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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19. The HALO Trust

19. The HALO Trust

Fri, 16 Dec 2022 01:00

On this week's Battleground: Ukraine, Saul and Patrick speak to James Cowan - a decorated former British Army General who is now the CEO of the HALO Trust, the charity which removes dangerous ordnance left by war. He tells us how the war has impacted on HALO’s ability to carry out its work in Ukraine, as well as the effect it’s having on humanitarian efforts elsewhere in the world. The latest big news stories are discussed including the news that the Pentagon has given Ukraine the green light for drone strikes inside Russia.

Producer: James Hodgson

Twitter: @PodBattleground

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Hello and welcome back to Battleground Ukraine with me Patrick Bishop and Saul David. Well, there's not much going on on the battlefield this week. The big news really is that the Pentagon has given Ukraine the green light for drone strikes inside Russia, also that it's fast tracking the delivery of Patriot missiles, which could be used against the waves of incoming missile attacks. The Russians are launching against Ukrainian infrastructure. We'll also be discussing reports that British Special Forces are active inside Ukraine and that Russia is running out of men. Our guest this week is James Cowan, the decorated former general in the British Army, who is now chief executive of the Halo Trust. That's the charity which removes dangerous ordinance left by war. Later James will explain how the war is impacted on Halo's ability to carry out its work in Ukraine, the effect it's having on humanitarian efforts elsewhere, and how the West should go about winning the peace in terms of reconstruction. But first let's talk in more detail about these latest news developments. Probably the most interesting is US defence source telling the Times that the Pentagon has quotes given a tacit endorsement of Ukraine's long range attacks on targets inside Russia after President Putin's multiple missile strikes against Kiev's critical infrastructure. Now this is a contradiction of the official Pentagon line thus far. Something we were actually talking about ourselves last week, which was that America was neither encouraging nor condemning such attacks. But it also implies emboldening of the US position which up until this point has been to discourage attacks that might escalate the war in the direction of nuclear weapons. Yeah, I think it's hugely significant and the source has confirmed the last point you just made Patrick by adding, we're still, and this is a quote, we're still using the same escalatory calculations. But the fear of escalation has changed since the beginning. It's different now. This is because the calculus of war has changed as a result of the suffering and brutality the Ukrainians are being subjected to by the Russians. Now that's their explanation, but I think it's also in an acknowledgement by America that Russia's use of nuclear weapons is probably off the table. So don't worry so much about escalation. Certainly if it gives the Ukrainians the opportunity to defend themselves, what do you think, Patrick? Well, there's definitely a move towards getting really important and possibly game-changing kit into theatre. Same official says nothing is off the table. Now, this will be music to the ears of Kiev because they've been begging for bigger and better stuff for a long time. I mean, the real game-change would of course be if the Pentagon was to Greenite or rather the White House, because it's a presidential decision. If they greenlit the army tactical missile systems, these are the really states of the art 190-mile range to surface missile system, which would actually really take the war to Russia. I think that's been considered to escalate the up until now, but in the meantime, there's been a really significant change in US commitment with the news that the US is about to send its advanced patriot surface to where missiles to Ukraine. They've been asking for this for months and months and months in Ukraine because this is a really fantastic bit of kit. It can knock down not only cruise missiles and aircraft, but even ballistic missiles. This would really give the Russians a lot of pause for thought when they're standing over there steadily depleting missiles' supplies. I mean, they really would be, I think, consigning them to oblivion if they were launched against patriot batteries in place. Will they be sent direct from the US or moved in theatre? There are several batteries nearby. There's two in Poland, one in Czechoslovakia, others in Germany, which would obviously be a hell of a lot quicker and speeders of the essence. They don't come cheap. Each missile costs $3 million, but in the long term, this would be hearing from James later on. This could actually be a bargain given the massive cost of repairing infrastructure. We'll be hearing about that. By the way, Saul, did you know that Patriot is an acronym? I didn't know this, but apparently it's a bit of a labor acronym. It stands for phased array tracking radar to intercept on target. Get it? No idea. Thanks for that, Patrick. I actually just thought it was a classic American title, Patriot, you know, the great Patriots who are some Americans. Sounds cool. Will they take in a rather afro-fer? Well, I mean, I remember actually seeing them in action in the first Gulf War in 1991 when the Iraqis were firing scud missiles into Saudi. And they shot down, and the Patriots were there, obviously, to defend Saudi airspace. They managed to shoot down 40, but some of them did get through, including one that hit a warehouse in Daraan, killing 27 American soldiers. Yeah, I remember all the scud emergency, Patrick, you were out there scuttling to the array shelters, no doubt. I think what the Americans are very good at, actually, and your point about the Patriots actually being around for a while underlines this is developing kit that can be adapted over time, can be improved over time. I mean, a lot of their planes, for example, have been in service for quite a long time, and they just keep bringing out new versions. A bit like the Spitfire in the Second World War, Patrick, we do like our World War II analogies, where they knew they were onto a good thing, and they just kept upgrading it. What mark will we on by the end of the war, Patrick? Well, I can remember it 10, but I'm not sure whether it went beyond that. And of course, they stated service with all these kind of second rank, a third rank military nation air forces, so they were still flying around in the 50s. Yeah, now just to underline the American support, Biden came out with a statement this week, which again, I think is very significant in which he announced that the US is committed to continue providing Ukraine with security, economic and humanitarian assistance, holding Russia accountable for its war crimes and atrocities and imposing costs on Russia for its aggression. So here we have a pretty full statement, which again, is going to back out some of the things that James is going to tell us about in the interview shortly. Yeah, there's great to hear this unwavering commitment against the kind of, as we've said before, the kind of noises that are coming out of the