Plain English with Derek Thompson - How Ukraine Wins

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Joanna, do you ever wish you could definitively prove that you have the right pinions about movies?

Yeah, Neil because I do have the right opinions about movies and television, right.


No, because I’m more worried about those things and I demand a trial by content.

Well, boy, what is trial by content each week will take on a huge question.


Each of us will bring a choice in combined with listener submissions and your votes.

We will come to a decision.

It’s trial by content every Tuesday on Spotify, the, wherever you’re listening right now, don’t let me win.

Don’t let Dave win.

Today’s episode is about how Ukraine wins, no big wind-up from me.



Today’s guest is Anne Applebaum.

And is the best-selling author of several books about Ukraine Russia and authoritarianism.

She is the author of several cover stories for the Atlantic magazine about Russia and authoritarianism and was on the show last winter, where she told us that we should be careful about the rising threat from authoritarians like Putin.


Against democracies, not even two months later, Vladimir Putin, waged all-out war against the Democratic neighbor.

So I would say that’s a pretty prescient call that serves as fantastic evidence that an is someone to pay very close attention to.


And to take very, very seriously when it comes to the psychological origins of this war, the off ramps from this war and the prospects for Ukraine, actually, winning this war.

In this interview and answers pretty much every outstanding question that I have about this conflict.


Why did Putin invade?

Why is Ukraine fighting?

So surprisingly hard and so surprisingly, well, what is it?

That makes solinsky so special, not only to his countrymen but also to the world and how could Ukraine actually pull off an upset Victory here?

I’m Derek Thompson.


This is plain English.


Anne Applebaum, welcome back to the podcast.

Thanks for having me.

I want to talk about this war.

But first, I want to talk about history and psychology, specifically, the history of Ukraine and the psychology of Russian imperialism.

You are the author of the book read famine about the period of time in the early. 1930s when nearly 4 million or more than 4 million.


Indians died of starvation, having been deliberately deprived of food by Stalin and the Soviet Communist party.

I was wondering, if you could tell us a little bit about what we ought to know about this period of History, the Ukrainian famine, and how that history, might shape our present understanding of this crisis.


So, thank you.

It’s a great question.

If you want an explanation for why the ukrainians are fighting as hard as they are.

And also, if you want an explanation for why, Why Putin is so bothered and irritated by Ukraine.

The history of the feminine helps to explain it.


It’s a story that actually goes pretty deep back into history.

The Russian the Russian feeling that Ukraine was a part of was a natural part of Russia that it was a kind of, you know, a peasant colony of Russia, but really it, this this feeling that Ukraine should be loyal to Russia and then if it’s not loyal to Russia, that’s a problem.


Um, does begin to Peak in Russia in the the time of the Revolution and just afterwards at that time.

Ukraine did try to create a separate state in 1918.

They failed.

They were defeated by the Red Army, but nevertheless, they became a kind of Republic within the Soviet Union Stalin was.


However, so bothered by the strength of the Ukrainian resistance to the Bolsheviks and then later by the Ukrainian rebellions at the time when he was, he was Soviet eyes.

Using the country when he was collectivizing agriculture that he began to fear the ukrainians and there’s some memos, he writes in the early 1930s where he says, you know, we have to do something about Ukraine and Ukraine is a problem for us.


And that’s a little bit the way that Putin sees Ukraine, Putin sees, you know, sees this language of democracy that the ukrainians use and the adoption of democratic systems and the rule of law and the desire to be part of Europe, whether it’s the European Union or NATO or any other European institutions, he That is a personal threat to him.


That that’s his, they’re challenging, the Russian autocracy and in particular his power.

And so he sees Ukraine as a challenge to him.

And of course, Stalin’s reaction to that was the this orchestrated artificial famine, in which almost 4 million people died.


Every Ukrainian knows the story of the famine.

They all know how it happened.

They all know that it was because of an occupation, you know, from Moscow.

It wasn’t a Russian occupation.

It was a Soviet occupation, but it’s still, it’s remembered as you know, one of the worst periods in Ukrainian history.


So if you want to understand why our ukrainians fighting so hard, why are they resisting Russian occupation?

That’s why I mean they are they are afraid of that genocidal language that Putin is using where he talks about Ukraine not being a country.

It doesn’t deserve to exist it.


You know, it doesn’t.

