White House press secretary Jay Carney dismissed a question about whether tensions with Russia over the Crimea region would hurt former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's political future as “superficial” and “flaccid thinking.”
“That’s a pretty superficial way of looking at things,” Carney told reporters during Wednesday’s press briefing.
Carney was asked if the controversy over Moscow’s annexation of Crimea would be a “liability” for Clinton, after critics suggested the issue could make voters re-examine her record.
Clinton played a key role as secretary of state in the Obama administration when it touted a “reset” with Russia.
But that reboot in U.S.-Russian ties never materialized amid a number of high-profile disagreements between Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin over the civil war in Syria, Moscow's decision to grant asylum to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, anti-gay legislation in Russia and now the Ukraine conflict.
“There’s an attempt to see everything through the lens of the next election cycle, but that’s pretty flaccid thinking,” Carney said.
He said the administration was focused on its national security priorities and protecting America’s allies.
“I think that the challenges posed by Russia's intervention in Ukraine are challenges for the United States, for the Ukraine, for Europe and for Russia,” said Carney. “Our obligation is to be very clear-eyed about what our national security interests are, what our obligations are to our allies and partners, and to pursue those. That's how we're looking at it.”
Clinton addressed the Crimean crisis earlier this week, calling Putin’s actions “illegal,” according to reports.
Earlier this month, Clinton compared Putin’s seizure of Crimea from Ukraine to Adolf Hitler’s actions in the 1930s, when he took over regions of Europe that had ethnic-German minorities. Clinton later sought to explain those remarks, saying that she only intended to offer up “a little historic perspective.”
Clinton has said that she has not yet decided whether to run for the Democratic nomination in 2016. But many of her supporters are already raising money and building a campaign apparatus for a potential run, and polls show her to be the clear favorite for her party’s nomination.