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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Wed, 08 Mar 2023 01:00
What can we learn about Putin's motivations for this war and how the conflict is likely to continue, by looking into Russian history? In our first in-depth interview, we hear from the brilliant historian, Simon Sebag Montefiore, the author of multiple prizewinning books on Russia. Sebag explains the historical relationship between Ukraine and Russia, how Putin fits into a long line of Russian autocratic rulers, and his assessment on how the conflict will play out.
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Producer: James Hodgson
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A Cast Powers the World's Best Podcasts. Here's a show that we recommend. Hi, I'm Anna Ferris and I have this podcast, fittingly titled, Anna Ferris is Unqualified. We're each week a different celebrity and I attempt to give relationship and dating advice. Recent co-hosts have included Matthew McConaughey. You got somebody to care about. You lost track of them. Go find out. Margaret Cho. Vacation sex is always irresistible. Gwyneth Paltrow. I could make it all about them and not have to focus on my own problems. And Seth Rogan. So if you're wondering what your favorite celebrity or I would do in your situation, just listen and subscribe to Anna Ferris is Unqualified. Free on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts. Hey Cast helps creators launch, grow and monetize their podcasts everywhere. acs.com. Hello and welcome back to the new Wednesday episode of the Battleground Ukraine podcast with me, Patrick Bishop and Saul David. Well we're going on Wednesday now because thanks to popular demand, we thought we could ramp up to two episodes a week, an in-depth interview on Wednesday and a news update, the traditional one we've been doing, with this does questions on the Friday. Today for our first in-depth interview we've got a real cracker. We hear from the brilliant chronicler of Russian history Simon Seabagmond Fury. The author of many bestselling and prize winning books on Russian rulers, including the Romanovs, Young Stalin, Catherine Potemkin and the Court of the Red Sire, Seabagmond Fury or Seabag as he prefers to be known, recently brought the story of Russia and Putin up to date in his fabulous global history, The World. This is what he told us. Seabag you've written many books about Russia and your most recent book The World brings the story up to date in your final chapter when you talk about Putin. We'll come on to Putin and the war. If you don't mind, can we start by talking about the relationship between the Ukraine and Russia since the 18th century? Are we going all the way back to Potemkin and Catherine the Great? Can you give me a reasonably concise history of that relationship since then? Well, the northern part of Ukraine, which had often been in Polish territory, joined the Russian Empire, which was then the Muscovite Empire in 1654, and it was a very complicated series of events with Hetman Klemnitsky. He ultimately sought, he was a contact leader, and he ultimately sought the protection of the Tsar of Muscovilelexy. That was how the northern part of Ukraine first came under Moscow's control. But the second stage was the southern half of Ukraine. That was a very different story because that part of what is today's south Ukraine was actually controlled by Islamic rulers and mainly the cons, the Gire family of cons of the Crimean Khanate, which controlled the Crimea and large part of southern Ukraine. There was a small community, the Szech of Zaporozian Kossaks, and there were various ports in Crimea and around the Black Sea that were controlled by the Ottoman sultans as well. So this was a very different territory. In the 18th century, Catherine the Great and Prince Potemkin managed to annex this territory. First of all, in two big wars, 1774, the Treaty in 1774, Catherine managed to get some of South Ukraine. In 1783, Potemkin managed to annex the Khanate of Crimea. And in 1791, at the end of another war, they managed to get another big block of territory. And so these territories were not then inhabited by Ukrainians or Russians. They weren't really inhabited by Christians. They were inherited, inhabited by descendants of the Mongols and Turks and so on. And so they were settled. And Potemkin created a whole lot of cities there. And Potemkin cities, which he settled in a very cosmopolitan way with poles, Jews, Italians, Greeks, were the cities that we now hear of as the cities of Ukraine, Marjapal, Hassan, Odessa, Sebastopol. These were all founded by Potemkin and settled in a very cosmopolitan way, which is one of the reasons why Ukraine has this much more westernized, much more open, more cosmopolitan side of its culture, because it was a very, very different sort of settlement. And so that's how these parts of Ukraine came in under Russian control. Since I'm in the Sea Bag, the relationship is long and complicated. I know Ukraine got a brief bit of, I suppose you'd call it self-control, self-determination immediately after the First World War. Then the Soviets sort of moved back in again. Potemkin has claimed that Ukraine is effectively part of Russia. It's one of the justifications for his invasion. Is there any historical basis for that claim or is that wishful thinking? Well, I mean, his history is very distorted. And I mean, first of all, I mean, the essential point of this is you can have too much history. In fact, Ukrainians now want to be part of an independent democratic Ukraine. That should be the end of it. You know, the history in some ways is irrelevant, but actually the Russian claims to Ukraine. I mean, first of all, the first claim is Kievan Rus, which is medieval over a thousand years ago. And that was a sort of kingdom, a short-lived kingdom of which we know virtually nothing. And so you have to jump hundreds and hundreds of years before you get to the Russians being again, really kind of a sort of actual, easily defined Russian control of these territories. And those are the periods that I'm talking about in the 17th and 18th centuries. So the actual Russian relationship with Ukraine and control