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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Fri, 07 Oct 2022 01:00
The continuing success of Ukrainian forces has led to speculation that a complete collapse of the Russian Army could be forthcoming. This week Saul speaks to legendary Military Historian Anthony Beevor, about where the Russian Military is today.
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Hello and welcome back to the Battleground Ukraine podcast with me Saul David and Patrick Bishop. Well the Ukrainian advance in the northeast and the southeast of the country shows no sign of slowing down. Every day we hear of new gains and new Russian withdrawals, often at high speed. The Ukrainian momentum is growing every day and it's beginning to feel like the whole thing could be over sooner, rather than later. Yes indeed, the Russian army seems to be in disarray and the possibility of total collapse no longer seems fanciful. Anyone who knows anything about Russian history will detect some precedence here. And later on we're going to be talking to someone who knows far more about that than most. And he's a Anthony Beaver or should I say Sir Anthony Beaver, whose reputation was made with his landmark book on Stalin-Gread and he'll be giving us a brilliant analysis of where the Russian military is today based on his vast knowledge of its history. Well that's later but first let's talk about the progress the Ukrainians are making in a little bit more detail. The push is too pronged, in fact you could have argued it's even three pronged at the moment but the two main prongs are in the north of course following the capture of the key town and logistics hub of Lyman. And the movement from there is pushing east and it's threatening the city of Sivr Donetsk in Le Hans which I hope a listeners will remember the Russians expanded an enormous amount of resources on when they captured it earlier in the war. At the same time they're pushing down from the north southwards, down towards Kherson along the west bank of the Deneepro River which is a very very key feature in the geography of the war. And it looks like they're about to take Doud Channi which is right on the river. Now I've been talking to reporters on the ground. They tell me that the Ukrainians are going to keep on pushing as long as the weather holds hopefully right up until mid-November and we can see from the images coming out that it's so well it's been pretty good lately the release still on the trees and it's dry but inevitably the rains and the snow will come. But in the meantime the Ukrainians very much have their tails up. We can see that Russian resistance is very patchy. There were reports coming in of Russian withdrawals headlong withdrawals not just of a few hundred meters but of miles and in some places it very much seems as if they're running away or as the official sources and pro-Russian bloggers would put it redeploying. Of course in other areas they're holding firm at least for the time being as Ukrainian official communiques acknowledge. It's hard to do all this without a map but basically the picture is that the Ukrainians are advancing on two to three fronts and the Russians failing to significantly slow them down and this is particularly significant I think on the west bank of the Deneepro this is apparently where the Russians put some of their best units so if they can't stop them who can. Yeah so we've heard reports of paratroopers being there who obviously are going to be better trained than the regular troops and if they're just managing to conduct holding operations and then pulling back and that really is the best that the Russians can offer. This partial mobilization which we've talked about in recent episodes clearly isn't going to help sending partially trained or realistically untrained troops into battle with Kip that looks pretty ropey is not going to make any difference it's just going to be feeding more cannon fodder to the guns. Similarly the images that they're actually living in a paint of pretty grim picture these are not troops going into battle in an environment where they're actually being cared for this is something we'll hear about later on from Anthony Beaver who's very eloquent on the subject of the way that the Russian military or Russian authorities regard their troops. But I think the Ukraine's problems, their problems you want to have they're problems that come with success. How they actually got the troops to hold the ground they're taking and ensure they don't get ahead of themselves and their supply lines and also the Deneepro river now becomes a bit of a barrier for them. They've blown up all the bridges using high mar rockets they've taken out the routes that were supplying the Russians when they were still in place firmly in place on the West Bank. But having said that given the Russians performance so far I mean they should be in a reasonable position to defend that river line. But what do you think so I mean judging on current performance is that very likely? I don't think it is very likely it's interesting you mentioned paratroops, Patrick as if they're some of the best troops the Russians have got well they were much faunted interestingly enough over the last 10 years as the kind of shock troops of Putin's new shiny armed forces. But the reality of paratroopers as you and I both know from our studies of the Second World War in particular are yes they good shock troops but they're not so effective in defense not because they aren't good fighters they are they're they're they're very motivated effectively light infantry put him from the air but their job is to go in season objective and then be relieved by more heavily armored support the point about paratroopers is that they do not have an awful lot of artillery support an awful lot of heavy armor support. So actually putting them in the