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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34. Mutiny in the Russian Ranks?

34. Mutiny in the Russian Ranks?

Fri, 17 Mar 2023 01:00

In the latest episode of Battleground Ukraine, Saul and Patrick consider the logic of Ukraine’s decision to continue fighting for the city of Bakhmut, and they discuss reports that elements of the Russian armed forces – including the elite Spetsnaz special forces - are suffering high desertions rates and, in some instances, are mutinying in the face of certain death. They also discuss listeners thoughts and questions.

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Hello and welcome to the Friday episode of the Battleground Ukraine podcast with me Saul David and Patrick Bishop. Today we consider the logic of Ukraine's decision to continue fighting for the city of Bagmout and what the latest Russian Missile assault on civilian power infrastructure tells us about Putin's moral and strategic bankruptcy. We're also going to discuss reports that elements of the Russian armed forces including the elite Spetsnets special forces are suffering high desertion rates and in some instances are mutiny in the face of certain death and in part two as usual we'll be answering another bulging postbag of listeners questions. But first we consider Ukraine's decision to fight on in Bagmout. On the podcast last week we reported the president Zelensky had told his senior commanders that the costly defense of the city and Donetsk eastern Ukraine must go on. It's a decision that even some respected Ukrainian journalists, notably Ilya Ponomarenko of the Kiev Independent who has more than 1.2 million followers on Twitter have questioned. On the 11th of March Ponomarenko tweeted, I hope Ukrainian command really really really knows what it's doing in Bagmout. Well it's a perfectly reasonable question to ask isn't it? I mean only this week Russian Wagner mercenaries stormed as sprawling metalworks on the northern edge of Bagmout that the Ukrainian forces had hoped to hold as an impregnable bastion. There was a video posted online of a guy claiming to be a Ukrainian soldier and he described the fight with the Wagner troops in the compound of the Azov metalworks as worse than Starlinggrad. Do you think that's an act of comparison at all? Yeah I think so. I mean it's interesting isn't it? And of course we need to be a little bit wary of making these historical comparisons because things change. But it does seem to me that Bagmout is turning into the Starlinggrad of the Ukraine war. It's a long drawn out conflict, desperate defense on one side. And what's interesting about it is that we've been anticipating the fall of Bagmout for quite a while Patrick. We said I think in a couple of episodes back it was really going to happen yet it still hasn't happened. So is this going to be Ukraine's Starlinggrad? Well certainly the fighting is vicious at close quarters and both sides are losing a lot of people. You know in Starlinggrad it was the Gisinski tractor plant wasn't it? That was a big focus of the fighting, a big killing ground. But when I look for historical parallels I'm kind of thinking Verdun as well don't you think so? I mean it's the same sort of strategy the Germans picked to fight at this point in the line with the intention of drawing in the French armies and bleeding them white. And it didn't actually work out like that. It ended up pretty much in a draw, a very very bloody draw with about 150,000 dead on either side it dragged on from February to December I think 1916. So as a guy from the key of independent, basically we've really got to have our fingers crossed that they've got this right. Yeah exactly right. So the question we asked at the top of the program is there a logic behind all of this Patrick? In other words is there some cunning plan that the Ukrainians are operating here or have they just decided for propaganda reasons to hold this city because so many men have already died for it. What do you think? Well if the numbers cited by Ukrainian officials are correct then it is working. President Zelensky said this week that in less than one week starting from March the 6th we managed to kill more than 1100 enemy soldiers in the back of the sector alone. He said another 1,500 have been badly wounded. We don't know how accurate that is but the losses are clearly very heavy and of course we don't know what the numbers of Ukrainian killed and wounded are and captured as they never tell us. However we have to assume there are no in near as the enemy casualties otherwise the strategy would make no sense at all. So there's really a pretty horrific equation being calculated here and key of clearly thinks it's working in their favour otherwise as soon they wouldn't carry on. And on the Russian side this scale of losses clearly puts a great strain on morale will come onto that question later but also on logistics the field hospitals must surely be buckling under the terrific strain of all this. And I saw a story the other day that seems to illustrate this point. Wagner apparently is no longer allowed to recruit and Russian prisoners for frontline soldiers cannon fodder everyone agrees. But the Russian authorities now seem to be raiding the jails for female inmates who they're sending by train to the Donetsk area. My guess is that they're going there to act as nursing or cilarees to try and manage the overload in the hospital. So once again we come back to the big question don't we saw why other Russians essentially falling in with Kiev's game plan. Well the obvious answer which we consider the four is that Putin needs a win. He needs a battlefield win any win. And taking back Moose will give him any senior commanders the opportunity to at least proclaim what they say will be a major victory. But there's been another intriguing theory supplied by our friends at the Institute for the Study of War the Washington DC think tank. And they believe that the Russian military leadership notably defence