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Expert reveals how long Russia-Ukraine War could go on

“The Russians are redefining existential threat” - expert warns

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According to a former White House adviser, President Putin sees Ukrainians as “traitors” to Moscow and has modified his strategy from capturing the country to “annihilation.”

The invaders’ ferocious resistance caught them off guard, but Putin has simply shifted his intentions, based on his Cold War attitude of planning for every possibility, according to Fiona Hill, a British-born international affairs expert who has studied Putin for over 20 years.

“He wants to remove them [the Ukrainians] as a threat,” Hill warned. “He is moving from capture to basically carnage and annihilation, I think. The Russian view of removing a threat is to crush it completely.”

First Donald Trump’s impeachment investigation witness Hill, 56, came to prominence with her Co Durham accent, testifying authoritatively before the House of Representatives.

For many years, she has watched the Russian leader very closely, meeting him six times while working for presidents from George W Bush to Donald Trump. Her insights have become very popular on both sides of the Atlantic because they show how the leader thinks and what he might do next.

During the interview, Hill said she didn’t think Putin would be brought down by a member of his inner circle. Hill said that the best thing for the West to do was to “hold our resolve” and increase sanctions in the hope that Russians would start to rebel and disobey Putin.

“Putin has a very high tolerance for this kind of carnage, the loss of personnel,” she added. “And I think he has this belief, and we’ll just have to see if this is tested, that Russians are going to go along with it.

“He is not going to sue for peace, so whatever we do to formulate the way out of this has to make Putin look, from his point of view, like he’s won something.”

When asked how long the war may last, Hill cited the protracted struggle in Syria as evidence that Putin was willing to play the long game.

“One of the things,” she said “that I’ve been reminding people is that Russia intervened in Syria in 2015 when it looked like Assad was going to be toppled. He did that precisely to make sure that Assad was left in place. And Assad is still there and lives to fight another day.”

She stated that Putin had been convinced for more than a decade that the US establishment was plotting his demise, which explains why he intervened in the 2016 election against Hillary Clinton.

After the Kremlin’s forthright discussion about its willingness to deploy tactical nuclear weapons, Hill said international leaders must talk promptly about how to regulate a new era of conflict.

“One of the reasons for talking about this is getting ahead of it and we should engage the Chinese and the other nuclear powers on this,” she added. “While nuclear powers say they would only use these weapons in the face of an existential threat, she said, “the Russians are redefining existential threat”.

“An existential threat could be by extension all this pressure that’s been put on the economy, if they believe that we’re trying to force economic collapse or remove the head of state,” Hill said. “It makes the whole world a more dangerous place. It’s not just about a Cold War type US-Soviet standoff, this will actually [if Russia uses nuclear weapons] completely and utterly change everyone’s calculations.”

When the position of US ambassador to Moscow became available under President Obama, Hill lobbied for Arnold Schwarzenegger, the actor and former Republican governor of California.

She believes Putin and Schwarzenegger, who has spoken of his Austrian father’s guilt over his actions during WWII, could have bonded over war stories in the same way he did with Gerhard Schröder, the former German chancellor, whose father was killed in action in 1944.

Schwarzenegger is “married into the Kennedy family, he’s roughly the same height as Putin, and they weren’t going to intimidate him in the same way that they tried with other ambassadors. He’s popular in Russia and knows how to handle himself,” Hill said, although she lost the argument in 2013.

She told CBS News on Sunday that reports of crimes allegedly committed by Russian military “following a pattern that goes back historically.”

“A lot of this wasn’t talked about so much after World War Two but when the Red Army moved into Berlin, there was mass rape of German women in the city.

“People didn’t really want to talk about that so much given all the atrocities that were committed by German forces and the Nazis.”

She added: “If this was genuinely a special military operation to liberate a fraternal country from what Putin was describing as Nazis, you would not expect this kind of conduct. Either this is a complete breakdown of command and control or it’s actually being sanctioned in some way to teach Ukrainians a lesson.

“Either way, this is actually pretty disastrous and obviously requires some kind of serious response in the international community.”

Image Credit: Getty

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