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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7. Russian desperation?

7. Russian desperation?

Fri, 23 Sep 2022 01:00

In light of Putin's call up of reservists, Patrick speaks to friend of the show Askold Krushelnycky, who's been in the recently recaptured areas of Ukraine around Kherson in the past week.

Twitter: @PodBattleground

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Hello and welcome back to Battleground, Ukraine with me Patrick Bishop and Sue David. Well the tempo of events shows no sign of slackening last week. We were talking about huge gains made by Ukraine in its counteroffensive in the North East. It seemed them that this would be a game changer of turning point to the war when Ukraine effectively gained the upper hand. And now it looks like this is definitely the case. The proof lies not so much on the battlefield but in Vladimir Putin's reaction to the setback. In his first address to the nation since the conflict began he announced that he intended to throw more than 300,000 reserves into the battle. And at the same time he made his most chilling threat yet of his readiness to use nuclear weapons. Now last week we promised an interview with the legendary war correspondent Anthony Lloyd but circumstances have changed and is now on his way to Ukraine. And in the meantime we thought we'd talk to another friend of the podcast who's just had eyes on the ground. That is Askol Krushalnitsky who's been touring some of the liberated areas. I caught up with him at a motorway service station on the way back to Kiev, hence the banging and crashing in the background for which apologies. And I asked him what he's seen and what he made of it all. So Askolnitsky you've heard the Putin speech, the first he's made to the Russian people since the war began. How did you read it? I think it's an expression of the panic that's gripped the Kremlin following the rather spectacular Ukrainian advances on the battlefield over the past fortnite or so. Putin is desperate to portray the situation as not veering of course. He repeatedly says that the special operation which is a euphemism for the war which he claims isn't happening, that this special operation is on course and everything has been successful. This is something that Ukrainian people in general and the government mock and they say that if this is the plan of the Russians and we like it because it's causing them disaster and tens of thousands of them are being killed. He has apart from saying that the plan is on course. He's announced that there are going to be referender in four areas where there is a high presence of Russian occupation troops. So both the regions that constitute the Donbass, that's the Luhansk and the Netsk regions plus two others that are partially occupied, Herzog and Zaperezhya in the south of Ukraine. The referender, as opposed to begin on September 23rd, everyone knows that the result preordained Russians, wishes will be endorsed by massive majorities and the Ukrainian government has said that the referender don't make any difference just because Putin says that it's important. It's not important to the Ukrainians and they will press on with their military advance. But the significance is that he will now say that these are Russian lands and under Russian military doctrine, that means that they can use nuclear weapons to defend any attack on Russia and this will now be counted as Russia. The very interesting point, which I don't think people have quite grasped, is that that's the point really of the referender, is that it expands the boundaries of Russia and therefore this nuclear threat becomes much more real in the existing doctrine as I understand it. It has been an existential threat to Russia as we understand it before Newk's come into play, but if Russia's boundaries have now been expanded to include these captured areas then of course that brings that threshold a lot closer. What's your own personal view about that likely? Do you think, I mean he says he's not bluffing but is he? Well, Ukrainians don't think that he is likely to carry that out, but they've also said that they can't think about it too much because if they really took that threat seriously, the horror of a nuclear explosion in their country, then he might succeed in frightening them and they're saying we're not frightened. It's not going to make any difference to the Ukrainian government or the Ukrainian army as they seek to recapture occupied territory and from the people that I've spoken to since Putin made his announcement this morning. They say that they're used to his threats and they can't take them seriously, so they also think that it's more aimed at a Western audience to make people in NATO countries, and other Western countries that support Ukraine, have given Ukraine weapons, feel threatened by the spectro nuclear retaliation by Moscow. We're not getting much news from the battlefield as to whether it's progressing or whether effectively that was the big push is at an end, there might be some peripheral, smaller operations, but essentially