Former KGB colleague: Putin isn’t going to start a nuclear war but may destroy Russia

Yuri Shvets (Image:

Yuri Shvets, financial analyst, a former officer of the Soviet KGB, studied along with Putin at the KGB’s Andropov Institute (Image: 

Analysis & Opinion, Russia

Despite threatening language, Vladimir Putin is not going to start a nuclear war, according to Yuri Shvets, who studied along with him at the KGB’s Andropov Institute. Putin’s only desire is to remain in power for life, he says, and he knows Russia’s nuclear weapon delivery systems aren’t accurate enough for a first strike that would not result in national suicide.

“Do you seriously think, that a man who annually disappears from public view for seven to ten days in order to have a facelift and to fill himself up with Botox is capable of unleashing a nuclear war?”

But Putin’s actions threaten the future of Russia, Shvets says, because his aggressive behavior has reinvigorated NATO, undermined the possibility that the Russian economy can modernize and develop, and likely guaranteed that the United States will choose a second Ronald Reagan in 2016 to contain his country, reducing its importance and possibly its size.

Shvets, who studied with Putin and then worked under TASS cover as a KGB officer in Washington in the 1980s, offered these and many other observations about his former colleague, someone whose KGB career, he says, showed him to be below average in competence and whose presidential career reflects the skill of others in using television to boost any leader.

Vladimir Putin, captain of Soviet KGB (Image:

Vladimir Putin, as captain in the Soviet KGB (Image:

All these are contained in a long interview he gave to the Ukrainian Gordon News Agency, available here (in Russian).

According to Shvets, “now the chief strategic conflict of Russia is the one between the striving of Putin to remain in place until his death and the objective requirements of the country for normal development.” If he succeeds in staying in office for long, “Russia will either fall apart or be converted into a third-tier state like North Korea or Mongolia.”

Like its Soviet predecessor, Shvets continues, the Putin elite is terrified of the possibility that there will be a popular revolt, one that would sweep them from power and lead to its members being hanged from lamp posts “as it was in Budapest during the anti-Soviet uprising in 1956.”

The former KGB officer says that the probability of Putin pushing the nuclear button is “nil.” Even more than the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation lacks the reliable counter-force weapon delivery vehicles which could take out an opponent’s nuclear capacity and prevent a response. It could hit cities, but in that case, the response would be devastating for Russia.

But there is a more serious reason for thinking Putin won’t start a nuclear war whatever he says. “Do you seriously think,” he challenges his interviewer, “that a man who annually disappears from public view for seven to ten days in order to have a facelift and to fill himself up with Botox is capable of unleashing a nuclear war?”

Putin and Botox (Russian Internet meme that circulated after Putin disappeared from the public sight for 10 days in March 2015)

Putin and Botox (Russian Internet meme that circulated after Putin disappeared from the public sight with no explanation for 10 days in March 2015)

That doesn’t mean that he will not continue to threaten to do so, especially at present, Shvets says. “The current standoff of Washington and Moscow reminds one of the US-USSR relationship of the end of the 1970s. America was then led by liberal and soft Jimmy Carter,” something Moscow could have used to reach agreements.

But instead, Moscow invaded Afghanistan and put new missiles in Europe. “As a result, after Carter, the tough Ronald Reagan became president” and adopted a harder line against Moscow. That provides the Soviet siloviki with the chance to frighten their colleagues on the Politburo and extract more money, power and glory from them.

And they were assisted in this by the Soviet intelligence services. Anyone who reported anything less than the notion that Reagan was about to attack the USSR was ignored and sidelined, and consequently, all the intelligence that did make its way to the stop reinforced the view of the hardliners.

“As a result,” Shvets says, “two parallel realities arose in the USSR” – an invented one that served the domestic interests of part of the elite and “real life in the country and abroad.” At a certain point, a gap arose in such a way that the elite “occupied itself with virtual threats but the economy of the state fell apart,” with the USSR following in 1991.

Now, thanks to what Putin and his entourage have been doing, “the fate of Russia to a significant degree depends on the US president.”

Exactly the same thing is taking place in Russia today, he argues. And just as in the Soviet case, the siloviki near the top are destroying the country. They are pushing for actions, such as an expanded invasion of Ukraine, that will lead to more sanctions and more problems for the Russian economy.

Simple logic would dictate against such a move, but “as the late Berezovsky said, ‘it is difficult to predict the logic of idiots.’”



Now, thanks to what Putin and his entourage have been doing, “the fate of Russia to a significant degree depends on the US president.” If he ends restrictions on the export of gas and oil from the United States, that alone would drive down world prices and cripple Russia’s ability to function and survive.

Indeed, “if the West does not lift sanctions, Russia will collapse in two years.” It won’t be able to produce sufficiently more oil and gas to compensate for falling prices, and it won’t be forgiven for using its energy monopoly as a weapon. Even in Soviet times, the leadership never did that, recognizing that it would be a two-edged sword.