line in a defensive situation is not ideal. I'm writing about Arnum at the moment and of course we know how that turned out when they were up against you know the toughest heavily armored SS troops that the Germans had to offer. Even the paratroopers are not necessarily going to do the business in this particular case. It's interesting isn't it there's been a lot of criticism of of commanders and again we're going to hear something about that from Antony and the general that's coming for a lot of flak recently the commander of the area that's seen the biggest setbacks has an interesting name Alexander Lapa he's a career soldier commander of the army group center in Ukraine 58 years old lots of experience in Syria where he was chief of staff so he knows about leveling cities but does he know much else and his name I think is quite interesting don't you think Patrick well you pronounced it in the French way Lapa he's actually Lapine but of course we all know that lap ban French means rabbit which seems appropriate given his troops performance around the man. It's very important I think if you're going to be a successful soldier to have the right name when I was covering the Gulf War the first Gulf War I was embedded with the US Marine Corps and I was very impressed by the fact that the commandant was called general boomer which I thought was absolutely brilliant name for a soldier or a commander and of course you're looking back second world war we got chief of staff at the beginning of the second world war on the British cybers general iron side another great name and of course Churchill favorite was general Alexander herald Alexander. Yeah name from history. Exactly. Northern Irish of course Alexander as was Montgomery awful lot of very good tough soldiers come from Ulster we should add but names are interesting aren't they because one of the best commanders on the German side in the second world was Karl student who eventually commanded their paratroop army he was an excellent commander a doubtable foe for the Allies but student doesn't sound particularly war like to me. Well that's the exception I suppose that proves a rule but anyway let's get back to more serious matters is it collapse on the cards well I think that it's becoming a real possibility we've got all these elements kicking in which are to the disfavor of the Russians winter is coming morale we know is the absolute rock bottom the kit is rubbish you craniums going to keep going as long as they can I think as winter wears on we're going to see a real risk of mutiny and desertion again this is something that Anthony Beaver will be talking about later on and on the home front it's very difficult to maintain any sort of positive narrative in Russian now because all this information from the front will be feeding back into Russian societies into towns and villages and so they will know what they're being told on state propaganda is the absolute inverse of the truth so both militarily and politically the situation is getting worse and worse for Putin so I think that the paradox is the better the Ukrainians do the more dangerous the general security situation becomes. Yeah exactly right well what we're beginning to see I mean what you're hinting at Patrick is pressure from below the sort of popular dismay at the call up we can see by the sheer number of people who've headed straight for the border. Let's not kid ourselves again another point that Anthony is going to make later on in the program is that are we going to see the back of this regime anytime soon even if there is pressure from below and unlikely it's well embedded you've got a very efficient repressive machine so we're not going to see popular uprisings anytime soon but if we fast forward to next year we may see chaos and the economic meltdown this is the elephant in the room that of course if the Ukrainians are up against the onset of winter the Russians are up against the meltdown of their economy they need to get some kind of solution some kind of probably the best for them negotiated peace before this happens but I can't see that happening and again Anthony is going to explain why that is. Yeah I think that is a real real key issue that we'll be hearing more of which is what happens when the Russian economy does actually completely grind to a halt and you're then looking at the prospect of hunger I think how that will translate into political consequences would be not that there's going to be a general uprising like there was in 1917 the population haven't been politicized let's know there's a political vacuum there there's no alternatives there are no structures that can take advantage of the chaos so I think what you will see is this would disintegration rather than revolution now when people are talking about where the tipping point might come or who will actually provide the impetus for it there's a lot of talk about these ultra-nationalists who are sort of circling around Putin but not actually right next to him but to my mind these are basically blow hard so they're useful for propaganda purposes but I think they probably think themselves much more important than they actually are you got people like Ramzan Kadeerov the head of the Chechen Republic, Igor Gorkin also Nanodigostrelkov the ultra-nationalist former FSB officer who was a big player in the annexation of Crimea and also stirring up trouble in the Donetsk region organizing local militant anti-key of groups I don't think they're that important they're basically Ahinj to Kadeerov in particular is a borderline lunatic he's just sent his three sons one of the major 14 to fight at the front so I don't think they've actually got a power base that could actually threaten the center if they were to turn against Putin and try and intensify the war but who does have the power what about the army saw what would you think their role is going to