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, 29 Mar 2023 00:00
Joining Saul and Patrick for this week's big interview, is the current Director-General of the Royal United Services Institute - Dr Karin von Hippel. In this brilliant and wide ranging interview, she talks in depth about China Russia relations, their growing influence in Africa, and the difficulties the West faces in the future.
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Producer: James Hodgson
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Hello and welcome to the Battleground Ukraine Big Interview with me Patrick Bishop and Saul David. Well, I guess today is Karen von Hippel, Dr. Karen von Hippel. There was the director general of the Royal United Services Institute, Rousey, which is the world's oldest and the UK's leading defense and security think tank. Karen raised over a wide array of subjects, all fascinating. Her insights are really very thought-provoking. We started off by asking her whether the world was now a more dangerous place or how much more dangerous it was than before the big Russian invasion just every year ago. Karen, welcome to the podcast. Thank you so much for coming on. You've got a vast array of knowledge and experience. So we're very lucky to have you. I'm going to start off by asking you how much more dangerous is the world we live in today compared to the one we knew before February 2022. It's a great question. I think in many ways we're still understanding how dangerous the world is. I think the war in Ukraine exposed an enormous cleavage at the global level that I think many people hadn't focused on enough and that is the Russia-China alliance versus the West versus the so-called rest. We can talk about that a bit later because the rest is in several different places. The Russia-China alliance, as we know from this past week with President Xi in Moscow, is only solidifying stronger. The ramifications are still unknown. They don't want to call it an alliance for several reasons. But it's certainly a grouping that's offering a very different governance model to other countries out there. This wasn't the view before the Xi meeting. Was it? Everyone was being pretty sanguine about China's role in all this, saying that it was in its interest to avoid too close an alignment with Putin and the Kremlin, but that doesn't seem to be the case at all. I mean, my reading of it is that this is a clear statement of where China thinks its interests lie in the future. Do you agree with that? Well, I mean, don't forget that she and Putin met just before the war on the margins of the Olympics or at the Olympics and committed to a limitless friendship. The concern was already there before the war was launched several weeks beforehand, and we weren't sure what it meant then. Now I think it's more about China's concern about America and America's so-called trying to contain them. That's what they're alleging anyway. The America is trying to contain them. Of course, they have some good reasons to worry about that, given sanctions, given all these American alliances in different regions of the world, many of which are to confront China. So China is more worried about the US's stance towards China and is using Russia as one means to bolster its own place in the world. Yeah. It's just interesting. Your views on the AUKAS, I suppose you would say. I mean, is that something that the Chinese have a legitimate concern about? Sure. The Chinese are concerned about Aqas. They're concerned, which is the Australian United Kingdom, US Alliance. They're concerned about the Quad, which has India, the United States, Japan, and Australia. And they're concerned about several of these pairings and alliances that Japan is getting much more involved. Now it's free army because it's concerned about China. So I think the Chinese from their perspective are very concerned about US language and US action. And the US language is quite strident. And I think it's probably more strident than it should be because, of course, our domestic political reasons why the Americans are China bashing all the time. Karen, can I ask a specific question about, we talked about the visit. We spoke about it on our podcast this week. Patrick, can I have a slight disagreement? Are you interested in know your feeling about this, about the significance of the recent visit? You've spoken already about the fact that these links were already there. These sort of pronouncements were already being made, even before the invasion. And in my view, Putin was probably hoping for a lot more out of this visit than he actually got. There was, for example, no mention of the Siberia 2 gas pipeline, which is, you know, assume huge importance for Russia, given that it can't sell oil and gas in Europe any longer. So what's your view? I mean, was it, it seems to me to be a lot-sided relationship now. Putin is very much the junior partner in all of this and he was probably hoping for a lot more from that visit than he actually got. What was your reading of it? Well, it's, it's really hard to know because we don't know exactly what they agreed to. A lot of it obviously happened behind closed doors. I think there was a four hour meeting between the two leaders. Russia is now a junior partner, as you say. And John Kirby publicly mentioned that this one of the American's books, persons, and he did that in a way to poke the Russians because Russia doesn't see itself. It doesn't like to see itself as a junior partner. Russia used to be the more senior partner in that relationship. But now it is a junior partner. Russia is very isolated. So it's important for Putin