of Ukraine is pretty recent. I mean, if you think that, you know, Potemkin was building all these cities in the 1780s and 1770s and 1780s, I mean, this is as recent as the foundation of America. You know, he was a contemporary of Jefferson and Washington. You know, when they were founding Washington, they were founding Odessa. So it's very recent. And, you know, Ukrainian national consciousness really started in the 19th century. And it was repressed. And the Ukrainian language was repressed by Alexander II and others. And then, of course, in 1917, 1918, Ukraine was one of the regions that threw off Romanov control. And what really happened, one analysis of the Russian Civil War in 1918 to 1920, is that Lenin and Stalin and Trotsky, the Bolsheviks, simply reconquered most of the Russian Empire. And if you were really looking at it from sort of as a world historian by stepping back, you'd really say that the Russian Empire just continued under the Soviet Union in a different way. And they deliberately reconquered, they needed Ukraine for its access to the Black Sea, for its grain, for its industry, and for the sheer scale of Ukraine, the size of it. I mean, it was a massive territory that people like Lenin felt it needed. And, you know, so they just reconquered all of the Russian Empire that they could get their hands on. And the only two bits that really escaped were Poland and Finland, and the rest they took back. And then, of course, you got to 1991. I mean, I think the key point to understand about this, that people often don't understand, is that when they created the Soviet Union, they were really thinking about Ukraine all the time, Ukraine was the key territory. And because the Bolsheviks knew that at least part of the long dissatisfaction with the Romanov Tsars, was that the Russian Empire was a prison of nations, it was known as the prison of nations, all sorts of people used that phrase, including Lenin. So there was a great nationalist, fervor, and resistance to increasingly slava fire, orthodox Russian rule. And this is one of the reasons why the Russian Empire fell apart, because it started as a cosmopolitan sort of creation. But by the late 19th century, the first of all, Nicholas I, but then Alexander III, Nicholas II and the Lassa, were incredibly kind of Russia, Russia-centric. And they saw it as a Russian orthodox empire. And of course, that offended all the minorities who included 50% of the population. But there were Poles who were Catholic, there were Finns who were Protestant, there were Georgians, like Stalin, for example, and of course there were Ukrainians. And so, Lenin and Stalin devised a new way to keep the empire together. But they had to make it look like they were satisfying nationalist aspirations. So they created this quite clever idea, the union of Soviet republics, in which technically these republics were independent, like Ukraine, Georgia and others. But really, you couldn't leave. And everyone knew that everything was controlled by the Polic Bureau in Moscow. No one would ever have guessed that actually would fall apart, and these republics would become independent. So this is one of the things that drives Putin crazy. The thought that this kind of technical structure could actually lead to the independence of Ukraine and Lassa Ukraine. And it's why he hates Lenin. Moving on to 1991, Seberg, I mean, it's fascinating, isn't it? The role that the orthodox church has played in Putin's rise and the linkage between him and the orthodox church. And if we sort of move from that also to the, I think, a reasonable assumption that one of the things that's really infuriated Putin about Ukraine's independence is that it went hand in hand with the destruction of the Soviet Union as he sort of been alluding to just a minute ago. I mean, does he have a particularly sort of fierce resentment towards the Ukrainians, do you think? Because they set the ball rolling in 1991. Now, what you mentioned is a few things there. I mean, one is the church. I mean, the orthodox church. I mean, under the Tsars, it was actually a government department. So the fact that it's remained a kind of government department in 2023, and you see the patriarchy sitting in the front row supporting Putin is really no kind of revelation to all surprise, to Russian historians. You know, he actually was run as a sort of government ministry from Peter the Great. Obviously, it was closed down during the first 20 years of the Soviet Union. But after 1943, Stalin allowed the patriarchy to be restored. But as a sort of government department really filled with party controllers and KGB agents. And so it's remained. So that's no surprise in itself. But just to take up the story of Ukraine again, in 1991, there was really a kind of coup in Moscow by Byeltsin against Gorbachev. Gorbachev was trying to negotiate a new loose affederation, or a Russian federation, Russian Soviet federation, but without the Communism. And he'd actually got Ukraine's agreement. But Byeltsin's coup in effect kind of broke up the Soviet Union accelerated things. And the Ukrainians and Belarusians embraced it and so the Soviet Union fell apart. And the 15 republics all became fully independent countries. Now, some of them had never been independent countries at all. And some of them were ancient kingdoms. So, for example, in Belarus, there had never been a Belarusian country before, kingdom. I mean, it had been part of the Lithuanian Polish Commonwealth for most of its history. And on the other hand, Georgia had been an ancient kingdom. One of the great kingdoms had ruled the whole Caucasus in the 13th century, in the 12th and the 13th century, under Queen Tamara and other great monarchs. So, some of these countries had deep histories. Ukraine was somewhere in between. There had been the Hattmanate. There had been an independent Ukraine in various, under about five different regimes in the Russian Civil War. And anyway, now it became independent. And to be honest, for the sort of first, let's see, 91, to, you know, and for the first 20 years, I think Ukraine struggled with misgovernance, with corruption. You know, there was extreme right wing support. All sorts of, there were all sorts of problems with that