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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47. The Big Interview: Phillips O'Brien on Intelligence Leaks, Ukrainian Resolve, and Managing Expectations.

47. The Big Interview: Phillips O'Brien on Intelligence Leaks, Ukrainian Resolve, and Managing Expectations.

Wed, 03 May 2023 00:00

Joining Saul to discuss a wide range of topics - from the Nord Stream pipeline sabotage - to Russia's failure to learn from its mistakes, is one of the most incisive commentators on the war - Professor Phillips O’Brien, head of the School of International Relations at the University of St Andrews.

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Producer: James Hodgson

Twitter: @PodBattleground

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Hello and welcome to Battleground Ukraine's Big Interview with me, Saul David. Today I'm speaking to friend of the podcast, Philips O'Brien, professor of strategic studies and head of the School of International Relations at the University of San Andreas. Phil is one of the most incisive commentators on the war in Ukraine and was lost on the podcast in November. Phil, welcome back to the podcast. I see from your blog that you recently visited the Ukraine. Can you tell us why you went on that trip and what you found when you got there? Well, I mean, I went as part of a San Andreas delegation to basically learn and interact with the Ukrainian Strategic Studies community, some people in the Ukrainian state and the Ukrainian military to learn, maybe give some advice about things like framing and the history of military production. So it is really, you might say, an intellectual trip by the San Andreas group. We were very lucky in the sense that we had extremely high level access to Ukrainian officials and very high access to the Ukrainian Strategic Studies community. So we spent a week there, and most of us were there a week and really going from meeting to meeting, it was not what you would, you know, we didn't go tour any areas in here, the fighting or anything like that. It was more attempt to learn about how Ukraine is fighting the war from a grand strategic economic or social perspective. We met with a number of civil groups and that now and it's like that. What did we learn? Now that's a very interesting question because it went on from the most granular to the sort of larger grand strategic from the granular, they need a lot of ammunition. You want to say what comes across when we meet Ukrainians who have anything to do with fighting the war. The number one thing you're going to be told is get us English. This war is consuming huge amounts of product and the battlefield just voraciously eats up whatever you can give towards it. So the Ukrainians are just keen to get whatever they can get their hands on, particularly 155 millimeter ammunition. So that's at all. They really want to have 16s. That's not a surprise. They say it over and over again, but when you're there they talk about the need for after 16s to fight the war. That the Ukrainians absolutely believe they can win this war, particularly if they're properly armed. I mean that's in some way there's an element of frustration for the Ukrainians. That they believe that Russia can be defeated. That this Russian army has some significant flaws. But they don't necessarily believe they're getting all everything they need to defeat it. So that's sort of there's there's an element of frustration to go along with an element also of you know thanks for their partners. I mean in some ways you know they're very grateful that they have received this aid from an early NATO states and others that have helped them fighting, but they're also frustrated in it. Emotionally they are determined. I mean the other thing is the very regularly stated by Ukrainians at all levels is they have no choice but to fight this war on. The Russians have made it clear that they don't want a Ukraine. They don't want Ukrainians. This is very much what they've seen. So this is an existential war for them and that they they have no desire to sort of make a bad peace deal and allow Russia to come back with them in five, 10, 20 years. You know this is this is not anything that they believe is possible. So they want to defeat Russia and guarantee their own security by joining NATO. That's also absolutely clear. So that's their determination. On the other hand, but they're tired. There was certainly a lot of... Yeah they've had a year and two months since the full scale invasion and now nine years since the the fighting started and that also takes an emotional toll so you could tell that being a well-being determined they also they're also tired. So it's what you know what word what word on it does. So we saw a lot of different things but that was sort of overall impressions. Did it confirm your views or your suspicions maybe a better way of putting it fill before you went out there as to the sort of attitude you were going to you were going to get when you arrived or were you surprised by you know this as you say this level of determination there's bound to be a certain amount of war weariness it you know goes without saying but I certainly when I read your blog I very much got a sense of the fact that there was an underlying element of confidence if only as you say they can get the kit they need. I suppose a really big question which I'll sort of come on to in a moment is whether or not they've got enough kit to be able to move the story on but but let's come to that in a minute but just more generally did it confirm your feelings or were you surprised? I always like to ask the Ukrainians here how they think they themselves have fought and what happened and not universally but a lot of them said that we didn't quite know what was going to happen on February 24th whether we would resist now that they would throw up their hands on one away but they thought they would fight they hoped that they would fight that they would do this well but