Ex-CIA chief’s top fear in Russia-Ukraine conflict is escalation ‘spiraling out of management’

The best fear for former CIA chief General David Petraeus (US Army, Ret.) regarding the struggle in Ukraine is the potential for unbridled escalation that will end result in catastrophic penalties, he advised CNBC Tuesday.

Asked what his top concern was with regard to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, in which the U.S. is closely supporting Ukraine to the tune of billions of {dollars} in navy support, Petraeus replied, “just as a general category, it’s just [the risk of it] spiraling out of control.”

“I think it is legitimate for U.S. leadership and for leadership of other countries to avoid starting World War III, as the phrase has been termed,” the retired common advised CNBC’s Hadley Gamble on the Warsaw Security Forum in Poland.  

Leaders in Ukraine and the West are grappling with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s menace of utilizing nuclear weapons. Uncertainty over the chance of such motion hangs over decision-making, at the same time as Ukrainian forces stage daring counter-offensives in territory that Russia has illegally annexed. 

Western policymakers should adequately sign their strikes and chorus from going too far in phrases of offensive navy motion in opposition to Russia, Petraeus stated.  

“Remember, in the beginning, there were these calls for no-fly zones over Ukraine, which I thought was just not fully thought through,” he stated, recounting the urging by Ukrainian officers in the course of the struggle’s early months to ascertain the protection mechanism that will allow U.S. planes to shoot down Russian jets in Ukrainian airspace. 

Because when you put U.S. aircraft into that airspace, and Russian aircraft … you can’t fly our aircraft without taking down the air defenses that could shoot them down. And now you’re into a U.S.-Russia war. And again, I think it’s understandable that U.S. leadership and that of other countries should have concerns about a spiraling beyond — as horrific as this is — a spiraling beyond where we are right now in the war in Ukraine.”

General David Petraeus.

Bill Clark | CQ Roll Call | Getty Images

Over the weekend, Ukrainian forces efficiently recaptured the strategic city of Lyman in Ukraine’s jap Donetsk oblast, one of the 4 territories Putin introduced as belonging to the Russian Federation in a speech Friday. Counter-offensives in the nation’s south are additionally underway, amid reviews of low Russian troop morale and Ukrainian forces capturing Russian models. 

Still, battlefield success doesn’t imply that Russia cannot retaliate in different methods, Petraeus careworn.  

“Keep in mind, the one element Russia still will retain, even as it is losing on the battlefield in Ukraine, is the ability to punish Ukraine,” he stated, describing the numerous bombings and missile strikes in opposition to main civilian facilities. 

Russia “can continue to carry out missile and rocket and bomb attacks, as it has, almost petulantly. You saw when the counter offensive was succeeding outside Kharkiv, they pounded certain areas, and they’re not going after military targets,” Petraeus stated. “They’re going after the electrical generation stations, the electrical transmission, other civilian infrastructure — almost again as if to punish the people for what their military forces are doing, all major violations, by the way, of the Geneva Convention.”

In response to Putin’s menace of utilizing all weapons at his disposal, the Biden administration replied that any use of nuclear weapons could be met with a “decisive” U.S. response. What precisely that response would entail was not disclosed.   

Ukraine recaptures Lyman, a key logistics hub for Russian forces.

Institute for the Study of War

“So again,” the previous CIA director stated, “it’s really about the situation just spiraling out of control in some way. Which is why it’s so important that as our national security advisor in the U.S., Jake Sullivan, has publicly stated, it’s very important that we have communicated in advance to the Russians, ‘if you do this, you can expect something along the lines of this’ — noting that obviously, there will always be a range of options presented to the president. And it depends specifically on you know, what happened, all this, that would determine what a response would be.”  

“But we don’t want to start getting into some kind of climbing the nuclear ladder with Russia,” he careworn, “which could spiral out of control.”

A Ukrainian BM-21 ‘Grad’ a number of rocket launcher fires in the direction of Russian positions in Donetsk area on October 3, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Anatolii Stepanov | AFP | Getty Images

Ultimately, Petraeus believes, Putin is not suicidal. 

“I don’t think for all of the grievance-filled rhetoric that we heard the other day in his speech, I don’t think that he is suicidal,” he stated. “I don’t think he wants to bring about the end of the Russian Federation as he knows it — I mean, the irony is that this is someone who despised Gorbachev,” he stated, referencing Mikhail Gorbachev, the final chief of the Soviet Union, whom Putin and lots of Russians blame for its collapse. 

Putin has lengthy decried the collapse of the Soviet Union as essentially the most catastrophic historic occasion of the twentieth century. 

But Putin, Petraeus argued, “is doing colossal damage to the Russian Federation on a scale that Gorbachev did to the USSR, because of this incredibly catastrophically bad decision to invade his neighbor.”

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