commentary out, saying people are getting fed up with the war. As we both agree, I think so, anecdotally, I don't get any sense of that. Some people I talk to anywhere, it's very much something coming from the media echo chamber. Now something close to your heart here, a sole corroboration that British forces are active in Ukraine, special forces, Royal Marines, major general Robert McGowan, former commandant general of the Marines, was writing in Globe and Laurel, their very excellent official Greenbury publication. And I think it's obviously your pals, the SBS, who are doing the sneaky beaky stuff. He says they have supported quote discreet operations in this hugely sensitive environment and with a high level of political and military risk. What do you read into that? Yeah, it's really interesting, isn't he? He actually specifically referred to commandos, but this is shorthand, frankly. You'll have to take it from me, Patrick. You probably know anyway that the SBS are still referred to as Royal Marines. If you go down to their base in pool where it'd been a number of times, it's known as RM pool. I mean, shorthand is Royal Marines, but in reality, of course, when you start talking about things like discreet operations and high level of political and military risk, there's no question this is the SBS. We had further confirmation last week if you remember of some of the kit that's being sent out there from our mole at Arya Prize, Northern. I hope he hasn't been wingled out yet in the meantime, Patrick. But this is absolute confirmation that they've been on the ground. It's significant because it's the first time that a senior military figure has confirmed the use of special forces. What they're actually doing there is not that clear, but the implication, or at least the way I'm taking it, Patrick, is that they may actually be going on missions themselves when they start talking about a high level of political and military risk. That of course is the danger that they might be captured and how they're going to explain what they're doing there. A very obvious cover story, as I think we've discussed before, is that their mercenaries basically and they're helping the Ukrainians. But it's obviously highly dangerous work, whatever it is, and good on them. And they're frankly from what we can see with the tap on the Kirchbridge and other operations of involving Marine kit, you suspect they're having a real effect. And you're on the money as usual. And you'll be waiting so they come back to debrief them and turn it into a lot of their selling book. We hope. Another significant development this week was British intelligence assessment. The Russian army is running out of men and won't have enough troops to launch an offensive for several months. This kind of backs up what Foxy was saying last week. It's sort of in line with pretty much everything else we've been hearing in that department. The view is that they're just too depleted, too generally degraded and lacking the competence to make any significant progress. And they've really plumped for this absurd strategy of fighting to the death in Bakhmut. There's been some great reporting out of Bakhmut actually showing the images there, showing just how dreadful it is. And inevitably this is sort of impacting on Russian public opinion in so far as we've been engaged. Have you been following this stuff about recruiting efforts in various stands trying to get drag people in from the periphery to put them into uniform? Yeah, it's really extraordinary. Some of the reports actually these are characters from I suppose independent countries but closely aligned to Moscow. The stands as you say, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. And the Russians are trying to recruit a lot of these guys inside Russia. So they're obviously migrants on the move by offering them fast track Russian citizenship if they agree to fight for Ukraine. Now despite the fact that their own nations are relatively closely aligned with Putin, there's actually been an announcement by two of those states, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan warning their citizens, believe it or not, Patrick, that they'll be liable to criminal prosecution if they do fight alongside Russian sources. So definitely breaking ranks there and unwilling to be drawn into this conflict even in a proxy sense by their citizens fighting for Russia. On that subject or a lie to that subject, I just want to mention a trial that's just finished in Moscow which we learned about from the excellent Professor Mark Gallyochin. Now this is important to highlight I think because I sometimes feel that we're not being fair to Russian people as a whole. It's not really our fault given the difficulties of getting any free and frank expressions of the true feelings of people there given the Kremlin's repression of free speech. But there are plenty of people there who hate what Putin is doing. One of them is someone called Ilya Yashin. He's a 39-year-old veteran activist. Probably the most high profile opposition figure at large who was still free until recently. Since Alexei Navalny was sent to prison in 2021, well, now Yashin is going to jail two having been predictably found guilty in a Moscow court of the charge, deeply questionable charge. As Professor Gallyochin says, of spreading false information about the Russian military, what his crime was was to raise the allegations of systematic human rights abuses. I wore crimes in the Ukrainian town of Butcher on his YouTube channel all the way back in April when these atrocities first came to light. He's been found guilty, been not yet sentenced. But at the trial, he used it as a platform and amazingly his remarks were reported. He addressed Putin directly and I want to quote this in full because I think it's important. And he said, Mr. Putin, as you look at the consequences of this monstrous war, you probably realize what a big mistake you made. No one is greeting our army with flowers. We are called invaders and occupiers. Your name is now firmly associated with death and destruction. You have brought terrible misfortunes to the Ukrainian people who were probably never forgivos. But you're not only at war with Ukrainians, you're at war with your own people. You are taking away the Russian people's home. Hundreds of thousands of Russians are leaving their homeland because they don't want to kill or be killed. And he's final words after urging Putin to stop this madness immediately. He then tried to hearten his supporters saying, please don't give in to despair and don't forget that this is our country. It's worth fighting for. Be courageous. Don't give in to this evil and resist. Defend your neighborhood. Defend your city and above all defend one another. There are many more of us than it seems. And together we are a great force. What a wonderfully stirring thing to say. We should always bear that in mind. There are lots of people like Mr. Yashin in Russia. Wow. Great stuff, Patrick. Really wonderful to hear that. And to hear an example of the highest form of courage in my view. As moral courage, standing up for what you know is right, even though there will be personal consequences for you. I mean, really extraordinary stuff. We need to get that message out. We're doing our bit on the podcast. Last bit of news, related, I