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The Liz Truss Buttress

September 29, 2022
Notes
Transcript

Eric welcomes Eliot back from his sojourn in Poland and Ukraine. They discuss U.K. Prime Minister Liz Truss’s early appointments on national security and the review of Britain’s defense policy she has ordered, Biden’s appointment of a new Ambassador to Russia, Eliot’s impressions of Ukraine and Volodymyr Zelensky. They also analyze Vladimir Putin’s speech and mobilization order and discuss Eric’s testimony on nuclear strategy to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Shield of the Republic is a Bulwark podcast co-sponsored by the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia. Email us with your feedback at [email protected].

Eric and Frank Miller’s testimony written before the Senate (https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Edelman-Miller%20Opening%20Statement%20SASC%20Hearing%20Sept.%2020%2020229.pdf)

Their article on the second nuclear era for The Bulwark (https://www.thebulwark.com/is-the-united-states-ready-for-the-next-nuclear-era/)

Eliot’s Ukraine article for The Atlantic (https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/09/zelensky-ukraine-west-military-aid-supplies/671485/)

Friend of the podcast and former guest Anne Applebaum’s article for The Atlantic (https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/09/putin-speech-delay-ukraine-world-leaders/671495/)

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This transcript was generated automatically and may contain errors and omissions. Ironically, the transcription service has particular problems with the word “bulwark,” so you may see it mangled as “Bullard,” “Boulart,” or even “bull word.” Enjoy!
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:07

    Welcome to Shield of the Republic. A podcast sponsored by The Bulwark and the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia, and dedicated to the proposition articulated first by Walter Littman during World War two. That a strong and balanced foreign policy is the indispensable shield of our Democratic Republic. I’m Eric Edelman, counselor at the center for strategic and budgetary assessments, a bulwark contributor, and a nonresident fellow at the Miller Center. My co host, Elliot Cohen, the Robert E.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:35

    Ozgood, Professor of Strategy at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and Arleigh Burke Chair and Strategy at the Center for Strategic International Studies is here to join me after returning from a trip to the front to both Poland and to Ukraine Elliott. Welcome back. Well, thank you. It’s good to be back. I’m not quite sure I’d say the front although we were we were we did get to see a good bid in Poland and Ukraine, and I’m happy to report back to you.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:08

    Alright. Well, I I wanna get to that in a minute both what you saw and found on your trip as well as flooring with you, your terrific piece in the Atlantic about a a cornered Putin. I’ll I’ll hold in advance discussion about nuclear weapons since Frank Miller and I testified together in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday about the future of nuclear strategy and policy. Maybe we’ll get Frank, another co conspirator to come on and join us. We can talk nuclear weapons.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:39

    Yeah. And and in light of Putin’s speech, you know, this morning, which we can talk about, it would be particularly relevant. But before we go there, I wanna just briefly talk about some good news because mostly we talk about bad news on this on this podcast, but I wanna lighten it up a little bit first. Tell me what you think about the fact that one of the first things out of the box that Prime Minister Liz Trust has done in the United Kingdom is announce a new review of British strategy and defense policy coordinated by our friend John Bue.
  • Speaker 2
    0:02:15

    So I guess the good news there is first that the Brits are taking this all very seriously. But the other thing is that John Bue is leading it. So for our listeners, John Bue is a disgustingly young brilliant historian. And even more disgustingly, he’s actually a wonderful human being. And we we should actually try to lure him onto the podcast.
  • Speaker 2
    0:02:36

    He’s really a super nice guy. He there are two he’s written several books which are fascinating. A biography of Castle Ray, the great early nineteenth century tree, British statement, a a biography of Clement Adley, Churchill successor, after world war two, and a book on rail politics. And he’s a deeply, deeply thoughtful guy. And I think there’s there’s something very reassuring about having a about a country in which a first rate historian can be involved in the shaping of strategy.
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:14

    And I think that that augurs well. I’ll also say that to maybe link with the next part of the podcast. One of the standout performances in this conflict has been by great Britain. And the British have really been in some ways even ahead of us but aggressively supporting Ukraine. There’s not gonna be any difference between Louis Truss and Boris Johnson, but I do want to say that even though a lot of people have reservations or have had reservations of bad Boris Johnson, I do think he somehow channeled some little inner piece of Churchill.
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:54

    And immediately, you know, he’s been there several times. He’s been eloquent. In his support of Ukraine. And I think he’s been eloquent in making the basic arguments for what British policy ought to be. I don’t know about you, Eric, but as he was leaving parliament, I was struck that he that he kind of gave his it’s not a last rule in testament because I think this guy has nine lives.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:19

    But he his part of his advice was stay close to the Americans. So it’s a piece of traditional British British state craft. So all in all, it’s very good news. I mean, the sad news, of course, is the passing of the Queen, but she had a very good run after seventy years and it’s it was actually again sort of impressive watching the British go through all the ceremonial of celebrating quite extraordinary woman and then inaugurating a new reign. Don’t you think?
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:48

    I mean, I’m I’m more of a sentimental royalist than you are.
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:51

    Yeah. I’m a I’m I’m a lot less sentimental about the royal family and I, you know, we’ll see how King Charles does. I do think he’s off to a good start. I’ve been impressed. And Liz truss has been off to a good start.
  • Speaker 1
    0:05:02