country. And in some ways Putin's aggression has reinforced Ukrainian national consciousness in exactly the way he didn't want it to happen. We look at Putin now, you know, he's described as a dictator, authoritarian. Does he fit into the long line of sort of hard men running Russia? Would you say, C-Bag, or is he a departure from all of that? No, he really does fit in. I mean, obviously there are huge differences in structure today. I mean, you have a huge legislature. You have elections. You have a presidency. All of these things are different. And in some ways, these are all copies of, you know, American, the American presidency. And it's now unacceptable to have a state that doesn't have at least the illusion of elections and a sort of parliament, which I suppose is something in some step in the right direction. I mean, but even China has that. Even North Korea has that, you know, so that's the influence of the American success in World War II and afterwards that all these countries have that structure. But actually, I mean, I call these cosplay democracies because everyone knows that the Russian state moment is a sort of monarchy, or at least a one, a one man state. And one man matters in it. And so Putin really does fit in very much with the tradition of Russian rulers, of Russian autocracy. I think that he's curiously kind of apolitical in the sense that, or unideological in the sense that, you know, he doesn't really, when he looks at the history, differentiate between communist leaders and the monarchs of the Roman of dynasty. Or the raricate dynasty, he just looks at success and the way that they promoted the Russian nation. So he just sort of analyzes it in a kind of vaguely nationalistic way. So he's a admirer of, he's an admirer of Peter the Great, for example, but despises Lenin, but loves Stalin. So, you know, all of these, this is, this might seem contradictory to it, those of us kind of brought up under the Cold War, but actually things have moved on since then. He's constantly channeling a mixture of the Roman of the Roman of Empress, the successful ones and the successful general secretaries of the communist party. And of course, Stalin is the only really successful one. And he's more than just successful. I mean, he's the most successful Russian ruler of the last 200 years. Or more, you know, I mean, whatever is false and, you know, whatever is crimes, which are totally unacceptable. But nonetheless, you know, he expanded a Russian empire right into Eastern Europe, left a nuclear industrialized power, created industry that could outproduce Nazi Germany. Massively, but the costs were, were appalling, obviously. So, and to be honest, Putin, you know, recognizes that he has set, you know, Stalin was a super manager and war leader, but, you know, the costs, the terror was unacceptable. So he's kind of combining those two different paradigms, Roman of monarch general secretary, war leader, Stalin. It's interesting that you, you set Putin and Putin's aspirations, which is a greater Russia. I mean, that's not be around the bush. I mean, these are imperialistic tendencies that sit very oddly with the world way in. And we think about the culture wars now, see bag. And the fact that you know, you can't even refer to the British empire, for example, unless you're being hypocritical of it, that in, you know, certain liberal circles would, would insist on that. But you've got a powerful modern state that is making no bones about what it wants to achieve. Of course, it's covering this, all of this up, just as Hitler did by saying, well, this is, you know, this is irredentious. This is, we're trying to get the family of Russians together, but, you know, we could say the same about Britain's, couldn't we? And, you know, we want to take the USA back under our wing. And it's kind of kind of ludicrous justification, but to try and make sense of all of this, how do we understand the Russian fear or paranoia of the outside world sort of infiltrating or at least moving into its territory? Is there something in that going all the way back to the princes of muskies, see bag, but you need to create this kind of buffer zone? Yeah, I mean, I think, I think, first of all, the, you know, the Russian state has only really existed as a sort of imperial project. I mean, it was created by Peter the Great, the, you know, before then it was that it was the dutchy of musk, of the, of Moscow, and Peter the Great renamed it, rebranded it really. He called himself in parato, emperor, and he renamed it. He took a sort of Greek, Greek, a he Hellenized word and made Russo, which was, which was a new, which was a new word, which was an adaption of Rus, of course, but it was a new concept, and it was based on expansion and expanded so successfully. And though, kind of traditionally, we always regard the sort of Roman off-dinisty as terribly sad, and we think of Nicholas II. Actually, it was the, they are the most successful dynastie, power dynastie of modern times, and of course, they ended up ruling a sixth of the world's surface. And, you know, Russia has never really got over that success, and success is often for states, a, a cul-de-sac, it's impossible to move beyond it. And that's sort of what's happened with, with Russia in the sense that it's never got over the fact that it is a, it's been a sort of an imperial project, under Stalin, Stalin described himself as a czar, and, you know, regularly compared, you know, that his, his gains to what the czar's and had. So, he was very aware of that, and of course, by the end of the Soviet Union, the Soviet Union had become almost a sort of, sort of, another version of Russia and Russian Empire or Russian state. Then there was a short period of disorder under Yeltsin, and then Putin has tried to restore it, and, you know, so he's never moved beyond Russian Empire. And I know from my own dealings with this regime, and, you know, when I was writing, half from the grain in Potemkin, that, you know, they were always fascinated with getting back Ukraine and Crimea. Crimea always had a special role. You know, Potemkin founded there, the Russian fleet, the Russian Black Sea Fleet. There was no, just as Peter the Great founded the Baltic Fleet