to have had that visit because he can demonstrate on the global stage that he's still a global leader. But there are all sorts of other parts of the world where the Russians and the Chinese are pushing back against the West, including in Africa, Latin America, and Asia. And so, you know, it's still early days to see where some of the chips are going to fall. We know some countries in the global south, those countries that abstained in the original UN General Assembly Resolution Less in March 2022 after the war, started the one that condemned the Russian invasion, 35 countries abstained, and then more recently on February 23rd, 32 countries abstained. And many of those countries in the global south are not just fence-citters. They're actually more aligned with the Russian Chinese narrative. And I think that's what's so disturbing to the United States, the United Kingdom, the French, and others in the West. I think that's a very interesting point that we often overlook. You mentioned the rest, you know, so everyone's very focused on, as you say, the West versus Russia, China. But vast ways of the world are either uncommitted or pro-China and Russia, and these are places that are very rich in resources. So in some ways, we're in a kind of 19th century colonial situation. There's a sort of scramble for Africa, new scramble for Africa going on. At the moment, where, in fact, the Chinese and the Russians are rivals, aren't they? But nonetheless, how do you see this going? Is that something that we should be seriously concerned about and being doing more to present our case to the global south? I think the West, the United States and the Kingdom, the French, in particular, are extremely worried about what's happening in Africa. I'm not sure China and Russia are competing with each other in Africa. China has been, for many, many years, investing in the belt and road and other parts of Africa, propping up a number of dictators. The Russians have had long standing relationships in Africa because during the Cold War, they supported these armed movements in many countries. Angola Mozambique, Zimbabwe, South Africa are still grateful for the support that they receive back. And Russia is the largest armed supplier to Africa. What I'm struck by is, of course, the French being humiliated, really, Macron being humiliated. I mean, do you remember early on in the conflict with Ukraine, Macron kept saying, we need to find off-ramps for Putin. We don't want to humiliate Putin. What does Putin do? He turns around to humiliate Macron in the Sahel region, where the French have long standing partnerships and have now withdrawn. They withdrew from five countries in November. One of those is Mali, and now that's fully in the French sphere. So I think that's quite interesting. The United States has sent four or five senior officials, Janet Yellen, Linda Thomas Greenfield, U.S. Ambassador to the UN, a Secretary of State, Tony Blinken, and I think Kamala Harris, the Vice President, will be going soon to Africa on it, trying to push back on a counteroffensive and more recently. I don't know if you noticed, but the United States released intelligence that the Russian Wagner group was going to try to assassinate the leader of Chad, which is fascinating, because of course, the Russians are in Chad. They're providing military training and other types of support. So there's certainly a battle going on in Africa, and I'm not sure the West is going to win this, because they have been seen by so many African countries as colonialists, imperialists, lecturing, hectoring. The Russians don't do that at all, right? They just say, you know, we'll sort out your resources. I mean, of course, they're pillaging in these countries, they're trading civilians horribly. There's some massacres that have allegedly happened in a number of places. So the jury is still out about how the people in these countries will view the Russians, but at the moment, the Russians are quite popular. In terms of global security, though, Karen, does what's happening in Africa matter as much as other parts of the globe in terms of Russian and Chinese influence? And America and the West sense of their own security? Yes, it does. I mean, it matters not just in the UN and places where we, you know, where there are many important issues that require global support, but of course, Africa is home to a number of resources where earth minerals, you know, Africa is going to become even more important going forward. And that's why you hear the rhetoric changing that by the United States and others, that Africans are partners. It's not about development aid. There are partners now. You hear that from Biden and others. US held an Africa summit. Putin is about to host another African summit. Chinese host African summit. So there is a scramble, as you said, Patrick, it's a good way to describe it. There's a scramble. Some people say, well, it's the new Cold War, and we don't want that to be fought out. Here, we don't want to become, you know, getting the middle of it, but of course, many countries are very good at manipulating external actors for their own purposes as well as we know. Okay, that's enough for part one. Join us in part two when we'll be hearing more fascinating insight from Karen Von Hippel. Welcome back to the big interview with Dr. Karen Von Hippel. Now, Karen, can we move over the other side of the Atlantic to the presidential next presidential election? Are you talking about the Republican front runners making very isolationist noises to warriors anyway? How serious are they, do you think? And what would be the effect if there was a Republican