suppose, to the ongoing global instability as a result of the Ukraine war, is the news that the US Air Force has carried out its first successful test of a new hypersonic missile that can travel at five times the speed of sound and be launched from a B-52H struttofortuous aircraft. My point, of course, about the aircraft. That B-52 is a new variant of something that's been around for a while. Yeah, ancient. Well, this, of course, is in response to previous tests by both Russia and China with similar weapons. And it's a sign that the US is clawing background in the superpower arms race. And frankly, that it's taking these global threats incredibly seriously. OK, well, now we're going to hear from this week's guest, James Cowan, former British general, who now runs the Halo Trust, the charity made famous by Princess Diana. And its initial job was clearing minds and other dangerous ordinance left by the war, though it's expanded its horizon since then. We asked James to tell us about the vital work that Halo does. And more specifically, what it was up to in Ukraine prior to the Russian invasion in February 2022. This is what he told us. OK, James, we first met when you were commanding the first black watch in the early 2000s and had just completed the tour of duty in Iraq. Since your retirement from the British Army as a major general in 2015, you've been running the Halo Trust, which was made famous, I seem to remember, by that picture of Princess Diana in an Angola minefield being cleared by Halo employees in 1997. So can you, to start off, we'll tell us a little bit about the post-conflict work that Halo does and more specifically what it was up to in Ukraine prior to the Russian invasion in February 2022. Yeah, thanks. I think Halo has changed a lot actually since those days in Angola in 1997. It was famous for two things, I suppose, post-conflict work and landmine clearance. It is now very much involved in countries that are actually in conflict. Our biggest program is Afghanistan. We've got 3,000 staff there. I actually went back to Kabul to see senior Taliban ministers in June. And I think there's actually a sideline, a very interesting connection between what took place with the withdrawal of the coalition forces and the subsequent involvement of Putin in your current. But anyway, I was back there. That's our biggest program. But we're also in other countries that have suffered the Russian form of war, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Iraq. These are countries that are in conflict and obviously in the context of Libya and Syria. They'd experienced something of that which Ukraine now is experiencing. So we are about 12,500 staff across the world. We were founded by two ex-soldiers, but we're not a military charity. We're very much a humanitarian organisation. And it is our humanitarian duty really to save lives and restore livelihoods, so two parts of our mission. We've been in Ukraine since 2015 and we had a program of about 430 staff based in the Donbass. Some of them lived in Maripal, most of them lived around Kramatorsk. And their work was very much focused on clearing up after the 2014 conflict. I think what's interesting in this context is the relationship between hard and soft power. Certainly, the UK integrated review was meant to try and integrate the various levers of British foreign policy. I don't think there has been an integration of hard and soft power. My NGO I think clears up after hard power, but it's a pretty useful asset to have if you can't put military boots on the ground, certainly we are there on the ground. But come February the 24th, we had to decide what to do. And the initial feeling was of course that the Russians would quite quickly overwhelm Ukraine. So we put the program on ice, but only for literally a few days. And quite quickly we realised that the Ukrainians were going to survive. And so we chose to pivot the program, extracting our stuff from the east and pivoting to around Kiev. And of those 430 staff, some were stuck behind Russian lines, somewhere in Maripal and in Jodheseej. Some were mobilised and have fought for the Ukrainian army. Some have had domestic duties, many of our women have had to look after their families, some of the come refugees. And so of the original 430 staff about half continued to work for us. And from there we were able to start to rebuild and then to grow. And when I was sitting at over 600 staff and by early next year we will be over 1000 and we have plans to grow to 2000 during the course of 2023. So it's been a huge challenge to achieve that pivot, recruiting originally, people, Russian speakers from the east now recruiting people from across the Ukraine. And now beginning having successfully begun clearance around all the satellite towns around Kiev, moving out towards Kukiv and now heading down towards Mikhailov and towards Sons and with the ambition of getting into all areas which have been liberated as soon as possible. I think what this shows is that the sort of humanitarian work that we do doesn't have to be post-conflict. It can be done within a life conflict as and when areas become free of enemy interference. So that's a sort of overview of how this program's gone. It's a snapshot. There's been a pretty interesting and challenging year for us. Can you give us some idea of what the actual work entails? Say you've moved into an area that's been liberated by the Ukrainian army. How do you actually set about clear of the minds? So what we do is always to work with the national authorities and the way the Ukrainians run this is essentially between the Ministry of Defence and their state emergency services that SES. So we work in a very cooperative way with them and they assign tasks to us and we go out and fulfill them. We're famous for clearing landmines but actually we all know that the Russians were only around Kiev for a relatively short period of time and left voluntarily. So they're time to prepare deliberate minefields or defensive belts wasn't very long. So the threat around Kiev has been nuisance minefields and a lot of booby trapping and other unexploded ordinance artillery ammunition, rocket tricks etc. So just to give us an idea of what a day in the life of a mine clearance team. So the first thing to do as ever, you know, time spent in reconnaissance is seldom wasted. So surveys, absolutely the first task and we have been visiting communities, we've visited over 400 communities and have found evidence of 265 of those communities having landmine contamination or other unexploded ordinance contamination. So that is a huge amount of ordinance in an area that was only occupied for two weeks. So once that survey is done and we've got a clear idea of what the problem is, a number of things that can then follow. The first thing is explosive ordinance risk education, huge numbers of children or just civilians of one to another who might be vulnerable, farmers who might take their tractors or plows into areas where they may inadvertently run over an anti-tank mine or people foraging. It's a big part of Ukraine life going into the forest of forage for mushrooms or children playing or anybody else who happens to be out and about. So getting them educated is an important aspect. And then clearance itself is obviously the fundamental role of what we do and we have years