Putin wants the West ‘disarmed’ into thinking his ambitions won’t go beyond Ukraine, says former NATO commander

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a concert marking the eighth anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow on March 18, 2022.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s true goals are to seize «control over Eastern Europe» and to «shatter NATO,» said Ret. Gen. Wesley Clark.Getty Images

  • A former NATO allied commander said Russian President Vladimir Putin wants «control over eastern Europe.»

  • Ret. Gen. Wesley Clark said the best way to protect NATO is thus to help Ukraine defeat Russia.

  • He called on the US to strengthen military aid to Ukraine, especially fighter aircraft.

A former NATO commander has warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actual goals in attacking Ukraine are to establish «control over Eastern Europe» and «shatter» the alliance.

During an interview with CNN on Sunday, retired US four-star general Wesley Clark also urged the West to provide more arms to Kyiv.

«He wants Ukraine. He wants the Baltic states. He wants control over Eastern Europe. He wants to shatter NATO, and he wants the United States out,» he said.

Clark, who is a military analyst for CNN and served as NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe from 1997 to 2000, said Putin desires to «disrupt the international system» and have the West «emotionally» and «morally disarmed» into believing that his ambitions extend only to Ukraine.

He also called on the US and its NATO allies to bolster military aid for Ukraine, particularly with fighter aircraft — an area that the Pentagon has declined to help with, having rejected a Polish plan to supply Kyiv with MIG-29 jets.

«Ukraine is just the current battlefield. But if Ukrainians defeat Russia on this battlefield, everything changes,» Clark said. «So the best way to protect NATO, the best way to protect the international system is to give Ukraine the assistance it says it needs and let them handle Russia on the battlefield.»

While US military campaigns over the last 50 years involved helping countries «who weren’t that prepared to fight,» the war in Ukraine is different, he noted.

«Now we’ve got a first-world country. Their soldiers have education just as good as ours. They’re just as good technically as we are. We give them our modern weapons, they can use them in 24 hours,» Clark said.

«So we’re going to have to do a better job of listening to the Ukrainians for what they need and get them the equipment they say they need,» he added.

The retired general said that Russian forces would next seek to capture the city of Dnipro in eastern Ukraine to cut off Ukrainian troops in the Donbas area, where Moscow has recognized two separatist territories as independent states.

Clark said Russia's next objective is to take the city of Dnipro to cut off Ukrainian forces in the Donbas, where Russia declared the territories of Donetsek and Luhansk as independent states.

Clark said Russia’s next objective is to take the city of Dnipro to cut off Ukrainian forces in the Donbas, where Russia declared the territories of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states.Screenshot/Google Maps

To drive off Russia’s advance to Dnipro, Ukraine would need «heavy fighting equipment» beyond what the US has supplied so far, Clark said.

«Not Javelins, not Stingers. That’s fine for helping defend cities. They need tanks, they need mobile artillery, they need lots of ammunition. They need fuel, they need repairs. We don’t have that for them,» he told CNN, referring to Javelin anti-tank and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles.

The war in Ukraine is set to enter its 39th day on Monday. At least 1,417 Ukrainian civilians have been killed in the fighting and bombardment plaguing the country, and 2,038 have been injured, according to the United Nations, which also noted that the actual figures are likely far higher.

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