It doesn’t it’s a fiction all of that.

Sounds echoes in their heads and it To them like the past, you know, they’ve heard they’ve had they’ve had leaders in Moscow, try to wipe them out as a nation before and so that is that’s it’s a big part of the background to this war moving from the 1930s to the 2020s.


What is it that Putin wants today?

And how do you think the West misunderstands what Putin wants?

I mean, I don’t think what Putin wants is that hard to understand.

I mean, Putin wants to remain in power forever.

He wants there to be no challenge to him from from any Democratic activists in Russia or Democratic activists.


In Ukraine, from the Russians could imitate and he wants Ukraine to be a part of Russia, you know, he wants to he wants to reunite Russia Belarus and Ukraine under some joint, you know some you know in some joint project and he wants once again for Russia to play the role that he thinks Russia should play as one of the dominant.


European powers with an ability to affect politics in Europe.

Remember that he spent his younger years as a KGB officer and Dresden in East Germany, and so he remembers when the Soviet Union was the occupying power in Eastern Germany, and he and the fall of that power and the end of that power, was this great trauma for him as a as a young KGB officer.


He’s written about that in spoken about that before.

And so he is, he’s looking to recreate Some version of the Soviet Union with himself as the kleptocrats as the autocrat in charge and not only that I should say he’s been saying this and he’s been telling us this for a decade.


He’s been organizing his Society, you know, to prepare for war.

He has been arming his soldiers.

He has been buying and developing new weapons.

He has been preparing the propaganda.

He has been he And you know told us over and over again that this is what he wants to do.


Our problem was that we didn’t want to hear it.

We wanted Russia to be our trading partner.

We wanted them to be part of the International Community.

We wanted them to be, you know, selling us oil and gas.

We wanted them to be taking part in the G20.

We wanted them to be, you know, an ordinary post-war power.


They did not want to be that they wanted something bigger.

They wanted a bigger role or they.

I shouldn’t say they, I should say.

Say Putin and the people around him.

I’m not sure.

It’s true of every Russian.

I want to read you.

A quote that I think very nicely dovetails with, with how you describe Putin’s motivations and the ways in which the West might have misunderstood them.


It’s a quote from Timothy Snyder who is also a writer on Ukraine and Russia and the Ezra Klein show.

He said, quote in the case of mr.


He doesn’t care about the things.

We think people ought to care about.

He doesn’t care about the Russian economy.

I don’t think he even care.


About Russian interests, but he does care about other things.

And he’s been very clear about those things.

He cares about how he’s going to be remembered after.

He’s dead.

He cares about an image of an eternal Russia.

He cares about these things which are out of our normal field of view, but that doesn’t mean that doesn’t make them either rational or irrational.


It just means they are different values.

And quote.

I find this idea Illuminating very much in line with With what you’ve said, but also troubling because many of our attempts to punish Putin so far have focused on things that by this account.


He doesn’t care as much about it in terms of are trying to punish his economy are trying to punish the ruble.

It’s as if you’re trying to get a bully to stop attacking you and you say, well, I’ll tell the teachers and get you expelled from school and the bullies like so what?

I don’t even like school, like obviously the non metaphor World, our sanctions are also targeting his capacity to finance the war, but I wonder whether you think Our profound misunderstanding of Putin is a major element in in how we ended up here?



I do think it’s a major element in particular.

You’re right to focus on the economy, you know, for the last several decades, we have assumed that the purpose of politics is prosperity that we and we elect or don’t elect political leaders based on whether their economic ideas are better.


And most of our arguments.

I would say up until even up until the 2016 election were about.

Out, you know, the size of the state and the, you know, health care and Welfare.

And is it good?

Or is it bad?

And that was that, that was the stuff of not just American, but really most European election campaigns starting about five years ago.


We began to see different kinds of campaigns in which different issues were present that were that in, you know, in which we realize that there’s another sphere of human values that people care enough about and one of them was nationalism tribalism.

Some and in the case of Putin, an idea about Russian greatness or about personal greatness that mattered to him more than the prosperity of Russia.


So you’re exactly right.

That this is not a Putin is not, his concern is not the prosperity of ordinary Russians, which is, which was the concern as I say, of most of our politicians, you know, for the last several decades.

So so, so, yes, that is true.


I mean, the the sanctions is I understand them are intended to do several things, one.