of course they couldn't know because they were being told that Russia's this great power and Russia's going to steamroll of them this is the second army in the world and he will fall in a few days and so they themselves I think what was fascinating is what happened after February 24th has made them more confident in themselves well-tired that all of a sudden I saw yes well armed pretty poorly if you go back to February 24th 2022 you have to remember the Ukrainians were actually armed far below a NATO standard country I mean that all they had received from from NATO countries are basically handheld weapons that be the famous man paths but all their heavy weapons were Russian design so via design materials some of which would they had upgraded but was far below NATO standard so they weren't armed terribly well they had been told that Russia had this amazing army these armed forces that had been tried and tested in Syria some of the best you know electronic and armored formations in the war and so they didn't they believed they would fight and they actually believed they would do well but they didn't know there was sort of I think a voice and back their heads going yeah is this right is Russia this strong are we going to be the steamroller and the fact that they didn't and the fact that they fought really well and armed as poorly as they were armed out they fought the Russians back from Kiev held the Russians convinced the West to arm them in a way better than they were that has made a massive difference to how Ukrainians see themselves and that actually I think provided them the confidence to think they you know they can win the war so their resistance after February 24th was not a surprise but it answered some questions okay now one of the key elements of the West's support of course has been intelligence and in that context of course in the last couple of weeks we've had the news of the Pentagon leaks the leaking of top secret intelligence material by this relatively junior intelligence analyst for the Massachusetts air guard a lot of speculation about the effect of all of this for what's your take on how harmful these leaks have been for the Ukrainians to the Ukrainians it's a nothing burger I mean this is just one of these things what is this supposed to do I mean what what the evidence showed is two things one that Russia is very well penetrated by US intelligent capabilities I mean that's what it showed okay that basically probably you through a eavesdropping not this is not human intelligence but just through eavesdropping and penetration of you of Russian systems the United States knows what the Russians are thinking and doing and they know sort of a situation in Russia and the fact that certain people in the US military are skeptical of what the Ukrainians could achieve you that's not new that's been the case from February 2022 to today there's always been some that are somewhat skeptical of what the Ukrainians could achieve so yes those two things that have come out how does that affect this is the thing that I'm quite clear people know it's a big deal to make a big difference to the counteroffensive well it should make no difference to the counter so I don't see how if the counteroffensive was just about the launch when the leaks came out and from the leaks the Russians knew exactly where the Ukrainians were going to attack well you could have made a difference but that was already weeks ago by the way this information mostly was leaked January February this was not the most up-to-date stuff that we have now the Ukrainians probably have quite a fluid counteroffensive in mind you're they're going to see where they want to attack depending on where the Russians are so you the Russians might know the numbers of certain units that should be part of the counteroffensive that if anything allows the Ukrainians to play with their heads for a little bit by moving these units around and making the Russians think so saw that or you know my own view on intelligent utilicances and can be incredibly important but it's also it's not so much intelligence what you get it's how you understand it and how you analyze it and put it into action that really matters what we don't know is what the Russians could take from this evidence and then act on how are they going to improve their action I just can't see it making any significant difference in the counteroffensive and by the way people stop talking about it what does the I know what I'm talking about oh this terrible leak that's going to find the Ukrainian counteroffensive I think that just dropped because everyone realized there was a lot of you know overreaction at the time and now people are moving on that's the way these things go another subject Phil that you've you've written a fair bit about mainly because there's been so much noise about this in in the press and online over the last few months of course has been the fighting in back mood the decision by the Ukrainians to keep fighting there there's been a fair amount of criticism of that which you've addressed but what is your sort of broader take on on the sense of the Ukrainians fighting for back mood well there's a certain thing about this war even before February 24th it bothered me which was people acted like wars were working you just move units around on map and you have breakthroughs and yet you draw lines and you have red arrows of Russians advancing here and there as you know so let's not what war is war is a grueling process of you know constant generation of force and destruction of force and that's what we're going on here from the Ukrainian perspective they're faced with one fundamental problem Russia occupies almost 20% of their country they are going to have to do try and liberate their country because the Russians are sitting on it so from the Ukrainian point of view what do they not want they don't want the Russians resting up getting in defensive lines preparing themselves for this counter offensive because it's coming and the