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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42. Intelligence Leaks

42. Intelligence Leaks

Fri, 14 Apr 2023 01:00

In this episode Saul and Patrick review the US intelligence leak and what this tells us about the reach of US intelligence, the state of the Ukrainian armed forces, and the consequences of the leak for the upcoming Ukrainian counter-offensive. They also discuss a couple of interesting developments within Russia: including reports that Wagner group boss Yevgeny Prigozhin is advancing his political aspirations by seeking to gain control of a Russian political party.

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Acasts powers the world's best podcasts. Here's a show that we recommend. I'm Amara Jones. Every day, the attacks on trans kids grow louder. And more anti-trans bills keep moving through state legislatures. In this season of the anti-transite machine, we're going to illuminate how the right wing has fueled these bills by generating a breathtaking and wide-ranging disinformation campaign. It's spreading like wildfire on the internet. It's then being discussed by families and churches. None of this is an accident. It's a strategy to de-legitimize trans people and create a world where existence is a question. Subscribe to season 2 of the anti-transite machine, a plot against equality, wherever you listen to podcasts. Acasts helps creators launch, grow, and monetize their podcasts everywhere. Hello and welcome to the Friday episode of the Battleground Ukraine podcast with me, Saul David and Patrick Bishop. Today, we look at the US intelligence leak that Reuters has dubbed the most damaging since the 2013 publication of thousands of documents on WikiLeaks. And we'll consider what this tells us about the reach of US intelligence, the state of the Ukrainian armed forces, and the consequences of the leak for the upcoming Ukrainian counteroffensive. We're also going to be discussing a couple of interesting developments within Russia. Those are reports that Fagna Group boss Yavgeny Prigodzhin is advancing his political aspirations by seeking to gain control of a Russian political party and that Igor Gidkin, the former Russian officer and ardent nationalist, has formed the so-called Club of Angry Patriots, a social movement designed to protect the influence of the pro-war faction within the Russian government. But first, let's have a look at those intelligence leaks because it's been all over the news this week. The documents around a hundred and number and label secret and top secret first appeared on social media sites in March and purportedly reveal details of Ukrainian military vulnerabilities and information about allies, including Israel, South Korea, and Turkey. Now they appear to be Pentagon reports written in the format used to provide updates to senior leaders and would typically be available to thousands of people with US and allied government security clearances. Now we need to stress at this point a couple of things. Firstly, some of the leak reports seem to date from January, i.e., then our well out of date, and they have not been independently verified. However, there are indications that some at least are genuine. The US Department of Justice has launched a criminal investigation into the leak and one US official has claimed that some battlefield casualty estimates from Ukraine appear to have been altered to understate Russian losses. We'll come back to those losses, but the most damaging claim in the leak files, this was reported in the Washington Post, is that Ukraine's military could fall well short of Gives goals for a spring counteroffensive. As a result of difficulties massing their troops, shortages of ammunition and equipment, this intelligence report was dated in early February and it warns that the counterattack would only result in their estimation in, quote, modest territorial gains. It also says that Ukrainian objectives for the counteroffensive, that's reclaiming contested areas in the east, presumably the Donbass, and pushing south and a bit to several land bridge between Russia and Crimea are unlikely to succeed. Now, publicly the US and the British governments, as we've mentioned many times on the podcaster expressing optimism about the outcome and the upbeat about Ukraine's military and what it's capable of. But the document notes that the strength of Russian defenses coupled with, quote, enduring Ukrainian deficiencies in training ammunition supplies probably will stream progress and exacerbate casualties during the offensive. Do you think that's a fair assessment from where you stand, sir? Well, it's interesting, isn't it? I mean, the consequence of all of this could be quite far reaching. The documents, as we pointed out, have not been independently verified and the one about the counteroffensive is quite old. But if it's genuine, it supports your suspicion Patrick, the counteroffensive will only make modest gains and it's making me a bit more concerned after say. It also explains the recent announcement by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense that it is changing some of its plans. Now, this might concern some people, it concerns me a little bit, but I think