You’re right.

They’re intended to harm the Russian economy.

And in that they will probably fail.

They won’t, they won’t matter to their intended to bother particular, powerful people.


So particular oligarchs.

I’m not sure in that sense.

I’m not sure they’ve gone far enough.

I think there are, you know, there you’re making a list of the top ten thousand Russians and denying them visas to any European country or all of them are North.


Can we be more effective than targeting?

You know, I don’t know, Abramovich, or, or one of the others.

I think they could go farther in, in naming it identifying and targeting the Russians to be punished.

But or to be to be banned anyway, from from, from travel.


And that might make more difference than seizing people’s Yachts, very satisfying to seize people’s the odds, but it’s not, I don’t know how effective it is.

So that’s the second thing.

The third thing, possibly more interesting is that the sanctions are also intended to to make it very difficult for Putin to keep fighting this war.


And here, I think the, the, the Central Bank sanctions which have blocked him from getting his foreign reserves are quite important.

And I am told that some of the some of the export and trade sanctions will very make it very difficult for him to continue manufacturing weapons.


So, and so that is the only problem with those is that those are long term, you know, that won’t hit, you know, those So there’s kind of sick little it’ll be a big problem for him in 3 months if he wants to build more tanks and they are immediate enough.


I mean the one sanctions that could begin to have some more immediate effect were would be those on oil and gas and coal.

I mean if we if we were not paying for their oil gas and coal than they would have no hard currency.

And of course, there’s an enormous price that Europe would have to pay for that in particular, but I’m hoping we might be getting close to that.


Let’s get to talking about where, exactly, we stand in this.

Swore Russia is clearly made progress in its attempt to conquer Ukraine and move toward Kiev.

It has made inroads from the south, the East.

It’s captured several cities, especially in the South and the East.

But there are now reports that it’s Advanced has basically stalled especially around the Capitol.


And there are even some rumors of retreat in some places.

So I wonder an who you think is winning this war right now.

Given what the Russian goals were and we know what they were the goal was to take care of in three or four days and then to advance through the country in four to six weeks, including Western, Ukraine all the way to the Polish border given that those were the war aims.


The war is going very badly and ukrainians are winning.

They have prevented The Assault on the capital, even the cities that the Russians have captured or destroyed.

They don’t fully control in the sense that they have.

Not created successful military regimes.


I mean, there’s some places that we don’t know much about because they’re cut off now, but none of the larger cities are under full Russian control.

Not marry.

I’ll pull not harkov not, not hair song.

So, so they have not succeeded in doing really any of the basic things.

They said they would do.


So in that sense.

Yes, the ukrainians are winning.

Ukrainians have taken an extraordinary number of you know, the sorry they’ve caused an extraordinary number of Russian casualties.

Is very high, given the length of the war, they have destroyed an enormous amount of Russian equipment.


I mean, the numbers are hard to their Ukrainian numbers, and u.s.

Numbers, and Russian numbers are also different.

I wouldn’t want to give one right now, but it’s much higher than anybody expected.

And so in the sense of having control of the situation and having having momentum, I think the ukrainians are right now winning.


Yeah, it’s really remarkable.

There was recently as you probably saw a leaked report.

Art on Pravda on a Russian propaganda site, that indicated that Russia has already lost about 10,000 soldiers in this war, which is basically only lasted as of today.

A month that is already two-thirds of the entire number of Russian casualties in the whole soviet-afghan War, which was a 10-year occupation or a ten-year conflict that ultimately resulted of course in the Soviets pulling out.


So as you said it is it’s remarkable the degree to which Russia seems to be losing so many.

People and so much equipment as well.

Do you have a strongly held theory about why Russia’s initial thrust was so catastrophic?


Like if Putin had been planning this war for years and if the people around Putin had been planning this war for years, why was their theory of the first chapter of this Invasion?

So, exploded in, in, in the first few weeks?


I think there are two reasons that are most important.

Number one, Putin knew nothing about Ukraine.

He has not been to Ukraine.

He knows no ukrainians.

He’s surrounded by people.

I mean, this is almost it’s almost a Shakespearean, you know, or a kind of biblical situation.


I mean, he really is an isolated aging dictator surrounded by yes men.

And when he said Ukraine is a fake country and they won’t fight back because it’s there’s nothing to fight for everybody around him nodded and said yes, mr.

