Staunton, July 31 – The murderous brutality of Putin’s campaign in Ukraine makes perfect sense one you recognize that the Kremlin leader’s goal is not to annex Ukraine but to destroy it, according to Leonid Nevzlin, a former Russian oligarch who has been living in Israel for 20 years and a frequent critique of the current Russian president.
Nevzlin says Ukraine can defeat the Russian military but that “if Ukraine wins, it means that Putin will lose — and that he will lose power, as well, just like the final tsar, Nicholas II, after World War I and the Russian Civil War that broke out in its wake” (timesofisrael.com/exiled-oligarch-in-israel-putin-doesnt-want-to-annex-ukraine-but-to-destroy-it/).
“Unfortunately, Putin is also familiar with these scenarios. He can also make do with some partial progress and present it as a big victory. If he takes over the entire Donbas region and shows his citizens that he won and “destroyed the Nazis,” enlarged Russia’s territory, connected the Donbas to the Crimean Peninsula and gained control of the Sea of Azov, Russian propaganda will do the rest.”
Putin’s goals have changed in the course of the fighting, Nevzlin says. “If at first he was aiming for the renewal of the Soviet model and the annexation of Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus to Russia, then now everything has changed. Putin is trying to destroy Ukraine. We understand it from this unbearable violence and the horrific nature of this war.”
“He destroys Russian-speaking cities, he destroys human beings,” Nevzlin continues. “This is his way to take revenge — against Ukraine and against Zelensky. He slaughters Ukrainians and destroys the infrastructure. Anyone involved in the restoration work will have to clear the rubble and build from scratch.”
Western leaders have failed to recognize the threat Putin and his Russia represent. They have been convinced what “with the fall of the Berlin Wall it won the Cold War and that Russia was no longer a threat” but “after the financial crisis in 1998, oil and gas exports increased and Russia progressed toward a market economy.”
And then, the commentator says, Russia “gradually became a reliable energy supplier and Western investment started to flow to Moscow.” Western leaders convinced themselves that “the economy was stronger than anything else” and that Moscow would act according to its economic interests alone. And they thought that Russia still had elections. It hasn’t since before 1996.
Nevzlin says that at present, he does not see “any positive development” being likely for Russia. “To become a reformed and free country it must first stop being an empire. We are still in the era of the disintegration of the Soviet empire. So, in 1991, everyone said the process was completed with almost no bloodshed. It turned out that the killing was delayed for later.”
And as for whether Putin’s regime is becoming anti-Semitic, he says the following: “Is Putin not antisemitic? I am convinced that any authoritarian and anti-liberal regime inevitably leads to antisemitism. No personal contact of ‘court Jews’ with the Kremlin can stand in the way of another wave of antisemitism in Russia.”