that's it until perhaps next spring. Is that the way you see it there on the ground? The sense that I get is that they're flexible, they have still got some aims in Kharkiv itself, there's a river called the Osko, and the Russians have been trying to stay at least on the eastern side of that river. But Ukrainians have passed over onto the eastern side, but as I understand it they were repelled, but they're determined to take that eastern side of the river, which would push the Russians back almost to the Russian border. Also, going further south from Kharkiv region towards other towns and cities that have become well known in the summer, such as Kramatorsk, Sloviansk, Bachmout, which were just west of the cities that there were such fierce battles for, that the Russians took several Donetsk and Lysia Chansk. The Russians are challenging the Russians in those areas, and the Russians are very keen to take the rest of Donetsk, and Ukrainians have been pushing back in the other region called Lohansk, the Constitutes Donbass. They're just humiliating for Putin, because in July he claimed that they'd taken all of Lohansk, and now Ukrainians are tripping away there. It seems that there's the makings of a very, very big and serious battle emerging there, because both sides are trying to take as much land as possible before winter sets in, and in parts of Ukraine this week, September the 19th, there was already snow, and there are predictions that it could be a harsh winter. Both sides want to get favorable positions as much as they can before the onset of winter, and then there's the southern front in the region of Khersan, where Ukrainians have also been making advances, not as spectacular as in Kharkiv, but in terms of a few kilometers in places. Khersan is one of the places where the Russians will try to hold referendum beginning this week, Friday, and the Russians are trying to portray this as a referendum that will determine the future of that whole region. It'll be difficult for them to do that, if Ukraine is still in control of some of that region. Ukrainian special forces, partisans, have been very active in the capital city of that region, Khersan, people who've been working, Ukrainians who've collaborated with the Russian occupation authorities, have been assassinated or badly wounded when their cars have been blown up. Ukrainians are going to keep pursuing that kind of action to make Khersan look unstable. When you say special forces, do you mean partisans working with special forces or special forces being inserted and carrying out these operations or combination of the two, maybe? It's a combination of the two, so it's pretty clear, and I've spoken to people in the Ukrainian military who deal with the partisans. So they overlap, but there are two distinct bodies of fighters, special operations people are inserted for specific purposes. The partisans are there, and I think that they work when they see targets of opportunity. Now, you've actually just come back from the liberated areas, you went to Izium, that big fortified logistics hub, which fell, it seems, an out of fight. Two things really I'd like to hear about. Do you form any idea of the morale of the Russian troops based on what you heard from the people you spoke to, the Ukrainians who were basically under the occupation? And secondly, what was the nature of the occupation? We all know what the Russians are capable of doing from the atrocities in Bukh, etc. What was life like under the Russian control in these last months? Well, to answer your first question about, did I get a sense of the Russian morale? There were no prisoners that I could see or that I met or spoke to. There were lots of people who had had some contact with the Russian occupation forces, although lots of them had tried for obvious reasons, because of what they'd seen elsewhere in Ukraine, the brutality and executions, etc. They said that they tried to limit them as much as they could, contact between themselves and the Russian troops. But they said that morale was very low overall. They said that there were lots of young troops, Russians, and that they had complained that they thought they were being sent for training. When the war began, they were surprised, and we don't know, I mean, could they have been that badly informed? Maybe they were. Ukrainians said that lots of these people had no desire to be there, and then morale was very low. There were others who were troops from Ukrainian separatist areas, and they seemed to be maybe not efficient as soldiers, because it was hard for Ukrainians to judge, because they didn't see them fighting. They were harsh and nastier, and they were given to beating people up, slapping them around, as if to prove to the Russians in a zealot fashion that they really hated Ukrainians. They saw the Russians trying to leave as the Ukrainian advance developed, and the Ukrainian forces approached, and they said that the Russians tried to creep out as quietly as possible, but then accelerated into a Russian in a long flight. Lots of equipment, lots of tanks in pristine condition, and armored personnel