days laterofficially asked to join NATO – essentially ending decades of neutrality on the world stage – former US Defense Secretary Robert Gates called the development “enormous” and a major defeat for the Russian president Vladimir Poutine.
Putin’s decision to invadewas partly motivated by a desire to prevent the country from joining NATO, which would put the military alliance right on the border with Russia. But the decision taken last week by Finland and Sweden suggests that plan has backfired, Gates told ‘Face the Nation’ on Sunday.
“I think it’s radically changing the geopolitics in Europe. Now he has NATO on his doorstep, not just in Ukraine and elsewhere,” Gates said, referring to Putin.
“He’s going to have them on his border in Finland. And it’s an amazing thing he’s done because he got Sweden to give up 200 years of neutrality,” Gates said. “So I think one of his many huge miscalculations in invading Ukraine is that he radically changed the geostrategic position of Western Europe. And now that you have the Swedes and the Finns as part of that, he really put Russia in a much worse strategic position.” position it had before the invasion.”
The 30 member countries of NATO are currently examining the candidatures of Sweden and Finland. If their offers are accepted, the two formerly neutral Nordic nations could become members within months.
During the visit of the leaders of the two countries to the White House last Thursday, President Bidenfor their applications.
Gates, who served as defense secretary under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, said Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine could continue to damage Russia’s economy and affect the country other manners. He also doesn’t believe Putin can win the war by taking over Ukraine and “absorbing” it into Russia, but he said Putin could still walk away with some strategic areas of.
“He has the potential to keep a good part of Donbass. But I think in terms of pushing Odessa or trying to bring about a change of government in Kyiv or absorbing Ukraine, I think if it’s It’s winning, I don’t see that he can win,” Gates said.
“His invasion has weakened Russia and now it has long-term economic problems,” Gates said. “I think Europe is very serious at this point about weaning itself off of dependence on Russian oil and gas. So that will weaken Russia significantly.”
The former defense secretary has expressed doubts that Putin’s biggest ally, China, will do enough to save Russia’s economy in part because it doesn’t want to become dependent on Russia for its sources of energy.
“China will want to stay diversified,” Gates said. “They could buy a little more Russian oil and gas, but nothing like what would be needed to replace the European market. Putin will remain a pariah…He really put Russia behind the 8-ball economically, militarily, and because now people are going to look at the Russian army and say, “You know, it was supposed to be this fantastic army. Well, they give a good parade, but in real combat, not so hot. “”
Asked if he thought Putin might resort to using a tactical nuclear weapon against Ukraine, Gates said it was unlikely.
“I think the likelihood of him using a tactical nuke is low, but not zero,” he said. “There are no large masses of Ukrainian forces that would be eliminated by a tactical nuclear weapon. And if [there’s no] for military purposes, then the only purpose is to use it as a terrorist weapon to try to break the will of the Ukrainian people. And I think that time has come and gone. I don’t think there is anything at this point that can break the will of the Ukrainian people.”
Gates noted that a nuclear attack on Ukraine could also affect the Russian mainland.
“In this part of the world, and especially in eastern Ukraine, the winds tend to blow from the west,” he said. “If you trigger a tactical nuke in eastern Ukraine, the radiation will go to Russia. So I hope someone reminds him of that.”