BACK STORY with DANA LEWIS

Climate Crisis - Afghanistan - Ukraine

November 05, 2021 Dana Lewis Season 4 Episode 11
BACK STORY with DANA LEWIS
Climate Crisis - Afghanistan - Ukraine
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

A mixed podcast this week as we tackle some of the biggest International Stories of the week.

On Climate and the summit in Glasgow COP26, we speak to UCL's Professor Mark Maslin.

The bloody attack on a Kabul, Afghanistan hospital has Western counter terror experts trying to navigate threats from ISIS-K while avoiding working with the Taliban. We speak to the Soufan's Colin Clarke.

And, Ukraine and Russia. The deteriorating 8 year war and a new study showing Russia is supplying the bullets and bombs.  We talk to the Pershing Chair's (Ret) Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges.

Speaker 1:

[inaudible]

Speaker 2:

Hi everyone. And welcome to another edition of backstory. I'm Dana Lewis. This week, the climate conference in Glasgow, Scott cop 26. Isn't snowing progress on slowing global warming at stake, our planet. And if they don't get it right, climate catastrophes will hit every country in the coming decades and Afghanistan, a gruesome attack on a hospital in Kabul , by ISIS K, which is challenging the Taliban. How does the west cripple ISIS without signing up to support its 20 year enemy, the Taliban and also Ukraine and Russia. The eight year war is suddenly deteriorating. Russia is deeply involved by all accounts and a new study showing its supplies, the bullets and the bomb .

Speaker 3:

All right , professor mark muslin is part of university college London's climate hub, an interdisciplinary and group of academics, research and climate change. And he's at cop 26 in Glasgow. Hi mark. Hi, how are you? Very well, thank you for doing this. I know you're a climate expert. Um, and that was your official title that I read, but I know you've written a lot. Um , and I've read a lot of , of what you've been writing on, on climate change. So look, just bring me up to after a week of being at cop 26 high expectations going into this conference to address climate change. But also there were a lot of skeptics saying that we would not reach 1.5 degrees in terms of a commitment to reduce global warming. What would you say after a week? How are you feeling about it?

Speaker 4:

So I think people have strange expectations of this cop and I think it's because they haven't realized that the world has moved on. So the Paris agreement, which was 2015 was the baseline. This is, was a brilliant agreement that all hundred 97 countries signed up to, which was the cause , keep emissions , uh, as low as possible to keep temperatures significantly below two degrees and perhaps one and a half degrees, if possible. And so what cop 26 in Glasgow is , is actually really very bureaucratic. It's a lots of negotiations about, okay, now we've agreed this, how do we do it? So there'd been lots of mini announcements or this week already on deforestation, on the use of limiting coal and all of those sort of areas and finance. But what people are expecting is this big, huge announcement, which isn't going to happen because what it is, is it's really about the numbers, the counter , and actually trying to align countries all onto that one and a half degree target,

Speaker 3:

Right. But you know, Paris was agreed to, and then countries like the U S under president, Trump walked away from the agreements. And since then there has been general consensus in the scientific community. And you can tell me if I'm misquoting the scientific community. And that's a , a very big generalization on my part, but there has been a general consensus of failure that we are moving too slowly. And we are not ever going to reach those targets leading up to maybe in the last year, if you, if, if you would allow me one more , um, you know, sub question within this, this very long question within the last year, maybe because of climate crisis , there has been a realization by world leaders that they better get on with it.

