Crimea is Vladimir Putin’s “weak point”, and is the “stick” Ukraine will likely use to “beat Putin with”, Express.co.uk has been told, as the Russian leader bumps up nuclear threats around annexed Ukrainian territories.
Crimea was claimed by Russia back in 2014, and was used by Moscow to launch part of its southern invasion of Ukraine in February.
But with Ukrainian forces pressing through to the southern Black Sea city of Kherson, a successful counter-offensive could mean Kyiv’s forces press through to the annexed peninsula, Retd Col Hamish de Bretton-Gordon OBE has said.
The former UK and NATO CBRN commander told Express.co.uk: “I think if the Ukrainians are really smart – and I think they are really smart – they will use Crimea as a stick to beat Putin with.
“If I were them, I would push the Russians back to pre-February borders and say, ‘Right, unless you’re going to remove your forces, we will crack on to Crimea’.”
Such a stance would likely prove “very compelling to Putin”, he added, because of the political fallout of losing the peninsula for his security in Moscow.
Retd Col de Bretton-Gordon commented: “If he loses Crimea, he has completely and utterly destroyed Russia as an international state.”
Crimea is Putin’s “weak point”, he argued, because “nobody [in Russia] will forgive him for losing Crimea”.
He continued: “I would think that Ukrainians would play Crimea, and use it to their advantage, and they don’t need to retake it.
“All they need to do is to make sure that the Russians know that they could retake it if they wanted to, and then use that as a bargaining chip.”
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However, Christoph Bluth, professor of international relations and security at the University of Bradford, warned of the human cost of Ukraine attempting to seize Crimea back.
In July, former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev threatened “Judgement Day”-like consequences, should Ukrainian forces approach Crimea.
He was quoted by Russian state media as saying: “Judgement Day will come very fast and hard. It will be very difficult to hide.”
Medvedev, who is now deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council, added: “If any other state, be it Ukraine or NATO countries, believes that Crimea is not Russian, then this is a systemic threat for us.”
“This is a direct and an explicit threat, especially given what had happened to Crimea. Crimea returned to Russia.”