Putin Wants to Rebuild Soviet Union, Former Head of British Army Warns

Russian president Vladimir Putin reportedly wanted to set up a meeting with Donald Trump before the 2016 election and used an NRA member to help him to do it. Getty Images

Updated | Russian President Vladimir Putin essentially wants to rebuild the Soviet Union and restore Russia as a "major power" in the world, General Sir Mike Jackson, former head of the British Army, warned Thursday.

"I always like to remind people regarding Vladimir Putin that he said publicly…that the worst thing, the worst thing let me underline that, that happened in the 20th century, i.e., worse than two World Wars, worse than the Holocaust, worse than the Great Depression—the worst thing was the fall of the Soviet Union," Jackson told the U.K.-based LBC. "It tells you quite a lot I think about Putin because he sees modern Russia as the inheritor of the great power status which the Soviet Union used to have and I think he's trying to rebuild that."

"It's a theme which is there, to rebuild modern Russia as a major power in the world as the Soviet Union was in his view," Jackson added of the former KGB officer turned world leader.

Putin remains a particularly controversial figure amid the investigation into the Kremlin's interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and the Trump campaign's alleged collusion.  Getty Images

Jackson seemed to be referencing an address Putin delivered in 2005 to the nation's top politicians and parliament, in which he said, "Above all, we should acknowledge that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a major geopolitical disaster of the century. As for the Russian nation, it became a genuine drama. Tens of millions of our co-citizens and co-patriots found themselves outside Russian territory. Moreover, the epidemic of disintegration infected Russia itself."

Others contend it's somewhat hyperbolic to say Putin wants to restore the Soviet Union.

It's a "bit much" to say this is Putin's overall ambition, Dr. Brandon Valeriano, Donald Bren Chair of Armed Politics at Marine Corps University, told Newsweek. "But we cannot deny the importance of history and how recovering a lost vision of status is critical in determining national goals," Valeriano added.

Dr. Pavel Baev, a fellow at Brookings Institution and Russia expert, echoed these sentiments: "I cannot agree with the proposition about a grand-plan for rebuilding the Soviet Union.... My reading of Putin's policies (and there is hardly any strategy behind his steering Russia along the path of decline) is more defensive than ambitious.... Regime survival is his main concern and the prime strategic guideline."

"Despite all [Putin's] demonstrated confidence and bravado, he lives in fear—and that makes him dangerous," Baev added.

Putin was recruited as a KGB agent after graduating from university. Getty Images

Putin continues to face criticism over his aggressive actions in Ukraine, including the annexation of Crimea in 2014, as well as Russia's involvement in the ongoing conflict in Syria. The Russian leader also remains a controversial figure in the U.S. in relation to the ongoing investigation into the Kremlin's interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and the Trump campaign's alleged collusion with Russia.

On Monday, British Prime Minister Theresa May accused Putin of attempting to "undermine free societies" with election meddling. Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald Trump has expressed doubts about whether Russia interfered in the election on his behalf, which contradicts the stance of the U.S. intelligence community as well as the views of several of the president's top advisers.

Update: This article has been updated to include comments from Dr. Pavel Baev of Brookings Institution.