Battleground: Ukraine

A history podcast that explores the narratives, turning points and characters that shape conflicts, encompassing a blend of social and military history. Following on from the series on the Falklands War, best-selling military historians Patrick Bishop, and Saul David turn their attention to the war in Ukraine.

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12. Max Hastings

12. Max Hastings

Fri, 28 Oct 2022 01:00

As developments on the battlefield have slowed down in the past week, Saul and Patrick speak to the esteemed military historian, war reporter, and former newspaper editor Sir Max Hastings, who gives his perspective on the conflict and discusses worrying historical parallels. They also discuss and answer questions sent in by listeners. Want to send a question? Send it to

producer: James Hodgson

Twitter: @PodBattleground

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Looking to get into the Halloween spirit, ACAS recommends the most chilling podcasts. Tune in and beware. It's been nearly five years since Dr. Rooja disappeared. One family! She promised to make the world rich with her revolutionary cryptocurrency, One Coin. You're amazing guys! But One Coin was a lie. Join me, Jamie Bartlett, as we scour the globe, looking for Rooja's missing millions. I think you need to start looking at the very, very top of that country. The missing crypto coin is back. ACAS helps creators launch, grow and monetize their podcasts everywhere. Hello and welcome to the Battleground Ukraine podcast with me, Saul David and Patrick Bishop. It's been another relatively quiet week of news from the front line, with Ukraine's forces regrouping after the spectacular gains of September and Russia attempting to make a little bit of momentum in the odd area. But at the same time, there have been plenty of alarming developments on the political and diplomatic front that we'll be discussing in a moment. And after the break, we're going to be hearing from the very eminent military historian, Sermak Hastings, a former war correspondent and newspaper editor, the Daily Telegram and the evening standard. Now, it's a really very, very insightful, very impressive interview that we've got with Max and we're very grateful for it. His latest book is about the Cuban Missile Crisis. And that obviously resonates very much with what's going on today. The book's called Abyss. And in his talk with us, he draws some pretty alarming comparisons with that. And also looks forward to how this is going to be resolved. A lot of it will not make very comfortable listening, but it really is a truly fascinating contribution to our understanding, I think, of what's going on there. And we're also going to answer some of the questions you may remember that we asked you to send in any queries, observations, etc. to our email address,, where we've got to have a good response and we will be responding in turn. Okay, well, probably the scariest development of the week, at least for me, Patrick, was Russia's claim that Ukraine is about to use a dirty bomb. Now, a dirty bomb we should explain is, uses conventional explosives, but it also has radioactive material mixed in. It's like a nuclear bomb light, I suppose. And most Western commentators feel that this claim that Ukraine is about to use a dirty bomb is being used as an excuse to retaliate itself. But exactly how it's going to do that, we don't know. The US has worn Russia of severe consequences if it uses a nuclear weapon, or anything that might tend towards a weapon of mass destruction. Patrick, any thoughts on this situation of the dirty bomb? Is this just another example of Russian saber-attling, do you think? Yeah, well, I think it's sort of a smacks of desperation. If you actually look at the big picture step back at what Putin has been trying to do, both in the grand strategic sense and also on the battlefield, it's been one failure after another. I don't want to sound triumphalist or give the impression that this is a done deal that they're heading inevitably for a catastrophic defeat, because I think there's lots of things that can happen between now and then. But just think about the way that he's addressed the world, or rather the West, trying to get into their heads and try to change their attitudes towards Russia. He launched the energy war. He was trying to bully a Europe in particular into seeing things from his point of view, or at least going along with a kind of defeatist narrative in Ukraine, putting pressure on the Ukrainians to come to the negotiating table. By means of basically offering us a very cold and expensive winter, that didn't seem to work. He then has been threatening on and off nuclear war. That hasn't seemed to work. On the battlefield itself, we've had the initial Kudama approach to the campaign that failed mass mobilization. That doesn't seem to be going very well. Finally, something we want to talk about, the attempt to flatten Ukrainian infrastructure, attacking civilian targets, and basically undermining the means of life in Ukraine in order to demoralize the Ukrainian population. That hasn't worked either. This seems to me to be scraping the barrel now when you get to this dirty bomb. Where did that come from? How do you make a dirty bomb? Even in Russia people are saying, well, okay, if it's true, let's see a bit of evidence. These are ultra-nationalist bloggers who are starting to say this. Even when preaching to the converted, it's not getting the response that Putin obviously hoped for. No, the other slightly scary development is a claim and counterclaim about the dam, which