    I had reservations about Liz Truss as prime minister of of the United Kingdom. I do think, first of all, keeping Ben Wallace on the secretary of state for defense, who I think has been quite good, was very good in the Boris Johnson administration. And actually, frankly, after a succession of really lackluster ministers of defense, I think, has been quite good in this circumstance. So I thought it was good that she kept him on. That was important.
  • Speaker 1
    0:05:32

    But also to see that our friend John is gonna be leading this review, which I think is necessary. The last review was only eighteen months ago. But I think, as you say, the brits understand circumstances have changed and when circumstances have changed. Strategy has to adjust. And so I think it’s a very good sign all the way around.
  • Speaker 1
    0:05:51

    I do have to say one thing. I’m never quite sure why it was. John wanted to do a biography of Clem Adley, who of whom Churchill once said a modest little man who has much to be modest about.
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:05

    Oh, it’s not clear I think that he actually said that, you know, he actually had a lot regard for him during World War two when he was Prime Minister. Right? What? Right. So yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:15

    But, you know, mean, all of us write different kinds of books on different subjects. I don’t think we should be I don’t think we should be hypercritical. But it is good. You know, an interesting contrast, Eric, may be with our own national defense strategy, which should finally drop fairly soon. And perhaps we should have a session, which you and I, you know, dissect it and exquisite detail, maybe be a little bit more like VIVUS section than dissection.
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:43

    But yeah.
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:44

    We’ll get to that. Of course, I’ve been appointed to the new commission to review the NDS. We’ll see whether that gets started. We’re still waiting on one appointment on the Democratic side, and and we’ll see where That goes. The other piece of good news before we really dive into Ukraine has been the announcement by the Biden administration that the president has nominated or is at least the intent to nominate Lynn Tracy, to be the United States ambassador to Russia.
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:08

    I I think that’s a terrific appointment, and I I suspect you do too, but I’ll I’ll let you speak for yourself.
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:14

    Absolutely. And I’ll I’ll just say when I was counselor, I frequently a counselor at the Department of State, I frequently went to Pakistan, and I frequently went to the shower to take a look at the northwest frontier province. And our console general there was Lynn Tracy, who was unflappable, had extraordinary connections there. And was courageous. You know, one day she was pulling out of her home in Peshawar in her armored car and it was riddled with, I think, like, thirty bullets in an assassination attempt.
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:53

    And therefore she thereafter, she just kind of continued her job, but slept in the office and imperturbable, highly professional, Really, she’s a wonderful pick, I think, for that position. I couldn’t agree more.
  • Speaker 1
    0:08:09

    Yeah. Very tough minded, I think. She’ll and she’d been deputy chief of mission in Moscow. She’s served there before, so she’ll be terrific. Well, so much for the good news portion of this podcast.
  • Speaker 1
    0:08:22

    I’d like you to just First, tell us, you know, give us a sense of your impressions, both in in in in Ki Bin and in Warsaw. But what did you find? And then I wanted, you know, drill into some of the things you wrote about in the Atlantic?
  • Speaker 2
    0:08:36

    Yeah. And, you know, I wanna get your views too on what’s happening in Russia since you were stationed there as a diplomat as well. So the trip was organized by Prism, p i s m, which is the Polish foreign affairs think tank. It’s government funded. So it’s bit different model than ours, which is extraordinarily well connected.
  • Speaker 2
    0:08:55

    It was a small group of us, including people like Corie Schockey from and Enterprise Institute, Michael O’Hamlin, from Brookeings. James Shurer, who’s a very expert student of Russia, Francois High School one of the leading French figures in the National Security Field. So a small group, we got a wonderful visit with with the Polish military and visit to some of the bases on the Polish side of the border where a lot of the armed supplies to Ukraine are going. And I’ll say a bit more about that in a moment. We also were accompanied by the Polish national security adviser and the vice foreign ministers.
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:36

    It was a pretty high level delegation small. We went in by train at night. It had kind of a World War two feeling to it. And then we’re in Kiev. And in Kiev, we visited Erpen.
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:50

    So we saw some of the battlefield there and some of the destruction and the Ukrainians rebuilding and restarting their lives. We got a very good briefing from a very senior officer on the general staff, and we had a meeting with President Zalenski and also with the Ukrainian vice foreign minister. So impressions. Let me start with Poland because in some ways, that’s when people say, well, would you learn that was new? I can’t say that there’s a whole lot that was that I learned that was new, but One thing that was very striking was actually on the Polish side of the border.
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:26

    And that is I’d expected the base that we visited to be humming with activity, and it wasn’t. And in fact, what we learned is that it’s basically operating at about sixty percent of capacity. So it did not have the vibe that you and I both remember from going to Kandahar some of our bases in the Persian Gulf. It — I mean, it’s busy. There’s stuff going on, but they’re could clearly be a lot more.
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:56

    And we also got quite a detailed briefing on the amount of material that’s going to Ukraine. And my basic conclusion, was reinforced by Keyve is not nearly enough. You know, they need a lot of ammunition, they need service to air missile systems, They need more long range systems. They need more secure communications. And the Ukrainians were very clear with us about So I think the the idea that they’re getting everything they need is simply not true.
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:25