Ukrainians are going to have to do it because right now the Russians are there they're on Ukrainian territory so the Ukrainians need to destroy and preoccupy as much Russian force as possible while they are preparing the counter offensive otherwise the Russians you just sit back will accent on the defensive which by the way progojian is talking about more and more so what the Ukrainians did is they needed to keep the Russians attacking they needed to keep a trading Russian forces and what could they see well they could see that Russia was willing to commit a massive amount to take a pretty unimportant town like Batmuta same with that Vika there are a number of these small really not important strategic places but the Russians seem to be desperate to take them probably for political reasons as much as anything else to show they could do something in which case the Ukrainians they their option is either to let the Russians take this in which case the Russians might do that declare victory and go undefensive or make them fight now why I always believe making them fight for it was the right choice and I was very skeptical of those could say oh they should pull out they should pull out and what the Russians have it is one I didn't believe the Russians could encircle it I don't see anything in the Russian military in this war so far that reveals the basic ability to do a breakthrough exploitation and so on they haven't been able to do it and in fact they are probably less able to do it now than they were on February 24th this is not the kind of military that can do successful large scale combined operations so I didn't believe that they could simply encircle the Ukrainians in Batmuta make a major victory and in fact they haven't been able to do it and what they in fact have done is advanced incredibly slowly right through the center of the city you know that they haven't encircled down and so for months now but in a basically from January 1st today they've probably advanced on average just over a football field of day and that's both American football and soccer take your choice you 110 yards maybe or so like that a day and they've done that at huge cost that was one thing the Ukrainians said to me that you know the Department of Fences on the whole the the attrition rate has not changed there was a lot of the way the Russians are not you know losing as many soldiers and as much equipment to the Ukrainians as they were that was certainly argued against to me by a number of Ukrainian officials so we said Russian losses have remained very high throughout this and in fact in many ways it was getting quite they were just so desperate to take the town but they were throwing in just a month ago started putting in more regular troops with Wagner I mean they're throwing everything in to get it and so it's a scene to me that the Ukrainians with what I would say is good intelligence and needing to keep the Russians whittled down made the decision to fight for Bob but I seemed to be logical from their point of view I wasn't gonna second guess it and I have to say it does seem now to have been absolutely the right choice for them to have made by looking at the way the Russians have fought you know their inability to surround the city but their desperation to take it it does look like the battle is winding down I mean the Russians now have 80% of Buckmot seems to be where we are at this point but again the supply roads to the west are open the Ukrainians could pull their troops out and if they want to and you we're getting closer and closer to Ukraine now being able to launch a counteroffensive and from what I was told by the Ukrainians the forces in Buckmot were not those allocated to the counteroffensive and they were separate now those troops in Buckmot did a huge work for the Ukrainians I mean they just had a really difficult task and they have suffered real significant losses and there's nothing that can be said to make those troops feel better they've probably had a terrible terrible time and if you talk to them you probably got a very different view of that you just talk to the troops in Buckmot as like this is endless is never ending this is huge losses we're never gonna get out of here it's just I think from the larger Ukrainian grand strategic perspective it made sense why they did well that's all for part one please join us after the break welcome back to the big interview with Philips O'Brien professor of strategic studies and head of the School of International Relations at the University of Sanandruz this is what Phil told us Phil before the war began you were one of the few voices who was insisting that the overestimation of Russian military capability was ever present and it had been for a while I mean but are even you surprised that they don't seem to have learned many of the lessons or at least repaired many of the errors that they've you know they've got up to from command all the way down to you know kind of small unit tactics since the war began what's surprising so is that instead of reacting to the first reverses really severe reverses and to try and put in the system to learn and improve they've actually almost doubled down on doing things badly continue now I thought they were terribly overrated because I was not convinced that the Russian army the Russian military that we have seen in places like Syria or Georgia could execute complex operations just it never actually I mean with people say talked about Russian air power in Syria well no one was firing back it's not it's not hard to fly an aircraft no one could fire back at places like Georgia they didn't actually fight terribly well there was no integration of complex system combined arms warfare that I had seen in which case my assumption was they were going to do it very poorly to begin the last thing they were going to do is have this wildly successful offensive and take you for just seem to me a pipe dream before February 24th what and by the way that a lot of that is based on the