U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine said Americans should prepare for Russia to exert more brutality against Ukrainian cities and people, and for possible cyberattacks here at home, as Russian President Vladimir Putin prosecutes a war that King believes he’s already lost.
During a press conference with Maine reporters Thursday, King described Putin as the most dangerous man in the world.
But while Russia’s invasion of Ukraine might initially yield a military victory against its outgunned and outmanned neighbor, King said that Putin has grossly underestimated the resistance of Ukrainians, as well as a unified western alliance that has already deployed sanctions to cripple the Russian economy.
The result could be a protracted Ukrainian insurgency campaign against a military occupation that U.S. military leaders hope will have fewer financial resources and become increasingly unpopular with Russians.
“That’s why I say I think Putin has lost the war either way,” King said. “He may gain control of Kyiv or other cities, but in the long run holding those gains is going to be very, very difficult.”
King is a member of the Senate Intelligence and Armed Services committees and both receive classified briefings from U.S. military leaders and intelligence officials.
Committee members are not allowed to disclose information from those briefings, but their views are often shaped by them.
King believes there’s a good chance Russia will intensify its bombing campaign, essentially replicating its punishing offensive on cities in Chechnya in the late 1990s.
The difference now, however, is that most nations are aligned against Russia’s invasion and some, including the U.S., are providing financial and military aid to the Ukrainian resistance.
But while Russia is largely isolated, King said Putin could become more desperate and strike back against the U.S. or its allies.
“It’s very likely that Vladimir Putin is going to lash out. One way may be, as I mentioned, carpet bombing Ukraine and civilians. But another could be a cyberattack on our country or on other western countries because that’s certainly in the Russian playbook,” he said.
King has long worried about cyberattacks against private institutions like banks or public infrastructure, and he said cybersecurity in both areas is uneven across the country.
He also said it’s unclear how the conflict will be resolved given that U.S. intelligence views Putin’s invasion as the fulfillment of his dream of reconstituting the former Soviet Union and that withdrawing from Ukraine would be an embarrassing defeat.
This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.