of experience of this around the world. So a big part of our build up is the training of our staff. We always employ local people. We have a tiny number of international staff but the vast majority of our program is made up of Ukrainian nationals. We've got all sorts of interesting people working for us. Some of them have never been in the demining world before we're employed women. Of course with so many men conscripted into the Ukrainian army, of course, our ability to employ women is an important strength that we can offer. But we can also employ IDPs, anyone displaced from their homes and looking for work. Some demobilized military, we do employ some who've been stood down, a few who've been lightly wounded and who wish to continue doing something for Ukraine, are working for us. So that's a sort of spread of people. But to give you some idea, we've got some former dancers, we've got some math teachers, we've been got to screenwriter working for the hairdressner doing this demining work. Can you tell us a little bit about the difficulty of working in the Russian occupied areas, James? I mean, you mentioned that some of your staff had actually taken part or at least were present during the siege of Marriott Paul. So following on from that, are they safe? Do you know where they are and more generally, how tricky is it being? So we're a humanitarian organisation and our humanitarian duty is to help anybody from either side of this war. The reality is that we can only do that with the consent of the parties to the conflict. And in this instance, we do not have the consent of the Russians to operate along on their side of the line of control. So that is obviously a disappointment and it would be very nice if we were able to do that. But I don't foresee any circumstance in which we would be allowed to. As far as staff who have ended up on the wrong side of the line of control, they no longer work for us for their own safety. And of course, we would very much like to reconnect with them and re-employ them as soon as any areas are liberated. But for now at least, they are not able to work for the hailed of trust. The Marriott Paul siege was obviously a hugely difficult period. We had a couple of dozen staff trapped in Marriott Paul during it. And please say they survived it. And many of them have made their way out westwards into Ukrainian control areas. Some have not and have disappeared into the mix, so to speak, eastwards into Russia. And that of course is a cause of concern to me. Sounds like a pretty risky business, James. Can you give us some idea of the dangers involved in the actual long-term ground work? Yeah, I mean, first of all, you need to know what you're doing. And we are training is careful, it's deliberate, it abides by international mine action standards. And we make sure that people are fully qualified before we allow them to start clearing ordnance. You will see on YouTube many videos of some of what I would describe as highly ill advised clearance techniques. You know, the hailed of trust is the world's leading land-mine clearance NGO. We follow the higher standards. So the quality of the training is really important. But actually, the risks to our people are probably less from the ordnance than they are from other factors. Booby trapping is a major issue. It's very easy to treat a land-mine just as a land-mine if you clear it in a conventional way. It won't do you any harm. Fundamentally, it's a pressure plate, which if pressure is applied from the top, it will detonate and kill you. However, if you approach it from the side and you destroy it in the traditional way, it won't do any harm. Just to jump in there, because we're starting from ground to see for our own knowledge of this. What would that actually entail? I mean, physically, what do you do when you see a land-mine sitting there in front of you? There are two ways of essentially destroying ordnance. The first is to blow it up, put plastic explosive beside it and to destroy it. And the second is some countries that are reluctant to allow NGOs such as our own to use explosives. So you can do what's called a low-ordering technique in which you use things like a thermide flare. So two inert chemicals, when they come together, you create high heat and basically burn out the explosive. So those are the standard ways in which a land-mine can be cleared. When you're dealing with what we anticipate to be deliberate mind-belts laid in depth in and around to the east of the Danube Pro and all the way up really the line of control, which we think the Russians are going to be doing during the course of this winter, we're anticipating encountering hundreds of thousands of land mines. So the capacity to get to tempo and to clear these things quickly is really very, very important. You've got to be able to do this in a clear thousand every day. And it isn't just the land mines, you know, they're figures out at the moment showing that the Russians are firing around 20,000 artillery rounds a day and given poor industrial standards within the Russian industrial complex, probably about 10% of failing. So if you've got, you know, if you're creating roughly 2,000 artillery blinds every day, which are probably reasonably deeply buried, you have quite a significant clearance challenge for the future. It's interesting you say the Russians aren't cooperating because of course you're, or at least the ongoing conflict, is creating problems for the future, isn't it? At some stage when you are allowed to go in, possibly after some kind of peace deal, we're not Patrick and I terribly optimistic that that's going to happen anytime soon. Are you going to have to deal with all the ordinances that's been fired by the Ukrainians, too, aren't you? Yeah, but of course the Ukrainians are firing in a far more precise and limited way. I mean, they're not the volumetric, so just not the same. So the figures I'm seeing roughly so 20,000 Russian rounds fired a day to about 4,000 Ukrainian rounds fired. So yes, of course it is an important factor, but it's nothing like the volumes that the Russians are putting down range. I think also you've got to think about the present campaign by the Russians to take out Ukrainian infrastructure and that sort of long range, more complex weapon systems that the Russians are presently using. Some of them are not decinating on landing, so there is quite an explosive audience disposal challenge associated with all of that as well. OK, that's all we have time for in part one. Join us in part two when we'll hear the rest of James Cowns interview and answer some listener's questions. Welcome back. In part one, we heard the first part of our interview with Halo Chief Executive, James Cown. What we asked him next. I was noticing on the Halo website, James, that your revenue has gone up quite significantly in recent years. In fact, since you've been in post, it looks like to me, which I suspect is partly down to the tremendous work you and your team are doing. But I also note that the British government is reducing the money made available to the sort of work you're doing. Is that a big problem for you? If you say the British government is reducing overseas aid, it is. And that's fairly well acknowledged fact from 0.7 to 0.5. And then some of that has been allocated to dealing with the refugee crisis. But