Former Clinton CIA Director: ‘Obama Has Made Us Look Weak’ to Russia

WASHINGTON – James Woolsey, former CIA Director in the Clinton administration, said no one should be surprised that Russia has “asserted” itself in Syria because President Obama backed away from the “red line” ultimatum that he gave Syrian President Bashar al-Assad over his use of chemical weapons and made the U.S. “look weak.”

PJM asked Woolsey about Russian news outlets urging Russian citizens to locate their nearest bomb shelters as well as recent comments made by Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, who said relations between the U.S. and Russia are at their lowest point since the Cold War.

“I do not share the view that the risk of nuclear war today is high because even with the current differences, I think we have enough reasonable people on both sides not to allow one. Having said so, I also would underline that the quality of the relations currently between us in general is certainly the lowest point since the end of the Cold War. I agree with this,” Kislyak said.

“The risks of miscalculations have increased. I agree with that, especially with your forces being deployed, NATO forces being deployed, next to our border is sometimes in a very — how shall I put it in a polite way? A strange way to show up the strength of the United States, almost beating of the chest, say 100 meters from the checkpoint on the Estonia and Russia border at 150 kilometers from St. Petersburg,” he added.

In the interview with PJM, Woolsey was critical of President Obama’s handling of U.S. foreign policy toward Russia.

“I think it’s a very serious situation with Russia. They may be exaggerating it a bit in order to try to lean on us. They have had good luck leaning on President Obama and getting a warm water port in the Mediterranean — running the relationship with Iran and Syria,” Woolsey told PJM after a seminar on "The Fifteenth Anniversary of 9/11: Past Lessons and Future Outlook" held at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies.

“By backing down from his red line and not wanting the Assad regime to use chemical weapons against its own people, and then when they went ahead and did it President Obama sort of said, ‘oh, well, OK, I’ll erase my red line and hand the problem to Russia.’ So it should not be surprising to people that Russia is asserting itself in this part of the world. The way Russian governments decide to assert themselves is when their opponents look weak. President Obama has made us look weak so it could be a serious problem. I don’t know how serious or if it’s being exaggerated,” he added.

Woolsey is a member of the Trump campaign’s national security advisory council but he declined to speak directly about the presidential race.

“I’m part of the transition work for Trump’s campaign and I don’t deal with questions about the election or the politics of it,” he said.