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Today’s episode is a special two-parter.
We’re going to welcome back to the show.
A fan favorite University of Chicago.
Professor, Paul Post to talk about the war in Ukraine.
If you have been a bit out of the loop on Ukraine, recently, I do not blame you, there is a lot of news coming out of that war, a lot of micro developments.
And this I think is a really perfect interview to get up-to-date.
In the last week, Russia has announced a critical shift in strategy.
Putin has withdrawn the bulk of troops from the area surrounding Kiev the Ukrainian Capital.
He seems very likely to now be focusing as military, Arsenal on Eastern, and Southern Ukraine, where his army has made, some Headway, despite being rebuffed by a resilient Ukrainian defense and Paul Post.
And I talked about where this war is headed from here, and why the next chapter of the war might be even bloodier.
And more violent.
Then the already very bloody and extremely violent.
First Act of this conflict.
But before that interview, I didn’t want to let another podcast go by, without commenting on the absolutely fascinating showdown between Twitter and its new single largest individual shareholder Tesla, CEO SpaceX.
CEO, Elon Musk.
Am I feeling about this story is that sometimes the story deserves an hour of our time?
Sometimes it only deserves a half hour of our time.
Sometimes the story only needs ten, good minutes of our time.
So today, we’re introducing a new segment called wait for it.
Ten good minutes, and it’s appropriate.
That our maiden voyage for T.
GM is musk’s utterly bizarre and extremely funny.
Honestly Saga with Twitter for that conversation.
I’m very glad to have the great Casey Newton.
Who writes the platformer newsletter about tech and Society?
So that is today’s episode, a fun Tech Skirmish.
That means just about nothing for the world, at least yet.
And a big important war that I believe still is the single most important story on the planet.
I’m Derek Thompson.
This is plain English.
Casey Newton, welcome to the podcast.
Thanks for having me Derek.
So last week, Elon Musk announced that he had become the largest individual shareholder of Twitter.
The company made it known that he would be joining the board of directors.
In exchange for not buying up more shares of the company and joining the board of directors would theoretically also keep him from firing off a barrage of embarrassing tweets about the company.
Immediately after that, Elon Musk started firing off barrage from there, some tweets about the company, including one about how none of Twitter’s biggest accounts like Justin Bieber.
Do any Tweeting.
He attended that observation.
The question quote is Twitter dying.
He then wrote the Twitter’s headquarters were basically empty and should be converted into a homeless shelter and the third step of This domino effect.
Was that the CEO of Twitter announced Sunday night that surprise surprise.
The guy tweeting about how Twitter is dying is not going to join the board of directors at Twitter.
What did this letter say?
What were the most interesting bizarre funny parts of this letter?
I mean, it was all sort of interesting and funny and insane into sort of keeping with the general outlines of the story.
But you know you go through it line by line and there are weird things that stand out, you know, the I think with the line that raise People’s eyebrows.
The most was the idea that Twitter had told Ilan.
He was going to need to take a background check, you know, and that that might have inspired some fears and Elon, although it’s like Elon has done so many insane things in the foreground that, I don’t know what was going to come out in the background.
Check that was really going to settle this whole thing.
But that was sort of thing.
Number one, the really like the the wording of all of that is strange, you know, parag says like, well, here’s what I can share.
Share, you know which suggests that maybe there was more, there was happening behind the scenes.
Prague also says there will be distractions ahead.
You know, suggesting that maybe were expecting some more hostilities from Elan toward Twitter.
So lots still up in the air, but in the annals of Twitter history, this is truly a historical Milestone of absurdity this letter from the CEO of Twitter from Prague or wall.
It really is like a corporate ice.
Rick like for every for the for the five percent that you can see in this letter, you’re like, what is the 95% that we cannot see?
I love the fact that says, as you mentioned quote, we announced on Tuesday that Elon reappointed to the board contingent on a background.
Check and formal acceptance.
Like why put that in the letter unless you want to very subtly shiv Ilan.
I thought this is my favorite part.
I’m quoting from two different parts, the letter part one, quote, the board.
And I had many discussions with Elan about joining the board.
And we were excited to collaborate and clear about the risks yada yada yada in part to heal on, shared that morning.
He would no longer be joining the board.
I believe this is for the best in approximately five sentences.
He says, we’re really excited about Elon Musk joining.
Also Elon Musk didn’t join our board.
Also, it’s good that Elon Musk.
Enjoy like a pick a door here, man.
What did you make of that?
I mean, I think that mirrors the experience that most people About Elon musk’s doing things just like oh, that sounds good.
And then you think about 45 seconds, like fish Ali.
Is there anyone else?
Who could do this?
So I think parag bits are being very relatable there.
What you think?
Musk’s own motivations are here.
My sends is that he was offered a choice and the choice was something along the lines of Ilan.
You can join Twitter as a formal and respectful member of the board of directors.
Or you can tweet whatever bullshit you want about the company and Elon was like that is the easiest Decision of my life.
I am going to enjoy my nine-point X percent of this company and I choose to tweet.
I mean, how much of this do you think is just Elon not wanting to be tied down tethered by the rules that naturally come with the sort of fiduciary obligations of being on the board of directors.
I mean, I think that’s obviously true but all those obviously true before he bought nine percent of Twitter and before he agreed to join the board, right?