president in the White House acting on campaign stances? Are you talking about DeSantis and Trump both? You know, DeSantis recently made some comments about Ukraine being a territorial dispute. He got a lot of pushback from more traditional Republicans. And then Trump, who knows, he's just sort of a little bit off the ranch really in many ways about foreign policy. We've seen that he can be very unpredictable. So he would certainly be very damaging. It's not clear yet who is going to become the candidate. The moment Trump looks like he's still the most popular amongst the rank and file Republicans. But it's still early days. And he's about to be indicted in several different jurisdictions, New York, maybe Georgia, I don't know how this is going to damage him or not. It won't damage him among his base, but it might damage him amongst others. And so, you know, I think it's too early to predict. But yeah, it would be a concern certainly if DeSantis becomes president in terms of foreign policy. He's just untested. He doesn't know much about it. He's making working mistakes now. It doesn't mean he might become worse at getting changed. I mean, don't forget Obama didn't know much about foreign policy either before he became president. Most candidates don't. They're much more steeped and domestic. I think President Biden is the one president who came into office with decades of foreign policy experience. But most of the rest do not have that. I mean, Karen, as you were alluding to DeSantis has already wrote back on some of those initial comments, given the response from some of the senior Republican leaders in Congress. And that gives us, or it gives me, as someone who feels that Ukraine needs to be solidly back to this conflict, a little bit of confidence that it's not necessarily going to lead to an immediate pullout or some kind of disastrous scenario where America stops supporting Ukraine. What's your feeling? Well, we don't know. And that's why the next sort of year and a half are so important before the elections. And it's important to the Ukrainians, not just because of you as support, Western support in general, but also because, along the war last, the harder it will be. If the Ukrainians to maintain their fighting stance, they'll just be worn down by the greater number of Russian troops. I mean, the Russians are taking significant losses, as we know. It doesn't seem to be impacting Russia yet. But the longer it lasts, I think the more it is in Russia's favor. Now, I think what is potentially likely to happen kind of a worst-case scenario is some sort of protracted stalemate where there's low-level fighting that the four regions in the East and Crimea. Well, let's just say Crimea likely stays in Russian hands and the other regions are probably low-level fighting like there has been for some time. And there isn't a real peace deal. There's more likely some sort of armistice, North Korea's South Korea type option. And then that's the best thing for Russia because, of course, it's hard for Ukraine to get in the EU and NATO if it has parts of its country still in conflict. And so, I think that's another way for Russia to wear down Ukraine. But we don't know. Anything could happen. I mean, tomorrow we could wake up and we find out that Putin fell out of a window or what seems to happen to all of his opponents. You get to have a heart attack. There could be some game-changer on the battlefield if the West is able to ramp up its support significantly in the very near future. But at the moment, it's not looking good, it's looking more likely your protracted conflict and potentially protracted. Still made. It's a pretty bleak assessment, Karen. I mean, we've just seen pictures of Russia sending, I think it's T-52 tanks, isn't it, Patrick? I mean, these are kind of 1960s models. The West may be making more out of this than they need to, but it's not a good sign for the Russian military, frankly. And there are other indications that we've seen that things are not right with their military. And it may be, we're pretty optimistic, or I am, that Ukraine is about to make significant gains. But your view, of course, which may well be correct, is a bleak one. And if it is right, if you are right, and we do settle down to some kind of pretty messy scenario in which Russia has not been significantly rebuffed on the battlefield, what does that tell us for the security of Europe going forward? Look, I don't know what will happen. No one really knows. It's true what you're saying that the Russians are suffering heavily. They're suffering heavy losses in particular, but they seem to not mind throwing bodies at this. And they seem to not mind losing civilians. I don't know what the tipping point will be in Moscow. They've already lost far more than they have. And really, any other conflict after the Second World War, YouTube would know better. But I think we need to plan for that scenario and hope that it doesn't happen. Because what I worry about is we think that, oh, we'll have some sort of deal. The Ukrainian is going to win soon and let's think about peace plan, let's plan for reconstruction. Yes, we need to do all of that. But we also need to plan for the worst case scenario for the Ukrainians and how we are going to deal with Putin. I mean, for me, this indictment by the International Criminal Court of Putin as a war criminal was almost irrelevant because we've all seen him as a war criminal. I don't know what Western leader could ever shake his hand before that indictment even because of what he's already done in Ukraine. And the Axis committed, the war crimes that he's committed. But I just think