"‘Kiev’s government literally has no cards to play’ – Scott Ritter on Donbass escalation"
RT Moscow / Scott Ritter, RT.com (January 27, 2022)

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RT Moscow Interviewer: “Now to discuss this news further, I am joined live now by former Marine Corps intelligence officer [and UN weapons inspector], Scott Ritter.”

“Obviously we have a very fluid situation here, but in your opinion, was Putin’s decision to launch this special military operation inevitable?

Scott Ritter: “Absolutely. I mean, it could have been prevented. It could have been prevented two days ago, a day ago. All that needed to happen was for Ukraine to say ‘We will not be part of NATO and we will comply with Minsk. And then, I believe, this would not have happened.

But that was never going to happen. The United States and NATO had been dangling the false promise of NATO membership to the Ukrainian government, and the Ukrainian government [swallowed that] and now they’re paying the price.”

RT Moscow Interviewer: “Now, we’ve already seen the West’s reaction a day or two ago. They imposed sanctions on many Russian individuals, on a number of banks here in Russia. What do you anticipate further from the West in terms of sanctions?”

Scott Ritter: “Well, it’s clear that the United States and the European Union have additional what they call ‘tranches’ of sanctions. They may implement them all now because there’s no reason to hold it back. The Russian government has made it clear that this is a decisive operation. It is going to de-militarize Ukraine. That implies a scope and scale greater than simply operations in Donbass. I think it’s going to be no-holds-barred when it comes to sanctions. The danger here, in listening to the Ukrainian ambassador, is this talk of Article 4 under the United Nations and an Article 4 discussion under NATO. I think President Putin made it clear that any external intervention in what is going on will be responded to in a decisive manner.”

“You know, I think right now we have a lot of people who are very emotional. And some people feel frustrated that they didn’t think this was going to happen. Now that it’s happening, they’re frustrated that not only didn’t sanctions stop it but aren’t going to stop it. And they’re looking for other things that can be done. And they might try some muscle flexing. And this is a very dangerous situation. So, it’s a little late to be thinking about flexing muscle now.”

RT Moscow Interviewer: “Well, yes. What was widely seen as the ultimate sanction was cutting Russia off from the Swift banking system. Do you think that’s on the table now?”

Scott Ritter: “There’s a debate. I think that people would like to do it, but I think that there have also been some people saying that there could be horrific ramifications for the economy of Europe and, indeed, the United States if this transpires. So, we’ll find out. Like I said, emotions are riding high right now and there’s a lot of pressure on politicians to be seen as doing something decisive, and Swift is very decisive. But if calmer head prevail and recognize that you’ll be doing more damage to yourself than Russia, for instance, by imposing this measure, maybe they won’t.”

RT Moscow Interviewer: “Now, we’ve seen, as well, the West has pumped in hundreds of millions of dollars of lethal aid to Ukraine. Do you expect that to be ramped up in light of this development?”

Scott Ritter: “No. There won’t be any more military aid going into Ukraine. It’s over. I believe that this is going to be a very large-scale operation that encompasses the totality of the territory of Ukraine; that will fulfill the objectives set by President Putin in de-militarizing [Ukraine] and Russia is going to inherit about a billion dollars worth of Western weapons that are sitting in warehouses right now, those that aren’t destroyed by Russian strikes. And it’s over. Game. Set. Match. It was a silly game that the West was playing in propping Ukraine up with a false promise of lethal weapons. There’s not lethality to these weapons. These weapons are in warehouses. If they’re in the hands of any Ukrainian troops, they’re going to be dead. That’s just the reality of war.”

RT Moscow Interviewer: “Well, talking about this military conflict or potential military conflict, on the one hand we had President Putin asking the Ukrainian soldiers to lay down their arms. On the other hand, Volodymir Zelenski who has called for peace, but said that he would fight back given what he calls this Russian aggression. What do you expect Kiev’s response to be?

Scott Ritter: “I think this is out of Kiev’s hands. Events will unfold rapidly. I’m not going to denigrate the courage of the Ukrainian soldier, but when you have no ability to communicate. When you have no ability to maneuver. And when you’re confronting certain death, surrender is the option of choice. And I think the Russians are going to be processing far more Ukrainian prisoners of war than they will be killing Ukrainians. But those who choose to fight will die. They stand no chance. Hopefully they’re listening to the Russian president’s admonition and they will put their weapons down and go home.”

The Kiev government literally has no cards to play. They can’t communicate with their soldiers right now. They can’t communicate with anybody. Wherever they’re sitting they’re doing nothing, because that’s all they can do.”

RT Moscow Interviewer: “Well, the previous guest I spoke to about ten minutes ago, the political analyst Alessandro Bruno, he said that the West appeared only to remember the existence of the Minsk agreement about 24 – 48 hours before this situation. Do you think that’s true and are they dead in the water now?”

Scott Ritter: “The Minsk agreement as it currently exists is dead in the water. It’s a non-player. It’s not going to happen. It has been overcome by events. And, yes, I agree. The West suddenly remembered Minsk and said, ‘Hey, we need to do this.’ Well, you know, you had seven years to do it. And you didn’t. You could have pressured Ukrainian government to implement it. You didn’t. And now you’re paying the price.”

“Now, that doesn’t mean that a Minsk type agreement won’t be revived once Ukraine has been demilitarized in this situation, because at the end of the day a decision is going to have to be made about the future of Donetsk and Lugansk. Are they going to remain independent or will they be re-integrated into a Ukraine that respects their autonomy and the rights of the Russian-speaking population? Who knows what the end game will be? There might be a role for a Minsk-type agreement down the road. But the current Minsk agreement? No. It’s finished.”