So, you know, folks who called me up and You need to explain elon’s ration out here.
I like the only thing I’m convinced.
I was not there actually was no rationale, you know, when this first happened I compared the whole thing to like, Loki buying an ant farm, you know, just like a mischievous trickster God, who like wanted to run experiments on some, you know, population of puny creatures.
And to me that is what this entire thing is felt like there has not been one logical thing that is connected, and it is just a series of events and a bunch of journalists trying to impose some sort of narrative audit.
That seems remotely plausible.
I do think it’s important to say that when you’re talking about the richest, people not only in the world, but the richest people that have ever existed in the history of the world.
They will make some decisions that might seem important to us.
But these decisions are made with an amount of money.
That’s approximately 0.5% of their wealth, which is like a normal person.
Buying a book.
It’s like, all right, what did they mean to do?
And they bought that.
But well, it was 0.5 percent of their wealth.
I mean, I wonder whether I seem to be the sort of like three different doors in terms of the explanations for what he’s doing.
Number one, I guess is what you just said, there is no plan.
He’s rich He likes Twitter, rich people buy stuff.
They like, he bought Twitter the same way people buy, like stamps were like, Jasper Johns American flags.
Like he just bought some of the things that he likes.
Number two, is that he really loves tweeting and all his decisions regarding Twitter sort of revolve around the sun, which is his just Adoration of using Twitter to tweet.
And this is about preserving his right to tweet and sort of striking fear Into the Heart of anyone who would push him off Twitter for saying things that are inappropriate.
And then I guess door number three.
And this really is one that people are starting to to talk about seriously is that this is the opening inning of a hostile takeover.
Do you think he says, like you think option number one was the sort of initial, the initial motivation here.
What’s the possibility though?
That that for whatever reason he ends up in a situation where he sees value in actually buying a controlling stake of Twitter.
You can rely on our when I was writing about this last week.
I wrote like parag Agarwal should watch his back.
There is something Foot here, or there could be you know, some people may not know that Twitter sort of survived a somewhat hostile takeover attempt.
About two years ago.
These activist investors Elliott management.
Came in, they put three people onto the board.
They wanted Jack Dorsey out.
They eventually left the board, but I believe that the reason the Jack Dorsey stepped down as CEO in November had a lot to do with the fact that those activist investors wanted Twitter to hit a bunch of growth and revenue targets that they are still very far away from hitting, So Pro Agarwal was in a really tough spot.
And one of the interesting things about the way that this was all announced last week with the musk stuff, was this strong assertion from parag from Jack Dorsey?
And from Elon that they were all working as a unit and I thought, hmm, you know, maybe the benefit to Twitter here will be that with these kind of forces aligned.
They will be able to resist Elliot or whoever comes back to them and say hey you didn’t actually add 100 million daily active users, the way you told us, you’re going to sew.
Those bets are kind of off and I think we just have to wait and see.
Does Elon buy more stock.
Does he start to sell some of his stock?
I still have a hard time believing that he really wants to run this company when he is CEO to other companies has leadership positions at three more.
But, you know, anything is possible with this man.
It’s sort of like that saying, if you want something done, quickly, give it to a busy person, like he’s already the CEO of by market cap.
The largest card company in the world and the most advanced space.
Technology company in the world.
He I suppose is partially in charge of running a bunch of other companies that are in the green energy space and in the boring tunnel drilling space.
His plate is quite full running running Twitter.
Does this seem like giving an another job to an extremely busy person and no speculation.
You have talked to people inside the company, what are people who work at Twitter saying about the prospect about the reality of Elon Musk being, the largest private shareholder in their company and the prospect of him starting to Play with them, the way that a Norse God would play with an ant farm.
So, last week, when I was speaking to folks.
They were spooked.
That was the word that came back to me.
People weren’t sure what his intentions were.
Twitter has been on a good run of shipping product over the past year.
This is a notoriously slow company that had suddenly gotten pretty quick, and there was a feeling that there were a lot of pieces in place and that they were starting to make some progress with Elon Musk coming in and trying to product manage the entire Company by tweets.
You just had a series of enormous distractions.
So you may remember that he tweeted should Twitter have an edit button and then it turned out that order had been working on that for a year and they sort of had to get out in front of him and say wait, like we’ve actually been working on this, right?
And so, you can imagine what that was going to be like, for them over the next, like, six months or a year or five years, as Ilan sort of do this over and over again, so they were just really nervous about that.
That’ll actually heard that the news which broke on Sunday night from a Twitter employee.
And, you know, they’re feeling about this was basically LMAO, you know, like here we go again.
There’s this famous marks.
Berg line that, you know, Twitter, the company was like if a clown car fell into a gold mine and like, everyone is back in the clown car and we are headed into the deep down the shaft.
Well, it’s like, it’s like the Clown King is now, like repelling himself down the shaft in order to stand on top of the clown car that has fallen into the Goldmine and creating even more drama in this in this cave.
So final outlooks.
You know, what are you looking?
What news you looking for in the next week?
I think Elon technically is still on the hook for a possible.
Am a with Twitter employees.
Is that still going to happen?
What is a shoe to drop that you were looking for in the next week?
They’ll like, I can report, the AMA has been cancelled, which is tragic.
It would have learned a lot from it.
You know, what am I looking for?