we need to be planning for that. I don't hear enough coming from any government about how we would deal with Putin if he remains in power. There's just nobody talking about that. And I'm not sure how, you know, I don't have behind the scenes access to what's going on. But I do worry that allies aren't being as vocal as they perhaps should be about how we would operate in such a system. Are you encouraged by the degree of solidarity? Europe has shown thus far anyway towards Ukraine. That's not necessarily something we would have predicted at the start of this conflict. Yeah, I mean, everybody has been saying, you know, Putin rightly thought the West would cave because it had cave so many times in the past and he has been able to poke an interfere in all of our countries, whether it's election interference or media interference or in many cases military interference. There was Georgia. There was in 2008. There was Crimea in 2014. There was Syria in September 2015 when he came in and big numbers militarily and we just got out of the way. So there was every reason for him to believe that we would all get out of the way. And the fact that the West finally woke up to that threat was I suspect he was surprised to him. He was considered such a genius tactician, probably more than strategist, but tactician before this. And in many ways, he's completely eroded that view of him. But he's, you know, he's in so deep. I'm not sure how he gets himself out of that in terms of his own survival. So yeah, the West is mostly aligned, but it's still been slow, slower than many wanted to be in terms of providing support. I mean, you could make the case. Yeah, we're looking at in a year and a bit. It's ramped it up in extraordinary ways. West has in ways that it has never done before in this kind of a conflict. There's still some stragglers. There's still challenges like Hungary. There's been some nice surprises like Poland. And of course, if the war ends sooner rather than later, Ukraine will probably emerge as having the strongest military in Europe. And probably we'll be aiding others in terms of training and how to use technology and conflict. And there's all sorts of credible innovations that the Ukrainians have, you know, come up with by necessity that often happens in conflicts. They've shown themselves to be incredible, but I've never once admiring of that. So, you know, it could have gone the Afghanistan way and it didn't. And when, you know, exactly the opposite direction. And one of the most alarming aspects of the last year has been the nuclear saber rattling that the Russians have been indulging in. And it even goes so far as to suggest that Britain sending depleted uranium shells with its challenge of two tanks is a form of escalation. And how seriously do you take these threats? We were a little bit alarmed at the beginning of the year. That is shortly after the big invasion of Ukraine began. But we've been getting less convinced that these threats actually mean anything. What's your take? Well, I mean, the conventional wisdom, I don't know if this is true or not, but there's certainly belief that part of the reason that the Russian threats have at least been abated. They haven't disappeared entirely because we've heard Medvedev and a few others make these comments. It's because of Chinese pressure on the Russians. But, you know, it's not entirely clear. Some people say that isn't true. Some China watcher say that isn't true. But certainly the concern about the global situation with respect to nuclear threats can make one incredibly despondent because don't forget a such a Russia threat, threatening to use tactical loops in Ukraine. But of course, the Iran deal is pretty much dead, even if obviously China was able to get Iran and Saudi design a deal. We've had Kim Jong Un and North Korea expanding his nuclear arsenal and testing various missiles. As expanding and diversifying his nuclear arsenal and many countries are developing weapons like hypersonic, that are outside of international agreements and partnerships. So there's a lot of reason to be concerned. Not just about the nuclear threat inside Ukraine, but at the global level, about the global nuclear posture. Karen, can I ask you for your thoughts about Taiwan at the beginning of the conflict? I think there was a kind of hope that this would actually, the West's robust response would actually send a signal to China that would deter them from advancing their plans for Taiwan. My feeling, I don't know about you, Saul, is that as time has gone on, it's actually had the opposite effect. And indeed, they're rather encouraged by what they're saying. Is that how you see it? Who's encouraged a Chinese or a courage? Yeah, I think that they're... Well, this is just speculation, of course. But I think particularly following the meeting in Moscow, it seems to me that they're now on a posture where they think, okay, with the West preoccupied with Ukraine, it's not going to have the capacity to actually oppose us. Should we launch this long-feared invasion of Taiwan? And indeed, this is something that is coming out of Western intelligence briefings, as they're saying in American particularly, that they fear the operation could be launched as early as January 2025. Is that something that concerns you? Well, of course, everything concerns me in these kinds of situations. It's always dangerous to predict what might happen. There are a lot of reasons that the Chinese would not invade that held true at the start of the war that still holds true today, because they're seeing how isolated Russia is, they're seeing how Russia is not able to come back under