US Markets

Cashin: Why it's not like 1998 all over again

Cashin says: Russia a concern, but not likely to default
Cashin says: Russia a concern, but not likely to default

The Russian ruble's dramatic fall on Tuesday may have triggered memories of 1998 for some—when a currency crisis caused Russia to default on its debt—but veteran trader Art Cashin isn't sold on the comparison.

From the collapse of hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management to fears of the Y2K bug, investors had a whole lot more to worry about in 1998, said Cashin, UBS' director of floor operations at the NYSE.

"There's a lot of different things," Cashin said on "Squawk on the Street." "It's not quite as leveraged as it was. If you remember we had kind of a cascading waterfall effect then. You had the Thai baht, then you went into the Russian ruble, and Long-Term Capital Management. ... And in the meantime the Fed was petrified of Y2K. So you had all that stuff coming together."

Read MoreFXCM stops ruble trade, sees capital controls

Russian economy: When it all went wrong
Russian economy: How it all went wrong

However, Russian President Vladimir Putin could still offer investors a surprise in the form a fresh military operation, Cashin added.

"Mr. Putin may try to surprise everyone with some dramatic attempts," Cashin said. "Geopolitics [are] still out there. .... I think he quite honestly believes, and with some credibility, that NATO would not make any military move against him."

Read MoreThe collapse of Russia in 3 charts