Well, one, I assume there will be some insane tweets from Elon about this situation.
So that’s thing.
Then thing number two is, does, you know, he take any action Beyond a tweet, as you buy some stock?
Does he sell some stock?
He announced some intention to do, you know, something with the, with the company?
I mean, you know, if he does own.
More than 9% of the company.
Now, he does have a really big voice and he’s made it extremely clear that he is going to use it.
And so now, all of us, puny ants can do is just sort of sit back and wait to see what he does with all of us.
I want to do like a sort of sophisticated breakdown of his motivation.
But like I’m a part of me is trying to evaluate his motivations as if like, he’s just going about this as a strategic genius.
He is a strategic genius.
But here, he’s just a prankster.
I feel like he’s just doing this because he loves his company and wants to cause a little bit of trouble.
And adores the combination of his Troublesome this and the effect it can have on on Twitter and his enormous audience.
Anyway, case, it will have you back next time.
Mace, even more news on Twitter, but I really appreciate you helping us out with the news.
Thanks for having me.
That’s Casey Newton.
Check out his newsletter platformer, which is really excellent.
Excellent newsletter on Tech society and culture.
And now for today’s main course to talk about the Ukrainian war and we’re Putin’s, were goes from here.
We welcome back to the show.
Sir, Paul Post.
Professor Paul Post, welcome back to the podcast.
Thank you for having me back.
So this is your third time on the show.
And after the last episode is interesting.
So other people reached out to me with some variation of the following statement.
I love your guests on the Ukrainian war and I had no idea that Owen Wilson knew so much about Foreign Affairs.
Has anyone else ever told you that you sound like a long-lost Wilson, brother?
Like do you in fact have a cameo in?
Rocket, is there something we don’t know about your extended family?
Or you just happen to sound a bit like Owen Wilson to a bunch of listeners of the show, you know, I’ve never heard that before, but I gotta say the movies that own Wilson makes big fan of those.
I’ve never seen any of them.
But the fact that he makes them, I have a lot of respect for that.
There you go.
Making the meta Owen Wilson references, even though you claim not to be blood relation.
I am absolutely positive.
Now that you’re keeping some secret for me, and I don’t know whether that should.
And update my trust with you.
But anyway, just that amazing observation.
Like, I got like, five emails from our last interview that were like, wow, that guest really sounds like Owen Wilson.
Wow, that University of Chicago Professor really sounds like Owen Wilson.
It was extremely funny.
So in all seriousness.
Now, my first question for you is a two-parter about the Ukraine war one.
What did you Paul personally, get most wrong about the Ukraine war and to what did the foreign policy Community the community of experts?
Get most wrong about this war up to.
Now, that’s a question that a lot of people have been thinking about and I think Okie way to think to kind of answer that is to start with the second part, which is what is the foreign policy Community gotten wrong, or at least what they’ve said that they’ve gotten wrong.
And I think that a lot of us have observed time and time again that they totally misread the condition of the Russian military, right?
The ability of the Russian military to be able to carry out operations.
I mean, this is even lead to at the extreme discussions about will maybe NATO doesn’t have to worry about spending as much money, right?
Because the whole idea, if you go back to like, 2014 with this thing called the whales pledge, the whales pledge, was this commitment by the NATO allies, to all of them would get their spending up to 2% of GDP.
And of course, the big reason why is because well we’re going to need military forces to be able to take on Russia if they become aggressive, but that was all.
Predicated on the idea that Russia would be able to have this war machine that could chose go through and plow through the Eastern European countries and make its way, potentially to Western Europe and take on NATO directly.
And of course what we’ve been observing and Ukraine is not consistent with that type of formulation of the Russian military that instead, they’ve seen it bogged down.
Now, having said that, there’s a big reason that they’ve got bogged down and actually this came up last Each week during some Congressional testimony by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, where he talked about how the reason why?
And just as context, maybe people saw this at they didn’t, but representative.
Matt gaetz was saying to Secretary of Defense, Austin was saying, like, you got this wrong, you your intelligence was totally off on Russia and their bogged down and Ukraine and that was a complete oversight.
And I think Secretary defense, Austin answered it.
Very well where he said, well, has it occurred to you that maybe part of the reason why they are bogged down is due to the assistance that we’re providing.
So there’s a little bit of there’s a little bit of it’s not fully just that the Russian military is inept, you know, the obviously there’s been all this assistance going to it, but nevertheless I would say that’s the number one thing that has surprised a lot of an ellipse now for me.
I would admit that.
I’m also surprised by it to a degree, but that’s not the thing.
That is most surprising to me.
The thing that was most surprising to me goes back to and I think we talked about this before, but was really the scale of the operation that Russia tried to pull off.
I had viewed Russia as likely to invade prior to the actual Invasion, but I thought that they would go for something more limited, but they would go for something you could call like a salami tactic where maybe they Just try to take a little bit of territory in the East, just kind of as a face-saving measure, the justify having amassed all these troops, but then they went all in and went for this large scale Invasion.
But doing so with a force, that’s not really at Mass necessary to pull off such an invasion.
And again, we talked about this before on the podcast that it seemed like they were trying to do what they did in Crimea in 2014, which was move in quickly.
Barely have any shots, fire maybe just limited fighting.
And Immediately take control of territory.
