In February 2022, when the war in Ukraine erupted, retired Russian Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov voiced his extreme misgivings. He claimed that the war would be very costly and far from a walkover. Furthermore, it would ensure Ukraine's enmity towards Russia for the foreseeable future. He also argued that Russia's preparation for the invasion had already solidified Western support for Ukraine.
Now, with the hindsight of a year, Ivashov believes that if anything, he had underestimated the invasion's negative consequences for Russia. He writes that Russia's position has sharply deteriorated in the eyes of the two arbiters of world politics. By its own hand, Russia strengthened America's position in Europe and revived a moribund NATO alliance that had slid into irrelevancy, giving it a new sense of purpose.
Excerpts from Ivashov's interview with Evgeny Senshin of Republic.ru, follow below:
Leonid Ivashov (Source: Argumenti.ru)
Q: "Looking back on that appeal [to Putin, warning against the war], how do you feel about it? Are things developing as you predicted, or is the situation worse?"
A: "When we [in the All-Russian Officers' Assembly] were preparing that appeal, we didn't just draw conclusions off the top of our heads and express our opinion. We first of all analyzed, on the operational-tactical level, what the consequences on the battlefield would be. Later, we analyzed what the consequences of these actions would be at the strategic level. First of all, how will it affect relations with the regions of Europe? What will the conflict lead to in the relations with Ukraine and the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States] countries? We had a discussion, with participating experts, on how long we Ukrainians and Russians would be turned against each other (although it is claimed that they are one people) — forever? or for 10, 50 years? and so forth.
"Naturally, we were scrutinizing the geopolitical level as well. But in terms of international relations, what will violating the principles of the UN Charter do for us? Who could support us in this respect? We counted no more than ten states that could support Russia in the action it was then preparing.
"Based on all this, each [participant] took on a homework assignment. And each specialist calculated the consequences. Economists took tasks related to the economy, military specialists to the military. I prepared a report on geopolitical consequences. And we, after thinking through scenarios, like command-staff games, and upon discussing the results, drew conclusions. And based on them, myself and the Supreme Council of Officers published that appeal.
"What happened as a result? Basically, what we predicted happened, only much worse. On an operational and tactical level, we did not believe we would be able to liberate the Donetsk and Luhansk regions within a year. (note: the publication's correspondent [Ivashov] used that verb ["liberate"], but the editorial board disagrees with him and considers what is happening to be an occupation of Ukrainian territory).
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"We didn't anticipate that there would be such heavy casualties, although I then designated a figure of tens of thousands dead for both sides. But things turned out to be much worse. We did not anticipate that there would be such destruction: in fact, entire small towns and villages were completely demolished. Further, I wrote that we would end up in the position of a rogue state, but frankly, I didn't think we would not find a single ally who had serious influence on the political, economic, or military-logistical level.
China And The U.S. Will Create A Bipolar World — Without Russia's Participation
"Finally, we didn't anticipate for this situation to push China and the US so close together. In 2020, the Chinese were declared Cold War II, back under the Trump presidency. Recently, the U.S. Secretary of State [Blinken] was supposed to fly to China to present a plan for great cooperation or, in other words, for a redivision of the world.
"The 20th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, in fact, declared and even implements the idea that China, along with the United States, is responsible for the world order on our planet. Russia is not mentioned as a political player at all in this picture of the world. Thus, now they will create a bipolar world, but without our participation.
"And besides, it should be added that we did not expect such a series of mistakes, wrong actions, to be made in conducting this military operation. True, Putin makes it clear that everything is going according to plan. And indeed, when one looks at what was done even in the format of the SVO, one can see a clear picture of the planned version of actions. We could not assume that we would give all of Europe to the Americans, including the entire energy market. Today they [the Americans] are holding the Europeans by the throat.
The Ukraine War Revived NATO After It Lost Its Meaning, Unified The Collective West
"I could not have guessed that Finland and Sweden would apply to join NATO. This whole chain of events is going according to plan. Frankly speaking, this is the third time we have saved NATO. After the collapse of the USSR, NATO [as a bloc] lost its meaning. We've ceded to them a significant portion of lands located in Eastern Europe; we allowed them to incorporate some of the former Warsaw Pact member-states. We worked extensively with NATO at one time and asked questions there, 'From whom are you defending yourselves now?'
"Many generals and officers perceived themselves to be unemployed. Then they created the 'Partnership for Peace' program. They had to bear such rubbish. I witnessed a gathering of defense ministers from 42 countries, and an Englishman came to the rostrum and started to talk about the main threats NATO was going to face. Proliferation of weapons of mass destruction took first place, second came international terrorism; drugs came third, illegal immigration followed.
In 1994, Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev signed the Partnership for Peace Agreement with NATO (Source: NATO)
"Naturally, I asked the division commander, the air wing commander, the commander of some of their cruisers to tell me how they would fight the drug trade or illegal immigration, for instance. I said, 'What do you take us for? Do you take us for idiots?' Nevertheless, we agreed to it.
"Then the Yugoslav conflict saved NATO. And now we are saving it. We gave NATO over to the Americans completely: do whatever you want. Most European countries were constantly cutting back on defense expenditures. But we gave all Europe to the hands of the Americans. We talked all the time and continue to talk of some collective West, although no collective West existed previously. A mass of contradictions existed. But today we have created this collective West with our own hands. We couldn't predict all this. So, I agree with Putin that everything is going to plan...
"I look at this whole process as a dynamic. It all started with the question: to give or not to give Ukraine lethal weapons, or only bulletproof vests? And today the question is already: to give the F-16s or not? And today we are no longer talking about dozens of Abrams and Challenger [tanks]. The latest news: about 400 tanks have been promised to Ukraine. There are already agreements for 320 tanks. So, it's all serious. And there are no restrictions, except for missiles and combat aircraft. Everything is flowing. Because Russia gave Europe into the hands of the Americans."
Ukraine Is Mobilizing Intelligence, The Smartest People In All Areas; In Russia, Instead Of Intellect, People Are Twisting Arms, Intimidating, And Imprisoning
"When hostilities began, the supreme commander of the Ukrainian armed forces Valerii Zaluzhnyi immediately announced: 'distinguished deputies, officials, and journalists — don't come here. We ourselves will give you the necessary information.' That is the state of affairs with them.
"And what is our situation? I still can't understand who Putin's chief consultant on military issues was. It was either Yascha Kedmi, or [Editor of National Defense Magazine] Igor Korotchenko, or someone else. All these gentlemen declared: 'We will take Ukraine in three days!', 'In Odessa, Russian infantrymen will be smothered in joyous embraces!' — And we got into it. They didn't say that in Ukraine, they were seriously preparing [for war]...
"I'll speak abstractly. Let's take two countries. One country [Russia] is conducting mass mobilization. Naturally, various 'tough' officials, children of businessmen, avoid this mobilization. All the rest remain, [and] with their help they are going to achieve mass superiority on the battlefield. And another country [Ukraine] is mobilizing intelligence, the smartest people in all areas: in the economy, in intelligence, in security issues, in military affairs, and so on. And I am convinced that without any mass mobilization, this collective intelligence will defeat any army of millions. Intelligence always dominates the battlefield...
"If sober-minded people are muzzled, then you only become dumber and more corrupt, but not stronger in any way. We are being defeated by intellect. And in our country, instead of intellect, people are twisting arms, intimidating, and imprisoning. In such a situation, the country always loses and does not have long to live."
 See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 9772, Ultraconservative Retired Russian General Opposes War With Ukraine That Will Make Russia And Ukraine Enemies Forever, February 15, 2022.
 Republic.ru, February 9, 2023.