McCaul: Putin "very aggressive" on Ukraine
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.
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."