Trump’s Putin praise draws harsh rebuke from former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta

Siding with Vladimir Putin is “the kind of stuff that can cost lives,” former defense secretary says

SHARE Trump’s Putin praise draws harsh rebuke from former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta
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Leon Panetta, former defense secretary and former CIA director, said words by former President Donald Trump (right) toward Russian President Vladimir Putin amount to “aiding and abetting.”

AP; Getty Images

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America has been busy channeling a pixelated war in Ukraine his week, clicking our TV remotes like frantic fireflies.

When the conflict quickly morphed from a rumor of war into the largest ground invasion in Europe since World War II, the world took note.

We were watching Putin’s War.

For the second time Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, who rules the world’s largest country, seems convinced his nation still isn’t big enough even though its land mass incorporates 11 time zones!

“There is no purgatory for war criminals, they go straight to hell,” the Ukraine’s U.N. ambassador, Sergiy Kyslytsya, said about mad Vlad.

“It is a war without a cause,” said President Joe Biden.

“I am praying for the people of Ukraine,” tweeted former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “The world will hold Russia and Putin accountable for the human suffering and destruction this unjustifiable, unprovoked war will bring.”

Pause.

Enter former President Donald Trump, who praised Putin’s Ukrainian moves this week as “smart” and “savvy” and even threw the word “genius” into the mix.

Huh?

Trump’s praise for the world’s public enemy No. 1 drew a swift rebuke from former U.S. Defense Secretary and CIA director Leon Panetta, who oversaw the hunt and eventual capture of Osama bin Laden during the Obama Administration.

In a phone interview Friday, Panetta gave Sneed his own well-informed take in which he came this/close to calling Trump a traitor.

“Let’s just say aiding and abetting Russia via praise of Putin is an attempt to undermine national unity,” Panetta told Sneed.

He said he personally “gave up on Trump” when the then-president, at a 2018 summit, stood beside Putin and said he believed “Russian intelligence was correct” that Putin did not interfere in the U.S. election — despite all evidence to the contrary from U.S. intelligence.

“That told me a lot about Trump,” he added. “Deep down he admired Putin. Scary. Aiding and abetting the enemy … [is] the kind of stuff that can cost lives. It sends the message that we [as a nation] are divided.”

But make no mistake: “Putin and Russia must be stopped,” he said. “And this moment is an opportunity to do so.”

Putin’s mental stability is also being questioned.

Is this former Soviet chief of the KGB spy service a deluded dictator with visions of rebuilding the former Russian empire — or a victim of severely self-imposed isolation during the COVID pandemic who is now running amuck and paranoid?

Or is it all of the above?

“The bottom line is he is paranoid,” said Panetta. “He was a KGB agent ... always assuming anything that goes wrong is the responsibility of the CIA ... or ... everybody else for that matter.

“I’ve had a career in the military and CIA and assumed Putin to be a bully but not stupid,” he said. “His decisions recently indicate someone in generally tough circumstances. This is a different Putin because he has been unpredictable.

“Russians are shocked at what he did. They assumed he was bluffing and had resolve. He tells them they are safe. They are not dealing with the Putin they have known for 22 years.

“He has always been extremely wily and manipulative, but there was always a side of him willing to try and negotiate ... especially arms control.” With Putin’s self-initiated COVID-19 protections, Panetta now believes “Putin actually feels isolated.”

Panetta also believes Putin’s days are numbered.

“I don’t think Putin will be around forever because of what he has done in the last few weeks,” added Panetta. “It tells me that he may very well be added to the infamous list of conquerors who failed.”

Still, he does fear Putin’s access to heavier fire power.

“What does Putin mean when he says people who interfere with Russia’s incursion in Ukraine ‘will experience never seen consequences?’” I asked. “Is he talking a nuclear threat?”

“This is a dangerous moment in the world,” Panetta replied, saying it’s imperative Ukraine be armed to defend itself.

“The best scenario bogs down into a resistance war where the Russians pay a heavy price, similar to what happened to them in Afghanistan … and Putin ends up finding a way out.”

But on the other hand, “The worst scenario is Russia takes Ukraine, destroys any resistance, and takes adjoining former Soviet Union countries,” he said.

“How the United States and our NATO allies handle this will tell us a lot about the future of the 21st century.”

Scary.

Sneedlings …

An early shoutout to Sara (Sally) Noonan Bredemann, widow of the late Park Ridge Buick/Toyota dealership owner Joseph Bredemann Sr., who celebrates her 95th birthday Thursday. Her son, Tom, described his parents as “always servants for others. Service above self. Mom was involved in Meals on Wheels her whole life,” he said. “They lived this belief every day and never expected anything in return.” Amen ... Saturday birthdays: singer Michael Bolton, 69; U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, 64…Sunday birthdays: attorney Ted Tetzlaff, ageless and priceless; singer Josh Groban, 41; actress Kate Mara, 39; Joanne Woodward, 92; and Chelsea Clinton, 42.

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