in the North, and with Petersburg, Potemkin founded the Black Sea Fleet, consciously emulating Peter the Great. And he founded a base for it, it's a Bastapol. So, a Bastapol has always played a sort of special role, and so the, when Putin mentions Crimea, he always mentions a Bastapol, because it's a Bastapol, the naval base that really has this sort of special link to Russian nationalism. But, I mean, part of this reflects the fact that, you know, Russia has no kind of natural borders, and Russia has always been invaded, and you've got these massive invasions throughout Russian history. I mean, the biggest one, the most successful one, was from the east, where the Mongols, just the Mongols took Russia in the 13th century, and ruled it for sort of 200 years. And, and in fact, you know, Russia's always kind of, one always mentions Byzantium and the Byzantine succession, and the fact that Russians are started to promote Moscow as the third Roman, all that. But actually, I always, I've always thought that the Mongol influence is much bigger and more important. And, first of all, as that invasion, and secondly, as a definition of power and the sovereign. And people like Ivan the Terrible, their court was filled with Mongol princes. They converted to, they converted to orthodoxy, but they brought with them the concept of an absolute monarchy without, without boundaries. And so, then you look through Russian history, you have these invasions, these huge land invasions, you know, by the Swedes, by Napoleon, by Hitler. And so, you get a sense of this vast, step plan, this vast land mass of Eurasia, with no boundaries that European powers can invade. And from that, you get some of the, some of the sense of insecurity and fear of rest and culture. I mean, if you look at the great, great reformers like Peter the Great, and he's always referred to, as, you know, he wanted to get, he was pro-European, he was in the Enlightenment. No, not really. His political concepts were not at all enlightened. He just wanted the technology of the West, which is quite a different thing. When we constantly misunderstand Russian reformers are about, they normally just want, they want European, Western technology in order to promote. Eastern, despotism. And that's sort of, that's very much how Putin's turned out as well. And it's interesting, it's interesting to talk about, when you talk about the insecurity, because of course there's a great cultural insecurity. And it's always this great conflict between, you know, Westerners and Easterners, Slava Files versus sort of enlightened Europeans. And it's never been quite sorted out. And every, every regime, including Putin's, has a lot of factions of both sides. So obviously Putin is now, I mean, his regime has now gone Eastern and has been, he's made his choice and he's embraced decisively Eastern despotism and what he calls the Russian world. But an interesting thing about Russian autocracy or dictatorship is that, from the West, we just see these kind of omnipotent dictators who fear and appalless for all sorts of reasons. But of course, another angle is to look at it also from the Russian point of view and from the point of view of the dictator. And though he has absolute power, his position is very insecure too. And a system with no rules and particularly no rules of succession is a very insecure one for the ruler. And you see that all the time from Putin's behavior. He constantly promotes deeply inefficient people just because they're loyal. He's created a huge, the Rosgadia, the Russian guard of sort of, I think 300,000 men, which is sort of a palace guard. And he can trust nobody. I mean, it's interesting that when he launched this invasion, he told about three people. And hence you have that great scene talking of the history soul. When, at the day before the invasion, all these oligarchs and ministers were saying, who's advising him? He's going to invade Ukraine tomorrow, who's advising him? And the foreign minister, Lavrov says, he's only got three advisors. I have in the terrible Peter the Great and Catherine the Great, which tells us a lot. Well, that was full of extraordinary insights and really thought provoking stuff. So do join us in part two to hear the rest of our interview with Seabag. Welcome back to the second part of our wide ranging interview with Simon Seabag Montefuri. We asked him why Putin invaded Ukraine in 2022 when he was getting a lot of what he wanted in the region by diplomatic means alone. This was his response. Well, I don't think he was. I mean, obviously a full back view was that he could sort of prevent Ukraine ever really developing as a state without controlling it. That's not really, really wants. What he really wants is Ukraine as part of, as part of great, you know, a greater Russia. And in 2014, you could argue that he really missed a trick. I suspect, not that this is completely speculation, of course, a what if if you like, but I suspect that if he'd taken the whole of Ukraine in 2014, he might have gone away with it in a way that he, it's impossible now. I mean, partly because Ukraine had no military presence really then in 2014. I mean, it very nearly claxed. And secondly, you know, the West was very unsure what to do about Crimea and actually did nothing about Crimea. Would they have done more about the whole of Ukraine? I'm not sure. I think he might have gone away with it. And he must keep looking at it from his point of view. He must have kicked himself that he didn't do more than because he got crime in a yes, he took Crimea and he sent sort of sort of paramilitaries and sort of unmarked Russian military into the Donbass and into the East. And he very nearly, they very nearly broke through and he must have deeply regretted that they, but they weren't prepared. And one of the reasons he didn't was because the Russian military wasn't yet ready, the realignment of Russia wasn't yet ready. But nonetheless, probably he could have taken it then. And that was the greatest mistake of his career. And also remember that he had, he had Yanukovych then who had been just been thrown out, but Yanukovych had been elected president of Ukraine. So he actually had a legit, he could say he was putting back, he