VLADIMIR PUTIN won’t survive much longer as Russian leader – but his successor could be worse, ex-Army legend “Macho Jacko” says.
General Sir Mike Jackson, 79, said the tyrant would be done in “one way or the other”.
Yet he warned that whoever comes next could easily be just as bad or worse.
The lifelong Russia expert said: “For those of you who wish to see Vladimir Putin knocked off his pedestal and elsewhere, even six feet down, remember the old nursery rhyme, ‘Hang on tight to nurse, for fear of something worse.’
“There is no guarantee that a Putin successor would not be as autocratic as he.”
Putin, 71, has been dogged by reports of serious ill health but is expected to win his fifth term as president next year.
The former intelligence officer has ruled Russia as President and Prime Minister since 1999.
But Sir Mike said his tenure in the Kremlin was approaching its end.
Addressing fellow Army officers, both serving and retired, he said: “The only prediction that I think is worth making is that, in my view, it is unlikely that Vladimir Putin will survive in his role as leader of Russia, one way or the other.”
Sir Mike joined the Intelligence Corps in 1963 and immediately took an “in service degree” in Russian studies at the University of Birmingham.
He went on to lead troops in Kosovo before serving as Chief of the General Staff from 2003 to 2006.
In a speech at the elite Cavalry and Guards Club in London on Wednesday, he said the war in Ukraine “shows every sign of grinding on for quite a long time”.
He said Putin had no desire to reach a compromise because he wants to rebuild the Soviet Union.
Sir Mike said: “He [Putin] doesn’t want to accommodate.
“He wants to restore, as he sees it, the old Soviet Union and the wider Warsaw Pact.
“Hence the wars in Chechnya, Georgia, the first Crimean War and Ukraine, which began in 2014.”
Sir Mike led Nato peacekeepers in Kosovo in 1999 where he famously disobeyed orders from his US superior Gen Wesley Clark to confront Russian troops at Pristina airport.
Sir Mike earned the nickname “Macho Jacko” after telling his US boss bluntly: “I am not going to start World War Three for you.”
When Sir Mike reached the airport a day or two later he reportedly shared a flask of whisky with the Russian commander General Viktor Zavarzin, leading to better relations between the rival armies.
Looking back 33-years later, Sir Mike West had missed a chance for a lasting rapprochement with Russia after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union.
He said world leaders should have invited Moscow to join Nato and the EU.
He said: “The west, in my view, did not react to the extraordinary events in the more generous way that I personally think they should have done.”
He said world leaders should have offered Moscow “two bits of paper”.
He said: “One is an application for Nato. One is an application for the EU. Over to you. If you want it, it’s there. We didn’t.”
Instead Nato expanded eastwards which had “really rankled” Moscow which was paranoid about being invaded.
Speaking about the war in Ukraine, Sir Mike echoed recent comments by the head of Ukraine’s armed forces General Valeriy Zaluzhny who claimed troops had reached a stalemate.
Gen Zaluzhny infuriated President Zelensky by claiming “there will most likely be no deep and beautiful breakthrough”.
But Sir Mike warned that a peace deal based with Russia might only delay the war a few years.
He said Russia would use the time to rebuild its military and launch a fresh attack.
He said western support for Ukraine was “essential” to counter Russia’s vast mass.
He added: “Russia has this extraordinary depth geographically, depth in its population.
“It has far more mass than Ukraine.
“Without outside help, I fear over time Russian mass would overwhelm what Ukraine can produce.
“Continuing western support is essential. Without it I fear they would go down.”