carriers, other vehicles, trucks, jeeps, were left behind abandoned, as people just ran, literally ran away from the advancing Ukrainian forces. And tons, again, literally tons of ammunition in green wooden boxes or underwrappings, and I went into places that had been sort of bunked, or not barracks, just places where Russian soldiers slept and lived, and you could see that they'd left in a rush. It was full of clothes that had been abandoned, food, boots. I got myself a pristine new tankers jacket as a souvenir. There was lots of evidence that stuff had just been abandoned, because the Russians were in a panic. Which presumably will be put to use by the Ukrainians now. The armored vehicles have already been taken away and put to use in the fight. And I spoke to Ukrainian soldiers who said that lots of this equipment was in perfectly usable condition. They couldn't understand why they didn't drive it away. And there were even some top range, teen 90 Russian tanks, which aren't even seen very much in the Russian lines at all. And the Ukrainians have got a couple of pristine, unused ones from, is you. The Ukrainians have received so much abandoned equipment that the joke going around the Ukrainian army and civilians now is to thank Russia, because Russia has become the fifth largest donor of weapons to Ukraine. Well, that was a pretty revealing series of points made by Asgold, who, as Patrick pointed out, was actually on the ground and has witnessed the aftermath of the fighting up in the northeast of Ukraine. And one of the most interesting points he makes is that the attacks are still ongoing from the Ukrainian army. They're making some headway. They're coming up against a bit of Russian opposition too. But all of this is an intention to gain as much ground as possible before winter sets in. And already snow is on the ground. He talks about a determination to get across the Osfield river. There's also attempts to make gains down in the south in person. And clearly this is the last opportunity, frankly, before winter makes it impossible to carry on with the fighting. Yeah, the interesting point also about the kind of you know, morale comparison always really a very, very important element in the equation. So on the Ukrainian side shrugging off the latest threat from Putin on the nuclear front and contrasting that with the low morale of the Russian troops and what he could clean from his interviews, talking to people in the liberated areas. Also contrasting the demeanor of the conscripts, the Russians themselves compared to the Ukrainian separatists. So it's the separatists who are Ukrainian nationals by passport, I suppose, or by birth. But they're the ones who have more aggressive, more show vernistic, if you like, than the actual people on the ground. So I think that tells us something. Also Russian conduct of the troops doesn't seem to have changed very much from the atrocities that we were pulled to see back at the beginning of the conflict in and around Buccia, near the capital. So they still seem to be going on perhaps not quite on the same scale, but the same pattern of torture, extracutational, execution, murder, let's call it what it is. So they don't seem to have learned anything from the mass outpouring of outmatch of that produced. I suppose the separatists behavior can be explained, of course, not justified from the fact they've got nowhere to go. If they lose, that's it, they're high and dry, whereas the Russians at least have somebody to go back to. Yeah, exactly right. But you're point about the atrocities, Patrick. I mean, he talked about up to a thousand bodies being found. That doesn't sound to me like they're scaling down the atrocities. He witnessed with his own eyes people being brought out of the graves bounds, which obviously means that they were executors having been tied up beforehand and probably tortured. That no doubt will come out in the autopsies. So, you know, it's pretty grim stuff and you get the feeling that wherever you go, whatever bit of Ukraine is liberated, you're going to see the same thing. Going back to Lackamaral, I mean, this is evidenced, of course, by the amount of ammunition and kits that the Russians are leaving behind, including, according to our schools, even some of their top range T90 tanks. Now, they're not the absolute last word in Russian armor. Those are the T14s that Danett told us were probably still at the experimental stage, and they certainly didn't want to lose one of them on the battlefield. And so, I think that's one of these T90 tanks in the recent fighting, and of course that will be of great interest to NATO. The referendums, I think we haven't quite grasped what a point of these are, as I was saying when I was talking to Ascold. They say, obviously, fake. So, why would you have them? I think the explanation is that, as Ascold and I would agree that it's really to give some credence to the nuclear threat by expanding what Russia considers to be Russian territory. It then allows the nuclear doctrine when they would allow nuclear weapons to be used, or when they would consider the use of nuclear weapons