is upriver, 35 miles, also upriver from Kesson town or Kesson city. Of course, the implication is if this dam is blown, it will cause a catastrophe, I mean, environmental, but also structural with huge floods. What seems to be going on is that Russia is suggesting that Ukraine might want to blow this dam, but this reminds me very much Patrick of the Zaporicia situation. Clearly, there is no vested interest with the Ukrainians to do this, and they seem to be preparing a sort of red flag operation. And red flag operations, as we know from our study of history, are often used by pretty uncompromising powers like Nazi Germany right at the beginning of the Second World War. As you remember, Patrick, they use red flag operations to make it seem that they'd been an incursion over the German border when, of course, it was, frankly, a pretext for their own invasion of Poland. So that's what seems to be going on here, but it could also be an attempt, frankly, to distract from what will be, if they withdraw from Kesson, another catastrophic reverse for the Russians. No, a lot of this seems to me to be part of the internal politics of Russia. Putin has to keep signaling over and over again his intent to ramp things up. And he's aiming that at the war party, and they come in into main groups. I think they're the external players like Ramzan, Katerov, the head of the Chechen Republic, and Igor Prigogin, the twos of symbolic figures, I suppose they've also got some substance. I would say that Katerov doesn't really count that much in the story yet. He's mentioned a lot, but if you actually look at who he is, he's basically a marginal figure. The Chechen Republic doesn't really feature very much in Russia, sort of overall capabilities. He himself, his own family history is very interesting and pretty horrific. His father was also president of Chechnya, but he was once on the side of the independence movement, then at the start of the second Chechen war, switched sides, pledged his support to Putin, and in return got the support of Moscow. He was act assassinated in 2004, I think. And I think the same fate may well await his son. He's got many, many internal enemies. Quite why so much attention is paid to him. I don't know. I think it's because perhaps he's such a sort of grongy-nures sort of villain that gets a lot of attention. Because you know, I think he's a much more significant figure. He's the guy who finances and directs the Wagner group, and that gives him some cloud in the sense that they are the only ones who seem to be doing anything on the battlefield, performing better than the Russian conventional military forces. That's not saying very much. He must have been following this stuff back. So this town that's been fought over where the Wagner group are apparently causing Ukrainian some problems. Well, the reports are mixed, shall we say, Patrick? I read one earlier this week that actually said there'd been a two-and-frove from back moot and the Russians had indeed made advances. But it was a relatively little strategic value. This is more of a sort of symbolic area. So in terms of the sort of broader effect on the war, this is a minor piece of the story. A much bigger piece of the story, of course, is Kerson. And there's some interesting information coming, obviously from a partial source. That's the Ukrainian military spy chief, Major General Kirolo Budanov, whose caution, this is very interesting because all the indications from Russia over the last week or two have been that they're pulling out. I mean, we know that civilians are being moved out of the city. But what Budanov says is actually this could be a clever play on Russia's part. He believes they're going to stay in fight for Kerson, and are only pretending to withdraw. In fact, he believes from his information that they're intending to reinforce it ahead of a major battle. So that's slightly concerning that we could have a kind of Stalin-grads situation on our hands in the south of the country. Well, that's exactly what comes to mind, isn't it? Clearing out all the civilians digging in for a war of attrition. I mean, who knows which way it'll go, but it could be a very, very grim couple of months ahead in Kerson for both sides. Of course, one thing the Russians do have in their favor is numbers. You don't have to be particularly well-trained or indeed particularly armed with sophisticated weaponry in order to be able to put up a pretty tough defense in an urban battleground like Kerson could become. So the thing that Ukrainians really have to worry about is feeding their very limited human resources into what could be a Stalin-grad or a Verdun type situation. In that scenario, it is possible to see the Ukrainians' forces being very dramatically and significantly degraded if they get sucked into the situation or war. Exactly right, and they would be well advised not to attack the city, of course, if it is being held as a fortress. And really just trying cut off supplies, which seems to me is exactly what they've been doing up till now. So we'll see how that plays out. Now, in other news, Patrick, on the diplomatic front, I suppose we could call it, Germany has been calling for a new martial plan. Now, this, of course, goes back to the very effective rebuilding of Germany after the Second World War, mainly by US investment from 1948 onwards. Germany's already beginning to call for a new martial plan to rebuild Ukraine. Now, who's going to provide money? Well, they say, and when I say Germany, I'm talking in particular about Olaf Schultz, the chancellor, and Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission. So