BACK STORY with DANA LEWIS

UKRAINE'S WAR WITH RUSSIA

April 06, 2021 Dana Lewis Season 3 Episode 22
BACK STORY with DANA LEWIS
UKRAINE'S WAR WITH RUSSIA
Chapters
0:27
Ben Hodges
19:50
James Sherr
31:31
Paul Niland
BACK STORY with DANA LEWIS
UKRAINE'S WAR WITH RUSSIA
Apr 06, 2021 Season 3 Episode 22
Dana Lewis

Is Russia about to launch a larger armed assault against its neighbour Ukraine?

Both Countries are now beefing up armoured Brigades along a line of conflict.  Russia is squeezing Ukraine from 3 directions and may be about to replace Russian back rebels with regular Russian forces. 

What will be the response of The EU, NATO, and most importantly US President Biden who is on record as saying he won't abandon an independent Ukraine?

On this Back Story Former U.S. Commander of U.S. forces in Europe. LT. General Ben Hodges says Ukraines army is much better equipped and trained than before.

James Sherr is a military expert and says Russian intentions are to test the Biden administration but Putin's intentions remain murky, although a growing conflict is possible. 

And Paul Niland who runs Lifeline Ukraine, a mental health service for Ukrainian soldiers,  says Putin is frightened a Ukrainian 'EuroMaidan' type revolution could come to Russia.


Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Is Russia about to launch a larger armed assault against its neighbour Ukraine?

Both Countries are now beefing up armoured Brigades along a line of conflict.  Russia is squeezing Ukraine from 3 directions and may be about to replace Russian back rebels with regular Russian forces. 

What will be the response of The EU, NATO, and most importantly US President Biden who is on record as saying he won't abandon an independent Ukraine?

On this Back Story Former U.S. Commander of U.S. forces in Europe. LT. General Ben Hodges says Ukraines army is much better equipped and trained than before.

James Sherr is a military expert and says Russian intentions are to test the Biden administration but Putin's intentions remain murky, although a growing conflict is possible. 

And Paul Niland who runs Lifeline Ukraine, a mental health service for Ukrainian soldiers,  says Putin is frightened a Ukrainian 'EuroMaidan' type revolution could come to Russia.


Speaker 1:

What would a fight between Ukraine and Russia look like?

Speaker 2:

Well, I think first of all, the Ukrainian armed forces of today are not the Ukrainian armed forces of 2014, that the land forces have real capability.

Speaker 3:

Hi everyone. And welcome to another edition of backstory. I'm Dana Lewis, Russian forces are massing on Ukraine's border. As we speak, NATO is on high alert. Us president Biden has reassured that Ukrainian president DUS will support Ukraine. The EU was also issued warnings to Russia, not to attack, but since 2014, Russia has annexed illegally. The Crimea from Ukraine. It is seized Ukrainian Navy ships. It is armed and funded. So-called Russian backed rebels in Eastern Ukraine with some 14,000 people killed in 70

Speaker 1:

10 years. A low level war on a low simmer has been ratcheted up in recent weeks. Russia

Speaker 3:

Denies it is directly involved calling it an internal conflict. The West saying the evidence of Russian involvement is so crystal clear, it's hardly worth the Kremlin's reduction.

Speaker 1:

Give us denial on this backstory. Why is this war about to escalate what's Putin after why now and what could happen? All right . Ben Hodges joins us now from Frankfurt, Germany , uh , where he is the Pershing chair in strategic studies at the center for European policy analysis. Hi Ben.

Speaker 2:

Hey Dan , thanks for having me on.

Speaker 1:

And you have decades of military experience , uh, as a former us Lieutenant general, retired, who also served as the commanding general of the United States army in Europe. So, you know, very well , uh, what preparations NATO , uh, would take in, in the Baltics and against any kind of Russian threat?

Speaker 2:

Well, sure. The , especially the last six or seven years, we've refocused re-energized that's we do us , but also we NATO , uh, deterrence efforts, exercises , uh, improving , uh , intelligence, sharing, those kinds of things.

Speaker 1:

Right . So how do you, first of all, how do you size up this threat of Russian forces on the Ukrainian border? I mean, there's a sizable buildup there. It looks like the Ukraine's army general reus Len Comcheck has said that there are 28 battalion tactical groups on the Eastern border and in the Crimea and that's around 20, 25,000 troops.

Speaker 2:

