Paul Dykewicz

The Obama administration is fumbling diplomatically in its response to the growing threat to Ukraine, as well as holding back the economic recovery with its faulty fiscal policies, former U.S. Republican Sen. Judd Gregg told attendees at the recent Atlantic Economy Summit.

The U.S. is not going to engage militarily with the Russians over Crimea, said Sen. Gregg, who also once served as a two-term governor of New Hampshire, as well as Senate’s ranking Republican member on the Appropriations; Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs. But the U.S. government certainly has the leverage to spur European Union (EU) nations to put economic pressure on Russia in the form of stiff sanctions for the latter country’s intervention in Ukraine, he said.

“We’ve got leverage there that we haven’t effectively used, but it’s not military,” said Sen. Gregg, who also served four terms as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

President Obama should have urged leaders of EU nations to “aggressively” pursue economic sanctions against Russia for its incursion into Ukraine, Gregg said.

“There should have been a no-holds-barred sanction effort put forward by the president,” Sen. Gregg said.

“The European Union nations obviously are concerned with their gas supplies,” Sen. Gregg said. But President Obama should make it clear to that the EU nations also need to be concerned about “our friendship,” he added.

“We have much more leverage than the Russians have in bringing them together to assert, in my opinion, what should have been very aggressive sanction,” said Sen. Gregg, who questioned the Obama administration’s move to sanction “20 people” in response to Russia’s interference in the internal affairs of Ukraine.

“To me, that’s like sanctioning the board of aldermen in Chicago,” Gregg said. “It’s absurd. It’s embarrassing and it was the wrong approach.”

On the domestic front, U.S. government debt is growing excessively and needs to be remedied, Sen. Gregg said.

Concern about the soaring U.S. debt-to-gross domestic product (GDP) ratio is legitimate but should be addressed in a reasonable way to reach a bi-partisan resolution, Sen. Gregg said.

The U.S. debt-to-GDP ratio now is at 74 percent and his heading to 100 percent, Sen. Gregg said. Up until 2008, the U.S. debt-to-GDP ratio was only 35 percent, before jumping to 60 percent in 2012, he added.