will stop them. We are not going to go to war over Georgia."

But during a Fox News special Tuesday, Krauthammer seemed to reverse his opinion.

"I think that's unwise to take everything off the table. What if there's a full-scale invasion all the way to Kiev? You're going to do nothing?" Krauthammer said.

Conversely, on ABC's "This Week" in August 2008, Democrat Tom Daschle said this type of thing was precisely the reason why then-Senator Barack Obama's brand of leadership was needed.

Asked what, if anything, a President Obama would be doing differently on the crisis in Georgia, Daschle said "What Senator Obama has said from the beginning is that we need to engage around the world."

"I think what Senator Obama would say ... is that we've got to show balance and some reason," said Daschle.

Daschle's hopes notwithstanding, Obama's current approach does not seem to have changed the Putin dynamic much.

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