There is a 60% percent chance Russia's Vladimir Putin moves to invade Ukraine, according to former NATO Supreme Commander Adm. James Stavridis, because Putin, 69, wants to cement his legacy with the former Soviet states and he sees the West distracted.
"This is a very dangerous situation: We are looking at the potential for tanks rolling across south eastern Europe," Stavridis told Sunday's "The Cats Roundtable" on WABC 770 AM-N.Y. "We all ought to be very concerned about it."
Putin has "somewhere between 100,000 and 150,000 troops" ready on three flanks of Ukraine, including "thousands of tanks, armored personnel carriers," and "his Air Force in standby, particularly helicopters, which can move troops behind Ukrainian lines," Stavridis told host John Catsimatidis.
"He is capable of a full on blitzkrieg operation," he added.
Stavridis noted, though, Putin will be more interested in taking just a piece of Ukraine to create a "land bridge" to the area of Crimea he had already annexed during the Obama administration.
"We ought to be concerned about that because it puts him in a position of demonstrating to the world that he can act with a complete impunity anywhere around the periphery of Russia," Stavridis said.
NATO and the U.S. needs to do three things to thwart Putin's plan, according to Stavridis.
- Provide "lethal weapons in the hands of Ukrainians."
- "We have to impose significant economic sanctions on Putin that range from personal sanctions on Putin and his wealth to massive sanctions on the Russian economy, specifically noting: "Nord Stream 2, there ought to be nothing but air whistling through that pipe."
- Instead of any talk of retaliation against Russia, NATO ought to respond to Russian aggression "by moving NATO troops closer to the Russian border in places like Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Poland."
"That is what Putin doesn't want," Stavridis said. "If he invades the Ukraine, we are to give him a big dose of what he does not want economically, militarily, politically."
Ultimately, the timing of Putin's military buildup on the Ukraine border is seeking to capitalize on President Joe Biden.
"The question is not whether NATO will listen to Joe Biden," Stavridis told Catsimatidis. "The question is whether Putin will listen to Joe Biden. I think the jury is out on that.
"In the wake of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, I think there is a perception in the mind of Putin that the U.S. is weak. We have to disabuse him of that notion."
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