the two big players really in German politics have written a joint article in a German newspaper. And that's what they're calling for. It's going to be paid for in, or they argue it should be paid for by G7 and EU institutions, so in effect, the West. And the need for this, of course, is because Ukraine's economy has already fallen by at least 30% this year. Now, when we get onto the max Hastings interview, he refers to this briefly, and the possibility that America will not be providing the cash for this. Well, you'll be hearing a lot more from Max in the second half. Lots of fascinating points that will be digging into. Do join us after the break. Welcome back. Earlier this week, I spoke to some max Hastings, military historian and former war reporter and newspaper editor about the alarming parallels between the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, the subject of his new book Abyss, and the current dangerous situation in Ukraine, with regard, in particular, of course, to the nuclear saber rattling. Well, this is what we talked about. Max, you've just published Abyss, the dramatic story of how the world narrowly avoided a thermo-nuclear war in 1962. After America discovered that the Russians were in the process of secretly placing long-range nuclear weapons on the island of Cuba, very close, of course, to the American mainland. Just tell us a little bit about the key moments in that crisis. I know it's a big story. And what are the obvious parallels between then and the current situation in Ukraine? Well, the most obvious parallel is that the world was terrified for 13 days, or in fact, 13 days that President Kennedy knew about the missiles, but six days in which the world did that nuclear war might be the outcome of this confrontation between what was then the Soviet Union and the United States. And at first, the American chiefs of staff were intensely bellicose. They wanted war. They believed that America could take on the Soviet Union, could bomb and invade Cuba, take out the missile sites, take on the Russian troops on Cuba and win. They were of a generation of military who were very much schooled in the Second World War and the experience of victory in 1945. Victory over Japan, victory over Germany. And they were looking again for victories. Now, one less than I do think is very important that we've learnt today that in 1962, the military had not learnt is that the word victory in the nuclear age is one you've got to use with extreme caution. And one thing I think Americans have been very good at in this crisis. They've produced exactly the same mixture of resolution in pursuing the objective, in this case, of supporting Ukraine, but also caution in realizing that nuclear weapons out there, you simply cannot beat the drum, beat your chest, drum, play the verse again. You just have to balance things all the time. And this is what President Kennedy did. Now, in some ways, Kennedy had, I don't know if I could say an easier task because it was a terrifying task, but nobody much died in the missile crisis in 1962. Yes, there was a standoff between the Soviet Union and the United States, which might have precipitated general war, but only a handful of air crew died. Now, what you've got now in the Ukraine is tens of thousands of people have already died as a result of President Putin's monstrous acts of aggression. And in 1962, all the Americans didn't see it this way. The Soviet Union and Cuba did have a case that legally there was no more reason why Castro and Cuba shouldn't choose to host Soviet nuclear weapons than that the Italians and the Turks and the British would do the same with American nuclear weapons. And Kennedy knew this. And Kennedy was always from the beginning of the crisis, willing to strike a bargain with the Russians to get the missiles out of Cuba. And the bargain here, eventually, settled for, was he gave a guarantee that the Americans would no longer threaten Cuba with military action. And secretly and privately, he also promised that if the Soviet missiles were removed from Cuba, that the American missiles would be removed from Turkey. So there was a deal. Now, today, there is absolutely no vestige of justification for the Russian action in Ukraine. This is a monstrous act of aggression against the sovereign state. And this makes it much more difficult to see what anybody, whether its President Zelensky or President Biden, can possibly offer the Russians that doesn't amount to caving end to rewarding aggression. So this is a big problem. And with so much blood already, almost for ceases, talk about blood on the carpet, the streets are running with blood, innocent blood, as a result of the Russian action. But on the other hand, I would argue very strongly, I've sometimes been accused in the context of this crisis of being a defeatist or an appeaser, because I've suggested that sooner or later, all wars ending conversations. And we are going to have to, when I say we, it's mostly President Zelensky, but also the West, there is going to have to be some sort of dialogue with Russia. Now, I personally believe that the war today is going to go on for much longer than 13 days. The missile crisis ended remarkably quickly. It was over in 13 days. Now today, I personally believe that the situation in Ukraine could go on for months if not years. But I do think we're on a learning curve in the West. I do think there's been a remarkable, first of all, there's been a long period of naivety all through the Cold War. And of course, the missile crisis was the most dangerous man with the Cold War. There was an