if we go back into history Patrick, second world war, in particular the German invasion of the low countries, the so-called Operation Yellow, those plans were leaked or at least those plans were captured during the so-called Mechelin incident in February 1940 when a plane made a forced landing in Allied territory. Hitler was so concerned that the Allies were going to believe that those plans were genuine, that he completely ordered a kind of rethink. That's when they got to the plan that actually worked, which is coming through the Ardennes. It was fortunate for the Germans that the Allies did get wind of their plans, but the fact that the plans changed at the last minute is not necessarily a disaster. The big question is who's responsible for the leaks and what's their motivation? Well, it seems to me there are two obvious suspects. Firstly, Russian spies who've leaked authentic documents in which they've inserted false information, and that would explain the claim by a US official that the estimated losses of troops and vehicles appeared to have been doctored in order to inflate Ukrainian and reduce Russian numbers. So one example of this is one document claims that the total of Russian killed is actually reduced from 35 and a half to 43 and a half thousand to 16 to 17 and a half thousand, while the Ukrainian dead are inflated from 16 to 17 and a half thousand up to a whopping 61 to 71 and a half thousand. Now, the obvious aim there is to drive a wedge between Ukraine and the United States, its biggest military supporter. But my issue with the Russian spy theory is that they're not really very likely to compromise such a highly placed source if they've got one in place there for a one shot publicity leak that doesn't necessarily deliver huge results. It's a bit like the Great British Intelligence Success of World War II, isn't it, so when the team at Bletchley Park broke the German military enigma codes and the ultra intelligence product that resulted meant to be often you exactly what the enemy was up to, but we had to use that knowledge sparingly, a fear of alerting them to the fact that the communications were compromised. Yeah, I mean, obviously the Russians are taking advantage of the leak as in the case of the doctrine of the documents, not necessarily that people are going to believe that, but I doubt they're actually behind it. I think a more likely culprit is an American who's either pro-Russian or anti-American or anti-America's involvement in Ukraine, but this investigation underway, I would have thought we'd have a pretty good chance of getting to the bottom of that. Yeah, I think they will sooner or later. I mean, the leaks are obviously embarrassing, but on the other hand Patrick, they do give a flattering portrait of the US's ability to penetrate Russian military planning, lots of examples of this and then include the internal plans of the Wagner mercenary group. I mean, the documents show Wagner's ambition to operate in African states, as well as Haiti, and that he did hatch plans to source arms covertly from NATO member Turkey via Marley where Wagner has a sizable presence now. It doesn't seem that these attempts were successful, but nevertheless the US intelligence has information about all of this. Another interesting bit in the leaks, a separate slide appears to confirm our suspicion, the special operations personnel from NATO members, France, America, Britain and Latvia, were active in Ukraine. We're not just talking about in an advisory capacity here, we're actually active though France in particular has already denied this. The leaks also include lots of other fascinating stuff, which we don't really have time to go into, including CIA intercepts of Israel and South Korean internal communications. In other words, the CIA is spying on its allies. I don't think that's going to be particularly surprised. Any of us Patrick, is it? And I suppose the question we have to ask ourselves is whether any of this really matters with regard to the war in Ukraine or what's your take on that? It's hard to gauge, isn't it, Saul? I mean, there's very little room for surprises in the military situation as it stands now, I would say. The causes of actually available to both sides will be obvious to anyone who's got any degree of military knowledge. So no, I don't think it'll change the big picture. But the information could give the Russians a tactical advantage if it was applied right now. Some of the leaks quite detail. They give information about types of heavy weapons and equipment held by nine Ukrainian brigades that the US and its allies are equipping and preparing for the big offensive and quite precise details about ammunition levels, particularly on air defense systems and so on and so forth. All of this is useful, obviously, for the Russians to know, but they're probably new some of it already. And anyway, as you were saying earlier, Ukraine's obviously going to make adjustments to take account the leaks. So the situation will have changed before the launching of the big offensive. So I would say in that sense, the value is probably quite temporary and fleeting. Do you think that's right? They obviously matter up to a point these leaks. You talked about the information Russian