Opinion

Chuck Hagel: Vladimir Putin wants to restore Soviet Union

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Joel Gehrke,The Pentagon,Russia,National Security,Chuck Hagel,Vladimir Putin,Ukraine,Crimea,Kazakhstan,KGB

Russian President Vladimir Putin's foreign policy actions suggest that he wants to restore the old Soviet Union, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said when asked about U.S. intelligence reveals about the former KGB spy's "calculus."

"Mr. Putin has made no secret and he said it publicly on more than one occasion over the years that the demise of the Soviet Union was a terrific mistake, it shouldn't have happened, it was bad for the Russian people," Hagel told PBS' Charlie Rose. "Now, I think that's a premise that he truly believes and I think that's where he starts."

Hagel denied that there is a second Cold War in the offing -- citing the economic relationship between the United States, Russia and China -- but reiterated Putin's interest in the former Soviet republics.

"When you look at his actions in 2008 in Georgia and the actions he's taken here specifically, as you know, in Crimea, he's not across the eastern Ukrainian border but, nonetheless, he's in Crimea," Hagel said. "I mean you do have to reflect on that reality and we have to be very clear-eyed about your question, well, what is his end game here, where is he going with this? He has made all those -- those former Soviet Socialist Republics, the "-stans" -- quite nervous. Kazakhstan all the way across, obviously Moldova, some of the nations that are still connected on that western European edge, everybody is very nervous on what is in his mind."

During a trip to Poland on Wednesday, Hagel noted that "a new and early 21st century world order [is] being built" while reassuring Polish colleagues of the U.S. commitment to their security.

"What is remarkable about this time — not just the conflict and the complications and the interconnections that this world of 6 billion people has — but I think what's more hopeful than maybe than any other time in the history of the world is we have more opportunities, more possibilities, more resources and more capacity to do more good for more people than any time in the history of the world — if we're wise enough to use those resources with strong leadership," he said.

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