Um , and three things. First of all, this for sure is a test of the Biden administration , uh, president Biden. I was happy when he, when he , uh, had his first phone call with president Putin, he tells president Putin , uh , Ukrainian sovereignty is a priority for the United States. I mean, that's a policy statement. We don't have a strategy for the black sea region yet, but that was a , that was an important policy statement. So I'm sure that prison and Susan is testing out, okay, how high a priority is it actually, what are you really going to do? Um, secondly, the , uh , what's happening in Ukraine , uh, on the, on the border where these , uh , tactical groups you're talking about, of course, there's not an isolation within the same week. We had 10 different intercepts , uh , by NATO aircraft from the North sea, the Baltic sea down to the black sea , uh, in a , uh , an reports are that these intercepts were a little bit more sophisticated and longer duration than the normal kind of air airspace violations or the, or the , uh, kind of reactions. And then of course at the same time you had these three , uh, Russian submarines all came up together , uh, through the ice , uh, up in the Arctic , uh, on , uh , impressive demonstration of capability. Uh, and you know, this was not a coincidence that all these things happen at the same time. But the third thing to keep in mind of course, is that not only a Russian troops own the border, but they still illegally occupied Crimea and they've increased. Uh , everybody saw the video of self-propelled howitzers crossing that big , um , bridge across the Curt , straight into Crimea , uh, and they still are killing Ukrainian soldiers and the Donbass. So , uh, I think this is all an attempt to put pressure on the Biden administration to put pressure on president Zelensky and perhaps , um, it's preparation for large exercise or it's preparation for something else. Let's talk about something else. So , um, the problem is that the Russians refuse to be transparent. Um, they , they call big snap exercises , uh , that clearly should in accordance with Vanna documents, require them to notify everybody and to have invite observers. Uh, they never do that. They're , uh, are not in a meaningful way and they intentionally do this without any transparency. And this is where Germany and France should really be cranking up the pressure on the Kremlin hold them accountable, but they never do. Unfortunately, there's something else though, could be the , uh , the beginning of additional , uh, military operations in Donbass. I don't think that's likely what I do think is a possibility is a movement to seize this canal that brings water from the knee that used to bring water from the Negro river down into Crimea. Uh, as soon as Russia seized, Crimea Ukraine turned off blocked that canal turned off the water flow. And so there is a water shortage in Korea . The Russians are using this as a pretext call . It it's a humanitarian crisis, and we may have to do something about it. And , uh, that, that would not be a surprise if they were to do that. So perhaps all of this other stuff is a distraction as they make preparations to seize this canal, which really is not about water. It's more about increasing their hold on Southern parts of Ukraine. And I think of DESA is the ultimate objective to completely isolate Ukraine from the black SIG .

Speaker 1:

Can we talk about NATO for a minute? NATO goes on a high state of alert. Why Ukraine is not a NATO country?

Speaker 2:

Well , it was Yukon U S European command , um, that , uh, raised the, the watch level w which got my attention now. Um, what does that mean? Uh, of course , uh, raising the , uh , watch level means more assets are paying attention to , uh, what Russian forces are doing , uh, in the region. Um, it

Speaker 1:

Moved

Speaker 2:

Secretary Austin, secretary Blinken and the , and the president all to continue to assure their Ukrainians are with you. President Biden had his call with president Zelensky finally. Um, I think that , uh, that's noteworthy and the fact that chief chairman of the joint chiefs of course reached out to his Ukrainian counterpart and to his restaurant counterpart .

Speaker 1:

But what would, what would the us European command under order is from president Biden to support Ukraine? Do I mean, they would not move forces into Ukraine, would they, although they're , they're doing some training there.

Speaker 2:

So it's a great question. Uh , there is you're right there . Ukraine is not a NATO ally, so there's not a article five type situation. And I'm personally interested to see what does, what does this higher priority mean? I think four or five things could happen and should happen. Uh, designate Ukraine as a major non NATO ally, for example, which would free up more opportunities for training, for information exchange, for providing , uh , equipment, things like it opens. It makes it easier to do that sort of thing. And it elevates Ukraine to a different sort of level. That would be one thing. Uh , the second thing would be a , an affirmation that , uh , United States will continue to support the training mission. What's called J MTG. You join a multinational training group, Ukraine , um, out in the [inaudible] training center in Western Ukraine, we will continue doing that , uh, an offer to , uh, expand , uh, training infrastructure at other Ukrainian training bases. So there may or may not be a show of force or something like that, but I don't think those would be particularly useful because Russia knows that , uh , just because you had to beat one or B two bomber or something fly by or whatever. So what , um, what, what would be more significant is increases in , in military aid and , and , uh, exercises, something like that, but it's , I think longterm declare for example , uh, in addition to the Seabreeze exercise we do with Ukraine every year in the black sea, we're going to connect the cyber guardian exercises we do in Romania and a noble partner exercise would do with Georgia with Seabreeze and have a large zap pod like exercise every year. That's joint multinational to , to demonstrate that this area matters to us. The real weapon though, or leverage is financial. And this is where I think , um, the , uh, previous administrations have stopped short of shutting down major parts of Russian banking systems. We've done sanctions, but we haven't inflicted severe pain on the , uh, on the oligarchs. And I think I would imagine that they would be considering something like that, so that if , uh, the Kremlin did something more severe, that that would be a lever and it , and even the Germans would have to act on that.

Speaker 1:

Yeah . I mean, there's been talk of suspending Swift payments, and I mean, you can stop. I mean, you can basically freeze banking in Russia, but look, in terms of, you know, the , the Trump administration was under criticism for withholding funds , um, for supporting Ukrainians military. Um, and then I think at some point, you know, they were released in the end and, and so are we only is the West only giving money or we're in there selling arms and supplying arms already? Are we not?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, sure. Um , the total amount each year is somewhere between four and 500 , uh , Megan dollar . So we have , um, provided equipment night, vision devices, counter fire radar. And of course under prednisone, the decision was made to provide javelins . So what's referred to as lethal aid, actual weapons, those are anti tank weapons, best anti-tank weapons in the world that a soldier carries and a very effective. Now these are not deployed along the frontline . I don't know what the exact rules are for control, but they are kept consolidated back somewhere by Ukrainian forces. Uh , the counter fire radar has always been a very useful and popular , uh , bit of aid because it can , uh, not only provide early warning of incoming rockets, artillery, which is obviously useful, but it also helps tell where they came from. And so, which is useful for counter fire, the , uh, medical , uh, care or equipment , um, secure communications, those kinds of things. That's been the norm of what we've provided you. Remember Ukraine used to be the , uh, the weapons manufacturer for the Soviet union. I mean, that's where most of the, a lot of the stuff was actually manufactured.