minister Sergei Shogu and chief of Russian general staff Valerie Grassimov who of course is commanding the campaign Ukraine now. Those two are likely seizing the opportunity to and I quote deliberately expend both elite and conflict Wagner forces in back moot in an effort to weaken you have any pregojian and derail his ambitions for greater influence in the Kremlin. Now if that's true Patrick it's pretty remarkable isn't it. Here we have a system that is so dysfunctional that it's prepared to shed thousands of Russian lives in what is essentially an internal Kremlin power struggle. Yeah we've also had an update from Ukrainian military intelligence that even if Wagner did manage to capture the whole of backwood and that's a very big if Ukraine has bought enough time to render the route to the key city of Kramatorsk which is the next well along going west. Impossible it's uphill all the way from here for a weakened army against some of our strongest positions a senior officer was quoting as saying back moot holds Putin has reached a dead end in the Donbass but it's still a political gamble for Zelensky isn't it saw these invested huge political capital hanging on to backmud so once again he must be pretty confident that it is indeed going to hold but I've been thinking about backmud you know what's going to be come of these places after the war is over places like backmud places like mario Paul and in a game back to Verdun have you ever visited Verdun it's a really haunted place you know there's a sense of dread that hangs over it I remember once going on a visit in the middle of the summer and at dusk I stopped off at one of these ruined villages that they've left intact and not intact they've left as they were as a sort of monument to the destruction I got out of the car and even though it was a warm evening this sort of chill came over me and I jumped back at the car and headed off fairly rapidly I mean there is really a sort of spirit of doom that hangs over the place every bin there I haven't backed right but you could argue on the one hand of course the country needs to remind itself of what it went through and the the French raid proud of their defense at Verdun on the pastoral part they will not pass but you could also say that Stalingrad which was you know torn to ribbons as we know they did rebuild it vulgar grad is apart from the monuments there there is no obvious sign that the city was totally destroyed so it could go either way I take a point Patrick there's always going to be a spooky element to it but it rather depends how this conflict ends as to how backmud is going to be built and in what way it's going to be commemorated the Russians I think because we both have a separate name for it which I can't off the top of my head remember Patrick but they refer to it not surprisingly by a separate name okay we're moving on to these new missile attacks on Ukraine's infrastructure and power capacity this was on the 9th of March Ukrainians estimated that the Russians used 81 different missile platforms from Iranian-made Shahid drones to their own most advanced hypersonic missiles knocked out some of Ukraine's power for a while but it was restored relatively quickly which seems to be the case these days now in the opinion of Philip Sobrian friend of the podcast and I think we think one of the most acute commentators on the war the attack was a sign of Russian strategic and military failure and he added it's designed to be spectacular but reveals Russia does not possess either the equipment or planning capacity to execute the campaign successfully I mean it seems to be a bit performative doesn't it Saul I mean it's I don't know if you saw that video of these so-called thermite bombs raining down on vulodile looks spectacular it looks like a shower of molten metal is dripping from the skies but how deadly was it not very it would seem because there's the images come from someone who clearly felt safe enough to stand around their capturing the sea doddies phone and it it all reminds me a bit of the V1 and the V2 in the second world war you know hit those revenue weapons which were supposed to bring Britain to its knees in the summer of 44 but of course they did no such thing and I don't think they're going to do it here are they no it's very good analogy and some you know Phillips goes on to talk about in his update on this that actually if the if the Russians had had any had any proper strategy they'd worked out how much kit they need to use and keep using this is the real key point here Patrick they're coming out these attacks I think Phillips says roughly once every two weeks and that's nowhere near enough to destabilize and have any proper effect on Ukraine's power supply in other words it's a slightly pointless exercise and of course it's making Russia enemies around the world because this is seen as as we've already pointed out an attack on civilian infrastructure now if you pivot that to the second world war and the air power campaign that eventually brett at the Allied air campaign was eventually very effective because they kept doing it night after night after night destroying industrial targets yes area bombing too we mentioned that on the podcast before but they really did have a material effect on Germany's ability to keep fighting the war so properly thought out with enough kit this could have been effective but they have neither or they have done neither there's another I think more significant indication of Russian weakness all and that's this wave of mutinies that seem to have been breaking out among Russian troops we've been waiting for this for a long time haven't we we've been saying it's sort of inevitable given the chaos that they seem to operate in and the losses they're taking but do you think we've now reached a point where Russia really does have a problem with soldiers refusing to fight yes I do you you might have imagined that if there were going to be mutinies they're going to be all among the you know the newly mobilized guys and we'll come to