Since 2014, a new era of the struggle for Ukraine’s independence has begun. With arms in hand, Ukrainians conquer back their territories, the right to live independently and associate their future with the European Union. The last days have been extremely tense for our country: according to intelligence sources in different countries, Russia is considering a scenario of a rapid, large-scale offensive operation against Ukraine in several directions.
Mykola Malomuzh, Former Head of the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine, General of the Army of Ukraine, Adviser to the President (2010-2014), has repeatedly participated in talks with Putin. In an interview with Kateryna Bratko, he told how to properly and convincingly defend Ukraine’s position in difficult and tense situations.
Mr. Malomuzh, recently Bloomberg, citing its own sources, reported an increase in Russian troops and artillery for a rapid invasion of Ukraine from various locations. In your opinion, why is the Kremlin taking such steps?
The Kremlin has chosen a new strategic position: today, it is a powerful global player. According to it, Russia has the right to control certain territories – Ukraine, Belarus and the former CIS countries, as well as the Middle East, such as Syria and Iraq. That is, Russia and Putin are trying to follow the model of restoring power that existed in the USSR. Therefore, the countries that were members of the Union, according to their version, should be under their control.
But Ukraine has chosen the path of European integration – by the way, it is enshrined in our Constitution – and not a return to the USSR?
According to Russia, the United States, the European Union, Turkey, China, Japan, Brazil, NATO and other international players must agree with their desire to control Ukraine. To achieve this, the Kremlin is building up its military resources, especially nuclear ones, which are commensurate with the U.S. ones. In this situation, Russia is betting on them, openly demonstrating its possibilities. First of all, not so much at the border, but the fact that they have a powerful military potential, and that they are ready for large-scale military operations and already have hyper-nuclear weapons, which are now available only in Russia and the United States. The Kremlin speculates on the availability of such weapons and makes strong messages, especially in meetings with Trump, Biden, and other world leaders. That is why Americans and Europeans reckon with it.
The Russians also have a lot of leverage over Europeans. In particular, gas and oil. The strategic raw material is titanium. It is needed by giants, including arms manufacturers. That is, Russia has a strong strategic position. However, in this situation, we see that Russia violates international law and human rights. The Kremlin is cynical about Ukraine; it is conducting military operations, annexing territories, and so on. But Russia would like the United States and NATO to agree to a certain status quo, that Crimea belongs to them, and there is a civil war in Donbas. In general, the Kremlin uses the east of our country as a format for destabilising Ukraine and threatening the stability of Europe. For this, information wars are being waged.
Russia likes to flirt with military muscles, demonstrating its power to the world…
The Kremlin is acting in a complex manner. They see that Europe and America are reacting sharply on military operations, so they are actively conducting exercises in Russia, as well as in Belarus and Crimea. Russia flirted with muscles last year, but the U.S. president warned against such a scenario and talked to Putin. At the same time, Putin also needs such negotiations, since they are very important for Russia. I think the Kremlin leader is showing strength to force us and the partners on whom this depends not to form a position on European integration and joining NATO.
Could Putin resort to open military conflict over Russia’s reluctance for Ukraine to integrate into Europe?
One of Russia’s scenarios for destabilising the situation in Ukraine is a military one. Their troops can enter either a separate region, such as the southeast one, or the entire territory of Ukraine. This is possible if they see that the situation here is unbalanced and the country is unmanageable. In this regard, our political leadership must harmonise society by uniting it, and, together with European partners, clearly defend our positions, including diplomatic, economic, energy, financial, and defence ones.
We see how Russia is manipulating the world, creating frozen conflicts in Ukraine and Abkhazia. In which European country do you think Putin can escalate the conflict?
At the moment, I see that Putin can lay claim to all of Ukraine due to a change in political leadership. This is one of the scenarios they are actively working on.
The Kremlin has long said that they have a scenario according to which they can enter not only the southeast region, but also Halychyna. But we have strong support from NATO and a number of powerful countries in this bloc. In the event of open military aggression, they will no longer behave neutrally and will not be limited to expressing concern.
Do you think that Russian society is mentally ready for an open war with Ukraine?
Most of the Russian society and representatives of different regions will be extremely concerned about such developments. This will be negatively perceived by their citizens and they may rise up against Putin, who has a maximum of 56% support. Not everything is calm there. There are also many negative scenarios in politics. Even in the large oligarchic sector, there are many disaffected.
After all, large sums of money are under the control of Western intelligence services and major financial intelligence. And this is more than 1 trillion 250 billion Russian Rubles controlled by the intelligence services of the United States, the United Kingdom, and other countries. This is another lever of influence on Russia that can be used as an argument in negotiations. Together with our European partners, we must work out a scenario for the defence of Ukraine. Of course, the consolidation of our allies is needed.
We can even give Putin scenarios for getting out of the current situation, so that it takes into account, first of all, the interests of Ukraine. To some extent, this will coincide with Russia’s interests. We need to convey to them that war is a disastrous situation for everyone.
You have already mentioned such an effective tool of Russia as information wars. These troops morally “prepare” society, in particular the European one, for the Kremlin’s illegal actions…
First, the Russian Federation has a very powerful model of information hybrid warfare. Russian information troops have chosen an attack position. Their concept is to fight, accusing all other countries of being aggressive towards Russia, lthough it is not true. But the Kremlin is using this paradigm, blaming everyone but itself. We and the Europeans have chosen a position when information resources should consult on the prospects for the development of a peaceful world, not war.
Still, why don’t Ukraine and Europe oppose these information wars?
Russia finances its information resources much better than the Europeans. No one in Europe invests public resources in advocacy campaigns, especially against other countries. Russia is doing so. They have a powerful free resource at the expense of oil dollars, gas schemes, minerals, and so on. These are all millions of dollars.
All Russian media outlets are funded by huge corporations, for example, Rosneft, Gazprom. It is extremely difficult to win a war in such competition. Russia is filling Europe, and not only Europe, with the information it needs. Recently I was in France and Germany, and there were no Ukrainian channels, but there were three Russian ones. In fact, the Ukrainian position is not represented in these countries.
The enormous financial and information power, the work of special services of the Russian Federation, which have extensive experience in waging wars, including information ones, are yielding results.
The Russians not only openly use their information resources, but open many of them where foreign capital is involved, sometimes even democratically, but they form a position of support for the Kremlin. It may also be the presentation of Russia not as an aggressor, but as a country ready to take constructive actions. So it is difficult to resist them, but it is necessary!