Putin's leadership into any sort of international community. They would have to manage a very difficult and tricky insurgency likely. And then there's the strange question of what happens to the Taiwanese Silicon chip capacity. Don't forget Taiwan has the most fiscated, is the only country that can manufacture them at that level. The Dutch also have a press of capability, too, but the Taiwanese are the global leaders. The Chinese need Taiwanese chips. And we go to Taiwan most years at Russia. I was there in October, and it was very interesting conversation talking about how in many ways the Taiwanese see their chip capability as a deterrence. And whether that means they blow up their own factories if the Chinese invade or the Americans just stop doing their part of the relationship. There's a lot of design that happens in the United States before it gets Taiwan. But that is an interesting deterrent. I don't know how seriously the Chinese take it or not, but it's certainly a factor to bring into the thinking about this. Well, that surely would have global consequences. They wouldn't just be China who suffered it would be the entire world economy. And the Chinese realize that. So they have military reasons to be concerned. They haven't had a military conflict, what since Vietnam or Korea, right? You two would know better. They haven't been involved militarily in a significant way. They of course had skirmishes with the Indians and others. And so I think China worries more than Russia about having agonets face militarily. Putin's been humiliated, but he can just say black is white like he does. But the Chinese, I don't think, would deal with it in the same way. And I think it would be a huge blow to Xi's prestige and leadership. I know they see Taiwan as an inherent part of China. And the return of it is something, of course, that they take very seriously. But I think that they also worry about a number of the challenges that the Russians have faced. I think they're trying to root out their own worries about corruption inside the militaries. We've seen, obviously, a lot of the Russian defense modernization didn't happen. The money was just stolen. I think Chinese are starting to try to root that out. And their own system because of what they've learned. I mean, on that subject, Karen, I quoted something in the podcast today, Satisa Gardt seen that over 80% of weaponry coming into China, obviously, it makes a lot of its own stuff. But the stuff it does in poor comes from Russia. Now, that's rather surprised me, given what we've seen on the battlefield of Ukraine. And it may be that they're going to want to reverse that trend and get their stuff from somewhere else. Now, there is a concern, also, of course. You just remind me that the Chinese are going to supply the Russians with weapons. The Americans are threatening sanctions. So that's another factor that China would go into a very negative situation at the global level, not only if it invaded Taiwan, because, of course, there would be global sanctions against it. But also, if it starts to supply weapons, I think there is concern that it's already supplying Russia with dual use components. It's certainly getting a lot of, you know, it's hydrocarbons, and so it's able to provide Russia with a lot of cash to sustain its war. But yeah, there is concern about China supplying weapons to Russia as well. So to sum up the issue of Taiwan, then, Karen, we take your caveat. We can never know for sure. But your feeling seems to me, and it seemed to agree with my feeling, actually, because Patrick and I do slightly disagree on this too, that there are more reasons for China not to invade Taiwan anytime soon than there are the other way. Yeah, I don't think China is worried about America being distracted by Ukraine. America can handle Ukraine and supporting the Ukrainians and certainly applying enormous sanctions on China at the same time. It's not military support. They've always planned for several simultaneous wars. We've seen, though, that there is a huge challenge in just getting ammunition and, you know, basic supplies to the Ukrainians. So it wouldn't be easy, but I think the Americans could do it if it had to. And I know that China cares a lot about its global economic position and doesn't want to cause a global economic crisis. So I think that whatever they do, it's a lot easier for them to, you know, as many people have said, it's a lot easier for them to win this war by not invading, by just continuing its policy of slowly strangling Taiwan. And there are a lot of ways it can do it without using military force. I don't know if they would succeed or not in the Taiwanese or, you know, thinking through how they would handle this in very different ways than they did even a year ago. So, but, you know, it'll take Taiwan some time to bolster up its own resiliency and change its, you know, its military conscription and all sorts of things that they need to do with local level. They call it the porcupine strategy that they become more like a porcupine to prevent the Chinese from establishing a foothold, then buying all sorts of enormous weapons and systems. That's what the American pressure has been on Taiwan over the last few years. Well, it's nice to have some reassurance at the end, Karen. So thank you very much for your question. Well, I mean, I don't know. I don't know. None of us know this. None of us know this, but it's it. Yeah. I mean, there's more to be concerned about globally than probably there has been in a number of years. And because precisely because it's so, everything is so uncertain, and we don't know how a number of these