NATO’s former Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), Retired Four-star General Wesley Clark, stated that Putin’s goal was to obtain Ukraine, the Baltic states, and control over Eastern Europe during an interview with CNN last April 3.
Clark served as NATO’s SACEUR from 1997 to 200. CNN asked him about his thoughts on the current developments in Ukraine.
CNN anchor Bianca Nobilo asked Clark if Putin would just stop at Ukraine or would he want more.
“He wants Ukraine. He wants the Baltic states. He wants control over Eastern Europe. He wants to shatter NATO, and he wants the United States out,” the General said.
“All he’s trying to do right now is stall. He’d like to stall western reinforcement of Ukraine. He’d like have us emotionally, morally disarmed to think that’s all he wants, but it isn’t.”
He also claimed that Putin wanted to disrupt the international system, that Russia was working in cahoots with China on the sidelines, and had its own plans with Taiwan.
“Ukraine is just the current battlefield, but if Ukrainians defeat Russia on this battlefield, everything changes. So the best way to protect NATO, the best way to protect the international system, is to give Ukraine the assistance it says it needs and let them handle Russia on this battlefield,” he explained.
Following Ukraine’s report that the entirety of Kyiv had been liberated, Nobilo asked the General whether Russians were regrouping for a later attack on Kyiv. Russia claimed that it was focusing on “liberating” the entirety of Donbas, revealing that it was the “true goal” of the invasion.
Clark responded by praising the Ukrainians for their “great tactical success.” However, he warned that the war was “so far from over” and that they had to be careful not to “raise expectations.” According to him, the Russian forces will focus on taking Dnipro to cut off Ukrainian Armed Forces from holding off the separatists and take Donbas altogether.
However, he reiterated that this was why it was important to supply Ukraine with weapons, particularly heavy offensive weapons such as tanks and fighter jets. With these heavy fighting equipment, they may be able to prevent the Russians from taking Dnipro and the rest of Donbas.
“In order to prevent that, they got to have heavy fighting equipment. Not Javelins, not Stingers – that’s fine for helping defend cities. They need tanks, they need mobile artillery, they need lots of ammunition, they need fuel, they need repairs.”
Clark also said that they need aircraft for air cover, suggesting that the US revisit the issues referring to the failed deal with Poland to supply Ukraine with MiG-29s.
However, he also said that the US alone cannot supply all of these munitions and equipment and that the rest of NATO should do their part in supplying these weapons to Ukraine. He also said that Ukrainian soldiers would make good use of the military equipment as “they want to win this fight,” adding that the US had supported countries in the past that were not prepared to fight at all.
“Now we’ve got a first-world country. Their soldiers have education just as good as ours. They just as good technically as we are. We give ’em our modern weapons. They can use them in 24 hours. Plus, they know how to fight on that terrain. So we’re going to have to do a better job of listening to the Ukrainians.”
Clark also stated that peace talks and keeping negotiations open is in the interest of both Ukraine and Russia, claiming that the best outcome of the negotiations was for Russia to just get its troops out of Russia and let Ukraine have its country back.
In line with Clark’s advice, Germany had just approved the transfer of 56 Pbv-501s from the Czech Republic to bolster its capacity on the field. Furthermore, the United States has also stated that it would work with NATO allies to donate Soviet-era T-72 tanks to Ukraine. If the T-72 tank transfers were actually to push through, it would signify an escalation in weapons transfers as Western allies had opted to send defensive weapons instead of heavy offensive weapons.
In light of the General’s prediction of Russia wanting to take the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, it would be reasonable to doubt Russia’s capacity of attacking such countries as their invasion of Ukraine led to some 18,000 Russian troops (Ukrainian estimates) to be killed with more high-ranking commanders killed in action. Furthermore, with its economy in shambles under sanctions, it would be reasonable also to doubt its capacity to produce munitions, aircraft, artillery, tanks, and other necessary equipment to back its war. In fact, its primary tank manufacturer, Uralvagonzavod, had halted production as it could not source any more of its parts.
More so, if Putin were to advance into the Baltics, this would mean that he would be directly attacking NATO, and such an attack would prompt a severe and consequential response from the alliance.