was restoring the legitimate, a democratically elected president of Ukraine. So the West would have been very confused about what to do about that in 14. But by 2022, it was clear that actually that hadn't worked. So the war in Eastern in Donbass was kind of frozen, you know, Ukraine was actually moving towards the West again. And so he might lose the whole thing again. And I think in COVID he sat down with a very small group of people, Patrick Shaev, Kovalchuk, few others, Shogu, the defense minister probably. And he just sort of talked about this and he read endless history books. But only history books that confirmed his view, of course. And in your see back, he must have read some of see back. He's read, he has read my cap from the great and pretend Ken. I think that's the only one he's read actually. But the point about can from the great and pretend Ken is that, I mean, they were, they were imperialists for sure. And there's no, you know, there's no getting round that they were avid imperialists, but they were also children of the Enlightenment, they were humane, they were cosmopolitan. They really would have hated Putin's rather dreary ultra nationalist narrow narrow minded and very shavonistic worldview. So they wouldn't have appreciated it. But they've become tools in Putin's sort of ideological arsenal, if you like, which is. And actually, and pretend Ken's body has been stolen by by Putin from from his son Cathedral where he lies, when the saccathorins has gone and has been taken to Russia. So bodies have a great historical value in some ways. But anyway, I think that in 2022 after COVID, I think he saw a conjunction of events that he thought gave him a unique opportunity to reverse this. I mean, you just got to look at the world. I mean, you know, there was a president, there was a seemingly decrepit president in America. America just fled pathetically from from Kabul and been humiliated. NATO had lost, you know, was brain dead, said Macaraw. The EU had broken up Britain, most, most important country in the EU could argue. And then you've got to look at Ukraine. I mean, Ukraine was still bedeviled with corruption and misgovernance, still divided. And they had just elected, you know, well, Andrej Kerkov, the Ukrainian novelist called the Ukrainian Benny Hill as president. You know, they literally elected a clown as president, which to Putin must have seemed like, I mean, who are you kidding here? You know, this state is, this is not a legitimate state at all. And they've elected a comedian as president. They've elected a comedian because the state itself is a comedy. And it will collapse easily. And so that's why I think that's why he felt there was a sort of conjunction of events and circumstances that were unique. Chant, and he was obsessed all the time with how will history remember me. So that's why he made that decision. And he was, he was proved totally wrong. And of course, you know, the military campaign failed instantly, you know, within within a week it was, it was, it was bogged down. And in Kiev didn't fall. And also he hugely overestimated, you know, Russian, Russian military power. I mean, he'd had great successes. I mean, that's the interesting thing. I mean, he had a sense that he was kind of was unstoppable, was invincible. But, you know, the triumphs were very minor, you know, I mean, beat, you know, beating the Chechens, that's the first one, you know, but that's, that's not, that's not like fighting a westernized opponent. And he'd use absolutely brutal tactics against civilians to win that that war. Then 2008, Georgia, you know, the Georgian army defeated me, Georgia, for Russia to the George army. I mean, they actually struggled to defeat the Georgian army in 2008. Then Syria again, you know, just air power taking ownership of a sort of ruined Arab country with a civil war. Again, gave an illusion of sort of military glory, but actually not really challenging, not not really a challenge, a challenge for Russia. And then of course, you know, the Eastern Ukraine, you're, you're fighting, you're eggless and fighting a country that barely had a military. But the, the size of a fact of 2014 was that Ukraine began to have a real sense of it, of its statehood and its nationality and its military started to build and develop and started to arm. And so, you know, by 2022, Ukraine had a very impressive military. As an observer, see back, if we go back just over a year to what we thought, or certainly what I thought was a lot of saber rattling by the Russians to, you know, to influence events in Ukraine, were you already at that point beginning to think this is quite serious, actually? I can see reasons why this invasion is going to take place. I mean, I began to sort of, I mean, I was one of the people who began to, began to think that he actually wouldn't bathe and the reason was history, which is why it's worth talking about the history here, because, you know, when he wrote the, he wrote an essay about Ukraine, and of course I read that very carefully just as, and it had a lot of stuff about Catherine the Great and Peter the Great and Nicholas the First and all that sort of stuff. And also about the creation of the Soviet Union in the early 1920s. But when I read that, I realized like Putin actually believes that Ukraine is not a state, not a people and that, you know, he wanted to, he wanted to own a hookline and sinker, you know, he wanted to add it, but he wanted to restore the Imperium. And so I began to sort of think, actually, this is, this is a manifesto for invasion. And you know, a lot of people in England were very diluted about the role of England in, you know, in rush in the Russian mentality. I mean, the number of people who said like, especially in London, especially the sort of the elite in England, the number of people who said, but, you know, they'll never do it because they like are, you know, boarding schools and they like coming to London and shopping and having houses in Chelsea. And I always said like, well, yeah, that's what you think is terribly important about England. But actually what they think is important. I mean, the ruling clique is keeping control of Russia and the idea of Russia and, you know, maintaining