Leonid Kuchma: “This is the tradition of the Nazis – to attack us at 4 am”
Former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma gave an interview to the BBC about the Russian invasion, Putin’s plans, and the possibility of nuclear war.
The second president of Ukraine, Leonid Kuchma, who led the country from 1994 to 2005, gave the BBC Ukrainian Service its first and so far the only interview since the start of the war. He spoke about the first days of the invasion, talked about the goals of Vladimir Putin, and also spoke about the possibility of using nuclear weapons and the prospect of starting a third world war. The Odessa Journal publishes excerpts from Kuchma’s interview.
About the first days of the war
I, like most civilians in my country, was caught in bed by the full-scale Russian invasion. Such is the tradition, probably, of all fascists, regardless of country and era, to attack us at 4 am …
Psychologically, I was ready for war – after all, as a child, I survived the first fascist occupation of my homeland, and I also had no illusions about the aggressive nature of Putin’s Russia. But, despite everything, the Russian invasion was a shock to me. Probably, I hoped until the last that the one who gave this inhuman order had something human left.
On whether the war could have been prevented
Only by agreeing to the terms of Putin’s ultimatum. Then there would be no invasion but a gradual subjugation of our state. And then Bucha would be not only in Bucha but everywhere where the Russian occupier would enter. It seems that Churchill said after Munich that he who chose dishonor to avoid war would first receive dishonor and then war.
All seven relatively peaceful years after the Minsk agreements, the Ukrainian authorities had to prepare for a military clash with the Russian Federation. Yes, the Ukrainian army manifests itself as an army of heroes from the first minutes of the attack. Our warriors destroyed not only the elite of the Russian army but also the legend of its invincibility, showing the whole world that it was not even a legend but a “Russian folk tale”. But heroism can produce even more impressive results when the latest technology, modern weapons, supports it.
About Putin’s plans
Putin and his entourage now want to maintain their power. To do this, it is necessary that the foundations of the regime not be shaken. So that the Russian man in the street with megalomania gets his portion of the drug, creating that virtual reality where he feels like the ruler of the world and a heroic winner.
What will the authorities sell him as a victory? What they can. The destruction of our infrastructure and our industrial potential, will be passed off as “demilitarization”. The “Azovites” trial will be announced as the very mythical “denazification”. The complete occupation of the so-called L/DPR, the land corridor to the Crimea, the Dnieper water …
Putin wanted the destruction of the Ukrainian state and will receive our second birth.
How the war could end
It is not necessary to count that Putin is about to die. That sanctions are about to kill Russia economically. That the Russian inhabitant will suddenly begin to see clearly and come out to an anti-war protest. Nothing like that will happen. Ukraine must fight and decide everything on the battlefield.
I don’t think the war will end soon. Putin still wants to gnaw out some kind of “victory”. In the conflicts of the modern world, they usually try to find solutions when everyone wins to one degree or another. This is not our case. Too much grief, destruction, and horrors brought Putin to our land. There can only be one winner in this war, and I believe we will be the winner.
On the probability of nuclear war
Nuclear threats are always serious. But I exclude the use of the Russian strategic potential.
As for tactical nuclear weapons, the situation is more complicated. Nuclear-free Ukraine is not able to adequately respond to Russia. Namely, the feeling of impunity is the main engine of Putin’s actions.
If the state of affairs at the front threatens Putin’s political positions and the stability of his regime, then the Kremlin may use tactical nuclear weapons. But I am sure that a clear warning from, for example, the United States, about a military response to the use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear Ukraine is quite capable of stopping it.
On whether Russia will attack other countries
The danger threatens not Lithuania or Poland but the post-Soviet republics outside NATO. Allusions to Moldova and northern Kazakhstan have already become commonplace, and now Georgia is also mentioned in this context. After all, Russia attacks only those weaker than it at times, and even better – more vulnerable by order of magnitude.
Throwing down a real challenge to NATO is not about Russia. In a conventional war, NATO will grind the Russian army to powder; in a nuclear war, Russia will simply be destroyed. Will Putin start a war in which there will be two options – lose or die? A normal person would give only one answer. But it’s normal…