Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta speaks out

OAKLAND (KTVU) -- Four years after Leon Panetta stepped down from his post with the Obama administration, the former Defense Secretary doesn't mince words about the current political scene or the ambitions of Russia's president Vladimir Putin.

"Putin is a bully. He'll try to get away with what he can," Panetta said recently. "If he senses weakness he'll try to take advantage of that weakness."

KTVU sat down recently or a one-on-one conversation with the career public servant who's worn many hats during his decades in Washington.

The Monterey County native was a Congressman, White House Chief of Staff, CIA Director and Defense Secretary.

>>>>>Panetta on political partisanship

All of those positions have given him a unique perspective on the current state of affairs in Washington D.C. and at hot spots around the world.

Panetta sounded off on the crisis in Syria, North Korea, relations with China and NATO.

He said the Trump administration has to be especially careful of Russia and the potential for Vladmir Putin to make another aggressive move against a NATO ally.

>>>>>Panetta on Syria

"I think that holds the potential, very frankly, for a serious war with Russia," Panetta said.

Panetta also gives his thoughts on the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and whether or not President Trump is facing a crisis of Watergate proportions.

By KTVU anchor/reporter Ken Wayne.

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