    Kiev itself, what struck me about is itself very normal. Lot of traffic. Fair number of people on the streets, restaurants open. Interestingly, you don’t see a lot of heroic posters. Up there with figures of Ukrainian soldiers and so on.
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:43

    And I’m told that that’s fairly deliberate that they you know, they want the part of what the Ukrainian leadership wants to do is to restore a sense of normalcy. The Ukrainian military very, very impressive And in general, I would say the mood was one of sober confidence and optimism but not cockiness. They obviously didn’t have these great successes at Round Carcave. But they weren’t taking things for granted. They were very clear about what they needed.
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:17

    A couple of the standout moments. One is when the general was asked, and what has changed most in your military since twenty fourteen? This was a guy who I don’t think is much given to big smiles. He said, you know, we’ve moved away from the old Soviet command system. So we now — it’s basically what the west would be called mission oriented command now, where you tell your subordinates what to do, not how to do it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:48

    And he broke out into a big grin, and that clearly made him feel that we’re going that they’re going somewhere. I think they have – they feel they have the Russians on the back foot. As you know, the – on the In the south, on the western bank of the Nipro, you have the city of Coruscant, which was really the major city that Russians took early on. The bridges have all been smashed. The river crossings are under intense Ukraine artillery fire, and there are twenty thousand troops, and we asked him, you know, what what will happen there?
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:24

    He said, well, I’ll just tell you. Those soldiers aren’t going back across that river. So I think they’re optimistic. I think their technique will be different than around CAR Qiv. So there was that a number of other things.
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:37

    At Zelensky, what I would say is you feel clearly feeling the presence of remarkable personality. He was cheerful. He was somewhat humorous. He was very clear about what he felt they needed. He listened well because we were asked to each give a piece of advice.
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:01

    You know, he’s an engaging guy. He looked I have to say, he also looked rested and relaxed, and he looked very fit. And so what that means is he’s taken good care of himself, which I think is a tremendously important thing for wartime leader to to do. So that part I left reassured by.
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:18

    So his hands weren’t shaking and he wasn’t grabbing the edge of the table to steady his
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:23

    hands. And I do. No. I think that’s that would be the other guy.
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:26

    We’ll get to that. So
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:28

    I, you know, I came back reassured by that, but but really concerned about the importance of continuing to pour in military aid at scale as fast as possible. You know, there’s an opening here I don’t know what you think about Putin’s announcement that they’re gonna mobilize three hundred thousand reservists. I think they’re gonna have trouble generating much military capacity. But still, You know, I’m trying to make this argument in the Atlantic piece. You want the Ukrainians to win fast because winning slow means a lot more cities smashed, a lot more young men and women without limbs or, you know, with hideous burns or in graves.
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:11

    And it means more suffering for civilians. You know, the I have this dreadful feeling when they finally liberate Kerstom, they’ll find mass graves. Very much like those of Búcha and and Isiam. Right. Of course.
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:22

    And I agree with that, and I worry
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:24

    about that too. I I I wanted I’ll wanna get to Putin’s speech, which I read intently, including in the Russian original, but before we do that, and related to what you were just saying, I mean, I think one of the reasons important to try and help them win as quickly as possible is the damage that’s being done to the Ukrainian economy. And I I worry a lot about that. I mean, we’ve got you know, a limited amount of economic aid out of that forty billion dollar package that’s helping I think a billion plus a month where giving essentially indirect budget support to the Ukrainian government, but that still leaves a big shortfall. They’re printing money, which means they’re gonna have, you know, an even bigger inflation than we’ve got in the U.
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:09

    S. And globally.
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:13

    They’re very sensitive to that, by the way. I mean, they think one of the — there are two reasons why they want much better air defenses, particularly against UAVs, unmanned aerial vehicles and, you know, crews and ballistic missiles. And part of it is to give them freedom to maneuver on the ground. So it’s for military purposes, but they want civilians to come back. They want the cities to be functioning.
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:37

    They want to prevent the Russians from doing what they’re doing by smashing dams and flooding cities. And they know that they need to re rebuild the economy. I thought the one piece of good news that I saw is that if I’m not mistaken, the Department of Justice is has approached Congress about being willing to take some of that three hundred million dollars and Russian reserves held in the United States and turn it into aid to Ukraine,
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:02

    which strikes me as an eminently — Right. Sensible use of that money. Yeah. No. I think we’re that’s that’s gonna be imperative.
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:09

    We’re gonna have to do that, I think. But I was just curious, you know, I’m I’m glad you say that that they were very sensitive to, you know, using the military equipment to try and protect as much as they can of the civilian infrastructure and economy. But I just wanted to get a sense of how you felt people were holding up, the, you know, how is the economy functioning, you know, on a day to day basis? Did you get any sense of that while you were in
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:33

    No. I mean, we we, you know, Keith has seem to be functioning, but we, you know, we only saw some parts of it, and we were in a security bubble. So I can’t I I I could not fairly say that I really have a sense of economic activity other than the you just do get the sense that the Ukrainians are incredibly creative that this is really a democratic society with a lot of people who are entrepreneurial. I think, you know, one thing that we talked a bit about on the train on the way back you know, so Ukraine had this problems with corruption, also had this problems with oligarchs. But, you know, you’re gonna have a whole bunch of veterans come back from this war.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:15