acute awareness among all of us, even me as a schoolboy, that in the world of nuclear weapons, we were living in constant peril, that the planet was threatened. Hardly a week went by without a headline. In newspapers all over the world, whether in Europe or in the United States or anywhere else, crisis in Cuba, crisis in India or China, crisis in Berlin, nuclear crisis. Now in 1991, we almost started to behave as if nuclear weapons had been uninvented. Everybody went away, suddenly when the Cold War ended and the Berlin war came down. Everybody started behaving as if it was a different world than you could worry about. Climate change and terrorism and conventional wars in Afghanistan, Iraq. But it was as if nuclear weapons weren't there. Well, we've been now brutally reminded by President Putin. They are there. And we're dealing, I personally believe, but President Putin is a less stable, less predictable and thus more dangerous figure than Nikita Kristjop, because in 1962, although the world thought, from all Kristjop sabre rattling, that he was unbalanced and dangerous and larval to start a nuclear war. What we now know from the evidence that has come out of the Kremlin since 1962 is that Kristjop was a far more rational person than people understood. And I believe a far more rational person than is Putin today. And as soon as President Kennedy broadcasts the American people six days into the crisis, telling them about the discovery of missiles and saying they were going to have to go, Kristjop secretly and privately knew he was going to have to give in. He knew that he couldn't risk nuclear war with the United States. Well, today we're in a different situation. We're dealing with a very dangerous, quite inadequate to call him an egomaniac, but he's already got the blood of tens of thousands of people on his hands. And I don't believe that President Biden or President Solensky have any better idea than we do sitting here about what Putin made you next or what he's capable of. You've talked about the response from the West, being quite moderate actually up till now. Max, no one's threatening a nuclear escalation. As, of course, they cannot do that. They're suggesting there might be some kind of conventional response if tactical nuclear weapons are used, if there's some kind of demonstration, even if as they seem to be suggesting now with the accusation that Ukraine is planning some kind of dirty bomb, which would seem to me or seem to observe as to be an excuse for an escalation on Russia's part. And what do you think the West could do in that situation? What are our options if that is the case? What we have to hope is that at this moment, very secretly and privately, the White House is sending the clear, responsible signals to the Kremlin that in the event of the Russians unleashing a dirty bomb or a nuclear weapon, chemical or biological weapons, which they're capable of doing, that the West will respond dramatically with conventional weapons. Now, I'm sure it's right to pose a conventional response threat because I don't believe that a nuclear response threat, a threat of a nuclear strike against Russia would be credible or indeed right. But on the other hand, one can say to Putin privately, if you do this, then the United States will, is it certainly capable of doing take out the Black Sea fleet or something of that kind, all striket Russian installations. And of course, one thing that makes us all feel pretty sick is that so far in all this, Russia's had almost a free pass that whereas Russia is destroying the entire electricity network of Ukraine, that the Ukrainians are very much under strict American instructions are not using their long-range weapon supplied by the United States to attack Russian infrastructure. But there's got to come a moment at which this could be in a longer, louder stand. But I say I very much admire the way the Americans are handling this at the moment. I think on the one hand, their resolve is clear. But on the other hand, they're not making reckless threats as I regret to say some of our end politicians have. And I hate it when British story politicians in battle at home start making threats almost as if they're willing to fight the last Ukrainians. Well, it's not our war, it's not our people who are dying. I also think that this crisis has reminded us that the United States is the absolutely key leader of the West in all these confrontations. And President Zelensky and Ukraine today would be toast if they were dependent entirely on European support. And it's the Americans who have saved Zelensky overwhelmingly, although the British have made a lot of summer dance, material contribution this because we just don't have the kept. It's been relatively small, sure, it's been larger than any other European nation except Poland, but that isn't so much. And I think it's pretty sobering to be reminded that how much we owe to the United States because in 2024 it's perfectly feasible that we could get Trump or Trump plown back in the White House who would not provide Europe with this sort of support, who would not provide Ukraine with this sort of support. And the West Europe especially without the United States is almost incapable of defending itself. So I think for several next years, first of all, we've got to get serious about defense as Europe has not been since the end of the Cold War. And that includes Britain. We run down our armed forces not as much as, let's say Germany, but we've still run them down recklessly. And it takes time to turn these things around. And also, I think all our leaders ought to be saying very publicly