couldn't get. There was also going to be a certain suspicion between America and its allies in terms of the sensitive intelligence information that's being shared. And it might alert the Russians and Wagner, of course, to the way in which the US has been able to penetrate the Russian government. Another interesting document gives examples on plans for Russian military intelligence to ferment an anti-Western and anti-Ukrainian campaign in Africa. So they might be able to tighten up their security or at least will have been alerted to do that because of this. Do the leaks really reflect American pessimism about the coming Ukrainian counter-offensive? I'm not so sure about that. I mean, this is one document and it was a couple of months ago, but again, Patrick, maybe that's just me being a little bit optimistic about where things are going. Yeah, the other thing, of course, you've got to remember is that we don't know how the selection has been made on these documents. And often, you know, you get position papers which set out an array of possible outcomes. And it may be they just leaked the most sort of downbeat ones. All of this, all of this, as always, within anything to do with intelligence is extremely opaque and murky. You use a peer to be kidding. He's sort of hard material. It's never quite as simple as it looks. So on to the other main news, the week which relates to internal Russian politics. Firstly, there were reports in the Russian opposition outlet Medusa that you have Gennie Pagodian, the Wagner bus is seeking to gain control of the a just Russia for truth. And it's rather kind of unwieldy name for party. Anyway, this is this comes from the Institute of the study of war. And it's yet another side of Pagodian political ambitions. And it might result in him contesting the governorship of some Petersburg. And of course, it's inevitably, you know, pushback from the from the military defense. They're the kind of refusing to actually give the Wagner forces any credit for their contributions to the battle of Bachmut. And they're just referred to in the communications as assault detachment. And then there's actual sort of, you know, Dmitri Peskov, the Kremlin spokesperson coming out and indirectly accusing Pagodian of deliberately shedding light on the conflicts and the squabbles between the M.O.D. and Wagner. And so on and so forth. So it but it seems to me that once again, Pagodian is pushing his luck here. Wouldn't you say so? It's really interesting. Isn't it? I mean, there are so many moments over the last few months where you thought to yourself, he's got to pull his horns in a little bit, hasn't he? Because, you know, sooner or later, as we've speculated on the podcast Patrick, you know, he is going to go too far. But it's almost as though there are other elements within, you know, the power structure in the Kremlin, who are actually supporting Pagodian and a really interesting parallel political move that's going on at the moment is involving our old friend Igor Gerkhin, the former Russian officer and Arden Nationalist, who has formed, as you said at the outset, Patrick, this club of angry patriots, it's a social movement to protect the influence of the Russian pro-war faction within the Kremlin. And this is interesting because according to the ISW, members of the club stated that Russia will imminently face defeat in Ukraine and may experience a pro-Western coup or civil war if Moscow does not drastically improve the situation on the front lines. And the members claimed the Russian officials are unable to improve the war effort and it's effect on Russian society because, and here's the interesting thing, most Kremlin officials belong to an anti-war faction. And this is all fascinating stuff of true Patrick, because it chimes with similar remarks made by Brigogian about the schisms among Kremlin officials. And last bit, the ISW report goes on to suggest that Gerkhin and others may be concerned that Putin, and this is a quote, Putin may be driven to accept a peace settlement by the threat of replacement and that Gerkhin may be advancing the political goals of unnamed figures within Russian power structures, possibly within the Russian federal security service, the FSB. That's fascinating stuff and is this a little hint at the protection that Brigogian is getting within the Kremlin power structure? Well, that would kind of explain why he's still with us, isn't it? I mean, he's really taken some huge liberties over the last months that if he wasn't getting some degree of protection, as they call it, if he were someone else, he'd be very much dead by now, I would have thought. So yeah, that is a plausible explanation for why he's still a power on the land. Okay, I just like to say a word about morale here, which is of course a vital factor. This is something that Julius Strauss will be talking about on the big interview next Wednesday. I just heard back from some friends, Richard and Joe Hudson, who've just got back from a visit to Eastern Ukraine, where they've been involved in delivering humanitarian aid to the civilian population there. They sent a generator via a knotting and based NGO called City Hub Ukraine. So it's cartenated here that these levels of humanitarian support being