Ex-CIA official suggests Putin manipulating crash aftermath

Former CIA Deputy Director Mike Morell suggested Monday that Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to manipulate the situation in Ukraine to prevent its government in Kiev from joining NATO or the European Union.

In a brief statement released by the Kremlin Monday, Putin called for negotiations between pro-Russian separatists and Ukraine’s government.

“Now this is something that he has been calling for for some time, and it’s exactly what he wants,” Morell said on “CBS This Morning.” “He wants a set of negotiations that result in autonomy for Eastern Ukraine that would allow Eastern Ukraine to veto any Ukrainian attempts to join NATO or join the EU. So right now the card that he’s playing is the card that he’s wanted all along, and I don’t think we should allow him to get away with that." 

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Morell said there is increasing pressure in the international community to ratchet up sanctions against Russia. The other option on the table, he said, is providing lethal support to Ukraine’s government, which Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called for months ago. The Obama administration has so far only provided non-lethal aid.

“Those are the two things I think that are on the table being discussed, and that really have the potential to push Putin in the right direction here,” said Morell, who served as deputy director of the CIA from 2010 to 2013.

Asked if Putin is culpable in the downing of Flight MH17 last Thursday, Morell said it’s hard for him to say personally, but he guessed Putin was aware of the support Russia has provided to the separatists in Ukraine. 

“My guess would be that he was aware of the significant support being provided by the Russian military to the separatists, but whether he knew about the specifics, whether he knew about this particular anti-aircraft system, whether he knew about the particular training, is hard to say,” Morell said. “I would bet one of things that’s going on in Moscow right now is President Putin trying to figure out exactly what the truth is regarding their complicity.”