Plain English with Derek Thompson - Five Reasons Putin’s War Was Doomed From the Start


Today we’re going to talk about Vladimir Putin’s failure in Ukraine so far and how Ukraine’s military has shocked the world in the first three weeks of this war.

Now make no mistake.

Russia poses, an extraordinary threat to all ukrainians, but Putin had a plan to seize Ukraine’s.


Capital Kiev in the first two days of Russia’s Invasion.

He’s clearly failed.

Russia had a plan on paper to quickly conquer Ukraine.

Easily incorporated into an expanding Russian Empire.

That’s not happening.

Putin thought he could roll his tanks down, Ukrainian roads, and the people of Ukraine would essentially give up Roll over.


Let it happen.


So to break down five key reasons why Ukraine has held up.

So well against Russia.

I asked the military experts to help me make it all simple.

My first guest is robley a leading expert in Russian military.

Affairs at the foreign policy, Research Institute and Max Bergman a senior fellow at the center for American progress.


Now, before we start, I want to provide a quick overview of where this war stands right now.

Russia is intensifying its aerial Alt on Ukraine and its capital demolishing.

The city of kharkiv in the Northeast and firing missiles into the capital of Kiev.


Which Putin is still trying to Siege.

Russian forces are advancing relatively quickly in the South as well.

And they responded to early setbacks by engaging in the horrifying bombing of residential areas, knocking out homes stores and hospitals, but it is all coming at a terrible price for Russia as well.


According to us estimates.

Ten percent of Russia’s military assets have been destroyed lost or abandoned that is an astonishing number.

According to us estimates up to 4,000 or 5,000.

Russian service members are now dead including several major.



That means in two weeks.

Russia has lost almost as many people as the US military lost in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.

There are now.

Widespread reports of morale problems in the Russian military coordination.

In problems and communication problems.


Ukraine has shocked the world.

It is putting up a fight.


Nobody expected.

Not Putin.

Certainly, but also not even American Military experts.

Russia’s military is not just a little bit bigger than Ukraine.

It has three times more armored vehicles, four times more Ground Forces, five times more tanks and ten times more aircraft.


But for now David is still holding up against Goliath.

The rest of this episode is about why I’m Derrick Thompson.

This is plain English.


There are five reasons why the Ukrainian Army has shocked Russia and the world so far five key reasons.

Why Putin’s War has gotten bogged down so quickly.

The first, according to military analyst, Rob Lee is that Putin’s initial goal in this war was catastrophically, misguided.


Basically, the political goals.

They are trying to achieve.

We’re just very difficult to achieve through military force.

This is a topic we’ve touched on.

Before, in this podcast, Putin’s initial goal was to invade and conquer. 2nx all of Ukraine to use Ukraine, as the first stepping stone in a new project to build a new Russian Empire.


But to do that, you kind of need Ukraine to want to be a part of the new Russian Empire and Ukraine definitely doesn’t want that.

So I just a very big, very fundamental point is just basically if you invade a country in the people don’t want you to be there right on, I pop or level.


There’s really not that much you can do well unless you unless you want to know if you want to exterminate people People who want to move them out of their forcibly, don’t think Russia is, you know, overall goals do that.

But ultimately Ukraine’s.

It’s queer.

Even in the kind of russian-speaking here is right, even the South with these cities have taken, and her son and lootable and others.


We’re seeing huge protests, and, you know, very quickly, and we’re seeing sustained protest, right?

Daily basis.

The crew.

Lots of people users who don’t wanna be part of Russia, the Russian speaking and they say, you know, the we don’t want this and ultimately doesn’t ski.

He’s not giving he’s not backing down.

He’s not giving in it.


Me Ukraine’s, route around that.

And so as long as that’s the case, right, his wrongs the will to fight is with Ukraine.

It makes it very difficult for us because crew.

They were hoping that either.

There would be no resistance that you created cranes.

Military was so ineffective.