their rule there. And that's what they think is important. You know, they're not so interested in whether their children go to eat or not. And so I was always kind of, I was always very suspicious of that viewpoint. And when he started to talk about the history, I began to think, this is the real thing. This is going to happen. And I did have a sort of, I did have a long knowledge of that because when I wrote Catherine the Great and Potemkin in, when it was published in 2000, I was contacted by Putin's people. And I did have contact with him and Putin did read the book. And he did ask me to prepare a sort of one page about how the story of how Catherine Potemkin annexed Crimea. And took South Ukraine. So I realized that this was something that was really important to him, even then. And that was a time when George Bush and Tony Blair were telling us how liberal and trustworthy and humanitarian that him, Putin was. So yeah, I always, I always thought in invasion that the Fultz-Gurian Union was really possible. We're one year into the war, C-Bagna, and it hasn't gone well as you've already pointed out. Do the manifest inadequacies of the Russian military that we've seen over the course of the last year. Does that surprise you? Or has the, you know, Russian military capability always been a bit of a paper tiger, always been more vaunted than it actually is? Well, actually, it's always been formidable in the sense that it's got an amazing mass of cannon fodder, I'm afraid, of people, you know, to be sent into the battle. And the, its rulers have always had an incredibly clapped cavalier, negligent, careless approach to people. I mean, the grapes to the Russian commanders, very few of them have had any respect for human lives at all. But in fact, you know, a couple, Potemkin and Katusev are two very unusual characters. And actually, Katusev, who was the commander, the Katusev-Breen commander in 1812, you know, famously, a more in peace. But they are the only two I can think of who really actually went to great inconvenience in order to preserve the lives of their, of their soldiers under political pressure, not to do so. So they are, they are unusual. Of course, Katusev was a protégé of Potemkin. And they really believed in trying to save the lives of Russian peasant soldiers. But virtually everybody else didn't give a, didn't give a fig historically. That's one part of it. The second part of it is that over time, Russia has always been very slow to get itself together. I mean, you only have to look at, I mean, Peter the Great, who Potem's reading a lot about now. I mean, you know, he was initially defeated in the Great Northern War, not in the battle of NAVA, humiliated. It took him, you know, it took him eight years to win the Battle of Potem, where he commanded himself. And that was an extraordinary achievement because he beat the Swedes in 1709, which was like, they were the best army in Europe. And the best cup, Charles XII was one of the best commanders in Europe. So that was an amazing achievement. But it took, took over 20 years to win the Great Northern War. So that gives you an idea of a perspective over some of the sort of the scale of time that the Russian rule, you know, is willing to give a war. And secondly, you know, the World War II, for example, he's Stalin. In the first year of war, it was catastrophic. I mean, Stalin lost over four million, man, four million. You only remained in power surely because he'd killed so many people in the terror. There was no one to get rid of him. But I can't think of any other system or any other country in the world where someone would have kept power after after performing so disastrous name. But after a full year, he began to improve as a commander, which is something we can talk about, you know, we can talk about. But it's just worth remembering. And I'm just saying these are sort of, I actually don't think that Putin is Stalin. I don't think he's capable of Stalin. I'm not sure he is ever going to improve our supreme commander. It was an interesting thing. There was a sort of, there's a sort of almost a clear moment in World War II when Stalin goes from just sort of constantly ordering massive counter attacks on all fronts at the same time. When he suddenly learns that this just doesn't work and he becomes, he, he, he gathers a team of really capable people. Zhukov and Vasilevsky, the two, his two kind of top commanders, both of whom he kind of likes as people as much as Stalin can like. Well, and he certainly trusts them. And he realizes that they're extremely capable. And there is no equivalent of those two, as far as I can see in Putin's entourage at the moment. There's no Vasilevsky and Zhukov, you know, and it's pretty ironic that Stalin even Stalin managed to find these two, these two rather brilliant command. And they are Vasilevsky and Zhukov really the two greatest commanders of World War II without a doubt. And then he begins to sort of, he begins to learn late in 1942 after, after just untold disasters on a scale that no other, no other status ever weathered. And then he starts to understand a little bit more about, about commanding, which is unusual in a six, you know, man in a six, you know, a dictator in his 60s. And of course Hitler was going through exactly the opposite journey. Having started taking advice, you know, he then, he then, off to France after 1940, he, he thought he was a genius. And he would, he needed no advice to anybody and, and got worse and worse as a, as a supreme commander. So that's part of it. So what I'm trying to say is it's possible, it's possible that the Russians could still surprise us and gain some sort of limited victories, I think. But, but I think it's, I think it's hard to reverse it. I mean, this isn't World War II. This isn't, this isn't the great Northern War. But I think we could get some nasty surprises, you know, in the war. I mean, one parallel that we've, or at least one big difference with the Second World War that we mentioned on the podcast a couple of times, C-Bag is of course, Stalin at least had the advantage of Western economic military might on his side. And this, you know, is not to be underestimated as, as we now know with a lot of recent