Russia's Vladimir Putin has staked claim to four regions in southern Ukraine and no one acknowledges it as legal, so he might be "desperate" and "literally out of moves," according to former CIA Director David Petraeus.
"He's trying all these different desperate actions, but the fact is, the reality that confronts Russia on the battlefield in Ukraine is that Ukraine has a vastly more capable and larger force than the country that is more than three times their size," Petraeus told CNBC on Tuesday.
"The reality on the battlefield now is desperate for Putin," the retired Army general added. "There's literally nothing he can do. It is irreversible.
"The Ukrainians are already taking back these areas that have been annexed about as quickly as Russia can annex them."
But that desperation still could prove catastrophic, Petraeus warned, because there is "an enormous amount of damage and destruction that Russia can do," even if it cannot achieve is takeover objectives in Ukraine.
"They will continue to punish Ukraine on a daily basis with missiles and rockets and bombs and so forth, but at the end of the day, they cannot reverse the situation on the battlefield, which is going to see Ukraine taking back the territory that Russia has taken since 24 February, and perhaps taking back everything that Russia has taken from them since 2014," Petraeus told CNBC.
The world standing with and delivering aid for Ukraine has been a decisive edge in Putin's "special military operation" that began Feb. 24.
Amid Pentagon estimates Russia has lost 80,000 troops since the war began, Putin has called for another mobilization, potentially a sign Russia is losing, Business Insider reported.
Petraeus suggested more Russian men might have fled the country than will be conscripted into service in Ukraine, saying this is not a way a military deploys "capable and competent and well-equipped forces."
The "momentum on the battlefield is very much against Russia," Petraeus told CNBC, as Russian forces are "scrambling just to establish new defensive positions."
Even the use of a tactical nuke might not turn the war in Putin's favor, Petraeus added.
"It probably makes it worse," he said. "Yes, there will be considerable death and destruction, and radiation, but it won't reverse the situation in which Ukraine has a vastly bigger and better and more capable force than does Russia."
The U.S. needs to be on guard for Putin's aggressions "spiraling out of control," calling it "so important" the U.S. defines clear and severe consequences for using nukes, according to Petraeus.
"I think it is legitimate for U.S. leadership and for leadership of other countries to avoid starting World War III, as the phrase has been termed, but we don't want to start getting into some kind of climbing the nuclear ladder with Russia," he said.
Ultimately, Putin is not "suicidal," has "a lot" to lose, and will seek to avoid bringing "about the end of the Russian Federation as he knows it."
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