fundamental weaknesses of the Russian state and this is a dictatorship dictatorship fight very poorly on the whole this is another thing we tend to I think overestimate dictatorship war fighting capacity and secondly Russia's economically not that strong ever 10th 11th largest economy in the world but also not a productive high tech economy if the resource extraction economy and all of that should have been red flags but they weren't pretty flags what has happened since which I think is more surprising than I had expected is that the system might be so flawed that it can't adjust that you Putin's just changing commanders the way they did the drafting you would have thought if they decided oh my god about April and May we're in a long war then let's actually come up with some coherent plan to have conscription train the soldiers up properly get the right equipment out do something to repair an army but what seems to happen is more and more it's a case of you just they were generating soldiers rushing them to the front without training in many cases not fully preparing them the equipment levels one thing the Ukrainians have said which was very interesting is they see very little evidence of new Russian equipment it does show up every once in a while but most of what they're seeing is stuff coming out of storage I it's less good than the material they had on February 24 so the Russians have certainly showed some tactical advances but the overall way the system has fought the war has shown I would argue very little improvement from an overall perspective from 14 months ago turning to a slightly separate issue here Phil we mentioned actually on the podcast last week that finally there's evidence of of what we feel and I think you agree as a smoking gun with regard to Russian responsibility for the blowing up of the Nord Stream pipelines extraordinary how many people have even written into us and said well surely there's evidence that is xyz I mean I know you're well aware of all of that can you explain what that new evidence is and why you're not in any doubt as to who's responsible at the evidence was that you actually blowing up a pipeline requires an operation you know you know something you're gonna you know solve is gonna put on a wetsuit go down strap of you know and explosive do a pipeline and blow it up the evidence that we have is that actually the Russian equipment that would be needed to do this a vessel that carries submersibles was discovered and photographed by the Danes right over the area that was attacked just before it was attacked so with it the Russians had the right equipment the equipment they would use in the exact area where they would have it just before the bonds went off that was always the idea that the Ukrainians would rent a yacht and there was certain bizarre stories that this made no sense that's the other thing is you there's there's too much just daring to crap it's talked about in war in words what doesn't work like that so yeah that was the evidence now I had never tweeted that much about it because it seemed to me obvious that the one nation that would benefit from this was Russia the Russian plan clearly was to freeze Europe over the winter and that's what the Russian plan was they're trying to pry the Europe of energy to show that it needed Russia to get by that Russia had the whip hand in the power relationship so it was and Russian propaganda went to great lengths all winter about how horrible it was for Europeans they were eating mice things were so so terrible that they couldn't afford to heat their houses so Russia is the country that had the clearly you expressed interest in shutting the pipeline on the other hand they didn't want to just shut it off themselves because they'd be breaking a contract and also the European people would then blame them you know the Russians wanted to show what it was like without Russian power but not take the responsibility for having done it and I think they probably also believe they could muddy the waters brilliantly by all those people who would jump up and say it was QAnon or you know Ukrainian, Yaksmin or Weijen, Frogman, whatever the heck it was so I've never really engaged with it because it was one of those that those people I just kind of pop up and so to me it's just a really revealing issue it was always revealing of those who wanted to back who wanted to argue for the Russian case and they came charging out right away yeah they went for the sea more harsh BS which I think has been discredited entirely at this point I mean when I tweeted about it last week what was fascinating was the huge reaction those tweets got well that's not true and they don't really have any evidence beyond the sea more harsh piece but they really just don't want to believe the Russians did it and it seems to be a combination one of the outwardly pro-Putin group on that but also the people who love conspiracies so there's sort of two people two groups acting together so it's more illuminating I think as to who actually responds to those those arguments that anything else I'm going to come back to those groups in a minute because I think you know I've been completely fascinated and probably shouldn't have been surprises I have been at the number that have been coming out of the woodworks but going back to the counter offensive just for a second and on a similar sort of theme I've noticed a lot of Western comment taters in the last few days an analyst urging caution with regard to the likely gains the Ukrainians can make is this sage advice bill or just another example of overestimating the Russians and underestimating the Ukrainians well you know I mean as I said you know it's not you don't want to assume the Ukrainians can end the world with this because going forward is really hard defensive firepower has an enormous advantage um particularly if you have good defensive firepower that's prepared so going forward is really difficult I mean look at the number of tanks that have been visually