Be done with it and that didn’t happen.
Then they start to get bogged down.
And at that point, they’re now starting to Pivot.
And what you’re starting to see now is it seems like they’re starting to move back to maybe, what they probably should have tried to do in the first place, right?
Which is concentrated on the East.
So I would say, that’s the biggest thing that I misread is I really didn’t think Russia was going to try to go all in.
All at once, in the way they did and what we’re now witnessing on the ground is showing that indeed.
Probably was not a good idea from Russia standpoint.
So one thing that I’m starting to see from some of the, I don’t know if you would call it pro, Russia, Russian sympathetic analysts out.
Is that this was all part of Putin’s plan, that he only pretended to try this massive Invasion.
Not the salami plan but like, A whole bratwurst plan, try to take the whole damn thing.
He only tried to Siege Kiev and only try to take the whole country as a faint, as a means of distracting Ukraine’s forces.
So that he could establish himself in the South and the East, and that this is all going, according to Putin’s original plan.
What’s your reaction to that?
How do we know that those Russian sympathizers are wrong or we all timidly?
And we won’t know until we could somehow someday actually have insight into the internal deliberations.
But I think that we can have a pretty high confidence that those comments are just simply face-saving comments, you know, and indeed I’ve seen those as well.
There’s a well we have now completed phase one of our military operation.
And so now we are shifting The Phase 2, but it It make sense because of something that I’ve seen time and time.
Again, people have kind of overlooked about this conflict.
And that is this conflict didn’t come out of nowhere.
This is actually an escalation of an existing conflict that there had been War.
There’s actually been war going on in Ukraine, in eastern Ukraine.
Since 2014 following the taking of Crimea and that there’s Russia has been involved in backing separatists in the east.
Provinces since that time there has been fighting.
This was the basis of the first impeachment of President.
Trump was about disputes over that type of Aid coming in and so as a result is to pause you there just for people who you need a little bit of the 101 there, was it not the case that the u.s.
Had a policy after 2014 after the initial Russian invasion of Southeastern Ukraine, that we were giving lots of military aid to Ukraine to help them stand up against Russia.
And indeed that military.
Ed might be responsible or partially responsible for why Ukraine has held up.
So well in 2022.
Trump wanted to pressure the president of Ukraine zalenski to help him uncover evidence that would embarrass Hunter Biden in the Biden family during the election and withheld military aid, until zalenski gave Smoking Gun evidence over to the ministration.
So he was interrupting.
The flow of military aid to Ukraine, even if we were trying to reinforce.
Efforts to rebut the Russians in the South and the East is that?
That’s what you’re referring to.
Yes, that is the full context.
And I think that that’s important is, is to realize that wait a minute that was back during the Trump Administration, the first impeachment.
And as you point out, that was about interrupting, a flow that had already been happening of military aid to Ukraine.
And so, with that highlights is that there had been conflict going on there for a while and so if Russia’s objective was just to say fully take control of those provinces or even go a little bit beyond it.
Then they were already positioned to be able to accomplish that without having to pull off some sort of Rope.
A Dope type operation.
They could have just simply moved more troops into those Eastern provinces moved further west.
And in that sense, probably my view as they could have been quite successful in doing that.
And I think that it would have led the Ukrainian government and even NATO to say, whoa.
I mean, we can’t really stop this.
This is something that if they want to do it, they do it.
Where I think they misjudged was trying to go for the whole bratwurst if you and and trying to do so with using really the wrong utensils, if we really want to put it further, you know, they’re trying to go for the whole bratwurst with the toothpick instead of having, you know, the the steak knife and everything else that you need.
Let’s go a little bit deeper into this.
I want I want your analysis of why.
Russia’s military has to use a technical term stunk.
Like there’s a lot of people that are really surprised by the performance of Russia’s military in Ukraine, but you’ve pointed out that when it comes to fighting Wars Russia has always kind of stunk.
What does that mean?
Like when I look at Russia is like win-loss record like, all right, Russia versus Napoleon.
Russia one Soviet Union versus Hitler.
The Soviets one.
What does that win-loss record concealed in terms of the efficiency and effectiveness of Russia’s military historically, absolutely.
This is the technical word as you say is stunk.
But of course, we need to unpack.
Exactly what’s meant by stunk in this case, and I should point out that this is part of the reason why I wasn’t fully surprised by the poor performance or relatively poor performance of the Russian military. and the reason why is because If you look back and you don’t even have to go back to World War 2, you don’t have to go back to Napoleon.
You can even look at just more recent operations in chechnya Syria.
So forth, what I mean by stunk is not necessarily that the Russian military isn’t Innovative that they don’t come up with Innovative tactics.
They can and indeed, they have.
And there’s been great generals who have served for the Russian military and have come up with a terrific tactics.
Also not necessarily that they Don’t have the best weapon.
I mean, Russia is a major arms exporter around the world because of the quality of a lot of their Weaponry.
What I really mean by stunk is they’re not worried about efficiency.
Meaning they are not loss of verse.
So one of the big things to contrast it with would be the United States military where the US military goes to Great Lengths to ensure that our troops when they’re fighting are not killed.
And if they Injured in battle.
Some of the greatest Innovations in medicine have been Battlefield medicine as a way to be able to save lives on the battlefield quickly.