They can move the key very quickly.

And also I think I think they underestimated zielinski thought he’d probably surrender quickly.


He wouldn’t be able to you know stand up against this and that Ukraine’s you know would be if not welcoming Russian invasion.

It wouldn’t be this way that resisting that much.

So, reason number 1 for y this War is gone.

Awry is that the overall strategy was hopeless from the start Putin, aim to conquer a country that would roll over for him.


Led by a comedian president.

He thought would run and hide and instead, Putin got the fight of his life.

That leads to the second reason why Russia has struggled more than anticipated and unrealistic political objective led to an early strategy failure.


The way they started towards a very kind of odd way.

I expected are going to use a lot of force right away.

A lot of fires more until removal, always kind of stuff, and they’re going to focus on, maximally defeating the Ukrainian military the first day or two, right?

And they have the capability to do this and muscular basis, they did, but they didn’t do that versus a very restrained initially that the Air Force jurors found initially.


Typically, Rob, says, he’d expect a war like this to begin very, very differently.

Russia would Blitz Ukraine.

Use missiles to knock out its air defense systems in the 2020 war between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

He told me Azerbaijan knocked out about half of armenia’s air defense and Air Force not in the first four days, but in the first 40 minutes, that’s not happening here instead, the, it’s a, it deliberately didn’t, he’s much more spot.


What was the purpose of not trying to kill to me, Ukraine’s.

So you can have some kind of long-term political solution that be easier Chief and that was obviously based on very unrealistic optimistic goals of what would happen.

The amount of resistance they face.

They didn’t think they needed this several years ago.


Putin took Crimea Peninsula and the south of Ukraine basically without a fight.

He apparently thought he could do the same thing here.

So initially, he held back his missiles and sent the ground troops instead as if they could just roll through the country.

Rewrite into the capital city.


Oh poor.

Who chooses the first day or two?

The in the focus was we’re going to get to keep as fast as possible.

We have a optimistic view of the emitter resistance re going to face and so instead of killing to me Ukraine civilians or soldiers.

I think that was one weird things that they deliberately tried to not and Futuna cows of Ukrainian military because I think they wanted to take someone’s key, have him surrender the country and they thought it would be more effective.


Be easier to achieve a long-term political solution, right?

Maybe we should.

You change or somebody else?

If you didn’t kill that many ukrainians then if you get this strategy is changing now.

Russian missiles are falling on civilians neighborhoods and hospitals.

Putin is Shifting as one past guest of this podcast said, from the Crimea model, roll into town, without objection and just take over the place toward the chechnya model, bombed, the local population into submission.


But why did Russia had such a disastrous initial strategy?

Anyway, this leads us to Rob’s third Point Russian military leaders, apparently convinced themselves that much of Ukraine actually wanted to be conquered.


They got drunk on their own disinformation.

They still wouldn’t expect you’d see Lars a civilian taking up arms.

They still want to expect these cities would kind of keep barricade themselves prepared to kind of fight block by block.

And I think they saw an expected is olinsky, would basically say I’m gonna stay here.


I’m not leaving.

You have to come and kill me to end this war, right?

At least way of signaling.

I don’t think there’s any way that the Russian expected that maybe that’s them kind of buying into their own kind of propaganda about this.

Maybe it’s the total Services, you know, making mistakes failing or make this is President Putin, you know, he’s secluded in his own kind of kind of bubble.


You know, how much is he?

How much room for fish?

Is he getting is the only kind of taking information that confirms his bye.


It’s hard to say but ultimately that underpins the problem for Russia.

Where is in this kind of War, as long as ukrainians resist, right is no way Russia.

Can we achieve a satisfactory into this this war?


That’s because you can’t occupy a country that doesn’t want to be occupied unless you’re prepared to engage in permanent Urban Warfare against the local population.

And that’s the road Russia seems to be on even in cities that have technically fall into the Russian military.

We’re seeing Street protests.