that in a second but some of the most serious mutinies recently have involved senior Russian officers believe it or not of the 155th Marine Brigade which was losing yeah towards the end of last month up to 300 men a day as it tried and failed to capture the town of Ulada which is a town south west of Donets now this was all part of the broader Russian offensive which we've been anticipating since the turn of the year and it was a total failure now the mention of these mutinies being reported by the Ukrainian so we have to sound a note of caution but nevertheless you know it is still quite alarming to think that senior officers were involved there will also be in a series of videos posted online of soldiers from at least 16 different regions blaming commanders for using them in human wave attacks one of the most striking calls for help came from a group of men called out from eastern Siberia's air cuts region and centafight in Donetsk we're just sent in for slaughter said one the commanders are telling us in the face were disposable soldiers and our only chance to go back home is to get injures in fighting yeah I'm a bit wary of of getting too hopeful about this for one thing those refusing to fight seem to be largely from outlying regions where the casualty rates have been disproportionately much higher than in units recruiting in the big cities and the other day the UK's Ministry of Defence said that Russian military personnel from eastern regions of Russia are 40 times as likely to die in Ukraine as soldiers from say Moscow and it's the Kazakh and Tata minorities who are said to make up 75% of the casualties among Russian military personnel having said that there's also been a claim from a Russian mill blogger that there's a high-dessertion rate among Bettsnats special forces they're often sort of seen as the Russian equivalent of the RSA SNSBS apparently no Bettsnats units are at their full complement and some Bettsnats commanders have actually abandoned their men so if Russian special forces are legging it then the Kremlin really does have a problem I would say but again we've got to remember that mutiny's on their own don't actually bring down governments history shows us that there has to be a political catalyst like the Bolsheviks provided at the end of the First World War in Russia sparking the revolution that's not the case in modern Russia where all effective political opposition has essentially been neutralized yeah actually I think there's a bit of a chicken and egg situation Patrick my my view on it having written about the the Indian rebellion in 1857 and compared it to a lot of other revolutions around the world including the French Revolution and the Russian Revolution both as a PhD and later as a book is that you do need soldiers to turn against their officers to start the ball rolling now of course you need political leaders to come in and that's of course ultimately what happens with the Bolsheviks but when you look at the reason the Russians mutiny in 1917 actually a lot of the latest scholarship shows that it was just because of conditions in the trenches you know not enough food not enough time to go home and see their families it wasn't really a political issue but of course politicians took advantage so Putin certainly needs to be wary that if his soldiers are refusing to fight this many courage is political opponents we'll see how all this turns out Patrick but it is undoubtedly a cause for alarm okay that's all for part one uh join us out to the break when we'll be answering listeners questions welcome back to part two before I go any further I just want to warn listeners that if you hear the sound of yodeling in the background that's because Saul is on one of his holidays he's in the Alps this time so don't be alarmed right thanks Patrick and I hope the listeners realize that you know we're so devoted to bringing you the news of what's going on that we can't really have a week off we can do our interviews in advance but the news of course is in real time so wherever we are in the world we are concentrating on events in Ukraine okay so we've been inundated with another great selection of listeners questions this week the first one is from Simon Hackett he's just heard from a professor John Meersheimer does that name mean anything to you Saul? No that doesn't ring about he's not a historian I don't think yeah well he's speaking on the the BBC's Ukraine cast and he says that Russia will win this war of attrition and Ukraine would do well to restart negotiations no we won't go into all the detail here but yeah I mean we do like here contrary views don't we say we don't like it all to be you know a kind of a monotone of pro-Ukrainian interpretations so yeah I mean it would be an idea to get him or someone like him on and we're always willing to hear another view even if we don't share it wouldn't you say yeah and Simon gives a clue about Meersheimer when he says that he's a political scientist who uses military history examples nothing wrong with that of course we we had some comments on previous podcasts that actually political scientists weren't terribly good at predicting the outcome of conflicts in military historians seem to have far more of a handle on it well we'll see as time goes on but of course we're not a verse to hearing contrary views if we think they're well argued and well thought out we also don't want to get in the habit of you know bringing endless amounts of bad news to listeners of this podcast almost for the sake of it which seems to be happening with news cycles these days Patrick almost that's right that's the way it works one from Chris Nichols here and will you enjoying the podcast one area of the war that I haven't heard much about is the air war well if you listen to what David Alexander told us in Wednesday's interview that's the one it's current at the moment it's live at the moment he'll tell you everything you want to know now question here from Ian this is about Russian special forces and he asked are there any