    And I think what frequently happens in war is in Democratic societies. The veterans come back and they say, let’s remember what kind of society we were fighting for. If you look at the civil rights movement in the United States for example, part of this driven by African American veterans coming back from world war two and saying, you know, this isn’t what I and coming back to Jim Crow and things like that and saying that is not what I fought for. And demanding rightly — Right. — something else.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:53

    And I think you may see something else something somewhat similar here too.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:57

    So let’s talk a little bit. We will get to Putin and the Russians and mobilization and nuclear threats and all the rest of that. But you talked just now and in the Atlantic piece about getting them as much equipment as possible. What are the priorities and particularly both you and I have expressed on occasion the view that we should give them attack rooms. Let me play devil’s advocate for a second.
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:23

    And say, you know, if you or I were sitting in the Pentagon today, knowing that the United States has only produced about thirty five, thirty six hundred of these things to begin with, and about five, six hundred of them have actually been fired by the US before. Leaving us about three thousand and knowing that you might have a contingency with China in the Taiwan Strait, you know, maybe sooner than you think. I mean, we had how brands on here not long ago, basically suggesting this could be not at, you know, twenty thirty or twenty thirty five problem, but at twenty twenty seven, or twenty twenty five problem even. You know? So does prudence maybe suggests, you know, you want a husband some of those resources yourself?
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:05

    And then the other question that goes with that is you talked a little bit about that there not being enough of a kind of wartime sense of urgency in the Atlantic piece. And I agree with that, of course. But there are some obstacles in terms of getting the signal to defense industry that they should make massive investments in expanding plant capacity And oh, by the way, all of them are extremely worried that they lack the trained workforce to produce all these munitions. So let me just throw all those sort of complicating factors into it. Howard Bauchner: So what I
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:45

    would say said to my friend under secretary Edelman I understand all of your fears and anxieties and timidity, but I’m I’m not gonna let you get away with it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:55

    That’s the first time getting what excused me of that.
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:59

    Well, you and I had an unusual relationship. So I I would say a number of things. First thing I would say is their top priority is clearly anti missile defense, anti UAV defense for the reasons we discussed, but long range strike is part of it. So here’s the number of things. Let me first tackle the industrial mobilization thing.
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:19

    In the Atlantic piece, and right here, I’ll be extremely critical of the Biden administration. Yes, there are all these constraints. I understand. But, you know, it is amazing what the United States can do when you push aside the bureaucratic obstacles and you remove some of the things that constrain you from building things and you throw money at it, And you say, we’re going to get really smart people to do creative things. And, you know, the model for all this, of course, is the world war two mobilization.
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:49

    When let us remember, we had the same shortages of highly sophisticated people. And guess what? You know, you had, whether it was the automotive industry or the shipbuilding industry, you know, they were churning out vast quantities of material with an with a workforce that was either totally unskilled or only semi skilled that they had trained up. But what you needed to do was to make it easy to do that. And the problem is we’re still operating on a peacetime kind of tempo.
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:21

    And there are things you can do. I mean, if you want people to invest in plans say, okay, we’re going to pay for that or there’s a number of things of that kind. Second thing I would say is you need to hold some of these in reserve for — in case of conflict with China, of course. But the key — your old boss on Rumsfeld said what was the Fed? Low density, high demand.
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:45

    Right. I said that just means we didn’t buy enough. Right? Right. So then let’s remember that that’s the problem.
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:51

    We didn’t buy enough, not that we shouldn’t use it. But I would say strategically a a smashing Ukrainian victory over Russia. And the eviction of the Russians from all of Ukrainian territory has tremendous strategic utility vis a vis China.
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:14

    Yep. And — Yep. —
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:15

    you know, this is why I think it’s so important for us to be able to think tactically and strategically at the same time. I think the message it sends to China about American will about resilience of democratic societies is tremendously worth it, and it diminishes the value of their Russian ally, which is sort of dwindling semi vassalage.
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:42

    Or how about their how about their Russian based military equipment since almost everything in their inventory is either purchased from Russia or copied from Russian models.
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:51

    So I think for that reason, it’s actually a a good use of it. And the final thing I would say is ATACAMS packs a hell of a punch. And if you have ATACAMS, you can do things like put the courage bridge to Crimea, which is really their only supply the only serious supply route into Crimea from Russia, other than rail lines, which can be easily cut puts that at risk. And we can you know, I think that one of the other points to make is Ukraine has been very good when they said they won’t use things to hit inside Russia. They, you know, they haven’t used I Mars, for example,
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:24

    they’re using Russian stuff to go after stuff in contrast.
  • Speaker 2
    0:24:29

    But it it you know, with ATAXOMs that all of the Russian rare areas in Ukraine are now at risk from things which are exquisitely precise and extraordinarily destructive. You know, we still don’t know the I mean, I think there’s one of the interesting mysteries which will be sure it cleared up in time is if you remember there were those really big craters in the ground and in the Crimea, which wiped out about half of the Russian naval aviation in Crimea. And people were saying, well, done by special forces. Must have been really big guys to carry in, you know, hundreds of kilograms of high explosive and place them exquisitely precisely. So I don’t know what system was used and all that, but that’s the kind of destruction that you can inflict with ATACMs and we should.
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:24

