Panetta: American Lives Are 'Going to be at Stake' If Conflict Breaks out in Ukraine Leon Panetta, former U.S. Defense Secretary and former director of the Central Intelligence Agency. (Drew Angerer/Getty)
By Nick Koutsobinas | Saturday, 29 January 2022 11:02 AM
Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says American lives are at stake should Russia invade Ukraine, according to The Hill.
In an interview to be aired Sunday with Greta Van Susteren, Panetta was asked if he expects U.S. troops to be used in a support capacity or direct fighting.
"I think the president is, I'm sure, thinking of them in a support capacity. But let's face it, right now there are military advisors, U.S. military advisors in the Ukraine working with the Ukrainians to try to develop their capabilities. And so if something happens, there's no question that U.S. lives are also going to be at stake here," he said.
Panetta also said punishing Russia would "turn this around." Still, he noted that some sanctions could hurt the country.
"But I think this comes down still to a military issue because I think what will persuade Putin is whether or not, if he engages in war, he could get a black eye," Panetta said. "And one thing bullies don't like to do is to get a black eye. And I think that's where our strongest leverage is."
"So I think supply to the Ukrainians, moving our forces up into NATO, deploying our aircraft and our ships…I think that's the most important deterrent we have right now with regards to Russia."
Russian President Vladimir Putin has three options for proceeding amid rising tensions, according to Pannetta:
- Invade Ukraine.
- Negotiate a deal to protect Russian security.
- Keep troops stationed at the border.
"I don't think that this can go on for a long period of time. It wears you down. You've got troops at the high readiness who are located there," Panetta said of Russia's troops stationed at the Ukrainian border. "That really takes a lot out of a unit to be constantly prepared to engage. And I don't think that that can be a position that they take indefinitely. I think that Putin within the next few weeks has to make a decision what path he's going to take."
President Joe Biden on Friday at Joint Base Andrews said he would "be moving troops to Eastern Europe in the NATO countries in the near term. … Not too many."
Russia has amassed roughly 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian border but has denied all claims of an invasion.