to the United States, thank you. We know what we owe you because we're not very good at saying thank you to America. I believe we do have a hell of a debt to them in this crisis. One other possibility, of course, Max, as you point out in your book about the 62 crisis is that a nuclear war could be unleashed or at least a nuclear weapon could be used by accident, by someone below the top level chain of command. Do you see that as a possibility today? I think in 1962, there were virtually no technological safeguards to stop local commanders from undecing weapons, whether it was missiles that were mounted on American aircraft or whether it was Russian weapons, tactical weapons on Cuba. Today, there are more technological safeguards, but if somebody lets off a dirty bomb or a tactical nuclear weapon, the danger of escalation, the danger of getting into this spiral is still as great as it ever was. So I think it's less, there is less danger of an accident than it was in 1962, but a greater danger of an unplanned escalation because Putin is cornered. Putin is having a terrible time in his conventional campaign, and he's seeing the West providing Ukraine with ever greater capability, and the danger of him escalating a step, doing something to try and terrify the West. The other thing, of course, is that Putin would never have started this thing in the first place if he had not believed that our collective will to resist him was weak. He decided the West was weak and divided, and I have to say Brexit contributed to this. There was very important evidence of how far in Moscow, the generals were emboldened by Brexit back in 2016. They believe this was a symptom of European disunity, which indeed it was, it is, and it did encourage the Kremlin and the path they've taken. They believe where we the challenge today is to show that we're not nearly as weak as they think, but of course, one reason I think this was bound to go on is I think that we have got to so Putin that we can get through this winter without European solidarity cracking, without the French and the Germans running up the white flag when they start running out of gas. So I think that has to happen before there's any prospect of the Russians being partied in any remotely serious negotiations. And that's what's so scary. A lot more killing and dying is going to have to happen before there could be any sort of negotiation, I believe. You talked about negotiations being inevitable at some stage, Max or Wars, end with negotiations pretty much. Apart from arguably I suppose the Second World War, is there a minimum that the Ukrainians will accept now? Do you believe that even with pressure from America and there are other allies that they cannot draw back from? We cannot know and we can't tell them. At the moment, President Zelensky is saying the war goes on until the Russians are out of Crimea. My private opinion for what it's worth is that I'll be presently surprised if when all this is over, God knows when that will be. The Russians are out of Crimea. I think that may be a bridge too far, but it would be presumptuous for us to start telling them, telling the Ukrainians at this point what they should or should not concede of their country. But of course, the Russians have absolutely no right whatsoever to any of it. And the other thing that makes a deal much, much more difficult, were told that the Russians have already done something like $500 billion worth of damage to Ukrainian infrastructure, which somebody is going to have to pay to rebuild. And there was a very good piece in the American Authority of magazine Foreign Affairs a few months ago, which I took very seriously, by an expert on aid. And he said he did not believe that there would be a martial plan, such as with ADD, the Second World War, to aid Ukraine. And that one of the greatest dangers for Ukraine is that even if the Russian army can't defeat Ukraine on the battlefield, what it may be able to do is to make Ukraine a pretty horrible place to live and to work in. In other words, to make Ukraine a chronic basket case. And that's terrifying. And yet it's entirely credible that the Russians regard that as an attainable objective. And so it's very hard, I think it is harder to see the way out of this, or to see any comfortable way out of this, than it was out of the Cuban missile crisis. But the idea that the Russians, even if Putin is deposed, even if we get another Russian leader, I find it very difficult to believe that there's any remotely realistic prospect for the Russians paying these stupendous sums for the damage they've inflicted. It's a very hard one, but I also remember, and I take very seriously, I never forget, a moment in 1940, in the summer of 1940, when Britain was its lowest air, and looked on the brink of defeat. And yet, at the weekend at checkers, some of the people around Churchill were saying they were talking optimistically about how one had got to look forward to German defeat. And if Germany was defeated, then Germany must be expelled forever from the community of international civilized powers, must be partialized and demilitarized and deindustrialized. So people were saying very brutal harsh things, which were totally right and understandable. In the context of the gaste, I think, that Germany had done to the world, until especially to Europe. But Churchill, at that point, stepped in and he said, no, no, he said, this is not so. He said, Germany was part of the family of nations before the Nazis came. And it will be again. And I often heart back to that remark of Churchill's, because I think it requires such fast