A WEST Cork-based defence expert has said that the only way Russia will withdraw from Ukraine is if Vladimir Putin is either ousted by force, commits suicide or is the target of an assassination mission.
Dr Andy Scollick, who has been living in Adrigole on the Beara peninsula since he moved from the UK in 1996, is a consultant in the field of European defence and security and worked as a defence policy analyst and advisor to government, military and civil society actors in Ukraine and other European countries.
He said that the recent proposed exercises off West Cork by a Russian Navy northern fleet task force, led by the Marshal Ustinov missile cruiser, were a deception, something that the Russian military call ‘maskirovka’.
‘There was never any intention of holding these exercises. It was simply a ruse to cover deployment of the Marshal Ustinov down past Ireland’s Atlantic coast on its way to the Mediterranean. The Ustinov joined other Russian navy vessels in a build-up in the eastern Mediterranean prior to the launch of the invasion of Ukraine,’ Dr Scollick told The Southern Star.
‘We were all duped – the Defence Forces, Department of Foreign Affairs, the Castletownbere fishermen, myself and other analysts – by the Russian ambassador Yuriy Filatov – into thinking the taskforce would be off West Cork when instead they were always planning to steam through on their way to threaten Nato forces in the Mediterranean.’
Regarding the ongoing invasion of Ukraine, Dr Scollick thinks Putin can’t lose face and that if he retreats from Ukraine, his grip on power is reduced.
‘He is fully committed to success in Ukraine and won’t back down and withdraw. But Russian forces are over-committed and it’s hard to see how they can sustain a decisive advance in the face of stiff resistance from the Ukrainian armed forces.
‘Hence the change in tactics to hitting cities with artillery and bombs, they want to terrorise people into leaving. A wave of refugees also puts pressure on the EU.’
He believes that Russia can never win in Ukraine and that even if they defeat the Ukrainian armed forces, there will be a strong resistance and the resulting long war of attrition against occupying troops could go on for years.
‘The sanctions will continue and may become even harsher and the Russian economy will be in tatters soon enough. Putin’s people – the siloviki (security men) and oligarchs – will lose almost everything that they have accumulated over the decades.’
The only way they can escape that trap of self-inflicted defeat is if Putin either commits suicide (as he simply won’t resign) like Hitler did, or is ousted by force, which would probably involve assassination, said Dr Scollick.
He added that as the war grinds on and thousands of Russian soldiers are being repatriated in body bags back to Russia via the Red Cross, Putin will become an embarrassment and a threat to the ‘siloviki’.
‘Will his loyal lieutenants – Shoigu, Gerasimov, Zolotov and others – choose to go down with Putin, or make a move against him, partly to save their own skins and wealth, but also with a view to seizing power in the Kremlin?’ he asked.
He said the war at the moment appears to be developing along the lines of the Chechen wars in 1990s and the Putin-Assad war in Syria.
‘The failure of the Russian army to achieve its objective in the field means a shift in strategy and tactics toward attacking cities in an attempt to weaken Ukrainian morale, depopulate residential areas and create a massive wave of refugees.’
Dr Scollick said that turning cities like Kharkiv and Kyiv into ruined shells like Grozny and Aleppo appears to be Russia’s ‘Plan B’ and we can expect very brutal urban warfare on the streets of these cities.
‘The Ukrainians will continue to fight regardless of whatever Russia throws at them. They are resilient people and they are fighting to defend their families, communities and culture. The invading Russians are not. It has the potential to be a long war.’