Monday, March 21, 2022

Only if Putin is Defeated in Ukraine can World Avoid a Nuclear Catastrophe, Felshtinsky Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 16 – Many people fear that active Western support for Ukraine against Vladimir Putin will lead to a nuclear war, but the only way to prevent the current conflict from growing into a nuclear conflagration, Yury Feltshtinsky says, is for Putin to be defeated in Ukraine.

            If he is not, the US-based Russian historian says, the Kremlin leader will simply expand his aggression to other countries, eventually crossing a line that the West will not be able to avoid responding do, either because of NATO’s Article Five or for other reasons (

            Sanctions alone are not going to cause Putin to change course, Feshtinsky says. NATO must recognize as it has not done yet that on February 24th, “the third world war began.” It isn’t going as quickly as he hoped because of the resistance of the Ukrainian people, but in his mind, he has won one major victory.

            That victory is that the West has declared that it will defend NATO members but not others, effectively giving the Kremlin leader carte blanche to threaten and invade all the countries to the east of the alliance and then be in a much more powerful position to attack the alliance members themselves.

            It is likely that many Russians support what Putin is trying to do, Felshtinsky continues, but the 58 percent who do according to Russian polls is actually a pathetic number when one keeps in mind that Putin has “100 percent control” over the media and has had the time to brainwash so many of them.

            But there are other reasons why many Russians support what Putin is doing: First of all, “Russia in recent centuries existed as a continental empire, that is, as a state where ethnic Russians were the ruling nation and all the other peoples were considered natsmeny, national minorities.” Russians became used to viewing themselves as great and the others as second class.

            And secondly, Russians are used to considering themselves great and suffer greatly because the rest of the world doesn’t consider them so but rather views them as one nation among many. Russians read this as a sign that the rest of the world wants to destroy them rather than simply live in peace, and Putin plays on both of these feelings.

            Because of the power of the Russian state, Russians by themselves cannot defeat Putin; and because of the size of the Russian military and Moscow’s willingness to suffer massive casualties, the Ukrainians cannot do so by themselves either. NATO must support Ukraine not just for its salvation but for its own, Felshtinsky argues.

            When Putin is finally defeated, the historian says, the results for Russia will be difficult. But when he began this war, Putin made that outcome inevitable. He in effected signed a death sentence for himself and his country. The only questions now are how long it will be before that is put into effect and how high a price he, his country and the world will have to pay.

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