Mike Pompeo, former US Secretary of State under Donald Trump’s administration, argued Vladimir Putin refrained from invading Europe by “a single inch” until Joe Biden became US President.
Speaking to Sky News, Mr Pompeo argued that the Russian President saw the danger of moving against Ukraine as long as Mr Trump was in office, thanks to his administration’s military power in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
Asked whether Donald Trump would have dealt better with the Russian war on Kyiv, he said: “Putin hasn’t changed. I met with him, a bad guy, I looked in his eyes I didn’t see a soul. I saw evil.
“Make no mistakes about it, he’s the bad guy.
“What changed in the last decade? In 2014, President Obama allowed Putin to take Crimea, one-fifth of Ukraine. We always think this war started on February 24, now almost a year ago. But it actually started in 2014, then for four years Putin doesn’t invade Europe, doesn’t invade another single inch.
“And then we leave office and he goes at it again. I believe that’s not coincidence. I believe that’s because we were serious. We built the American military, we had created a situation where NATO members put forward $180 billion more into NATO.”
He added: “Ask Secretary General Stoltenberg who helped him create the NATO that is doing such a good job supporting Ukraine today. We were that force. Although we didn’t make any friends doing it, we were the force that began that trajectory.
“I think Putin could see that, he saw what we did in the Middle East and he could see we were serious. He watched us in Afghanistan defending things that matter. I think there was a fundamentally different understanding in the mind of Vladimir Putin.
“Deterrence depends on your adversary’s perception of risk. And I think he thought there was a lot of risk under our watch. He thought there were no risks doing it when President Biden was in office.”
The comments come as the US has stepped up pressure on Middle East allies to expel the Wagner Group, a military contractor with close ties to Russia‘s president, from chaos-stricken Libya and Sudan where it expanded in recent years.
The US effort described by officials comes as the Biden administration is making a broad push against the mercenaries.
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An Egyptian senior government official with direct knowledge of the talks, said: “Wagner obsesses them (American officials).
“It is at the top of every meeting.”
Wagner has deployed thousands of operatives in African and Middle Eastern countries including Mali, Libya, Sudan, the Central African Republic, and Syria. Its aim in Africa, analysts say, is to support Russia’s interests amid rising global interest in the resource-rich continent.