Speaker 1:

The appease , the, the , uh, the AP APCs, the, the , uh, even nuclear weapons at one point ,

Speaker 2:

Um, uh, the , the Russian Navy today can not manufacture what they need for ships, because it used to be manufactured in Ukraine, certain like , uh, propulsion systems, for example , uh , helicopter components. Very interesting. And , uh, so it's not like Ukraine doesn't know how to do stuff that the birthplace of the legendary T 34 tank is in Keven and Ukraine. I've visited that factory. They're still making tanks. That was really cool.

Speaker 1:

President Putin of Russia have a legitimate beef here. He complains about constant NATO expansion. Uh, Ukraine has expressed interest in becoming a member of NATO. Russia sees NATO as a threat into its sphere of influence. I mean, are we pushing Russia into a corner?

Speaker 2:

Uh, absolutely not. Uh, he has no legitimate leg to stand on . First of all, people should ask, well, why is it that every country that was ever under the desire or the Soviet union , uh, or in Warsaw pact, went scrambling to join NATO at the first possible opportunity? What is it about their history that tells them we want to be a NATO and we want to be in the European union. W what is that? And , and nobody's knocking on the door of the criminal and saying, Hey, please let me back in, you know, change my mind. Nobody not even the Russians that live in Estonia and Latvia want to go home if you will. Um, for sure, the Russians have always felt like they had to have a , uh, to protect their frontier. The problem isn't the 21st century. You don't, you know , you can't use for you. Well , you can, but you shouldn't use force to change boundaries and to decide what other countries are going to do. And that's what they, that's what they have done. They've occupied 20% of Georgia. Uh, they've occupied part of , uh , Ukraine. They have troops sitting in trans Nastro , all of these things. And now they're back into Bellaruse . This is all to make sure that none of those countries , um , is able to join the EU or NATO. That's, that's their objective to keep that , uh, sort of non NATO, 90 presence on their borders. And of course they don't want their own citizens who have suffered under , uh, decades of , uh, Russian or Soviet leadership , uh, to see how much better life is when you, when you had those kinds of freedoms.

Speaker 1:

All of this started in 2014 , uh, when president Yana Covich, who was president Putin, campaigned openly for Janakova. At one point, there has always been a tug of war in Ukraine with Russia over influence there. And when the, my Dan revolution happened in 2014, a COVID , she was forced to flee. Uh , he is

Speaker 4:

In Russia now, I think, as we speak , um, Russia turns it back though, and it says it was, it was Ukrainian aggression in the East, and that this is a natural grassroots uprising by rebels in the East. They are not, they're not , um, they are trained by Russia. They are helped by Russia to some extent, but they say it's a domestic situation in Ukraine, and that they are merely merely peacekeepers there . What's your take on the , what is the reality?

Speaker 2:

So Russia is anything but a peacekeeper or innocent bystander when it comes to Donbass, that's a total fairytale, did they would that they would like everybody to believe. And unfortunately , uh, Berlin and Paris tend to kind of look the other way or sort of tolerate that , um, yesterday , um, the German foreign minister , for example, called for both sides to deescalate, like where both sides deescalate and the Russians are the ones that are inside Ukraine. So that's, but that feeds the Russian narrative. And of course, Russia is putting out , uh, the civil war that's happening in Ukraine, and it may spread towards borders. So we may have to do something again, total BS, fairy tale, but it's how they kind of try to set the conditions as a pretext to then go in and , and do something about it. Um, the,

Speaker 4:

With Georgia, there , there was all of that media stuff with Georgia leading up to, to Russia, pushing into Georgia.

Speaker 2:

And part of what's been going on is they're trying to provoke a president Zelensky to direct that Ukrainian forces do something to counter it. That would be , uh, then the restaurants say , look, we have to protect ourselves. We have to protect Russians, et cetera. Now, not even a brand new second Lieutenant believes for a minute that what the, what the Ukrainians are fighting against in the Donbass, or just, you know , uh, rebels or , uh , militants or separatists. That is , uh , again, this is more of the total fairytale D just think about it, the amount of equipment and ammunition, and , uh , what's been used and capabilities that the , uh, so-called separatists have is not something you can put together in a barn or in your mother's basement. I mean, this, this is state supported. And of course, because the Russians do not allow the OSC to do their job, the border, the official border between Russia and Ukraine is absolutely wide open. And so it was just convoys all the time. And there is so much imagery that's out there is showing Russian equipment and troops , uh, all throughout the Donbass. So that's, again, this is a part of the fairytale . Their reason for being there of course, is , um, they want to have a destabilized Ukraine and that the ultimate solution or , uh , a negotiated solution , uh , the mask process using the Normandy format is that done yet? The can lieutenants will still be part of Ukraine, but they will have basically veto power over any kind of international , uh , decisions that Ukrainian government would take. I E you know , uh, NATO EU, that kind of thing. Forget it. So that's, that's the desired outcome for the criminal , uh, is that sort of leverage over what Ukraine does

Speaker 1:

That was this talk of a, of a federal system, but I didn't realize that I didn't realize packed in. There was a veto over relations with the West and the EU and NATO. Last question to you. What would a fight between Ukraine and Russia look like?

