The Voices of War

68. Special Release: Dr. Mike Martin And John Spencer - An Update On Ukraine

VOW 68 | Ukraine Update


Today, I spoke with Dr. Mike Martin and John Spencer who joined me for an update on the situation in Ukraine. This conversation was recorded just after 9pm on the evening of 22nd of September, Ukraine time.


Some other topics we covered are:

  • Impact of recent Russian battlefield losses
  • Significance of Putin’s ‘partial mobilisation’ and what it might mean
  • Attrition vs. Manoeuvre warfare
  • Possible next moves by Ukraine
  • The narrative surrounding the ‘referendums’ and their possible purpose
  • Thoughts on the ongoing weapons debate, such as about ATACMS
  • The risk of a collapsed Russia
  • Predictions for upcoming weeks and months

My previous conversations with Mike and John about Ukraine can be found below:

  1. John Spencer – On Ukraine, Urban Warfare and lessons learnt
  2. Dr Mike Martin and LTGEN (Ret.) Arne Dalhaug – Update on the Russian invasion of Ukraine

If you like what you’ve heard, please consider liking and reviewing the show wherever you get your pods. You can also support the show on our Patreon page here.

Listen to the podcast here


Special Release: Dr. Mike Martin And John Spencer – An Update On Ukraine

In this episode, I’m speaking with Mike Martin and John Spencer, who are both prominent commentators on the invasion of Ukraine and need little introduction. They have both appeared on the show in the past. They joined me for an update on the situation in Ukraine. Mike is joining us from London, and John is from his home in Colorado Springs. Gentlemen, welcome back to the show.

Hello, mate.

Maz, thanks for having me back.

Gentlemen, to timestamp this conversation, we’re recording this after 9:00 PM of the 22nd of September, 2022, in Ukraine time. There are lots to cover, and our time is rather short, so we’ll get straight into it. Mike, we’ll start with you. Can you give us a summary of what you see happening in Ukraine at the moment?

Russia has suffered. It’s the second big reversal. The first one was in April 2022, when they withdrew their troops from Iran and Kyiv and went back into Belarus. That was them accepting that they weren’t going to decapitate the Ukrainian government. We’ve seen this second one where the Ukrainians punched through the Russian lines, took out lots of their logistics, and caused the whole front line to collapse. Whilst they’ve been doing that, they’ve also been pushing ahead with their offensive on the Southern border, which is in the direction of Crimea.

The Russian strategic sense of gravity tied up lots of Russian troops down there. Since that, the offensive probably took 9,000 square kilometres or something. It’s a huge amount of territory. Since then, the Russians haven’t been able to stabilise their front line. They tried to stabilise it on a river called the River Oskil, but the Ukrainians have crossed that in several places. The Ukrainians have got back into Luhansk. You remember the Russians announced, “We’ve got Luhansk. That’s 1 of the 2 we need to get done next, and then we’re done with our war here.” It’s been a real disaster. The entire formation was wiped out like the 1st Guards Tank Army.

This is an elite unit. That’s what they like to call it, at least.

The sixteen pair.

It’s thrown around a lot, but it’s a whole named unit that’s got a folklore about it. It was gone. The stories that we hear are Russian troops changing their uniforms, running away, abandoning loads of equipment, and the Ukrainians ever masterful on info ops are tweeting, “We’d like to thank the Russians for their latest arms deliveries for our war effort.” It’s been a disaster for Russia, and it’s not over yet. They haven’t stabilised that frontline. They haven’t got tweets. They’ve lost loads of equipment. Watch this space.

John, I not only suspect, but you’re pretty closely tapped into the tactical situation on the ground. What’s it looking like from your end?

I agree with Mike. It looks like the second biggest defeat of the Russian military on the field of battle since the abandonment of their primary strategic objective, which is regime change in Ukraine, taking the capital city. As a tactical guy, I also look at what we’re seeing in the areas that are being taken, not just the abandoned equipment but the quality of the equipment, the order and discipline of the troops that we’re seeing, which even surprised Ukrainians, to be honest.

One is what was left of some of the Rosgvardia and LPR and DPR when faced with any resistance that folded, but also the state that they were living in and the quality of the positions. I agree with Mike. There’s lots of fighting happening, but trying to connect strategy down to tactics. Also, the announcements coming out of the Kremlin are a very big sign of how’s it going.

