Vladimir Putin
Vladimir PutinReuters

Colonel Richard Kemp, the former commander of the British military forces in Afghanistan, spoke to Israel National News on Sunday about the Russian invasion of Ukraine and stated that the West should have followed Israel's example by projecting strength in defending Ukraine.

"If the West had followed Israel’s example of strength in defending itself and its interests we would not be where we are today," Col. Kemp stated. "The clear lesson from Ukraine is that appeasement never works, it only provokes autocratic rulers. Only military strength and political will to use it can deter autocratic entities such as Russia, China, Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah. Israel doesn’t really need to learn this lesson, and I am skeptical about the ability of western European countries, who are now intrinsically unwilling to defend their way of life and freedoms, to properly absorb it before it’s too late.

"Putin wants to be the man who restores Russian glory and superpower status by re-creating a new form of the Soviet Union, with an unchallenged Russian sphere of influence in the neighboring countries," he explained.

"Diplomacy, including the threat of sanctions, was never going to work with Putin, as we saw. I think the only action that would have deterred him would have been deployment of NATO forces into Ukraine before he invaded, but of course there was no political will for that among NATO member states. A politically stronger and more united West, with a known will to defend itself, might also have deterred him but that would have had to be over a much longer term. Instead, increasing European dependence on Russian energy and a systemic attitude of appeasement emboldened him. The weakness of President Biden and NATO was most recently illustrated by their self-inflicted humiliation in Afghanistan last year, which undoubtedly played a part in encouraging Putin to invade now.

He explained Russia's current military objectives and how the current conflict could expand beyond Ukraine: "I believe Putin intends to bring down Ukraine’s government and install a Russian puppet in its place. He probably wants to effectively annex eastern Ukraine, perhaps splitting the country in half along the River Dnieper, with the west given “neutral” status. In that scenario he would maintain Russian bases and military ports in eastern Ukraine."

"If he remains in power, Putin is unlikely to stop at Ukraine. He also has his eyes on the Baltic states which, like Ukraine, he sees as illegitimate. He is likely to send in “peacekeepers” to the Baltics, whether in weeks, months or years. He may calculate that, despite treaty obligations, Western NATO countries would not fight for the Baltic states and he could be right.

"If Putin does invade the Baltic states or his east European neighbors, and if NATO does actually fight, it will lead to a Europe-wide war. That is why European armies must build up their strength and find the political will to fight and win against Russia," he added.

When asked why Russian forces would seek to capture the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, the site of the infamous 1986 nuclear disaster and a power plant which has been offline for over 20 years, Col. Kemp said that he believes "this was done to show Moscow’s responsibility, by demonstrating that they had secured and made safe the nuclear plant, and also to prevent any prospect of it being weaponized by Ukraine."

According to Col. Kemp, the West's goal at this point must be to end Vladimir Putin's rules over Russia. "It is important to turn Russia into a pariah state by all available diplomatic and economic measures against them, including stronger sanctions, including export and import bans and expelling Russian ambassadors across NATO countries. NATO should make it clear that normality will only be restored if Putin is brought down and a more reasonable leader replaces him. That should be NATO’s goal: to help and encourage the Russian people to end Putin’s despotic rule over Russia."

He noted that the weakness demonstrated by the West and by the Biden Administration in particular in response to Russia's aggression will be taken advantage of by bad actors in other parts of the world such as Iran and China.

"China and Iran have both carefully watched the capitulation of America and NATO in Afghanistan and now the weakness of the US and western European reaction to unfolding events in and around Ukraine. These events have emboldened them and may encourage further Chinese aggression, perhaps deciding that the Biden presidency gives the best opportunity to take Taiwan. Iran’s intransigence over Biden’s proposals for a new nuclear deal is partly the result of their perception of the president’s timidity. If Biden does go for renewing an even worse JCPOA essentially on Iranian terms — which looks likely — this will be yet another example of American weakness. It will not only pave the way for an Iranian nuclear capability but also further embolden China," Col. Kemp said.

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