Gates: Russia took advantage of Obama's weak leadership

President Obama’s failure to match his actions to his tough rhetoric may have given Russia the impression that it could interfere with the U.S. electoral system without consequence, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates suggested Sunday.

Gates was asked during a Sunday appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” whether Russian President Vladimir Putin may have pursued hack-and-release operations against the U.S. because he perceived Obama had become “soft” on Moscow and wouldn’t retaliate if Putin were caught.

“I think that Putin saw the United States withdrawing from around the world. I think, actually, the problem has been that President Obama’s actions often have not matched his rhetoric,” Gates told Chuck Todd.

“His rhetoric has often been pretty tough,” the former CIA director said of Obama. “But then there’s been no follow-up and no action. And if you combine that with red lines that have been crossed, demands that [Syrian President Bashar] Assad step down with no plan to actually figure out how to make that happen, the withdrawal from the Middle East, from Iraq and Afghanistan and essentially the way it was done, I think it sent a signal that the U.S. was in retreat.”

Gates said “some of the the things” that have occurred under the current administration indicated that Obama was interested in “withdrawing from a global leadership role.”

“And I think Putin felt he could take advantage of that,” he said.

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