unspecified, whether they're strategic ones or tactical ones. That boundary has been expanded because Don Vass then is in their eyes. Russian territory, a conventional attack, such as the Ukrainians are making that threatens that threatens Russia as a whole. And therefore, opens the door to a nuclear response. I mean, I know you're more relaxed about this than the meast or perhaps because you live in, you live down in the West country. And so, you would be less vulnerable to a nuclear strike than I would hear sitting in Brooklyn, West London. But this just makes me more fearful. I have to say that. I am less worried about this than you, Patrick. I think you've got to be. This is a nuclear bluff. We'll talk about it more in part two. And frankly, it needs to be called, which by that I mean, of course, the war needs to continue to be prosecuted at the same, if not at a higher level in terms of Western and NATO aid to Ukraine. And Ukraine needs to be given the opportunity to win this war on its own territory. This bluff that Putin is trying to perpetrate on the West and the hope that some Western countries will break ranks cannot be allowed to succeed. But we'll talk more about that in part two when we'll be looking at what the mobilization means, potential battlefield scenarios, and a lot more. Join us then. Welcome back. Now, let's deal with the two big standouts in the Putin speech. I just want to say at the outset that he didn't look to me like a sick man. Of course, that didn't stop rumors flying around that the delay in the speech, you meant to be broadcast some 13 hours before it actually was. Was the result of a health scare? There would stories of coughing, bits, chest pains, et cetera. But I fear this is all wishful thinking. It's a bit like the way that the Daily Mail looks at pictures of the royals during this recent, recent ceremonial around the Queen's death and reads all sorts of incredibly fanciful things into what are quite ordinary expressions. Now, let's go back to the big call up. Why is he doing it? We know that he's all along. We've been saying he is very resistant to the idea of a general mobilization because it's going to have big consequences at home. So far, he's been able to actually insulate certainly the big cities from the effects of the war or rather from too close, giving the war too much actual visibility. Of course, that's suffering from sanctions, et cetera. But the idea of actually saying we're at war was considered to be a bridge to you for now. He's done this. Why did he do it? Well, obviously pressure from the right. You've had these war monger commentators constantly raising the temperature the whole time. Many of them interestingly women like Margarita Simonyan, she's the editor in chief of Russia today. From her name, so you will recognize her as one of your own. She's an Armenian bioregion. Yes, I know. She may be Armenian bioregion. And of course, there as we discussed in the last episode, there is a close association between Armenia and Russia because of the orthodox connection. But that certainly doesn't mean that all Armenians are supporters of what's going on in Russia at the moment. In fact, we know that a lot of Russian refusenics, that is anti war characters, have gone to Armenia, a lot of guys in IT. And of course, people like me who haven't had a connection with Armenia proper for five or six hundred years in terms of the family links are pretty horrified too. So she is a better ben outlier in my view. But except that in Russian history, some of the most extreme nationalists aren't Russian at all. Stalin, obviously, was a Georgian, but Felix Janski, the head of the Czechosy, the police and the architect of the red terror. He was a Polish aristocrat. But these people were dealing with currently, what Professor Mark Galliotti calls narrative entrepreneurs. They pick up a story they think is going to please put Putin and they run with it. They're often state television commentators. And they make an industry out of being more nationalist than the president. Nonetheless, they are a constituency. He can't ignore. On the other hand, you've got pressures coming from apolitical or to a lesser extent, opposition people, we just people who now see that war actually is impacting on them. So yesterday we had demonstrations in 37 cities right across Russia. I noticed that in the images, most of the demonstrators are young men. So the people who are actually directly affected by this, they might find themselves in uniform on the frontline in the next few months if things proceed as they are. But at another level, people who obviously got money are scouring the websites, the flight websites, trying to see what their choices are, what it would cost them to get out of the country. The answer is a hell of a lot. So you've got this panicky search for flights. None of this is good news at all for Putin after all. No, and what we've clearly got here is the last throw the dice, frankly, because if you think about it, the original premise for this special operation was we're going in there to protect our fellow Russians. It's not a war. It's just