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Ex-US special representative for Ukraine: Putin would escalate if he could

by Martin Fornusek and Toma Istomina February 23, 2024 12:33 PM 2 min read
Former State Department special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker testifies before the House Intelligence Committee in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill November 19, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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The White House's strategy to avoid escalation by setting limits on military supplies for Ukraine does not work, as Russian President Vladimir Putin would "escalate today if he could," Kurt Volker, a former U.S. special representative for Ukraine, told the Kyiv Independent during a press conference on Feb. 23.

Although Washington has been the leading military donor to Ukraine since the start of the full-scale war, the White House has been reluctant to provide several key capabilities, such as its own fighter jets or longer-range variants of ATACMS missiles.

U.S. assistance has now almost dried up as the U.S. Congress has failed to pass additional funding for months, despite pressure from President Joe Biden's administration.

NBC News reported earlier this week that the White House may be changing its view on longer-range ATACMS variants, and considers sending them in the next package once Congress approves funding.

"By setting limits, they are trying to convey that we are avoiding escalation," Volker commented on the Biden administration's supposed strategy, believing it to be nonsensical.

Volker served as the U.S. special representative for Ukraine between 2017 and 2019 during the presidency of Donald Trump, Biden's chief political rival who has criticized the U.S. aid to Ukraine.

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"Putin would escalate today if he could. He is not holding back," Volker said.

According to Volker, Putin's ultimate goal is to "take over Ukraine... he's not holding back because the White House is making this decision on weapons."

Volker said that this also includes the potential use of nuclear weapons by Russia. He believes that should Putin decide to use strategic nuclear weapons, it would mean "the destruction of Russia," while tactical arms would not be advantageous for war goals and earn an outside response.

When asked about Russia's military cooperation with North Korea and Iran, Volker said that the fact that Moscow has to rely on such allies signifies its weakness.

"The fact that Russia depends on 30-year-old ammunition from North Korea is not a statement of great power, this is a statement that Russia's industrial defense complex doesn't work," Volker said, adding that this also applies to drone supplies from Iran.

Nevertheless, the former official warned against possible repercussions if Russia wins in Ukraine.

"If Russia is able to defeat Ukraine," it will seek to reclaim other pieces of the "old Russian empire," such as Finland, the Baltics, or parts of Poland, he said.

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