Former Defense Secretary Bob Gates warned Sunday that Russian President Vladmir Putin will not cease his military intervention in Ukraine until there is “a government in Kiev that is essentially pro-Russian” — adding that Crimea is already “gone.”
Gates spoke with Fox News’ Chris Wallace Sunday about the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, which saw Russian forces invade the southern Crimean peninsula after a revolution overthrew the nation’s pro-Russian government. While Putin seems to have halted his advance to allow more troops to stream into the country, the former defense leader worried that the Russian president still has more work to do.
“I think it’s part of a long-term strategy on Putin’s part to recreate a Russian sphere of influence and a Russian bloc, where Russia has economic, political and security relationships with these countries that make them all lean toward or do the bidding of Moscow,” Gates explained.
“He may retreat tactically from time to time,” he continued, “but this is part of a longer-term effort to stop the expansion of NATO, but more importantly to bring the states of the former Soviet Union back under the influence of Moscow.”
“And frankly,” Gates added, “I don’t think that he will stop in Ukraine until there is a government in Ukraine — in Kiev — that is essentially pro-Russian.”
And what about Crimea itself, whose parliament voted to join Russia even as a a massive troop build-up in the region continues?
GATES: No question it’s an aggressive, illegitimate act. The question is whether anyone can do anything about it. I think [Putin] does not want to send troops into eastern Ukraine. I think that he would prefer to achieve his goals without that kind of blatant use of military force outside of Crimea, and frankly I’d be surprised if he did do that. But I do not believe that Crimea will slip out of Russian hands.
WALLACE: You think Crimea’s gone.
GATES: I do.
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