FLASHBACK: Obama Turned a Blind Eye to Russian Meddling

What made Russia meddling possible to begin with?

Rather than asking why Obama didn't do more to stop Russian meddling, the better question is why President Vladimir Putin thought he could get away with this interference in the first place. In every respect, the U.S. is more powerful than Russia. It has a much larger economy. Its military is superior. Its cyber capabilities are greater. Its diplomatic position is stronger. So why did Putin believe he could treat America like it was Estonia?

The answer is that Obama spent the first six years of his presidency turning a blind eye to Russian aggression.

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.