This is part of the reason why the Iraq War and the Afghanistan Wars had such a high casualty to death ratio.
So, during World War 2, the u.s.
Casualty to death ratio was about 21.
And as research Of colleague of mine Tanisha Fazal has shown, is that the that ratio went to about 9 to 10 to 1.
During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
And the reason why is because just much better at saving lives on the battlefield.
The Russian military is not as concerned about that.
They’re not as concerned about trying to save lives on the battlefield are much more tolerant of high casualty rates.
And this is something that has been the case.
Going back to World War Two, but even more recently, if you want at the end of the Cold War, when they were invading Afghanistan, much more willing to tolerate casualties the wars, in chechnya, willing to tolerate casualties the war in Syria, where they’ve had course, major military Operation, Syria, much more willing to tolerate.
Casualties also much more willing to inflict indiscriminate casualties.
And so those models not just point to the fact that they are much more willing to put their own troops at risk, but they are Of course, we can go into this.
We want to talk about war crimes and things that nature but much more willing to Target civilians and cause casualties that way.
And so in that sense, the Russian military has always lacked the same precision and efficiency that maybe a lot of us from looking at it from a u.s.
Perspective would expect from a military.
And so that’s what I mean by it.
And so, hence when you see these high casualty rates for the Russian military and they’ve been quite High Talked about like, the mobile Crematory as I’ve been going around to try to remove evidence of troops being killed.
So they want the notified family’s.
I mean, these things are not from a historical perspective that surprising when you look at the Russian military, right?
So stated a little bit differently.
Russia has very little regard for like, loss exchange ratio.
How many forces you lose versus?
How many forces?
Your opponent loses Russia essentially has a kind of pour it on thick strategy.
They lose a lot of forces.
Has their opponent loses.
A lot of forces, it very quickly becomes a battle of attrition.
What do we do with that information?
Like once we know that once we take this fact that is born out of Russian military history and is very clear.
Even from the last 20, 30 years of Russian military history from the war in Afghanistan, the war in chechnya.
The another worn in Syria.
What do we do with it?
What does it mean for the future of this War?
I can imagine some people saying?
Oh, this is the fact that Russia is ineffective, is partially good news for you.
Iranians because it suggests that, you know, Ukraine’s army with it’s resolved with a lot of help from the west, from NATO, billions of dollars of help from the US and 2014 can stand up against a strategically, an effective military.
At the same time.
You could take the totally opposite view.
I think you could say this is all evidence that Russia can let this go forever.
They can pour tens of thousands and tens of thousands of people into eastern Ukraine, the donbas region and we could just see Bloodshed go on and on.
So what is it cash out for you?
How long can this war lasts?
That’s exactly where this cash is out.
Is that for me?
This points to why this is people need to start to become comfortable with a very uncomfortable fact, which is that this is going to be a long drawn-out war and there’s a couple reasons for that.
One of them is exactly what we’re talking about, which is that Russia is that historically?
And and We could even say Putin directly is not as concerned about these high casualty rates.
And so willing to tolerate, those and tolerate those for much longer than say, a u.s.
President would be willing to tolerate it.
And you could even talk about that.
Maybe this points differences between an autocratic regime, which is Russia versus a democracy.
And this is something that scholars in my area of research have pointed out many times.
This is that democracies tend to be more risk-averse because you’re accountable to voters.
And you’re like, oh, well, you know, voters are going to get mad.
If they start seeing to be blunt about it.
They start seeing body bags.
Versus an autocratic leader is not going to be as sensitive to that.
So that’s one reason.
And Russia is the prime example of it of.
Why seeing these losses doesn’t pretend to suddenly Rush of just saying?
We’re done, we’re done fighting here.
So I think that’s one reason that this could go for a while.
The other reason, no, is I can’t see a scenario where Ukraine is able to Ukrainian forces are able to say push out Russia.
So on the one hand, you have Russia willing to just take these losses, hold their territory, whatever those gains are be able to hold it and continue fighting.
And at the same time, you have the Ukrainian forces that are trying to push out Russia, but they’re not going to be successful in pushing Russia out.
This is I’m going to be a scenario like, for example, the 1991, Persian Gulf War where you had a massive Coalition led by United States authorized by the UN that pushed or rocks.
Forces out of Kuwait, literally pushed them out of Kuwait.
That’s not going to happen here.
And a big reason, why is because and we could talk about this and indeed.
I think we have talked about that.
So yeah, I guess is, is the nature of the assistance that Ukraine is receiving that?
Yes, the receiving a lot of weapons, the receiving, these arms are receiving money.
No, but there’s not NATO troops coming across the border directly fighting that would be what would be necessary to push rush out.
So it’s the combination of these two things that are going to pretend to this being a long or, right.
It’s going to be a long War about Ukraine trying to push Russia out of the territory that’s gained in the East and the South and Russia pouring in forces as it is toric, as it has historically done into those regions in order to hold its ground.
So I should make sure that I have you nailed down on a prediction here because it’s one that we can revisit in a future episode that your outlook for the war.
In the next few months is a drawn-out battle over the territory that Russia has already gained in the South and the East.
And it seems to be a very violent battle because we’re already talking about war crimes that Russia has committed in these regions.
A violent bloody battle in those areas where we don’t necessarily see the territory gained line move very much toward.