Let’s get into that because that is the most prominent topic at the moment, Putin’s partial mobilisation of allegedly 300,000 reserves. What do you make of this move? Who are these poor conscripts? We’re seeing images of that emerging as to who they are, but what’s the likely impact over to you, John?

It’s a call of up to 30,000, what they call reserves. They don’t have a reserve like what we in the West would think of, like units that train regularly or anything. These are younger personnel who have served for some amount of time and done their mandatory service that was sent notices to report back to duty. You’ll be given two weeks of refresher training and then sent straight to the front line, which is crazy because you think about what we’re seeing about the frontline, and you’re going to flow people in.

Most of us understand. It’s cannon fodder because how do you do mass mobilisations? One, you spin up your country and create the infrastructure to receive, even if it’s somebody who served in the military for 2 or 4 years. You create new units or soldiers ready to plug into units. Russia doesn’t have the capacity and the infrastructure to do that.

We’ve seen videos of them putting them on buses. They’re going to bus them somewhere and then somehow, if they can logistically, get them to these BTGs and units that are already in such poor quality. Mike, I know why we fight. We want to touch on what it looks like when you take somebody. Conscript is used overall. People talk about conscripts. Sometimes, that’s a mandatory service. They still showed up to serve.

Although it’s of people who have served before, that’s what they call reserves, Russia started the draft, which hasn’t had to do since World War II. It’s significant because what they also did was stop the loss of the conscripts that are currently in from leaving. I can tell you that even from a very highly motivated professional unit when you receive people that are forced into service or not to be let go if you didn’t have problems already, which the Russians do, they’re going to have a lot of surgery problems.

VOW 68 | Ukraine Update
Ukraine Update: When you receive people that are forced into service or are not to be let go, if you didn’t have problems already, which the Russians do, they’re going to have a lot of surgery problems.



There’s a patchwork quilt of Russian military force in Ukraine. You’ve got the professional Army, which one assumes these recruits are going to flow into. You’ve got the Wagner beyond the city. It’s not clear. Here are the force providers. You’ve got the Russian Army, the Wagner Group, and the PMCs. We’ve seen videos of them recruiting prisoners and also reports that when they get to the front line, they surrender immediately. They get back to the 23-year prison in Russia. You got ChatChins. There’s another guy I can’t remember, beginning with P, who’s got his little private Army.

You’ve got a bunch of private Armies in Ukraine, and they don’t speak to each other. There’s not a unified chain of command. We heard that Putin’s reaching right down to the battlefield to talk to tactical, operational commanders to command them. The whole strategic layer of Russian command is missing. Into that, you’re going to inject a bunch of guys who have had two weeks of training. Most of the training battalions are in Ukraine already, so the trainers are either dead or fighting. The soldiers are not equipped well, and the logistics system is broken. I saw someone say on Twitter, which was very apt, “100 men can run away at the same speed as 10 men but eat 10 times as much food.”

We’re laughing at this, but what we’re seeing seems ludicrous. There’s also the other added layer that is emerging that these are mainly minorities across Russia from the poor areas that are being dragged into this.

It is in Siberia.

It’s insane from some of the poorest regions, which is in every war, it’s going to be your minorities that are going to go and serve. That’s undoubtedly going to start having some corroding effect from those areas when all of their men, all of a sudden, are going to fight for a war for a leader who is not necessarily held in a good light by them anyway.

This is not about generating military capability because you either take a long time developing these reservists, and they go there fighting for 6 months or 3 months. As John said, you put them through a two-week training course, and they can’t afford it. Either way, they don’t generate military capability in the timeframes that you need it.

What’s going on? Since the failure of Kyiv, the Russian collapse at the hands of this Ukrainian offensive. Putin has been taking a lot of flak, and all of these right-wing ultranationalist headbangers on all the talk shows are giving him loads of flak. His fingerprints are all over this war. This is Putin’s war. They’ve been calling for the nuclear annihilation of the West, dropping nuclear bombs on London and Berlin, mobilisation of the whole country, total war, and all that stuff.

This is Putin's war. His fingerprints are all over this war. Click To Tweet

It’s not a total mobilisation because that would cause lots of problems. It’s a partial mobilisation as a sought to the right wing to say, “I’m doing something. I’m getting everything going.” It’s not going to deliver any military capability. It’s not civilians. It’s reservists. Hopefully, it’s not extensive enough to get people revolting.