things are going to play out. We don't know how the Russian Chinese non-aliance alliance is going to play out. We don't know the ramifications of China's actions at the global level. We're going to be wonderful trying to turn around and was able to pressure Russia to pull out of Ukraine, but it doesn't seem to be that interested in doing so right now. It seems more interested in saying, well, let's hold on to the gains of Russians have made so far, which is unacceptable, as we know, to the Ukrainians right now. Thank you very much. Once again, Karen, it was great pleasure to have you on. We've learned a lot. Well, it's a pleasure to be with both of you. Thank you. Well, that was wonderful, wasn't it, Patrick? She moved across so many interesting subjects and some quite alarming stuff that I have to say. You know, the talk about Africa, I asked, does it matter that China and Russia are gaining increasing influence in Africa? Sounds in retrospect like a rather naive question, their response was, yes, it really does matter, resources, the influence on the UN and other effects. Is this a trend you've been keeping your eye on, Patrick? Well, it sort of goes up and down, doesn't it? If you think about the at the height of the Islamic state and all that kind of war on terror stuff, suddenly Africa became very much in the forefront of people's minds and a lot of energy and resources were poured into trying to contain the threat of Africa actually becoming a sort of like an arm camp as sort of huge, no-go area for the West where G-Head could be exported from and that sort of died down a bit, but it's still there. There's still plenty of that going on as Karen was saying about the situation in the French colonies. There's a lot of G-Head activity there. They seem to be able to operate pretty much unchecked. So yeah, I mean, it definitely is something that we haven't really been thinking that much about and maybe we should do more. I mean, Karen's not given to overoptimism. She clearly, like all of us, is a supporter of Ukraine and yet feels that things could go horribly wrong there. She's not convinced that the Russians are on their last legs. She doesn't know, of course, and differs to us to a certain extent as so-called military experts. I think things are looking a lot grimmer for the Russians than she probably does. But at the same time, we all have to accept the possibility that she was putting forward, which is it may end massively. There may be some kind of ceasefire, but no peace treaty. We may have ongoing low-level conflict in those four provinces she was talking about. Russia keeps Crimea. And a really big question, Patrick, that she posed at the end, which is absolutely right. How do we deal with Putin if he stays in power? Yes. I think we're always assuming that military collapse will bring about a political change, but is that necessary of the case? I mean, one of the things that really impressed me about Karen is, is the way that she is always first to say, you know, these are imponderables. These are things we can speculate about, but we just simply don't know. So one of the things that she said that struck me forcibly was that expect the unexpected who knows what's going on inside the Crimea after all these months. We still don't have any real insight to we into how decisions are making, how the balance of power is aligned at the moment. So yeah, that's what makes the in a terrible way it makes this conflict so fascinating is all these sort of elements that could go one way or the other and completely change the situation. And of course, you know, we're coming up to another critical moment when the great counteroffensive is launched. I think there'll be a very different looking military operation to the one we've seen on the Russian side. So yeah, I mean, the situation is extraordinarily fluid. Yeah, I mean, this is really interesting to hear the big picture from someone like Karen. In some ways, it's very frustrating talking to people like her because they say we simply don't know what's going to happen. And we've got to plan for all eventualities. And I know I'm guilty of wishful thinking in cases like this is clear who the villain is. And it's clear what needs to happen, which is, you know, the villain is defeated and the villain is toppled and the villain has to take his punishment. But that's not really how the world works. Is it Patrick? I mean, you know, we can possibly myself included be forgiven for a bit of naïveity on this podcast. Yeah. So I think absolutely right what she said that we've got to spend more time thinking about the worst case scenario of a stalemate and of Russia hanging on to a lot of its gains or at least since 2014 in Ukraine. I still think I have to say Patrick, you know, I just want to get this on the record now that I don't think it's going to end as massively as she thinks it is. But of course, we have to plan for that possibility. On one last point, which encouraged me a little bit, she did concede that there were more reasons why China won't invade Taiwan in the near future than there were reasons for it to do so. So that tiny, tiny, chink of light right at the end of the interview. Well, let's hold on to that thought. Apologies for my croaky voice today. I'm afraid I've gone down with COVID. I think I'm coming out of it. So next time I should sound a bit better. Thanks very much for joining us and don't forget to listen on Friday to our latest news and analysis. Thank you. Hey, Cas Powers, the world's best podcast. Here's a show that we recommend. Are you mindlessly swiping on hinge? 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