Ohio Gov. John Kasich said he’s stunned at how intense the growing division is between the US and Russia as the two countries hit what seems like a post-Cold War high in tensions.
During a recent interview with Business Insider, the 2016 Republican presidential hopeful discussed the recent cyber attacks on the US political system that intelligence agencies have alleged are Russian-backed, as well as the tense situation between both nations in the Syrian conflict.
“Well I’ve been frankly very surprised at the intensity of our differences,” he said. “I mean, between what appears to be hacking of our political system to the aggressive use of nukes on the borders to these atrocities in Syria and their warnings. I’ve been very, very surprised at the intensity of all this.”
“You know, I think to a degree this happens when they spot a softness in us, which I think for a while they did,” he continued. “But I think that’s coming to an end.”
In recent months, US intelligence agencies have tied hacks on prominent Democratic organizations and state election systems to the Kremlin, alleging that Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to meddle in the US election. The two countries also recently cut off diplomatic discussions regarding Syria, after continued Russian bombing of Aleppo. Putin also suspended Russia’s participation in a treaty with the US aimed at eliminating nuclear weapons.
Additionally, the US has threatened Russia with added economic sanctions. Russia’s deputy foreign minister said the country might take “asymmetrical” and “painful” measures if the US pushes ahead with tougher sanctions, which were first imposed after the Russian annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
“We can’t beg them to get along with us,” Kasich said. “And I think there was some of that going on, which has now ended. “
Kasich called Putin a latter-day Joseph Stalin, the authoritarian 20th Century leader of the Soviet Union, in a recent Washington Post op-ed he wrote to promote the passing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
He advocated for “reinforcing NATO” and being “prepared to take solid actions” in response to the hackings to “make it clear that we will not tolerate any intervention.”
“These are serious matters, and we can never let up on these sanctions,” Kasich wrote. “Frankly, we should publicly increase them.”
“And when it comes to the cyber warfare piece, we’re going to have to deal with it,” he concluded. “I mean it would be very easy to make an inflammatory statement on what we ought to do on cyber. I don’t think that that’s productive. But to allow the Russian activity to go unresponded to is not acceptable. So the administration is going to have to figure out, you know, a tough response on the basis of this hacking.”