And Russia can Ukraine.
When there are people talking about Ukraine winning this war.
Sometimes they Define it by a scenario that you just said is very unlikely, which is Ukraine literally pushing out Russia.
If Ukraine does win, if they do manage to end this war and minimize territory losses.
What will that look like?
What kind of settlement will that look like?
So I think this is the second one.
Comfortable thing that people need to start to get comfortable with and that is that the ultimate ending of this war is not going to be the scenario of Ukraine pushing out the Russian forces, declaring Victory, the equivalent of VE day at the end of World War Two and you’ve got people in the streets cheering and so forth.
Highly likely it is not going to end that way.
And the reason why is because Wars Don’t usually end that way Wars.
And with an agreement, they end with some sort of settlement.
And that’s another reason to expect this bore to go on for quite some time because currently, what would such a settlement look like and that settlement would likely be Ukraine.
Willing to give to Russia control of these Eastern provinces save the Dom bus.
Their annexation of Crimea from back in 2014, which of course they have a recognized but being willing to do that, perhaps also making a pledge to never join NATO to never join the EU, something of that nature.
Those could be the kind of things that they could put forward that.
I think Russia would potentially find acceptable.
Now, of course, from Russia standpoint, you could say that’s a bit of a compromise because at least initially, given we were just talking about seem like Russia was going for way more than that.
They wanted to control.
The entire country regime change, etc.
So this would actually be Russia coming back from those maximal goals.
Now, first of all, it’s not clear that Russia’s yet ready to come back from those maximal goals, right?
It still seems like, especially with some of the rhetoric that we’re seeing out there.
It still seems like Russia has Ambitions of perhaps resupplying themselves, and giving another go to try to take the entire country.
So it’s not yet clear that they’re ready to accept.
Unlimited outcome and moreover would Ukraine.
Could we picture president is olinsky, given the type of things.
He’s been saying, would he be willing to put that kind of offer on the table?
And I just don’t see it.
And even if he is willing to put that kind of offer on the table, would his supporters, the countries that are helping him such as the NATO countries would President Biden be willing to say to zielinski.
That’s a good deal.
Go ahead and take it.
I could see them saying we don’t want you to offer that because That is now rewarding, if you real bad behavior, that is setting a bad precedent that were worried about Russia, revisiting or even other countries taking advantage of.
So for all those reasons, even though I think we can see what a settlement would look like.
I don’t think we’re anywhere near close to that settlement.
Can you do a cost-benefit analysis of the Us and other NATO countries doing more?
You know, there are calls for we talked about this on the podcast to for a no-fly zone, which would be a very dramatic step forward because that means not only American and German British planes flying over Ukraine, but also very likely bombing in Russia to prevent Russian anti-aircraft missiles to On those sites in Russia.
You talked about the fact that the u.s.
Is very unlikely to support Ukraine.
In the East, the same way that we supported Kuwait where we sent in forces literally on the ground to push back the Iraq.
He’s very important difference.
Saddam Hussein had no nuclear weapons.
Putin has a gazillion.
Is there something that the United States isn’t doing right now?
In terms of its support for Ukraine, that you think should at least be on the table.
Some kind of military assistance that you think should be on the table that today.
We are not offering and you’ve highlighted all of the complications with trying to not give an answer to this question, but the actually point out what could be given.
So the short of my answer is, no, I don’t think there’s something else that the United States could give given the concerns about escalation, right?
And this is really Yes, there’s a lot of things to us could do, but of course, we saw where with the most notoriously, these mig’s right.
Is this whole attempt to try to convoluted like, okay, we’re going to send Meg’s, but we’re not going to send them from Paul.
Just just explain to the listeners, very briefly, what migs are?
And what that what the 101 of the the Mig controversy?
Oh, Meg’s migs are fighter jets.
They are Russian produced fighter jets.
And of course, we have a lot of the Eastern European countries actually have the these as part of their Air Forces.
And in this case here, Poland, who has been a key conduit of arms to Ukraine.
They had Mig fighter jets.
They wanted to be able to allow Ukrainian Pilots, to be able to fly to carry out, sorties and operations, against Russian forces, but they had reservations about these, taking off from polish territory.
Because that would observe, even though be Ukrainian Pilots.
These are polish chats coming from polish territory.
And so the concern would be that Russia would perhaps try to attack that Airbase.
So there was this idea of well, we’ll have them take off from Germany.
Will have them take off from a US Air Base in Germany, still being flown by Ukrainian Pilots.
Eventually, you can already see.
This is like getting way too complicated and so they just called the whole thing off.
But what it points to is, those are the kind of measures they’re trying to go to, to try to, like, not have direct or at least be able to plausibly deny that there’s Echt fighting between a NATO country and Russia.
I just saw recently where there’s reports about us special forces, being on the ground in Ukraine.
And that apparently, Russia is aware, that there’s US Special Forces on the ground in Ukraine, but everybody’s kind of agreed to like, let that be right, that it’s like, OK, they’re there.
That’s fine, but they’re not directly overtly attacking Russian forces.
So maybe it’s okay.
They’re just providing training.
Assistance in that nature, but it just points to that.
NATO is taking great steps to try to avoid direct confrontation with Russia and that severely constrains the type of assistance they can provide but what you’re also seeing is at least from my vantage point.
