Russia, West in long-standing rivalry: the French general in the lead

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Tallin (AFP) – Russia’s invasion of Ukraine did not go according to the Kremlin’s original plans, but the West must prepare for a long-term rivalry with Moscow that risks going beyond the current conflict. said the French general.

General Thierry Burkhard, chief of general staff of the French armies, told AFP in an interview that Europe must rearm and strengthen its own unity for what will be a period of “long competition” with the Russia.

“Vladimir Putin said it himself: we are not just talking about Ukraine but about the Baltic States, Poland, Hungary,” Burkhard said in the joint interview with The New York Times in Estonia, where French troops are deployed as part of NATO forces. .

“We have to be well aware that the Russians have a long-term strategy,” he added, pointing to Moscow’s emphasis on developing specialized capabilities, including hypersonic weapons.

“They are engaged in an information struggle and they have placed the West in a form of energy dependency. Our lack of freedom of action comes from being in this spider’s web put in place by Russia.”

But he stressed that Russia’s assault on Ukraine had “not gone as planned” and that the original aim was to topple Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who remains in power.

“It will put a pause on Russian long-term strategy,” he said.

“Europe must take advantage of this to reorganize itself and also build its long-term strategy, projecting itself into the aftermath of the war in Ukraine. We must rearm ourselves, strengthen cohesion and put ourselves in a position to be competitors of the Russians “, he added. mentioned.

Burkhard also pointed out that as a permanent nuclear-armed member of the UN Security Council, Russia “is not going to disappear” and that while seeking to weaken the country, the West could also have need to rebuild a “security architecture” with Moscow.

“Army of Lies”

He described the first phase of the war as a “failure” for Russia marked by scenes “astonishing” for military observers, such as a column of 60 tanks at a standstill.

The second phase of the war, Burkhard explained, was marked by Russian regrouping and the conflict is now in a third phase, with Russia seeking to gain control of Ukraine’s Donbass region.

Unlike the first phase, Russia’s military deployment is “coherent” with 80-90% of its forces in the Donbass compared to 20% in the first phase, he said.

Burkhard said Russia’s shortcomings in the first phase of the war showed the importance of high morale, an area where the Ukrainians clearly won.

“They have an army that defends its country and a country that supports its army. It’s something that is built, it’s not something that is done the day the war starts,” he said. .

“The Russian army is the army of lies. People lied saying that the Ukrainian army would not fight, that the Russian forces were ready for war, that the leaders knew how to command.”

Ukraine had also won the information war while Russia had also failed in the high intensity war for which its troops were not trained despite their numerical superiority.

The conflict has “shown the importance of training, which is expensive and difficult”, he said.

Michael J. Chiaramonte