They haven’t stopped President Vladimir Putin. He put his nuclear forces on high alert over the weekend, raising fears about an escalation.

Retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman was the European affairs director for NATO’s National Security Council. He told CBS Mornings that this latest development was familiar to Kremlin watchers.

Vladimir Putin hopes that his nuclear saber-rattling will get us back on our feet, make us more concerned about the possibility of nuclear escalation. Vindman stated that government officials understand that “we’ve had to face this threat throughout Cold War, during the Soviet period, and for generations.” He also said that they had to respond to Russia’s belligerence while supporting their national security interests. It’s important to not allow the nuclear saber-rattling to change your mind, as we have seen it before.
“But we must also indicate that his actions had severe consequences. We have never done anything like this on an economic scale. Russia’s economy has been isolated for all intents. Although there will be energy flows, Europe depends on them, Russia is an isolated economy. It will have a catastrophic impact.”

Vindman stated that the West has a particular need for lethal assistance to Ukraine’s degraded military forces, as well providing anti-tank capabilities and air defense capabilities as well as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), to strike deep targets.

He said, “That’s where you need to go before you force Vladimir Putin to think about off-ramps.” He started this war. He is the one who will send the first signals that his willingness to move in a different direction. We’re still far from this point.

Tony Dokoupil, co-host of CBS Mornings, asked: “I hear that you say we shouldn’t worry [about nuclear-saber-rattling], but he’s done it in the past. Others say he’s not the same Vladimir Putin that he was five years ago, ten year ago. He’s changed. Is it possible to believe that Putin is still a rational actor from the place you are?

Vindman responded, “Yeah well, he’s not changed,” He’s not mad. He is not suicidal. Since years, he has been increasing his aggression against Western countries incrementally. To poison his enemies, he used chemical weapons and nuclear-grade materials. He has used bounties to target U.S. forces. He has been involved in multiple wars. He hasn’t had to face a significant reaction. He now has to face that reaction. He’s not used to this. He’s not mad, but he knows he isn’t crazy and will look for other avenues to reach his goals in the long-term.

Vindman wrote last week in an Atlantic op-ed, “America Could Do So Much More to Protect Ukraine”, that Joe Biden’s succumbed to wishful thinking about Russia’s ambitions in Ukraine, and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s fundamental commitment to international norms.

Vindman stated to CBS Mornings that allowing Putin’s actions was a failure by multiple U.S. administrations. “Twenty-years of failed policy. That kind of blindsided the wider landscape in Ukraine. The administration is looking at Russia through a straw. The Biden administration has leaned far ahead within that soda straw. They’re at the forefront of these sanctions and are now providing weapons. There is still more that could be done.

“We can see the disaster that this war is now, and that there is no chance of it being a limited [war] if the U.S. or Europe stays out cleanly. My criticism was to learn from our mistakes and to end an incrementalist approach to providing support for Ukraine. It’s not $350 million as the U.S. claimed, but it is an order of magnitude larger — $3.5 billion.

Gayle King, co-host, stated that many people are impressed by the strength and determination of the Ukrainian people. What do you think about Ukraine’s people and how they handle this?

He said, “It’s incredible.” They are an example to the rest of the world. It is evident that the U.S. population is attracted to it. The underdog story is always a favorite. It’s much more. These are tough, resilient people fighting for freedom, democracy, and their homes. The Russians weren’t prepared for this. They made false assumptions and are being crushed on the battlefields of Ukraine.

“But it’s an incredible people, a populace that I’ve had a chance to get to know. It’s also in my blood for that matter. I am proud to be a Ukrainian American.