Former CIA Chief Says Putin Is ‘Literally Out of Moves’ in Ukraine

  • Putin is out of options in Ukraine, according to retired Gen. David Petraeus, a former CIA director.
  • Putin’s recent “desperate” steps, including mobilization and annexations, won’t change the situation, he said.
  • “Ukraine has a vastly more capable and larger force” at this point in the war, he said.

Retired US Army Gen. David Petraeus, a former CIA director, told CNBC on Tuesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin is in a “desperate” situation in Ukraine.

Putin is “literally out of moves,” Petraeus said, adding, “He’s trying all these different desperate actions. But the fact is the reality that confronts Russia on the battlefield in Ukraine is that Ukraine has a vastly more capable and larger force than the country that is more than three times their size.”

Expanding on how the war reached this point, Petraeus said that Ukraine’s full mobilization at the start of the conflict and receipt of billions in aid from Western countries gave it an advantage over Russia, which until recently resisted any level of mobilization.

Russia is believed to have suffered tremendous losses in battle. In August, the Pentagon said the US estimates that Russia has suffered as many as 80,000 casualties — an astonishing number in less than a year of war. Russia is also estimated to have lost thousands of armored vehicles and has pulled obsolete, Soviet-era equipment out of storage to fill the gaps in its ranks.

And now Russia is mobilizing more troops to fight in Ukraine. Western officials and military experts have said that Putin’s recent mobilization decision is a sign that Russia is failing in Ukraine, while emphasizing that the draft is unlikely to change the situation on the battlefield because those being called up have little to no training.

The mobilization has also been messy, with thousands of Russian men fleeing the country. Petraeus suggested that the mobilization has probably seen more Russian men leave the country than head to conscription centers, saying this is not how a country generates “capable and competent and well-equipped forces.”

“The reality on the battlefield now is desperate for Putin,” the former CIA director said, “There’s literally nothing he can do. It is irreversible.”

Petraeus underlined that the “momentum on the battlefield is very much against Russia” with its forces “scrambling just to establish new defensive positions.”

Last week, Putin annexed four regions of Ukraine following referendums that were denounced worldwide as a sham. But almost as soon as Putin made the announcement, Ukrainian forces recaptured territory from Russia within those territories. “The Ukrainians are already taking back these areas that have been annexed about as quickly as Russia can annex them,” Petraeus said.

That said, the retired general argued that there’s still “an enormous amount of damage and destruction that Russia can do.”

“They will continue to punish Ukraine on a daily basis with missiles and rockets and bombs and so forth. But at the end of the day, they cannot reverse the situation on the battlefield, which is going to see Ukraine taking back the territory that Russia has taken since 24 February, and perhaps taking back everything that Russia has taken from them since 2014,” Petraeus said.

Russian Yars ballistic nuclear missiles on mobile launchers roll through Red Square during the Victory Day military parade rehearsals on May 6, 2018 in Moscow, Russia

Russian Yars ballistic nuclear missiles on mobile launchers roll through Red Square during the Victory Day military parade rehearsals on May 6, 2018 in Moscow, Russia.

Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Western officials and Russia watchers have repeatedly expressed concerns that as Russia struggles on the battlefield the likelihood of Putin resorting to a tactical nuclear weapon goes up. Putin has made multiple nuclear threats since the war began, and Petraeus said this should be taken “very seriously.”

But he said that even if Putin employed a tactical nuclear weapon, it would not fundamentally change the situation on the battlefield for Russia.

“It probably makes it worse. Yes, there will be considerable death and destruction, and radiation,” Petraeus said, “But it won’t reverse the situation in which Ukraine has a vastly bigger and better and more capable force than does Russia. “

The former CIA chief said his top concern regarding Ukraine is the conflict “spiraling out of control.”

“I think it is legitimate for US leadership and for leadership of other countries to avoid starting World War III, as the phrase has been termed,” he said, adding that this is why it’s “so important” for the US to make clear to Russia there would be severe consequences if a nuclear weapon is used.

“But we don’t want to start getting into some kind of climbing the nuclear ladder with Russia,” he said.

The Biden administration in late September said it has privately warned Russia the US would respond “decisively” if a nuclear weapon is used, telling Moscow there would be “catastrophic consequences.”

Addressing concerns that the Russian leader could take such drastic steps if he feels backed into a corner, Petraeus said he doesn’t believe Putin is “suicidal” and doesn’t want “to bring about the end of the Russian Federation as he knows it .” He said the Russian leader still has “a lot” to lose, including his position.

Leave a Comment