    So does that – I hope reduce some of your – diminish the hand ringing and
  • Speaker 1
    0:25:31

    Right. No. No. The point I you were getting to the point that I wanted to drive to, which is, you know, the gimliars rounds that they’re using have multiple kinda warheads. But the attack comes our unitary warhead just with very high explosive behind it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:25:47

    So the numbers you have to give them to your point, you don’t have to give them a lot. I mean, you could even agree that Priory on a a target list. It’s a, here’s what, you know, we agree you can use these for. And it could be things like the Church Bridge except I don’t think the administration will give it to them for the courage bridge because the administration has decided that, you know, Crimea the Russians regard as Russia. Therefore, if you attack Russia, you’re, you know, going you’re you’re inviting World War three.
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:19

    Now that’s despite the fact that the formal policy of the United States of America remains that we do not recognize the Russian annexation of Crimea. We still regard it as part of Ukraine. And this this is now implicated in what Putin just announced because if Putin has these sham referendum in parts of Luganskin, and Dunbar and Dunnietsk and the Dunbar and says, well, this is Russia now. So any any American systems used to attack. This is attacking Russia, and then I’m gonna respond with a nuclear attack.
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:55

    You know, but we’re, you know, we’re out of business. Yes.
  • Speaker 2
    0:26:58

    Well, yes, you
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:59

    can hear me.
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:00

    Yes, you and I have, I think, been expressed our frustrations about this repeatedly that, you know, we we we foolishly say things that, of course, the Russians play back at us. And one of the things I say in the Atlantic piece, if if we said, look, at all costs, we have to prevent the Russians from painting their tanks, neon yellow, you can be sure that next day there’d be a parade of a hundred tanks in Red Square with a hundred barrels of neon yellow paint and somebody’s saying, you push us one step further and we’re going to begin painting all these tanks neon yellow. It’s extremely foolish and self destructive. But since you mentioned Putin, shouldn’t we shift to that? And since you’re the Russian speaker and you’re the guy who served in Moscow, I would be really curious what What do you take away from that?
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:49

    I just read it in English translation rather hastily. You’ve sounds like you’ve read it a lot more carefully. What do what do you take away from that, Eric? So look, it’s it’s a speech
  • Speaker 1
    0:28:00

    which both obscures and reveals. Right? So I think it reveals how dire the situation is from his point of view how panicked the Russians are. You know, Anne Applebaum has a piece in the Atlantic, that just posted before we came on about how the, you know, the Kremlin is in disarray, obviously, because he scheduled the speech for last night was all set to go and then suddenly didn’t happen. And then suddenly it appeared this morning at nine o’clock in the morning.
  • Speaker 1
    0:28:31

    Which is not the normal time that you have a, you know, broadcast speech to the nation and it was taped. So something was going on, you know, last night, we don’t know exactly kind of, you know, what what is behind that. You know, when some senses senses the speeches, you know, so detached from the reality of what’s happened, you know, that it’s in a way almost troubling because It projects almost everything that he is actually doing and accuses Ukraine and the west of being the authors of that. So it’s attacking civilian infrastructure, committing human rights abuses, you know, all all of the stuff that he’s actually doing trying to extirpate, you know, national sovereignty. It’s it’s literally, you know, projection of everything that he’s doing in Ukraine.
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:22

    Onto, you know, his his adversaries. That’s the kind of first thing that struck me. The second thing is on the on the nuclear threats. Right? He talks about first of all, he says things that are just manifestly untrue.
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:36

    I mean, the Mendacity of the speech is is really striking. For instance, that Western officials, US and NATO officials are constantly talking about using nuclear weapons against you know, Russia. You know, it’s the only one they’re constantly talking about using nuclear weapons is is Putin and is some of his colleagues on Russian state TV. I mean, you know, this is not a a discourse that’s going on in the west at all. So But do you think he believes
  • Speaker 2
    0:30:04

    that, Eric? Or I mean, that
  • Speaker 1
    0:30:06

    I think that’s for domestic consumption. I don’t believe you that he believes that. I think it’s for domestic consumption. But when he says, when he issues the nuclear threat and says, this is not a bluff. By the way, there is a Russian word for it, bluff.
  • Speaker 1
    0:30:19

    To me, that’s a tell. When you say, you know, I’m gonna do x and I’m not bluffing, it’s it suggests that really you are because if you weren’t, you wouldn’t have to say it. So I I do think that that there is an element you know, precisely of what you say in the Atlantic piece, which is they know this is a neurologic point. And I I thought it was best expressed today by I think it was Matt Harris of of the Royal United Services Institute. In an article in The Wall Street Journal in which he said, look, Putin absolutely understands that the use of nuclear weapons is a catastrophic cataclysm for Russia and for him personally.
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:07

    That being said, you know, we need to take all nuclear threats seriously, but we can’t be paralyzed every time somebody, you know, says, oh, we might use nuclear weapons. For what? To do what? I mean, I was asked by senator Angus King yesterday and the Senate Armed Services Committee this very question, what might Putin do? And my answer was, look, we don’t know because it’s all in Putin’s mind.
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:35

