Javier Rupérez: "We have to physically finish Putin off"

The Spanish diplomat took to the microphones of Onda Madrid's 'De cara al mundo' programme to analyse the invasion of Ukraine
Javier Rupérez, Spanish politician and diplomat

PHOTO/ATALAYAR  -   Javier Rupérez, Spanish politician and diplomat

In the latest edition of 'De cara al mundo' we had the presence of Javier Rupérez, former Spanish ambassador to the United States, who analysed the war between Russia and Ukraine. In addition, Rupérez spoke about the possibility that we are witnessing the beginning of a possible Third World War.  Finally, the former Spanish ambassador commented on the leading role between the United States, NATO and the European Union, which is taking on a new dimension. 

Could you have imagined all that is happening now?

The truth is that in part yes, eight years ago, in 2014, Putin seized Crimea illegally and by force, being a part of Ukraine's territorial integrity. Not to throw flowers at myself, but at the time I wrote an article analysing what that meant at the same time, comparing it to other international situations that have to do with the beginning of the Second World War. So it was entirely predictable, just as it was predictable that in 2014 with the invasion of Crimea the Western response was enormously timid, for exactly the same reasons. I would like to recall that the sanctions that were imposed at that time substantially affected Russian behaviour, and those were the reasons why Putin thought he could do the same with the rest of Ukraine, and he was wrong. We could go back even further with what happened in Georgia or Moldova, Biden is right and Putin is a war criminal. 

Could it be extrapolated to the fact that we are witnessing an aggression of authoritarian populism on liberal democracy?

That is one of the statements that needs to be made and one of the statements that needs to be taken out. What is clear is that we are witnessing an aggression by a dictator, a satrap, who has a totally distorted view of what his country's own history is, and what he believes to be the demands of regaining the former Soviet Union, which is what he has in his head, territorially and politically. Basically, what we are looking at again is the struggle between what is parliamentary democracy, freedom, and autocracy, dictatorship and barbarism, that is what we are looking at.

Javier RupérezDo you think that in any way we can miss the United States as an international gendarme?

I think the United States is going through difficult times, we saw that with the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan a few months ago after 20 years there, where there were indeed many internal reactions in the country to a mission that cost money, wounds and human lives. At the time it seemed that the US was in a moment of retreat, but what we were contemplating at the time is not exactly that, and this applies to both the United States and the European Union, there were many analysts who dismissed the EU's chances as a failed project and the US as the declining power. Well, the declining power is still the world's leading economic power, the world's leading military power, it is clear that in the context of the European Union there has been a reaffirmation of basic beliefs that seemed absolutely diluted by the passage of time, at the same time it is clear that NATO has taken on a new role and a new capacity for strength and it is clear that the capacity between the United States, NATO and the European Union is taking on a new dimension, all of this is significant. So I think we have to look at history with the realism of the facts, there is no doubt that this is not the First Cold War, sadly we can say that we are looking at the unfortunate beginning of the Second Cold War and let us hope that we are not looking at the beginning of the Third World War. 

Is the reaction of the democratic powers sufficient?

It is also clear that there has been a reaction from the Western democratic powers, there is a doubt whether it would not have been necessary that instead of a purely economic response with sanctions or indirectly through military aid to Ukraine there should have been a military intervention sponsored by NATO, and followed by the USA to put an end to the barbarism we are experiencing. Or at least, the announcement that such an intervention could take place as a means of deterrence, we know that these are big words and we understand the doubts that the political leaders may have in taking this decision, but there is no doubt that the aggressor must be stopped, the aggressor must be physically stopped. 

If we don't stop Putin now, it will be even worse... 

Of course, when we talk about the so-called peace negotiations, a large part of these fifteen points is what Putin is asking for. What is obvious is that if the result of these peace negotiations is the partition of Ukraine, we would be contemplating the sanctification of force to solve international problems. In this respect we must be very careful, the only way out is for Russia to leave, for Russian troops to leave Ukraine, for them to respect the sovereign territorial integrity of Ukraine, including Crimea, anything else would be to give Russia the reason and make Putin think that he can go ahead, and ahead is Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Moldova, Hungary, Georgia, Bulgaria... in other words everything that was the Warsaw Pact, even going as far as what was Democratic Germany. Let us be realistic, but at the same time let us be very aware of what this individual has in mind, which is the restoration of an absolutely aberrant dictatorial system from a political and economic point of view. At the same time, let us remember that there is the United Nations, in whose Security Council there are five countries with veto power, and one of them is precisely the one that is violating all the principles that gave rise to the international rule of law. The situation is infinitely serious.

Javier RupérezWill Putin dare to use tactical nuclear weapons, even if they are small-range, or would that be a step that would have to be responded to sharply? 

He has already threatened that possibility, naturally the response has been very measured to prevent any such move. I think he must be feeling right now that things are not going the way he would have wanted them to go: the invasion is not producing the results he wanted, the Ukrainians are fighting back, the sanctions are starting to have an effect on the Russian economy, there is a rearming of the Ukrainians, etc. Putin is willing to do absolutely anything, although I don't know if he would be willing to use tactical nuclear weapons. There is another story as well, and that is that deep down I am totally convinced that the prudence with which the leaders of public life in NATO and the US are expressing themselves, preventing NATO from intervening directly in Ukraine is precisely to prevent Putin from feeling justified in using this type of weapon. It is a complicated story from the point of view of reasoning, but surely some of it is in his head, a head that is absolutely deadly dangerous. 

I am struck by the fact that in the last meetings we have seen Putin with his advisors, he has them about 30 metres away in those huge rooms in the Kremlin. 

I think he does this either because he is trying to avoid any kind of attack, especially when he meets with the military, or for the purely plastic reason, that is, I am here in this position, I am the king of the world and I have a series of servants that I keep at a distance so that they can see that I am the one in charge, there is a combination of the two things. The intelligence services suggest that Putin is not in Moscow but is holed up a few kilometres outside Moscow in an anti-nuclear bunker, which is precisely why he is not seen clearly, but with someone other than himself, they are all calculated appearances, so it is not for me to make a psychological analysis of the character either, but he is obviously under brutal stress, which he has put himself under. I don't want to use big words, but the tyrant must be put down.