According to a person familiar with the material, Western and US intelligence agencies are keeping a watchful eye out for any signals of potential Russian activity in the western Balkans, but have observed nothing out of the norm thus far.
Officials are also keeping a careful eye on Russia’s use of military assets in Moldova as part of its war in Ukraine, where Russia supports the separatist republic of Transnistria.
The focus reflects Western concerns that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s goals may be stronger than Ukraine’s.
When asked by CBS on Thursday if there is intelligence that Putin aims to expand beyond Ukraine, Secretary of State Antony Blinken responded, “You don’t need intelligence to tell you that that’s exactly what President Putin wants.”
“He’s made it apparent that he wants to rebuild the Soviet empire.” In the meantime, he’d like to reestablish a sphere of influence around neighboring countries that were once part of the Soviet bloc. In the meanwhile, he’d like to ensure that all of these countries remain somehow neutral,” Blinken explained.
According to the source, Western intelligence experts believe Russia’s objective in Ukraine is to destabilize the government in Kyiv and establish a Russia-friendly proxy administration – but they don’t know whether Putin will then seek to invade and control Ukrainian territory.