“Vladimir Putin no longer has a choice, he really needs to concentrate his efforts”, according to General Jean-Paul Paloméros, former supreme commander for the transformation of NATO and former chief of staff of the Air Force, guest of franceinfo on Saturday April 2. The Ukrainian authorities assure that the Russians are now concentrating exclusively on the east and south of the country. “Which paradoxically will pose a real problem for President Zelensky and his military strategists”, says General Jean-Paul Paloméros.
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franceinfo: Moscow no longer has the means today to wage war throughout the territory?
Jean-Paul Palomeros: I think Vladimir Putin and his military leaders are going back to the basics of the art of war, which is the need to concentrate your forces on an achievable goal, in a way. Which has not been the case throughout this campaign. That said, there will always be pressure and we can see it in Kharkiv. This city is very close to Russia, obviously, it’s easier for them. But we can still expect that the west will continue to be attacked, if only to delay the delivery of armaments, probably in the region of kyiv. But it’s true that Vladimir Putin no longer really has a choice: he has to concentrate his efforts, which paradoxically will pose a real problem for President Zelensky and his military strategists. How many forces are they going to want to devote to the opposition in the Donbass and how far do they want to go? The problem now really becomes a Ukrainian problem. A problem of strategy in the face of this Russian strategy which seemed clear at the start, which has completely diverged and which is now returning to the fundamentals, that is to say the Donbass, the south, Mariupol.
So the Ukrainians will also have to reorganize?
Yes, it will be necessary. A significant part of their army had been facing Donbass since 2014, but they cannot let themselves be locked into that. Then there is the idea all the same, eventually, as quickly as possible, of negotiations. These negotiations will stop where the border defined by arms is. President Zelensky has announced on several occasions that he wanted – it seems to me too ambitious an objective – to take over the Donbass outright. But if he could already maintain the positions that existed before the current war broke out, I think that wouldn’t be so bad. So, we are going to witness this war of positioning. And the Russians, combining their efforts and concentrating them, are obviously going to be more dangerous.
The Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Defense announces that this entire region of kyiv has been liberated. where the central power is. It is extremely important?
It is extremely important. Vladimir Putin had two objectives at the start: to demilitarize Ukraine and to overthrow the power. So yes, it is significant. Is it sustainable? The future will tell. There is always a way and there is always the possibility of launching raids. It is clear that the Russian army needed a breather. It is also the period of major army rotations. But it’s a great victory because they [les Ukrainiens] stopped the kind of Blitzkrieg, the blitzkrieg that Putin wanted to enter kyiv and overthrow power. It was stopped at the cost of their courage, at the cost of their military know-how too. We’ve been training them for years and it pays off at the price of weapons that are extremely effective. And which they use perfectly well.
Russia is informing Ukraine this evening that negotiations on a peace plan have advanced sufficiently to allow direct consultations between Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zemlinsky. Would that be a major step forward?
Yes, because any high-level negotiation is good to take right now. The Ukrainian population is suffering too much for any negotiation to be neglected. But on the other hand, we have to be realistic, the terms of a negotiation that has a chance of succeeding are not in place. For example, I don’t really see any security guarantees that could be offered to Ukraine today. From the moment when the Russian power trampled on the Budapest agreements, following the denuclearization of Ukraine, I do not believe in a piece of paper signed by Vladimir Putin. That’s kind of the root of the problem. But it’s still good that they talk to each other. Perhaps we can at least arrive at a ceasefire, that would already be a first step in Mariupol and elsewhere. A first step that would be significant and positive.