- Angel Bermúdez (@angelbermúdez)
- BBC News World
Leon Panetta knows the US government closely and has held important positions from which he led its security and intelligence policy.
He was President Bill Clinton (Democrat) chief of staff, CIA chief and Secretary of Defense during Barack Obama’s administration, and he’s also a Democrat.
As head of the CIA, he oversaw the operation that led to the location and assassination of Osama bin Laden.
As head of the Pentagon, he had to take charge of the system of security alliances that the United States maintains with countries in different regions of the world, starting with NATO, which is currently playing a central role in the war in Ukraine.
Mr Panetta is a vocal critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s order to invade his neighboring country, and views the current conflict as a “proxy war” between the United States and NATO against Russia.
In this interview with BBC Mundo about the war in Ukraine, Panetta said that Putin only understands the message of strength, so this is the way forward for Ukraine to make peace talks possible.
I said that diplomacy is useless if the Ukrainians do not have the ability to influence the negotiations. What can Ukraine do to obtain this ability and how can the West help it?
The most important thing for the Ukrainians is to continue to win the war against the Russians. This is the most important feature they have. It is clear that they have so far succeeded in preventing the Russians from capturing their capital, Kyiv, and are now at war to ensure that the Russians do not take control of the Donbass region.
But the more Ukrainians faced the Russians on the battlefield, the more power they gained in negotiations.
Could this be the way to peace?
completely. There is only one message Putin understands, and that is the message of power.
When I was Secretary of Defense, the United States shifted its focus from Europe to Asia, while Putin was already waging war on Georgia. Do you think the so-called focus on Asia was a mistake?
No, because while we have been deploying additional warships to the Pacific, we have also been increasing our military presence in Europe to maintain strong support for NATO.
Would you say that Russia is currently the greatest threat to the security of the United States and the world order?
I think the truth is that we face a number of threats in the 21st century. Russia is now at the top of the list because of the war in Ukraine.
The message to Russia about the price it should pay for its invasion is the same message the United States and its allies should send to China, North Korea and Iran, so that they understand that they will pay the price if they decide to leave. for war.
You said that what is happening in Ukraine is a proxy war against Russia. Can you explain why you see things this way?
The United States and our NATO allies have united to confront Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. It is clear that, because of this alliance, they are trying to make Russia pay for this invasion.
They have implemented severe economic sanctions against Russia. They are providing the Ukrainians with weapons to help them fight the Russian invasion and strengthening the NATO countries to make it clear that they will resist any new Russian invasion.
The United States and its NATO allies have taken a critical step to support Ukraine in its efforts to defend itself. It is clear that these democracies united are doing everything in their power to prevent Putin and Russia from invading the country.
Will it be the level and intentions of the Western alliance that will make this war a “proxy war”?
Oui, je veux dire, dans la mesure où les États-Unis et nos alliés font tout ce qu’ils peuvent pour soutenir l’Ukraine dans sa guerre contre la Russie, on peut dire que c’est l’équivalentre d agent.
Some experts argue that the West does not use Ukraine as a “proxy” (a third party, in this case, it will be used to wage war on Russia), but simply helps a legitimate government to defend …
Well, that depends on your definition of “agent”. It is clear from the words of President Biden and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin over the past few weeks that the goal is to weaken Russia.
[Note de BBC Mundo : après la réalisation de cette interview, M. Biden a nié que ce qui se passe en Ukraine soit une guerre par procuration contre la Russie].
If the US and NATO are waging a proxy war against Russia and the US defense secretary has said he wants to see Russia weak, could Moscow feel it has the right to take the war beyond Ukraine’s borders?
Putin and Moscow made the decision to go to war and invade a sovereign democracy. It is they who have to bear the consequences of their invasion and the best way to end this conflict is for Putin and Russia to decide to withdraw from Ukraine. This is the conclusion.
I was the Secretary of Defense and the head of the CIA. How would you rate Biden’s initial strategy of publicly sharing intelligence about Putin’s war plans in Ukraine?
I think this is a very effective strategy for informing the public of Russia’s intentions in its plan to invade Ukraine. Russia continued to deny, and Putin kept denying that they were going to invade Ukraine, when all the evidence and intelligence clearly showed that they were planning an invasion.
I think it is important for the public to understand the hypocrisy that Putin and Russia have shown in lying to the world about their true intentions.
Some argue that by doing so, Biden may jeopardize some intelligence assets…
I believe that at present there are a number of sources of intelligence, whether technological or human. There are different sources and some of them don’t put people at risk, so I’m sure they were keen on the information they provided.
In terms of NATO expansion, do you think the alliance has gone too far in bringing in new members or should have gone further when it still had room to expand?
I think the decision on NATO is a decision made by independent and sovereign countries, and if those countries decide that they want to join NATO — like, say, Finland and Sweden, who are considering that possibility today — then I think it’s the decision that these countries have to make.
I think alliances are absolutely necessary to deal with our adversaries like Russia and others.
But usually, great powers feel threatened if there is a strong alliance around them…
The best way for Russia not to be threatened is to be part of the international family of nations, by engaging in trade and financial relations and engaging with other nations to try to promote peace and prosperity. This is how you protect your security. Not waging war.
How do you think this war will end?
I pray this ends soon. I think Putin needs to understand that he cannot achieve victory in Ukraine, no matter how much destruction he has wreaked, no matter how many innocents he kills. Once he is ready to understand it, I believe that only then and only then will we have a chance to end this war.
Are we close to this point?
I think the next few weeks will tell us whether we can get to this point quickly or whether this war will continue into the future.
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