in fact, I'd like to sort of applaud the British government for continuing to support its work with its global mine action programme. It's actually doing pretty well on that account. But we're not, by any means, reliant on British money. Our biggest donor is the United States State Department. As a whole, political military bureau in the State Department, that is totally focused on clearing ordnance from various areas around the world from as far away as Vietnam to Colombia. But Germany is increasingly an important partner for us. And what I'm really interested by with the Germans is Germans are coming to London to meet us. They are starting to think in terms of not just the clearance of ordnance, but how they can pull together a broader, hot stabilisation package. So it's not just about winning the war, but about winning the peace. And I know you're presently gloomy about the possibilities of a peace deal, so am I. But I think we should be thinking not about a wholesale peace deal, but about just the liberation of areas. And as each new area is liberated, how then it has got back to some sort of functioning economy again. Because what we're seeing is no one's going home. There are arguably as many 300,000 houses now damaged as a result of this war. No one is going to plow a field. No one is going to restart a business or get a factory going or reactivate a port whilst it is contaminated as heavily as it is at the moment with explosive ordnance. So what we want to do with the Germans is be part of a broad array of interventions from chemical biological, radiological survey to rehousing of refugees to what we do in the explosive ordnance game to rubble clearance to restoration of essential services. And I think what the West should be thinking about is how it can bring together a range of interventions to make that possible. There's quite a lot of this going on already, I think, James isn't there. I know he's a very international organisation, the World Bank, the European Bank, reconstruction and development, etc. This needs to be quite a lot of sort of coordinated thought given to that. But I think one of the concerns they have is about population of Ukrainians have left, as you say, the infrastructure is in a much infeabled state. What were your personal feelings about the prospects of the country getting back on its feet again after all this is over? Do you see simply a kind of viable, deep bright future for Ukraine from your observations? As I mentioned at the beginning, conducting a recce to Michael Ivert at the moment. And somebody who's with that record described it as a post-apocalyptic wasteland. This is a scale of destruction on a scale not seen since the Second World War. So just the sheer number of buildings damaged. I mean, it is interesting that the Russians have targeted 700 critical infrastructure facilities. I mean, that is a huge range of places. And not just power. We're talking about places of cultural significance. We're talking about schools, businesses, hospitals, healthcare facilities. Seven and a half million people displaced. Nine point three million people needing food and livelihood assistance. Sixteen million people needing help with water and sanitation. And of course, the energy infrastructure only able to meet 70% of demand. So this is a gigantic problem. And it seems to me that if Russia sits back and stops its conventional campaign and simply continues to target the economy, that is an existential threat to Ukraine and something that needs to be tackled very forcibly. So not only in terms of air defense, which I think is obviously getting better, but to try and give to Ukraine that which something like Israel has on an actually tiny geographic scale would be incredibly difficult. But so therefore the capacity to repair infrastructure quickly is going to be very important for Ukraine. But I think your basic premise that Ukraine's long term viability is utterly dependent as much on its economy as on its military is going to be the central feature, I think. And the effort that we give to sustaining Ukraine with a terror is very much in the news. But I don't see yet enough focus on the economic effort. Yeah. And obviously you don't want to comment on the military aspect, given your role, James, where it would strike both of us, I think, certainly me, that, you know, when you hear this sort of talk, it is a pretty strong push for the West to be providing Ukraine, with a sort of kit that's going to, you know, amper this incredibly destructive Russian campaign, which as you say is not a conventional campaign anymore. This is second world war destruction of infrastructure. Patrick, what's your feeling? Well, I think this is, you're absolutely right, James. This is what I'm hearing more and more from people I know who work in this area that you mentioned the second world war, it seems to me just observationally that we're looking at sort of a kind of Germany, a 1945 situation. Do you think that's a fair comparison? And if you do, what lessons do you think we can learn from the way we tackled that? I mean, that was a defeated enemy. We're talking here about essentially an ally. I suppose that makes life a little bit easier. I think you're right. I perhaps use a slightly different comparison. And I think the campaign in Italy, which lasted longer and was more incremental as each bit of Italy and mainland was taken, as each bit came into ally had had. So the Allies government of occupation came in behind it and got stuff going. I think that's how it's more likely to be in the context of Ukraine rather than a wholesale end of war situation, because I think, as you said earlier, I'm not sure that is the thing that will happen. And I think the question that most Western nations are worried about, they've hardly got your money to spend on their own internal problems at the moment. How do they actually forward this? 350 billion, I think, is the figure quoted by the UN. And I do think we need to see stronger leadership, by the way, from the UN and the UN section general. I think he has not been sufficiently present within this and showing the leadership that one would hope for from the UN. But I think there are ways through this. I mean, for instance, 60% of the Russian central banks reserves are frozen and held overseas. 