VLADIMIR Putin rules Russia as a mob boss – but like any failing gangster, he might not last long, a former top British general has said.
General Sir Richard Shirreff – the former deputy commander of NATO forces in Europe – said Putin’s cronies could quickly turn against him over Ukraine.
But even if Putin is deposed over his failed war, the Kremlin’s criminal mob could replace him with someone even worse.
Putin’s more than 20-year career at the helm of Russian politics now appears to depend on his success or failure in Ukraine.
Vlad ruled with an iron fist and surrounded himself with all sorts of supposedly loyal buddies.
And while they all enjoy the power and wealth that comes with being at the helm of a mafia state, how long will it stay that way?
Sir Richard stated that as soon as it appears that Putin’s position looks weak and he loses control, he could be removed.
Vlad bet so much on the war in Ukraine.
And now Putin is finding that Russia has turned into a pariah state and up to 200,000 of its troops are dead in Ukraine.
“When a Mafioso gang is in charge – when the leader of the gang shows he’s not up to the task and weak, there’s a chance he’ll be removed,” Sir Richard told The Sun Online.
“But I don’t think we should assume that if he’s deposed or out of power, he’ll be replaced with someone who’s easier to deal with.”
“We let you assume that whoever is leading Russia is an ultranationalist hardliner determined to conquer Ukraine, roll it up into a second Russian empire and destroy it, and continue the war against the West.”
Some consider Putin to be one of the richest men in the world – his fortune is estimated at up to £160 billion.
Vlad is believed to have used a corruption network to amass his incredible wealth.
He has surrounded himself with a network of his friends, all of whom have also become rich.
And just like a crime boss, in a modern take on Murder Inc., Vlad is known for killing or silencing his critics and enemies.
Corruption and embezzlement are rampant throughout the Russian state, and even some sections of the military are being framed.
And the extraordinary surface mining in all parts of the state has led in part to Vlad’s disastrous war, in which soldiers ran out of ammunition, vehicles ran out of fuel, and stale rancid rations.
However, Sir Richard said it was unlikely that the Russian people would be involved in an uprising unless there was a completely “catastrophic” Russian defeat in Ukraine.
“The line that Ukraine is a Nazi state has been accepted and people are not willing to risk their lives and stick their heads over the parapet,” he told The Sun Online.
“But a totally catastrophic defeat of the Russian army could get the message across.”
“And that’s not impossible either – but only possible if the west of Ukraine gives what it needs in a concentrated manner.”
General Sir Richard Barrons, former commander of the British armed forces, also said Putin’s days were numbered.
“His career is over when you see him losing this war – and he will lose this war,” he told The Sun Online.
“And the way he’s trying not to appear like he’s losing the war is just to keep it going.”
Sir Richard explained that Russia’s long-term goal is still “to overthrow the regime in Kiev” but that is “completely out of their reach at this time”.
Putin is betting that both Ukraine and the West will lose the will to fight.
He will try to prolong the meat grinder conflict and funnel in seemingly endless amounts of Russian manpower and lives.
Colonel Hamish de Bretton-Gordon agreed that Putin is trying to prolong the war to outlast the West.
And he said there was “no shortage” of people circling the Kremlin and wanting to see the end of Vlad.
But here, too, he is convinced that any attempt to overthrow Putin must come from the elite.
“The Russian people still believe that Putin is a winner – the only ones who will take him down are the powerful people around him,” he told The Sun Online.
“Outside of Moscow and St. Petersburg, the economy is essentially peasant, with rural people living in it.
“Only in Moscow do you see blacked-out Rolls-Royces being driven around by people who got there through corruption and crime.
“It’s a gangster state.”
Colonel de Bretton-Gordon added he believes the key to getting rid of Vlad will be the oligarchs and people with big investments.
He explained, “The billionaires who depend on the Russian state are pretty choppy right now.”
“Individually, they pose no threat – but the oligarchs and others who are building pressure could be the trigger.”
And if Ukraine manages to reset the borders to where they were before Putin annexed Crimea, it could mean the end for Vlad.
Putin claimed the invasion of Russia was merely a “special military operation” that would only last two weeks.
Now tens of thousands of Russians lie dead in fields across Ukraine.
And millions of Ukrainian civilians have endured untold misery as cities were vandalized and their homes stolen.
Putin foolishly believed his armed forces would be welcomed as liberators in Ukraine.
But instead, the first attack ended in disaster, with his forces annihilated and thrown back to Russia.
Kiev, too, continues to demand Western weapons they believe they need to defeat the Russians.
The world awaits what Ukraine will accomplish in its impending counteroffensive – with hopes that it could make decisive advances on the front lines.