The former head of British intelligence predicted Russian President Vladimir Putin will be out of power by next year and in a medical facility for long-term illness.
Sir Richard Dearlove was head of the UK’s Secret Intelligence Service, also known as MI6, from 1999 to 2004. He made the predictions about Putin on Wednesday during an episode of the podcast One Decision, which he co-hosts.
“I’m really going to stick my neck out. I think he’ll be gone by 2023. But probably into the sanatorium, from which he will not emerge as the leader of Russia,” he said, adding that the sanatorium would be a way to move Putin out of power without a coup.
Dearlove’s prediction is in step with other recent reports suggesting Putin is ill and could soon lose power.
Bellingcat’s Christo Grozev, an expert on Russian security, said last week top Kremlin security officials believe the war in Ukraine is “lost” and that Putin is losing his grip on power.
Ukraine military intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov told Sky News last week Putin was in “a very bad psychological and physical condition and he is very sick.” Budanov also said he was “optimistic” Ukraine would prevail and that the war would be “over by the end of the year.”
Former British spy Christopher Steele recently said sources told him Putin is seriously ill and regularly leaves meetings for medical treatment, contributing to “increasing disarray in the Kremlin.” Steele, who led MI6’s Russia desk for years, compiled the infamous Trump-Russia dossier, much of which was discredited.
The state of Putin’s health cannot be confirmed, though his rumored conditions include ailments like dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and blood cancer.
Dearlove also said there is no succession plan in Russian leadership, but said if Putin did enter a medical facility, the most likely person to step up is Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of the Security Council of Russia.
In 2009, the US tried to get Russia to reduce its nuclear weapons stockpile, with Russia responding by saying it was weighing-up changes to its military doctrine that would allow for a “preventive” nuclear strike against its enemies — including even those armed with only conventional weapons.
At the time, in an interview with Izvestia, a Russian newspaper, Patrushev, recently promoted to the security council role, outlined what the new doctrine meant, making clear that Russia was not ruling-out using a nuclear strike in the future.
He said: “[The new doctrine offers] different options to allow the use of nuclear weapons, depending on a certain situation and intentions of a would-be enemy.
“In critical national security situations, one should also not exclude a preventive nuclear strike against the aggressor.”
He added that Russia was revising its rules for the employment of nukes to repel conventional armed attackers, “not only in large-scale, but also in a regional and even a local war.”
At the time Russia had invaded Georgia and was engaged in a full-scale conflict against what was once a former Soviet state, and a country which it considers, along with Ukraine, in its sphere of influence — in short, outside the West.
Many feared that this “first strike” option that the Russian Federation was moving to adopt could be deployed in Georgia, whose military attempted to fend off Russian personnel who had crossed the border from the north and entered two self-proclaimed republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
To this day, Russia occupies 20 percent of Georgia’s territory, with South Ossetia in recent weeks having set a referendum for Russian membership in July, while Abkhazia says it does not plan on holding such a ballot, although Russian troops remain there.
While Patrushev’s words never materialised into a nuclear strike, today, officials continue to stress the reality of a desperate Putin willing to use nuclear weapons in the event of failure.
Last week, Avril Haines, director of US national intelligence, warned the US Senate that Putin could view the prospect of defeat in Ukraine as an existential threat to his regime and so be drawn into using nukes.
She said: “We do think that [Putin’s perception of an existential threat] could be the case in the event that he perceives that he is losing the war in Ukraine, and that NATO in effect is either intervening or about to intervene in that context, which would obviously contribute to a perception that he is about to lose the war in Ukraine.
“There are a lot of things that he would do in the context of escalation before he would get to nuclear weapons, and also that he would be likely to engage in some signalling beyond what he’s done thus far before doing so.”