President and nobody told him.


Ukraine is a real country that ukrainians, remember their history and their 20th century history that they don’t want to be occupied that they, they feel genuinely strongly about their democracy and about their prospects for being part of Europe.

And they will not allow this to happen and he didn’t have anyone telling him that and I think that’s a it’s a classic story of somebody who didn’t have the right information because he wasn’t didn’t read the right things and wasn’t surrounded by people who are telling him the truth.


That’s one reason, people who know the Russian military situation.

Well, also tell me that a big part of the story is corruption.

So Russian de leaders of the Russian military were stealing.

So they’d rather than paying their troops.


They were they were offering fictitious numbers of people who are in the field.

It was pretty clear of right in the first days of the war that these were not, the people who are being sent across the border, were not hardened, veterans, or not, all of them were.

They were instead conscript, some of whom didn’t know where they were going or what they were fighting for.


And that’s an indication that the the, you know, the troop numbers that Putin thought he had were fake.

So somebody was giving him false numbers that, you know, we have 150,000 troops.

Well, no, you have 100,000 plus, 50 conscripts who have never fought in anything and don’t know why they’re there.


I mean, I’m making up those numbers.

I don’t know that there’s an exact proportions, but but he was, he was lied to I think by his general staff.

And he was lied to by the, by the, by the, by the defense bureaucracy.

And I think that is because they were making money on the side.


Yeah, so he’s it seems like he was basically surrounded by a sea of disinformation his own disinformation and the disinformation of his military advisors.

It was like it was all Yes Man.

And con men.

I think it’s really remarkable the degree to which you know, if you look at these pictures on Twitter of Putin, sitting at these 20 foot long tables or 20 yard long tables where he’s, you know, he’s miles away from his nearest advisors and he’s They really bizarre rooms.


It’s a fantastic metaphor for his psychological situation for his political situation.

He is entirely isolated.

There was no one close to him.

There’s no one to tell him.

This is the truth.

You are wrong about Ukraine, you’re wildly optimistic about the number of days.


It’s going to take for us to besiege or even get to the Ukrainian capital.

I think it’s amazing that like, even for someone who’s sort of a casual Observer of photos of Putin situation.

They are looking at a kind of Perfect metaphor of his intellectual climate.

I wanted to ask you about the, the other protagonist of this war, which is zalenski.


I wonder what you think is his most important contribution so far, you know, people talk about his media Savvy.

His, his bravery simply to remain in kyiv.

The substance of his appeals to the West invoking in a World War Two, the long war against authoritarianism.


What do you see?

As the most important contribution of zalenski?

So far in this war?

Most important contribution of his olinsky and this is he may or may not understand.

This is that he ends our cultural war.


In other words.

We’ve had a culture war in the, in the west, and particularly, in the US.

But also in many European countries for the last decade between sort of liberal open Society on the one hand democracy, you know, and kind of, you know, muscular nationalism on the other hand as if, as if those are too.


Two things that can’t exist within the same society.

And so now we have zielinski who is a muscular nationalist patriotic defender of the liberal open Society.

He is a russian-speaking, Jewish leader of a bilingual country.


He is, he is perfectly able to make the same kind of appeal to the Israeli knesset, as to the German bundestag, as to the American Congress, as to the British House of Commons by appealing to all of their liberal values.

Use and that is made him wildly popular.


The you know, the idea that someone is willing personally willing to die for democracy for a political system that a lot of us take for granted and don’t invest in as we should and don’t respect his.

We should I think has really moved people and it and it works both because he’s good at TV.


Remember most of the people who work for him including his chief of staff whom I’ve met or television producers.

So before he was president, he was a, he was a comedian, but he also ran this very popular and successful television production company and so he is surrounded by people who understand that very well, but that’s not the only reason it works.


It also works because it’s authentic.

So it works because he really is brave and he really is staying there, and his family is there and he he, you know, when he speaks he speaks with authority because it’s true.

And so, so I think He’s very uniquely able to appeal to a very broad spectrum of Western public opinion.


That’s really just need to say that one of the best ways to do is explain to me.

Is that a someone I saw was responding to the accusation that solinsky is essentially running a reality show and they said yes, it is a reality show and the reality is that he is in kyiv.

That is the reality that matters.


