Russia-Ukraine just beginning of Putin’s wider plans: ‘Reclaim former territories’

Boris Johnson outlines NATO support for Ukraine against Russia

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the next few days are probably the “most dangerous moment” in the Russia-Ukraine crisis. His words came as Foreign Secretary Liz Truss headed to Moscow to meet with her Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov. There, she accused Russia of “Cold War” rhetoric as the country continues to amass troops along its shared border with Ukraine, the number now totalling more than 100,000.

Many have claimed for years that Russia wants to reclaim and reestablish its power within the territories it held under the Soviet Union.

There were 15 states that made up the Soviet Republics, accounting for a considerable portion of Europe and Asia: Ukraine, Georgia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

In 1991, however, the Soviet Union was dissolved following the collapse of its communist government, and these Soviet states gained independence — although many went on to install leaders who were closely aligned with the former regime.

Now, Professor Julian Lindley-French, an internationally recognised strategic analyst and advisor in defence, who has worked with NATO, has argued that reclaiming those former Soviet states is exactly what Putin wants to do, but by any means other than war.

He told that current events in Ukraine were “part of Putin’s wider European security strategy” — first getting a hold of Ukraine, then turning Belarus into a puppet state.

Prof Lindley-French said: “He’d then be influencing the states in the Black Sea region, and coercing even NATO and EU countries like the Baltic states, like Finland, like Bulgaria and Romania.

“Irrespective of their affiliations of the EU and NATO, Russia would have demonstrated that it can achieve its objectives to coerce other countries to do what it wants, to be compliant with its aims.”

Asked whether he believed Russia wanted to reclaim its former territories, he said: “The key word there is reclaim: in terms of President Putin, much of this is about his legacy.

“This is a man who was a KGB lieutenant colonel in the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall; he feels that Russia was humiliated.

“So yes, he would love to reestablish what he describes as a buffer, what is in reality is a sphere of influence over much of the area around his border from Norway in the North Cape to the Chinese border.

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“He’s not doing it directly through the use of military power, however, it’s through what I call 5D warfare, which is a complex, strategic way of coercing your enemies; he combines disinformation, deception, destabilisation with disruption.

“What he wants is compliant governments in those capitals in the countries around Russia, whether it’s Kazakhstan or Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Georgia, Ukraine, or wherever, that will do his bidding.

“He’ll use whatever means it takes short of war with NATO to achieve this.”

In the last decade, moves from Putin have hinted that he wants to reestablish the old power base.


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In 2008, Russia invaded two self-proclaimed republics — South Ossetia and Abkhazia — in Georgia, both of which it continues to occupy today, and in 2014 annexed Crimea from Ukraine.

Last month, Moscow quickly deployed troops to help the Kazakhstan government quell what initially looked like the beginnings of a civil war.

Despite the widespread condemnations about the build-up of troops on the border with Ukraine, Russia denies it is planning on invading.

It argues that it is defending itself against NATO’s eastward expansion.

Ukraine has yet to be formally admitted into NATO, which was established in 1949 to promote democratic values and co-operate on defence and security issues.

Currently, it is one of NATO’s “enhanced opportunity partners”, something which is afforded to non-member nations that have “made significant contributions to NATO-led operations and missions”.

Putin says he sees Ukraine’s aspirations to join NATO as a threat to Russia’s borders and its sphere of influence.

Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania have already joined NATO, and are all a part of the EU.

In December last year, Mr Putin said Russia will seek “reliable and long-term security guarantees” from the US and its allies “that would exclude any further NATO moves eastward and the deployment of weapons systems that threaten us in close vicinity to Russian territory.”

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