"The West has built a sanctuary for Mr. Putin," retired four-star Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove tells Scripps News. He was NATO's Supreme Allied Commander for Europe when Russia invaded Crimea in 2014. He says that the West, forbidding Ukraine from using NATO weapons to strike Russia, is guaranteeing Russia safety. He says the U.S. is falling for Vladimir Putin's war of words.
"Mr. Putin's military has failed him on the ground. But his war of words, his war of intimidation — or as we say in the military parlance, his deterrence — is working wildly. We in the West are afraid of a Ukrainian win. Because Mr. Putin threatens us over and over with what we told him in the beginning of this war we're afraid of. We're afraid of nuclear expansion and we're afraid of this war expanding into Europe," says Gen. Breedlove. "And what does he play back to us almost on a daily basis? Someone highly placed in Russia, almost four to five times a week, is talking about if this happens, it's nukes. If this happens, it's nukes. If we lose, it's nukes."
On a tangible level, he says it means that the West has kept Ukraine in a difficult place. "We are giving Ukraine enough that it is not being defeated on the battlefield. But I believe, it's not stated, but it's very clear from what we see, that we are not giving Ukraine what it needs to win."
In the wake of the U.S. military's major intelligence leak, Ukraine is keeping its plans for a counteroffensive close. And Gen. Breedlove believes the strategy could mean cutting off Crimea as a staging base for Russia's attacks. "I would hope that Ukraine uses their capability to cut the land bridge to Crimea, to retake the water supply to Crimea, to cut the Kerch Strait Bridge, and then to bring all of Crimea under attack. And I don't necessarily mean land attack, but precise long-range fires, push as far south as they can on the continent and then fire into Crimea and bring it at risk."
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