sustained in the UK. Now this outfit City Hub has sent 36 truckloads of food, medical suppliers, generators, even 4x4s, mainly to help the 20,000 also displaced people in the Poltava area. But also giving support to military units, particularly volunteer units. Well, Richard and Joe Vittor is a hospital there for recovering soldiers and found a rather bleak scene. The hospital itself was very dilapidated, the nurses were exhausted and the recovering soldiers seemed in pretty low spirits when they were asked what message they had for people back in the UK. The response was basically stopped this craziness, if you can. But nonetheless, they say that underneath it the resolve still seems high, there are many declarations of slava, Ukrainian. But it does seem to reinforce to view that this is an existential struggle. That's how it's understood there on the ground and that there's no acceptable compromise with an enemy which is regarded as being simply pure evil. Okay, well, that's all for part one. Join us after the break when we'll answer listeners questions. Welcome back. Well, we've got another large postbag of listeners questions. Thank you so much and keep them coming in. And the first though is actually response to a question that was raised last week. So this has come from our resident cyber expert on the podcast David Alexander. And he wrote in response to questions from a senior British officer that the cyber threat is tier one rated in the UK, but hasn't killed anyone on the battlefield. So is it overrated? David's response in brief is no. He actually wrote quite a long email. I don't have time to read it all out, but I'll read the first paragraph because it is quite pithy and it'll give a sense of his argument. The cyber threat is tier one rated rights, David mainly because of the huge impact it could have on the civilian population if it disrupted the critical national infrastructure of a country. I did briefly describe this in my first interview for your podcast if an opponent can disrupt energy generation or distribution, the water supply banking transport such as rail or road, healthcare or other such CNI assets there could be significant disruption. I know that the formal government assessment is that if we lose the electricity supply for all or a significant part of Great Britain, there will probably be deaths among vulnerable people, those with significant health conditions within a day if it isn't restored. The first example of Estonia back in 2007 where the loss of ability to use the internet national networks led to civil unrest. It was impossible to use cash machines or to pay for anything with payment cards. When people ran out of cash to buy food and then ran out of food at home, they went on to the streets to protest. It's a classic example of that all saying a civilized society has only three hot meals from unrest and that is why David says the cyber conflict is so vital and it's mainly because he goes on to say the skill of the people at the UK National Cyber Security Center that they're combating most of these threats. There's a question here from Ben who's asking a very specific question about the Western main battle tanks that we're supplying to Ukraine, not in my view insufficient numbers. But anyway, he's talking about the leopard tank and he's asking about portable anti-tank weapons. He reminds us that we saw Ukrainians soldiers using Western anti-tank weapons with great effect at the beginning of the conflict, the end law in particular. He's asking, will we expect the Russian equivalent of the end law to provide the same destructive power against Western tanks and given that these portable weapons attack the tank from above, we will remember those images of these Miss Rascascaiading down and some spectacular consequences aiming to hit the tank at its most vulnerable point of the turret. But he's asking, does a more modern armor from these Western MBTs actually extend to the turret area and also one of the reasons that the Russian tanks went up with such a bang was the fact they had their ammunition and a carousel under the turret. Is that the case for the Western MBTs he's asking? Do you know anything about that sort? In general terms, the Western MBTs are much better defended than the Russian tanks. They're just much better bits of kit. I don't know the specifics about where the armor extends to, but two points to make here. They are much more robust in terms of anti-tank weapons and the Russians don't have such good anti-tank weapons. In fact, there's another question later on which will sort of knit into this in which they talk about the Russian lack of anti-tank weapons and it's absolutely true. I think the broader point to make here is that which is something we've speculated on before Patrick, which is that there will be a certain amount of these Western battle tanks. Maybe in the region of about 100, possibly 150, I mean that's speculation really and that's adding everything up the A-Rams, the Leopards and the challenges. But the Ukrainians actually have got an awful lot of their own tanks, Soviet type tanks, which we'll be doing most of the heavy lifting and they of course are much more vulnerable. So I think the broader answer here is the Western tanks