Speaker 4:

Well, I completely agree with you . We've had 30 years of failed negotiations. I mean, I can go back to 1989 when Margaret Thatcher stood up in front of the UN in front of the leaders of the world and said, climate change is a major issue. And we, the leaders of the world should deal with it. And that was over 30 years ago. So I agree with you. However, coming into this cop , you have to realize that the mood has changed one, the new , uh, I would say the new feeling about how we're going to actually tackle climate change has changed. So we're now using the term net zero. I mean, this is unheard of two or three years ago. So every country, even if they know what to it's actually on that path and being told that they need to get to net zero emissions by the middle of the century, but we had some big announcements before cop . So cause we've had the UK, that's going to reduce their emissions by something like 78% by 2030. And we'll be net zero by 2050, the EU will reduce their emissions by 2030 by 55 and get to net zero by 2050. Then last year, president of China, he announces to the UN that yes, their emissions will peak by, or just before 2030, but then they were hitting net zero by 2016 and then the big one by 26 years. And then the next, the big one, which was in spring when president Biden turned around and said, the us will half their emissions by 2030, and we'll hit net zero by 2050 . Now this is incredibly different from two or three years ago. So you have the three major economic powers in the world or going to net zero. And then at beginning of this cop, you had India for the first actually making announcements on climate change and making pledges, huge pledge and trying to , uh, increase the amount of renewables by 2030. And they're going to go net zero by 20, 70. And before you said, yes, we all know that's too late. Say we China's too late, but guess what? They actually stated it. And it is now on their statute books. And so we have something to negotiate with

Speaker 3:

When you're sending to negotiate with China, didn't even come to the conference. Uh, the us called them out and they called out Russia , uh , for not attending, although they had offered to do video attendance. Um, and then China's turned around and said, the U has the largest cumulative emitter of greenhouse gases should face up to its historical responsibilities and show greater ambition to reduce its emissions. So it's very politicized. And the big countries, the biggest polluters are kind of, you know, casting about throwing punches at one another. But are we, you know , are, are we getting any closer to that 1.5 degrees because otherwise it's going to be a hell of a half century after 2050 .

Speaker 4:

So the first thing I would say is none of us would expect anything different, lots of saber rattling. So a punching of chess , et cetera, this is geopolitics. But one thing that people don't realize is that the whole negotiation between 197 countries really doesn't happen in any other form . So actually climate change brings the world together and actually mix all these leaders, have to discuss finance , uh , emissions energy. So it's a really interesting way that sort of like there's a crisis, but it actually means that these countries have to deal with each other in a detailed way.

Speaker 3:

Is there one, is there sort of jumping in again , is there one thing that you have heard this week that makes you more hopeful than any other thing? Was it commitments on coal ? Was it deforestation? Was it anything in particular?

Speaker 4:

Uh, so I , I have to say, I think the commitments on coal and I think it's sometimes individual countries that suddenly say something nice step back and go, wow, that's actually amazing. So I'll take surf , South Korea, South Korea, all of its electricity comes from 60 coal fire power stations. And of course, guess what? They complain about air pollution all the time. Admittedly, they blame China and not their own coal power stations, but they have committed to getting rid of coal by 2040 and going zero by 2050. And so these are incredible announcements. I also come back to your point about the world leaders not being here. And I think that's a bit of a, a politicized and where the media are trying to throw stones, because if the negotiate something the premier mean , come on, we've had two years of lockdown. We know that everybody's connected by zoom teams. It's WhatsApp. Yeah . The premier of China is not going to be going, oh, I'm sorry guys. What did you say? What did you negotiate? What did you agree? I mean, he's going to be on there 24, 7 guy . Yes, no, yes. Certainly. No. Tell them, so again, we live in is in connected world and live in the middle of a pandemic for leaders to actually turn up and have to shake a hand, does not necessarily mean there's a lack of commitment.

Speaker 3:

Fair enough. And to conclude what would be your biggest criticism or, or what do you feel now is still the biggest obstacle in front of us to stop climate catastrophe?

