The relative ease with which Russian President Vladimir Putin seized Crimea may give him the confidence to continue his territorial ambitions into Ukraine and beyond, predicted former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski.
Should the Russian president proceed into Ukraine, the United States needed a plan to respond, whether Putin's attempts took place piecemeal or "across the board" into the whole of the country, Brzezinski said.
Putin is "obviously contemplating that possibility," he observed.
"Crimea, so far, gives him the confidence that perhaps he can pull it off. And, we have to think very hard what we can do in a constructive way to prevent this from happening. Or, if it does happen, to make it very costly for Mr. Putin," Brzezinski, who served under President Jimmy Carter, told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Friday.
President Obama and Putin participated in a back-and-forth series of sanctions against each other's leaders this week. On Friday, Putin signed a law formally annexing Crimea
into Russia, Fox News reported.
Members of NATO, to which Ukraine does not belong, would be more direct in pushing back against attempts by Russia to attack them, Brzezinski indicated.
"NATO is bound to respond if a member of NATO is attacked. And, I think that stands," he said. "I don't think anyone should have any doubt the United States would not be responding. We would respond."
Brzezinski expressed concerns for Putin's state of mind, and called his recent behavior "eccentric," "very narcissistic," and "somewhat megalomaniac." He said Putin behaved as if he was unstoppable in his quest to rebuild the Soviet Empire.
"He probably feels like he is irresistible, error-free, and the carrier of some great Russian destiny in which he's been given the responsibility of reestablishing Russian power as an empire across the space of the former Soviet Union," Brzezinski said.
Putin's actions appeared to be "part of a grandiose scheme which really is not part of the contemporary reality," Brzezinski explained. He said it is the responsibility of the United States to find ways to counter Putin's behavior and not stay in the background if the Russian president pushed further into other countries.
"We have to find ways of seriously discouraging him without contributing to (the) more likely outbreak of violence. But, also not adopting the posture in advance that will be totally passive if he does something violent," he said.
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