Terras: Russian blitz attack on Kyiv not out of the question

Riho Terras.
Riho Terras. Source: ERR

The Russian troop buildup around Ukraine should be seen as more than a military frame-up, with both an attack on Odesa from the Black Sea and a blitz directly on Kyiv realistic possibilities, former Estonian Defense Forces Commander, MEP Riho Terras said on the ETV "Esimene stuudio" talk show

Terras said that it is impossible to wage a comprehensive campaign with the units Russia has currently stationed on the border with Ukraine.

"However, the stage is set for more limited tactical operations, for example, bypassing southern Ukraine by following the Black Sea coast to Odesa to secure supplies for Crimea. That remains completely realistic. Mariupol, Kherson, Odesa are all feasible targets, looking at troops in Crimea," Terras said.

"There are other possible scenarios. A blitz offensive on Kyiv is not out of the question either because it is the only thing that could ensure the Kremlin's goal of toppling the government in the capital," he added.

Asked whether Putin even has any other option in a situation where pulling back would come off as weakness, Terras said that Putin is not overly concerned with popularity.

"Putin can take a step forward or back without heed to popular support. He has a rating of as many percentage points as he needs. Of course, he needs to take steps to make sure the people love their Czar. But he can easily claim concessions have been made for him to pull back his troops. That said, his demands for NATO are both unequivocal and completely unrealistic.

War seems impossible in Western Europe

Terras said that as an MEP, he can see and hear just how impossible it is to consider that war might break out between Ukraine and Russia.

"I can see this attitude from all Western politicians because common sense does not allow them to believe the possibility. /…/ War with tanks and planes in the 21st century. A Western person who has lived in peace and prosperity just cannot believe it.

Terras described it as emotional thinking as the view of Kyiv in Russia is that of the birthplace of the Russian nation and the Third Rome more than it has ever been, with Putin reluctant to go down in history as the ruler who lost Kyiv.

"That is why he will do everything he can to regain control of Kyiv. Whether that will entail a military campaign or not – he is an opportunity, he will look at the cards on the table and make an opening for himself. But having 110,000 troops on the border with Ukraine and other forces in Belarus sets the stage for a military conflict," Terras suggested.

Terras recalled the year 2014 when Russia also amassed forces on the Ukrainian border. "It seemed absurd to everyone at the time and it was suggested there would be no war. War came and came bloodier than either side had imagined," he said.

"Russia has enough forces to go to war with Ukraine. /…/ But the Ukrainians will not give up as quickly as they did last time. Resistance will come in the form of either conventional or partisan warfare of which Ukrainians are experts historically," Terras offered.

The former EDF commander also said that a war of attrition where one needs to keep one's forces in a constant state of readiness would not be preferable for Kyiv. While it is not a problem for Russia, it would be for Ukraine as one of the poorest states in Europe.

"Ukraine is among the poorest countries in Europe and the tactic of attrition is very dangerous. This is why the West must do everything it can to motivate Putin to change his behavior. I have little faith in success, but we must make the effort," Terras said.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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