Bob Gates: Ukraine Will Lose Crimea To Russia When All Is Said And Done

President Obama’s former defense secretary is making a grim prediction: At the end of the day, Russia will successfully annex Crimea from Ukraine, no matter how many economic sanctions or assets freezes the West imposes. In an interview on Fox News Sunday, Bob Gates said that Vladimir Putin “wants to recreate the Soviet Union,” and sees the Crimean invasion as “taking back territory that belonged to them.” The best thing the U.S. and its allies can do at this point, according to Gates, is prevent more countries from falling into Russia’s sphere of influence.

“I do not believe that Crimea will slip out of Russia’s hands,” Gates said.

“You think Crimea’s gone?,” host Chris Wallace asked.

“I do,” Gates responded.

Next week, Crimea will hold a referendum on whether or not to reincorporate itself into Russia. Moscow, not surprisingly, supports the referendum, while Ukraine’s leadership has called the referendum illegal. Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who will meet with Obama at the White House later this week, said Sunday that Ukraine won’t give “one centimeter” to Russia.

"This is our land. Our fathers and grandfathers gave their blood for this land. And we will not cede even one centimeter of Ukrainian land," Yatsenyuk said at a rally.

But Gates, a Republican who served under George W. Bush, predicted the opposite, and said the U.S. should focus its efforts on protecting the sovereignty of other Eastern European territories that Putin hasn't yet seized.

"I think our greatest response is to have our own strategy for countering this long-term strategy of Putin's to gather the states back under Moscow's control," Gates said. "I worry a lot about the Baltics. I applaud the dispatch of additional fire aircraft for the air patrols in the Baltic States, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia. I think that's the right thing to do and we ought to be exploring doing more militarily with Poland."

Gates also criticized his fellow party members for criticizing Obama’s response to the conflict.

“Some of the criticism, domestic criticism of the president ought to be toned down while he’s trying to handle this crisis,” Gates said. “Putin invaded Georgia when George W. Bush was president. Nobody ever accused George W. Bush of being weak or unwilling to use military force.”