operations being conducted by Russian special forces against Ukrainian forces in the traditional sense or is it that they've just been used as shock troops instead to make up for the poor display of skills being displayed by regular Russian troops what do you think Patrick are we having the indication of this well it's not really suitable conditions for special forces is it so you know the sort of job they do like reconnaissance or the jobs they do they're now done by drones and satellites etc I mean they did try it early on the Russians when they sent in you know specialist units to try and kill or capture President Zelensky in the Ukrainian leadership but they never got the chance so I think you know insofar out of there like the specs that we were talking about about earlier on I mean they're there as conventional troops yeah and it's interesting that's an awesome mutiny and that's the question is why you know my experience with special forces is that they like to be used these are guys who've volunteered and trained for special missions behind enemy lines and they don't like to sit in active so you know we we spoke about the issue of specs and that's commanders going AWOL and it could be I mean I'm just speculating here it could be because they're just sitting idle on on the sidelines as opposed to the fact of their you know worried about going into combat because the generally species of special forces are not concerned about the latter situation okay I've got one here from 0 1 smitha by Twitter and he says given Russia's constant aggression and recent military failures is Ukraine ever going to be justified in taking sovereign Russian territory assuming they can ultimately defeat the current incursion as it stands I think that would be politically unacceptable to NATO don't you saw I mean there've been stories about incursions into Russian territory but they seem to be sort of rather strange freelance affairs and not part of any official policy which is very much not to invade Russian territory because if they did so Ukraine that is it would mean seeding the moral high ground however they obviously feel justified in hitting targets inside Russia and beyond Ukrainian borders like air bases do you remember that story of the spy plane in Belarus that was blown up the other day munitions dumps fuel plants etc which I think can legitimately be presented as defensive acts or even offensive acts actually I mean the idea that the Ukrainians can't attack any Russian forces in Russian territory is completely mind-boggling to me and interesting enough if any special forces have been used they probably have been used by the Ukrainians there was the attack on the bridge remember now it was probably an unmanned marine drone but we've also seen other instances where Ukrainian special forces are probably being used so I don't think it's a conflict in which they are redundant but there hasn't been that much movement in that regard now this is a very basic question we've got here from Joachim Zander he asks it seems very very clear to me that Putin or any successor will go on and won't stop or anything so here's my question how can you personally you to the podcast believe that this walk can ever be won because you seem very convinced when on your show and no real doubt is ever uttered so that's his question what makes us so sure do you want to go first all but we're not absolutely sure but we when we look at the cards that both sides hold we feel that Ukraine's hand currently is stronger so of course we're not absolutely sure and we would be mad as historians that ever predict exactly what's going to happen but clearly with the with the military and economic support of the West the Ukrainians are in a much stronger position they also shown themselves to be much more debt at fighting a modern war and adapting to modern war whereas the Russians on the whole their strategy and their tactics and their operations have been pretty incompetent but never say never I mean interesting enough of course there have been a couple of developments or at least one particular development that is very concerning for the Ukrainians and that is that DeSantis who's the second of the front runners for a republican nomination to contest the presidency towards the end of 2024 has now come out on Fox News saying that he would definitely scale back American support for the Ukrainians it's a year and a half off but it's still concerning because the other front runner of course Trump has said exactly the same thing so if this war drags on and it is a long war of attrition that is very concerning for the Ukrainians to get back to basics my reasoning is that Ukraine has a real motivation to fight last week I mentioned this video of a captured soldier Ukrainian soldier being shot in cold blood by the Russians and I was speaking to a Ukrainian friend of mine he said well this is a tiny taste of what all Ukrainians feel they can expect if Putin wins so a ball is existential as struggle as you can get like you say they've got the will to fight they've got the means they've got the skill they've got the resources they've the leadership and on the Russian side the troops are there because they're forced to be there they're running out of stuff and the world to fight but having said all that I do start to have these little tremors of concern and one of them probably the main one is focused on China at the beginning of this so do you remember we were saying I think the kind of conventional wisdom was that the result that the West had shown would make China think again about its ambitions to take Taiwan I'm not so sure at all that they've actually been deterred by what's happened on the country I think they're watching this with great interest as an object lesson on how not to go about an irredentist war I mean they haven't attempted rhetoric at all the capture of Taiwan is presented as almost a sacred duty on which Xi Jinping's legacy is going to rest and this seems to be the view in across the Atlantic the US experts are