    How would they use a nuclear weapon he
  • Speaker 2
    0:31:37

    said? If
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:38

    you read Russian doctrine, nuclear weapons used, there’s a lot of talk about using it across us, you know, a kind of spectrum of of uses, including demonstration shots. So would they, you know, do a demonstration shot over the black sea or something, you know, high altitude air burst? That’s, I think, a possibility, you know, it would scare the crap out of everybody in Europe and the United States. It would, you know, fry electronics all through southern Ukraine and Turkey and the around the Black Sea basin, including in Russia, but, you know, never mind. Could they use a really low yield weapon you know, on a railroad junction, a key railroad junction in in Ukraine?
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:23

    Yes, I think they could. I mean, do they need to know because they can probably use a conventional munition against it. But I mean, that would be a target that you could imagine them using. Although, I did counsel people in the earring that, you know, this whole notion of tactical and strategic nuclear weapons, even very low yield weapons, I think is literally nonsense. And it’s really an artifact of arms control, what we could count, you know, from national technical means of of surveillance as opposed to anything that means anything.
  • Speaker 1
    0:33:00

    You know, I just described a, you know, the distinction between tactical and strategic nuclear weapons is the, you know, distance of the square root the square root of your distance from the weapon. So if you’re if you’re very far away, it’s tacked difficult. But if it happens to fall on you, it’s very strategic. Yeah. I think that’s that’s a good point.
  • Speaker 1
    0:33:23

    Just to tie this off, I mean, we can’t be paralyzed by this. We have to take it seriously. And just the final thing I would say is, it drives me crazy. When former officials or current US government officials hiding behind a cloak of anonymity in the press say, well, We don’t have to respond with a nuclear weapon. If they do that, we could use conventional means to do that.
  • Speaker 1
    0:33:49

    I have to say president Biden, I think, has it right. The message needs to be, don’t do it because you will change the character of warfare as the president said to Scott Kelly on sixty minutes on Sunday night, and rely on what Tom late Thomas shelling and Strategy of Conflict called the risk that leaves something to chance letting them know that if they do this, it’s gonna lead everybody down a road that nobody knows what they end up and it could end really badly for for them. You don’t have does that mean that I recommend that the president actually have a nuclear response if they do it? Not necessarily. But but we shouldn’t talk about not doing it because that frankly makes it more likely that he’ll do it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:32

    So you know, I I think maybe a topic for another session is, why do all these really smart people with degrees from Harvard and Yale Law School,
  • Speaker 1
    0:34:44

    make such something
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:45

    Make such, you know, really rudimentary mistakes. When you’re talking about dealing with this kind of regime where it it should be clear to an eleven year old that you You don’t tell them what what you’re afraid of. You don’t I mean, this is your dealing gets almost like dealing with a playground bully. You don’t tell them. You don’t tell the playground bully, what you’re really afraid of him doing to you.
  • Speaker 2
    0:35:09

    I mean, it’s just it’s very strange. I think if I could shift a little bit in the announcement, I was substance of it. So they’re gonna they say they’re gonna mobilize three hundred thousand dollars for service. Now, of course, first thing is important for our listeners to know that they don’t have a reserve system the way the United States or Finland or Israel does. And these are not people who have been in any kind of training or any kind of organized units.
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:36

    Not already. Any reserve.
  • Speaker 2
    0:35:37

    Yeah. It’s it’s people have gone through military service of some kind. And that’s that’s different. They probably don’t – they may not have the equipment for them. They will certainly don’t have the trained officers.
  • Speaker 2
    0:35:54

    They’re gonna farm this out to the regional governors so you could be quite sure that with people buying the way out of this, the all the planes out of Russia are booked. But but people created
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:07

    that stuff done. Did you did you see
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:09

    that? Oh, I saw that. That was where they pranked him. They called him, said we’re want you to report to the commissaries. I’ve got to fix this at a different level.
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:17

    Yeah. Right. But here’s the thing that I found interesting about this. The most obvious thing to do would be not to try to begin scarfing up. People have been were, you know, combat veteran were combat veterans twenty years ago.
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:31

    But to send conscripts, probably in some ways, better trained, younger. And he’s clearly not willing to do that. I mean, in fact, he explicitly says in the speech that they’re not gonna send conscripts. And I I find that fascinating because it it seems to me to indicate that they still he still is afraid of the popular reaction of the demonstrations in Saint Petersburg, and Moscow, and NovaSebirsk, and other big
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:01

    cities. A lot of politics.
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:04

    More than I expected. So on the one hand, he’s afraid of the popular reaction, and it’s clear that people may not have cared about this thing, but they don’t want their kid going — Yeah. — to go fight in this stupid war and get killed by the Ukrainians. So on the one hand, there’s that, on the other hand, there’s that body of opinion that’s represented by some of the people in the military blogging channels that you see on telegram or the above all the kind of the people who appear on the Russian sort of talk to you shows. They’re really a quite extraordinary collection of vampires and ghouls.
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:44

    And I don’t mean that in a complementary sense. You know who Is
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:49

    there a complementary sense of call someone a vampire. Oh, I don’t know.
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:55

    That’s a point to discuss later on, I suppose. But but, you know, that I mean, I’m sure they represent a real body of opinion. And some of it is, to be serious, it’s very chilling. You can follow some of this on Twitter. There’s wonderful reporter Julia Davis, who’s at the Daily Beast, who translates, you know, these characters.
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:18