Speaker 2:

Well, I think first of all, the Ukrainian armed forces of today are not the Ukrainian armed forces of 2014. Uh, they stopped Russian and Russian led separatists, or will own this line of contact. Now , uh , there's still fighting going on more than 20 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed , uh , just in the last few months during the so-called ceasefire. Uh, but the Ukrainian armed forces , uh, have developed a large number of experienced hardened combat leaders. Now it's not perfect. Uh, the Ukrainian air force , uh , would be , um , severely outmatched if it became force on force because of the air defense systems that the Russians have all over the place, same thing in the black sea , uh, Russian Ukrainian Navy , um, had to start all over basically after they were , um, after Russia took over , uh, everything in Crimea, but the land forces have real capability. So it's the , uh, um, air and maritime components, which, which would be the most, most concerning

Speaker 1:

Ben Hodges. Thanks so much, Ben .

Speaker 2:

Thanks very much, Dan. I appreciate it.

Speaker 1:

All right, James share as a military expert, he is the senior fellow at the Talon based international center for defense and security, who has advised Western governments on Russia's military capabilities, James, first of all, welcome, and thank you for doing this.

Speaker 2:

Thank you. It's a pleasure being here.

Speaker 1:

What do you make of this increase in Russian military activity on Ukraine's border? Are they going to attack

Speaker 2:

First understand the political context , uh , from Russia's point of view, the main school codes , which was six years ago now , um, were designed to it's set enemies of the Ukrainian state into Ukraine's structures of power. The aim has never changed since Ukraine's independence. They recognized Ukraine's independence because they didn't think anything would come of it. Um, um, by 2014 they exhausted all the peaceful options and that's why , uh , we are where we are. These things happen .

Speaker 5:

Um, there has been no narrowing of the gap between the Russian position, which I mentioned and the Ukrainian position, certainly not that, or even the French and German position, because they play a very prominent role in this whole so-called process and the restaurants have become exasperated. So what has happened since January is they have raised the temperature at many levels in January, the foreign minister Lavrov gave what he described as an ultimatum to the British , to the Germans and the French just basically make Ukraine behavior. We will make Ukraine behave and , um, accompanying that , uh , has been a steady increase in military activity on the demarcation line. And more recently, all these very, very ominous , uh, that's the first point, but the second point , uh , some of your listeners will know is that the Russians are absolute masters in mousing and moving forces in order to frighten people and get them to concede before a war starts. But when that doesn't happen, they also understand that an even better way of frightening people might be to use forces. And that's where we are. And they don't want us to know what that intention, what do they consider to be? What do they consider to be Ukrainian aggression then is this the , the banning of Russian TV stations, the cutting of water to the Crimea? Is there something that's increased in the recent context? Nothing has increased. The water situation in Crimea is greatly misunderstood. There's a water problem throughout Southern Ukraine. The channel that supplies, water to Crimea as stopped being functional a long time ago, they're inventing pretext then constantly then media is amplifying all sorts of Ukrainian attacks on the demarcation line that simply haven't taken place. Ukrainians are being , um, even when the coming under increased attack, they're responding to the minimal degree necessary. The Russians have trying to put pressure on them so that they , um, respond in a way which gives them a convincing pretext to say enough is enough. Um, and then the military option comes in and there are some military options. They all talk about this in the background, all the Russian retired generals, some of the serving officers, political people, experts. There are some military options they present that are not only very lurid, meaning, you know, driving to the Geneva river, throwing the Ukrainians completely out of the sea of Azov seizing manual, PL all of that stuff, which I don't think are terribly realistic and they don't fit the observable data. At least I access to about the massing and deployment of troops. But there is that there are possibilities of more localized, but still devastating escalation that would change the game , uh , dramatically change the game militarily, but also , um, politically.

Speaker 4:

And what would that be? What kind of land grab, I assume that's what it is. What would that be?

Speaker 5:

Well, it might not be a land grab. You see they up to now the Ukrainians on the Minsk demarcation line have been , um, opposite so-called national militia of the unrecognized republics. And they're a very Motley Motley force . Of course, they're all commanded by Russian officers and the specialist Russian units there, but the Ukrainians can deal with that. Quite another thing, if as many have been suggesting for a long time in Russia, the Russians deploys so-called peacekeepers general purpose forces right up to that demarcation line and then put pressure on the Ukrainians because then the Ukrainians would be , um, retaliating against dedicated Russian troops whose presence is not being disguised, but being advertised to the world. So it really boxes them in. And from that position, they can dial up the pressure whenever they want and go further if they want

Speaker 4:

And what to what end, just to continue to destabilize Ukraine. So the NATO doesn't go into it .