be in political terms in the in the coming weeks and months well before I try to answer that question Patrick just another quick point about Kadeerov absolutely unhinged dangerous character who's been brought in to spread terror frankly which seems to be one of the sort of main elements of the Putin playbook when he brings war to any part of the globe and Kadeerov of course is also a bit of a narcissist as the listeners won't be surprised to hear and he's particularly delighted to hear that he's just been made kernel general of the Russian army I think this is uh this comes into my answer in a second because I think what what Putin's trying to do is send a signal to the regular army that you're not performing I've sacked a number of people and I'm actually appointing a guy with basically no professional military experience um to the highest position you can get in the Russian army I mean it's absolute madness but he's sending a signal and of course that signal could back far against him uh what tends to happen when there's a change of regime in any country and I'd go back to the Russian revolution the French revolution is that the army has to turn against the you know the existing regime and it is possible actually that that might be the tipping point in this case because uh two things are going on here the senior people in the military who've got most to lose are either being sacked or they're getting a lot of criticism uh and the performance on the battlefield is very poor not necessarily because they're all incompetent but because so we gather Putin is interfering I mean he is personally taking charge and the last time this happened of course was uh well in any kind of major sense in a historical sense was the Second World War where both Hitler and Mussolini thought they could do better than their train generals and we know how that turned out so I wouldn't rule it out actually Patrick I think this is exactly how you get change of regime and it's possible it'll happen in Russia. Hmm you know Stalin did actually learn that lesson didn't he started off being a hands-on commander and then decided the generals stood in fact with a few of them who were left after the purges and you all needed about it and left them alone with positive results I think the biggest danger or certainly a major danger to Putin is his inner circle the so-called silaviki this is the tight band of security chiefs from the FSB the military the police uh all those who basically control the repression organs of the state now their fate is tightly bound to his so if they feel that he is uh losing it essentially uh then self-interest will kick in and they may be the ones who move against him two names we hear quite a lot of is Alexander Burtnikov the current head of the FSB and uh Nikolai Patruschev who's a former FSB director but who since 2008 has been the secretary of the very powerful security council of Russia which co-ordinates all aspects of state security he's a cold rational man I wonder what they make of Putin's latest speech welcoming Donetsk Lehanse Separruzia Keroson etc into the Russian federation in which it's a very impassioned speech it's an interesting speech he recasts the war it's a history lesson really and he he recasts the wars part of an anti-colonial struggle against America and the West which according to his version of history has always sought to enslave Russia and steal its wealth and he presents Russia as being this powerhouse of moral values Christian values all the great things that humanity can can deliver and against this this sort of satanic coalition of the West now do they go along with that do they see this as what they're actually fighting for I think they're very cold-eyed men who are basically interested in power and money and I think impassioned though the speech may be it's more likely to confuse them that he is not actually got a grip on reality but when does this translate into action that's the question yeah and it's very interesting isn't it that that speech and that take on history if we go back to the our guest Orlando Fijers who said that very much there's been this division in Russian history between those who lean towards the West and those who say the west of the enemy and and basically in Russian history the the regimes have oscillated between the two and Putin has now very much gone against the West but his future and the future of Russia if you're going to set up what in effect could be in the longer term a second cold war is you must have allies who aren't the West and that's effectively China and I think the big tipping point in this conflict will be as China slowly seeks to distance itself from Putin of course there is one big elephant in the room we've discussed it many times before and that is the question of how desperate Putin will get and the sense that will he choose to escalate this war by not just threatening to use nuclear weapons but by actually using them yeah of course we know this we've we've we've we've said we've gone over this before we the sort of escalatory process you know maybe a battlefield new to start off with but I think it's becoming clear that that is not necessarily the first option it would achieve nothing tactically and it would invite a massive response a conventional response but this is what the Americans are warning they're careful not to use the word nuclear because I think they're not in they're not actually thinking along those terms of thinking about something I was told the other day by someone with a line to the Americans is that first step might be taking up the Russian Black Sea fleet now of course we've still got the possibility of a strategic nuclear war had been deployed either in Ukraine or elsewhere there's a bit of reassurance there from someone I was speaking to who has some deep knowledge of the security apparatus in Russia he says there are two