Retired General John Keane told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday that Russian President Vladimir Putin is standing by his friends in the Middle East in contrast to the actions of the Obama Administration. In answer to a question by U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., General Keane mentioned America’s decision to “abandon Mubarak in Egypt,” as well as retreat from Iraq, Yemen, and Libya, saying, “I suspect Putin was somewhat in disbelief” at the Administration’s actions.
Keane went on to warn that the Russian leader is watching U.S. decisions in Afghanistan to see if the Administration decides to leave “a force level that will not be … effective in helping to maintain security and stability in Afghanistan.” Such action would be seen by Russians and America’s allies as a “track record of retreat and withdrawal,” Keane stated.
The former Vice-Chief of Staff of the Army was joined on the panel by retired Gen. James L. Jones, former National Security Advisor to President Barack Obama. Gen. Jones expounded on Gen. Keane’s remark by saying “that our reliability factor has suffered a serious blow over the last few years.”
Both witnesses commented on Wicker’s inquiry as to whether the recent Russian military action in Syria represented “an intelligence failure.”
“It appears by every indication that we didn’t have much forewarning of this,” said Gen. Keane, with Gen. Jones adding, “I think we were surprised by that.”
Wicker also questioned Ms. Heather Conley, an expert on European affairs, about the information war being waged by the Russians in Eastern Europe and the Baltics.
“It seems to me, as a strong advocate of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, that the Russians have been eating our lunch when it comes to the information war,” Wicker continued.
Ms. Conley agreed with Wicker’s assessment by saying: “The tools that were successful during the Cold War are no longer the tools that are going to be able to penetrate an incredibly and sophisticated strategic communications campaign. … We are not able at this moment to counter this campaign, but we need to employ a much more effective strategy. … This is the great challenge of our time.”