Speaker 5:

No, it's not NATO because Yano coveage , uh , the last president who fled the country, gave them everything they wanted when it came to NATO and then all the focus and all the venom shifted to Ukraine's relationship with the EU . And they forced him into effectively abandoning all of his plans for that. Um, and that's why you had the second, my Don so-called revolution of dignity. Then he fled the country. So this is all stuff. I mean, just to underscore this, none of what's going on is about the unrecognized republics. These so-called republics , uh , represent 4% of Ukraine's territory. It's never been about them. It's been about Ukrainian statehood and the Russians want to define what Ukrainian statehood means and what it does not. And this has been the fundamental issue. The problem has been compounded in my view, by the fact that Ukraine so-called Norman departments , Germany, and France still seem to operate under the assumption that you could find some kind of magic formula for compromise will settle this down and eventually end this conflict. It's not in the cards. The Russians make it clear. It's not in the cards. They're very explicit as to what they want and everyone thinks they can be persuaded to want something else. Well, I don't think that is possible unless the West , uh , raises its game and changes its game. And then of course you have, and this is a factor in the mobilization. You have the Biden administration. Now, the Russians here , all the tough rhetoric and they see all the tough body language. But the question for them is, well, where's the substance? What are they actually in a position to do? And they would like to test them and expose all this rhetoric as hollow, particularly now, before the administration is properly bedded down, when it's visibly preoccupied with China and Taiwan. And you know, so there's an argument taking place, but how far can you test the by an administration without getting into extremely risky territory? And that's another reason why my suspicion is if there's going to be military action , um, they , uh, are unlikely to go beyond the established demarcation line because they'll see , we're just enforcing Minsk. We're not changing the territorial realities, but a weak escalation is inevitable. No, absolutely not. As I said , uh, they're trying to frighten people into conceding, but I am saying it's very possible. Um, um, it , you know, it's very possible. It could happen tomorrow afternoon. It could happen in several weeks. It can happen over the summer , uh , but will be based on a political military calculation that the Kremlin takes about the relative dangers of action in military terms and inaction.

Speaker 1:

I would think if they take some military action, even if it's minimal, if you can refer to military action is minimal , but if they don't go very far, you know, towards Donetsk and Lugansk, then that may backfire, won't it because the West support and, and the U S supports specifically not only NATO , but us support will only increase the Ukraine after.

Speaker 5:

Well, they all combined anyway, that's part of , um , the established set up . Um, no, I don't think so because this has never happened yet. It's never happened yet. The response to everything they've done, yes . Been a mixture of sanction . So there's some pressure , uh , and diplomacy compromise, and they don't see Europe as capable of really doing more than that. They don't take the EU seriously as a foreign policy actor, and certainly not as a military actor . So part of the question is , uh , and this might've been said too , so landscape is Biden, putting clear blue water between what the Europeans are doing. And the so-called means process that the U S is not part of and us policy , um, which is independent much tougher and of course, much more critical. Um, so is the Biden administration a prepared to say, we will not stand idly by and watch Ukraine state destroyed. And secondly, is there any, if they say that, is there anything they can do in practical terms? Um, that would be consistent with that. I don't fully know the answer and the Russians don't , uh, but as I said, I could see them wanting to test it. It would be better to test it. Now then much later when the whole administration is fleshed out with all its people and they have put together a proper , um, concerted strategy for dealing with this problem, all of these things that beginning now at very, very high speed with , uh , with a smaller cost. So then they would like , um, but you know, all of this is to be discovered. We don't know the answer to these questions yet. James share . Thank you so much for being generous with your time. And it's great to talk to you. It's , uh , it's been a pleasure, Dana. Thanks a lot.

Speaker 3:

[inaudible]

Speaker 5:

All right . Paul Niland , uh , helped set up , uh , lifeline Ukraine, which is the country's first national , uh , 24 seven suicide prevention and mental health support services. And he joins me from Kia , I believe. That's correct. Yeah. Hi, Paul, what is the, what is the human toll of this war that , um, you know, two 20 soldiers, Ukrainian soldiers have been killed so far this year, but this is going on year by year, by year, since 2014, the war started in the Donbass in the spring of 2014. Exactly. Um, uh , initially ground zero in fact, was a city called Slovenians , um, not a place that had been known for any kind of intense pro-Russian sentiment. But , um , that was, that was where it started. That was a , that was the outbreak of hostilities. Um, and then once the Ukrainian army got into swing , um, and went out to , uh, the Eastern and started driving people back , uh, the, the, the Russians.

Speaker 6:

So there's a guy that the initial commander was a guy called Eagle Gherkin . Um, and , uh, he pulled his forces back from Slovenians , um, and made the nets to the main city of vignettes , uh , then main base , uh , prior to that, you know, we slowed down to being further out. Um, then the ask was, was like a given , um, and it was supposed to be protected by the further outposts of, of , uh, of, of population centers that had been being taken over. But it's like the answer itself is a , it's a very interesting , uh, example to talk about the outbreak of the war. Um , because after liberation Slovenians returned to being a , uh , a peaceful part of, you know, government controlled Ukraine and , and, you know, th there's not a wide number of, of residents of Slovenians that are clamoring to be

Speaker 4:

It's important, right? Because Russia says that these are grassroots rebellions , um, and that would, that would indicate something different.