confirmed destroyed I think for the for the Russians it's now over 1700 have been visually confirmed that must mean the overall loss is probably aren't that far below what the Ukrainians are claiming about three thousand or something if that's the visually confirmed ones we have so many destroyed behind Russian lines or ones that have been damaged and are back for repair these have never been photographed so it's a really hard war to go forward it's really really hard to do so and the Ukrainians are going to try to do it in a way that no NATO country would be expected to sell I'm with quite limited range on their weaponry and without air domination and the United States would never attempt what the Ukrainians would you know the United States if it was going to attempt an offensive would have air superiority would have weapons of fire a lot longer in range with the than the the stuff they're giving the Ukrainians so the Ukrainians are taking on what actually is on paper a really really difficult challenge and I think that has to be understood they will probably do much better than the Russians have done in any of their offensive operations yeah that's the Russian offensive last 10 months have been you know very painfully slow small advances tiny the Russian the Ukrainians will do better than that the question is can they actually do the kind of offensive that will split Russian forces and cause a major Russian collapse and that's not oh that's not that easy to do the guys think they would but I'm not one of those who say it's automatic and the Ukrainians have their own fear of this themselves and what the Ukrainian fear is this we do an offensive and we do pretty well yeah we knock the Russians back remember places cause the Russians a great deal of losses but of course our offensive also suffers real losses as it will go forward so we make some advances we liberate a significant amount of territory the Russians are still there and fighting in a few months and you know the war doesn't it's not that the Russian army has been broken in which case the fear is that's when the pressure comes for them to agree to a bad piece to this is one of the reasons I think the Ukrainians are being very careful with this counter offensive there is a worry that if it doesn't come off they will get some significant significant pressure to agree to a deal they don't want to agree to and I think that's the that's the question so I think there will be some successes for the Ukrainians the question is to what degree it is one of the reasons I think it's right to fight in Baku it is the longer it goes on the less prepared the Russians will be the greater losses the Russians would suffer the less they would have had time to rest up going back to these some seemingly sort of pro-Russian lobby there is in the West you know these kind of useless idiots who are always likely to listen to the arguments in favor of the Russian position and against Ukraine I mean I asked the question before but can you explain to me a little bit more detail for what you think is going on here is this some kind of strange political divide between the far right and the far west some kind of legacy of the Cold War that people would go to the extent of being prepared to exonerate the Putin regime for its many horrific crimes in this war it's combination on hand there's just the pro-Russians you know they're sort of the what you call the Russian nationalists and they're they're doing what they're doing because they like Russia and they feel loyalty to Russia the Russian state Russian history Russian culture to Putin personally so a lot of it is this sort of a lot of the you would say useful idiots are not so much useful idiots they're two believers you know they are they are Russian nationalists the odd ones are the ones who are pro-Russian naturally they don't seem to probably you know our dretael are agreeing didn't even know Russia existed two years ago but they are those that come from increasingly the far left and far right you know that's what they are which are very similar you know the far right and far left are actually far closer on Russia and Ukraine than they are to the center and it seems to be motivated by a few different things and it's hard to say you to what degree the motivations are similar the far left might be one that they just disapprove of NATO in the west so violently in the United States that anything that bites in their mind NATO in the US even if it's fascist that's the weird thing you know there is nothing more like a fascist regime than Vladimir Putin's regime that is a it's a regime that's based on intense nationalism on dictatorial rule on militarizing society glorifying military military militarism all these things that we would normally associate with fascism are there in this regime and yet those on the far left just seem to be there's not not all of them but many of them seem to adonorate it and the only thing you can say is they're just so anti-NATO so anti the west that they're willing to do it on the far right it's more I think that they have decided that Putin represents their kind of populist orthodoxy anti-modernism anti-tolerance we do authoritarianism they love authoritarianism so that they also believe that the Putin represents something that they identify with but it's just interesting terrifying to see how they have come together on this on the other hand I think the positive thing is the center is holding you know it's not the case that a lot of support for Ukraine is weakening you it's weakened in the republican party among the trumpites but that was going to happen but actually in most places support for Ukraine is holding up quite well and finally Phil there've been in recent days as you know various efforts from various different quarters to at least encourage peace negotiations talk about peace negotiations even the pope so I read this morning is getting in on the act are any of these initiatives notwithstanding the success or otherwise of the