scholarship, it's different here, isn't it? We've got a situation where Russia, which is slow as you say, we slow out of the blocks militarily, it's lost a lot of men already. It's hard for me, which is why it's so interesting talking to you with this sort of much broader perspective. But it's hard for me to see, it's hard for Patrick and I to see this turning round for Russia. But I suppose your broader point is it will be in it for the long haul and possibly China will come to the rescue. I mean, they're not going to go anywhere as far as negotiations or humiliating peace. Are they? No, I mean, I think the Chinese aspect is very important because they really could send a lot of military aid and they have got massive, massive material. They could be there in America, if you like, for, you know, to reverse completely the parallel. I think that, you know, I mean, another aspect, which we all know that sort of over 200,000 Russian soldiers have been killed, which is a massive amount for the 21st century. But, you know, we don't know that the numbers of Ukraine, I mean, they must be smaller, but they must be massive too, even though Ukraine has a huge population. So, you know, this is punishing for both sides. And when I do think that when we look at this, we've got to sort of say, you know, what's going to happen? Well, part of it could be that, you know, Putin will gain some limited advances in victories, but ultimately when people say, do you think Ukraine can win? I think Ukraine can win. It could win. And I think it could get a total victory. I don't know if it could get Crimea. I don't think it should try for Crimea unless they know they can get it because to screw up in Crimea, you know, would be, would be a major disaster. But I think Ukraine could win with the right weaponry. I mean, they've obviously got sort of really, really sophisticated commanders and very, you know, very impressive, very impressive tactics and strategically. But the thing is, that's the best option. And that would be, that would be quite something. But I think more likely, and you know, we don't believe in telling Ukraine, you know, what they should do and when they should negotiate. But a frozen conflict of some sort is more likely in which, you know, people often mention the Crimea and sort of the Korean peninsula. And I think, because I've written a lot about the Middle East, I think of 1948, 49, you know, the sort of armistice at the end of the Arabist, the first Arab-Israeli war, when the borders sort of became the borders of the country internationally recognized. And that's why the war is important because Ukraine, I think, may not ultimately get all the complete Ukrainians, the Ukrainian Republic, all the territories back. But it will end up with territories that probably will be negotiated about and will become, you know, will become the shape of Ukraine. And the Ukrainian, hopefully the prosperous independent Ukrainian democracy and EU member in the future. So that's, that's very important. You know, one interesting aspect is if Ukraine really does defeat Russia properly, totally, which I think is possible given, you know, given the given where we are. And if they receive all the weapons they've been promised and more, if that happens, then that will bring down, that will destroy Putin somehow. But total defeat is the only thing that would do it. A frozen conflict won't, you know, will keep Putin in power and he may be in power for another 20 years, you know. And the conflict would then be a frozen conflict that fled up all the time whenever either side felt strong enough, like the Arab-Israeli wars. But if they, if they want a full victory, that would be hard for the autocrat Putin to, to weather that. And I think that he would be then, he would then be removed by his own people. So I'm likely in Russia to be a popular rebellion. Ultimately, it's normally, even if there are, even if the were protests, no sign of them yet, they were very small the protests at the beginning of the war. But even if the were protests, usually in Russia, these coups take place within the Kremlin, within the palace. And they are, they are normally kind of pulled off by the closest associates of the ruler. And a possible replacement for Putin, Cibagom and who are the most likely candidates? I think it would be someone that we've never heard of. I don't think it, you know, I don't think it would be, if you look at the sort of the top people now, I mean, there's a tiny group of them. We know very little about the relationship with Putin. The way things are going, he may well be, you know, you may well be absolutely fed up with all of them and talking to totally someone totally different. You know, when just got to realize how little one knows in a way of what's happening. And one's, I think one's got to recognize that I think I, you know, there's constantly sort of almost tabloid articles rehashing lists of people by so called sort of Kremlin experts. And where they're kind of rehashing kind of lists of people from 10 years ago, who are supposed to be the kind of innocent, they're very few experts actually know anything that's going on. They're about three of them. And we should listen to them and not listen to all these kind of horrid, old experts who don't really know what's happening. See, back, tell us who they are because I know you've been following this closely and you've made this point to me privately before. I think the best is Mikhail Zigar and Andresil Datoff for two of them. And you know, they're deeply present. Galliotti is good. But then there's a whole lot of, there's a whole lot of sort of, you know, people who really don't know who the hell they are. I mean, Shogu, the defense minister who wasn't really a military man at all and Putin's oldest ally when the 90s and has been in government since Yeltsin has turned out to be a flop. And, you know, I always compare him to Borosilov in Stalin's court who was sort of the defense minister, the war minister defense minister who was an enormous bungler and was just, Stalin was deeply irritated with him. It was him who dropped the Stalin-Grad sword and that famous scene when Stalin handed him the sign that was Borosilov dropped it, which tells