Staunton, October 19 – Russia faces a new “time of troubles” if Vladimir Putin doesn’t escalate the conflict in Ukraine and establish control over all its territory, according to Igor Strelkov, the former defense minister of the self-proclaimed “Donetsk Peoples Republic. And he adds that Putin’s personal survival depends on such an escalation.
In a press conference first reported by the Novorossiya Information Agency and then repeated by Ukrainian outlets, Strelkov says that some in Moscow are prepared to sacrifice Novorossiya in order to escape sanctions and go back to the status quo ante Crimea.
But he insists, there is very little chance that such a turn of events is possible. Instead, if Moscow does not act decisively now, there is every chance that “the time of troubles” which is only beginning” now will deepen and have ever more negative consequences for Russia and for its president.
Consequently, the longer Moscow tries to avoid taking decisive action, the more dangerous and prolonged the current crisis will become, Strelkov argues.
Putin is prepared for “more radical actions” but he hasn’t done so “because of the inability of his command to act in ‘the new circumstances.’” And consequently, he needs to replace those who are restraining him from taking those actions just as Stalin did “after the catastrophic defeats of 1941.”
Unless he does so, both Russia and Putin himself face disaster. And Strelkov expressed the hope that Putin “is sufficiently intelligent in order to understand” that he needs a renewed team capable of decisive action in Ukraine and elsewhere. “This is a question of the survival not only of Russia but of [Putin] personally.”
Strelkov obviously has powerful reasons of self-interest for making such a declaration, but his argument undoubtedly has some support, perhaps more powerful than many suspect, in Moscow and even the Kremlin. And thus it is a factor that cannot be ignored, however hyperbolic and disturbing it may be.
That is all the more so because Strelkov casts himself as a Putin loyalist and plays to Putin’s own vision of himself as a transforming leader, someone who can grab victory out of defeat by a throw of the dice as he believes he has done in the past.