sensible people between Putin and a nuclear strike one of them is Valerie Gerassimov chief of the General Staff and the other is Minister of Defence Sergei Shoyugu I think has shared some of Putin's other weird religious practices going off with him to Siberia to to meet with shameans and so forth but Gerassimov at least is believed to be a rational human being there is of course also we've got to remember a hotline between Moscow and Washington so that has been apparently in use at various points during the conflict so hopefully there could be some dialogue before we get to that point another worrying thing that's being talked about is this the Russia might choose to use an electromagnetic pulse bomb what do you know about that sort well we don't want to go too much into the specific details of the electromagnetic pulse bomb as it's known but I think all you know the headline point about this is that an explosion in altitude over Europe could take out or you know electricity all electrical signals so obviously it's a very concerning it has a very concerning potential but I think you know getting back to your hotline which we know there is still between the US and Russia I think this will be added to the list of red line weapons that cannot be used and that of course will include weapons of mass destruction under whose broad banner this would come okay well that's enough of current events we're going to be talking to Antony Beaver in the second half do join us then welcome back well we're very lucky this week to hear from Santany Beaver the prize winning and best selling historian who was written extensively on Russia at war in books such as Starlingrad Berlin and most recently Russia revolution and civil war 1917 to 1921 well Antony is going to put the current situation into its historical context for us based on his vast knowledge of the Russian military particularly in the wars of the 20th century this is what he said since Russia's invasion of Ukraine on the 24th of February we've seen what I think we can both agree is an incredibly poor performance by Russia's military characterized by chaotic logistics poor command and control a failure to integrate all arms warfare over a lance on firepower a willingness to suffer huge casualties and low morale and the list could go on but the question to you as a as a historian of Russia at war Antony is have some of all of these characteristics been displayed before by Russian forces on the battlefield and if they have been could we say they're typical of what we might call the Russian way of warfare I think one's got to be very very careful about comparing previous periods because so much of an army's performance and doctrine depends on the society it comes from I mean one of the big differences of course with Putin's army is the whole nation of corruption now there was a fair amount of corruption in the first world war and no doubt also in the 19th century expansion of the Russian Empire but the corruption that we've seen ever since 2008 when Putin started throwing money at the armed forces has been extraordinary but also we have seen arms procurement carried out in a very strange way with concentration on high-prestage projects like the Armata tank which is really any good for trundling across Red Square on the 9th of May rather than any form of combat activity but of course there are should we say what you call the Russian way of war we see many similarities from before all the way back to Borudino and certainly the 19th century and the Second World War the emphasis on artillery what they used to call the God of War partly because they felt that that might reduce their end casualties and yet at the same time one of the most striking aspects of Soviet military not doctrine but Soviet military activity has been a incredible waste of manpower and a terrible appalling contempt in many ways for their end soldiers we saw this in the Second World War it was even promoting newtonists towards the end of the Second World War in 1945 the way that soldiers were ordered to crawl out into Nehman's land to strip the clothes off their dead comrades to bring back so that they could then be used for clothing some of the replacements now these replacements were often just grabbed off the march or grabbed on the march in a way as the forces advanced through what had been Western Belarus or in fact actually had been Poland and Western Ukraine which had also been Poland and they were forced into the Red Army just in the way they were seeing the mobilization carrying on at the moment one could go on with many other things I mean I remember in being so pulled in the 1990s when researching in Russia when hearing stories including from the British embassy the way that Russian generals held their in recruits in total content and just made jokes about the number of suicides up to 5,000 conscripts a year killing themselves thinking you know that that didn't matter so there is a real problem in the Russian army which I think is becomes a problem of morale the other aspect which one must always remember is one of their great weaknesses is actually at the NCO level this was very true of the Second World War any soldier who shared great promise was rapidly promoted say 2 NCO or sergeant or whatever and then was made turning to an officer or Mr. Medvede and because there was so little strengths if you like on that area this is one of the reasons which contributed to the appalling discipline of the Red Army we always think of Stalinism as a total control but in fact the Red Army was chaotic in towards the end of the Second World War which was one of the reasons or one of the contributory reasons for the mass rapes which would become so notorious during that particular period of 1945 I mean German studies recommend it said that the British army was the least worst or the least bad in its treatment of German