sightedness and generosity of spirit for him to say that at a moment, when Britain was on its knees, and when it was very hard to see how Germany was going to be defeated. And I do think it was a sort of lesson to us all that one, you can't say never about anything to do with international affairs. And international affairs often require ghastly compromises, dirty deals. So it's very hard to see the shape of that now, and especially hard for the Ukrainian people. And if I was a Ukrainian listening to what I'm saying, you'd say, it's all right for you. You're not looking at the ruins of your home, of your village, of your city. And in a way, we all need, I'm speaking now as historian and so on, but I hope that one never forgets the sort of humility that we all need to feel faced with what the ruin of Ukraine, at the hands of the Russians. And it's entirely understandable that Ukrainian people today feel this rage towards Russia for what it's done. And it is almost beyond belief that Putin has done so much untold harm to his own country, of course, not as much physical harm, but terrible economic and social and political harm. But on the other hand, part of it seems to me part of our responsibility is historians, is to try and look ahead a bit and also back a bit, and to look for precedence and to recognize historical trends that may seem unthinkable now, but in the end, maybe things are going to come to pass that do seem unthinkable in the climate today. It's fascinating that sobering stuff, Max, thank you so much for giving us your insight. Well, I think that was a brilliant survey of the situation currently, but also the historical parallels with the missile crisis of all those years ago. Good to hear Max being so positive about the Americans and the way they've really got the balance right on this combination of mixing resolution with supporting Ukraine, but also cautioning about the potential use of nuclear weapons, really following the President Kennedy playbook that you think. Yes, absolutely right. And of course, he also speaks about the danger of so-called military experts who were in 1962 intensely bellicose. Now, I don't think Max is making the specific point that you've got a lot of generals demanding something similar now, but he did make the very interesting parallel that in 1962, American generals felt that the war, that is not just a conventional war, but a nuclear war, was winnable. And this is something that he said, we finally learned our lesson really, but we're still on a learning curve. And that, in fact, a lot of the danger of nuclear weapons by the end of the Cold War was, you know, it began to recede into the distance, and it's only now with Putin that we realize they are an ever-present danger and that they need to be taken account of. And you need, frankly, to have a policy, NATO needs a policy, which is why we're asking all our guests what can NATO do in this sort of situation. And Max has confirmed what we all feel is important, which is that the signals need to be sent to Russia that if it uses any kind of weapon of mass destruction, there will be an overwhelming conventional response, but certainly not an attempted nuclear escalation. Interesting also that we were dealing then in his eyes, and I think most of us would agree with that, with, despite the fact that we were ideological enemies, one did get the feeling that there was a logic to what they were doing, and that you were dealing with people who were rational according to their own kind of worldview. Also, that Christchurch was actually a more reasonable person than Putin appears to be. He seems to be driven by kind of who knows what motivations backed up with this rather scary apocalyptic utterances from time to time, very much sharing the rhetoric of those ultra-nationalists who support him. So in a way, you know, Christchurch looks like quite a cuddly figure compared to Putin. Yeah, one of the points of Max's book, which I read and have spoken to Max about in some detail, is the danger of an accident in 1962, because in effect some people lower down the chain of command had the capacity actually to launch a tactical nuclear weapons. Now, Max's point is there's less danger of that now, but more danger of as he puts it, an unplanned escalation because of the point you've just made, Patrick, which is that we are dealing with a much more dangerous character in Putin. Now, we could get to the end of all of this and find out that the discussions in the Kremlin have always discounted the possibility of you using nuclear weapons, which is of course what we discovered after 1962. Let's hope that's the case, but Max's point is that you need to handle Putin very carefully. And of course, he goes on to look at the possibility of some kind of negotiation. Max has been criticized about this and he acknowledged that in the interview, but of course he is surely right that at some stage a deal has to be struck, isn't he, Patrick? Yeah, in victory, magnumity, things looks a bit poly-eneration now, doesn't it? I mean, we are dealing with these people who seem to prepare to stop at nothing. I suppose that's exactly his point, really, that in 1940 the Germans seemed to be in the same position and that was before we heard about the Holocaust, etc. So you have to have a very big Churchillian heart, I think, to be able to give utterance to those thoughts now. But I think he's right. We'll come to that. Yeah, and we do need to emphasize one point, Max, Max, very, very clearly. We'll get onto questions in a minute in which some people are even suggesting questions have come into us that, Russia