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Putin ‘ingesting his own bathwater’: expert

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ability to weather economic sanctions will outstrip Western politicians facing voters angry at increased prices, a leading security expert says.

The former director of the Defence Intelligence Organisation Paul Dibb told the National Press Club Mr Putin had been “drinking his own bathwater” regarding the outcome of the Ukrainian invasion as Russia’s attack stalls.

“He’s getting more and more remote and there’s less, and less contradictory advice,” he said.

“There’s no way of appeasing this man except for utter abject surrender. It’s going to be hard for him to climb down off this battle, which is not looking so good,” he said.

Mr Putin wants to recreate the Soviet Union following what he sees as humiliation at its collapse and a US that took advantage of a gravely-weakened Russia, Professor Dibb said.

“His view is without dominance over Ukraine, Russia cannot be a great power and a Ukraine closely associated with NATO – even if it remains outside the alliance – is a national security threat to Russia,” he said.

Speaking alongside Prof Dibb, former defence department secretary Dennis Richardson said while liberal democracies are stronger than authoritarian states in the long run, Mr Putin’s demagogue status gives him a greater propensity to handle short term pain from sanctions.

“Certainly, over the next few years, Putin will be prepared to suffer more pain than what the West will be,” he said.

“He’s authoritarian. He doesn’t face elections. He doesn’t have to worry about petrol prices. He doesn’t have to worry about the cost of living.”

Mr Richardson said sanctions would need to remain in place for the long term if Russia succeeds in its objectives to either split Ukrainian territory or stop it from joining NATO.

“If he achieves those objectives and there are not long-term sanctions or long-term punishment imposed by the US and Europe, then you could argue that Putin wins,” he argued.

But as Russian troops edge closer to the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, President Volodymyr Zelensky said it was unlikely the country would be joining NATO.

“We have heard for many years about the open doors, but we also heard that we can’t enter those doors,” he said.

“This is the truth, and we have simply to accept it as it is.”

In an address to the United States Studies Centre, Defence Minister Peter Dutton said a united West was the only thing standing between “liberty and the abyss”.

“Today, it is the Ukrainian people fighting to defend their freedoms against extinction,” he added.

“If President Putin succeeds, all free nations will face a darker tomorrow.”

Mr Dutton also warned military force would be used, if necessary, to deter the spread of authoritarianism in the Indo-Pacific as Europe’s security order is fundamentally challenged.

The defence minister said there were ominous signs stemming from a Chinese-Russian alliance.

It follows his previous comments that it would be inconceivable Australia would not back US troops in a military conflict over Taiwan.

But Labor defence spokesman Brendan O’Connor told the USSC the ALP would seek to maintain strategic ambiguity over the island – which China is seeking to integrate.

“This is because declaring intended military action in response to hypothetical situations only serves to tilt the strategic calculation in favour of those who seek to instigate conflict,” Mr O’Connor said.

with Reuters

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