civilians in its advance but that wasn't necessarily due to bromide in the tea or anything like that it was much more that the British regimental system always had that tremendous strength of the NCO the sergeants and sergeant majors who were determined to know where their soldiers were and wouldn't let them go wandering off and that was why I think one of the reasons why actually British Army discipline was far better than many of the other armies it wasn't necessarily meant that the the British were completely good-natured and necessarily towards the German women but anyway should we say that was kept under very firm control by the NCOs so I mean overall yes there are pluses and minuses and all the rest of it the Russian army in the past and this is one thing which Putin I think is counting on was always I'm sure he say capable of absorbing extraordinary suffering now British Army, French Army, American Army would have survived at Stalingrad in the way that the Red Army did but for Putin to expect that from his present troops which I have come from a very different society and his idea that you know Europe will crumble in the face of Russian solidarity bravery and long suffering it's total fantasy and I think that this is one of his major one of his major miscalculations you talked a little bit about the lack of discipline at the end of the Second World War there Anthony of course we are seeing similar acts of atrocity torture rape and murder in this current war I mean why are Russian soldiers do you think prepared to consider these sort of barbaric acts as a legitimate act of war there must be some sort of official complicity with with this sort of thing for it to be so widespread do you think that is absolutely true but I think part of the debate and I've just been having this in Denmark and Sweden or whatever with of course people have fascinated exactly by your question and it's a very important one now a number of historians and I said many historians probably feel that it goes a long way back it goes all the way back to the Mongol invasions of the 13th century when mass destruction, mass rape, mass killing of civilians was regarded as an essential weapon of war in terms of terror and this carried on in Russia as they'd had about it and certainly in the 19th century of which we know comparatively little in the west of the imperial expansion south into the Caucasus or even in the previous century you know it was Perchiumkin and Catherine the Great but then above all the expansion eastwards into Siberia using Cosac troops who were always the most brutal and the most cruel in many ways and why was Europe different well I think that we had the horrors or we certainly saw this horrors during the wars of religion particularly in the 17th century in 30 years war and horrors probably just as bad as the Mongol invasions but in Europe things changed in the sense of the enlightenment, human and nation of humanism and safe author and even then in the 19th century a far better treatment of soldiers and invention of the Red Cross and so forth after South Rina the trouble is that there is no national DNA I mean you cannot generalize about Russians as such especially when there are so many different nationalities and so many different cultures within such a vast country but at the same time there's always a form of narrative a national narrative or an idea of a self-image and that has perpetuated itself in Russia you know that war is cruel war is barbracess then you can't complain about it in all the recipes and still this idea that you know terror is a weapon of war legitimate weapon of war and we certainly saw it in 1945 with the revenge on Germany and in fact not just on Germany but even on sort of Hungary and a lot of central Europe we're at shouldn't an activities which were we are seeing again in Ukraine with appalling results but I mean one of the most striking things was this tape which appeared a pregusion basically one of the Kremlin's closest and even a potential replacement to Putin who is known as Putin's chef anyway pregusion is is the head of Wagner Wagner is actually producing the probably the best results on the battlefield out of most of the troops and is famous for its brutality and its cruelty in Africa and in other theaters of operations where it's going it is operating separately from the Red Army but there is big organ in Rostov on Don prison recruiting the worst murderers and rapists and criminals generally and actually saying to them you'll be free in six months you know your sentences will be written off and you get into Ukraine and you just do whatever you want to them now this is terrifying they use prisoners from the Gulag criminals not the politicals during the Second World War and they were put into the punishment companies and Strafro T which was digging up mines in front of in front of troops just before they attacked or whatever I hear they're just being used basically as terror troops and that in itself I think is highly significant and again I think an indication that right at the top they are prepared to use the most extreme methods as a weapon of terror and this is one of the reasons why Zelensky is so angry it's so determined not to allow the Russians any territory at all including Crimea okay so you talked about the criminals Anthony we also know of course recently announced that there's been a partial mobilization of reserve is up to 300 000 possibly more but of course there's already been huge pushback against that with a hundreds of thousands of young rations heading for the borders determined not to serve in the Ukraine how successful do you think this partial mobilization is going to be in terms of its effect on the battlefield I didn't he's going to be very successful once any got to hear the stories how about these new recruits and you can imagine how demoralizing it is for them so we