McCaul: Putin "very aggressive" on Ukraine

  • In Politics
  • 2022-01-16 21:49:40Z
  • By Axios

The top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee said Sunday that classified intelligence on Russia's alleged plans to provoke war with Ukraine through a "false-flag" operation is "the most specific I have ever seen," and the timetable is "very aggressive."

Why it matters: A conventional war on the European continent could break out in a matter of days. It would fundamentally transform Russia's relationship with the West, unleash a wave of refugees and pull the U.S. further into a proxy conflict it has no interest in waging.

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What they're saying: During an appearance on CNN's "State of the Union," Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) claimed the Biden administration's chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan was a "moment of weakness" that U.S. adversaries like Russia, China, Iran and North Korea are now exploiting.

  • "We are not projecting strength as [President] Reagan talked about, but rather projecting weakness, which historically - going back to Hitler and Chamberlain - always invites aggression," McCaul said.

  • McCaul argued the U.S. is in a "new Cold War" with Russia because President Vladimir Putin "smells weakness," and sees now as his best window to invade Ukraine to broaden a Russian sphere of influence.

  • A source close to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky echoed McCaul's sentiment, telling Axios: "Until Moscow believes the Biden administration means what it says, the administration will continue to be boxed in."

What to watch: McCaul and other Republicans have called on President Biden to establish deterrence now with sanctions and additional military assistance for Ukraine - rather than wait for Putin to invade.

  • Those steps come with risks, however.

  • The Kremlin has warned that new sanctions would result in the severing of relations between the U.S. and Russia.

  • And any additional weapons deliveries to Ukraine will likely be viewed in Moscow as a provocation, justifying an invasion.

The bottom line: Biden would like to complete President Obama's "Pivot to Asia" to confront the threat posed by China.

  • Russia seems intent on making it as painful as possible.

Go deeper: "Biden boxed in on Ukraine."


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