won't be vulnerable to the sort of kit or won't be as vulnerable to the sort of kit the Russians have got, but that other tanks will be. So we're seeing even yesterday I was watching a video and we'll come onto that in a second in which you could see to Ukrainian tanks burning. So clearly they've got the capability to knock out Soviet tanks. We'll have to wait and see about the Western MBTs. We have a question here from Loss who's asking really a perennial question of whether Russia's great over-match in terms of population size is going to be decisive on the battlefield. And he says it really boils down to does it really mean that Russia has numbers on their side? Well, I think in an earlier entry we did with General Semyik Jackson, he said mass matters. And I think it does often come back to that doesn't it? I mean, especially this new phase of the battlefield picture where defensively Russia actually needs fewer than the Ukrainians need on their side for the attack. So they do have a massive advantage just in bodies in trenches with anti-tank weapons, machine guns, plus their great artillery advantage they've got in terms of. At this stage of the game, you don't really need terribly sophisticated artillery. You just need to keep raining it down on. I think we're seeing that actually at the moment even in back what we haven't really mentioned back what in this episode. But you know, the fighting goes on there and what the Russians seem to be doing now is just obliterating chunks of the city, not not vast areas, but just identifying where there's a Ukrainian command post or whatever. And just raining down shells on it until there's nothing left out. And of course, once that process begins or even when they anticipate it's going to begin because they maybe will get advanced warning up at Ukrainians are pulling back and allowing them to move into to that sort of space once the shell is gone. So it's a very, very kind of weird way of going to war, but it does favor the side with the most resources, human resources and otherwise. And of course, in a crucially, the willingness to actually take massive casualties, which is a very complicated way of getting back to the original question. But yes, it really does matter that the Russians have got far more bodies on their side than the Ukrainians have on theirs. Okay, moving on to Roger Bentley, he brings up the name of Edward Snowden, which was referenced in the last episode. He of course was the American spy. Now he's asking, Snowden has been holed up in Moscow for some time now. And Roger is asking, how have we heard anything of Snowden since the war began? Have you heard anything? So no, it's interesting. It's Nick, because you might have imagined that the Russians would have wheeled him out for propaganda purposes at some point. And it makes me wonder, Patrick, and this is pure speculation here. Well, Edward Snowden's really beginning to regret his effective, you know, disavowl of the US and support for Russia. Given what they've done since he went to Moscow. And that was, I think there was about in 2013, wasn't it? So that's pre-Crimia, and it's certainly pre-the invasion of Ukraine. Does Edward Snowden support that? I mean, I suspect the complete silence from him. And the lack of Russian ability to use him for propaganda purposes might indicate that he's not a great supporter of the war. But as I say, pure speculation, we haven't heard much. Okay, we've got an interesting insight here from Ryan in Sydney, who says Gidey from Down Under. And he works in strategic procurement globally and has done for decades in the private sector. And he says he spent a lot of that time staring a gas at how badly public sector organizations approach procurement. And if you look at most private corporations, he says their approach to it is done is better than perfect. I, you know, just get the thing over with. And if it's not absolutely how he wanted it, well, so be it. So Ryan's concern really is the question of tanks and the tanks we're sending to Ukraine. He's asking, are we seeing the Western Defense Departments and their frankly incompetent procurement teams continue to make the same mistakes they always make yet again? He's really saying, why don't we, instead of sending a few dozen Abrams and leopard twos, what they need now is hundreds of tanks, not of such high quality. There's just a bit better than the Russian ones in order to punch a big hole through the Russian defenses. What do you make of that? It's a really interesting argument, isn't it? I mean, we've already talked, we've already spoken about the fact that most of the tanks the Ukrainians have are their Soviet style, tea, whatever's. And actually what Ryan's suggesting is forget about the, you know, the absolute top notch NATO kit. Why don't you give them some of the 1990s stuff, the M60s, for example, which he claims there are literally. Thousands of active M60s in NATO storage. These will be a little bit better than the Russian tanks and of course, mass matters as much with armor as it does with people. It's a very good argument. It's not one I've heard before. So yes, we, we are intrigued by your suggestion. It's probably too late now as Ryan himself says and his concern is, you know, where