    And you see the clips, they are preaching genocide. I mean, that’s the only word word you can you can properly use. And I have to think that they represent something in the system. Yeah. You know you know, I don’t think this is just them shooting their mouths off.
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:32

    So it does seem to be that there’s a chance that Putin’s getting squeezed. And then the final source of pressure that he’s he must be feeling is you know, Chinese are not really backing him up. Modi kind of rebukes in public. Erdogan says Crimea. That’s
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:47

    autonomy. That’s
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:48

    autonomy. That’s autonomy. Yep. I mean, not
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:52

    to mention the Azaris are using, you know, the weakness of, you know, Russian troops being pulled out of Armenia to restart the war in the Caucasus, the the Russian, quote, peacekeepers who were pulled out of Kyrgyzstan and Taqikistan, the Kyrgyzstan Dajik’s are going at it. The Kazakhs are, you know, hold I mean, he’s got a massive set of problems. Let me try a theory out about the mobilization on you. I have got my own views about this. So first of all, they lacked the infrastructure to actually have a full national mobilization.
  • Speaker 1
    0:39:26

    Because they used to have that in the Soviet era because as you well remember, Soviet divisions in those days were heavily under strength and would be, you know, have national mobilization in time of crisis or war where people would fall in and then be, you know, they would fall in on sets of equipment that existed for, you know, divisions that were essentially shelves. Right? They’ve dismantled all that in the 1990s. It was too expensive to maintain that. So they couldn’t even have a national mobilization.
  • Speaker 1
    0:39:59

    And you’re, of course, right. He’s very afraid of the societal blowback. Shawigoo, for instance, went went on television immediately afterwards, and clarified. Well, if you’re a student studying, we’re not gonna pull you out of your studies. You know?
  • Speaker 1
    0:40:12

    We’re only we’re only looking for people have, like, specific kinds of military experience from previous service, and we’re gonna make them, you know, go forward. Look, you and I have been talking for months on this podcast about the prospect that the Russian military might just collapse, that the army might just collapse in Ukraine. I think with this limited mobilization it’s all about, is trying to fill the gaps in the units that they have to keep them from crumbling between now and the winter. Because otherwise you might have a catastrophic collapse in failure. And I think that’s what this is all about.
  • Speaker 1
    0:40:53

    It’s a gap filling measure And as you say, it’s not gonna yield them any real because of the inability to train or provide equipment in any real real time and because they’re all gonna be demoralized. None of these people wanna go. I mean, the biggest Google search, you know, in Russia yesterday was how do I get out of Russia? And all the, you know, one way flights out of Russia were booked out. They’re now giving instructions to the airlines.
  • Speaker 1
    0:41:19

    Don’t book a ticket for anybody military age between eighteen and sixty five.
  • Speaker 2
    0:41:24

    I I heard that one of the other popular search terms was how do I break my arm at home?
  • Speaker 1
    0:41:32

    I bet there’s
  • Speaker 2
    0:41:34

    there’s a long tradition of that. I mean, you know, people used to shoot their big toe off.
  • Speaker 1
    0:41:38

    Right.
  • Speaker 2
    0:41:41

    I think it’s right. I guess just to amend it a little bit. I think part of this is because they tried to take over a country bigger than France with an initial invasion force of less than two hundred thousand. Right. So it’s way way too small.
  • Speaker 2
    0:41:55

    I think they also — they still have It’s a manpower heavy theory of war. They just haven’t resourced it. So one of the things Ukraine has said to us is the way they do reconnaissance is what we would call a movement to contact. You know? You just — Right.
  • Speaker 2
    0:42:10

    — send a whole bunch of infantrymen and you see which direction the fewest of them get killed and you try there. And then when you stop, you try somewhere else, but it’s not There isn’t a whole lot of military.
  • Speaker 1
    0:42:22

    It’s not reconnaissance by fire. It’s reconnaissance by cannon fodder.
  • Speaker 2
    0:42:26

    Yeah. Now I the outlook, I think the other thing is as those people come in, you’re right, they’ll be demoralized and they will quickly be infected with fear by the people who are already there. I mean, those kinds of dynamics, which you usually see at the end of World War, can be quite powerful. I believe in nineteen eighteen, fresh troops going to the front on the German side on the western front. Face crowd crowds of soldiers who are already there calling them scabs and strike breakers.
  • Speaker 2
    0:42:59

    You know, which can’t have been particularly encouraging for them. I think though I push it even further. They may think that this thing will stop during the winter. I’m not convinced that the Ukrainians will let them do that. And I also think that given what we know about corruption and its effect on the Russian supply system, I think you’re chances of having a reasonably warm Parker and, you know, mittens and stuff like that are probably higher on the Ukrainian side than on the Russian side.
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:34

    So I think you’re going to have a lot of quite miserable people. They’ll be having trench foot and stuff like that. And I I also finally think that the Ukrainians will continue to be a droid in how they chew these people up. I mean, the our friend, McRyan, retired Australian two star who ran their Australian defense college calls it a strategy of corrosion. Yep.
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:55

    Yep. And I think that’s very good way of describing it. So you’re right. It feels kind of desperate. It feels inadequate.
  • Speaker 2
    0:44:04

