Russian former Prime Minister turned Putin-critic Mikhail Kasyanov has warned that the Baltic countries are next on Putin’s invasion list if Ukraine loses its war against the Kremlin. This report comes during a time when the war, now focused in the area of Severodonetsk in Eastern Ukraine, continues to swing back and forth between Ukraine and Russian forces.
“If Ukraine falls, the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) will be next,” he stated to Agence France-Presse.
He stated that he would have never thought in his worst nightmares that Putin would invade Ukraine and unleash a full-scale war. He admitted to being one of the people who doubted that Putin would have pushed through with the invasion, thinking during the months leading up to the invasion that Putin was bluffing.
Later, Kasyanov would realize that his former boss was not bluffing when Putin called upon the Russian Security Council to discuss the invasion. However, he described Putin as not in a good psychological state politically, saying that the Russian President was not thinking properly.
“When I saw the meeting of Russia’s Security Council, I realized, yes, there will be a war,” Kasyanov said. “I just know these people, and by looking at them, I saw that Putin is already out of it. Not in a medical sense but in political terms,” he added.
The former Russian Prime Minister would go on to say that he knew a “different” Putin.
Kasyanov, 64, was actually Putin’s first Prime Minister, rendering his service from the years 2000 to 2004. Once part of Boris Yeltsin’s administration in various capacities, he would turn against his boss Vladimir Putin after he was sacked as Prime Minister following years of dissent against Putin’s administration. He claimed that there was no separation of powers in the administration which led to impunity, and that the government could no longer function in autonomy as Putin had been giving instructions to each branch of government.
He would later be the subject of black propaganda in Russia due to his turn against Putin. From 2007 to 2008, he would create a new political party to run against Putin, establishing the Russian Popular Democratic Union Party. The Russian Government later blocked his party from participating in the elections. In 2008, he could garner enough signatures to run as a presidential candidate, which was later deemed invalid by their election commission. Kasyanov would call the elections a sham and farce and called the Russian public to boycott them.
Kasyanov would echo these thoughts from years ago today when he claimed that Putin built a system based on impunity and fear and that the Russian President had been tremendously cynical and cruel. He claimed that this cynicalness and cruelness had only increased throughout the years Putin had been in power.
“Essentially, this is a KGB system based on complete lawlessness. It is clear that they do not expect any punishment,” he said. Note that Putin was a former KGB agent for over 16 years who rose up the Russian political ladder after resigning in 1991.
Kasyanov would go on to say that he was confident that Putin would eventually be replaced by what he called to be a “quasi-successor.” This successor, according to him, would be controlled and influenced by Russia’s security services. He remained optimistic that Russia would later return to democracy but also admitted that the road toward a genuine democracy in Russia is a difficult road to take.
According to the former prime minister, Russia needs to be “de-Putinized” and be “de-communized,” an apparent allusion to Putin’s so-called “de-Nazification” of Ukraine. He estimated that it would take some 10 years to completely rebuild Russia’s democracy as Putin’s influence in Russia is ironclad. Kasyanov would later describe the war in Ukraine as a “criminal war,” agreeing with western rhetoric that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had no basis and that Russian troops had been committing war crimes in Ukraine.
How exactly will Russia have genuine democracy, according to him? Kasyanov puts his confidence and trust in the opposition in Russia to unite against Putin and his cronies. However, this would be extremely difficult to do as Russia has the tendency to attack members of the opposition to prevent them from running for office or speaking out against the incumbent administration.
One such instance is when Russian opposition politician and Kasyanov’s friend, Boris Nemtsov, was assassinated in 2015 as he was shot multiple times from behind while crossing a bridge in Moscow. Apart from the fact that he had been a staunch Putin critic, he was reportedly assassinated as he was helping organize a peace rally against Russia’s war in Ukraine following the annexation of Crimea. His last words on social media would be a plea to the Russian opposition to unite at the anti-war march.
The same sentiment is expressed by Kasyanov today, as he stated that he had “no doubt that now, after the tragedy that we are all witnessing, the opposition will unite.”
“Everything will have to be rebuilt anew. Essentially, an entire set of economic and social reforms should be started all over again…These are enormous and difficult tasks, and they will have to be done.”
Kasyanov left Russia just last June 3 because of safety issues as he is the current opposition leader for the People’s Freedom Party (PARNAS). He did not reveal his current location.
Attacking the Baltic states would be a tremendously bad idea for Putin as they are all members of NATO and the EU. Essentially, if Russia were to attack any of the Baltic states, he would trigger NATO’s Article 5 into effect where other NATO members would come to the Baltics’ defense. If Putin does attack any of these countries, a full-on World War may be triggered. However, seeing that Russia had been struggling against Ukraine for the majority of the fighting, it is unlikely Russia can stand up against all NATO member-states in a hypothetical conflict.
The model for these takeovers of Baltic countries is already known. Arm and agitate the Russian populations in these countries and back a separatist movement that seeks to return the entire country to Russian vassal-state status. They declare an independent breakaway republic and ask Russia to send troops to ward off invasion by the legitimate government seeking to restore order in what is now a civil war. Russia intervenes claiming they are in the sovereign territory of the new republic to avoid triggering a wider war. Russian troops posing as civilians in the breakaway republic then carry out the offensive actions giving Russia diplomatic cover.