was provoked into this war. Well, Max is having none of that, nor we, Patrick, frankly. I mean, Max makes it clear that the tens of thousands of people have already died in Ukraine because of, and I quote, Putin's monstrous act of aggression. So, you know, before people start talking about Max as an appeaser, let them be in no doubt who he feels is responsible for this war. Yeah, which I think he's also right in saying is going to go on for a long time. He says, months if not years, and I really hope it's the former rather than latter, but we are getting into a sort of stalemate situation on the battlefield. It seems now winter is here. So I think there's a lot more suffering that Ukrainians are going to have to endure before things get significantly better. Yeah, and I think just to underline the final, my final takeaway from Max's interview as a mixture, frankly, of hope and concern, rightly concerned for the reasons you've just given, Patrick, but also hope that America is behaving very effectively over this. A lot of US bashing, there's been in the British media and the Western media over the years, but actually he's giving America due credit for really playing a very, very sensible hand and effectively already saving Ukraine from destruction or helping to save Ukraine from destruction. Also, very good to remind us of what the situation might have been had the President of the United States been Donald Trump and not Joe Biden. We should never forget that in his time Trump was a bit of a Putin fanboy, so I don't think the Ukrainians would have got anything like the level of support from him that they are enjoying quite rightly from Biden at the moment. Okay, well let's move on to some questions. We've had many coming in. Thank you and please keep them coming. We can't answer them all, but here are just a selection and we'll try and give them our best response. So here's the first one from Alvarez and this is actually from Lithuania. So, let's, our listeners think that it's just an Anglo-phone podcast, Alvarez and Lithuania. Once to know the answer to the very reasonable question, why do Western Europeans underestimate the threat from Russia for themselves? Okay, he's acknowledging the threat that there clearly is today to Ukraine. He goes on to talk about the danger to Moldova, the Baltic states will follow after that Poland, but he's really saying to us, this is an existential issue for the whole of Europe and that they're good at some stage in the future, be a conflict with Finland or Germany. Are Western Europeans short-sighted? Well, are we Patrick? Well, I think this is actually a sort of cultural issue and a historical issue and I think that the further away you are from Russia, the more likely you are to see them in a benign light. And of course, we have this very strong memory of the Second World War even after all these years of Uncle Joe and the Soviets being our brothers and arms, even though we knew perfectly well that they were on the side essentially of Hitler, who are a third of the war basically. When they switched side with amazing rapidity, they became our beloved allies. So, I think there's a bit of that memory lingering on still and you get some people like saying, well, we didn't really win the Second World War, it was the Russians that won the Second World War for us, which is sort of true, but it's certainly not what they set out to do. But so I think that is lingering on and I think that shapes political attitudes and indeed public attitudes. There is also a strange, curious legacy from the left and their relationship with Russia. We've seen it in UK politics and UK commentators in recent months that there is still a lingering sort of admiration and affiliation from the hard left in the UK. And Russia, of course, this goes back to communist days and yet you couldn't have a regime in Russia less sympathetic, frankly, to sort of communist ideals. It's fiercely nationalistic, pro-business, up to a point. And it is totally mystifying, frankly, that there is still that legacy, but it is clearly that. Yeah, I think this war will put paid to it. There will be still a few people who cling to some idea that basically Russia hasn't been given a fair hearing in the world forums about this, but I think that would be very, very much a minority, cranky view. I hope so anyway. Yeah, here's a question from Mark De Breton Gordon, who we can only imagine is connected to the former boss of Britain's nuclear and chemical warfare capability. And he asked the question, how and if Russia would be able to successfully maintain an internal security operation in a semi-occupied Ukraine, given the huge problems that the Germans faced in World War II and how it had impacted on their offensive operations? Do you think this is an important question Patrick, which is that there clearly are a lot of partisans operating behind Russian lines? Yes, and I think it comes back to what Max was saying at the end of your interview with him, about the very effective information security that the Ukrainians are operating. So we I think we'll only know the extent of what's going on there after the conflict is over. Okay, there's an interesting one here from Case Stewards. My question is, as a medic, how prepared are Ukrainian medical facilities for mass casualties? Well, difficult to answer that question Patrick, we're not on the ground. We can only imagine they are adapting very quickly, as of course they have to do. It depends what you mean by mass casualties, of course. If the question relates to the use of weapons of mass destruction, we dread to think how, frankly, I'm