that it's going to be a very quick surgical operation. As soon as you get an impact domestically, and of course there's already been an economic impact. But this is much more serious what's going on now to have got to the point where even partial mobilization, I think we should explain what that means. And that's effectively the calling up of reservists, those with military experience, not all reservists of course, because that would be millions of Russians. But certainly people who most recently have had military experience and are of a certain age. And these are exactly the kind of characters as you point out patriarchy who are leaving. But we shouldn't underestimate the protests either 1400 arrested in these protests overnight. And it's all over Russia, including St. Petersburg and Moscow. So the consequences of the war are beginning to be felt on a domestic level. And yet at the same time and another factor in the reason why he's done this mobilization. And the mobilization of course could backfire badly on him, but its intention is to get enough troops to finish the war. We'll discuss whether that's possible in a moment. But what seems also to be happening is that he's getting diplomatic pressure, chiefly at the Samakand summit, which was the Shanghai Cooperation Organization grouping, which is really an economic grouping. And the pressure from the Chinese, also the Indians. And now we hear that the Turks have also said not only must you end this war now, that's President Erdogan of Turkey. You've actually got to give back all the territorial gains you've made since the beginning of the war. I mean that is quite a statement for Erdogan who has really been sitting on the fence through all of this to make. I think that's very significant and I think that's probably where we'll be heading in the next couple of months as we'll see a shift away from the battlefield and on to the diplomatic front. We're going to talk about that a little bit later on, but going back to just the effect of the call up, if you like, on the more situation. So let's say that the circle should show ego announced 300,000 people would be eligible for call up. People are saying or commentators are saying that actually, and I was probably near 150,000 realistically. And he's been in the firing line lately because of course Putin who is in the Kremlin are shifting all the blame for what's going wrong onto him. It helps his critics and he's not really a soldier. He was minister of emergency situations that's combating natural disasters, fires, etc. For nearly 20 years and the military could have stressed him and hold him in some contempt, I think, for his lack of any real military credentials. He tries to combat this by dressing up in fatigues and trying to look as much as he can, rather than a possible. But I said against that he has been a big buddy of Putin. He goes on to trips to Siberia with him. And interestingly, he's actually mother is from Ukraine, from Gadivka in the Lukashen Dombass area. In the old days it was called Stack Enough, named after the hero of Soviet labor, Alexey Stack Enough, who was a well to the coal mine there. And in 1935 he dug 227 tons of coal in a single shift allegedly. It was, I'm afraid, typical Russian BS, it's all a stunt designed to show how superhuman the Soviet proletariat was. But it made it with big world propaganda and it gave us a word for incredibly hard work, Stack Enoughite. The poor old Alexey hit the vodka and had his medal has taken away and his party can't take away the UK to the centre. Anyway, these 150,000 active reservists who may be thrown into the fight, they're not going to be that much use are there, so why would I put it? No, I mean the idea that 150,000 partially trained former soldiers are going to tip the balance is nonsense. I mean what we're clearly seeing in Ukraine, a point our skull made too, is this is really a technology war that the Ukrainians are winning it, they're winning it because they're getting and adapting, kit and military methods from the West that are frankly far superior to anything the Russians have to offer. Now the Russians are clearly terrified that more of this kit will come in and I think that's one of another factor in the attempt to create, expand the buffer zone of Russia and to say that, you know, because to be fair to Ukraine, it's been quite wary about sending missiles into Russia proper, that is bits of Russia that are certainly not former Ukraine. And it's done this because it doesn't want to escalate the war. Well, what Putin is trying to do is say actually bits of former Ukraine are now Russia and therefore you've got to be wary about using these new long range missiles, which, you know, there's every likelihood that America at some stage is going to give to Ukraine. Well, he's hoping this is going to discourage that. And of course, break the alliance more generally. I can't say any really obvious signs, frankly Patrick, this is about to happen. I mean, what we had overnight are responses from the Americans, the British and a number of others at the UN. I mean, it's incredibly bad timing, frankly, on