The former US ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, is raising alarm about Putin's rhetoric toward Ukraine.
If Putin is "trying to scare us by acting crazy," then he's "succeeding [with] me," McFaul said.
Putin is blaming the West for tensions over Ukraine, despite the fact Russia has been the primary aggressor.
Former US ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul on Tuesday said Russian President Vladimir Putin's increasingly hostile rhetoric towards Ukraine is frightening him and strikes a distinctly unsettling tone.
If Putin is "trying to scare us by acting crazy," then he's "succeeding [with] me," McFaul said in a tweet.
"I've listened to more Putin speeches than most. I've been in meetings with him for five years," McFaul said of Putin's remarks on Tuesday. "This speech is something different — Putin's list of completely fabricated threats here is truly striking ... and scary."
This came in response to a speech in which Putin blamed NATO and the US for recent tensions over Ukraine, while threatening to take "adequate military-technical response measures" in response to "unfriendly steps."
"What the US is doing in Ukraine is at our doorstep ... And they should understand that we have nowhere further to retreat to. Do they think we'll just watch idly?" Putin said, per Reuters.
As Putin ramped up the threats on Tuesday, Russia's defense minister baselessly claimed that US mercenaries were in eastern Ukraine and preparing a chemical weapons attack. McFaul dismissed this as "completely nuts."
Experts say that Putin has manufactured the crisis with Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, and is blaming the West for tensions catalyzed by the Kremlin's aggression. In short, he's looking for an excuse to invade.
Evelyn Farkas, who served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia under the Obama administration, in a tweet on Tuesday said that Putin "just declared war on Ukraine (pretending it's war against the US and its allies, provoked by us)."
Putin invaded and unilaterally annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, and has supported separatists in a war against Ukrainian troops in the eastern Donbass region since that year. Russia denies involvement in the conflict, despite considerable evidence to the contrary. The war has claimed over 13,000 lives.
And for the second time this year, Putin has sparked fears of an invasion by amassing a sizeable force on Ukraine's border. Meanwhile, Putin continues to behave as if Russia is the victim, portraying NATO's growing influence in Ukraine as an existential threat. He's accused the alliance of disrespecting his "red lines" in Ukraine, while ignoring the fact that Russian aggression in the region produced the hostilities that Putin is now threatening war over.
Russia's annexation of Crimea and the Donbass war pushed Ukraine closer to the West. Though Ukraine is not a NATO member, it has sought to join the alliance for years. NATO members, including the US, have provided Ukraine with an array of military assistance — including training and weapons like Javelin anti-tank missiles.
The Biden administration says it's unclear whether or not Putin will invade, but has warned a Russian military incursion in Ukraine would lead to massive economic consequences. Still, President Joe Biden recently made clear that deploying US troops to respond to a Russian invasion was not on the table.
Russia in recent days has issued a series of demands that NATO and the US promptly dismissed, including a hard commitment that Ukraine and Georgia will never become part of the alliance.
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