The top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee said Sunday he thinks the US is engaged in a new cold war with Russia amid high tensions between the nations over Russia’s potential invasion of Ukraine.
“I do. I do, because I think (Russia President Vladimir) Putin again smells weakness here,” Rep. Michael McCaul, a Republican of Texas, told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” when asked whether he thinks there’s a new cold war happening.
His comments come after CNN reported the US has information that indicates Russia has prepositioned a group of operatives to potentially conduct a false-flag operation in eastern Ukraine in an attempt to create a pretext for an invasion.
“He knows that if he’s ever going to invade Ukraine, now is the time. I hope he doesn’t make that miscalculation. But the fact is, if he does invade Ukraine, what is the United States, what is our commander-in-chief prepared to do to stop it?” McCaul said.
“If Putin sees deterrence coming back from the United States and our NATO allies, he may second guess his calculation to invade Ukraine. Now Ukraine is the breadbasket of Russia. Putin wants to restore the glory of the old Soviet empire. He’s been wanting to do this for quite some time.”
McCaul added: “I’m not seeing a lot of deterrence. I’m seeing some tough rhetoric, but not a lot of action … you have to put things on the table like sanctions, you have to talk about more arm sales, weapon sales to Ukraine.”
The congressman’s warning comes after a week’s worth of diplomatic meetings between Russian and Western officials over Russia’s amassing of tens of thousands of troops along Ukraine’s border failed to achieve any breakthroughs. Russia would not commit to de-escalating and American and NATO officials said Moscow’s demands – including that NATO never admit Ukraine into the alliance – were non-starters.
Following the failed talks, Michael Carpenter, the US ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, told reporters the “drumbeat of war is sounding loud and the rhetoric has gotten rather shrill.”
“We have to take this very seriously,” Carpenter said of the massing of Russian troops along the border with Ukraine. “We have to prepare for the eventuality that there could be an escalation.”
This story has been updated with additional details Sunday.