NZ can help put power in hands of Russian youth: Prof Patman

Prof Robert Patman. Photo: supplied
Prof Robert Patman. Photo: supplied
Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine to rebuild a Greater Russia might accelerate his own demise, University of Otago’s Prof Robert Patman says.

The global affairs specialist believes the Russian president faces a protracted and unwinnable war in Ukraine and will be thwarted in his larger goal to bring all Russians within his sphere of influence. New Zealand can help ensure Putin’s lies are exposed to Russian youth who could hasten an end to his regime, Prof Patman said.

On Thursday, Russia began a land, sea and air invasion of Ukraine, the largest military attack by one European nation on another since World War 2. Putin’s pretext was "protecting" the breakaway eastern regions of Ukraine and neutralising what he called "Nazi" elements in Ukraine’s democratically elected government.

Russia’s military is vastly superior to Ukraine’s despite an influx in recent weeks of Western military hardware and munitions in response to Russia massing more than 100,000 soldiers on the Ukraine border. Russia’s battle tanks, for example, outnumber Ukraine’s by more than three to one.

Professor Patman believes Ukraine’s military forces will be quickly overrun and the government overthrown. But it will be extremely difficult for Putin to impose a pro-Russian government that has Ukrainian support.

"Within six to eight weeks after a so-called Russian victory, they could be faced with a full-blown insurgency, just as the America’s did in Iraq," Prof Patman says.

Putin’s plans don’t stop at Ukraine, he warned.

"He is likely going to push. His motto is the old Leninist maxim, ‘Probe with bayonets. If you encounter mush keep going. If you encounter steel, pull back’."

If Putin tries to invade North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) member countries, however, he should face a multi-country military response.

"Nato Article Five states that an attack on one is an attack on all," Prof Patman said.

Fourteen Eastern European nations are members of the 30-nation Nato grouping including the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and France. Ukraine and its neighbour Moldova are not members of Nato.

That said, Putin might still try his hand.

"He believes he has got the military momentum behind him and he believes the West is weak," Prof Patman said

Western nations have responded to the invasion with a barrage of financial, trade and travel sanctions designed to strangle the Russian economy.

Scattered anti-war protests throughout Russia have resulted in 1600 arrests.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said Russia will face the condemnation of the world and has called on Russia to permanently withdraw from Ukraine.

New Zealand has banned some Russian officials from coming to the country, is stopping all its exports to Russia’s military and is considering further sanctions.

Prof Patman says New Zealand should use its international political capital to unite small and middle power countries to make a joint statement appealing directly to the Russian people. "Telling them that what Putin has done is not acceptable and will be resisted."

"Lots of young Russians are on the internet, getting their news that way. This is why they are getting protests.

"I have a feeling that in a year’s time people will look back and say this was the moment he accelerated the end of his regime."

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