Kurt Volker, former U.S. Ambassador to NATO and former U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations, said this in an interview with Ukrinform.
"Now is the time to be increasing support for Ukraine, training, equipment. Now is the time to apply sanctions until Russia stands down its military forces. We should be putting these in there today rather than waiting to see if Russia invades and then doing it after the fact," Volker said.
According to him, Putin is cynically using the diplomatic process for his own insidious plan to get a formal rejection from the West of the Kremlin's ultimate demands to NATO and the United States.
"And then he [Putin] can use that rejection as a pretext, saying, well, because Russia's security interests were ignored, we have no choice, we have to take things into our own hands," Volker said.
He added that if the Kremlin decides to invade Ukraine, it will be most convenient to do so by the middle of February.
"They [the Russians] want to be able to carry out military action on frozen ground and end it before the ground thaws. So they have a window in which they can act, do what they're going to do, and then be able to go into negotiation," Volker said.
He urged the United States and NATO to "take preemptive steps." "We want to prevent - we should want to prevent - a new invasion rather than wait for that to happen," Volker said.
At the same time, he said he was sure that the current U.S. administration seems to understand the need to be much tougher than in 2014 or 2015. "So they seem to have prepared the ground for quick deployment of very tough sanctions. They've also said that they will reinforce a military presence in NATO countries in Eastern Europe and increase security assistance to Ukraine. So they've said all of these things, and I think they mean it, I believe they are committed to it. The only thing I would say is that I would urge them to do it now, don't wait," Volker said.