Hans-Dieter Heumann, Former diplomat and President of the Federal Academy for Security Policy, has claimed Putin’s “system is in crisis” but that is what makes the conflict so dangerous.
The deployment of Russian forces to the occupied territories of Luhansk and Donetsk in the Donbass and their recognition as independent states shows Putin’s unyielding determination to stop Ukraine from becoming more closely linked to Western states.
The security expert said: “Vladimir Putin wants to prevent such a development by force.
“It is the Putin system that is in crisis. That is why the conflict is so dangerous, also because Putin is a man of conviction: he wants to go down in history as the collector of Russian soil, as the leader of Russia who will take back Ukraine or parts of it.”
However, according to Heumann, the sanctions adopted by the UK, US and European Union will accelerate Russia’s relative decline in the long term.
Though, he claimed, Russia has “developed resilience against sanctions”
– through its sizeable reserves of foreign currency, the money in the state fund and its ability to block imports of manufactured goods – this is “not sustainable”.
Hans-Dieter Heumann said: “Further military action by Russia in Ukraine can only be prevented by credible deterrence. NATO’s military presence on its eastern flank is one thing. Security cooperation between the European Union and Ukraine would be another.”
He warned that Germany must rethink whether it takes its responsibility seriously in attempting to deter Russia by sending troops and military equipment like the UK and US have so far done.
To weaken Ukraine permanently, he said Russia does not need to conquer the whole country.
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He warned that military threats scare off investors and increase trade prices, which has resulted in a loss of around $280bn – almost 20 percent of Ukraine’s domestic gross product – since its conflict with Russia started in 2014.
Heumann said: “Foreign investment of almost 70 billion US dollars has been lost. Strengthening Ukraine’s resilience through economic support from the EU thus takes on strategic importance”.
He added: “Russia is acting against its national interests.
“Not only the USA and European states condemn Russia’s actions, but also important states of the G7. Even China is not giving Russia the support it had hoped for. Russia is isolated in the United Nations Security Council.
“The Ukrainians, who in Putin’s view form one people with the Russians, have turned away from Russia and towards the West. Today, for the first time, a majority of them want to join NATO and the EU and have enshrined this in their constitution.”
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Because of this, the former diplomat believes “the Western alliance has demonstrated its unity in a way that probably surprised even Putin”.
He said: “Putin may have gambled on the weakness of the West. But in doing so, he has also revealed Russia’s weakness. He is using weapons that will lose their power in the future. Russia is not militarily superior to Nato.
“Europe’s dependence on Russian gas will decrease in the long term, but Russia’s dependence on energy exports will not. Finally, the so-called Putin system is not sustainable.
“Putin’s former companions from his Petersburg days, the representatives of the security services and the oligarchs who make up this system are pursuing private, not national interests. They are literally eating away at Russia’s substance. In this respect, Putin is not acting from a position of strength.”
Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg.