By Justin Sink - 03/30/14 12:52 PM EDT
Former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell said Sunday that Russian troops amassing on the border with Ukraine could take “perhaps a third” of the country if the Kremlin decided to expand its incursion into the former Soviet republic.
“The capabilities of those troops would be take perhaps a third of Ukraine, if Putin wanted to,” Morrell, who twice served as acting director of the CIA, told CBS News’s “Face the Nation.” “But it would be very difficult for him to hold it, because what would happen very quickly is, an insurgency would grow up, and those troops would be attacked. It would be a very nasty situation. I don't think Putin wants that.”
Morell suggested that Putin’s phone call to President Obama on Friday asking for negotiations between Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov suggests the Russian leader “thinks he’s in a strong position.”
“I think what he's trying to do is maximize what he gets out of this diplomatically,” Morell said.
Former NSA and CIA Director Michael Hayden echoed Morell’s analysis, saying Putin wanted “to pocket the Crimean victory.”
“I think he wants to make that a fact beyond contradiction,” Hayden said. “I think the talks between Lavrov and Secretary Kerry will not talk about Crimea. That'll be locked in and will not change.”
Still, Hayden described the upcoming talks between Kerry and Lavrov as “a good thing, with one caution.”
“We cannot be negotiating over the heads of the Ukrainian people,” he said. “What fundamentally matters here is what the Ukrainians will for the nature of their state. So, we need to be careful not even to project the appearances that we're negotiating beyond them.”
The two former intelligence officials also signaled their support for President Obama’s proposed reforms to the National Security Agency’s telephone metadata program.
Earlier last week, the White House announced it would pursue legislation eliminating the NSA collection of information about Americans’ telephone calls, instead mandating that the records would remain with phone companies.
Government investigators seeking to search the phone records would be required to obtain an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and their queries would be limited to two “hops” from a terror suspect. Phone companies would only be required to hold data for 18 months — as they are now — and not the 5 years that the NSA kept phone records.
Hayden said he was comfortable with the legislation proposed by the White House.
“I think we've arrived at a solution that actually makes us more safe, that gives people higher comfort, that the government would not potentially abuse it,” he said.