The chaotic withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan has emboldened Russia's President Vladimir Putin, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee said Sunday.
"Putin again smells weakness here," Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) told CNN's "State of the Union." "He knows that if he's ever going to invade Ukraine, now is the time.
"I hope he doesn't make that miscalculation. But the fact is, if he does invade Ukraine, what is the United States, what is our commander-in-chief prepared to do to stop it?" he added.
The comments came after tense U.S.-Russia talks last week failed to yield a breakthrough on the Ukraine crisis. Biden officials threatened severe sanctions if Russia invades Ukraine, while Moscow demanded a commitment for Ukraine never to be allowed into NATO.
While balking at that demand, the U.S. threatened to block sales of key technology to Russia, along with arming insurgents in eastern Ukraine.
"If Putin sees deterrence coming back from the United States and our NATO allies, he may second-guess his calculation to invade Ukraine," McCaul said. "I'm seeing some tough rhetoric, but not a lot of action."
The lawmaker lamented the ramifications of the August withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, which paved the way for a quick Taliban takeover of the country.
"Our foreign adversaries, like Putin, President Xi [Jinping] in China, the ayatollah [Iran leader Ali Khamenei] and [North Korea's dictator] Kim Jong Un, all view that as a moment of weakness," he said.