the part of the Russians that all the allied countries, the NATO countries who are about to meet at the UN. And they are all of them in line with the fact that they will not be blackmailed by Russia. They will continue support for Ukraine and that Ukraine needs to win this war. That's absolutely right. It was very striking, I thought, at the UN, the way that the Europeans have now, the ones who seem to be more reticent in their support, notably, shorts and macrons from Germany and France respectively, have now pretty much been in the way. And I thought, pretty much lined up their rhetoric with that of the US and the UK. Macon stating very clearly on Wednesday that Russian aggression is 21st century imperialism and calling on neutral countries, sent to the fence sitters to come out against Putin. That's something that will not convince Putin, but it may well tip people who are in Moscow, in positions of power, in the inner circles to think very hard about their own futures. And a lot of their strategy was based on the idea of dividing Western opinion, playing on the weaknesses of democracy, if you like the reliance on Russian energy and so forth. None of these things have come to pass. So by this stage, according to the Russian strategy, the West would be in disarray and continental European democracies would be drifting further and further away from the position of the UK and the US. But that doesn't seem to be happening at all. No, and as we've already pointed out, China was putting pressure on Russia a week or two ago. Well, it's come out with more response to this latest announcement by Russia by urging all parties to engage in dialogue and consultation. I mean, it's sitting on the fence, of course, but in no way is China going to be a reliable either diplomatic and certainly not military ally for Russia. But say these recruits are got into some sort of fighting shape and sent into the theatre in the next three or four months. Well, they'll be arriving in the middle of winter. It's going to be freezing. We can't really gauge how ready the Russians are to receive them. The Russians in place already, the military mechanisms and logistics are sufficient to actually take in this new influx. From what we've seen before and heard before, the likelihood is that they're not going to be actually ready to absorb large numbers of new troops and trade them up, etc. Equipment, they're running very low on on 21st century equipment all round. So probably these new guys will be coming along with stuff that's been broken out of old ammunition dumps and armed dumps all the rest of it, and that will probably mean refurbishment. So there'll be a lot of preparation in the worst condition. So I can't see that they're going to be ready to do anything before the spring. And when they do, it'll be an old style, you know, trying to overwhelm the Ukrainians with just sheer weighted numbers, something that they did successfully in the Second World War. So there's a very different scenario and again, it comes back to morale. The Russians aren't fighting for anything and the Ukrainians are fighting for survival. That's right. And we're getting increasing amounts of information from former Russian soldiers, that is veteran soldiers and others, on communication systems like Telegram, who are clearly stating that not only is morale as we've already pointed out really low. They're not only the Russians themselves, but also that they don't even have basic kit in a lot of these areas. So the only way you're going to get a Russian army to fight effectively in Ukraine in the coming months, these new reservists who are being pushed into the line is if you use terror, frankly. And it kind of style in this type will shoot anyone who doesn't go forward scenario. I think the whole system will break down very quickly. That is simply not possible in the 21st century army I would suggest. So the medium term or the short to medium term outlook in a military sense on the ground in Ukraine does not look encouraging for Russia. I see this recent announcement very much as a panic measure and a sign that Russia is heading very quickly for defeat. So that brings us to the elephant in the room, Patrick, the elephant you're most worried about, the nuclear threats. Is there has there been in your view much of a change really from what is already existing Russian doctrine? No, I don't think there is any real change going back to the statements they made over the years in 2014. A doctrine was defined as the Russian Federation reserves the right to use nuclear weapons in response to the use of nuclear and other types of weapons and mass disruption against it or its allies and also the crucial bit in the event of aggression against the Russian Federation involving the use of conventional weapons when the very existence of the state is under threat. Now if the Stombs referendum go the way that everyone expects them to then that will mean that the conventional war being wasted now could be interpreted as being an existential threat to the Russian state. But when they're talking about nuclear weapons what are they actually