It’s not the Russian middle class or Moscow that’s being sent to the front. There are more and more protests. John, I see you nodding. Any thoughts on Mike’s previous comments or the protests in Russia?

This is all war’s politics by other means. This is clearly through the advice and the chess game for Russia, but there is a global perception of the action that Putin is having to take. He even said on public TV that he would not do the call of the reserves for his special military operation, which is a sign of defeat. There is an element of desperation.

The protests, although we all know that they’re not big enough to have a real impact, they’re significant. Maybe it’s a little crack, whether it’s the sold-out flights immediately out of Russia or the googling of how to get out of Russia or break arms. All these things are small snippet signs of it isn’t going well, the Russian soldiers in Ukraine or the Russian-Putin regime for sure.

What did you make of the way Putin was treated in Uzbekistan as well by leaders who otherwise should be bowing to him? We saw Erdoğan, and Modi make it quite clear as to where they consider Russia to be at the moment. Any thoughts on that?

I don’t know. It might be a bit bold but you can argue that we’re seeing the beginning of the end of the war. Significant military defeats for Russia on the battlefield. We’ve spoken about this threat to Putin’s right flank that he’s trying to deal with. He’s got domestic troubles. Don’t forget Modi and Russia. India and Russia work a long way. India has been buying all the oil.

During the war, Modi says, “In 2022, we shouldn’t be settling things with war.” Imagine what’s been said in private if this was said in public. We understand that you have concerns and questions about the war. I’ll hope to solve some of those questions for you. Early on, the President of Turkey has been playing this very clever bridging role between Ukraine and Russia.

They organised that grain deal with the Guterres and the UN Secretary-General. He said, “Crimea should go back to its rightful owners.” This is nuts. What everyone has seen was what the Ukrainians demonstrated with that offensive. This is a great example of how the tactical/operational war affects the strategic. The Ukrainians handed the Russians our system on a plate on the battlefield. Suddenly, the international environment shifted, and people realised that Russia was going to lose the war.

If you’ve been studying the war, it’s pretty obvious they’re going to lose it right from the beginning, but suddenly, a load of people has gone, “They’re going to lose all.” Look at them. They’re all realigning themselves to be on the winning side, the winning international coalition. I do think that this is the point at which historians will look at it and go, “That was when the war started to end.”

John, any comments?

I 100% agree, especially when you talk about massive wars. The allies matter whether they’re silent allies or vocal allies. Another point that I was extremely surprised, and some of my friends at Russia, was when Russia had to go to North Korea’s artillery rounds. It’s almost comical. That blew our minds. We all thought they had these Soviet stockpiles of tanks, artillery guns, and artillery rounds.

When you talk about massive wars, the allies matter, whether they're silent allies or vocal allies. Click To Tweet

That was one of the first signs and that was even before they got completely defeated in detail. They got outthought if you look at the operational campaign and Kherson offensive. The Russians were manoeuvring a force towards Kherson. Whether it’s about operational mobility, they were going to sell. The Ukrainians have better intelligence, capitalised on the weakness in the Kharkiv front, and kept going. Mike said that they’re not done yet.

You go to North Korea for your artillery rounds. You have to go to Iran for your drones. It ain’t going well. Also, your prisons. Those are legit. It’s insane. I agree. You don’t like to say this because of how much fighting’s still done. These 30,000 men are going to reach the Ukraine territories and Ukraine’s sovereign land. They’re going to be forced to do something. They’re going to die.

They’re still fighting to be done, especially to take back areas of Luhansk and Donetsk that have been in Russian control for a long time. I used to say the whole Stalin quote, where their quantity has its own quality but, in this case, Russia’s too far gone to add just men to this equation. You can break that down. All the combat arms are tanks and artillery. Adding people isn’t the solution to the problem.

It’s such a great quote, isn’t it? That’s what they’ve tried to do. They tried to fight the Soviet style of warfare. The difference is that the Soviets in World War II had a 6 million-person Army. When Stalin said quantity, that’s what he meant. That’s quantity. They didn’t even have enough. Famously, 1 rifle between 2, off you go. When one gets killed, the other one picks it up. That’s not quantity. They’re talking about a few hundred thousand at most. They started the war with 152. That’s not quantity. That would be the Soviet troops in a tiny sector of the front. It’s completely different. They probably had more motorcyclists than that the Soviet Army in the second mobile.