haven't even got bandages for you ask your girlfriends and wives and mothers or whatever to to give you tampons I mean it's unbelievable that they're having to tell their soldiers you know to provide some of the basics for themselves all their basically going to be getting is going to be uniforms and flat jackets and that's nothing else apart from weapons and we don't know what their weapon situation is in terms of equipping them I mean is this going to be like that stage in the Second World War when you know there was a mass attack and only about 50% of them actually had rifles and the rest of them had to pick it up off a dead comrade as they child forward again it is an astonishing contempt for their own people which is something we shouldn't underestimate and of course word is getting around and the mothers even obviously even when there was some war in Afghanistan they started sort of creating their unofficial some networks because they were so angry they were also so angry during that period of the 1990s when you know all of the semi of the conscripts were actually committing suicide so the figures that we've seen from sort of Lavada pose and all the rest of it saying that you have 70% of Russians support the support the war well that may and you be because semi of left the country but I think that actually the figure is probably dropping very rapidly and Putin's approval rating is dropping very rapidly with it so what I think is going to be quite interesting is whether we might possibly see a Soviet style sudden disappearance where President Putin has had to go into a sanatorium I mean this was how it was handled in Soviet days you know while they decided you know who it's going to take over or whether he should come back or whatever so we might see this whether Pekorgin or Patruchev or whoever it might be then suddenly becomes this sort of temporary figurehead to give them a chance to provide an impression that somehow strategy and leadership is changing and a lot of this will also depend really on to what degree the inner circle is spooked by public resentment and a squeaked protest and so forth there is there's a good way now question of 1917 and an overthrow of the regime it's too firmly in sconce for that but at the same time they are nervous at the public display of opposition to the war and that might play into either notions of compromise which I didn't think would be very successful because as I say Zelensky is determined to have a complete anata victory and clearing of Ukrainian territory or we may see something which is then more scary because you know the the others around Putin not necessarily any more liberal than he is in fact there could even be more extreme so it's very very hard to predict which way it's going to go everyone's asking sort of what how's it all going to end well I mean anybody who can actually come up with a a single answer is I think being over optimistic it's a question of really offering a menu of possibilities of how the war could end a lot of saber rattling Anthony of course about the use of possible use of tactical nuclear weapons do you think that's an option at all for Putin that could lead to a victory or something that he might call a victory no it won't certainly won't lead to a victory because it will upset the Chinese and Indians and the governments and any of his sort of potential supporters I think Putin has actually been digging himself into a deeper and deeper hole or pushing himself further and further into a corner and I think that that would be completely counterproductive for him so I'm not quite so concerned about that even if he did out of sort of desperation which is always a possibility which one can never rule out the I think the West counter would definitely be obviously a non nuclear one they would certainly not take it over seriously so either a straightforward sort of demonstration for example on treatment suggested a possibility of a say strike on snake island or something like that which is you know quite a quite good good and I'm sure in the right way of thinking that this might be launched but if they did something that was should say far worse like dropping it on a city then it's very hard to predict but I think the NATO is well aware that ever since 1961 Soviet doctrine has always been totally different to Western doctrine in terms of the step up from conventional to battlefield nuclear because that that's when Pankowski got out the information in fact that we that the Russian army had a doctrine that you didn't even have to consult with Kremlin if you were again to if you were a senior commander and you wanted to launch a battlefield nuclear I really do think that that is pretty unlikely but as I say cannot be completely ruled out I think that Putin would find himself in a truly desperate position internationally and he does need China to have some sort of backing and support and especially by the time that the Russian economy tanks early next year and to me after this war when this war ends what do you think is the best long-term way to contain Russia bring it back into the international fold we don't know how extreme as you say the government of Russia will be in the long term but what is the best way to contain Russia and curb what has been a really quite alarming desire for territorial expansion I think that what we're talking about is actually going to be Cold War 2 I suppose to Cold War 1 and this is a problem I mean I had a very interesting time in Scotland recently with George Robinson and Jeremy Hunt discussing the future of geopolitics at a conference there and I do fear very much that we are going to be in a world where we cannot negotiate in the same way as we have in the past evening I mean in Cold War 1 one could usually be fairly confident that the communist leaders whether of China or of Russia or of the Soviet Union would stick to