Retired Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who served as director of European affairs for the National Security Council under former President Donald Trump, appeared Wednesday on All In With Chris Hayes and spoke about Russia’s possible invasion of Ukraine, which now appears imminent. Vindman believes there are a number of factors that caused the situation to escalate, one of those being his former boss.
Asked why Russian President Vladimir Putin chose to increase aggression against Ukraine now, Vindman answered, “It’s mainly because of a sense of opportunity, a sense of weakness within the United States. I have every reason to believe that if we had not had [an] insurrection on Jan. 6, because President Trump, President Putin would not believe that there's an opportunity, there’s a vulnerability in the United States. The hyper-polarization that Trump continues to nourish in the United States helps.”
“He [Putin] has major talking heads on Fox News, like Tucker Carlson, pandering to his interests, pandering to — drawing false equivalencies between the U.S. and Russia,” Vindman said. “Really kind of fanboying over authoritarianism.”
In defending Putin’s actions on Tuesday, Carlson said, “Imagine if Mexico fell under the direct control of China. We would see that as a threat. There would be no reason for that. That’s how Russia views NATO control of Ukraine … and why wouldn’t they?”
While Carlson, who recently praised Hungary’s authoritarian leader Viktor Orbán, is no doubt correct about Putin’s feelings toward NATO pushing further east, the rest of his argument does not hold water. NATO does not militarily control its members because it is a defense alliance. Ukraine applied to join NATO in 2008 and has been awaiting admittance ever since. Vindman believes that Russia is threatening to invade Ukraine because it sees its influence over the former Soviet territory disappearing.
“I think we saw this buildup start to occur, really, at the beginning of 2021, and I think that it was on the expectation that Russia had to act,” Vindman said. “Back in 2014 when this confrontation started, when Russia launched its military offensive against Ukraine, it did so because it saw a country choosing its own destiny, asserting its sovereignty, choosing a path towards European integration, towards democracy. And, really, this is a continuing enterprise in a lot of ways.”
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