Andrei Kozyrev was Russian Foreign Minister under Boris Yeltsin. His number two, Sergei Lavrov, replaced him in Putin’s time. Nothing reflects Kozirev’s poor relationship with the Kremlin better than the comment he made about who was his right-hand man: “Lavrov used to watch my back, now I would watch my back if he was behind me.”
That is why the three keys that Kozyrev offers about the reading that Vladimir Putin makes – for whom he does not feel any sympathy – about the war in Ukraine are valuable. The first thing that he highlights, in the face of the discourse that is making its way in the West, is that he is not crazy, he does not act by letting himself be carried away by fanaticism, but rather that he is a rational actor in this conflict. A separate question is whether his logic is murderous or despicable, but it is too simple to attribute everything that is happening to the supposed madness of a man.
Kozyrev with Boris Yeltsinniusdiario.es “Most people, especially in the West, saw the decision to invade Ukraine as irrational. I disagree. It’s horrible, but it’s not irrational.”explains Kozyrev, who believes that Putin is guided by three fundamental ideas in his calculation of the war.
Putin’s three premises
The first is the Ukraine’s status as a country. Putin believes that Ukraine is not a real nation, that at best it has the right to be a state obedient to Russia. While the Ukrainian governments have bowed to the will of Moscow, the Russian president has not valued a military intervention. That changed with the Maidan rebellion in 2014. The second key is the Russian Army. Kozyrev refers to a factor that has been highlighted these days by others, such as the researcher Kamil Galeev. Corruption has diverted some of the money intended to modernize the Russian military to private interests. The reformist Defense Minister Anatoly Serdiukov fell out of favor by opposing these interest groups. The current head of the portfolio, Sergei Shoigú, has been more meek with everyone and questions what information about the real state of the Army he has sent to Putin. The third factor is Putin’s idea of the West. He thinks that the US president, Joe Biden, “is inept” and that the European Union will not scratch him, as happened in 2014.
Kozyrev concludes that with these three premises it is logical that Putin, with the aim of restoring Russian military glory, “It’s perfectly rational” to invade Ukraine. Another thing is that its premises are all wrong or that it is immoral. The former Russian minister goes further and assures that “since he is rational, I believe that he will not intentionally use nuclear weapons against the West.” In Kozyrev’s interpretation, however, some of the scenarios foreseen by the most recent Russian nuclear strategy are missing. It appears from the document that Russian generals believe they can afford an attack with tactical nukes within the theater of war, in this case within Ukraine, without necessarily taking the step of provoking a third world war.
Too many miscalculations
Kozyrev himself says that Putin’s three premises are three miscalculations. Its nuclear strategy could include a fourth, in case you believe that a short-range nuclear weapons attack on a Ukrainian target would not trigger an international escalation of the war. What is clear is that Putin uses the nuclear threat within his own logic. To this has been added Russia’s control of the largest atomic power station of Ukraine and Europe, that of Zaporizhiaa, a new threat that goes beyond the Ukrainian borders, since an incident with its reactors or with the remains of the fuel would create an alert of continental dimension.