you a lot about him. Stalin was deeply irritated. And so, you know, and then you mentioned people like Patrick Shevry, he's like old, um, silo chicks sort of tough security person. Obviously, obviously, a top advisor, but, you know, who knows who's up and down. I mean, his son is often mentioned as a successor. But actually, it will be someone completely different just as it was when they chose Putin in the 1990s. You know, no one really, no one, no one for the Putin as a successor. But that's the nature of Russian autocracy. It's that there's no succession plan. And literally, we've gone back to a position where the ruler chooses his own successor, but rather that Peter the Great did. We've had some pretty good interviews on this podcast, and we saw that for me, that was, that was a really outstanding one. It was a fantastic historical foundation for our understanding of why we are where we are. And a great starting point for trying to define where we go next. One of the striking things to me was the observation that C. Bag made a very important one that Putin has got really no ideology. You'd think that having grown up under communism and been a beneficiary of the system. This would shape his political thought to some degree. But no, I mean, he's obviously not interested in the ostensible social aim is of communism, equality, etc. As is obvious from the way he's let crony capitalism rip under his rule. But really, he's any interested in the Soviet Union in the sense that it was a great vehicle for increasing and projecting Russian power. So that's really what he's on about. He can admire both Stalin and Catherine, the great alike and his core beliefs are centered around what C. Bag says is a rather grim and dreary self-centered nationalism that excludes all non-Russian influences and probably would have appalled Catherine the Great and Potemkin. Yeah, I mean, it's fascinating, isn't it, that the history matters to him in so far as is you put it the power politics of Russia, Russia, how it's seen in the world. The determination to to get its place in the world, it was interesting his reference to the Western leading, there's always been this kind of sense and we heard it now, you know, in our interview, a fair while back about the idea that the Russia faces east and west and some rulers go west and some go east. But what C. Bag points out so effectively is that even when they're looking west, it's really only as a means to getting their hands on Western technology. It's not because they admire Western culture. That's the first time anyone on this podcast made that point and it's crucial, isn't it, really, to understanding the mindset of Putin and his cronies. Also rather chilling, backward look at 2014 and saying that in his view, Putin missed a trick there and if he'd invaded the whole of Ukraine, then rather than just Crimea, he might well have got away with it and then looking forward, he doesn't really see necessarily any weakening of resolve on the Russian side. Part of that's illustrated, of course, in the way that they really don't have any qualms about throwing thousands and thousands of thousands of men into sort of pretty pointless military operations and of course as he points out that's got a long history using soldiers as cannon fodder. Now, I've been thinking about this interview Patrick and I've come to the conclusion which I'm sure you have two that one of the reasons why it's so thought provoking and he's raised so many more interesting points than we probably imagine he was going to is because he studied Russian rulers, hasn't he? I mentioned in the intro pretty much all his books and even his book The World was called The Family History, it's about dynasties and that's what fascinates C-bag, it's the characters who get into these positions and how they manipulate and how they wield power. We couldn't really be talking to anyone better for an understanding of Putin, where are we getting any interesting insights into where it's all going to go horribly wrong, well there was one actually Patrick and that, rather encouragingly he said that all Russian rulers and Russian military enterprises take time to get going, he talked about Peter the Great and Poltava, eight years of course all the catastories at the beginning of the Second World War with Stalin and generally speaking they were able to turn things around. Stalin in particular because he stopped micromanaging and started letting some very capable generals, Zoukov and Valisoletsky as C-bag mentioned takeover and really do the job. He and this is encouraging if your pro-Ukraine like most of us he can't see any likelihood that that's going to happen with Putin anytime soon so the chances of a Russian victory that was my one big takeaway encouraging take away from this are vanishingly small but it's slightly more concerning as to how this might all end. Yeah, there doesn't seem to be Zoukov's weight weighting in the wings in the Kremlin at the moment so as you say that grounds for optimism on the other hand he's saying that probably if he's asked to look into his crystal ball most likely outcome is a frozen conflict with Putin staying in power for he said 20 years what a terrible thought that is in the same breath he did say didn't rule out Ukrainian total victory. So let's let's hang on to that. Yeah, great stuff. Okay Patrick well I think we'll let C-bag speak for himself and not and not Dell too much into the bones of all of this it's been a long and absolutely fascinating interview and a sign we hope are things to come our new formats two programs a week the interview today which I think we both feel has gone pretty well that's all we have time for now but do join us on Friday when we'll be discussing the latest news and answering listeners questions. Goodbye. Hey, a cast powers the world's best podcasts. Here's a show that we recommend. Hi, I'm Anna Ferris and I have this podcast fittingly titled Anna Ferris is unqualified were each week a different celebrity and I attempt to give relationship and dating advice recent co-hosts have included Matthew McConaughey you got somebody to care about you lost track of them go find out Margaret show. 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