British-born Fiona Hill is an expert on Russia and Vladimir Putin and served as security adviser to US Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump. Her take on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is that Vladimir Putin still thinks he is winning. The Kremlin has a far higher tolerance for troop losses than Western governments and Putin believes that he can grind out a victory of sorts. He thinks he has the upper hand in terms of leverage, through his influence on energy markets and food shortages, and is prepared to wait out the West — waiting for them to lose patience and attempt to force a negotiated settlement.
“Putin is a contingency planner. If one thing doesn’t work, he’ll try another. If things get dire, expect more nuclear sabre-rattling. They already rhetorically deployed nuclear weapons, and used them, on national television.
Bear in mind they take a very careful read of us and how we react. Think about when they moved through the Chernobyl exclusion zone into Ukraine….People said they wouldn’t possibly do that but they did. This scares the heck out of everyone….Same thing withnuclear power plant. They deliberately shelled it. Think about the timing. It was just when Germany and Japan were considering recommissioning their nuclear power plants. All this happens because Putin knows he can push our buttons. He knows our fears and can play to those fears.”
The West has to get ahead of this. But we always tend to do things too late. Earlier action in Ukraine — in terms of supplying weapons — may have deterred Putin.
“Putin and the Kremlin have a major advantage: continuity. They have been in power for a long time and have no effective opposition.
The West, by contrast, has no continuity. This is the main obstacle to getting ahead of the game. Democracies tend to lose focus over time…..The more domestic problems you have, the more likely you are to lose focus.
….Putin’s business is to find points of leverage.
Political donations. Corruption. Germany’s pact with the devil — it’s economy is built on reliance on cheap Russian gas. We have to wind this all back.