And so have being surrounded by this Phalanx of TV producers who you know, understand audiences and understand messaging and And appeals.

That’s all very important.

But what’s most important in this show is the reality, he’s not leaving.

He’s telling people he’s not leaving and he’s making appeals to the global case for liberalism from an office from a, a capital that is, that is under siege.


I think that’s a pretty important thing.

You, I want to talk about your most recent article in the Atlantic, which is run under the headline.

Ukraine must win.

You write quote.

The goal should not be a truce.

Or a model or a decision to maintain some kind of Ukrainian resistance over the next decade or a vow to quote, bleed, Russia, dry, or anything else that will prolong the fighting and the instability.


The goal should be a Ukrainian Victory and quote.

And what does Ukrainian Victory look like to?

You, Ukrainian Victory is not hard to imagine, Ukrainian victory means Ukraine, remains a sovereign democracy.


It gets to choose its own government.

Aunt zielinski for now, but at the next elections it might be someone else.

It means that it gets to have its own foreign policy and it gets to decide to be part of Europe.

If it wants to be part of Europe around the edges, there might be some conversation.


There might be border changes.

There might be promises that ukrainians make, but that’s up to the ukrainians.

You know, there might be, there could be some deal that ends the war if they want to make that deal.

That’s, that’s their, that’s their decision.

In the last few weeks.


I feel like there’s been a slow creeping realization that Russia isn’t just failing, its initial objective, but that Ukraine might actually win this war in a meaningful way.

Why did you think it was important to call for outright Ukrainian Victory here?


Mainly, I wrote that article because I felt like in Washington.

There had been, this feeling, you know, certainly up until the last week or so that, you know, well, that this one Way or another, this is going to end badly.

And okay, we might were talking about supporting a Ukrainian resistance for the next decade, something like that.


The idea that Ukraine might actually win that the Russians might actually withdraw, and they might actually keep their country and keep their government is only just now beginning to Dawn on people and I wanted to drive home that point.

And and not only that to make the point that it is really very much in our interests for that to happen.


Let me offer scenario.

And you tell me if you would Define the scenario as Ukrainian Victory.

So right now, Russia has clearly made inroads in the South and the East it is captured several cities.

It has destroyed several cities like Mary opal and it is arguably increased.


Its Holdings in these areas.

If Ukraine essentially fights Russia to a standstill around, Kiev the capital and essentially allows Russia to exert control over a little bit more area in the East and a little bit more area in the south.


Is that a victory that Putin could sell back home.

Even though it’s a total miss a total with on his initial objective to change the regime and keys and to even conquer the entire country of Ukraine.


So I worry that allowing Putin.

Any Victory from this war will go down very badly and Ukraine that it will be very difficult for zalenski to sell that version of events to ukrainians.

The other piece of it to take into consideration is that is to look at what the Russians are doing in the areas that they occupy.


So here’s another piece of history for you.

When the Soviet Union came into Eastern Europe in 1945, you know, Poland, East Germany, Hungary the Baltic states and so on.

What did they do?

They decapitated the society, they arrested the leaders, the mayor’s, the police chief’s, the head of the local high school intellectuals.


They arrested them.

And they sent them to the gulag or they killed them.

Then they Unleashed kind of random Terror on the population.

So that people would be afraid.

That is exactly what they’re doing right now in eastern Ukraine.

We don’t have full information from everywhere, but we know about mayor’s being kidnapped, we know about people being arrested.


In one case that Crimean Tatar, who’s the head of a museum was has disappeared in one of the Eastern cities.

So we know that that’s what they’re going to do.

It’s going Going to be extremely brutal and extremely ugly just as it was in 1945.


That seems to be the Playbook.

And so it’s going to be very hard for Ukraine.

And for the rest of the world to Stand By and Watch that happen, you know, really?

I don’t want to put any words in zelinsky’s mouth and I don’t want to tell the ukrainians what to do.

I can’t imagine that there are territorial concessions.


They could make in order to end the war in order for Putin to be able to go home.

And say look I got recognition of Crimea.

Something like that.



Are thus appearing in a lot of work commentary right now is off.

Ramp the idea being that we have to give Putin an option that he wants to take in order for this war to end.


I wonder if you agree with that off-ramp framing, like is the best outcome here for ukrainians, for zalenski, for the world, nested inside of a diplomatic solution that gives Putin something that he can sell to Russia as a victory.