It’s bizarre. It’s two competing ways to fight a war. It’s trying to flood the front lines with men in this classic attrition-style warfare against decentralised command with highly motivated and trained troops that are embracing manoeuvre warfare. We’re seeing the results. An entire formation to just delete it from the battlefield that shows you a different level of tactical skill or martial skill. John, you were about to say something as well.

I 100% agree. Putin does not have a red Army, not even in the fight of the soldier. He can’t call upon this great reserve of people willing to die from the motherland because that’s not what this is about. Ukraine has an advantage in every measure of warfighting except the number of people. Arguably, we could argue. Nobody knows the true number of the Ukrainian fighting force. Even in its offensive, we’ve seen regular Ukrainian Army, Ukrainian National Guard, and Territorial Defences. They’re combining the legion. I don’t even know if they’re outnumbered.

VOW 68 | Ukraine Update
Ukraine Update: Putin does not have a Red Army, not even in the fight of the soldier. He can’t call upon this great reserve of people willing to die for the motherland.


They’ve got an entire nation to fight.

That’s a nation manoeuvre warfare. You move your troops around so you create local overmatch, even if there are more Russian troops in Ukraine than the Ukrainians, which I severely doubt because it’s the whole nation fighting. They’re much more mobile. As John was saying, they’re outthinking the Russians. They’re achieving local concentrations that enable them to punch through and collapse the logistics. Therefore, the whole front collapses. Those troops will move somewhere else and repeat the trick.

I feel like Putin is a kid saying, “Why don’t you fight me the way I want you to fight me? Come at me.” We’re living in the world, and we don’t have a number of experiences. “Fight me.” “No. I’m going to strike your horse behind you. I’m going to put your soldiers to the test and win the soldiers.” Think about every battle that’s happened so far outside of the small massing effort that they did in May and June 2022 around Severodonetsk.

Take that part of Luhansk. They can’t adapt. They want to fight attrition and mass on mass. Ukrainians won’t give them that. As Mike said, they have better intelligence, and they’ll move faster. They have better weapons, not just including the MLRS or the artillery but the counter-battery and the HARM missile. They’re eroding the Russian military piece by piece.

I want to get to the weapons piece as well. This is one of the most prominent questions asked by the audience as well. One thing that I want to pick up on is the referendums that Putin has called. Tie them in because they are also significant indicators of what potentially Putin’s strategic aims might be by this point. They’re laughable by the rest of the world, but what do you make of these referendums? John, do you have any points? I have my thoughts, but I don’t know if you’ve got any thoughts on that, John.

It’s what the Putin regime needs to do to fit the narrative of defending Russian territory. He wants to rush a vote, but it’s comical because he wants to rush a vote to areas that he doesn’t control militarily like all of the Luhansk region, not just talking about cities. He wants to do a referendum on Luhansk or an oblast that he doesn’t even militarily control, maybe Donetsk. He holds those votes by the constitution is already set up.

Once it happens constitutionally, their marker becomes Russian territory, which then they can use self-defence as their justification for their actions. He’s almost setting up his next act of desperation if he can stage this vote, which is clearly what happens. It’s any type of legitimacy, like inviting some international arbitrator to the votes.

Isn’t it interesting how people who clearly don’t believe in a democracy feel the need to have votes to validate their position? Putin has loads of elections in Russia, which he keeps on winning. I find it interesting. They clearly do feel a weakness or an inferiority complex towards democracy. Otherwise, why would they be having these referendums?

He’s losing the people, even in Kherson, which was one of the first areas seized in March 2022. There was a chance that he could have staged it. He had such control of the area at that moment that it would not have been as laughable, but now you have vibrant, partisan actions happening in these areas, where people who’ve been assigned to control the areas are ending up dead with attacks, bombings, you name it. That’s only going to increase, which furthers that this isn’t about liberating the Russian people, which is ridiculous.