Speaker 4:

So the biggest thing is fossil fuel subsidies. So the interesting thing is the international energy authority suggest that there was something like two and a half trillion dollars spent by countries on subsidizing fossil fuel production. And this is madness because we already know that renewable energy is cheaper to build cheaper Travon and actually produces electricity at a cheaper rate for the customer. However, because of those subsidies and there's also another steam, the tail because international banks will only loan money to countries and they'll do it at a lower plate for coal-fired power station than they will do for renewables because they have this risk analysis. It sounds ridiculous. It is ridiculous because, and again, that's why , um , this cop is all about the bureaucracy is all about the details. So we, again, stupidly, if we can actually get to high finance, if we can deal with the bankers and basically go , this is madness. Do not believe your black box model. You cannot have a difference then suddenly that shifts the economy. And so weirdly enough at cop , it may not be the pain , the chest and the big country announcements. It may actually be taking a bunch of bankers into room. A guy , your risk analysis is wrong. Could you please lend at the same rate, both for renewables and for coal power stations because their least developed countries will always take the renewables

Speaker 3:

Professor, mark Maslin from UCL. Mark. Thanks so much

Speaker 4:

Pleasure. Pleasure to be on with you.

Speaker 1:

[inaudible]

Speaker 3:

Alright . Colin Clark is with the suit fan center. He's written a lot on Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda the Taliban ISIS K and he's an expert on terrorism and insurgencies. Hi Colin. Thanks for having me. Look, that is a bloody brutal attack on the hospital. In cobble this week, 20 people killed at least 16 injured , um, you know, a hallmark of, of ISIS and Al-Qaeda frankly, what, what is going on? Why are they attacking the Taliban?

Speaker 5:

Well, ISIS is attacking the Taliban because they're , uh , mortal enemies. They're at odds with one another. You've got on one side of the ledger, the Taliban Connie allies, and Al Qaeda and ISIS on the other. And they fundamentally disagree with , uh , how Afghanistan should be governed. Uh , the Taliban's extreme. Believe it or not, ISIS, K's even more extreme than the Taliban.

Speaker 3:

And what are they looking to do? Are they looking to destabilize Afghanistan and try to route the Taliban, which seems impossible at this point?

Speaker 5:

Yeah, I think that the ISIS K is really fighting for survival. The Taliban is the, you know , uh, the, the organization that needs to stamp out what remains of ISIS. K while I says, K , uh , is trying to hold on to what territory , uh , it is able to operate freely in. It's trying to show the Afghan people that the Taliban and capable of providing effective governance and security. Look, the roles have been switched. This was what the Taliban had been doing to the Afghan government and the us led coalition for the last 20 years. Now, the Taliban is effectively the counter insurgent while ISIS is staging. And upstarting insurgency

Speaker 3:

Taliban as an insurgency suddenly, what strategy, what tactics, what expertise do they have in, in being counted in fighting a counterinsurgency ?

Speaker 5:

None, frankly. Uh, and we're seeing that that's evident right now. Uh, and so even though the Taliban , uh, both qualitatively and quantitatively are superior to ISIS, K you know, the Islamic state is going to be a thorn in its side for the foreseeable future. Uh, this isn't , uh , you know, a group that's going to , uh , go away lightly. And I , and I think, you know , we're seeing right now that Taliban struggles to protect , uh, Afghan civilians ISKA is highly sectarian. Uh , and so the Taliban's even accused of, you know , not caring about Shia Hazara. And I think, you know, for me, there's two big issues. One does this draw foreign fighters into the country? Uh , I think, you know, the answer to that is going to be, yes. The question becomes the followup question becomes how many, and is it significant, excuse me. And then also the role of re

Speaker 3:

Well, let me, let me jump in there before you go on with the other also. And is that the , is this a shadow of what we saw in Iraq and Syria where suddenly this fight by Islamic state becomes a rallying cry in the Arab world?

Speaker 5:

Well, I don't think it will be in the Arab world because you know, this is Afghanistan. And so it's a, it's a non Arab population. You may see Muslims traveling from the region itself. Remember a foreign fighter, is anyone from outside of Afghanistan. So I think, you know, from central Asian countries, from Pakistan , uh , from other parts of the immediate surrounding region, you may have a trickle of Westerners, Europeans and others. Uh, but I think this will likely remain a regional fight

Speaker 3:

And Chechens who have been fighting in there a lot against us forces and NATO force .

