OMAHA, Neb. — After thousands of deaths, weeks of warfare, and peace virtually destroyed in Europe, former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warns the world is in a "dangerous spot."
While the U.S. has not officially declared war, Hagel believes we have reached that point since we're providing weapons to Ukrainians and imposed economic sanctions on Russia and warned that Vladimir Putin is far from "settling this."
"Putin now — in the fourth week of this invasion — is in a corner, and when you put a dictator in a corner like Putin it's dangerous. He can resort to different things. He's already talked about using nuclear weapons. He's talked about chemical weapons," Hagel said.
Hagel foresees an ominous future.
"This guy is a very dangerous operator. He's a KGB person who thinks like a KGB person. Misinformation, disinformation and that's the way he governs a country. What he does next is uncertain, but he's in a tough spot now because we have decimated his economy," Hagel said.
Putin is working in a "weakened state." About 75% of his military is deployed against Ukraine. He's running out of ammunition and lacks support and allies. When asked about the possibility of nuclear warfare, Hagel doesn't rule it out.
"Everything is like handling nitroglycerin. It's hair-triggered. So you got to be careful. Try to walk the diplomatic way as well as the realistic war. That you have to factor in that's happening right now and you can't dismiss that. And that will get more significant, I think he will accel his efforts," Hagel said.
As national leaders face some of the most difficult decisions since World War II, Hagel urges Nebraskans to "play a part" when it comes to peace and diplomacy.
"We want to keep a strong, unified country, on this. Who's supporting our policymakers? A strong, unified West and world. Let Putin and Russians know we can't stand for this. We don't want war. As I said, we are in a phase of war now. But we don't want this to go any further," Hagel said.
President Joe Biden is heading to Europe for a NATO summit on the invasion. Hagel expects leaders will have conversations about "anything" — whether that's the use of chemical weapons or the possibility of a nuclear exchange.