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Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice believes COVID-19 pandemic may have influenced Russian President Vladimir Putin to invade Ukraine

Dr. Rice sat down for a one-on-one interview with 3News' Russ Mitchell to talk about the war in Ukraine, gas prices, the January 6th hearings, and much more.

AKRON, Ohio — As the fifth month of the Russia-Ukraine war approaches, one of America's most prominent foreign experts is encouraging the Biden administration to continue to support the Ukrainian people.

Former U.S. Secretary of State and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice sat down for a one-on-one interview with 3News' Russ Mitchell in Akron, where she is serving as Ambassador for the 2022 Bridgestone Senior Players Championship.

"We certainly are being enormously supportive of Ukraine. And we should be," Dr. Rice told Mitchell. "(Russian President) Vladimir Putin has challenged the international system in ways we never thought we'd see again after World War II—a large country simply invading its neighbor and trying to liquidate Ukraine. Fortunately, the Ukrainians are among the world's bravest people"

While she is happy that the Biden administration is supporting Ukraine, Rice was disappointed that the help did not come sooner.

"I think what we've done in terms of military support, military equipment, and military training well before this happened is really important," she said. "I wish we had started a little earlier. Certainly we need to give the Ukrainians everything they need to hold off the Russian offensive."

Rice told Mitchell she got to know Putin well during her time leading the State Department and was not surprised by his ambition to bring Ukraine back into the Russian Empire. "He once told me Russia was only great when it was ruled by great men like Peter the Great and Alexander II."

So what made Putin decide to ultimately invade Ukraine?

"I do think what turned the ambition into an operational plan is maybe a sense that the West was weak with the way we left Afghanistan," she said. "Maybe a sense that Ukraine is not as strong as it has turned out to be. He (Putin) certainly overestimated the capability of his armed forces."

Rice believes that there is another key factor in Putin's move into Ukraine: COVID-19.

"Some say that two years of isolation during COVID sent him deep into a place psychologically where he really believed he could act on that ambition to reestablish the Russian Empire," she explained. "But it's sad. It's especially sad for the people of Ukraine. It's sad for Europe. It's sad for the people of Russia that this one man has dragged them into this terrible war."

The 67-year-old Rice served first as National Security Advisor in the George W. Bush administration before becoming Secretary of State in 2005. She is currently director of the Hoover Institute at Stanford University. 

During their interview, Rice also spoke about rising gas prices, the Jan. 6 committee, her lifelong fandom of the Cleveland Browns, and her thoughts on the Deshaun Watson situation. 

RELATED: Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Cleveland Browns QB Deshaun Watson case: 'We need to keep an open mind'

You can watch the entire conversation between former Secretary of State Rice and Russ Mitchell in the player below:

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