Speaker 5:

Yeah. Chechens and weekers and Uzbeks and others, again, that, that was directly connected to the second point I was going to make, which is had a regional countries and, and , you know, those powers respond , uh, Iran, Russia, China , uh , et cetera. And , and so that's a question I think that's still to be determined.

Speaker 3:

What does the west view on this now? I mean , uh , did they step in and try and support the Taliban who they've been fighting for 20 years or do they take on the Islamic state? Um , you know, and, and, and ignore the Taliban and their conflict. I mean, how in the world do we navigate this?

Speaker 5:

It's a terrible predicament. There's really zero good options. It's pick your poison a more or less. And so , uh, even if the United States and its allies, you know, work to defeat ISIS, K , which, which they plan to that helps the Taliban, the Taliban has within its leadership , uh , members of the Connie network, which is a U S designated FTO. Uh , and so it's really just a terrible options for the United States , uh, which is now operating with pretty minimal leverage in Afghanistan.

Speaker 3:

And if they decide they want to go against ISIS K or carry out operations against ISIS, K how do they do it? I mean, and do it from what terrorist .

Speaker 5:

Yeah. This is the whole conundrum of , uh , over the horizon. And we're already seeing the complications that we saw that with the August 29th strike , uh, that led to the deaths of 10 civilians, including seven children. I think that's emblematic really of what we're likely to see , uh , with over the horizon. And does it make the U S gunshot to go after ISIS K high ranking, high , high value targets and militants probably. Uh, and , and with that, do we have , uh, this group that's able to kind of gain a , a toehold and expand in parts of Eastern Afghanistan, along the border with Pakistan. And, you know, if you listen to Colin, call's testimony, six to 12 months from now potentially pose a serious threat to the west,

Speaker 3:

That's what I was going to ask you. Do you really believe that that ISIS cave suddenly would pose a serious threat to the west from Afghanistan? How

Speaker 5:

Look, I think we've underestimated ISIS at every turn. If you look at the capabilities of this group , uh, how they've managed to plot external operations , uh, I'm talking about ISIS globally. Uh , I certainly don't think we can count out. It would be , uh, you know , foolish to think that ISIS K couldn't put together , uh , you know, an external operations unit capable of attacking the west. There was an attempt in April, 2020 in Germany linked back to ISIS case. So I think , uh , clearly the intent is there. They're now working on growing the capability

Speaker 3:

In all of this.

Speaker 5:

Exactly. You rarely hear about Al Qaeda or read about Al Qaeda, which should be a huge concern. I think Al Qaeda is biding its time. Uh , it's thrilled that the pal Dan's back in power , uh, and they're continuing to do what, what Bruce Hoffman, you know , uh, said several years ago, which is quietly and patiently rebuilding. That's worked well for them. And I don't see them changing strategy anytime soon,

Speaker 3:

If you were advising the us government right now, and I know you're not, but w w would you, maybe you are, would you advise them to take on ISIS , uh, sooner than later? Because if you don't , uh, it will come back and bite you.

Speaker 5:

Yeah. I mean, you have to deal with ISIS, even if it is at the cost of helping the Taliban, whether we like it or not, the Taliban's the de facto government of Afghanistan that you deal with the ISIS threat first , uh, and then you figure out how to move forward with the Taliban.

Speaker 3:

Are you advising the us government? All right . I wanted to clarify that since I, I'm saying that with a smile calling , thank you so much. Good to talk to you.

Speaker 5:

Thanks

Speaker 3:

Us. Lieutenant general, retired Ben Hodges holds the Pershing chair and strategic studies at the center for European policy analysis. And you served as commanding general in the United States army in Europe. I'd been good morning. It's always great to talk to you, sir. And , uh, you know, a lot has been happening in Ukraine. And tell me if your impression is the same as mine, but when you take a look at it from everything from OSC, observer , uh , mission , uh, cease fire problems to arm shipments, to an escalating , uh , chapter in fighting it, it would appear we are entering a darker chapter.