saying? Now of course they're keeping it very vague. I think we can dispense with the idea that it's going to be an intercontinental ballistic missile, a fire of Washington or London or indeed on some hugely powerful nuclear device fired at Ukraine itself for simple self preservation reasons in the latter case and indeed in the former case the first one is going to spark a nuclear annihilation more of annihilation. And the second means that say you did land a large nuclear device on a Ukrainian city you with the prevailing winds in Ukraine the effects on Russia itself would be not quite as bad as what will happen in Ukraine but certainly there would be something they would very much not wish to have to deal with. So we're talking about battlefield use tactical and what you will I suppose nuclear artillery or cruise missiles are with the nuclear warhead I spent you those around the Russians have got hundreds of them. As indeed have we we've got the same sort of kit they're not quite as terrifying as they sound because the fallout the year the fallout yields exactly much much smaller than say when nuclear weapons are first invented. So you can have a cruise missile with sort of ten megaton capacity and megaton meaning it's equivalent to a thousand tons of old fashioned TNT. There's not you know much more about this than I do so I think but the actual military effectiveness of them is not really proven is it or it's not really obvious. No for obvious reasons because they haven't been used and they can't be used because as soon as you use even a tactical nuclear weapon you set on the part of of escalation Putin knows perfectly well that this is a red line he can't cross with NATO it will immediately bring NATO into the war against Russia. And that is a war that Russia indeed neither side can win so I'm pretty sanguine about these nuclear threats you can't even go there you would need Putin to be absolutely at the end of his tether a sort of Hitler like scenario at the end of the second world war. And you would also need other key people in the chain of command that is the defense minister and the chief of the general staff to also go along with the madness of attempting to use even a single tactical nuclear weapon so no I don't see it as there's any possibility that Russia will do that if all three of those people at the same time decide that you know Russia's existence is no relevance and frankly that isn't going to happen so I'm not particularly concerned and another little indication that Russia is very unlikely to escalate this is the fact that it hasn't used chemical weapons now it's done it before of course in places like Syria and also in Grozny but it is not going to do it in Ukraine because it knows the response of NATO reacting kind and it will bring not that NATO suddenly going to use nuclear weapons or chemical weapons itself but it will bring NATO into the war which is what it's trying to avoid and when I say into the war I mean it's planes it's men and everything. So that is a scenario at Russia cannot stomach or consider and that's why I don't think it's ever going to happen. On the other hand, Saul that is one way for Putin if he really is cornered is a scenario for getting out of his difficulties then you back are back into World War II all his propaganda about this is really a surrogate war fought by the western NATO against us then becomes a reality. The people who are now objecting to going off and fighting a war which they're not really convinced is worth fighting will be defending Mother Russia and so I think it's probably a scenario that must have occurred to him that's why I'm afraid I'm less saying with a new about the unliked heard of him taking that step. Well we'll have to as we have done sometimes all this podcast Patrick agree to disagree it's a sign of desperation in my view it's a threat he can never actually go down the line and actually carry out and there are other possibilities of course which we should remember I mean history will tell us that other dictators have made very bad decisions they've come to regret them I'm talking of course about Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait. He was thrown out of Kuwait just like we hope Russia will be thrown out of Ukraine and he still survived it's dictator so the assumption Putin's inevitably going to be toppled by losing this war is not something I you know I think is absolutely inevitable it it may be it may be possible it may be likely but I don't think it's inevitable so you could imagine a scenario where he withdraws back to Russia licks his wounds planes the defeat on NATO and carries on it doesn't need to be. It doesn't need to lead to the destruction of parts of Russia and of course the rest of the world to nonetheless I believe that government should take this threat seriously and the sensible thing to do in the coming days and weeks is I think for us to reach out and engage within two powers that maybe we'll be able to get Putin zero and get him to to think again notably of course China now I think China's new more reserved attitude towards Moscow is a hopeful sign if