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General Smeshko: “Putin put Europe on the brink of World War III”. Le Figaro, ten years ago, on the 20th of March 2014


This is a translation of Colonel General Ihor Smeshko’s interview given to Laura Mandeville, the correspondent of the French Le Figaro, ten years ago, on the 20th of March 2014.

General Smeshko: “Putin put Europe on the brink of World War III


The Correspondent: “Moscow annexed Crimea, Ukrainian troops are forced to leave the peninsula – how do you feel about it?”

Colonel-General Ihor Smeshko (hereinafter, Ihor Smeshko):

“I feel hugely humiliated. I was an officer first in the Soviet Army, then in Ukraine. I could never have imagined that this could happen. Vladimir Putin is making a terrible mistake. In the long run, the aggression committed by Russia will catch up with this country and possibly lead to its disintegration.

Putin has opened Pandora’s box by violating the bilateral agreement that recognized the borders of Ukraine and the official guarantees of the Russian state regarding the security of Ukraine, which were given in exchange for our renunciation of nuclear weapons in 1994 (Budapest Memorandum).

In my opinion, Moscow is very afraid of European-style democracy in Ukraine, which could become a role model for Russians.”

The Correspondent: “Putin claims that Ukraine is a geographical concept (territory) rather than a nation.”

Ihor Smeshko: “Putin knows nothing about Ukraine. When he dared to claim that Russia would have won World War II without Ukrainians, it was a terrible slap for Ukrainians. And what about the seven million Ukrainians who gave their lives? Putin knows nothing about this and surrounds himself with incompetent advisers. He does not know that Ukrainians are Old Russes, but grew up on the values of the will of the Zaporizhian Cossacks, who never succumbed to serfdom.

He cannot defeat us. But he wounded us and thus attacked a people who had once given the Russian empire its best soldiers. I know something about it: we were soldiers, father and son, five generations on my mother’s side.

Instead of, together with the European Union, helping the young Ukrainian state to become democratic and prosperous – to build a bridge between Europe and Russia and to fulfil de Gaulle’s dream of a Europe stretching from the Atlantic to the Urals – the Russian leadership began military operations against the Ukrainian state, developing stung aggression against a sovereign state. This puts Europe on the brink of World War III.”

The Correspondent: “Will the Ukrainian army be able to resist if Russian troops invade eastern Ukraine?”

Ihor Smeshko: “Russia has no chance of winning the war against Ukraine! Of course, Ukraine is weakened by the twenty years it spent on laying the foundations of its state, and also very weakened by the total corruption of the state apparatus. That is why part of the population rebelled against the regime of ex-president Viktor Yanukovych.

Of course, we still lack well-equipped divisions, but the Russian ground forces are in no better condition. Russia has mobilized 150,000 people near our borders, but it is unable to wage an offensive war against Ukraine or occupy our territory. When the USSR collapsed, Ukraine had a well-trained military force of one million men. This suggests that Ukraine, for its part, has 700,000 reservists that it can quickly mobilize. And the mobilization is underway.

And even if Russia continues its adventure, and even if we assume the worst scenario for us – that Russia seizing significant territories of Ukraine – it will not stand a chance against the defence forces of Ukraine, against the Ukrainian partisan movement!”

The Correspondent: “You say that Crimea will remain Ukrainian, but the former President of Georgia Saakashvili said the same about South Ossetia.”

Ihor Smeshko: “We are not Georgia. For example, a part of the Russian nuclear shield is currently undergoing technical inspection at the Ukrainian plant Pivdenmash. Until today, we have not said that we are going to stop any cooperation, but that may change. Given our scientific experience, we could even decide to resume the development of nuclear weapons.”

The Correspondent: “Do you believe that Putin will invade eastern and southern Ukraine?”

Ihor Smeshko: “It will depend on two factors.

The first is the ability of the Ukrainian government, which must urgently make a decision on the appointment of experienced generals to the highest military posts, capable of organizing our defence and effective counteraction to Moscow’s propaganda and provocations in eastern Ukraine and beyond – in the world and in Russia itself. So far, these appointments leave much to be desired, in my opinion.

The second factor depends on what is going on in Putin’s head, since he is the only decision-maker in Russia, where he has enslaved society by flooding it with anti-Ukrainian propaganda based on distortions of facts and outright lies. Will he stop in Crimea?! I am a general, not a psychologist.”

The Correspondent: “What can the West do?”

Ihor Smeshko: “The West should remember what the outstanding US political scientist, former adviser to the US President Zbigniew Brzezinski said, namely: “Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be an empire.”

Ukraine should be a bridge, not a part of the Russian Empire. You can’t make any attempt to appease Putin, because it will lead to World War III. Let’s not repeat Munich.”

Original article at: https://www.lefigaro.fr/mon-figaro/2014/03/20/10001-20140320ARTFIG00304-general-smeshko-poutine-place-l-europe-au-bord-d-une-troisieme-guerre-mondiale.php


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