Putin ‘playing poker instead of chess’ says former UK spy chief – Eurasia Review

By Jamie Dettmer

Why won’t Russia’s Vladimir Putin let Ukraine go? According to a former head of British external intelligence agency MI6, Alex Younger, he may not be able to.

In an interview Tuesday with the BBC, Younger said he cannot see how the Russian leader can back down as fears mount that Putin is about to order a Russian invasion of Ukraine, a former Soviet republic.

Younger said the Russian president “played poker instead of chess” to create options for himself. But Younger added: “Right now I don’t see a scenario where he can fall back in a way that lives up to the expectations he’s raised.”

He added: “It feels dangerous and it is clearly getting more and more dangerous. It’s hard to see a safe landing zone given the expectations President Putin has raised.”

British officials said on Tuesday that elements of a “Russian military advance” are already active in Ukraine. “We are becoming aware of a significant number of individuals believed to be associated with Russian military advances and currently in Ukraine,” said James Heappey, the British Defense Secretary.

His comments coincided with Ukraine’s SBU security service saying in a statement it had broken up a group of saboteurs who were preparing a series of destabilizing attacks along Ukraine’s borders. The SBU said the saboteurs planned to target infrastructure “coordinated by Russian special services”.

Last week, the Pentagon accused Russia of preparing false flag attacks. “It has prepared a group of agents to conduct what we call a false flag operation, an operation designed to look like an attack on them or Russian-speaking people in Ukraine as an excuse to get in,” said Pentagon spokesman John Kirby. journalists in Washington.

Russian officials deny any plan to invade Ukraine, despite having built up military forces along their neighbors’ borders, where Ukraine’s defense ministry estimates 127,000 troops have been deployed. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has dismissed allegations that Russia is planning an offensive, describing the allegations as “hysteria”.

But as tensions mount in Eastern Europe, some Western diplomats and analysts fear that the geopolitical confrontation is approaching a point where it may be impossible to avoid conflict and that Putin has put himself in a position where he has no way out if he does. does not lose face.

Putin has long seemed determined to challenge the outcome of the Cold War and is eager to restore a Russian sphere of influence in Eastern Europe. Maintaining influence over Ukraine and preventing the country from joining NATO are crucial elements of that project.

“Vladimir Putin views the current security architecture as both unacceptable and dangerous for Russia. It is unacceptable because it demonstrates a series of closer military, political and economic relations between Ukraine and the West, and Putin sees the West as fundamentally hostile to Russia,” said Liana Fix and Michael Kimmage of Germany’s Marshall Fund, a Washington-based research group.

“What Putin wants is the tightening of military, political and economic relations between Ukraine and the West. He realizes that this goal cannot be achieved by persuasion alone,” they add.

Ukraine’s drift to the West has long frustrated the Russian leader. In 2008, Putin told then-US President George W. Bush, “You have to understand, George, that Ukraine isn’t even a country.” He hasn’t changed his mind since then. After the annexation of Crimea and as separatist agitation encouraged by the Kremlin in eastern Ukraine increased, Putin said: “Russians and Ukrainians are one people. Kiev is the mother of Russian cities. Old Russia is our common resource and we cannot live without each other.”

Last year, the Russian leader wrote a 5,000-word tract entitled “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians,” arguing that Ukraine can only be sovereign in cooperation with Russia and has been weakened by the West’s efforts to achieve Slavic unity. to undermine. One historian described the essay as a “call to arms.”

However, the battle cry predates that essay. In November 2014, newly arrived pro-Moscow fighters from the Russian Caucasus, mostly Chechens and Ossetians, had no doubts as to why they were in the Donbas region of Ukraine, recently seized by a patchwork of insurgents, separatists and unemployed youth.

As for them, they defended Mother Russia against NATO and recaptured Ukraine. A 28-year-old ethnic Ossetian with a beard, a bear of a man with a gnarled left ear, and a veteran of the 2008 Russian Five Day War against Georgia, told this correspondent: “Two of my grandparents were killed here in Ukraine during World War II. against the fascists, and I must finish their work.”

He and his Ossetian comrades, seasoned warriors, claimed to be on leave from the Russian army. They said the Maidan uprising that toppled Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, an ally of President Putin, nearly a decade ago was the work of NATO, the Americans and Europeans, and was all part of a plot against Russia.

“NATO bullied us in Georgia and now they are doing the same here again, and we have to stop them. This is the land of my ancestors, and I must join. If you don’t stop fascists, they’ll grow, and when we’re done here in the Donbas, we’ll go to Kiev.”

The march to Kiev never took place and the conflict was confined to the Donbas, claiming more than 15,000 lives from the start. Some fear that Putin, who called the collapse of the Soviet empire “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century,” could weigh heavily on an attack on Ukraine’s capital.

Chechens, Ossetians and ethnic Russians arrived in large numbers in late 2014 to reinforce and organize local separatists and help them stage a push back against a Ukrainian counter-offensive. They echoed what they’d heard from the Kremlin since Putin took office in 1999, but that has led to a crescendo since 2008 that Russia is besieged by determined opponents and robbed when the Soviet Union collapsed, the biggest theft being Ukraine.

However, that view slips past the history of the dissolution of the Soviet Union. It plunged into the aftermath of a failed KGB coup to overthrow Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev when Russia’s Boris Yeltsin and his colleagues in Ukraine and Belarus announced after meeting in December 1991: “the USSR as the subject of international law and geopolitical reality is no longer in existence.”

Western leaders had no hand in the dissolution of the Soviet Union, authoritative historians say, and it sparked alarm among Western leaders, who were concerned about what would happen to the Soviet nuclear arsenal, which was scattered across Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.

Nevertheless, Putin seems “more determined than ever” to turn back the clock, said Frederick Kempe, chairman of the Atlantic Council, a US-based research group. He sees Putin as an opportunist who is testing the West, but with a clear direction.

“The problem is not the nature of Putin’s next move, but rather the troubling trajectory behind it, including the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008 and the annexation of Crimea in 2014,” he says.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.