Rostislav Ishchenko: The threat of a pan-European war is very real


Rostislav Ishchenko

Rostislav Ishchenko, a columnist for the Russia Today international media group, gave an interview to GEOFOR about the prospects of the situation in and around Ukraine.

- On May 21, Zelensky’s term as president expires, but it is obvious that he has no intention of leaving. So what should we expect in the near future in Ukraine? Its transformation into an outright dictatorship?

- First, Ukraine has been a dictatorship for a long time, so it can’t turn into it a second time. Secondly, Ukraine will fight until the morale unity of the AFU and the will of the political leadership to resist are completely broken. Whether it will be led by Zelensky or someone else is another matter. I don’t see any reason that would make the U.S. change Zelensky, and without their consent, it is unlikely that anyone would dare to stage a putsch in Kiev.

- The power in Kiev is gradually changing. And what will it give Zelensky?

- This is not a change of power, but a change of persons. There are always some changes in any government. Someone leaves, someone comes in. I don’t see any changes in Kiev that would make sense to discuss seriously.

- Unsettled internally displaced persons, problems with power supply, transportation, lawlessness of local military commissars, etc. Can this lead to a response from the population, a social explosion?

- Some small local clashes are possible (they have happened before and they are happening now). But it makes no sense to expect a nationwide explosion. Such an explosion requires a nationwide authoritative political force that will take charge of the process, but there is no such force and there will not be one.

- Macron urged EU partners to send their limited contingents to Ukraine. And part of the Europeans, albeit a small part, are already supporting him. Does this initiative come personally from the President of the French Republic? Or is he just announcing what was dictated to him from across the ocean? Where could this lead to as a result? A European war?

- These are American initiatives. The U.S. would very much like to achieve a pan-European war with Russia’s participation, but so far it cannot. At the same time, some European elites support them. Including Macron, who, however, does not intend to drag France into the war, but expects that his initiative will allow him to solve the problem with little blood (the lives of a couple thousand French soldiers), placing the main burden of the war with Russia on Eastern Europe and Germany. So far it has not worked out, but the threat of a pan-European war is very real, though not fatal.

- One more thing: Edward Luttwak, a State Department consultant, said that Britain, France and Northern European countries are already secretly preparing to send troops to Ukraine. Do you think we should expect a NATO continent or a “coalition of the willing” to be sent into the special military operation zone?

- They believe they will be able to assemble and arm a sufficient contingent to confront Russia no sooner than 2026 (some say 2027 or even later). Their problem is that they need to find someone to fight against Russia all that time. Meanwhile, Ukraine is running out, the Baltics can’t do it alone, Poland doesn’t want to get involved in a war with Russia without guarantees to protect its territory from the US. So if they send anything to Ukraine this year, it will be purely symbolic contingents to raise the spirits of Ukrainians and encourage them to resist to the last Ukrainian in order to buy time for the West to prepare an intervention.

- In an interview with CBS Channel, Zelensky first allowed the possibility of negotiations with Russia without the condition of Ukraine’s mandatory return to the 1991 borders; now he is talking about Ukraine’s 2022 borders. Is this a throwback to Zelensky’s “peace formula” conference scheduled to be held in Switzerland?

- The U.S. needs formal support for Zelensky’s “peace plan” from as many countries as possible in order to try to coerce them to join the sanctions and thus put pressure on Russia in the hope that Moscow will agree to peace on U.S. terms. For this purpose, various maneuvers are being undertaken that have no relation to the real plans.

- Half of Ukraine’s budget is subsidized by the West, and the transition to financial self-sufficiency will be extremely difficult in the future, as stated by Taras Kachka, Deputy Minister for Economy of Ukraine. What is the other half on?

- The second half does not exist. At best, a quarter, or even less. Kiev has only taxes (which were poorly paid before, and now, with the death of the economy and the flight of at least half of its citizens abroad, there is no one left to pay them) and customs duties, which have sharply decreased with the decline in trade. In addition to Western aid, Ukraine is also borrowing money from all those who give it. It is these loans that it uses for its GDP and budget.