388 billion, these are in places like London and New York. And there are already presidents for this, the Americans have passed a thing called the Magnitsky Act. And the Canadians have passed a special Economic Measures Act to allow people to appropriate money. And there is the legal precedent for the Americans is the appropriation of Afghanistan's state reserves to pay for the victims of 9-11, which has only recently happened. So there are legal pressants to go ahead and appropriate state money. And this money is not difficult to get. It's liquid and it exists within banks, within UK, US, and elsewhere in the world. But there's also huge amounts of private money, Russian, electric money that ought to be available, harder to reach, but it can be secured. And we ought to be thinking now about how we do all of that. I think there is some reluctance to do it because places like London want to be seen as a safe place for investors. And if we start taking Russian money, what present does that sit downstream? But nevertheless, these are hard decisions. And somehow this has got to be paid for. And if it isn't paid for, then Ukraine's economic future looks pretty doubtful to me. You mentioned when we were exchanging emails, James, that the war here was having a broader humanitarian impact elsewhere. Can you tell us a little bit about that? Well, I'm trying to move the early trust away from being a famous charity for clearing landmines of early niche activity, which does well into something more mainstream. And it seems to me that there is a very interesting correlation between the way in which conflict plays on in a thoroughly negative way. The other great challenges of our age, namely climate, conservation, food security, human security, the disproportionate effect of conflict on women. So Halo is looking at this quite carefully. So a little example of this is Somali land. Somali land is somewhere where Halo has had a program for a long time. The Horn of Africa is hugely vulnerable to drought. And the way in which the land has been damaged by poor farming practices is directly related to conflicts. And as environments become stressed, so the communities become stressed and so they're likely to go back to conflict with each other. And so there is a vicious circle there. If Ukraine was the primary provider of wheat to Egypt and Egypt was the primary provider of wheat to the Horn of Africa. And so grain prices have rocketed in places like Somali land and therefore conflict is the likely outcome. And that's true. I've just come back from Cambodia where you see commodity prices rising sharply. I was in Zimbabwe recently, again, the same situation. So there is a direct impact of the Ukraine conflict upon much, much poorer countries' ability to sustain this. Another example is Ethiopia. I mean, more people are currently dying in the conflict in Tigray than they are in Ukraine. We're not hearing really very much about this at all. So there's a direct economic relationship between the war in Ukraine and the rest of the world. But I think there's also the political taking of sides that we've seen with many countries, quite to the West's surprise, actually, not being as fiercely opposed to Putin as perhaps they should have been. And so we're seeing people beginning to align either with the West and block or with this new eastern block. That's difficult for an organisation at the Holy Trust that is essentially thrived in an international rules-based order because if we're going to find ourselves, you know, with countries that are increasingly hostile to us, that will make our work all the harder. Well that was great to hear and some really intriguing points made by James. I mean, one of the things that first struck me, Patrick, is the, you know, if it's not dangerous enough clearing ordnance left by war, they're actually doing it while the war is happening in conflict, as James said. And all over the world, too. And of course, we were talking specifically about Ukraine, but Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, and other countries. It's an astonishingly important task that's being undertaken. And one that, of course, they are expanding all the time. Yeah, I mean, they've got a huge number of people working for them. I was very impressed by the way they've expanded, the way they've adapted to the exigencies of war. You know, obviously, employees going off to actually fight in the war, bringing in women and all these people who've never would have dreamed a few years ago, a few months ago, even that they might be working as mine, clear as dancers, math teachers, even a screenwriter. They're also really impressed by the way they're sort of, you know, this incremental work. They're moving into the space left behind by the departing Russians immediately. And you know, doing what he was being very sort of cool about it, but it seems to me to be extremely risky work. Yeah, I mean, it's very good to hear, frankly, because of course, the shop for them is the war taking them by surprise. Their initial reaction, let's close down operations, very quickly realized that Russia wasn't going to take over the whole country, so they started up again. But in the meantime, you know, a significant chunk of their staff were, of course, in the east. It's very good to hear that those who worked trapped in the Marriott Pulse age, as far as he's aware of all of, have all survived, although one or two of them, it sounds like, have been taken to Russia, which, you know, is obviously pretty concerning. Yeah. I mean, at one level, it's just hearing the kind of numbers is quite staggering. That figure of 20,000 artillery rounds being fired from the Russian side at a day of which 10% are blinds, as they military call them, they don't go off. Plus loads of missiles that also get buried in the ground and sit there waiting, you know, one day perhaps to go off with devastating effect. Not really stuck me, so was the scale of the destruction that he talks about. You know, this is not just a question of unexploded ordnance, which is, you know, of course, very significant. But talking about this post-apocalyptic landscape that his guys reported on going into liberated areas, and this is going to be a massive, massive problem for not just for the Ukrainians, but for the rest of us, you know, when we have to go in there and clear up there, there is a president, of course, all several pressors, but the one he thought the most apt, which is interesting, is in Italy, in the Second World War, where there's a kind of incremental occupation. And so in a way that's a sort of good aspect of it, in that it's not going to be like a big bang thing in Germany where you go into occupied territory and have to start from day one, at least there'll be some sort of, you know, sense of progress and making a plan. Really, horrific statistics he was giving us, 700 critical infrastructure targets by the Russians, including schools, businesses, hospitals, power, water, sanitation. I mean, basically everything you need to live Patrick, as we know, it's chilly in the UK at the moment. Can you imagine what it's like for everyone over in Ukraine? I mean, we cannot stress enough the importance of stopping the war in a military sense and then getting on with, or as James puts it, carrying alongside the war effort and attempt to get the country back on its feet, because as he says, Russia's targeting of the civilian infrastructure is an existential threat to Ukraine. The 350 billion was a figure he mentioned, as I suppose a basis for restoring Ukraine's economy. What was encouraging was that, you know, the money may already be sitting there in frozen Russian bank accounts and the legal basis for raiding these accounts, he says is already in place. That's very heartening. So, not just Russian state money, but, you know, Russian oligarchs money could also be appropriated. But he's absolutely right that we need to start thinking about this now. There'll be no time to lose a tool. So we ought to have all these processes and the legal structures in place, you know, to press the button as soon as it's viable. Yeah, he's pretty robust in his point, wasn't he? Criticism of the UN, the sexually general of the UN. We need stronger leadership and we need to consider every avenue of getting a hold of this money, including Russian private money. So that presumably is going