Trump administration veteran Robert Wilkie told Newsmax that he had "no doubt" Russian President Vladimir Putin sabotaged the Nord Stream II pipeline.
European officials are investigating the cause of major leaks into the Baltic Sea from two Russian gas pipelines at the center of an energy standoff with Moscow.
Wilkie, appearing on Wednesday's "National Report," accused Putin of "energy sabotage."
"[You] see the specter of Putin becoming more bellicose, and, as we know yesterday, he … blew up two sections of the Nord Stream II pipeline to further increase the pressure on the Europeans to pull back," Wilkie told co-hosts Shaun Kraisman and Emma Rechenberg.
"There are only three navies in the world capable of pulling off an operation like that — one’s the United States Navy, one’s the Royal navy and one’s the Russian navy. So, we can probably figure out who did this."
Wilkie, who served as the U.S. secretary of Veterans Affairs from 2018-21, said he expected Putin to retaliate against Americans and Europeans.
"We’re starting to see Russians attack Russian civil authorities," Wilkie told Newsmax. "Mobilization, or military, recruiting offices are now being attacked. Putin is cracking down; he's filling his jails with dissidents, and it's only a matter of time before he lashed out at Americans and Europeans.
"We have a long track record as you know, of Vladimir Putin detaining Americans on very specious charges, and essentially holding them hostage. And this has been going on ever since Putin came to power."
The U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Russia released a statement Tuesday warning that Russia may refuse to acknowledge dual nationals’ U.S. citizenship, deny their access to U.S. consular assistance, prevent their departure from Russia, and conscript dual nationals for military service.
Americans residing or traveling in Russia were encouraged to depart immediately while limited commercial travel options remain.
"I think the order should have been given a long time ago because the civil structure of Russia right now is collapsing in on Putin," said Wilkie, distinguished fellow, Center for American Security at the America First Institute.
"You see tens of thousands of Russian males fleeing the country to avoid his latest mobilization order, and it's imperative that we don't give him any more rope by holding more Americans hostage."
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