Every day, that’s why more people are saying Putin has no path to Victory here, only off-ramps to bad outcomes.

Terrible outcomes in catastrophic ones to review.

We’ve named three reasons.

Why Putin’s War has failed so far first, the original political objective was incredibly unrealistic second that led to a failed, initial strategy, and third, both the political objective, and the initial strategy were fed by an Formation failure.


A disinformation failure, the blowback of propaganda, Putin thought, ukrainians would give up.

And instead they’re killing thousands of his troops every week.

The fourth key.

Rob says, he’s a shocking lack of discipline and planning among the Russian troops, which strongly suggests that until about two weeks ago.


Most of this military had no idea.

They were invading.

Ukraine one is It’s pretty clear.

A lot of people didn’t know exactly what aware of is, what was going to happen of new.

A surprise.

Morale is a problem.

It also appears that I think you’ll see even higher ranking, little guys.


It doesn’t seem as though.

The planning was doing that.

Well, so if you know you’re going to war, right?

You’re going to take steps to make sure you ready if it’s a training exercise, right?

You might just, you know, pencil it in and do whatever and not be that ready.

And so it’s pretty clear that not just use holder still.

That’s an effect them around, guys.


Give it up.

But, even high-ranking guys that the court their coordination issues, that should have been done by, you know staff officers, right, that crew wasn’t done either and that’s another effective just different units are kind of fighting their War not clear.

It’s a really cohesive kind of fight.

If you’re military doesn’t know what’s going on from the junior soldiers to the generals.


It probably means they’re not fighting in a very coherent way.

And lo and behold, Russia’s military is not fighting in a very coherent way.

One of the big problems we’ve seen in this is the The first week or so, as a really kind of disjointed effort where they were, they weren’t fighting a joint manner.


It was a very well combined arms units were kind of doing their own things.

It didn’t appear as though that they were thinking, you know, Basics, security precaution.

So, when a battalion, you moves, you have an advance guard, right?

So you can’t the entire Battalion, get, you know, any English together.

They want us to be doing that.


You had kind of small elements, moving on their own Supply.

Convoys were not prepared for an environment where they might have an uncertainty kind of happening right there.

It’s completely not ready for that.

And so, you know, Russian achieve surprise, not that effective against Ukraine, but instead against their own soldiers, who who didn’t know this was happening.


One Way, Rob Lee sees this ongoing disorganization is in the mass deployment of tank units.

The user deployed.

They deployed a lot of tank units more than they needed to do.

So and so thank you guys are great for fighting other enemy armor, but they’re very heavy in terms of Logistics, Fuel spare parts, all that kind of support size.



And so we’ve seen a lot of, you know, Russian or Vehicles tanks abandoned outside.

The roads could be because they weren’t, you know, prepared diligently, logistical support them.

Poor planning leads to abandon equipment.

Abandoned equipment leads to frustrated, soldiers and frustration leads to fading morale.


So, this is our fourth explanation for Russia’s surprisingly poor performance by playing things close to the vest Putin might have thought he was hoodwinking, Ukraine tricking, Ukraine.

But he wound up confusing his own troops instead.


The fifth Factor isn’t about Russia.

It’s about America.

We have spent a billion dollars in the past.

Year alone on surging tangible, practical usable small arms and other Munitions that are getting directly to the Ukrainian forces.


That’s Max Bergman.

He’s a senior fellow at the center for American progress where he studies Europe, Russia and security Affairs.

This is going to provide lots of Javelin missiles that are Weapons.

It’s going to ride anti-air Weaponry for when helicopters and planes are flying low to the ground.


But then also just things like body armor and meals ready to eat.

So that soldiers have calories and can fight these sort of basic things that are very practical, which are Urgent in any sort of military conflict are the things that we are right now.

Bending backwards to get to to Ukraine.


Eight years ago in 2014 Max was serving in the state department under Obama.

When there was a revolution in Ukraine that Revolution sparked, Russia’s invasion of Crimea in southern Ukraine, America.