counteroffensive likely to bear fruit do you feel well right now neither the Russians or the Ukrainians want peace this is if you you can call for peace all you want but neither the Russians or the Ukrainians want peace I mean Putin isn't going to retreat back to the other the one that came yesterday Putin's not going to just go back to the February 24th one that's not going to happen so what are you saying that you know if you're if your peace deal is based on Russia going back to the February 24th line that's not going to happen the Ukrainians aren't going to accept a cease-fire where the line is now because they're about to launch counteroffensive and they believe they can liberate a lot of their territory so it's all well and good to say yes I'm on peace but if you want a peace that neither side is at all remotely interested in it's not going to occur now it might occur later this year if the Ukrainians have a very successful counteroffensive then you might have movement towards peace but you need the sides to actually and you need both sides to actually believe having a peace deal or peace negotiations is in their interest and right now neither believe that so it just seems to me that this is often performative that it's people doing it to look like they matter or get involved but I don't see how you can have it now with the sides thinking what they think as a quick addendum to that Phil can you imagine a scenario whatever happens again with the counteroffensive where Putin actually remains in power but negotiates a peace which clearly is going to be humiliating to some extent for him because his war ends have not been realized it's often it's not easy to get dictators out of power so we can say oh he might get embarrassed well just Stalin screwed up 1918 1921 and just re-road history you know all of a sudden he turned into a military genius so I don't want to say he will automatically fall with a bad peace deal because you never know I mean someone's actually going to have to overthrow him and dictators become dictators because they're really good at protecting themselves and killing anything they think is a threat and so would you like to think it would lead to a regime change yes but I still remain cautious whatever happens we're not going to end up with Ukrainian army and Moscow capturing Vladimir Putin that's not going to happen it's not going to be like Mussolini or Hitler where the other side gets to the capital and captures the person in which case getting rid of him is not going to be that easy great stuff Phil thanks so much for spending the time your insights as ever I just you know fascinating it's great to hear a voice of reason frankly in this mad mad cacophony of voices we're getting as the war goes on thanks for having me so cheers Phil well that was all fascinating wasn't it and normally I get the opportunity to bounce things off with Patrick at this stage when we've both been listening but unfortunately as you might have noticed Patrick is not here with us this week he's traveling around the United States and there's a little bit too tricky to coordinate time zones with the interview with Phil but I've just got a couple of quick thoughts myself actually I mean as usual Phil's talking complete sense a voice of common sense in the mad cacophony of voices that we've been getting with the analysts and commentators on the war in Ukraine but you know really interesting wasn't it to hear of his response to his visit there how determined the Ukrainians are of course there's an element of war wearing us but even they would be slightly surprised at how well they done in the fighting and pretty confident they can win this war as long as they get the kick they need it's something we've long suspected but it's interesting to hear confirmation of that on the ground one of the other interesting responses Phil gave me was whether on the leaks have made any difference to the Ukrainian war effort and I loved his expression it's a nothing burger basically the leaks making no serious impact they might have done of course if the actual war plans have been leaked but of course that wasn't the case and there wasn't really a lot in those leaks to concern the Ukrainians which is why we're hearing so little about it now what about prospects for the counteroffensive well Phil was understandably cautious I think I mean he's backing up the points made by a number of other commentators recently that you know don't overestimate what's likely to happen otherwise there could be a lot of disappointment and that can feed into political disappointment and of course we need to be in it for the long haul he's not ruling out the fact that the Ukrainians are going to do pretty well because as he said the Russians frankly haven't learned anything from their errors that surprised even him and he didn't have a particularly high opinion of the Russians before this war and the reverse would be true of the Ukrainians and yet still to break through lines when you don't have air superiority as Phil explained is an incredibly difficult thing to do armors very vulnerable so the Ukrainians could take some quite serious losses and it's just a question of how much ground they can take so we will see over the weeks to come all right that's all we have time for do join us on Friday when Patrick will be back we'll be discussing the latest news and answering listeners questions goodbye February the 24th 2022 that date none of us will ever forget when Vladimir Putin unleashed his military power in Ukraine the Russian despot thought he would storm Kiev and leave Europe cowering in his shadow instead a year later Ukraine has become a byword for herrism and Russia's military reputation is in tatters how did this happen how did we get here and how might it end I'm Arthur Snell and in the new series of my podcast doomsday watch we're going to tell the story of the Ukraine war that's doomsday watch the Ukraine war out now with new episodes every Wednesday listen wherever you get your podcasts