Tom Donilon: Vladimir Putin's reasons for military action a "pretext" to regain leverage in Ukraine

Donilon: Ukraine "essential to (Putin's) sphe... 04:40

President Barack Obama's former national security adviser, Tom Donilon, called out Russian President Vladimir Putin's reasons for his actions in the Ukraine crisis as a "pretext" to regain leverage in the region since fugitive Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych fled Kiev.

"This is about Putin reacting to the loss of a sphere of influence, a loss of a proxy in Ukraine, the real blow to his plan to have some sort of counter organization to the European Union," Donilon said. "... The loss of Ukraine in his really a traumatic event."

Russia insists its military moves in the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea are to protect Russian installations and its citizens living there. Going forward, according to Donlion, the U.S. and the world have a few options, including economic sanctions, to deal with the situation in Ukraine.
"We're starting to see this," he said. "One, declare his actions to be absolutely illegal under international law -- illegal and (in violation) of his arrangements with the Ukrainians and the commitments, by the way, Russian commitments, to protect the sovereignty of the Ukraine coming out of the Cold War. Second, we need to isolate Russia politically and isolate Russia economically. To those that say that there's no leverage here...I think that's just not true. You saw it yesterday in the Russian markets. ... (Putin) can not withdraw the Russian economy from the world economy."
As for Secretary of State John Kerry, specifically, Donilon said Kerry's goal during his visit to the region Tuesday is three-fold: "Number one is to indicate political support for the government in Ukraine, which is planning to have an election in May, that's absolutely critical. Number two is to bring the Ukraine pledges of and a plan for international community economic support. And third, to indicate that, in fact, the international community will continue to push back on Russian assertions that this is somehow a humanitarian mission. It is not. This is about in Ukraine right now an attempt to regain leverage in the situation."

For more with Donilon, watch his full interview above.