Former CIA deputy director Michael Morell said Sunday that with the tens of thousands of troops Russia has amassed on the Ukrainian border, Russia could take “one-third” of Ukraine if President Vladimir Putin “wanted to.”
“The capabilities of those troops would be to take perhaps a third of Ukraine if Putin wanted to, but it would be very difficult for him to hold,” Morell said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday.
“What would happen very quickly is an insurgency would grow up and those troops would be attacked. It would be a very nasty situation. I don’t think Putin wants that.”
Morell said he believes Putin has built up the troop presence along the border to strengthen his hand in diplomatic negotiations, as any incursion into Ukraine would likely be met with a long, protracted, and bloody resistance. Michael McFaul, the former U.S. ambassador to Russia, said last week further Russian escalation into eastern Ukraine could lead to years of guerrilla warfare.
Rather, Morell suggested Putin’s call to U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday signals that he thinks he is in a position of strength at the negotiating table. Putin and Obama agreed on a meeting between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and the two are together Sunday in Paris.
“What he’s trying to do is maximise what he gets out of this diplomatically. He thinks he’s in a strong position. He wants us to come to the negotiating table,” Morell said of Putin.
On Sunday, U.S. Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel sent back America’s top general in Europe early from a trip in Washington. A Pentagon spokesman said Gen. Philip Breedlove, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, was sent back because of the “lack of transparency and intent from Russian leadership about their military movements across the border.”
Watch the full CBS segment featuring Morell here:
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