Daniel Fata was the Pentagon’s point man in the US response to Russia’s 2008 invasion of Georgia. Stephen Benedict Dyson spoke with him for WaPo on Russia’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine.
Fata is suspicious of Putin’s claim that his intervention in Ukraine is limited in scope and designed to protect Russian citizens. Putin gave similar assurances to the United States over Georgia, Fata recalls. “He lied.” Putin’s intention all along in Georgia was to bring about the end of the government of President Mikheil Saakashvili, who survived in office but whose standing was weakened by the war. In Crimea, Fata is convinced that Putin’s ultimate objective is “to try and take Kiev if he can, and if the consequences aren’t too severe for him.”
The United States should have three goals in the current crisis, in Fata’s view: Russia must be deterred from attempting to advance any further into Ukraine; the United States must reassure its allies and partners in the region that their security will be guaranteed; and Russian gains must be rolled back. In Georgia, the United States achieved the first two of these goals, but to this day has not accomplished a roll-back of Russian gains. Fata believes achieving these goals is critical not only for Ukraine but for the credibility of U.S. policy in the region and around the world. “We cannot seem to be weak or hesitant. That doesn’t mean mobilize yet but it does mean we need to be resolute and have some form of an actual, executable plan for how we will shore up our allies.”
Haughty reminders that “Invading Crimea in March simply isn’t done, dear,” will hardly do the trick.