So remember that Putin controls the entire narrative.

Native in Russia.

So he hasn’t even told the Russians that this war is happening.

You know, he calls it a special military operation Russians don’t know they’re bombarding harsh, you know?

Harsh even her son which by the way, are all russian-speaking cities, 95% Russian-speaking.


And this is a, this is a leader who once said he wanted to create it, you know, he talked to a truce c’mere, you know, the Russian World, you know, he wanted to reunite it.

So they don’t know they’re doing that.

And so he, he is still in a position where he could go back to Russians said, well really, it was all.


Out, securing the borders.

If the territory we control and done boss and now we won that and the war is over.

So he can, he can, he can do that.

I mean, I think the difficulty and the thing that lots of Western commentators, find hard to accept is that the only person who can design that off-ramp, if that’s what we want to call it is Putin.


So it is he who can, who can design it and sell it to the Russians?

It is not something that can be created by, you know, some Swiss negotiator or You know, erdowan or whoever it is, who’s being the go-between or naphtali Bennett?


So he would have to find a formula that he could sell to the Russians and it would also have to be something that ukrainians can accept, but the yes, I can imagine that as an end to the war, some version of that there.

Also, some people saying that right now, the best way for the United States to guarantee in the very, very short term in the narrow short term a win for Ukraine is for the u.s.


To essentially enter the war.

Not just by selling arms to Ukraine.

The way we help the British 1939 1940, but to establish a no-fly zone to clear the skies to engage Russia and that obviously would mean direct hot Warfare between nuclear Powers, which is one reason why I think the vitamin is tration.


Seems so strongly against it.

How do you feel about the us or NATO directly engaging in this way II, you know, I understand why they feel that.

And I, yeah, I I’m not in the camp of people who think it’s not because their cowardly, you know, Why?

I’m in the camp of people who think that it’s, it is a genuine anxiety about the use of nuclear weapons.


And so I see why Biden doesn’t wanted that.

I, if it were me, I wouldn’t have said to Putin at the start.

We will never intervene in Ukraine because he should, at least have been worried about that.

I also think there’s more, we could do.

I think we could do a no-fly zone over Western Ukraine.


I think we could do, you know humanitarian air?

If some of the, you know, like, in Berlin in the 1940s, to some of the Eastern cities, I think we could be supplying them, with more powerful weapons either via proxies or straight to, you know, straight to Ukraine, you know, as I said, I wrote my article, you know, we should win and Ukraine must win because I want this the conversation in Washington to turn from, you know, how do we make this the least harmful conflict possible to how do we win?


And I am not a military.

At adjust, I can’t tell you.

I hear a lot of we should be using this weapon or that weapon.

I don’t think that’s my area of expertise.

But I do think that if we think about it, if we think about what can be used, how can we stop the bombing campaigns?

You know, what are the anti-aircraft weapons that are necessary or the anti-missile defense systems that are needed.


I think we could do more and I think we could do a lot more.

You know, I didn’t if we would like to go on not engaging Russians directly, you know, I I do understand why that is, but I also think we could, we could press it a little bit harder.

I did a recent podcast episode, weighing the reasons for and against a no-fly zone.


Both a no-fly zone over the entire country and a more limited no-fly zone.

It seems to me like a potentially dangerous option in large part because of this calculation about Newton’s Putin’s potential to use nuclear weapons as someone who understands Ukrainian history, Russian history, the psychology of Vladimir Putin.


How do you think, how do you think about Putin’s potential of using nuclear weapons in this conflict.

So I think most of the Russian conversation about nuclear weapons is intended to scare us.

And that’s what.

And by the way, they’ve been doing it for several years.


This is not new.

It’s just that nobody’s been paying that much attention to them, but they’ve been talking about nuclear weapons on Russian television.

They, when they conduct their big regular military exercises, they practice the use of nuclear weapons.

They’ve done a simulated attack on Warsaw.


They’ve also practiced releasing a nuclear weapon I think into the air or into the Arctic just as a just to scare everybody.

So we know they’ve been thinking about it and not only that they’ve been telling us they you know, that’s what that’s why they do these exercises.

And so that has been a long-planned tactic to prevent us from being involved in this war or indeed any of the other Wars in Georgia or or or elsewhere.


You know, my instinct is that Putin is not suicidal.

