Nearly 50 Percent Chance of 'Major War' Over Russia-Ukraine: Ex Ambassador

Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor says he believes there is nearly a "50 percent" chance of a "major war" breaking out in Europe, as fears grow that Russian President Vladimir Putin is prepared to invade Ukraine.

"There's a 50 percent chance that there will be a major war in Europe today, with tens of thousands of soldiers on both sides, both sides, dying," Taylor told CNN on Sunday, referring to the burgeoning crisis that has emerged on Ukraine's eastern border.

"A nearly 50 percent chance of that kind of outcome is troubling, is very troubling," he continued.

"The reason, if there is reason, if Mr. Putin is thinking about the cost and benefits, he won't do it," Taylor added. "Because the costs are are very, very high. The cost in soldier's lives, the cost in civilian lives. The cost in sanctions that he knows are coming."

Taylor's remarks come as White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that the Biden administration is concerned the Kremlin "is preparing for an invasion into Ukraine that may result in widespread human rights violations and war crimes should diplomacy fail to meet their objectives."

"As part of its plans, Russia is laying the groundwork to have the option of fabricating a pretext for invasion, including through sabotage activities and information operations, by accusing Ukraine of preparing an imminent attack against Russian forces in eastern Ukraine," Psaki said.

The Russian military "plans to begin these activities several weeks before a military invasion, which could begin between mid-January and mid-February," she said.

Psaki said it is up to Russian President Vladimir Putin to determine the path forward.

"If they decide they want to engage in diplomatic conversations and talks, we are very open to that and we're hopeful they will do that. But ultimately, it's a choice they need to make," Psaki said.

Taylor, who departed his post in January 2020, told CNN he believes Putin has an "obsession" with Ukraine.

"He wants to be sure Ukraine doesn't join NATO," Taylor explained. "Ukraine has every right to apply to NATO, Ukraine's a sovereign country. Mr. Putin doesn't agree with that. Mr. Putin thinks that Ukraine is not a sovereign country...he thinks Ukraine and is really just part of Russia."

Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby has said that the US will "continue to provide security assistance to Ukraine" in the event of an invasion "to help them better defend themselves."

Russia has so far amassed more than 100,000 troops at Ukraine's border.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor
Then-top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine William B. Taylor Jr. testifies before the House Intelligence Committee in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill November 13, 2019 in Washington, DC. He said he believes there is nearly a “50 percent” chance of a “major war” breaking out in Europe as Russia-Ukraine tensions intensify. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images