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Yuri Felshtinsky: Putin wanted a Russian-Ukrainian-Belarusian army that he could use to conquer Baltic States and the Republic of Moldova

Yuri Felshtinsky
©https://twitter.com/3SeasEurope/status/1575777647145140224/photo/1  |   Yuri Felshtinsky

Vladimir Putin’s original plan was to subdue Ukraine without bloodshed and create a joint Russian-Ukrainian-Belarusian army that he could use to conquer Baltic States and the Republic of Moldova, the Russian-American expert Yuri Felshtinsky argues, adding that Moscow’s recent actions suggest, despite all the threats, that no nuclear weapons will be used against Ukraine.

Felshtinsky has told Veridica how the Russians’ plans were foiled, as well as how Moscow changed its objectives. Together we tried to get a better understanding of the next steps in Putin’s military invasion of Ukraine, but also discussed Moldova’s future, as well as the pseudo-referendums and Moscow’s nuclear saber-rattling.

Yuri Felshtinsky is a historian and journalist specializing in Russia and the former Soviet Union. He has featured in hundreds of interviews, published in the media or broadcast on television and the radio all over the world. He authored such volumes as Blowing Up Ukraine: The Return of Russian Terror and the Threat of World War III, published in 2015, and co-authored Blowing up Russia, jointly with Alexander Litvinenko, a former lieutenant-colonel working for the Russian intelligence service – FSB, who was poisoned with radioactive polonium-210 in London in 2006.

Felshtinsky studied history at the Moscow Pedagogic Institute. In 1978 he moved to the United States, where he furthered his studies of history, first at Brandeis University, then at Rutgers, where he took his Ph.D. in history.

He is also a post-doctoral fellow of the Hoover Institute of Stanford University, the USA. In 1993, Yuri Felshtinsky defended his doctoral thesis at the History Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, becoming the first American citizen to be awarded a Ph.D. in Russia.

Yuri Felshtinsky spoke to Veridica on the sidelines of the Three Seas Initiative (3SI) Conference hosted by Warsaw, Poland at the end of last week.

VERIDICA: What do you think about the so-called referenda and Russia's new annexations of Ukrainian territories?

Yuri Felshtinsky: It is a particular game for Putin. A sort of a childish game. It is like you have several candies. I took two from you, but you have four more. So let's discuss now these four candies to have left.

So, he took Crimea and said this territory was his and it was already annexed, and it would not be negotiated. Regarding the West, nobody discussed Crimea. This peninsula was not even part of the Minsk Agreements. This is what Putin is doing now. 

With these territories newly annexed, the situation is complicated. Some European politicians are saying that we should meet Putin halfway. Maybe that is what he wants, and let's discuss this issue. However, I don't think this is the case, and I don't think Ukraine will agree. 

No one of the Western politicians is ready to talk with Kremlin's leader. So what Putin is doing now is like shouting to the crowds in the streets to see if somebody is listening or reacting. 

I would ignore what Putin does. If I were the editor-in-chief of the New York Times or Washington Post, I would say: "You know, guys, we do not publish this. So it is irrelevant [the so-called annexation of the four Ukrainian oblasts]."

VERIDICA: What do you think about this particular upcoming phase of the war in Ukraine? What should we expect as more and more nuclear threats come from Russia against the West and Ukraine?

Yuri Felshtinsky: Yes, this is the most important. What we have in reality is, in our understanding, that Russia does not have an army anymore. This army is gone, and Russians are trying to mobilise people and create a new one. I don't think they will succeed. 

Anyway, if they will, Moscow will send them to Ukraine, and they will be defeated in less than six months.

The problem with Russia is that this schedule is still alive because of the idea of taking control of Ukraine and Eastern Europe, and probably even further up to the German border. So the tactics change. 

Initially, the goal for Russia was to take control over Ukraine very quickly. To absorb the Ukrainian army into the Russian military, to use the Belarussian army and to take first Moldova and then probably the Baltic states.

Russia's understanding was that NATO would not start a nuclear war, and the Baltic states does not have a conventional army against this joint Russian, Ukrainian and Belarussian. This scenario is gone, but having such control is still on Putin's mind. 

Vladimir Putin's plan has two parts. The first one is to bluff to concentrate troops along Belarusian and Ukraine's border for Kyiv to surrender and Russia will not start a war. As Zelensky refused to surrender, Putin started a war. However, it did not go as Putin planned, but neither Ukrainian could not defeat Putin. The Ukrainian army killed many Russians, but Putin does not care and is now mobilising more people. He is sending in more troops thinking Ukrainians will run out of bullets. 

From Putin's point of view, Ukrainians cannot push him out, and they cannot win. But the question is how to get everything else. For example, Russian cannot get to Transnistria, and Russians can't get to Moldova.

When they reach Transnistria, the Russian army will want to go to Moldova.

VERIDICA: But can Putin start a war from Transnistria in Moldova?

Yuri Felshtinsky: No, this is interesting as the Russian troops in Transnistria sit quietly. They could start an advance from Transnistria to Ukraine to help the Russian forces in Ukraine. These troops in Transnistria will move if there will be a land corridor because they need to get supplies. 

Supplying those troops was made by Russia, until two or three ago, through Ukraine. 

The Ukrainians stopped it, and those troops in Transnistria do not have supplies, especially now went Russia cannot fly over Ukraine. It isn't easy now, and those troops in Transnistria are frozen and waiting for the order to move forward. Now the order is to sit quietly. 

I think this is now going to happen. The Russian is trying to get to Odesa and further to Transnistria. The moment they reach Transnistria, they will have a war. I hope this will not happen, as the day Russian troops arrive in Transnistria, they will start a war with Moldova. 

VERIDICA: How about Belarus? What are the Russian plans for this country?

Yuri Felshtinsky: I am asking myself why Belarus is not annexed yet. There is a reason that Belarus is not yet under Russia's occupation. In Russia, many `crazy` politicians in the Duma think Finland and Alaska belong to the Russian Empire, etc. 

These politicians are not so crazy but receive Putin's instructions to have such rhetoric about different countries. But no one is mentioning Belarus.

If Ukraine should not exist, in this sense, for Moscow, Belarus should not exist, but no Russian politicians mention that. Why? I think the answer is Russia is keeping Belarus as an independent state for nuclear strikes. They supported Lukashenko and said that Belarus needed atomic weapons to defend itself.

Russia is saying they have information that NATO plans to move nuclear weapons to Poland and Lithuania to strike against Belarus. So there is a synchronised message. Putin is talking about Ukraine, and Lukashenko is talking about Lithuania and Poland.

We don't really know how European countries will react against atomic weapons used on Poland and Lithuania. Putin thinks if Russia uses nuclear weapons, the West will finally give up on Ukraine.

[As far as Ukraine is concerned] I believe Russia will not try to strike it. If [Putin] wants to use nuclear weapons against Ukraine, why does he need mobilisation? Why would he need more army if he plans to kill Ukraine with nuclear weapons?

 

Tags: Republica Moldova , Ukraine , Russia , Vladimir Putin , Transnistria , Baltic states , Belarus , War in Ukraine
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