talking about an invasion effort as early as 2025 and far from necessarily distancing themselves from Russia I think China may well calculate that it's actually quite a good strategic arrangement they get cheap energy and Russia's always there as a disruptor and it's kind of formed with Putin at its head to keep the West off balance when and many are saying it's when or if the intended invasion of Taiwan is launched I hope I'm wrong but I think that's becoming a real concern yeah and actually going back to DeSantis for a second he very much named checks China and concern over China as to the foreign policy that the US should be concentrating on we've spoken before about how American foreign policy is often split between people who look to the Pacific you can go all the way back to the Seymour war Patrick of course with this you know the Europe first policy and those who see what's going on in Europe but of course the two are interconnected I mean we'll we know that okay should we move on Charlie from Kumbia asks a question about Ukrainian manpower and Western training of Ukrainian troops he says with a much smaller population than the Russians how long can Ukraine sustain the war in terms of manpower we're going to make a real effort to dig into this down the line but it's going to take some real reporting as these are essentially Ukrainian state secrets aren't they Saul I mean that they've consistently refused to give any granular detail about their losses and I imagine that's going to go on so we're going to have to do some digging there to get it anything like a truth there was something this week Patrick actually this is a report in the Washington Post with an interview with a battalion commander on the front line in Donetsk and he gave some really interesting answers if this is all genuine and I'm assuming it is rather than an actual setup by the Ukrainian men's should defense and I'll come on to why I think that that might be the case in a second but basically what he said is that the battalion that he was commanding which was an air assault battalion had lost almost a hundred percent of its effective since the start of the war so about a hundred killed and 400 seriously wounded in other words he'd had a lot of relatively untrained guys coming in and they had not fought that well in his view now he's holding a sector of the front line he doesn't have enough ammunition and he's got a lot of guys who are relatively untrained now he claims the reason he's talking out in this way and he's slightly concerned as he put it to the reporter that there may be repercussions from his senior commanders is because you know he felt that the they needed to understand that for guys to fight effectively they needed to be properly trained so this was his justification now the reason I think this possibly is a setup because what it's really doing is flagging up to the west that there's a real problem with the Ukrainian capability and there's another thing that might be happening here which is that of course the best tricks have been kept back and trained for the anticipated counteroffensive which is something that even this concerned battalion commander said might be a possibility so you can take it either way yes on the one had its very concerning but that hundred percent casualty rate if it's true does give an indication that the size of Ukrainian casualties is very significant. Jira Joyce says Kia Ora he's been in New Zealand what does Kia Ora actually mean and I was growing up it was a kind of orange drink. Does that allow a good day I think? He's a schoolteacher he researches military history in his spare time and he says I've been wondering about escalation in this current war it seems part of the reason that hit the invaded the Soviet Union was that he could not bring his war with the British to an end. Likewise Japan attacked the west when she was unable to conclude her war with China might Putin look to other areas to invade to get quick victories if no solution in Ukraine is possible. Well Jira to me I mean my reading of his intentions was that he always intended to attack Russia. I think if Putin did think it was a good idea to confuse matters and extend the field of operations by invading and they've been country I just don't think he's got the will with all to expand the war at the moment wouldn't you say so? Yeah that's the key it's the wherewithal and one estimate by the MOD recently is that 97 percent of Russia's ground forces have been committed to Ukraine it doesn't mean they're all there at one time but it does mean that they've come in and come out and that doesn't leave an awful lot of men and equipment to do anything else even if they wanted to. I think the broader question is interesting one which is that Putin might well look for a win somewhere else Moldova or somewhere but you know I agree with you Patrick I simply don't think he's got the men and equipment to do it. Okay we've got one here from in Houston doesn't actually say where he lives but his question is it's hard to visualize one civilian person living eating avoiding artillery and street combat in back moot he goes on to say that it's estimated that 4,000 civilians are still living there and he asks have any of the people we spoke to been able to give us some kind of sense of how these civilians are managing to survive in what are obviously pretty grim conditions. Patrick have you got any insight into that? Our friend Asgol Krzysztof Nitsky was in the town some while ago now after the actual siege had begun and he did witness firsthand this phenomenon of people staying on the Ukrainian authorities were desperate to get civilians out at the beginning but a stubborn core refused to go I think that that number seems to be the one everyone agrees on about 4,000 sometimes because they just had nowhere to run to and in some cases because they were sympathetic to the Russians now that moment that window has passed it's too dangerous to get them out now and paradoxical though it may sound they're actually safer