an agreement that they made or if they made a promise on the whole they would hold to it what we're seeing now is a far more chaotic world where conventional diplomacy seems to have always been thrown out of the window when I'm dealing with something like that and there is always the danger and this is where Zelensky is absolutely firm and quite right I think that there's no way you can come to any deal with somebody like Putin when you know he's going to break his word and it's prepared to lie through his teeth at every single opportunity and even contradicting his own lies quite happily so that I think is a very worrying one but in the meantime it's a question of actually how the war ends and what the consequences are if it does end as the way that Zelensky wants that will be such a humiliation for Russia and for the Russian army we do not know what effect that will have on the internal government of Russia we cannot rely the possibility of some form of disintegration now the disintegration of Russia would be terrifying because Russia certainly by next year by the time that sort of the West and certainly Europe has converted to avoid the energy blackmail has converted to renewables and if necessary nuclear power the Russian economy is simply going to collapse because they have no alternative industries apart from energy and there are many parts of Russia which would simply starve so once looking at a not necessarily a civil war as in the 1917-1921 war but basically sort of local chaos caused by a complete collapse in the administration in facilities in utilities and all the rest of it so somehow you know Russia does need to be kept together I think for purely humanitarian purposes but you know how can one impose on a country like Russia a form of regime change you know the women thinks of shall we say the famine relief following the civil war you know the planning relief rarely of 21-22 and sort of Hoover programs and so forth you know the government of the time obviously Lenin's government you know we have basically refused to work with it out of pride and all the rest of it and Russian pride of course is very very deep and to deal with the humiliation of the degree that they're likely to go through is very striking the other problem which is when I say game back slightly to the ending of the war the Zelensky is determined to take on the whole of the and to take over the whole of Crimea I thought to begin with that this was sort of a very clever bargaining card which you wanted to have at the time when eventually you know the victory was more or less in Ukrainian hands and some form of deal might possibly be necessary but I was corrected by this by somebody who I think knows Zelensky very well and saying no he is just so angry about the atrocities committed in Ukraine but he is determined to take back the whole of the Crimea now in Russian terms this is a very difficult one because this is something that Russia will never accept in terms of the history Catherine the great and for Jim Keynes as I was saying but also it's a Vastopol I mean it's a Vastopol it's a naval base it's sort of purely Russian in emigrant creation and construction and was actually you know excluded from the whole of the Ukraine and the Ministry of Deal when Christchurch passed it all over to Ukraine and it's never really been Ukrainian in that sort of sense so I think that that will always be a bit of saw on the Russian side in the future and possibly a in fact quite very possibly you know a burden of contention in the future but as I say that's one sort of aspect of the end of the war and of the problems of Kobo too we don't know I mean whether Kobo will consist of a new faceoff between China Russia and some of their own allies or whatever including Venezuela and one or two other countries Cuba and whether this will be a sort of coherent extension of the old communist block of the past or are we going to see an angle a change of axis will away from what was the original sort of left-right split fascist communist getting all the way back to the Russians of war which actually influenced the whole of the 20th century and is still an influence today but we are seeing we have seen this rather alarming but at the same time interesting change of axis towards not a left-right split as so much as in the past but of a much more authoritarian democratic one and in to add to the confusion we're seeing in certain countries like in Germany where the extreme left and extreme right is starting to link up the linker and alternative for a Deutschland so we are into a sort of different world it's not it's still part of that sort of a left-right split but as I was saying it has no changed on its axis. Fascinating stuff Anthony thank you and very sobering of course most of these considerations on a can we end on a tiny bit of a lighter note by me asking you your current status in terms of the welcome in Russia is not good I think you're pursuing a non-grata and you can't travel there can you see any prospect if the war turns out with a slightly more amenable Russian government that you will be able to travel to Russia at some point in the future well I'm not sure whether that is the important question it's much more whether with a different slightly different Russian government you know everybody else will be able to travel a bit more but I think the encouraging thing at the moment of course is astonishing Ukrainian advances I mean they seem to have kept up their momentum in a very remarkable way which is definitely the right way to do it if you can carry it through it's not like the Russian Civil War where the landmass was so vast that you know this was why they needed cavalry and trains because they would often have you know a huge advance Admiral Kulchak advancing all the way from you know Siberia right up to the sort of the Volga or you know General Denequin coming