Felt like it had to respond.

So, in 2014 when Russia invaded Ukraine, we have to remember the u.s.


Basically had no security relationship with with ukrainians.

He was like two million dollars a year for a peacekeeping and the Ukrainian military was basically this old Soviet military just sort of branched off.

So they had to rely on Russian cell phones, for instance, on the front lines to Coordinate their movements, which meant that the Russian forces that they were up against in 2014 can pinpoint where they were and then fire artillery and Destroy Ukrainian positions.


So over the past eight years, the US has stepped up in support of the Ukrainian military.

Every year.

We’ve sent hundreds of millions of dollars to Ukraine and arms and resources, which is beefed up.

The Ukrainian military and that’s what we’re seeing.

Now is a force that is far different than what Vladimir Putin faced when he when he fought Ukraine in 2014. 2015, when he said in Russian tanks, this is a different military in one that has been very focused on what the fight.


It was going to be at hand fighting Russia and got eight years of US Military Support in terms of training.

And then in terms of equipment, it sounds to me like Putin thought he was invading the Ukraine of 2014, but then he invaded the Ukraine that had in the last seven, eight years received more than a billion dollars worth of military equipment, more than a billion.


Dollars worth of resources from the United States military and he was surprised with by the resistance that he faced.

Do you think that’s a major element of ukrainians?

Quote-unquote, surprising success in these early weeks.

Look, I think it has to be seen as a significant factor in.


Why Russia has stumbled here?

That this is just a different military and part of the reason that it’s a different military is through the support that the United States and others have provided Ukraine over the last eight years.

In working with Ukraine to reform, its military the training that’s been provided and then the the basic systems to how to control a new forces.


There’s that was a lot of focus of initial us efforts to give Ukraine situation situational awareness of a battlefield, and now we’re surging in weapons that are really giving Ukraine, the ability to engage to engage Russian, forces with with Advanced Weaponry that this isn’t there.


Not you.

The kind of soviet-era RPGs, they’re using Javelin missiles and laws, which are another European form of the same thing.

And that is that are proving themselves on the battlefield as being incredibly impactful.

So, there it is.

You our five-part explanation for Ukraine shocking performance.


So far in this war one, Putin’s piss-poor, political objective to his failed initial, Salvo three awful early information for the discombobulation of the Russian military.

And Five.

This eight-year story of the US reinforcing the Ukrainian military, but there’s one last thing I want to shout out and it might be the single most important factor of all.


It’s The Bravery of ukrainians.

When we look at the effectiveness of your security system has, you know, it has to start with ukrainians and have their bravery and their willingness to stand on the battlefield to risk their lives to stand up for their country.

And that’s the X Factor that no one knew before the war.


Whether that would be there in five or Putin clearly underestimated.

And I think no one could actually predict whether that was going to pan out, but but do ukrainians have stood and fought.

They’ve student fought with Incredible bravery and that’s making the United States over the last eight years.


Look, good for what it’s done, in providing security assistance to them.

So I think it basically in some ways it starts and ends with The Bravery of the Ukraine.

On this last Point, Rob Lee agrees, ukrainians are showing that they’re willing to fight that they’re willing to you know, they’re not willing to have their sovereignty infringed more around together.


You know, one of the overall arguments from Putin is that ukrainians in rural country, right?

It’s this kind of this, artificial construct.

Well, Ukrainian certainly don’t believe that because they’re fighting and dying for this construct.

They think is, you know, something serious as worth.

We do give them life for.

So, the really, I mean, like, Then what the big takeaways is war is that Ukraine has demonstrated a remarkable resilience in a remarkably to fight and adaptivity and creativity.


All those things extremely impressive and you know, it’s it that is why.

Again, the reason Russia is not winning this war is because ukrainians don’t want them to.

And that’s the overall reason that’s why it’s going to be hard for us to actually achieve anything long-term.

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