to be, they're talking about more sanctions I was reading in the press this week, more sanctions people who've kind of slipped through the net so far. You know, and frankly, that is a direction we should be looking into. You know, incredibly powerful interview, not from the battlefield, but just as, if not even more important. Yeah, and reminding us just how the ripples of this war have spread outwards, afflicting all sorts of people who have no direct place in the conflict. East Africa, particularly, this is all, of course, a consequence of how interlock the global economy is. So it's having an impact on food security or climate as well. Somali land, he mentioned hugely vulnerable to drought, poor farming practices, et cetera. So they really feel the pain from the obvious thing as, of course, the grain that used to flow into the world market from Ukraine, which is not happening to do it, certainly not to the degree that it was. Anyway, now it's time to answer a few listeners' questions. This is actually more of a statement than a question, but I think it's worth saying this is from Federico in Austin, Texas. Hi, guys. Love the podcast. We always like to hear that. He says one of the reasons Putin has given for the invasion aside from the ridiculous denazifying claim is that the threat that Ukraine would pose if it joined NATO and bring the Allies closer to Russia's borders. He says, now I know we can't expect rationality or even true statements from Putin, but I don't get how he explains this. It's simple, Vlad, if you don't want trouble with NATO, all you have to do is not invade any NATO member. Why is that a problem? Or are you planning to invade them? Yeah, it's a great point. And the irony, as we've discussed before, Patrick, is that the invasion of Ukraine has actually brought almost certainly at some stage in the future NATO even closer to Russia's borders. We know that from some of the Nordic countries, that is a process that's ongoing, and we suspect that there's going to be some kind of deal. We don't exactly what it will be. Some kind of security pact with Ukraine that is going to make it impossible for Russia to carry out any more special operation as Putin still insists on calling it in the future, unless it wants to war with NATO. And I think what's also pretty clear from the conflict so far is that Russia clearly is no match for NATO. People keep coming back to this. I think because it's a frustrating subject. This is from Nigel. Nigel has been studying the ISW maps, which are updated frequently on where the front lines, where the military activity is going on. And he mentions a patch of territory around Malita, which is obviously in Russian hands, and says, according to the legend, this is the Ukrainian part is an activity. Now, I've noticed this myself. It's been there for quite a long time. So he wants to know, is there any information about how disruptive or co-ordinated part of his activities are there? Well, this is something that we just don't know, do we? I mean, the Ukrainians clearly aren't going to tell us. We get odd reports from time to time. We mentioned one last week of the week before, an interview with some of these guys that were members of these groups. And I think we came to the conclusion, didn't we, that it's pretty sort of ad-hop, but nonetheless effective. And I think, you know, in this day and age, information is tremendously important. And can have a very profound effect on the battlefield. I'm thinking, actually, these strikes claimed against the Wagner headquarters in the east. Now that seems to me to be a classic case where someone on the ground has actually transmitted the co-ordinates of the Wagner base. And it's been subsequently targeted with devastating effect, we hope. So yeah, you don't actually need to have a gun or some explosives to have a significant effect if you're behind enemy lines. Yeah. And, you know, who knows? There could be an element of propaganda, of course, in all of this. And why wouldn't the Ukrainians claim to have more partisan activity than they actually do? Because of course, it's going to put the fear of God into Russians moving behind the lines. It reminds me of Spain during the Napoleonic Wars, Patrick, where the, you know, the Artidos, the Erregulars caused immense damage to both morale and, of course, the sort of physical ability of the French to fight and, you know, ultimately, blood the French army whitened Spain by their activities. So, you know, it's probably is having a material effect, but I'm sure it's also having a psychological effect, too. We got one now from John Rodin, who much enjoyed listening to Robert Fox Foxy, as we call him last week. It was actually a little far work. But the opposite was that it was whatever most entertaining ones. He asks you that very basic question, how likely do you think it is that Putin will fall from power? I see a lot of news in a vertical mass, that his position is becoming untenable, and that he could be removed. Is this just fake news or is his strength really weakening? Well, the point I'd like to make here's not about whether he'll go or not, because I really think we have since the beginning of this conflict, we haven't had any real indications from any serious sources about where this is going. You know, how much danger is he in, how firm or otherwise is his grip on power? And we get a lot of flaky news. A lot of most dramatic stuff comes from the general SVR telegram channel. Now, this is no one seems to know exactly who is putting this stuff out. His claim to be a sort of dissident senior Russian ex-security guy who has still has links with his old comrades. And they're always, they make great headlines, but how good they are. I don't know. There was one we reported ourselves. I mean, with a lot of health warnings that had actually been a bomb attack on a motorcade in which Putin was traveling. This was several months back now. There's another one recently. They've fell down some stairs and so on and so forth. So you've got to be very, very wary. And I think the Western security services are being pretty tight-lipped about what they know. Maybe that they don't really know much at all. Yeah, exactly right, Patrick. We can't trust everything we're hearing out of Russia, but I think the broader point here was made by Ilya in our interview before. And that is that, frankly, to lose a war when you're an authoritarian leader is a bad thing. And that's an underestimate really of the consequences. So it's inevitable that there is going to be an upswell of anger against the war, not necessarily by people who didn't support it in the beginning, but the fact that it's not going well. So I think soon or all later, we can't put a time scale on it. He's going to come under enormous pressure and possibly be removed. But we'll have to wait and see who knows, a lot can happen between now and in six months time. But frankly, for a lot of the reasons we've already given in this program, we can't see the military situation improving for Russia anytime soon. Yeah. So now I've got a question from Richard Seeger. Thanks for your work. I enjoy your podcast. But to be honest, I look forward to the day you sign off because this conflict ends. Well, Richard, we totally agree with you. His question is, why aren't we seeing more oppositional resistance to Russian