we'd be looking back and saying we should have done this. You know, thank you, Ryan, for this suggestion now because in a sense it's semi too late. But if the war goes on a bit longer, who knows they may have to think about this. But thanks so much for your insight. It was a great comment. Now we're very delighted to have an email from someone who's actually in Ukraine and this is from Emir Kruppic. And he says, hello gentlemen, enjoy your shows. Decent Ukraine analysis. He lives in Ukraine so he can spot as he puts it the grift as a mile away. And there are no red flags here. Well, thank you, Emir. Next question is with the nukes. When the USSR broke up, there were 40,000 warheads and nuclear devices that had to be dealt with and the world community managed that. If Russia continues to exist in its current format, it will always be a threat to Ukraine's as a mere and it needs to be broken up. So this comes back to the question we dealt with last time, which is that, you know, what happens to all the nukes of the Russian Federation breaks up. Well, Emir's point is it's happened before and it can be handled again. The same arguments for preserving the USSR, the infamous chicken Kiev speech by Bush senior are now being used to make excuses for the preservation of the Russian Empire. His point is that the Russian Federation is not Russia per se. It is an empire and then it needs to be broken up. His final point. And this, by the way, is made by someone else actually interesting enough in the questions. We're sorry we're going to deal with that too, but we hope we've provided the answer here or at least the speculation here. The nukes can be handled. Russia is too big for its breaches. It has to go says Emir. So that's an interesting point, isn't it, Patrick? Should we really consider the nuclear threat as a reason not to deal with what's become a really dangerous political entity? Yeah, I just thought in grand strategic terms, you would examining the problem. You would come to the answer or the conclusion that Russia is just going to go on being a massive destructive and destructive force in the world generally. And in Europe in particular, and that if you're planning for a generation ahead, you would be working along the lines that it cannot carry on in its existing form. But I think you probably had the comes to conclusion that that is only really going to be resolved by the Russians taking Russian population taking matters into their own hands. But yeah, I think the underlying truth of what you say is absolutely correct. Now this item we had last week about snipers has produced a very sharp response from Scott Parkinson. So he says, even though he loves the podcast, etc. He was a bit surprised about our comments regarding the sniper duel in Stalin grab. Now he says that this is the guy we reference the Russian sniper who claimed to have killed, I think it was 250 Germans. He says the stories pure Russian propaganda. There's actually no evidence that the German sniper, this is the guy who is meant to be dueling with Valtur Kernig ever existed. As you know, the Germans kept detailed records and all their soldiers and there's no record of any soldier by that name. I must admit, when I looked at you into it, he looked a bit suspicious because Valtur Kernig was deemed to be a major and in other heard of a sniper with a rank of major before. So, and of course, you know, Hollywood got its hands on the story and that of course all historical accuracy goes out of the window. But I think there's probably some evidence of this Russian, the Russian sniper was a real person, whether it killed 240 people, is another matter. And of course, you really need to sort of grain of truth to build a great sort of story around. I think that's perhaps what happened there. Do you know much about this sort of even thinking any more about this? It's interesting, Patrick, that we've got a separate question about this from Aaron who's 17, a level history student aspiring to study history and then commissioned into the rural tank regiment. So thanks for your question Aaron, we love it when people of your age engage with the podcast. But he also mentions Irwin Kernigs and says that he recently competed a 5,000 word essay regarding the battle of Stalingrad and looked into this story to examine the impact of snipers on the battle. So he makes the same point about Kernigs, did he ever exist? And he adds, and I can't vaguely remember this, it's been a long time since I read Stalingrad, that Beaver himself debunks the so-called Jewel. Although you're absolutely right, Zite said definitely existed, he was definitely a sniper in Stalingrad and he definitely took a lot of lives. So I think we're half right, but thank you so much for that comment. And the other thing that Aaron mentions is, he actually asks a specific question, which is, do you think if the war becomes prolonged and last many more years, the West will be viewed as incompetent for not sending even more arms than supplies to Ukraine now, when it could potentially have had a large positive impact? Well, that's following on from the earlier point of fact, tanks and the answer is yes, Aaron, we've been urging the West to send everything it has or everything it can