Speaker 6:

Uh, in the , the reality is the exact opposite. It's not grassroots at all. Um, you know, I have many friends who have , uh, left the Donbass because of the, the, the war there. And, you know, they tell me, I , I hear it from them firsthand. Th th they had no inkling that there was any kind of war that was brewing on the home territory. And the reality that we know now is that Russia pulls all of the strings , um , the entire command and control , uh , hierarchy of the , the military forces. It's all Russia, all of the equipment comes from Russia. All of the ammunition comes from Russia, the fuel for the tanks, you know, it , everything is Russian , many of the fighters, not all of them, but many of them, but even those let's say Ukrainian , uh, people who have signed up to the, the, the, the military forces fighting against Ukraine, they're there , they're under that Russian command and control structure. They are operating.

Speaker 4:

I wish it was not there would, it would the separatists movement movement evaporate tomorrow.

Speaker 6:

Absolutely, absolutely 100%. And in fact, a friend of a friend of mine is the last properly elected mayor of , of Donetsk my friend that I'm talking about. And I mean, a guy I know, well, he was at my wedding and, you know, he , he, he's a businessman from Donetsk. And , and so he was telling me, he hit the mayor, was his, his schoolmate when they , they went to school together and , and that mayor actually sat them together with Gherkin and another guy called Bezlo. And he said to them, what do you need to get out? And he kind of made the sign for handing over cash. What do you need to leave us alone? And they pointed to Moscow and they said, one word, Picasso orders, orders from Moscow. Yeah. It , the entire thing is manufactured and created by Russia. And we know this as well. There's , there's something called the circle of , uh, tapes. And so one of , uh , black male poutines , top advisors, a guy called ludus love circle, you know, he's, he's emails willing to live there's tapes of his conversations. You know, he's, he's the curator of the Kremlin's war against Ukraine. Russia

Speaker 4:

Is there and they use the East , um, as a pressure point , uh , because after their man in Kia of , uh , Yana , Covich fled , uh , the , the , my Dan revolution in 2014 , um, you know, Russia didn't want to let go of Ukraine. So what , what do you think they want in Ukraine to just control the , the near or far their sphere of influence? Uh , is this about money? Is this about fear of the threat from NATO? If you had to, if you had to pick one of them, which would it be?

Speaker 6:

It's not a fear of the, of a threat from NATO. It's a fear of the threat that something like my dad would be repeated in Russia. That's Vladimir Putin's greatest fear. We all know that. And , um, the, the, the revolution actually, excuse me, the revolution wasn't 2014. It was 2013 and 2014. It started on the 21st of November finished when Yanukovych fled on the 22nd of February at night , I used the dates because , um, it's , uh, it's important to describe then what happened after that? So the military operation to grab Crimea began on the 27th of February. So it was five days after Janakova fled just five days. And, you know, in that period, obviously the there's no demonstrable threat to the people of Crimea Putin didn't have to act to , um, to, to protect anybody, which sort of is the pretext that he's trying to line up now for , uh , a new move against Ukraine in the Dom bus . But , um, one of the reasons , um , is because Putin needed to change the narrative very, very quickly. Um, and Putin saw as well at the same, when I say change the narrative Russian media for the 93 days of our revolution had been obsessed with what was going on on the, my down, right. Um, uh , when we, the protesters , I was one of them , um, when we were successful, when, when Yana Covich fled , um, a new propaganda narrative was needed, and it was the , the , the seizure of Crimea and , um, you know, primarily, I would say the , yes, changing the narrative was important, but , uh, it's really all about Russia's military base. And, you know, from the more militarized Crimea, Russia has , uh, maintained various military operations.

Speaker 4:

So we , I mean, we understand why that's important to the black sea and why that might be important to the Russian Navy, but I don't understand strategically what they're getting out of the East, other than keeping Ukraine unbalanced. It does that, it

Speaker 6:

Keeps you crane unbalanced. Yeah. Um, but again, like if we talk about the, the narratives that come out, it's like keeping plates spinning, right. When, when you see someone doing that trick and they've got all of their sticks and the plates, and, you know, once, once the , uh, jubilation over the , the theft of , of Crimea had started to wane a little , um, Russia needed something else to talk about. And, and the other thing that they needed as well was leverage. So the international community obviously rejected Russia's claims of Crimea is now part of Russia, full stop get over it. And so in part, the, the, the conflict in Donbass was, was created , um, as a leverage, as a, as a tool , um, in negotiations. And we've seen it being discussed quite openly, what they say is, okay, if you forget the Donbass question, sorry, you forget the Crimea question, then we'll use our influence direction really over the people in, in Donbass and Ukraine can return to being a peaceful place. That that's what they've attempted to try to negotiate several times. So they create their own problem to give themselves a bargaining chip. What is it ?

Speaker 4:

It's a feeling in Ukraine right now, as you see, you know, a number of sort of brigade size forces on the border. I mean, up to re you know, an additional 4,000, but probably is some 25,000 Russian forces pushing into the Crimea area . And along the Eastern border,

Speaker 6:

The , the , the feeling is really one of fear. Um, because we know that military action is, is, you know , something that , um, is , is quite likely I see in , in this kind of situation, I was, I was looking earlier on , um, there was a defense analysis from , uh, Finland who , who had looked at the kind, or the nature of the tanks that we're seeing being moved towards Ukraine's border. Um, and on the front of them, they have, they have mind clearing , um, equipment , uh , on the back of them. They have long range, fuel tanks, for example. So, you know, that, that, to me says that the preparations that are going on certainly are about , um, potentially attempting to seize more territory. And when I say fear, you know, we obviously, we don't want that to happen. We don't want to have our soldiers face a more intense war again, then , you know, the war is never stopped. You mentioned earlier on 20 , uh , Ukrainian military who died in the last month, but the Wars didn't have never stopped it, it simmered down , um, in the summer of 2014 after Ukraine's forces had successfully liberated lots of towns and cities, the frontline got established in one particular place. Now , it hasn't really moved much since then, but, you know, the, the, the most common form of killing the frontline actually comes from snipers from the Russian side. That's a tactic that they've employed more and more of over the , over the last few years. But if it goes back to full scale war with multiple rocket launch systems and, you know , tanks, and, you know, all the, all these kinds of heavy Russia

Speaker 4:

Would control the airspace as well.

