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Former KGB spy Jack Barsky offers insights on what Putin wants

What Vladimir Putin wants in Ukraine
Former KGB agent Jack Barsky breaks down Vladimir Putin's motives for the Ukraine invasion 06:44

Russian President Vladimir Putin could be feeling trapped — and despite his public statements, he can't just pretend that everything is going OK in Ukraine, where his troops have so far failed to capture the capital, Kyiv, said Jack Barsky, a former KGB agent and the author of "Deep Undercover: My Secret Life and Tangled Alliances as a KGB Spy in America."

Born Albrecht Dittrich in East Germany and recruited by the KGB to spy on the U.S. during the Cold War, Barsky stayed in the U.S. after the fall of the Soviet Union and worked with U.S. intelligence after he was exposed as a former sleeper agent.

Barsky told CBS News' Lana Zak that the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 was a formative moment for Putin, who was then a mid-level KGB officer. As protesters gathered outside the office where he was stationed in Dresden, in East Germany, Putin was told Moscow was silent.

Putin "went from being a member of the most powerful organization, living the good life in East Germany, to somebody who was completely helpless, defending that position. I think that left a deep impression on him and it motivated him to rebuild — not necessarily the Soviet Union, but greater Russia. This is what he is after," Barsky said.

Barsky told CBS News that in other wars, Putin sought to escalate the conflict — and if the pattern holds, will go after more civilian targets.

"He doesn't really care as much for the suffering of the Russian people. He's lashing out against his own people," Barsky said.

The Russian leader has "a tight grip on power," Barksy said. "As long as he satisfies his inner circle — the folks that are directly supporting him — he doesn't have much to fear."

While a military revolt could be a potential long-term scenario, Barsky said, right now "he is very well protected."

"Assuming that he can survive this, assuming there isn't a sort of coup against him — so long term, he'll be in trouble if this keeps going like this, if more soldiers keep dying. He'll have an Afghanistan on his hands," said Barsky. Soviet troops entered Afghanistan in late 1979, toppling the Afghan leader and kicking off a nearly decade-long conflict with the mujahideen. "And as you know, Afghanistan was the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union — and Ukraine may become the beginning of the end of Putin as a dictator."

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