The DEFCON Warning System™

Ongoing GeoIntel and Analysis in the theater of nuclear war.  DEFCON Level assessment issued for public notification.  Established 1984.

Fiona Hill: ‘Elon Musk Is Transmitting a Message for Putin’

It’s been nearly eight months since Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops and tanks over the border into Ukraine, and a lot has changed in that time. Ukraine has shown itself to be a far more robust military force than pretty much anyone predicted. Talk has changed from wondering how long Ukraine could hold out to how much territory it can retake — and to when and how the war will end.

But it’s still hard to imagine how Putin’s war on Ukraine will conclude. Does Putin even have an endgame? If he really wants to control Ukrainian territory, why does he seem so bent on destroying it?

To get insights into these questions, I reached out to Fiona Hill, one of America’s most clear-eyed observers of Russia and Putin, who served as an adviser to former President Donald Trump and gained fame for her testimony in his first impeachment trial. In the early days of Russia’s war on Ukraine, Hill warned in an interview with POLITICO that what Putin was trying to do was not only seize Ukraine but destroy the current world order. And she recognized from the start that Putin would use the threat of nuclear conflict to try to get his way.

Now, despite the setbacks Russia has suffered on the battlefield, Hill thinks Putin is undaunted. She sees him adapting to new conditions, not giving up. And she sees him trying to get the West to accede to his aims by using messengers like billionaire Elon Musk to propose arrangements that would end the conflict on his terms.

“Putin plays the egos of big men, gives them a sense that they can play a role. But in reality, they’re just direct transmitters of messages from Vladimir Putin,” Hill says.

But while Putin appears to be doubling down in Ukraine, the conflict poses some real dangers to his leadership. He has identified himself quite directly with the war, Hill notes, and he can’t afford to look like a loser. If he begins to lose support from Russian elites, his hold on power could slip.

The West has come a long way since February in understanding the stakes in Ukraine, Hill says, but the world still hasn’t totally grasped the full challenge Putin is posing. Putin must be contained, Hill says, but that won’t happen unless and until international institutions established in the wake of World War II evolve so they can contain him. And that conversation is only just beginning.

Read more at Politico

Ongoing Geointel and Analysis in the theater of nuclear war.

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The DEFCON Warning System is a private intelligence organization which has monitored and assessed nuclear threats by national entities since 1984. It is not affiliated with any government agency and does not represent the alert status of any military branch. The public should make their own evaluations and not rely on the DEFCON Warning System for any strategic planning. At all times, citizens are urged to learn what steps to take in the event of a nuclear attack.