Speaker 6:

Yeah, I think , uh, this , this is sort of the next phase of what's been going on now since their , their invasion of Ukraine and illegal annexation of Crimea , um, that the overall strategic objective is not necessarily an invasion of Ukraine, but to undermine Ukraine and , and present Ukraine to the west as a failed state , uh, so that there is no desire in the west to bring Ukraine into the EU or into NATO. So I think that's, and to make sure you've got this failed state, if you will , uh, on its , its periphery of its a frontier

Speaker 3:

Always denies . They denied that they were in Ukraine. They denied that they've supported the rebels. They've denied arms shipments. Now we have a new study that's just come out , um, of, of weapons and ammunition used in the war, which shows Russia has been systematically fanning the conflict with arms shipments, according to a new which was funded by the European union and the German government. I sense you are not surprised by any of that, but it is a detailed evidentiary based report on arm shipments directly from Russian arms manufacturers into Eastern Ukraine.

Speaker 6:

Yeah. You know, Ray Charles could see that the Russians are , um, all over this and , and Donbass as well as Grammy , a maintenance, Russian led . Uh, there's no way that , um, so-called separatists could sustain the level of , uh, ammunition expenditure that technology. If these were just, you know, guys putting stuff together in barns or in their, in their mom's basement. So clearly state , uh , supported state led , uh , and the OSC of course, to brave women and men from 57 different countries, including Russia , uh, there a special monitoring mission has been prevented from observing the border between the official border between Russia and Ukraine. And , uh, yeah, it's clear that , uh, we know about Russian leadership and involvement that the issue is what will Germany and France in particular do about it?

Speaker 3:

What should they do

Speaker 6:

About it? Well, number one, they should put pressure on the criminals to live up to agreements, to respect international law. I think that , uh , Berlin is the only capital that can actually influence criminal behavior, but there is just significant reluctance to , to really put the screws on them, through economic pressure and diplomatic pressure because, you know , I mean there's gas and there's so many other , uh, issues , uh , linking Germany to Russia. And then there's a reluctance to , um, hold them accountable. But that's, that's what should be happening instead of allowing this fairytale to that keeps coming out of the Kremlin that somehow, you know , um, Ukraine is drawing us into this it's Ukraine, the aggressor. And so on,

Speaker 3:

They've said that recently, because Ukraine has now obtained these Turkish drones , um, that are able to hit Russian positions, which have been according to the Ukrainians have been shelling very hard into Ukrainian positions. Um, and sorry, I should say Russian rebel positions because the Russians would deny that that's their artillery. Um, but the , the criminal in the same , that's a dangerous escalation, the use of drones by the Ukrainian army against those rebel positions.

Speaker 6:

Well that , again, this is classic textbook Kremlin narrative shaping to , to put, put it on the Ukrainians because Ukrainians trying to defend themselves. And then the pathetic really disgusting response of Germany and France was that, you know, to just test the Ukrainians for escalating what was going on. And instead of putting the pressure on the Kremlin , uh, to get things under control, could, they could stop it in the same day instead, you know , the message that came out from Berlin and Paris was that somehow Ukraine was responsible for escalation. That that's the narrative part that is so damaging. And , and , uh , and frankly it's just not right.

Speaker 3:

It's damaging. Is it dangerous because it doesn't give a green light to Russia to go further?