    And The result is a crisis. I mean, we don’t have a whole lot of time
  • Speaker 1
    0:44:08

    left.
  • Speaker 2
    0:44:09

    So let me ask you a question. Should it’s the old tell me how this ends. I mean, there is Putin. I was
  • Speaker 1
    0:44:17

    gonna answer that.
  • Speaker 2
    0:44:19

    Under under enormous pressure in the way that we’ve
  • Speaker 1
    0:44:22

    just
  • Speaker 2
    0:44:22

    scribed internally from different dimensions externally, war going very badly, not likely to go well a west that’s much more united than he ever could have suspected by the winter, you know, on current trends, it’ll look like Part of his theory of victory was that the Europeans would cave and they’re not caving. What happens to him and you know, where do we go from there?
  • Speaker 1
    0:44:50

    You know, I don’t have a crystal ball and can’t really tell you how it ends. I mean, I think it’s gonna be very difficult. He says now. I mean, it is interesting. He says he, you know, he is willing to negotiate.
  • Speaker 1
    0:45:01

    This is what he’s been saying now to to Xi and Modi. Others, we’re willing to negotiate. It’s the Ukrainians who, you know, who won’t know won’t negotiate, which is, I mean, it’s it’s another lie essentially. I mean, there’s a glimmer I mean, there’s a a small grain of truth in it in the sense that right now, Ukrainians don’t see a whole lot of incentive to negotiate, but we know from a recent AP report that Dmitry Koszak, who is one of Putin’s Chronies and Ukrainian born negotiated a deal with the Ukrainians before February twenty fourth in which the Ukrainians promised that they wouldn’t apply for NATO membership, and Putin blew it off. He didn’t he wasn’t interested, which tells you, by the way, how much this is about.
  • Speaker 1
    0:45:50

    NATO membership. This is this is about elimination of Ukraine. And as you were saying, the genocidal eliminationist rhetoric that you see on Russia today and and and channel one are, you know, symptomatic of what’s behind all this, that’s what’s really behind all this. Look, I think he could be replaced at some point. You know, he there was a lot of discussion on Russian TV last week after the Ukrainian breakthroughs in Lugans, you know, for heads on Putin’s desk, you know, someone has to pay for this if only the czar knew, you know.
  • Speaker 1
    0:46:27

    Of course, this was the czar’s doing, but, you know, if if Shueguu or Gorrasima for some others, are being gonna be made scapegoats for this. They may decide they may not wanna peacefully go off and be scapegoats. My fear is if he’s replaced, it’ll be replaced by somebody who’s even, you know, worse or no better. But probably someone who may not be able to keep all the balls in the air of this, you know, kind of corrupt kleptocratic system, Putin’s real genius is not as a strategist. It’s as someone who can make this corrupt system work and keep going.
  • Speaker 1
    0:47:05

    That’s Israel Genius. The other possibility that we’ve discussed repeatedly on shielded Republic that the Russian military just crumbles and goes away. You know, Putin may try and have you know, these rump, referendum, and then say that’s Russia and Boston, let’s negotiate now. I mean, that’s a possibility you might get enough pressure from the Europeans and others. Maybe even some inside this administration who would like to see this end.
  • Speaker 1
    0:47:34

    Who who might put, you know, push the Ukrainians to do that. I mean, you argue very strongly against that in your Atlantic piece, and I agree with you, it would be foolish you know, to do this. But I could imagine it happening over time, particularly if we get into the winter and, you know, gas prices are going up. And you know, there’s a lot more inflation, etcetera. So it could be any one of those.
  • Speaker 1
    0:47:58

    I I I just don’t know which way it’ll go.
  • Speaker 2
    0:48:01

    You know, my last thought is there could just be chaos for a while where you have different governments coming and going and a lot of forces tearing at it. I do think though the thing we won’t be able to get away from is we’re going to be – have to be kind of on our guard against a revongist Russia for decades to come. And that really is gonna require some very serious strategic rethinking on our part, which maybe should be the subject of another podcast down the road, particularly once we have the new national defense strategy to dissect.
  • Speaker 1
    0:48:37

    Happy to dig into that with you. I would leave leave everybody with one final thought. There’s one thing that was very striking in the speech by Putin. He says their objective is not just to can, you know, contain and defeat Russia and limit its sovereignty. It’s to break Russia up into continue into you know, a bunch of different smaller states that will be you know, at war with one another forever, you know, because of their different ethnic, you know, linguistic, you know, composition.
  • Speaker 1
    0:49:12

    I mean, what hundreds of nationalities and languages in Russia you know, it’s not a natural nation state. I don’t rule out that if you know, you get this kind of chaotic situation at the top that you were discussing in Russia that the whole thing does, you know, fall apart and break up. And and it’s happened before in Russian history a couple of times. It certainly has. Well, on that cheery note, we started on a high happy note, but inevitably, we get back to, you know, to something even less cheery, and that will call it a day for shield of the Republic today.
  • Speaker 1
    0:49:54

    But Elliott, thank you for sharing. Your firsthand impressions just back from if not the front at at least if not the line of contact at least the, you know, the theater. So we’re
  • Speaker 2
    0:50:08

    still at Well well, thank you, and I’ll I’ll just say we We default to our usual dark view of human nature and the prospects for international affairs. And I’m sure it’s what our listeners back to us. See you see you next time.