Former CIA agent: “Sabotage and clandestine war in Russia can push Putin to negotiate”

from Viviana Mazza

Douglas London, former agent of the US clandestine services, explains that the goal is not regime change (although it could be a consequence): We must force the Tsar to negotiate, what he fears most of losing power

For Douglas London, Putin Not
can be convinced a
end the war in Ukraine through concessions but
just putting it in the face of the consequences
. For 34 years an agent of the underground service of the CIA, now a professor at Georgetown University and author of The Recruiter (The Recruiter, subtitle: Espionage and the Lost Art of American Intelligence), London suggests that shadow war, the secret war, the right strategy with the Tsar.

Explosions in Belgorod (on the border with Ukraine), fires in strategic establishments near Moscow. And rumors of an attempt to kill Putin.


Will we see more and more of the use of clandestine operations?


certainly a lever that the Ukrainians can use, supported at least in terms of training and perhaps even partly led by the United States and allies. I think some of these fires and explosions that we have seen in the last few months of the conflict are intentional, and whether they were perpetrated by people in Russia who sympathize with Kiev or have their own problems with Putin and the regime, or by Ukrainians. I imagine this is a standard component of the training that US intelligence and special forces have been providing to Ukrainians since 2014. The operations, objectives and techniques would be in line with the sabotage they would have learned from the West. I have not heard of possible attempts on Putin’s life, I do not think it is something that the Ukrainians or the United States itself would attempt in any way, but it could certainly be a consequence. And one of the concerns that we hope Putin has precisely that control over him is at risk and that those who surround him and have benefited politically and economically may even think of removing him. I believe it is possible that act against him simply by virtue of the failures of the war of Putin.

Henry Kissinger said that we should try to negotiate and that Ukraine may have to compromise by giving up some territories. Has the White House decided to help Kiev win by any means, except by sending soldiers?

We have heard from President Biden and his ministers Blinken and Austin: they want to reduce Moscow’s ability to carry out this type of aggression, I have not heard them say that they seek the defeat of the Russians. The president signed a $ 40 billion law that includes ever more powerful weapons, which the Russians would consider offensive but we continue to consider defensive. This seems to be the path they have chosen. I think sabotage and clandestine warfare are a vital and important option that the US should use. Former Secretary of State Kissinger obviously talks about giving Putin an exit ramp. To save face. Many would interpret it as a form of appeasement
, grant concessions that would encourage new aggressions and give him time to replenish his strength and redouble his efforts. What we heard from National Intelligence Director Haines and CIA Director Burns – and I tend to agree – that Putin’s goals have not changed and he cannot afford to lose. At this point the only way to curb it with the consequences.

What do you mean?

I think US politics have not made the right calculations in the last decade believing that integrating Putin and Russia into the world economy would discourage him because he would have a lot to lose. The only real lever is the consequences; And his greatest fear of being overthrown and killed. I am not saying that the US should conduct or support an operation aimed at him, but I do think that carrying out operations behind enemy lines is a standard aspect of the war and, the more Putin realizes that the cost to him can increase and affect his future. great fear – control -, the more this strategy must be pursued. And in a way it saves his face because they are clandestine actions. Nobody recognizes the responsibility. Not the Ukrainians, not the Americans and their partners. But he knows where they come from. And the way for him to find his exit ramp is to decide to negotiate now, because not only is he losing the war but there is a chance he will lose power. This is what we aim for: not to give him an option that saves his pride but to force him to determine his path. I’d let him do it, with all due respect to Secretary Kissinger.

So the goal is to destabilize without reaching regime change?

I think it would be the most viable option. I don’t think the regime change has worked particularly well in the past. This war was aimed at regime change and it did not go very well for Putin. Of course, it wasn’t useful for the United States. But I think this lesson on destabilization has to do with putting pressure on the points that we know Putin particularly worried about. And not only Putin, but also those in his inner circle, those who have power in Russia – and therefore who have more to lose.

What changes with the dispatch of medium and long range rocket systems?

These weapons, especially the modern HMARS, have exceptional range and accuracy. I suspect Putin will view them with increasing concern as offensive weapons when compared to the long-range artillery the West is providing and given their ability to penetrate Russia. However, I believe it is the right decision, as the price for Putin must continually be raised to have an effect. And Ukraine continues to fight for her territory, where Russian troops are the invaders, in an unwarranted war that Putin, not Ukraine, has started.

