Boehner: George Bush would have punched Putin in the nose

Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, speaks to the media during his weekly briefing at the U.S. Capitol, September 11, 2014 in Washington, D.C.

Mark Wilson, Getty Images

On the campaign trail for a Republican candidate in Iowa, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, may have overlooked a bit of history when he said Russian President Vladimir Putin never would have invaded another country if former President George W. Bush had been in office.

"Does anybody think that Vladimir Putin would have gone into Crimea had George W. Bush been the president of the United States? No," Boehner said, according to the Quad Cities Online. "Even Putin's smart enough to know that Bush would have punched him in the nose."

Russian forces and pro-Russian militias invaded the Crimean Peninsula of Ukraine last winter, and Russia formally annexed the country in spring after residents voted in a referendum to break away from Ukraine. Ukraine and the West rejected the vote.

But Russia's forays into neighboring territory haven't been limited to President Obama's tenure. In 2008, Putin invaded Georgia, a former Soviet Republic, to push back Georgian troops that were trying to quell Russian-backed rebels in two regions. It was France that stepped in to broker a peace deal, and U.S. sanctions against Russia during that crisis were far more modest than the ones Mr. Obama has levied against Russia for its incursion in Ukraine.

The way Mr. Bush portrayed his relationship with Putin also suggested it was based on friendship more than fear and respect. After meeting Putin for the first time in 2001, Mr. Bush famously said he'd "looked the man in the eye," was able to "get a sense of his soul," and found him to be "trustworthy."

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for