- Andrey Kozyrev laid out reasons why Putin may have misjudged his invasion of Ukraine.
- He says Putin overestimated Russia’s military, not realizing its budget had been embezzled.
- Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has stalled amid tough Ukrainian resistance.
A former Russian foreign minister claimed that widespread corruption is among the reasons for the Russian military’s apparently poor performance in the invasion of Ukraine.
Andrey Kozyrev, who served as foreign minister under President Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s, put forward what he said were misjudgments made by President Vladimir Putin in ordering the invasion.
In the thread, he claims Putin overestimated the Russian military, which he dedicated billions of dollars to modernizing. But this money, Kozyrev claimed, may have been lost to Russia’s endemic corruption.
—Andrei V Kozyrev (@andreivkozyrev) March 6, 2022
“The Kremlin spent the last 20 years trying to modernize its military. Much of that budget was stolen and spent on mega-yachts in Cyprus. But as a military advisor you cannot report that to the President. So they reported lies to him instead,” wrote Kozyrev.
Cyprus has long been a favored destination for Russian officials seeking to launder money, and was infamous for its long-running “golden passport” scheme that until 2020 allowed rich foreigners to effectively EU buy citizenship.
Transparency International ranks Russia as one of the world’s most corrupt countries, putting it 130th of 176, with a particular problem in its defense sector.
Polina Beliakova, an expert at Tufts University, wrote in Politico, that rampant corruption meant Russian troops were going into battle in Ukraine with out-of-date rations, faulty equipment, and inadequate fuel supplies.
According to western officials, Putin expected the invasion of Ukraine to be ended swiftly and successfully.
But instead it stalled, with the the capital, Kyiv, still in Ukrainian control, Russia having failed to establish air superiority, and casualties mounting amid stiff Ukrainian resistance.
Kozyrev appeared to be reacting to speculation about Putin’s state of mind before launching the invasion.
Some officials and commentators claimed there was no rational explanation for the invasion, and that Putin’s judgment may have been hampered by his long self-imposed isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some wondered whether he was unhinged enough to launch nuclear weapons if cornered.
But Kozyrev, whose stint as foreign secretary came as Russia sought closer ties with the West after the collapse of the Soviet Union, said he believes Putin is instead a rational decision-maker who had poor assumptions that led him into an error.
He said that Putin likely believed his own propaganda about Ukraine not being a real nation, which he highlighted when seeking to to justify the invasion.
Kozyrev also said he underestimated the unity of the West, which responded to the attack with sanctions that have been crippling the Russian economy.
“So, in my opinion, he is rational. Given that he is rational, I strongly believe he will not intentionally use nuclear weapons against the West,” Kozyrev said.