Speaker 6:

Well, the criminal knows that nobody's going to really stop them. I mean, they're there , nobody's going to actually do anything to force them to , uh , stop the killing of Ukrainian soldiers , uh, to , uh, respect Ukrainian sovereignty. Um , they feel pretty confident that since they invaded , uh, seven years ago, I mean, what, what has the west done? Not that NATO has gotten stronger, more prepared, but the criminal has felt no pain for anything they'd done in Ukraine with the exceptions of sanctions that were in place after this Malaysian airliner was shot down to killed over a hundred Dutch citizens, then that, that got sanctioned . But none of the other stuff is really resulted in any , um, punishment, if you will, for criminal and illegal behavior,

Speaker 3:

You mentioned NATO, Russia has been kicked out of observer status in NATO. They were never a member of NATO they've been accused of spying. So they were to be clear. And I should clarify what I just said, that they were asked to remove some of its members from the observer mission for spying in NATO, and then Russia withdrew fully from its observer status in NATO. What, what does all that mean ? Well ,

Speaker 6:

Um , first of all, nobody would be surprised that members of the Russian delegation that were invited into NATO as part of the NATO Russia council , which is this mechanism that's been in place for years to enable constant dialogue , uh , face-to-face meetings. And so on between the Russian Federation and NATO, nobody's surprised that members of the delegation were doing things that they shouldn't have been doing. And so finally , uh, the Alliance said, okay, that's enough. You ate these guys, get them out of here. That's, that's responsible behavior by the west by NATO to hold Russia accountable to international standards,

Speaker 3:

And then Russia fully withdrew. Yeah ,

Speaker 6:

Good get them out. And , um, and , and then of course that unfortunately results in the closing for some period of time of the NATO information center in Moscow. So, I mean, these are all things , um, that the Kremlin is doing to affect a narrative. Um, and of course they have a domestic audience that they , uh , I'll have to appeal to that somehow Russia is being encroached upon by NATO that , uh , Russia is being threatened on its periphery. And this feeds that criminal narrative for the wrong people.

Speaker 3:

Is there momentum, Ben , do you think that is gaining now for Ukraine to join NATO? I talked to , uh , a lawyer friend of mine who, who does work in Ukraine and he says a lot of people just now feel that they should push on with NATO membership , um, that there is no point in, in a long road to NATO and that he believes that the west , uh , is probably warming to that idea because the conflict is not going to end. And we may as well take Ukraine into NATO sooner than later.

Speaker 6:

Well , uh , I don't, I don't agree with that. Um , of course I would like to see Ukraine and Georgia , uh , be in the Alliance, but there's some very important work that has to be done. This is not just about, you know , everybody agreeing that , uh, somebody gets to join the rotary club or the lions club. I mean, this, this is a , uh, an Alliance of 30 nations. Uh , that's committed to the collective defense of all of its members. And so the decision to bring in , uh, other members, new members has to be put within a strategic context and what's missing right now is a strategy or U S strategy. First of all, for the black sea region and then NATO strategy for the black sea region that that thinks about what are the, what do we want to accomplish here? What's the desired outcome. Uh, and it involves not just military, but information economy and , uh , diplomatic efforts as well. And so , um, I think we've got to get the strategy right first and also the United States, really, we need to normalize or have a, a normal bilateral relationship with Ukraine , uh, right now I think people in Washington. And if you say Ukraine, you know, the first thing I think of is Giuliani and hunter Biden's laptop and, you know, Trump and that sort of thing. And , and , uh, I think we need to have a normal relationship that has all the different facets of a bilateral relationship strengthens that. And then we can do the hard diplomatic work required to convince Germany France, the Netherlands, Italy, that the Alliance will be better with the Ukraine and

Speaker 3:

Retired Lieutenant general. Ben has always an honor to talk to you, sir. Thanks so much.

Speaker 6:

And thank you for the privilege

Speaker 2:

And that's our backstory podcast this week. Thanks to our guests, professor Maslin , the superfans , Colin Clark, and as always the super smart and insightful former Lieutenant general Ben Hodges, you can subscribe to our backstory newsletter for briefs during the week@danalewisdotsubstock.com . I am Dana Lewis. Thanks for listening. And I'll talk to you again soon.

Speaker 1:

[inaudible] .

Prof. Mark Maslin
Colin Clarke - Soufan
Ret Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges