Historian Mark Galeotti, who specializes in Russian history and politics and one of the Western experts who followed Vladimir Putin before he became president, believes that the Kremlin leader is primarily responsible for the strategic mistakes made by the Russian army in Ukraine. Professor Galeotti also spoke about the nature of power in Russia and the links between the state, oligarchs, secret services and organized crime.
“The Ukrainians and the Russians are both too strong to be beaten, but too weak to actually win the war militarily”
VERIDICA: Did Putin really believe that the Russian army would have an easy, quick victory, that the Ukrainians will greet the Russian soldiers with flowers and Zelensky will flee? Was Putin misinformed? Did he fail to his own Maskirovka?
MARK GALEOTTI: Yes. I think Putin, first of all, did believe most of that, whether he thought that the Russians would be welcomed as liberators, really. I think it's more likely that, remember, this is a man who doesn't think Ukraine really exists as a country. He doesn't think the Ukrainians are a real people. I think he genuinely thought that the whole state structure would collapse at the first gentle push. And so absolutely he could have Zelensky arrested or Zelensky would flee and he could impose some proxy government of his own. Was he misinformed? Well, yes, he was misinformed, but because he had created a system whose job is to misinform him. I mean, we've known this for years that increasingly Putin has become intolerant of anyone who questions his prejudices, his assumptions. So, yes, you surround yourself with yes men. You shouldn't be surprised when people tell you that your plan is brilliant and that it couldn't possibly fail and so forth. So he was misinformed, but for his own really for his own reasons, shall we say. And now again, the interesting question is how much is being even told now about what's really going on?
VERIDICA: How do you see the war going on? Will it be like a new Chechnya war or a new Afghanistan? Will it be a guerrilla war or an attrition where? What do you think?
MARK GALEOTTI: I think, unfortunately, we are heading into a war of attrition. I think when it comes down to it is even with the Western assistance that Ukrainians have been provided and let's be honest, also their astonishingly impressive will to defend their own nation. The Ukrainians and the Russians are both too strong to be beaten, but too weak to actually win the war militarily. And so I think we're probably heading for a long term war of attrition in essentially the Donbass. And it will ultimately come down to at what point does one side or the other feel willing to to sue for peace? But I think we're nowhere near that. I think, unfortunately, we have to accept this is going to go for months into next year, quite possibly. And bit by bit, both countries are going to have to adapt and become war fighting countries. I mean, interesting that already, for example, Zelensky is in some ways saying that Ukraine will have to become like Israel. And likewise, Putin is in many ways turning Russia into really one, one big military machine in which there's no room for anything other than loyal patriots who follow the Kremlin line. So unfortunately, I would love to think that there will be some way in which this war could be ended positively, whether it's through some kind of Ukrainian victory or whether it's through some kind of peace deal. But I don't think we're anywhere near there.
“Putin ultimately has been the Ukrainian secret weapon all along”
VERIDICA: But getting back to to Moscow, the Russian army proved to have bad tactics, strategies, not so well equipped, not so the great Russian army that we were told. So do you think that Putin don't see that now?
MARK GALEOTTI: I think that on the one hand, it's certainly true that a lot of flaws within the Russian military came to light. Remember, they haven't fought a big war like this for a long time, something like Syria, very small intervention. They could send their best and such like this was this is a major land war. And what I think it really demonstrated was that this is classic and it goes back to Soviet times flaw, that they concentrate on the teeth, on the tanks and the guns rather than the tail. In other words, the logistics, making sure there's enough ammunition that there's hot food for the soldiers, that the soldiers are properly trained, all this kind of stuff. So, yes, there are some serious flaws within the Russian military, but I think at the same time, it's to a large extent because of Putin's own strategy. The Russian military is geared to fight in a certain way. And it's not the way that they ended up fighting in Ukraine. I mean, if it had been the generals war, they would have built up a massive sort of base of logistics beforehand. They're very, very methodical about that. Then they would have launched a huge air attack across Ukraine. I mean, nothing like the sort of attacks we've seen, but a devastating initial attack to try and basically ensure that every Ukrainian plane is blown out of the sky or destroyed on its airfield, that every Ukrainian barracks gets bombed. I mean, that's again, that's what they prepare for. And then there would have been a slow, methodical grind. That's how the that's how the Russians fight. It's not about a kind of heroic initial dash. It's about a slow fight. We didn't see any of that. We saw this decision to be made, made to fight pretty much on the spur of the moment. Many generals didn't know more than a week before that they were going to go into Ukraine. I mean, we know that from intercepted communications that was a disastrous mistake. We saw a kind of fairly halfhearted initial bombardment, again, because I think Putin thought the country was going to fall into his lap. Why destroy things that you think are about to become yours? And then we saw this this bizarre spectacle of little units of paratroopers trying to rush their way into Kiev as if they honestly thought they could just be driving in there and arrest Zelensky.
VERIDICA: It was the FSB Special Division. What do you think?
MARK GALEOTTI: Well, I mean, it's a variety. There were paratroopers, there were FSB, those and Chechens or the Wagner mercenaries. But the main thing was this was a war that was not created by the generals. It was precisely it was created by the people like the FSB and people like Putin who have no military experience but somehow thought that they could plan a war. Putin ultimately has been the Ukrainian secret weapon all along, it turns out.
VERIDICA: What about the corruption in the army? I mean, this is maybe the the main reason for the fold of the Russian army.
MARK GALEOTTI: Exactly. Corruption is a massive problem. Again, we've known that the Russians have known that for years, decades, and haven't really done anything about it. But again, you see the way that the Russians are sort of plan to fight wars would usually mean that they almost account for that. They know there will be a lot of corruption. They will know there will be a lot of machinery that won't work and suchlike. So they tend to overstock very.
VERIDICA: This corruption is their corruption.
MARK GALEOTTI: Exactly. Exactly. So so they factor it in. But again, they couldn't in the short period. And so absolutely we saw trucks with cheap tires from China that just shredded as soon as they were used. We've seen bombs and missiles that fail to explode. I mean, this has been a ridiculous spectacle for a country that tries to present itself as one of the great global powers. And again, it's when it comes down to it, this is a system over which Putin has presided for 22 years. You know, he was so keen on building up his military. And what it turns out that means is he wants to buy fancy new tanks and things, but he's not actually interested in the real detail. There is this old adage that amateurs talk about tactics, professionals talk about logistics. You know, it's all the boring stuff, the things that Putin's never interested in attending, which is really has been what has undermined the Russian war effort.
“The day when they think supporting the boss is more dangerous than conspiring against the boss is the day when when they'll shift”
VERIDICA: There is a lot of talk about Putin's illness, about the eight, nine doctors who accompany him every year, about the self-isolation imposed during the pandemic, about his phobias, but also about Russian generals who would plot a coup. How much truth is here? And if if Putin disappears, what will happen next? Does the West really believe that Putin's disappearance will bring democracy in Russia?
MARK GALEOTTI: First of all, on Putin's health. Look, I mean, I've been watching this man since well, since before he was president. So, what, 24, 25 years? And look, I'm not a medical doctor, but it certainly seems to be the case that there is something wrong with him in terms of we see and this is a man who always presented himself outwardly as absolutely in control, in control of his country, but also in control of himself, his emotions, his his body and so forth. And we've seen instead the the uncontrollable twitches we've seen, even when he talks, he's clearly much more sort of hesitant at times. We've seen these explosions of anger, which, again, were very uncharacteristic. So there is something. Some people say it's Parkinson's disease. Some people say it's various forms of cancer, that he's taking steroids. I don't know. But there is something there and that is clearly affecting his political position and his his decision making. That said, what we don't know is whether this is something that will be with him for the next decade or whether in two weeks time he's going to not not wake up. We'll have to wait and see. But the interesting thing is precisely that actually the discussion about his illness is destabilizing. His health has always been a taboo issue. I mean, we've known for a long time, for example, that he has back problems. But every time that he seems to flare up for him, he just disappears from view for a couple of weeks. No one actually ever admits that. It's because he's too. He's too ill. He's always got to be in perfect health. So he he might he might go soon. But even if he doesn't, it undermines his position. Now, obviously, if he goes quickly, then the the elite will have to decide how to replace him. And I think that's at least as likely as the fact of some kind of a coup. The Russian system is very, very carefully designed to make coups difficult. There are a whole variety of different security agencies and military forces that are all there to kind of watch each other and counterbalance each other. Even if you look at the the geography of power in Moscow. There are two army divisions. There is one division from the National Guard, which is a separate force. Then there's also the Kremlin guard, which is yet another force. Then there are the armed police. Then there's the FSB and its commando units. All of these are there to ensure that no one agency can easily take power. And there is an extraordinary paranoia that currently reigns within the Russian elite. I'm sure there's a lot of people who would be very happy if Putin could be toppled.
MARK GALEOTTI: But they want someone else to do it. No one wants to be the first person to start that conversation. When you don't know, is your telephone being tapped? Are your emails being read? Is the person you're going to talk to actually an informant for one of the intelligence agencies? So I think it's going to be very difficult until the situation gets much worse. I think this is something that we shouldn't expect to happen soon, but later in the year, as the economic crisis really begins to bite, as Putin's health potentially becomes more and more of a concern. That's when it begins to become a possibility. Because, remember, this is an elite that is made up of people who are selfish, pragmatic opportunists. They're not Putin ists. They don't feel any kind of great ideological tie. And so the day when they think supporting the boss is more dangerous than conspiring against the boss is the day when when they'll shift. But we're not there yet. But on your final point, what happens next? I mean, I don't think we're going to see another Putin. If nothing else, I don't think any of the current figures within the elite would want to make one of their number, the absolute unchallenged boss, the way Putin is today. And there's no obvious candidate to replace him. Three months ago, I'd have said the Defense Minister, Sergei Shoigu. But obviously, since the war, his star has become rather tarnished. So I think what we're going to get is some kind of oligarchy. We're going to get a collection of powerful figures that sort of divide up power amongst themselves. And the president might even be some kind of figurehead who's not really got power, but is just there to. Play the part. And is this going to mean democracy? No. These people are kleptocrats. They are going to control the country to their own advantage. But on the other hand, they probably will want to improve relations with the West simply because they like the old times when they could steal it at home and bank and spend abroad. They want to buy and keep their nice apartment blocks in London. They want to be able to moor their yachts off the coasts of France or Italy and send their kids to universities in the West and that kind of thing. So for the most selfish reasons, while they'll probably continue to be authoritarian, corrupt and quite brutal at home, they nonetheless will probably want to improve relations with the West, which means it could be a good thing for Ukraine.
“The secret police force is the only way you can know what's really going on in your own country”
VERIDICA: The West is trying to understand Putin's Russia. You have proposed some explanation. Loyalty, vertical power. Secret agreements between the Russian super mafia and the siloviki. How does this point out the unspoken agreements between Russian Super Mafia and the siloviki work from? How you see this unique agreement in the world.
MARK GALEOTTI: It is unique. And I think the thing is, what we've got to understand is people often want to sort of say, well, who's in charge? Does the Kremlin control the mafia or the mafia control the Kremlin or whatever? That's not how Russia works. Russia works much more about a whole variety of interest groups and power groups, some of which are open and well known about, like the siloviki, the security apparatus or big business or the other friends of Putin and so forth, and others of which, like the Valdivia zirconia and the more modern criminals, sort of the various criminal groupings are obviously in the underworld, but in a way, they all are part of the same broad economy of power, shall we say. It's all about deals and bargains. It's about what can you do for me and what price do you want for that? So, for example, we have seen that the criminals have been used as adjuncts to the Russian intelligence service abroad, carrying out assassinations, gathering intelligence, passing money on to political movements that the Kremlin would like to support. They don't do that because they're loyal Russians. They don't do that just out of the kindness of their heart. They do it because they've struck bargains with Moscow. And in return, they get freedom of maneuver to run their criminal businesses to whatever it is, trafficking people or heroin or do whatever else. So it is a constant state of bargaining that we see within the Russian political system. And I think so long as the criminals have something to offer the Kremlin, the Kremlin will be willing to give them that space for their activities.
VERIDICA: We will get back to this topic and the criminal political war against West, as you put it. But from Oprichnina to Cheka, the secret political police seems to be the backbone of Russia. Now, why has the Russian state preserve this kind of power for centuries? What in the Russian mentality does this type of obedience make possible? It is resignation. It is the wailing of subordination to a great collective messianic ideal. It's specific to Russia?
MARK GALEOTTI: Political police forces are not exactly unique to Russia, obviously. And in some ways, I would actually turn that that whole suggestion you made around. Part of the reason why Russia's rulers have been so dependent on having powerful over powerful security services is precisely because actually the Russians are much, much less resigned to central rule than we often think that actually that there is this constant fear of what the Russians call this explosion of violence from the people at the bottom, against the people at the top. And in this huge country, which is intrinsically difficult to control. I mean, even today, modern Russia spans 12 time zones. I mean, even in a day of Internet and telephone and aircraft, it's very hard to control. And so I think time and time again, what's happened is that the. Despite all kinds of grand, idealistic ideas that they were going to be able to get rid of them, whether it's czars, whether it's commissars, or whether it's the post-Soviet sort of quote unquote Democratic leaderships. When it comes down to it, the task of trying to control Russians, they decided that they needed these these forces. It's a lot more easy and convenient than trying genuinely to win a true coalition of support from ordinary Russians. So time and time again, every time there's a crisis, it seems to be that the natural instinct of whoever is in charge is to turn to these these checklists, the secret policemen. And the problem is that we haven't yet had a proper break even when the 1917 revolution happened. Actually, many of the people who are really running the country for the Bolsheviks had been tsarist officials. They had all the habits and mindsets of that. Then when the Soviet Union collapsed, actually in in Russia, unlike so many other countries. Essentially, the old elite took off their Communist Party pins and bought themselves brand new shiny suits and turned themselves into politicians and oligarchs and suchlike. But again, the attitudes were still there. So in some ways, it's really part of what I would say is Kremlin political culture is that if in doubt. The secret police force is the only way you can know what's really going on in your own country. A secret police force is the only way you can really control the masses. And a secret police force is perhaps most importantly of all. The only thing you can use to control your own elite in a way what you fear more than anything else. Exactly. Go back to the question of coups. Is the men with power, the men with guns, how can you control them? You need the men with secrets.
VERIDICA: But I think that the last coup in Russia was in 1825 or something like that, and it was failed. I mean, it's a wishful thinking for people in the West thinking that the generals are plotting something like that.
MARK GALEOTTI: If it's just the generals, you're absolutely right. But there have been two coups in the last hundred years, the ousting of Khrushchev and the 1991 August coup against Gorbachev, which was then sidelined by people power on the streets. The thing was, in both of those, it was actually a coalition of the elite. It was the party. It was the KGB. And it was the military together who combined. And again, going back to this point about the secret police, that's the whole point. You need to keep these different groups apart so long as they're apart, you don't have to worry. When the military tried it on their own, they failed. But if the military ally with people in other groups, all of a sudden the autocrat, whoever they happen to be, is vulnerable. So that's the key to keeping Russia coup proofed.
“As the economy comes under pressure, more and more a relative handful of people who are close to Putin and therefore have the most political power are protecting their own interests”
VERIDICA: You said that the loyalty is the secret ingredient that keeps these forces together is the bond that binds those who lead Russia. Putin demands loyalty and which he rewards with opportunities. Does this formula still work during the war?
MARK GALEOTTI: That's a really interesting question, and I think this is really at the heart of why this system is becoming vulnerable, because the answer is no. Again, the old Putin regime, it relied on, first of all, continuing huge amounts of money flowing into the country, not just but especially because of oil and gas, but for a whole variety of different activities and the opportunity for people to then convert that into a good quality of life. Now, what we're seeing is, although at the moment sort of temporarily and artificially, it looks as if Russia's economy is doing quite well in terms of imports of Azeri, exports of oil and gas. But in practice, the economy is under pressure and will become even more under pressure and it's becoming more and more isolated. If let's basically if you are a rich Russian, you want to be able to go on holiday abroad. You're not thinking just Sochi every single time you maybe you want to buy a Bentley or a Rolls-Royce rather than a Chinese made car. There are all kinds of ways in which actually your life I mean, never mind, actually. I mean, the degree to which Russians seem to be entirely focused on iPhones. It's a whole other world. But in this respect, I mean, it sounds trivial, but it speaks to a wider issue, which is, in fact, what we're seeing is as the economy comes under pressure, more and more a relative handful of people who are close to Putin and therefore have the most political power are protecting their own interests. But if the overall cake is shrinking. And their slice is being kept sort of the same. There's much, much less to go around. So I think actually the scope to keep everyone bought off, which is essentially what it's about, is becoming less the ordinary people, ordinary masses who once upon a time, in the first two terms of Putin's presidency, I mean, they were quite happy because their quality of life improved dramatically. They're dealing with massive inflation, increasing risks of unemployment and so forth. The middle ranking elite, the people who really run the country. They, too, are finding themselves under more and more economic pressure. So even if you've got a handful of friends who are still doing fine, everyone else is beginning to think, Well, hang on. This was the deal. We turned a blind eye to the fact that there was no real democracy. We turned a blind eye to the fact that your friends were making huge amounts of money because we at least had a reasonable chance. But once that social contract is broken, then things can change quite quickly.
VERIDICA: You wrote about the unspoken agreement that govern Putin's world. If you follow the unspoken laws, you have nothing to fear. When you break them, you become not an enemy, but a traitor. Does Putin punish traitors according to the laws of these thieves in law or according to the unwritten laws of the former KGB? One famously said that it cost you one ruble to get in to the KGB and two to get out.
MARK GALEOTTI: Yeah, I mean, this is the thing. I mean, unfortunately, there's been such a convergence between the laws of the criminals and the laws of the the political police, that it's sometimes very hard to tell the difference. Now, I mean, Putin has made it clear what he thinks. I mean, Putin once said to sort of liberal radio host enemies, you fight with you, there's a chance that you'll someday make a peace deal with them traitors. You can do nothing with them but wipe them out. And I think that is essentially his philosophy, and that helps explain some of the brutality that we're seeing in Ukraine. I mean, again, in Putin's mind, Ukrainians are really Russians who don't quite realize it. For them to fight against Russia is almost actually an act of treason on their part. So whether we're talking about the poisoning of Navalny or the poisoning and attempted poisoning of defectors in London, or whether we're talking about how the Chechens were treated during the second Chechen war, or whether we're talking about Ukrainians now, if he feels that you're not just an enemy but a traitor, then in a way, your your life is entirely forfeit.
“I think actually one possibility and I wouldn't know one more put it than that is that actually one effect of this war is that it makes the Kremlin increasingly want to nationalize organized crime”
VERIDICA: You wrote about how the Kremlin used Russian's mafia around the world, citing the example of Crimea, Donbass or Transnistria, or the case of the Sochi Winter Olympics, the most expensive in history, 55 billion, which half was embezzled through corruption, or Belarus, where new smuggling routes have emerged after sanctions were imposed on Russia. Did the war in Ukraine bring new business opportunities for the Russian super mafia and the Russian kleptocracy?
MARK GALEOTTI: As ever. I mean, it's closed some doors, but opened others. One thing that was very striking in the past was that actually Russian criminals and Ukrainian criminals work perfectly comfortably together. Their countries might have been an undeclared war, but the gangsters were the true internationalists and made money. So we saw huge amounts of flows of all kinds of criminal commodities, counterfeit goods, heroin, people and so forth, through Russia, through Ukraine and into Europe. Now, clearly, that's that's a very different situation now, because you can't really move goods through through Ukraine. And to deal with the Russians now for a Ukrainian criminal is not just probably difficult for them to actually get their head around, but it's also something that's much more likely to get the SBU, the Ukrainian security service, coming after you. So that that has pretty much been closed off. I'm sure there is still a little bit of smuggling going on, but at the moment, at least, that's stopped. So there are routes that are closed. But there's also things that become more, more, more sort of new opportunities that are created. Some of these are trivial. I mean, for example, things like luxury goods for very rich Russians. I was hearing one case of a whole collection of Italian luxury handbags that were being smuggled because that's now sort of banned. And presumably oligarchs, girlfriends still need to have their handbags. Now, that's just a fairly trivial example on the large level. One of the key issues of the sanctions has been actually how it limits Russia's capacity to move money around the world. Russian money has become toxic. And clearly, they are looking for new money launderers. And I think what we're already beginning to see is that there are some existing ones through banking system in Dubai, in Macau, in mainland China, and such like that were once used essentially just by the criminals. And now this at least the suggestion, and it's too early to be really sure about this, but the suggestion that it might also be state money that is also being laundered through these routes. In other words, the state is now essentially asking the Russian gangsters to launder its money so that it can do things. So I think this is it. I mean, I think actually one possibility and I wouldn't know one more put it than that is that actually one effect of this war is that it makes the Kremlin increasingly want to nationalize organized crime. And the example would be North Korea. North Korea has an institution called Bureau 39 that is in effect the North Korean Ministry of Crime, that it produces amphetamine, it forges $100 bills. It does all kinds of other things to bring money in for the state. I could see some people in Moscow thinking. That's actually not a bad idea. Let's see if we can do something here. So that's something that we need to keep an eye out, because that would be a true fusion of Russian gangster and Russian secret policing and officialdom. That will be a very dangerous threat.
VERIDICA: Let's talk about sanctions and Putin's money. You wrote about how dirty money is laundering abroad, for example, in Republic of Moldova and then in countries like Cyprus, Israel and Latvia, where the Russians have front companies, and after that, they wash it in United States or United Kingdom. This is not only mafias money, but also oligarchs money and the Kremlin elite. What impact do you think that the international sanctions have on this money?
MARK GALEOTTI: I think actually it's it's rather more effective than we might assume. The one thing that sanctions regimes can do is precisely track individuals money very effectively. I mean, we saw this after the September 11th terrorist attacks when the Americans move very quickly to target al Qaeda money and again, essentially make laundering that particular type of money very, very dangerous for all the existing money launderers, which meant that basically people didn't want to do business with them. We're beginning to see that with with the Russians as well, actually, that a lot of the people who launder money, they launder money from all kinds of different directions. So they launder some Russian money and some Nigerian money and maybe even some American money and whatever. They have businesses that are bigger than any one income stream. And I think for a lot of them, they're beginning to think actually handling Russian money is not is not good business anymore. So, yes, maybe there clearly are front companies in Republic of Moldova, let's say. But then what? Then you have to move the money from there. And once you start moving to other places like Israel and Cyprus, you're beginning to face much more of a pushback there. I mean, in some ways it's become a problem because ordinary Russians abroad, you know, people who left Russia, maybe left Russia years ago, but just because they have a Russian name and a Russian nationality, they're suddenly finding that they can't open bank accounts and so forth. So there are a lot of victims of this. But on the other hand, it actually is, I think, beginning to affect the oligarchs capacity to move money. But the main thing is, what can they do with that money? They can move it around. They can move it from this jurisdiction to that. But spending money, that's the real problem for them, actually taking and taking that money and buying an asset that is in any way going to be connected to them, that they're going to enjoy, whether it's a villa or whether it's a yacht or whether it's a company, that's when the real problem comes in. So I think this is one of the reasons why a lot of the oligarchs really are finding themselves now. If they didn't get out of Russia in time, they're increasingly now stuck in Russia and they're watching their money move around the world but never really able to land anywhere. Never. They can never do anything with.
VERIDICA: You said that Russian organized crime is one of the strongest transnational movements. It's operated, operates globally in arms, drug and human trafficking. And it has spread all over the world, especially in countries where there are Russian communities. It is a colonization. You said a new Russian imperialism. What is this criminal political war that you said that Russia is waging against the West? How dangerous it is?
MARK GALEOTTI: It is dangerous and it isn't, which is a very unsatisfying answer. But let me try and explain what I mean by that. It's not in the sense of it's not going to pose some kind of existential threat to us in the West. But what it does do is it provides Moscow with a new range of instruments and tools.
VERIDICA: But six years ago, they tried the coup in Montenegro. It failed. They wanted to prevent the access of this country to NATO's.
MARK GALEOTTI: So. Sure. No, I mean I mean, they have options. But again, if one looks at that that coup, the key thing there was it was not just simply gangsters. It was also military intelligence officers. It was also oligarchs. And the gangsters represent one of the sort of the tools in the toolbox. And I think what we've seen is because we have seen criminals being used for all kinds of different sort of purposes. The more we push back on Russian intelligence activity. And I mean, for example, Romania had ten diplomats expelled because precisely of pushing out Russian spies from here. And that's something that we're seeing all around the West. It's harder and harder for the Russians to operate their conventional intelligence operations, but they still want to do things. They still want to gather information. They still want to put pressure on people. Well, if they can't use their spies, they'll be thinking, well, who else have we got at our disposal? And therefore, I think one of the risks we face is precisely that the Russians were increasingly turned to organized crime as a kind of substitute, because the more that they can't use their spies, the more they will depend on others. And. Sometimes the gangsters are incompetent and amateurish. Sometimes they're anything but. But the main thing is they're a lot harder for us to track because in some ways they don't work out of embassies. They don't follow a sort of a standard career path. They may not even be Russians, because I think one of the key concerns is we're beginning to see subcontracting that let's say the Russians to Russian state talks to Russian gangsters and says, I mean, for example, there have been cases of intelligence gathering in the Baltic states and Poland. They want to gather certain forms of intelligence, but they know that Russians can't loiter around army bases and things without potential for trouble. So what happens is because these Russians deal with local gangsters. They ask the local gangsters to do it and they don't see why they didn't say a word the Kremlin asked us. But the point is so so now you have Poles spying on Poles or Baltic citizens spying on Baltic citizens as part of a scheme that ultimately goes back to the Kremlin. But quite a lot of people in the system don't even know what they're doing. They don't even know why they're doing it, rather. So I think this is one of the concerns that it allows the Russians to make up for the capacity that we're trying to force out of the West with all these expulsions of spies and rolling up of intelligence networks.
History will remember Putin as a war criminal
VERIDICA: Well, the final question, you wrote that Putin is concerned today with his historical legacy, not with daily matters, but the big things, the war, for instance. How do you think that Putin will remain in history, the one who brought Crimea back to Russia or the one who annexed it like Hitler, Austria, the one who fought for the return of Russia as a global actor, or the one who established a fake democracy, a promoter of traditional values, the third Rome or the sponsor of political assassination in Russia and Europe and are hanging on fighting the evil or just a war criminal?
MARK GALEOTTI: Yeah. I mean, I think ultimately it's going to be that last one, a war criminal. And perhaps most galling for Putin of all, a failure. I mean, this is it. Ukraine was, I suspect. He's going to be, in his mind his crowning triumph. You know, he'd already in some ways brought Belarus into Russia's sphere of influence because Lukashenko is now essentially dependent on Moscow. And now he's going to bring Ukraine in. And that was going to bring the full family, shall I say, of the Russian nations together under Moscow. I think that was probably, as he saw it, what was going to be the the essence of the chapter in the history books about him, as is, though this war has basically destroyed not just the reputation, but the capacity of the Russian military. It's shattering the Russian economy. It's creating new tensions which are ultimately sort of define how his regime falls. It demonstrated his own weaknesses as as a strategist and a leader. I mean, this is a man who if he had retired after his after his first two terms in office, would have probably had a pretty decent reputation as a heavy handed and brutal, but nonetheless effective state builder. What he's now done, though, is he has squandered everything he has. He brought to Russia and a lot more. So ultimately, it will be as a failure and as a war criminal.