Speaker 6:

Um, that's a really actually interesting question about air superiority. And , um, in, in the early days of the war Ukraine's air force was actually quite active. What that would look like going forward. We've seen their military attack helicopters hovering around the borders of Ukraine over recent days, so that they're obviously looking at places where they can probe. But , um , another thing actually to , to talk about and , and , um, talk about how it is most certainly Russia's direct involvement in this, that this war , the way in fact that they soft up the border is something that has been documented by Bellingcat where we will know who they are now, but I was following them back in the very, very early days. And one of Bellingcat earliest , um, most

Speaker 4:

People don't know what that is. Bellingcat is an investigative website that , uh, has, has done remarkable work in Syria. They've done remarkable work, even on the poisoning of , uh, this group, Alexei Navalny in Russia. And , uh , they use things like geo locating and a lot of different, you know, technical , um , and electronic evidence to do investigations that are very enlightening. But go ahead. Sorry.

Speaker 6:

So yeah, no, exactly that then. So the geo location, what they did , um , was analyzed how in the spring of 2014 Russia shelled Ukrainian territory from Russia , um , and they did this through , uh, geo-locating , uh , exhaust tracks and impact sites , um, from satellite images and prove that thousands and thousands of rockets were fired from Russian territory, from the Russian Federation into Ukraine. And that's how they first softened up the border to enable that the , that, that bigger attack that, that came later,

Speaker 4:

The little green did that pave the way for the little green men who , uh , later on in Russia said, we're all rebels, Ukrainian rebels. So, I mean, is there any illusion there that Ukraine could stand up to Russia and a military fight ?

Speaker 6:

Uh , Ukraine has actually done that. Um, well you, you Ukraine, the Ukrainian armed forces fought the Russians back and they fought them to a stand still and they've held the line ever since. So yeah, no, the Ukrainian army actually, because of their combat experience of the last seven years, then now one of the strongest military forces certainly in , in Europe. And I would estimate anywhere in the world. Interesting. Yeah . And I will say as well, you know what I mean, in my introduction, you mentioned lifeline Ukraine. They want to come back to the organization that created, you know, I , I, to work alongside some of these veterans now, right? Many of my colleagues, because we have a peer to peer support , um, platform, many of my colleagues are veteran veterans and I get to come and be with these guys every day. It's like the biggest privilege for me, really?

Speaker 4:

What is the, let's go back to the very first question, which is the human toll of this, because I mean, I was in my den as well. I was there for the orange revolution before that. And then I was there. I came to the, my Dan at the end of it. Um, and talk to a lot of those young guys that were on the, you know, I don't know if you call them barricades or, I mean, it was a mess. There were , they were taking shelter behind anything they could and , and had built, you know, anything out of tires or anything to evade the security forces of, of , uh, Yanukovych who, you know, who ordered his forces to open fire on , on people there. But , um, you know, they were, then there were a lot of just, you know, teenagers and guys in the early twenties who said that they would then sign up after that. And they were all going to go to the front and face down Russia, and I assume they did and what has happened.

Speaker 6:

Um, so I , I also stood in the orange revolution and , um, the, the revolution of dignity over the 93 days on it, all of it, I was on my for the 89 or two of those 93 days, not around the clock, but I mean, I , I saw all of the things that , that you're describing. And can I just ask

Speaker 4:

You, do you ever hold revolutions there when it's warm?

Speaker 6:

I thought I thought the same thing myself, actually, that we should attempt to

Speaker 4:

Mean to make light of something very serious, but it was free. The orange revolution was minus 35 degrees. I think my dad was also pretty cool.

Speaker 6:

Yeah. The , the coldest period on my done , it was minus 27 minus 28 in the , the week of fighting after the passage of the dictatorship was so Yanukovych is parliament on the 16th of December, past this slew of laws, basically outlawed any kind of protest activity and the next Sunday. So every Sunday was a big meeting with many, many tens of thousands of people, hundreds of thousands of people. The next Sunday, people went around the corner to whether it was a , a roadblock on , uh , the , the street leading to the government quarter to the cabinet of ministers in the parliament building. And it really kicked off there. But that, that week of fighting was terribly cold. It was bitter, it was nasty. But

Speaker 4:

Yeah, I mean , a lot of the same thing has happened in Belarus by the way, but he has Lucas , GENCO has been successful in putting down people and stopping those big demonstrations and Ukrainians were relentless in, in fighting , um, and standing there on that square, no matter what. And , and there were lot of losses. So what happened to all those young men that went to the front and , uh, are they still there today? W w did it , was it a momentary fever that passed, and these are now regular, more seasoned troops on the front lines holding the line?