occupational influence in the other Russian conflict zones, such as Georgia, Moldova, Azerbaijan and Chechnya? Seems they would use the Ukrainian wars a way to stir up their own internal independence movements. Very good point. I think to call those ongoing conflicts is probably going a little bit too far, but there are undoubtedly people in all those locations who would seek to take advantage of Russia's perceived military weakness. And I suspect that he is going to be another of the elements that we're going to see as Russia's war goes increasingly badly, putting pressure on the centres, as I just said. OK, this one's from Ireland, from Owen Scarlett. He writes, hi folks, really enjoying the podcast every week, please keep it up. How is the war in Ukraine changing the Western arms industry? Are we likely to see Western arms manufacture, step up their production scale and volume on a more long-term footing as a result of the war? Thinking in particular of the frighteningly strong possibility that the West may need to supply Taiwan on a similar scale in the coming years and the need to be ready for this? Very good question. I suspect the answer is almost certainly yes, but remember that in the West, certainly in the US and the UK, the arms industry on the whole is private and it takes its orders from the government. So this is really a question of whether or not the government is going to up its orders. And I suspect it will, certainly in America. And possibly there are indications that that's going to happen in the UK as well, although we're strapped for cash as everyone knows at the moment. But they are real challenges to global security, not just from Ukraine, but also from China and elsewhere. I do think that the war has shown the West and the Western militaries that the stock pile of arms that it currently has is not sufficient. And frankly, we need to build them up a little bit more for this type of hot war, which many people would have suspected was unlikely to happen anytime soon. OK, we've got another three questions from our old friend Al Varez. Do you mind Al Varez if we pass over them this week? We'll definitely make some interesting points, we'll mull over them, but I think it'll be good to give some newcomers a crack of the whip. The basic beats of what he's saying is that the Polish Ministry of Defence are claiming that the probability of a war that involves Poland is very big. That's on the one hand, on the other hand, and this is very interesting. This is more from Ivoris's backyard. There are reports that a neo-Nazi Rusik group that is apparently close to the Wagner group has ordered information about Lithuanias, Latvia's, in Estonia's military capabilities and border protection status. The implication being that there is a possibility of an invasion of those countries. And as Ivoris says, things are getting very interesting, aren't they? Can it be that Russia will do such a thing to test how NATO will react? What could they do and how would NATO react? Well, of course that's a possibility, Ivoris. And I wouldn't be surprised if they are looking into all kinds of ways of destabilizing public opinion in your country and elsewhere. But I think the broader point that I would say to give you any kind of piece of mind is that as a member of NATO. NATO has your back. So if there are any incursions, this is going to trigger article five. I hope that makes you sleep a little bit happier at night, Ivoris. On the subject of Wagner, we've got one from John Murth, 21. That's his Twitter handle, great podcast. He says, please keep it going. And he says, just wondering, in terms of World War II parallels, which you often reference, does the Wagner group strike you as being akin to the Baffam SSI, supposed elite entity, but somewhat outside regular army command structures? Well, it seems to me that the closest comparison I can make with World War II unit to the Wagner group is the outfit that was commanded by one Oscar Derlewanger. It was called the Derlewanger, but turning the Derlewanger regiment, et cetera. This guy was a SSOBifierer, and the men he led were a band of psychopaths like himself. A lot of them ex-Jellbirds, rapist murderers, some of them freed from lunatic asylum, and they roamed around the rear areas of the Eastern Front in Pogent and Belarus, burning down villages, killing, murdering, raping, dreadful, dreadful history behind them, according to Timothy Snyder, the author of Bloodlands, a great expert on the 20th century or early 20th century period, and that part of Eastern Europe. In all the theaters of the Second World War, few could compete in cruelty with Derlewanger. Now, if you want to find out more, there's a brilliant film called Come and See, which was made in 1985, so Soviet era, by a brilliant Russian director, LM Klimov. It's really quite sad that it's come to this where Klimov, who made this film in the very much in the spirit of this, should never happen again, this can never happen again. In Russia's name, there is a unit which at first sight bears quite close comparison to this Derlewanger group. Okay, the final question, well it's more of a statement than a question, is from John Stewart. And this does sound very interesting. Hi, both, he says, I just wanted to say hello. I live in Brighton. I run an MA music program at the local university and play guitar for sleeper and the wedding present. There is a point to this, we're getting to it. I've been listening to your podcast, it's brilliant. I'm a regular listener to the, and this is a Twitter account, at Mariah Report. It's M-R-I-Y-A-R-E-P-O-R-T, all one word. It's a Twitter space that's been running 24 hours a day since the 23rd of February, the day before the invasion. You'd be very welcome to pop in and talk and we might well do that actually. It's mostly military experts such as Malcolm Nance, journalists such as John Sweeney and the telegraph podcast team, business people and economists. Plus importantly, Ukrainians themselves, including many people working and fighting on the front lines. Roman Rattushni was a regular on the show before, unfortunately, he died in battle. After that, incident, his father appeared on the stream for a very moving segment. Clearly, it's getting right to the heart of the matter. We would urge anyone who wants to follow the war in real time and not just weekly by listening to us to keep an eye on that stream. It sounds absolutely fascinating. I don't speak much on there, says John, but I'm there all the time and know the team behind it. So, at the moment of popping, you would be very welcome, Slava, Ukraine. Well, we may well respond to that. It sounds absolutely fascinating. Well, thanks, Lachon. That's all we've got time for this week. Before we go, just a quick reminder to email any questions to BattlegroundUKrain or one word at and to follow us on Twitter at at Saul David 66 or at pod Battleground. As a reminder, as a special treat, we've got two episodes next week, our Christmas bonus episode, which will go out on Monday when we share a glass of wine or two with guests, Jesse, Charles and Richard Foreman to discuss military history books in the year. And they'll be our usual Ukraine episode on Friday when we'll be discussing the latest news from the conflict and talking to another brilliant guest, Professor Sir Hugh Straugh. Goodbye.