Are there similarities between clandestine operations in Russia and those in Iran?

I am of the opinion that many of the explosions and assassinations that have affected the Iranian nuclear program, its scientists and intelligence personnel are not accidental and I imagine they are conducted by a foreign intelligence service. But I think in those cases, the goal is different. There is an effort to slow down the program. But I think the point where there is coincidence is the message. If there is an intelligence service behind it, it is saying to the Iranians: be careful before embarking on an escalation, because we have the ability to strike you inside the country in ways that would make the political situation increasingly difficult, in terms of embarrassment, control and power over the population. I think that there is also this component in Ukraine’s strategy to operate behind enemy lines. But in Iran there is a tangible desire from whoever is behind these actions to slow down the program and have an impact on the operation, not just a show.

In the case of Ukraine, are the attacks on Belgorod only symbolic or do they have an impact on Russian operations?

I think there is some logistical impact, particularly in the attacks on some depots and trains. I also think it is perhaps deliberately limited, to give Putin a chance to see the consequences. There are many Ukrainians in Russia, all over the country, and there are Eastern Europeans linked to the Warsaw Pact nations who have become NATO allies. Therefore these operations may not be limited to the border with Ukraine. A slightly different attack that I noticed was the one against a research institute northwest of Moscow, but I don’t think we would see these abilities only at the Ukrainian border, I think they exist all over the country.

The administration expressed disapproval when too many details emerged about its intelligence contribution to Ukrainian operations. Why it is important to keep these operations secret.
Covert operations – even if the thin veneer – should remain secret. It has a utility for those who are victims of it as well as for those who implement them. The point of sabotage is that Putin knows that the level can be raised or lowered depending on his behavior. But it’s one thing if the Russian leadership believes Americans provide this kind of support, it’s another if there are officials who acknowledge the paternity of these operations or brag about it, in which case you are saying it to their face and removing that patina, and then Putin may feel that he has no choice but to act, because he has been humiliated in front of his people, a weakness that can be used against him. Putin commands with fear, so if he feels vulnerable, there may be a popular uprising or his men in the Kremlin may believe that he is not as strong as he believes and try to remove him. But if the regime changes,you don’t know if the successor will be better.

How long can this war last?

I wish I had a crystal ball. Logically, I would say that the Ukrainians seem more capable of handling it in the long run than Putin. It costs him economically and politically, and is losing military resources. He could order a full mobilization, but I don’t think he would get the desired results, because the numbers alone do not seem to change the tide of the battle for Russia, as Ukraine is being supplied continuously. Right now, there are more Ukrainians returning to the country than leaving. There are 40 million Ukrainians and 145 million Russians but that doesn’t help the Russians, it doesn’t help them in Finland before the Second World War. I think time is not on Putin’s side at this point, but he doesn’t have many other options. He therefore hopes to be able to wear down his rivals, he hopes that the United States and the West will not be able to support billions and billions of dollars in aid, rising prices, the cost of gasoline and inflation. Putin believes that the people will put up with him better, both because they are so culturally and because they have no alternative: what will they do, protest in front of the Kremlin? I think he has to believe it even if it’s not necessarily true, but he can’t do it forever. This encourages us to keep our blood pressure high and increase it, not leaving it a chance to normalize things. People tend to “normalize” even the worst situations. So we must continue to provide Ukrainians with economic aid, military aid, intelligence and raise the price that Russia has to pay, as it was with the fall of the USSR, but without taking years. Let’s hope Putin says: ok, I’d rather stay in power and take these defeats than be overthrown by my men in the Kremlin or by a popular uprising.

So Putin should decide that dialogue suits him.

I think he will have to declare victory, he has to find a way to say that he has achieved his goal. But it can be anything. He can be defeated and withdraw from Ukraine and still call it “victory”. It doesn’t necessarily have to negotiate, it might say we are unilaterally declaring a ceasefire because we have achieved our goals, but I don’t think it can anymore. Ukrainians will not give up the Donbass regions in the absence of Western pressure. I disagree with Secretary Kissinger’s opinion that we should let the Russians take the Crimea and the Donbass, I think there is another way, in between, that is neither extreme nor the other.


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