Speaker 6:

Uh, so one of the things that, that we look at as an indicator for , um, potential PTSD and other kinds of psychological problem is how long a person has actually served at the front four it's when, when we get calls to lifeline Ukraine , um, it's, it's among our first set of questions. How w how long we have long were you serving? So , um, I wouldn't, it would be very few people who have spent the whole seven years on the frontline . I , I recently met a Marine , um, who had spent five years on the front line and , uh , that's, you know, pretty extreme length of service hell of a long time to be in a war zone . It's . Yeah, exactly, exactly. Um, uh, but yeah, many of the people who were on the, my Don young and old , not , not just the younger people, but many of them did, they , they stood on my dime because they were Patriots and, you know, they wanted the better for their country. And they went into defend that country as well.

Speaker 4:

We have a generation of shell shocked Ukrainians who have been fighting this , this war, or, or they're somebody who had been touched by somebody in their family or their , their, you know, their neighbors for seven years now. And it just keeps going.

Speaker 6:

We , we all know somebody who , um, has lost their life. Um, uh, I, in the East , um, there is , there is this generation that , that you mentioned, but it's, it's really a generation of, of war hardened people rather than, rather than shellshocked . Um, you know, we we've become, I mean, one of the things that I participate in my contribution is I , I participate . I tried to participate in the information war , um , side of things, which is why I was happy for the invitation to join you on your, on your podcast today. I like to help people understand the situation in Ukraine and correct myths. And that's, that's really why I became a writer about , uh, about Ukrainian affairs, because someone needed to be explaining this and, you know, hundreds and hundreds of articles later in the Atlantic council and the Canada post and so on. And so on. I'm known for that, but, you know, I'm, I'm just , um , I'm not, I'm not tired of it. Um, I am, I am wary of it though . It's, it's, it's a constant need to push back, especially now as well because to launch new military , uh, activities against Ukraine, Russia needs to create , um, some kind of justification. So, you know, again, we're having to push back at these false narratives and lies, you know, there was a

Speaker 4:

Serious , because that, that propaganda always paves the road before they take real action. And, you know, you can draw lots of parallels with Georgia for exam , for example, where they said that Georgia was becoming more aggressive, Georgia was, you know , pushing into different and attacking. And, and there were some instances of that, but certainly what's playing out in the Russia press of , I mean, I'm an expert on watching Russia and I was based there for 12 years. I can tell you that when you see the escalation in programmed channels in mainstream TV networks that are now carrying messages that, you know, Ukraine is moving forces, Ukraine looks like it's getting set to attack. Ukraine is presenting a problem to the so-called rebels in the East. I mean, it seems that they are paving the road for military intervention.

Speaker 6:

That's exactly what they do precisely. They , they , they , they, they have to ramp up the rhetoric, first of all, to justify their actions that are coming down the line.

Speaker 4:

So people feel it's going to happen.

Speaker 6:

Yes, sadly. Yeah. And , and, you know, the , the can be many, I've seen a lot of people trying to guess at what Putin's kind of motivation is, you know, he has, he has Duma elections coming up later on in the year. So it might this kind of, you know , um, uh, motivate people to be behind him because he's making a stand for the Russians of the Donbass, which is another figment of their imagination and another invention that's coming from them right now. So, you know , I , some people that some people are looking at that I'll go back to what I was saying though, you know, as the , the, the, one of the justifications for the seizure of Crimea, and then later on the , the war in Donbass is, is that domestically Putin cannot allow for that to be a perception in the Russian population of the successful outcome of a revolution. And the same is true in , in Delaware's today, which is why he's, he's involved himself. Then now temporarily propping up Lucas Shanker , but also looking at what the, the , uh, potential other avenues are for the future of a Russian control Belarus. Putin's biggest fear is a my dance style revolution. And it it's actually something, I feel personally quite proud of that . The word my dad is now synonymous with revolution throughout the post-Soviet space. You know, we, we did not, we created that very pleased, but , um, it , it terrifies him unjustifiably. So as well, because he is just, I mean, the most corrupt person surrounded by this camel of thieves, you know, and , um , rightly the Russian people should remove him and stop him from looting billions and billions of dollars out of their country every single year. You know, we see it every time. There's a protest that is planned, like the forces they put out on the streets. They're terrified of letting a, my stone movement take hold. And I think, I think that's , that's, that's , uh , biggest motivator at the moment is, is to try to do something to avoid , um, domestic unrest, because we saw it last week, last year, especially in Habito square, they were relentless and still the winter bit. And, you know , then the other nationwide protests that were organized by Navali , who's obviously never being mistreated in prison where, you know , he shouldn't be, I mean, he was in prison for breaking the terms of the roll that's . I mean, Ukraine would be a train , would be a tragic distraction from his domestic problems. And let's hope that while it's a tinderbox that , uh, you know, he is, he's trying to rattle the West and he doesn't go any further, but thank you so much for your time. It's been my pleasure talking to you. Thank you, Dana.

Speaker 3:

This backstory on the Ukraine, Russia conflict, we will keep watching this standoff and bring you updates on our newsletter. Dana Lewis dot sub stack.com. Please subscribe to the newsletter and share this podcast. I'm Dana Lewis. Thanks for listening. And I'll talk to you again soon .

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