send, including long, long range missiles. And I'll come on to the longer range missiles in a second actually, because there's a fascinating video news item on YouTube that's been flagged up by another listener, so we'll come to that. A question from Michael Howard in Tempere, Finland. I hope I've got that right. Pronunciation's always a problem in the talk, but I see you're just, you've actually been doing a bit of recess because I love the way that you're giving those those those very very good Russian sounding, but I think that's the key. The, the, the, the, the, the, the, the, the, anyway, I hope I've got Tempere right. So Michael asked, do you think we may be over emphasizing the geopolitics of the war in Ukraine, rather than viewing it as a regional conflict based on the emotional response of a dying empire, and its dictator to its decline. Well, I think that's a very interesting way of looking at it and taking isolation, you could see that this was perhaps, you know, the kind of the death rose of modern Russia by that I mean Russia from the kind of Sauris period through the communist period up to this, a weird sort of hybrid state, it finds itself in now, but unfortunately we live in an interconnected world. So I think the de facto alliance between Russia and China makes it a global problem and in a way of various degrees, a global conflict. If it wasn't for China's support, then I think you could say that this is basically a European problem and indeed look at it through that prism of seeing it as, you know, the last kicks of what was once a great dominant force as it as it falls apart is basically a sort of one man band group of cronies keeping this sort of vast geographical space and source of enormous sort of, you know, natural resources together, but it hasn't really got any political cohesion, but as like I say, in alliance with China, it becomes a problem for everyone. So yes, there is a huge geopolitical element to this conflict. Okay, final question from you and Williamson in Scotland Glasgow Scotland, big fan of the podcast just wondering if you've ever heard of and watch the reporting from Ukraine YouTube channel. He's been following it for almost a year and it has in his view incredibly well research daily information collated into five minute videos. Well, you and I have to confess I hadn't watched it until I saw your question. So I have done a little bit of research over the last day or two. I watched five or six videos and they're excellent. I mean, if you want the full detail, almost street by street about what's going on in back moot, for example, I think I was in yesterday's or the day before's episode, then you're going to get it from this guy. He strikes me. You're right. He's not identified. He strikes me as someone who has probably military training. Certainly very good military contacts and it's astonishing. The detail he goes into as I say, but it's not just that, you know, the tactical stuff, the fighting on the ground in back moot. He's also breaks really interesting new ground on the use by the Ukrainians of ballistic missiles and we've been discussing since the beginning of the podcast, the fact that the range of their missiles high miles is a big game change, but the range of their missiles is really about 70 miles. Well, apparently according to this guy on the reporting from Ukraine YouTube channel. They now have the ability to strike with missiles, not just into Crimea, at distances up to he claims 400 kilometers, but also hit the bridge itself and that's crucial. That is the bridge that leads into the Crimea and that's crucial because when the counter offensive begins, that is the obvious supply route for those southern armies and it could be a real game changer. They've been firing a few missiles over the last week or so, one or two have been shot down that was reported in the press. We didn't exactly know where they came from, but according to this YouTube channel, they're coming from a long distance away. So that is definitely something to watch and I would urge anyone who's fascinated with the war and wants a little bit more detailed information day to day to have a look at that YouTube channel because it's really excellent. Excellent. Excellent. Okay. Well, that's all we've got time for. Do join us next Wednesday when we'll be speaking to our old friend Julia Strauss and come back and see us again next Friday for our weekly dive into all the news and latest developments. Goodbye. Acast powers the world's best podcast. Here's a show that we recommend. I'm Amara Jones. Every day, the attacks on trans kids grow louder and more anti trans bills keep moving through state legislatures. In this season of the anti-transheit machine, we're going to illuminate how the right wing has fueled these bills by generating a breathtaking and wide ranging disinformation campaign. Spreading like wildfire on the internet, it's then being discussed by families and churches. None of this is an accident. It's a strategy to de legitimize trans people and create a world where existence is a question. Subscribe to season two of the anti-transheit machine, a plot against equality, wherever you listen to podcasts. Acast helps creators launch, grow and monetize their podcast everywhere.