In ‘Ukraine, the first battle of the Third World War’ (Ed. Deusto), Yuri Felshtinsky (expert in the Russian secret service since 1917 and historian with great contacts in the Kremlin dissidence) and Mikhail Stanchev (advisor to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ukrainian Foreign Affairs) warn of one of the main consequences of the escalation between the Western allies and Russia in the wake of the war in Ukraine: the resurgence of nuclear threats. It is the story of how what began as a regional conflict has ended up taking on the nuances of a world war in which nothing more and nothing less is at stake than the new international order of the 21st century. Born in Moscow but living in the United States since 1978, Felshtinsky receives ABC at the Rafael del Pino Foundation to explain how the Russian invasion of the neighboring country is the first phase of Vladimir Putin’s project to destabilize the balance between the great powers and sponsor the formation of an eastern axis that disputes the hegemony of the United States. In your book you state that Ukraine is the preamble to the new great international conflict to come. Aren’t they expansionist delusions of a fanatic? Unfortunately not. Putin enjoys support that is the result of many years of suppression of the free press. The propaganda is incredible. This had never happened before in the entire history of the USSR -not Russia-. Related news standard interview If Catherine Belton, investigative journalist: “Putin would have gotten nowhere without his network of allies” Patricia Romero Revuelta The former ‘Financial Times’ correspondent in Moscow has written the definitive book on the rise of the Russian leader and the capture of power and wealth by a league of oligarchs under the black hand of the former KGB. Are we in time to avoid this third world war? I’m afraid not either. If Putin were a dictator, everything would be easier. Dictators sooner or later are overthrown, die or are assassinated. But Putin runs the country as a representative of state security. That is why his system of government is very stable and there is no opposition. He has the support of the people who control Russia. We know who made the decision to invade in 2014 and we know who made the decision to invade in 2022. It is Putin, of course, because he is president. But he is also Nikolai Patrushev, former director of the FSB and current head of the Security Council of the Russian Federation. It’s Bortnikov, director of the FSB. It’s Sergei Shoigu, the Defense Minister. And it is Valeri Gerasimov, chief of the General Staff of the Russian Army. The decision was made by a group of five people, three of whom are from the FSB and two from the military. A group that started preparing all this in the year 2000. So, Putin has been organizing the invasion of Ukraine for the last 20 years. Yes. This is his last attempt, his last fight in the fight for world domination. They are going to win or lose. If Putin fails, will he try again or let him be? I do not think that [Putin] stop unless stopped. He is also not willing to accept defeat. There are those who still hope that he will reconsider, but Putin is unable to stop. He will realize that the war is not going as he expected, but he’s done. His strategy is changing, but his goals remain the same. And this is the most important factor now that he has nuclear weapons. “People say that Putin was wrong and miscalculated with the invasion of Ukraine, but he was not the only one who did it” Yuri Felshtinsky Historian expert in Russian intelligence The objectives are the same, but the war model has radically changed towards a war hybrid waged on foreign soil. Belarus, Moldova… If he can use grain, he will use it to create uncontrolled immigration of starving Africans to Europe. If he needs to use gas, he’ll use it to freeze the Germans this winter. For him, there are many different ways to wage this war. In February, Putin intended to quickly seize Ukraine, then proceed to Moldova and stage a similar war. But, after nine months, the result is not what was expected. By the way, people say that Putin was wrong and miscalculated, but he was not the only one who miscalculated. Does he refer to the West? Of course. No one believed that the Ukrainians were going to hold out, let alone successfully. They began to receive help only after they managed to resist Russia, when Europe and the US realized that there was a possibility that [los ucranianos] stop the invasion. Now Putin has run out of an army and Ukraine is in a better position: they have experience and weapons from the West on the condition that they do not use them against the territories of the Russian Federation and Belarus. It has become an exclusively defensive war for Ukraine. Therefore, they are capable of stopping the Russian advance, but they are not capable of stopping the war. The West is trying to stop this war inside the Ukrainian borders and it is an understandable tactic, but unless Ukraine is allowed to conduct the war in the way they deem necessary, it will never end. The longer it lasts, the closer Putin is to eliminating all of us. More, taking into account that he is going to start a new stage. We talk about nuclear weapons. How far is Putin willing to go with the atomic bomb? Is it a bluff? It all started with a bluff: he offered the West surrender or capitulation while blackmailing him. Lukashenko called Zelensky on Putin’s behalf and offered to hand Ukraine over to Russia in exchange for not starting the war. But the bluff didn’t work, Zelensky refused, and Putin declared war. Now, there is a chance that the same thing could happen with this nuclear stage of the war. We would probably never have discussed the possibility of one European state using nuclear weapons against another, but now we are getting closer and closer to one of the parties being able to use this weapon. Is Putin a man who would risk nuclear war? This is not about the Ukraine, this is about the creation of a Russian empire. Not that we can give you Ukraine [a Putin] and be satisfied. This is not going to happen. We will continue to listen to this nuclear ultimatum. We had better try to end this war. Putin would probably never use nuclear weapons; it’s a bluff. But we must watch Belarus carefully because there is a difference between acquiring nuclear weapons on the territory of the Russian Federation and firing them from Minsk, since the retaliation would be against Lukashenko. And Putin does not care about Belarus. This is the danger we face. Is a new world order at stake? I don’t think Russia, as it exists now, will survive this war. I even think that some territories will secede from the new Russian Federation. In order to become a normal European state, Russia had to stop thinking of itself as an empire. Putin was able to take control of a country so quickly because it’s so easy to sell Russians the idea that all the problems exist because of Russia ceasing to be an empire in 1918 or 1991 because Russians are so willing to believe that they have to be an empire and that there are nations that have to be part of it like the Ukraine, the Baltic States or Finland. This situation would change if Russia were defeated. So far, they perceive a defeat for Ukraine; Russia is not really suffering and the country does not really feel that they are at war. The day Russia begins to understand that they are being defeated, that day will change everything. No end date “If it weren’t for nuclear weapons, we could continue fighting quietly for years and the Russian Federation would collapse just like the Soviet Union did” Yuri Felshtinsky Expert in the Russian Secret Service When will Putin realize that he is losing this war? He will never notice. He will never accept that he has already lost this war. So you don’t have an end date? Sooner or later, the West will realize that this war is not going to end if it is played out as a defensive war because Russia will send more and more and more and more troops. And then they will start supplying the Ukrainians with more offensive weapons. This is what will really stop the war. Psychologically, we are getting closer to the idea of using nuclear weapons. So, it is dangerous to prolong this war for an indefinite period of time. If it weren’t for nuclear weapons, then we could go on quietly for years like the Soviet-Afghan war and the Russian Federation would collapse just like the Soviet Union did.