he's going to listen to anyone if there's anyone he has to listen to it really is China so I think a sensible policy will be to try and get China very much on board we chat with them and say that we're all and this is a global problem let's stop the ideology and the kind of divisive rhetoric and diplomacy of recent years and and pull together on this one it be good for China because it would actually if they can broke us I'm sort of piece it would put within a very good position there after we would ove and big time let's hope that moves a major long those lines in the coming days and weeks I'm not sure we particularly want to be beholden to China but I take your broader point patching absolutely right this needs to be calm down but we are in a difficult situation in terms of finding in the gocheted piece because Ukraine is quite understandably emboldened in terms of its determination to reclaim most if not all of its territory and I suggest it was closer to all now and I include Crimea in that and that might be a position that Putin finds unacceptable how many more defeats he needs on the battlefield to bring him around to that point of view as another matter but I agree with you of course in the longer term there has to be a settlement Russia has to be brought back into the international fold although it may take many years as we heard from previous commentators on this podcast Russia could be and probably will be a prior for many years and of course given that it has nuclear weapons that does make it dangerous so the sooner we get to a situation where Ukraine is happy with what it's got and feel secure in the future and that probably means membership of NATO well almost certainly means membership of NATO and Russia is somehow got to a point where it can accept the settlement then they're happy of course the international community will be but that is a thorny tricky road that all of us are going to have to try very delicately on to achieve we ought to remember that the change over from communism the collapse of the old system which had sustained Russia for most of the 20th century to date that came to pass almost bloodlessly which was miraculous if there was regime change in the current circumstances are we sure that this wouldn't just mean to send into chaos of the sort that we largely avoided when communism fell well that's probably one for another time I mean my suggestion that Putin might survive this of course is one scenario but probably best case scenario if we had a wish list now Patrick is that he is toppled by slightly more moderate elements as likely or not you've already talked about the war mangas the far right who of course are inevitably quite powerful in the security forces what we'd like to see as a slightly more moderate government that could distance itself from what Putin has done and say okay the war was wrong we are prepared to hand over a few people for war crimes we are prepared possibly even to make some financial reparations and let's reset and start again that's the best case scenario whether that's likely or not is another matter but we will see what is likely to unfold in the next few weeks in particular but one thing I'm very clear about Patrick you cannot bow to this type of nuclear blackmail the west as I've already said needs to stand fast and keep up the same level if not increase its military support view frame here here now we like to throw a bit of good news into the mix in each show so I was very interested in the story last week about the Russia Russian hot shortage which meant that Russian bros were having to cast around to find all terms of supplies because they can't get their hot some Germany which is where they may came from before now I read that Russian businessman Sergei Baranov of the Camelik of Brewing Company has told the waiters that they have indeed found a new source inside Russia from the Chewvash area about 400 miles east of Moscow that's good news for Russian beer drinkers because I remember that we were talking about it last week and I had in fact tasted beer brewed without hops and that was in Sarajevo in 1994 the city was under siege then you'll remember but the town brewery the Salierska Pivada kept going and they were rightly proud of their achievement and indeed held a party on the premises to celebrate 130th anniversary of their foundation they therefore proved that despite all the servings shelling and sniping all the difficulties they faced it was still capable of organising a piss up in a brewery boom boom the beer has to be said the beer was pretty revolting even though naturally we still have a drink where I love it reminds me of the sort of alcohol we used to make at school you didn't really care what it tasted like just as long as it made you feel fuzzy and you forgot your travails just for a moment great stuff Patrick okay a momentous week we've had a momentous couple of weeks we'll see what unfolds during the next seven days please join us in a week's time for the next episode where we're going to hear from the legendary war correspondent Anthony Lloyd and discuss the latest development goodbye