Nobody who sits at.

At a long table, you know, 10 meters away from his defense minister because he’s either scared of assassination or of covid, you know is a is is Keen on dying and so my guess is that he is not suicidal and that he can be also spooked by by the use of these weapons.


So I mean, there’s there’s a delicate game here, which was always the delicate game of nuclear weapons, which was, you know, deterrence.

Works only when you believe your opponent, are you make, your opponent believe that you might use them to the US has gone out of its way to make everyone understand that we won’t use them.


So as not to provoke them, but we also need to be messaging somehow that if they do use it, there would be some kind of proportionate response, and I don’t know if that’s happening behind the scenes.

I assume some version of it is We should be doing that in order to make the Russians, think twice.


If not Putin, then whoever gives the order to load the weapon onto the airplane so that, you know, my instinct is, they probably wouldn’t do it.

They aren’t suicidal but I wouldn’t totally exclude it.

One other point that you’ve made a lot is that there are many dictators around the world who are watching this episode closely to see if Putin gets away with, what he’s doing.


And when you put it all together, the Fact that there’s this audience of authoritarians and the fact that there’s this risk of nuclear war.

It seems to me that, you know, our actions could trigger a domino effect in three separate directions.

Like, I’m seeing like sort of three different, Domino sets around a line with each other if we’re too soft.


We potentially encourage other authoritarians to violate National borders.

One, classic example, being maybe China potentially invading Taiwan too strong, too aggressive.

And we potentially expand the scope of this conflict.

We Either walk to the brink of nuclear war or extend the conflict, potentially, by directly, engaging Russia to dramatically and then there’s this sort of Center path that you seem to be carving out sort of this, this just right Goldilocks strategy where we act in a way that discourages other authoritarians while also constraining the scope of this war, if we’re going to find that middle path.


What do you want to see the B Administration doing in the next?

I’d say two weeks.

I would like to see the buttons tration, engaging, much more directly and arming Ukraine.

I would like Ukraine to have all of the anti web aircraft and anti WEP antitank, missiles and anti anti missile technology that it needs.


I would like that to be doubled and tripled and quadrupled, you know, in the next days and this is stuff that can be flown there very fast.

So it’s not, there’s no, there’s no special time constraint.

I would also like, The humanitarian Aid to be stepped up in a more visible way, you know, we are helping with the UN and, you know, so on, but I would like a big us Western European presence in Ukraine Distributing Aid.


I would like to see, you know, a, even including Americans on the ground, not as soldiers, but as, you know, Aid givers to show that we were there and that we care what happens to people.

So, I would think those two things right now.

Now, I might change my mind in a week and something more something less.


But let me look.

The other thing is, you know, you can talk to me, or you can talk to Gary Kasparov who has a different view or you can talk to, you know, Tom Nichols who has even a different View and none of us has there is, you know, there is no rule about who’s right there, you know, the there is no completely, right?


Answer to these questions, you know, we’re dealing with the psychology of a very strange, very isolated man.

We’re dealing with a You know, hierarchical, you know, sclerotic political system, you know, where public opinion, doesn’t travel to the top.


And where, you know, there are these unclear, you know, non-institutional links between people.

It’s very hard to know who’s influential really and who’s not just having a title doesn’t mean you matter there.

And so there are there are really no right answers.

And so I would, you know, that that that gives me some sense of sympathy.


Actually for people in the by Ation, because these are very hard choices.

I don’t, I’m not, I’m not saying there’s some obvious path.

They should be taking that they aren’t taking.

I mean, there are things I would have liked them to do differently, but I, but I don’t, I don’t feel that.


You know, it’s hard to criticize from the outside.

I’d realize question.

What are you looking for in terms of military developments in the next week?

Like precisely because the stakes are so high.

It seems to me that the next few weeks could be extremely dangerous as Russia seemingly.


Chefs from a ground war Invasion strategy toward a just bomb the hell out of a bunch of cities strategy.

What are you looking for in terms of developments?

Just the next few days.

I would watch these Ukrainian push back.


So are the ukrainians taking territory back from the Russians.

We know they have done it by the way, north of Kiev, and if they begin to do it in the South and the East, that will be very important.

I think that’s a really that’s the important next.

Next Issue.



And thank you so, so much.

Thank you.

Plain English with Derek Thompson is produced by Devon.


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