Jeb Bush told a group of German politicians and businessmen Tuesday that he had the formula to deter a “ruthless” Russian President Vladimir Putin from moving further into Ukraine: A clearer articulation of the consequences for doing so.
“I don’t think we should be reacting to bad behavior,” Bush said. “By being clear what the consequences of bad behavior is in advance, I think we will deter the kind of aggression that we fear from Russia. But always reacting and giving the sense that we’re reacting in a tepid fashion only enables the bad behavior of Putin. I think there’s a lot to do and we’re beginning to realize that the reset button didn’t turn out so hot.”
In his speech, to the Economic Council of the Christian Democratic Party’s Annual Conference, called the Wirtschaftsrat, Bush called Putin a “ruthless pragmatist” who will “push until someone pushes back.” The former Florida governor said it was the responsibility of NATO to take the lead on protecting its countries from leaders like Putin. But he also warned that it should not be done at the expense of isolating the entire nation.
“We should never do it in a way that pushes Russia away for a generation of time,” he said. “Ultimately, Russia needs to be a European nation and everything that we do should be to isolate its corrupt leadership from its people.”
The visit will also take Bush to Poland and Estonia, where he’ll continue meeting with business and governmental leaders. He’ll also extend his focus on NATO, participating in a discussion on trans-Atlantic security with representatives from other Baltic states and touring the alliance’s Cyber Defence Center of Excellence.
When he returns to the U.S. next week, Bush will make his presidential candidacy official.
The speech in Germany, the first of the foreign trip, was a broad statement about the importance of the relationship between the U.S. and Western Europe and how those ties are underpinned by economic security.
“Seventy years after America and Western Europe began to build the post-war architecture of security, that alliance is as relevant as today as the day it was founded,” he said. “Our alliance, our solidarity and our actions are essential if we want to preserve our fundamental principles of our international order. An order that free nations have sacrificed so much to build.”
The U.S.-Western Europe alliance, he said, would have to resolve security challenges like Iran’s nuclear ambitions and the growing foothold for terrorists in the Middle East.
He warned about the “temptation…to increase public spending beyond our ability to pay for it while constantly putting off structural reforms,” and praised Germany for having the “wisdom and political courage” to apply fiscal discipline.
“I can think of a few governments, my own comes to mind, that can learn from the German example of fiscal responsibility,” Bush said.
In a nod to some of his domestic priorities, Bush also called for big reforms to the U.S. tax and regulatory systems, workforce training and immigration laws.
“We should never be afraid reexamine subtle comfortable assumptions, even if they’re considered progressive. In every Western country, for example, you will always find advocates of ever higher taxes. It becomes ideology. Blind to consequences. My answer is they can call punitive taxes progressive all they want but if those policies are hurting free enterprise and costing people their jobs that’s not progress,” he said.