A national security expert in Ukraine has given a brutal assessment of what may become of Vladimir Putin if Russia loses its illegal invasion of the country. The expert suggested that a loss in Ukraine would almost certainly lead to the end of Putin’s reign – but in a particularly shocking analysis, he added that Russia itself could be carved up in the event of a military defeat. Recent weeks have seen a powerful comeback from Ukrainian forces, reclaiming large swathes of land from the invaders as Putin faces increasing pressure to deliver on his so-called “special military operation”. Putin’s efforts to re-establish his authority, including calling for a partial military mobilisation in Russia and hosting sham referendums in order to illegally annex parts of Ukraine and bring them under Russian rule have seemingly only led to further embarrassment for the dictator.
Speaking to MailOnline, millennium fellow at think-tank Atlantic Council Alp Sevimlisoy said: “I can’t see a future for Putin [if he loses the war]. How do you go back to your people after this?”
He added that Russia itself could be under threat if Kyiv manages to claim victory.
Mr Sevimlisoy said: “The Ukrainians have the momentum – they are winning. But this conflict won’t just end with both sides going away and saying ‘that’s that’, it will reverberate throughout Russia and the region. I think collapse will come from infighting in the intelligence services and military, and forces within Russia will see to use this as opportunity to say: ‘We can govern ourselves better and we have enough international support to push for independence.’ We should definitely support that.”
The expert added that the West should begin preparing for this situation now, to prevent China from exerting its influence over areas where Russian power could fade following the war. This includes regions such as Siberia, central Asia, Africa and South America.
The expert warned that China is a “globally-connected superpower” and the West has to “move into vacuums” to stop it seizing control across the world. In-fighting within Russia would also spell the demise of its power on the world stage, according to Mr Sevimlisoy.
This could include different military branches turning against each other, and regions within the country looking to break away. The decline of Russian influence is already evident when it comes to ex-Soviet states.
For instance a long-standing ally of Moscow, Kazakhstan, has played a role in Putin’s latest humiliation: that while 200,000 men have reportedly signed up to the war after his mobilisation announcement, an even greater number have fled the country entirely. 200,000 of those leaving Russia have moved to Kazakhstan in an effort to avoid taking part in Putin’s failing war.
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Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said the country would welcome the refugees, adding it was a “humanitarian question”. The country has also stated it does not formally recognise Moscow’s claimed annexation of four Ukrainian regions.
That Putin’s future has become increasingly intertwined with success in Ukraine has been observed by many commentators. Writing for Spiked, columnist Tim Black wrote that the annexation of Ukrainian territory has “real and dangerous implications” by “recasting” the country’s defenders as invaders of Russia.
In a fear echoed by former British army officer Richard Kemp, Mr Black wrote that this has transformed the conflict into a “zero-sum game” where if Putin loses, it would mean giving up what he considers to be Russian territory to Ukraine.
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The tyrant is also facing huge pressure from within his own country. The numbers of men fleeing to avoid conscription evidences the lack of true support the war has among many Russians.
Meanwhile, a group of councillors in St Petersburg wrote Putin a letter accusing him of “high treason” and calling on him to step down, according to CBC. Russian pop star Alla Pugacheva has also weighed in, speaking against the war and asking her government to label her a “foreign agent” alongside her husband.
Russian political scientist Grigory Yudin, who has been arrested for protesting the war, said Putin would “not be able to survive a real military defeat in Ukraine. That will be the end of his political career.”
However, some have feared that this increasingly desperate situation for Putin may encourage him to do the unthinkable, and engage in nuclear war. Mr Black argued that as Ukraine is now, in Moscow’s eyes, trying to claim Russian territory as its own, it can use “all means” to defend itself – which includes nuclear weapons.