It seems like Russia is also willing.
If for example, if it’s indeed the case that there are US Special Forces on the ground and that Russia is aware of them.
They’re willing to kind of go along with this, be able to say, you know, what?
Okay, we see that.
But we’re not going to interpret it as direct confrontation because we ourselves are also worried about escalating this to the next level.
But because of this game, it really makes it difficult to Envision what further assistance could be given to Ukraine.
Let me Express a view point that I don’t necessarily share and then have you evaluate it.
That you point is we’re being chickenshit.
Putin doesn’t want to die.
He cares about his legacy.
He cares about his life.
He cares about the life of at least some Russian people.
Theoretically, he cares about the existence of Russia, as an entity.
He’s not gonna nuke Paris.
He’s not going to Nuke, Kiev.
He’s not gonna nuke anyone really.
We are chickenshit by refusing to put forces On The Ground by refusing to establish a no-fly zone over donbas.
We could with all the forces at our disposal effectively end this war this war in a week.
We could enter this war and it could be over in a week and tens of thousands of ukrainians and Russians that will almost inevitably die in a war of attrition that last months or years, their lives will be spared.
What are we doing?
Why don’t we just call Putin’s Bluff and And end this war.
I was a couple reasons.
If we were to do exactly what you’re saying, which is we send in all the troops.
We start pushing.
We push these forces out and then we push them back into Russia that puts Putin in a situation where he may feel like he has nothing to lose, right.
He has nothing to lose special when you couple that with the type of economic pressure.
He has that the fact that he is now an international war criminal.
So there’s no place for him to go.
There’s nothing there.
No outlet for him.
When you put someone in that type of situation, you could be very concerned about what they might do as an act of desperation to try to save themselves, right?
So, gambling for Resurrection, as you put it in a previous episode exam.
I will not forget because it is very eerie.
Yes, exactly gambling for Resurrection.
That’s exactly what you’re concerned about.
So that is number one number two.
Yes, when you’re dealing with nuclear weapons, you’re dealing with low probabilities, but as a colleague of mine Nicholas Miller at Dartmouth College said he said when you’re dealing with low probability, when you’re dealing with nuclear weapons, those low probabilities matter, right?
And so that is that is number two, is you have when you’re dealing with knows, it is true.
It is unlikely that one would be used, but you have to take that probability seriously in the reality is it is more probable now, than it was say two months ago that a nuclear weapon would be used and number three.
No, I don’t think.
I don’t think anyone expects Putin to Nuke Paris or New York.
Or any major city, that’s a NATO Ally or Warsaw for that matter, since we’re going back to Poland.
But the concern is about the use of say a tactical weapon.
And these are, of course, tactical nuclear weapons are they’ve been around for a long time.
It’s, you know, they’re considered safe for a nuclear weapon.
But there’s the idea is that they can be used on the battlefield and they are smaller.
This would be exactly what you would potentially see used.
If suddenly Russian forces are being pushed back, push back, push back and indeed there was discussions back during the Korean War.
There have been discussions by the United States about at the time when the u.s.
So a little bit of quick, very very, very quick history.
Of course, Korean War US troops.
Are pushing North, they’re assisting South Korea because South Korea has been attacked by North Korea.
They’re pushing North and then suddenly they push so far north that China gets involved.
And the Chinese troops are coming down and they’re pushing US troops all the way back back back back.
Back during that time.
There were serious discussions within the US military policy decision-making circles about should we use a tactical nuclear weapons to try to stop China’s forces?
So that this is not something that’s just a uniquely Russian type of discussion.
The concern would be that even if they use a small nuke like that.
First of all, what would be the response it would put nato in this situation of oh my gosh.
They just used a nuclear weapon.
Do we just let that go do or do we launch some sort of strike?
But should we launch strike is it was just a limited nuclear weapon, right?
Is that really so bad?
I mean, it starts to lead into these.
Like I said, Pandora’s Box, it’s a Pandora’s Box, and this leads to a key idea that Nina, Tannen Wold a professor at Brown University.
Is called the nuclear taboo, right?
She’s talked about this and this is the idea that the use of nuclear weapons is just taboo.
You don’t even consider it will.
Suddenly if one’s used that just changes everything and it opens up.
This Pandora’s Box, exactly.
Once the once the seal is broken.
You just don’t know what comes out of that box.
Later one last question for you and it’s related to President Biden’s comments about Vladimir Putin during a recent speech in Warsaw.
Saw Biden said that, Vladimir Putin quote cannot remain in power and quote and then a few days later.
He clarified it to say that he was merely expressing outrage and cannot remain in power did not literally mean cannot remain in power.
It was more of just a vague expression of anger rather than a new policy aimed to toppling.
I think that the fact that Biden made this error is not just further evidence of his foot and mouth disease, but also evidence of the fact that there is this deep ambivalence, I think among American intelligence It’s about on the one hand, Putin, obviously establishing himself as a war, criminal committing, utter atrocities destroying cities, killing dozens of citizens, as they escape cities.
He’s already destroyed.
There’s this deep and profound moral outrage combined with this.
This felt fecklessness.
This feeling that we can’t do anything about it.
We have all this outrage to express and nowhere for the emotions to go because we can’t put troops on the ground.
We can can’t establish a no-fly zone for all the reasons that you and I have gone over.
This is a bit of a difficult open-ended question, but it’s like, what do we do with Putin?
What do we do with with our language?
And with our policies, now that we have economically sieged, the Russian economy, put all these sanctions on Putin and all of his and his and his oligarchs, try to find ways to constrict his ability to buy.
Military equipment to continue the war, given Ukraine, all of this military equipment, what is left for us to do between where we are now and some faint?
Red Line Beyond, which we are potentially prying open Pandora’s Box.
This is where International politics is messy.
Because on the one hand, as you said, there’s this moral outrage about what we’re witnessing and Ukraine about the actions.
This is why people are referring to it as Putin’s War, right?
The referred to, as you know, not just the Russo Ukrainian War, the corona, Putin’s bore.
So, there’s this outrage about it.
And of course, we’re witnessing this.
We’re seeing these images and it’s understandable to then say a lot of things.
Number one, you know, we’re not going to give Russia anything, right?
We’re because that’s unacceptable.
We cannot award reward these war crimes.
We want hence President Biden’s comment.
We want Russia.
We want Putin out of office.
He can’t stay in office when he needs to go.
These kind of comments are understandable, but The reality is Putin’s not going anywhere.
He is going to remain in office.
I can’t see a scenario where he is, deposed.
I can’t see the scenario where there’s suddenly like a revolution within, you know, the Russian populist comes up and over Thursday.
That’s not how most leaders are depose.
They’re usually deposed by a palace coup, the internal Circle and I just can’t see the conditions for that.
A lot of people who say, study the oligarchs much more closely than I do.
And all of Putin’s supporters are very This because they point out that they’re very reliant on Putin himself for their wealth, for their position.
So it’s very unlikely.
He’s going anywhere, which means you somehow have to work with him.
You have to somehow to find this settlement that we were talking about earlier.
It’s going to have to somehow involved him.
And where the moral outrage though, understandable can make things complicated is several ways.
First of all, Because of what, we’re witnessing these atrocities that were witnessing in Ukraine, of course, now, he’s being put out as a war criminal and there’s the potential for prosecution at the international criminal court.
For example, where that makes things complicated is if he’s now potentially liable to be prosecuted, international criminal court.
How do you go about maybe offering him some sort of, if you will golden parachute look, if you leave office extradite, you can go to, you know, do I am live.
Maybe they worked out something with the government and you can live there and it’ll be fun.
Can you do that?
If he’s now under, you know, potentially being prosecuted by the international criminal court, it complicates that ability to do it.
So, this is where the moral outrage can actually do understandable, make things more difficult in terms of achieving an ending outcome.
Of course, the other part of it is just those very statements by Biden and this is why they were walk back is now how will In is Putin going to be to take a phone call from B.
Right that before.
Remember they’ve had Summits, they’ve met face-to-face, they’ve talked and that’s important for them to be able to perhaps reach, this type of settlement for buying to be able to play.
Maybe some sort of role in this, but here in those kind of comments.
How willing is he going to be to be able to take that phone call?
I mean, Anthony blinken is already talked about how he is not talked to his Russian counterpart, since this thing is started, right?
So not having that dialogue, is another thing that makes this complicated.
Another reason why this conflict I think is going to be protracted and continue to go.
So that is where this moral outrage about Putin do understandable, can create conditions that can actually make the conflict.
Yeah, one way.
I’m thinking about summarizing our interview up to this point is that there are roadblocks on every potential.
There’s a roadblock on the Diplomatic.
And because we’re talking about Putin being a war criminal and that’s not typically the thing that you say just before you offer.
Someone a golden parachute to live off the coast of Dubai.
There is a roadblock on the military off-ramp because as valiantly and brilliantly as Ukraine has fought, they are now going to be engaged in a war deep of attrition in the East and the South against the weight of the Russian military and a desperate Russian military.
That does not want to be defeated not only around the suburbs of Kiev, but also In the Region’s it’s already taken.
And there’s no clear off-ramp in the economic sphere as well.
Because Russia has made it clear that even though the economy is probably going to crash this year by 10 20 %.
They’re willing to let it crash and continue to wage a war for the greatness of Russia and Putin is perception there of.
So all those to all the roadblocks, the Diplomatic, the military, the economic, I’m sorry.
All of those off, ramps them.
The economic the military and diplomatic they all have roadblocks in front of them.
Is that a fair summary of where we are right now?
100% of fair summary.
And again, this is why International politics is just a messy business, a lot of times and this is why when we study it a lot of times it is not I’ll say it like this a lot of times.
I feel like a negative Nelly, right?
I’m just coming in and saying look, you know, there’s just this is I know people want a So outcome here, I know people want to hear good news, but a lot of times International politics, especially we’re talking about war, it is, and we’ve talked about this before in the podcast.
It’s about choosing among bad options and you’re trying to pick the least bad option.
And that’s exactly what it means to try to end this war.
Well, yeah, it’s tough medicine to swallow but it’s made.
So the Easier by the fact that you do sound just like Owen Wilson, and so it’s Negative news delivered with the most affable accent Professor.
I really appreciate it.
Thank you for coming back.
We’ll have you back soon to explain the war in a few more weeks.
I’m sure, but I really appreciate your time.
Thank you for having me on.
Planning this with Derek Thompson is produced by Devin.
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