Russian President Vladimir Putin's threat of "consequences" to other countries if they interfere with his "special military operation" in Ukraine likely includes attempts at cyberattacks on key targets in the United States, retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Blaine Holt said on Newsmax Thursday.
"When Vladimir Putin threatens us, I think that's exactly what he's got on his mind," Holt, a former deputy military representative to NATO, said on Newsmax's "Wake Up America." "It will be a cyberpackage we're going to face, and we could see that in multiple tiers of our society. You could see it in banking ... in our markets ... in our grid hospital system."
The United States does have the ability to defend itself, Holt insisted, but Putin "certainly didn't give us any clues as to what the spectrum of conflict would look like if he didn't like the sanctions package he's going to face this morning."
Such cyberattacks are "part and parcel" to Russia's strategy of toppling Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's government, he added.
Meanwhile, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe has been monitoring the region since Crimea fell to Russia, but when Western embassies evacuated Ukraine, it was left to monitors from Eastern Europe and Central Asia to remain as observers, said Holt.
"They were already down to two-thirds of their strength, and they got caught in this crossfire," he said. "Others are there who have been doing brilliant work in tough conditions, so we have to make sure that in this mess they get out as well."
However, Holt said he doesn't think there will be a long-term Russian occupation of Ukraine, despite the hostilities.
"I know that they have the design to take out the military," said Holt. "They want to take out the Ukrainian military's infrastructure."
However, Moscow wants Ukraine's capital city of Kyiv "only in regard to toppling the existing government," said Holt, adding that "high-value targets" will be rolled up before Russia installs its "own puppet government" such as what is in place in Belarus.
Then, Russia will tell the Ukrainians that it is safe to return home and live in a country with new rulers.
"He can't get into a protracted occupation here, but he certainly can start to run down the same traps across the entire nation," said Holt.
He added that he does expect the Ukrainian military to defend the country "valiantly" but he's not sure if it can defeat Russia.
"But I can tell you that the spirit of the Ukrainians, going back to the time that I landed a C-17 there as a captain, they love the West," said Holt. "They want to embrace Western ideals and they're aspirational to be in the EU and NATO. It's in their constitution, and they're going to fight as they're defending their homeland, and they see this as it's all or nothing."
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