prepared, they're going to be for that. We know they've been handing out various kind of attempts to combat possible use of nuclear weapons with certain forms of treatment. But you know, I mean, who knows? One extra comment that Case Stewards makes is great podcast, but you seem to be very male dominated. There must be female experts who can commentate on the subject. Patrick, do you want to respond to that? Well, I have to agree with you there. I think it's K, maybe K.A. Weist, but you're absolutely right. I mean, we have had to be fair. We've had Ike Chilupa, she was the opening, actually, the interviewee on the podcast. And then later we had Jeanine DiGiovani talking about the war crimes enterprise that she leads. But yeah, we've got to try harder on that one. We're also accused of having too many posh people on. So do you remember that? Yeah, so I know. I know. You sort of can't win. I mean, what we can say is we're trying to get the best people that are available that we can get to and twist their arms to appear on the podcast. You can imagine K that people are being demanded. You know, the commentators are being demanded for all the news outlets, but we feel we've got some really good people. I'm not defending the fact of their male. You know, the majority of them are. We hold our hands up to that, but they also happen to be people who have studied and observed the subject very deeply, both in a practical sense and in a theoretical sense. And we think we've got some pretty reasonable commentators thus far, but we do take note of your comment. Now, we've got one from Richard Joyce asking, what would China's reaction be to a Russian nuclear strike? Will the US be putting pressure on China to lean on Russia? China's already distanced themselves a little from Putin. And it seems to me, hi, this is Richard speaking, they will be key to how this ends your thoughts. Well, key to deterring Russia, frankly, is for the West to stay steady on this and make it pretty clear what the response to a nuclear strike will be, but China's influence is undoubtedly important. I think Richard's right to imply that China is not going to be supportive of a Russian nuclear strike. Of course, it will not be. It will probably be behind the scenes suggesting this is a no-go area. Let's hope that's the case. China cannot benefit, frankly, from the use of any kind of nuclear weapons, any more than the rest of the world can. But it is true that China is one of the few powers left in the world that Russia is prepared to listen to. So we know their reaction or we feel their reaction to a nuclear strike would be negative. And let's hope that Russia knows that. It's not often we blow our own trumpets, but so, God will share this with you from Nick Papas, who writes, hello, gentlemen. I just wanted to write and say how I'm thoroughly enjoying the podcast, the first season on the Forklens War, and now on Ukraine. I am a former US Army infantry paratrooper officer and currently working in the intelligence community. Your podcast is excellent and highly informative. You've done a fantastic job of remaining unbiased and giving us some real insight into the war, which is difficult to get from the mainstream media. Well, we aim to please, and it seems that we've pleased Nick. So thanks very much for that, Nick. We'll try and keep up the high standard. Yeah, and last one from Charles Crofton. I've had a little bit of towing and fraying from Charles. He, like Nick Papas, very much enjoyed the previous podcast series on the Forklens, but he's not so impressed. So we also need to acknowledge not everyone's delighted with what we're doing, Patrick. Not so impressed with our current interpretation of events. He doesn't think that there's much balance in our interpretation. And as an example of this, he gives a few things that he believes and he gives some sources. Well, you can find sources for anything, frankly, Charles. But anyway, give some sources of the fact that very unlikely that China's going to invade Taiwan. Well, we don't agree, Charles. He also feels that there are sources that suggest that Russia was provoked into this war. Again, we don't agree, Charles. I think his broader sense is that Russia is being hard done by here. We need to have a bit more balance. We need to see it from the Russian perspective. He also suggests Patrick and this is getting into proper conspiracy theory stuff that the Nord Stream 1 and 2 destruction of the pipeline, of course, in the Baltic Sea was done by the Americans. So I think you're getting a sense of where Charles is going on all of this. He's not happy with what we're doing, but frankly, Charles, you might want to start a podcast of your own and then you can air some of these views. Absolutely. Well, we live in a democracy, Charles is entitled to his point of view, not that I think we share much of it, but thanks for getting in touch nonetheless. Okay, well, that's all we have time for this week. Do join us again next week when we'll be discussing the latest news from the Ukraine war, the front line, the diplomatic front and everything else. And of course, hearing from another expert commentator or participants, goodbye. Looking to get into the Halloween spirit, ACAS recommends the most chilling podcasts. Tune in and beware. It's been nearly five years since Dr. Ruzia disappeared. She'd promised to make the world rich with her revolutionary cryptocurrency, One Coin. You're amazing guys. But One Coin was a lie. Join me, Jamie Bartlett, as we scow the globe, looking for Ruzia's missing millions. 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