staying put which of course means that they're not very safe at all something I've noticed the absence of is any call for humanitarian corridors to be opened up have you heard anything along those lines or? Well it's grim stuff isn't it it really is I mean what we know in back moot is that the the Ukrainians have withdrawn to the south of the river and effectively ceded the north of the town to the Russians and actually if you look at a picture it's a a promontory pressing now into Russian lines and it looks like the two jaws of the of the promontory or at least the two jaws and either side of the promontory I've been a slamshad at any point which is why we've been assuming back moot is is bound to fall and conditions inside for civilians must be pretty awful because you've really got a situation now where the Russians can fire on that sector from three different sides grim grim grim Patrick but yes probably too late to get them out now we have a question from Phil who asks as professional historians what career advice can you give to listeners who would like to follow in your footsteps and become professional historians how does one become a professional historian well I would suggest trees are pretty different aren't they so you you start with yours yeah I mean the obvious route to becoming a professional historian as Phil puts it is that you become an academic in fact most academics would say they are the only professional historians say you do your PhD or some kind of postgraduate degree and then you get a teaching post and you write books and papers now that's not something I ever wanted to do although I did do a PhD luckily I always just wanted to write history and I wanted to have write history the people read which meant narrative history which is the sort of opposite of academic history so I followed it at quite an on-path I started writing books then did a PhD and then came back to writing books doing a bit of tele but basically working in every aspect of history that will allow you to make a bit of money but yes you tell yours now Patrick well I'm a total amateur because I started off as a journalist I was a I kind of fell into war corresponding and found I'd rather liked it so I did see the military close up in various conflicts around the world and it made me want to know more about you know the culture the actual history of warfare etc so that's how I got into it and also a kind of a personal background I was brought up in Kent when the I'm not that old but the battle bit was still a kind of thing there you know and I wanted to know more about who were these guys you know the few what what what what it actually it was a kind of the myth I wanted to dig into the myth and find out about the personalities behind this cohort of you know great warriors and so that's always been my approach really in my military history which is they're kind of human aspect the motivations etc and fortunately I had a bit of a hit with that first book fighter boys and it went on from there but so I'm not probably a very good person as to set as an example I think your route saw is that kind of hybrid route is probably the way to go I think these days it's good to have an academic qualification having said that you know the liveliest history I'm afraid say is written by people who haven't necessarily done so from a kind of you know strictly academic perspective yeah and just one last point on that when I did my PhD which is after I'd already published five books I felt very much kind of being pushed into a more restricted type of writing academic history is you know very evidence-based it's not about the story that there's no narrative and that restricts you I think in writing lively entertaining history I mean you want it to be well researched but you also want a tele goods story in the end so can be tricky really but the key thing is a love of history and a fascination with why people do what they do I mean that's really what what we're getting at both in our books and in this podcast trying to understand why people take the decisions they take that's right yeah I've always been suspicious of this you know kind of economic theory that all events are basically driven by I think quantifiable forces I've never thought that I've always thought that you know the irrationality of a human nature is a big player in everything that happens okay there's a question here from Ian Leith and he asked is there a time in this conflict when you could envisage the direct engagement of NATO well my answer a little while ago in would probably have been no because NATO seems absolutely determined not to put boots on the ground but quite an alarming event has just happened over the black sea and that's that a a US drone a Reaper drone all 35 million dollars worth was brought down apparently by a Russian jet now what this Russian jet did is they've got a long tradition of actually flying very close to allied planes and allied aircraft over a neutral territory which is what this was this is international airspace but apparently the Russian jet poured both fuel that is ejected some really it's fuel onto the drone and then attempt to disrupt it and knock it out of the sky and then actually make contact with it and damage this propeller now the Americans think that the contact was probably an accident but the fact we was flying so close and trying to disrupt it was not and they have warned the Russians in no uncertain terms that this was a highly irresponsible act and could lead in their words to escalation and that of course could mean this is a direct attack on a on a NATO asset and therefore there's a danger they might be brought in so yes I can envisage the possible engagement of NATO if something like this gets out of hand you know that is a concerning story isn't it so well that's all we've got time for so it's got to get back to the slopes due to it is next Wednesday when we'll be speaking to another brilliant guest probably the veteran BBC Defence expert and former tank officer Mark Urban goodbye