Ukrainian forces storm Russia position in Southern Ukraine
Cross the western border; move southeast and westwards into the country; secure each Black Sea port; take Kyiv and install a puppet government answerable only to the Kremlin; continue westwards to NATO’s eastern frontier. That is the blueprint many political experts claim Russian President Vladimir Putin had in mind when he began his invasion of Ukraine earlier this year. But things have not gone exactly to plan, and today, Putin’s military is struggling against a resilient Ukrainian force backed by Western powers.
While Ukraine’s tenacity has been lauded, many say there is no doubt that Russia has a far larger, stronger and more adept military than its former Soviet neighbour, and, being fully aware of this, is in the war for the long run.
It is currently unclear what exactly Putin hopes to achieve in Ukraine, but experts like Dr Yuri Felshtinsky, author of ‘Blowing up Ukraine: The Return of Russian Terror and the Threat of World War III’, believe that it is more than clear what Putin had hoped to achieve.
The Russian-American academic, who left the Soviet Union in the Seventies for the US, told Express.co.uk that Putin wanted to take Ukraine and rally its troops, along with Belarus’ army, to move on Eastern Europe.
He explained: “The initial plan would see Ukraine taken quickly — he already has Belarus — and then to use this compliant Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian army to move further into Eastern Europe.
Eastern Europe: The Russian President, it has been claimed, had hoped to invade Eastern Europe
Kyiv: Many believed Putin wanted to install a puppet government in the capital
“But this plan was ruined by the Ukrainians who started to fight successfully, stopping Putin’s goal of taking Ukraine in one week or one month.
“In order to end this war as quickly as possible, [the West] must help Ukraine by all means possible, because this is our only chance to finish the war while Ukrainians are fighting and avoid the risk of nuclear confrontation which still exists.”
The author, who worked with the assassinated former KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko, believes that the only way to stop a burgeoning global conflict is to end the war within Ukraine’s borders.
Dr Yuri is not the only person to have warned about Russia’s intentions for the surrounding regions.
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Many, like Natia Seskuria, an associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), warn that Georgia, Russia’s Caucasus neighbour, could be next.
In 2008, Georgia, along with Ukraine, was promised NATO membership.
That same year, Russia burst into Georgia from the north, some troops believed to have illegally crossed the border into the South Ossetian conflict zone, a self-proclaimed republic known to be backed by the Kremlin.
Skirmishes occurred for around a week until French President Nicolas Sarkozy negotiated a ceasefire on August 12.
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Eastern Europe: Many say Putin wants to re-establish Russia’s former Soviet Union
Belarus: Putin and Sergei Shoigu (left) watched joint Russian-Belarus defence drills, 2017
To this day, Russia occupies 20 percent of Georgia’s internationally recognised territory.
This, paired with Putin’s Ukraine war, Ms Seskuria told Express.co.uk, has sent alarm bells ringing in Tbilisi: “This concerns Georgians because I don’t think Putin will stop in Ukraine.
“In one way or another — and I’m not suggesting that there will be another war in Georgia — if Ukraine changes its constitution in regards to NATO membership, I think Georgia will be the next ones who are pushed towards the same direction.
“That is definitely something that concerns every single Georgian today.”
Soviet Union: The former USSR’s so-called Iron Curtain covered much of Europe
Reports now suggest that Russia’s military is beginning to run thin on the ground, with commentators in Russia increasingly calling for conscription.
Russian journalist Dmitry Steshin, who works for the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper, wrote of his disgust on returning from Ukraine to Moscow.
On his Telegram channel, he blasted Russians who filled the motorways, describing them as “fat little vacationers” under a government whose strategy was “pretending that everything is fine”.
He added: “They gnawed on hotdogs at gas stations, drank horrible coffee, fed their expensive cars. This will not end well.”
Jens Stoltenberg: The NATO chief has warned that the Ukraine war may last for years
No one can say for certain when the war will end.
Some Western leaders believe it will drag on for years to come.
Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s Secretary General, this summer warned that “we must not let up in supporting Ukraine”.
He added: “We must prepare for the fact that it could take years.”
And Boris Johnson, who has been replaced by Liz Truss, echoed Mr Stoltenberg’s comments around the same time: “I am afraid that we need to steel ourselves for a long war,” adding that it was necessary “to enlist time on Ukraine’s side”.