Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates says that President Obama's efforts to apply pressure on Vladimir Putin are failing and that the Russian president clearly has more expansive desires.
Worse, the Secretary said Russia has already taken Crimea, despite an internal vote set for next week on the Ukrainian region's fate.
"You think Crimea's gone?" "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace asked.
"I do," Gates replied. "I do not believe that Crimea will slip out of Russia's hand."
While Putin claims troops are in Crimea to "protect" Russians, Gates said there is a much bigger scheme playing out.
"I think it’s part of a long-term strategy on Putin’s part to create a Russian sphere of influence, a Russian bloc,” he said. "I don’t think he will stop in Ukraine until there is essentially a pro-Russian government in Ukraine, in Kiev.”
The White House has so far made only mild attempts to punish Russia for moving into Ukraine, implementing travel restrictions, revoking some visas, and enacting some weak economic sanctions. But those won't work, he said, and there are few other options.
"There really aren’t any direct military options that we have," Gates said. "I think that some of the sanctions that are being discussed and the actions being taken — whether it is limitations on visas or on travel, on potentially freezing assets of specific individuals — frankly I don’t believe are going to be any deterrent for Putin. I think our greatest response is to have our own strategy for countering this long-term strategy of Putin’s to gather these states back under Moscow’s control.”