Russia expert lays out Putin's 'menu of options' regarding Ukraine, warns US vulnerability being tested

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Fox News contributor Daniel Hoffman explained during comments to Fox News Digital on Tuesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin has a “menu of options” for taking hostile action toward Ukraine.

Putin, who has amassed 100,000 troops on the Ukraine border, is also using the American response to his actions to discern the vulnerabilities of the United States, warned Hoffman, who had a distinguished career with the Central Intelligence Agency, where he was a three-time station chief and a senior executive Clandestine Services officer.

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“He could blockade the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov,” Hoffman said. “He could launch a full-throttle assault on Kyiv, which we would obviously see. He could also use his Spetsnaz guys, special forces guys — and they’re inside Ukraine already — to topple this Zelensky government. That’s also an option.”

Vladimir President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022. (Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Vladimir President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022. (Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Hoffman went on to point out that Putin could also choose to inflame the ongoing war in Donbas, a region in southeastern Ukraine.

“But right now, he’s getting a lot out of having deployed those 100,000 troops,” Hoffman noted. “This is not a losing proposition for him. It’s a win for him right now.”

Explaining how Ukraine has been under siege by Russia since 2014 from cyberattacks, espionage and military aggression, Hoffman said sanctions and economic pressure have never played into Putin’s calculus regarding Ukraine, since he sees the country as an existential threat.

“What changes his calculus is just hard power,” he said. “That’s why the Biden administration leaked the idea that the CIA would be training Ukrainian insurgents to fight a counter-insurgency against Russians, if Russia really does invade. Because we want to make it clear we can bloody Vladimir Putin’s nose, and I think it comes down to that.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a news conference after his meeting with U.S President Joe Biden at the 'Villa la Grange' in Geneva, Switzerland in Geneva, Switzerland, Wednesday, June 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool)

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a news conference after his meeting with U.S President Joe Biden at the ‘Villa la Grange’ in Geneva, Switzerland in Geneva, Switzerland, Wednesday, June 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool)

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Recalling his days in the CIA when they were searching for Osama bin Laden, Hoffman remembered that intelligence officials weighed in on contentious questions based on low, medium or high levels of confidence.

“I have a high level of confidence Putin will do something,” he said. “As far as what that is, I’m not even sure if Putin has decided yet.”

Hoffman said that Putin is attempting to increase the tension by threatening Ukraine and imposing a sense that an immediate response is necessary. 

“He’s making it hard to conduct any sort of diplomacy,” he said. “He doesn’t really want to do that, so he’s getting a good look at how we are prepared to respond. And how we are prepared to respond is what’s going to inform his decision about what to do.”

The Pentagon announced Monday that the United States heightened the readiness of some 8,500 U.S. troops amid tensions, but no decisions have been made yet to deploy them.

Hoffman believes Biden would do well to use his bully pulpit more forcefully to denounce Russia for its aggression and bring our allies together as former President George H.W. Bush did when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.

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“He hasn’t emphasized strongly enough, in my view, that the United States stands with Ukraine,” he said. “No, we’re not going to send our own military there to defend Ukraine, but we’re going to make it a prohibitively costly venture for the Russians in terms of spilled blood and treasure if they do go in. I wish Biden would say that.”

FILE - President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, arrive to meet at the 'Villa la Grange', in Geneva, Switzerland, June 16, 2021.

FILE – President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, arrive to meet at the ‘Villa la Grange’, in Geneva, Switzerland, June 16, 2021.
(Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File Pool)

“He’s a coldly calculating KGB spy,” Hoffman further said of Putin. “He deployed those troops to see how we would respond, to see what our vulnerabilities are. That’s what a KGB operative does.”

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“And so he’s looking at that menu of options,” Hoffman added, but noted there could be many scenarios Putin has thought of that the U.S. has not considered.

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