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Challenging Putin: Are We Seeing Cracks in the Russian Regime?

Randy Mancini 10 Apr 1

President Biden's comments Thursday alleging that Russian President Vladimir Putin has fired or arrested some of his closest advisers suggests growing dissatisfaction over the Ukraine war from some of Russia's top leaders. 

Appearing on this week's episode of the CBN News program The Global Lane, a former U.S. military attache' to Moscow suggests officials from Putin's military, security, and intelligence team may eventually rise up against the Russian president.   

"We're seeing the cracks in the regime already. I think that these people realize that this is really not going well and (are thinking ) 'Do we go down with this Titanic if indeed (it) starts to go down?'" said retired U.S. Army Brigadier General Peter Zwack

Zwack is a Wilson Center Global Fellow at the Kennan Institute and served as the U.S. senior defense official and attache' in Moscow from 2012 to 2014 when Russia invaded Crimea. He's the author of the book, Swimming the Volga: A U.S. Army Officer's Experiences in Pre-Putin Russia.

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Zwack said U.S. and NATO officials must realize they are not dealing with the same type of leadership as they did during the Soviet era and the cold war. 

"We're not dealing with a politburo, which was actually a group that thought about these things, " Zwack explained. "You increasingly are dealing with a man with a unitary view, and like several of the dictators going into the Second World War, their nation's policy and what they did was all based on the inner psyche and belief system. "

And that may make Putin unpredictable and even dangerous suggested Zwack because the Ukraine mission was just too big for the Russians. Putin never expected the resistance he has received from the Ukrainians--a motivated and angry enemy.

"The bottom line is that the Russians have been almost humiliated in this in this first round. And when I see Putin, I see him seething. I see him in a rage when he thinks about this." Zwack said.

Putin is being forced to shift tactics, refit and reorganize his military forces and shift the effort now to eastern Ukraine. 

"I think, in the persona of Vladimir Putin, he can't allow himself to be defeated," Zwack insisted. 

The Ukrainian government says heavy fighting is continuing near Kyiv and that Russia is only using peace talks in Turkey to resupply and regroup its troops. 

Both Zwack and former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican Francis Rooney, who also appeared on this week's The Global Lane believe Putin is keeping the pressure on Kyiv, but also reorienting to the Donbas region of Ukraine--a region that he considers to be part of Russia.

"Russia has the Crimea and Sebastopol and all that, and I don't think we're going to pry that away from him. Obama gave them that. And it was unfortunate and really quite tragic," said Rooney. "But we don't need to give them the land bridge connecting Russian territory down to it. And that's what he's trying to get."

Meanwhile, peace talks between Ukraine and Russia were expected to be resumed Friday in an online format.

Turkey Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said both sides are moving towards an agreement on key points. Russia has agreed to open up a humanitarian corridor in the besieged city of Mariupol so residents can safely depart the city, or receive much-needed help. Many of the people there are living without electricity and are in need of food and water. Also, Russia has reportedly withdrawn troops from the Chernobyl nuclear facility.

A proposed cease-fire is on the table, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has offered to make concessions that include agreeing that Ukraine would remain neutral by dropping demands to join NATO and the European Union.

Rooney described Zelenskyy's proposed concession as a smart offer.

"Zelenskyy's pretty clever, he's not really giving anything up to go for that," Rooney explained. "I don't think he's going to get NATO or EU anyway. But what he doesn't need to do--and what Russia would like him to do is give up the eastern part of the country that Russia has occupied."

Zelenskyy reportedly is willing to allow Russia to keep territory it had seized previously, before the start of the war in Ukraine which began Feb. 24.

He also wants future security guarantees from NATO, but Rooney, a former congressman from Florida, thinks NATO is unlikely to agree to take on that role.

"It'd be very difficult for NATO to give security guarantees to a non-NATO country. And I don't know what Russia would do about it. It might just get to kind of a standoff," he said.

Zwack believes the United States must be careful in its approach to Putin and Russia. Crippling international sanctions have already caused security experts to warn that massive Russian cyber security attacks may be forthcoming. Despite that potential Russian threat, Zelensky, during his virtual address to the Australian Parliament on Thursday, called for additional sanctions to be imposed against Russia.  

Rooney suggests Washington should not fear the consequences of sanctions, the United States needs to maintain pressure on Putin because the U.S. does not need close ties to Russia.

"If Putin wants a Cold War, let's give him one. We don't need them," he insisted. "It's a few greedy companies that should get with the program and say, OK, we're going to support the policy objectives of the Western world."

Below: Watch the interview with Brig. General (Ret.) Peter Zwack and be sure to watch The Global Lane on the CBN News Channel. See the channel's programming schedule HERE

And watch the interview with former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican and U.S. Congressman Francis Rooney below.