Russian President Vladimir Putin was a "fearful" leader who was getting "a lot more than he bargained for" during his invasion of Ukraine, said retired Lt. General H.R. McMaster on February 27. He was speaking on CBS's "Face the Nation."

Ukrainians are doing a 'tremendous job'

The former National Security Advisor said that the Ukrainians had done a "tremendous job" of denying the Russians a swift victory. At the start of an invasion, "it's really easy to look good crossing the border," he said. But, as the War in Ukraine continued, the Russians would find it "harder and harder for them as they extend their lines of communication supply lines."

McMaster said the following 72 hours would be decisive.

Since the Ukrainians were not fighting to defend a centralized, autocratic political system, they would probably continue fighting if Kyiv were captured, he said. However, he added that the fall of Kyiv to the Russians did not appear to be "in the cards in the immediate future."

Although the idea of 160,000 Russian invaders might seem intimidating, it should be remembered that only a third of them were combat troops, McMaster said. He said those combat troops had the task of subduing a population of 40 million Ukrainians in an area the size of Texas.

World War III can be avoided

McMaster said it was possible to help Ukraine resist Russia without triggering World War III. He said the United States could assist Ukraine by doing the following:

  • First, preventing Russian military dominance of the Black Sea.
  • Second, re-opening commercial traffic "to alleviate humanitarian suffering in Ukraine."
  • Replenishing Ukraine's supply of arms.
  • Providing financial support.
  • Ensuring that roads to Ukraine from Poland, Moldova, and Romania are kept open.

More political prisoners now than in Cold War

While there was the possibility of a popular Russian uprising stopping Putin, it would be an uphill battle, McMaster said.

He noted that "there are more people in Russia's internal security service than there are in the Russian military." He added that Russia had more political prisoners now than at the worst period of the Cold War.

On February 27, The New York Times reported that Ukrainians were targeting the invaders' supply lines. The paper quoted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as saying the capital city of Kyiv had "successfully repelled" attacks from Russia.

The paper said that an increasing number of European countries were closing their air space to Russian planes. It added that Russia would probably beef up its efforts to subdue Ukraine.

McMaster's comments can be viewed on the "Face the Nation" channel on YouTube.

Writing in The Guardian, Russian novelist Vladimir Sorokin said the Russian people were responsible for the attack on Ukraine. He said they would continue to be accountable for it until Putin fell. "He attacked a free and democratic country precisely because it is a free and democratic country," Sorokin wrote.