But however that may be, Putin has already by his action re-energized NATO and led to the expansion of its forces near Russia’s borders, exactly the two outcomes that he has declared he is working to prevent. And “Putin has already done much to have the next US president become a new Reagan and containment of Russia for a long time become Washington’s course.”

Edited by: A. N.

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  • Mazepa

    Monkey putin’s stupid head will be resting on a stick soon enough.
    However, monkey’s lavrov and kirill will be killed first.

  • Brent

    Here’s the other thing Putin and his idiot supporters need to understand.

    One nuke on Musocvy and you have cut the head off the snake. They in turn have to nuke Washington, Chicago, L.A. and how many other large U.S. cities as well as NORAD control which is inside a mountain. Then London. Then Berlin. Then Paris. Then Kyiv.

    Do they really think they’re going to get that many nukes off accurately before they are a big parking lot over run by 1.4 billion resource and land hungry Chinese?

    • commieslayer

      There will be no nuclear war, tactical or strategic. Precisely because Rusia would not stand a chance in hell to survive it.

  • Marcus Safoy

    Russias war against Ukraine and the political and economic war against the West, has isloated Russia from the West and forced Russia to strenghten its political and economic ties with China, which of course serves Chinas interests.

    The war only makes sence from a Chinese perspective. Today China is a rising power that challenges the West, this was not so 30 years ago. The world has changed since Regans times and to make a comparison with the past could be a misstake.

    Europe is dependent on energy supplies from Russia and the Middle East. The Middle East is collapsing into a sectarian war where Iran is supporting its Shia proxies through out the region, and behind Iran stands Russia and China.

    Perhaps the wars in Ukraine and in the Middle East are just coincidences, but then again, perhaps not.

    • puttypants

      Marcus…I agree…I’ve thought all along the wars in Ukraine and the Middle East were not coincidences…however, if US makes peace with Iran and sanctions are lifted they’ll compete with Russia to sell oil to the world ..that’s not in Russia’s interest unless they’re selling them missiles will make up for oil loses. It’s all too complicated but I do think the two are connected. Plus Russia has been selling arms to Iran, syria and they’ve been supplying arms to terrorist groups for years keeping the middle east unstable so Russia could expand their oil sales.

      • Marcus Safoy

        War in the Middle East sounds like a good business idea when you own oil wells in Russia, bonus on top if you get to sell arms as well to one party in the conflict.

        Iran turning into a friend with the Great Satan ? I’m a not so sure, especially if it is against Russias interests.

        Al Qaeda and ISIS are like the new Red Brigades that are terrorising and destabilizing the region – someone is sponsoring them.

        • commieslayer

          Iran WILL become friends with the US. It is only a matter of time. The iranian PEOPLE want that, overwhelmingly.

    • Dean Venture

      Sure they’re connected, but only so far as they are both tug-o-wars between the West and Russia. Russia has tried to exert its geopolitical power in both, and both attempts have failed. The civil war in Syria will not end until Assad is gone, and Russia’s aggression in Ukraine has driven them so far away that the time to reconcile can be measured in scores of years, if not a century.

      • Marcus Safoy

        The West is supporting the Sunni Gulf State kingdoms – Russia and China are supporting the Shias in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and now Yemen.

        What if the sectarian war spreads into Saudi Arabia and turns into a conflict between Shia muslims and radical Sunni Salafist (al Qaeda and ISIS) and the kingdom collapses ?

        • Dean Venture

          Russia would LOVE that, because oil would zip past a hundred bucks a barrel then!

          Collapse is possible I suppose, but the Saudis have a lot of money, and they’ve shown a hard line towards dissent in the past. The West will look away from any but the most brutal responses.

          I doubt there are enough Shia in the kingdom to pose a credible threat on their own, so it would have to involve the governments of Iraq and/or Iran, and that would see the entire Middle East descend into war. What a mess that would be.

          • commieslayer

            Won’t happen again. The only possible winners from violent collapse of Saudi Arabia would be radical salafists, which is the last thing that anyone wants.

        • commieslayer

          Won’t happen. On the contrary, the US is improving relations with the Shia, they are the best tools to fight ISIL. Times are changing, policies are not immutable. Nor is the regime in Iran, which will fall.

      • commieslayer

        They can’t reconcile until Crimea comes back to Ukraine. Crimea makes no sense as a russian territory. Just look at the map, not to mention the history.

  • evanlarkspur


  • Czech Friend

    ‘it is difficult to predict the logic of idiots.’ Exactly, that is Putin’s only weapon.

  • Vol Ya

    Very interesting comments by a russian who would know putin better than most of us. It confirms what I already knew about putin. He is not as smart as many people say he is. He congratulated Yanukovich in 2004 just after he won the fraudulent election. Then he underestimated the strength and the willpower of the Maiydan in 2014. Putin has now lost any support he may have had in Ukraine. Putin is like a bull in a china shop. He is a narcissist.