up from the south on the march towards Moscow and then suddenly that these advances would collapse through overextended forces lack of supply lines and all the risk I mean the fighting in Ukraine is much more concentrated and obviously you know they've got a form of mobility which they lacked over a hundred years ago in terms of resupply but I still think that we have got a watch about whether they can maintain this momentum of advance and the effect it will have on Russian morale and that I think is probably one of the most encouraging things so I think we are ending actually on a fairly optimistic note as we wanted quite right this well that was absolutely fascinating and provoked many thoughts I had forgotten that there were indeed mutinies even in 1945 in the Red Army and that was when they were victorious another thing that he said that I think is very relevant is the different societal backgrounds that we're looking at here in the Second World War Russia or the Soviet Union was a cohesive society they were cohesive societies it might be different nationalities etc the glue holding them all together is the fact that they're under attack and of course the communist faith if you like now societies much less cohesive today so I think you know that element is removed from the equation and makes collapse all more likely yeah and it was interesting he talked about the inherent weakness at NCO level I mean he was talking in historical context again in relation to the Second World War but I think it probably holds true today doesn't it you can you know any soldier showing promise was immediately promoted to NCO and then on to officer because basically there is that weakness in the system where does that weakness come I mean you can speculate can't you Patrick I mean it probably comes from the fact that yes to be an officer you know this goes back to the sort of 19th century British army you could be an officer and someone you know from the upper echelons of society might aspire to that but the ordinary guy going to the army no there's no kudos uh society does not admire someone saying he wanted to be a soldier it's it's always the opposite of that great Samuel Johnson line you know every man feels less of himself or not having been a soldier and the reality in the British army in the 19th century and probably the Russian army of the 21st centuries you only go into the military you know as a matter of desperation because you're treated so incredibly badly and and this comes on to another point that Anthony makes which is the complete contempt even now and certainly when Anthony was researching in Russia in the 1990s that Russian generals and Russian officers feel for their own soldiers yeah that is a very grim tradition that carries on 5,000 suicides a year were being recorded in the 1990s and as he said this was something that uh the Russians generals joked about so what a terrible culture to go to war and on the question of where we go next we were talking earlier about the what's going to happen in the new year when economically things will really begin to get bleak in Russia and you know this mention of hunger famine this is something that we've never thought we'd hear again in Russian history but uh I think if that does come about we're going to see this steady weakening of the center and a drift away at the periphery which may be the way that the Russian Empire has currently constituted uh comes to its end yes and of course the consequences are interesting aren't they and it could go a number of different ways as as Anthony pointed out you know you need to basically offer anyone who asks the question what's going to happen next at a menu of possibilities but one possibility he thinks is not unlikely is as he put it a sudden Soviet style disappearance where Putin just disappears I mean effectively he's been put into a sanitarium I mean this is cruise chair of like in in 1964 after the disastrous confrontation against the Americans over the Cuban missile crisis and you know a couple of years later he's effectively and quietly removed uh and could this happen where we talked about the sort of people who might take over and in fact Anthony name check some of those people now of course uh we've got to remember that Putin is is paranoid quite understandably uh and so his own personal security is very very tight but if anyone can get to him it will be these people these uh silaviki uh security barons so I think that's where I if I'm looking over my shoulder that's where and I was Putin that's where I would be looking yeah um of course the difficulty with whoever takes over is what kind of peace uh is produced or what kind of settlement to this war has to end eventually but it's getting increasingly difficult to end because as we also discussed the uh the power is with Ukraine at the moment they are making advances on the battlefield and why would they wanted to end until not only have they recovered all the ground uh that they've lost since the beginning of the war this year that's the invasion in February but also and here's the rub crime here as well I mean all Western commentators including uh US officials are now beginning to discuss the possibility that this might be the end game to remove uh Russia from all parts of pre 2014 Ukraine and that sounds like a good idea in the in the medium term perhaps but as Anthony said the you know the Russians really do think Crimea belongs to them so at some point in the future I could see it becoming like Alsace the rain was with the uh the German french conflict uh and enmity and it could be some point in the future become Carza Spellifu another war well we're entering very interesting and consequently very dangerous times so please join us next week when we'll be bringing you all the latest news and analysis and another brilliant expert to provide real insights see you then bye bye