Putin’s tactics ‘will be downfall’ as expert says history has answers

Ukraine: Putin 'exploding nuclear power station plausible'

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The war in Ukraine has raged on for the best part of nine months with millions of Ukrainians now facing a difficult winter as Russia’s missile attacks have left the country with just half its power capacity. According to research conducted by Statista, more than 6,500 Ukrainian civilians have been killed since Russia first invaded on February 24. But Professor Michael Clarke, the former Director-general of the Royal United Services Institute from 2007 to 2015, has said Putin’s attempt to break the Ukrainian people’s will with terror tactics will not win him the war. 

President Volodymyr Zelensky – speaking at a nightly address last week – warned that 10 million Ukrainians are now without power after Russia sent missiles that hit energy installations and civilian buildings.

This tactic has been employed following Russian setbacks such as Putin’s forces being driven to withdraw from the Kherson region with some troops reportedly now struggling to hold firm in Donetsk. 

Attacks on Ukraine have been wide-ranging, hitting regions in the west, south, and east. But Professor Clarke explained that history shows that these terror tactics will be his “downfall”. 

Speaking to Times Radio on October 23, he said: “The point is that they’ve not got a great historical pedigree of working. The idea of breaking the will of a population with an air attack is just not true. It didn’t work in the Second World War for either the Germans against Britain or Britain and America against Germany, it didn’t work in the Vietnam war.”

World War II saw much strategic bombing on both sides as railways, harbours, and cities were targeted. 

Air attacks became less restricted as the war continued to rage on with civilians falling victim to such attacks as seen in Hamburg and Dresden. 

However, as Professor Clarke explained, this did not dampen the morale of the opposition as it, in part, sought to do. 

He added: “There is no real evidence that you can break the will of the population worse. You can make people miserable but a population that is already disposed to resist will not be any less disposed to resist by being brutalised with air attack, that’s the point.”

According to a poll conducted by Gallup found the majority of Ukrainians were resolute in fighting off Russia with 70 percent saying they want the war to continue until they achieve victory. 

For more than 90 percent, victory meant recapturing all territory seized by Russia, including Crimea which Putin illegally annexed in 2014. 

Professor Clarke explained that there are two likely reasons why Putin may be using this tactic, the first of which is to prove a point to the Russians themselves. 

Putin may be putting pressure on the Ukrainians over the winter, Professor Clarke continued, in a bid to demonstrate to the Russians that “this is a serious issue” and that they’re at war, despite Putin still describing it as a “special operation”.

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The Russian leader and his commander in Ukraine, Sergey Surovikin, are now “pulling out all the stops” as they are undoubtedly under pressure with all that is going wrong. A reported 100,000 Russian soldiers have been killed according to US estimates. 

The fact that the war is not going as Putin had hoped ties into what Professor Clarke believes is the second reason for the air attacks – it makes Putin and Surovikin feel better about what has happened so far.  

Surovicin – who has been dubbed the “Butcher of Syria” – believes in putting pressure on civilians, Professor Clarke explained. 

In 2019, the airforce general oversaw the brutal attacks on clinics and hospitals which showed the “callous disregard for the lives of the roughly three million civilians in the area”, according to the Human Rights Watch report.

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