Vladimir Putin has a new piece of his empire, Robert Gates said today. "I do not believe that Crimea will slip out of Russia's hand," the former defense secretary told Fox News. Asked by Chris Wallace, "You think Crimea's gone?" Gates responded, "I do. I think it's part of a long-term strategy on Putin's part to create a Russian sphere of influence, a Russian bloc. I don't think he will stop in Ukraine until there is essentially a pro-Russian government in Ukraine, in Kiev." Turning to President Obama's handling of the Ukraine crisis, Gates pointed out that Putin "invaded Georgia when George W. Bush was president" and no one "ever accused George W. Bush of being weak or being unwilling to use military force." Furthermore, notes Politico, Gates said that "Some of the criticism, domestic criticism of the president ought to be toned down while he's handling this crisis." Elsewhere on your Sunday dial, as per Politico:
- Dick Cheney on Crimea: President Obama should consider "military options that don't involve putting troops on the ground in Crimea. We could go back and reinstate the missile defense program that was taken out that was originally going to go in Poland, Czech Republic. Obama took it out to appease Putin. We can offer military assistance and equipment to the Ukrainians themselves."
- Pete King on the missing Malaysia jet: "We cannot make any conclusions, but considering where this occurred and considering the stolen passports we have to consider the issue of terrorism and exhaust every possible investigative technique. So many of the 9/11 hijackers went through Malaysia."
- Ted Cruz on Rand Paul: "I'm a big fan of Rand Paul. We are good friends. I don't agree with him on foreign policy. US leadership is critical in the world. I agree we should be reluctant to deploy military force abroad, but there's a vital role, just as ... when Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an Evil Empire, when he stood in front of the Brandenburg Gate and said 'Tear down this wall.' Those words changed the course of history."
- Paul Ryan on the GOP: "I don't think there's really this vast civil war in the Republican Party like many in the left like to suggest there is. I think we're a party with a vibrant debate, adding ideas, solving problems, and I think we're going to be OK."
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