It also ties in with the potential 300,000 recruits that he’s trying to mobilise. I’ve read this commentary elsewhere. We know that these referendums will be affirmative for Russia along the lines of 96%, 88% want to be part of Russia. I read the comments of some pundit on Twitter that these numbers are already known somewhere. They’re in a file somewhere, undoubtedly. They’ll be rolled out. What’s interesting is potentially winter is around the corner. It’s about setting in, digging in, and using these additional troops to go, fill sandbags, and fortify the positions and the new Russian lands.

Is it the domestic audience in Russia that’s the main target audience for it to gain further support for the war at home to stop that support slipping?

Also, to not risk the 60% of apathetic Russians jumping on board and saying, “We don’t support this war when you have referendum numbers. These people want to be Russians. Fine. Let’s carry on with our blissful life of relevance.” That was at least my reading of it. Any comments before we move on?

As an old soldier, it’s needed in his political calculus, but he also understands that he doesn’t have the soul of the soldier to fight. This would be part of that narrative. Why are you fighting? Answer the why. “I’m fighting for my fellow countrymen to be free.” As they occupy these areas and what we’ve seen they have done to the people they’re liberating, why are they committing these genocides in these areas? It all starts to unravel. I see it as also a way like these new people. Give them the why. I’m sure there are talks that they have to have like, “This is why I’m asking you to sacrifice.” War puts that to the test, and winter is coming. That’s going to put that, “Why are you there to test?”

It is a neat segue as well into the next segment I want to cover. Firstly, what can Ukraine do next, given that winter is around the corner? We do also know that Ukraine might not be finished with its plans or exploiting its weaknesses. From your perspective, what do you see happening next? Maybe over to John first.

I agree with you that because the line started collapsing so rapidly, it’s hard to tell where to consolidate your gains versus keep exploiting weaknesses. This is what I strongly believe will happen. Ukraine will have to consolidate gains. It can do that much easier because of things like territorial defences. They’re liberating their lands. They’re doing work. They’re fighting my proverbial three-block wars, a liberating area and then they immediately start all the humanitarian aid, pension pain, and all that stuff.

When the lines start collapsing so rapidly, it's hard to tell where to consolidate your gains versus keep exploiting weaknesses. Click To Tweet

That’s time-consuming. Russia wants Ukraine to temporarily halt. It wants them to solidify the lines to give them time to reconsolidate as they did between April and May 2022 timeframe. People believe that the weather will do that for them. I think that Ukraine is already planning its next moves. It will take Kherson. The winter weather will slow momentum, but it won’t stop the momentum by far.

Ukrainians are going to keep pushing that Western aid, and more packages are being announced, more stuff is being delivered, and more soldiers are being trained in places like the UK and Poland. They’re getting stronger, but they are having to spread out a controlled territory. The Russians are hoping that the winter slows things down for them. I don’t think they will. The Ukrainians will keep attacking them, and that’s what I would do.

What I found interesting as well is that President Zelenskyy made that point in his address to the UN General Assembly. He publicly called out and shamed Putin, saying he wants a pause. He wants us to stop so he can rebuild an attack again in the spring, which I thought was a brave move.

That’s why this victory for Ukraine will be the reclaiming of areas that were controlled before February 24th, 2023, whether that’s the City of Luhansk or fully controlled Donetsk. The next major moment is when they reclaim territory that’s been occupied for eight years or more.

What do you reckon, Mike?

If I were the Ukrainians, what would I do? I agree with John about this. Both sides are nibbling at each other in the Northeast to try and work out where to set the new front line. That looks like it’s continuing. The Russians are finding it hard to stabilise. The Ukrainians are working out exactly how far to extend themselves.

There’s an interesting question. John said that we don’t know how many Ukrainian soldiers there are. What if there’s a strategic reserve? What if there are 10,000 troops mechanised with a little armoured tip, which is what they used up in Kremlin? What if that’s waiting? If they did have that, what would they use it for before the winter?

What I’d use it for before the winter is retaking, say Mariupol, Melitopol, or something along the Black Sea coast to the moment the Russians have got the loads in the East, and they’ve got Crimea and Kherson, but they’ve got this little strip along the Black Sea coast that connects it. I would sever that, and then we’ll settle in for winter. That’s how they move troops backwards and forwards.

Throughout the war, the Russians suffered from the extended supply lines. Think about it. The Ukrainians are fighting inside a circle, so if they need to move troops around, it’s just moving across the circle. If the Russians are trying to fight the war and they want to move troops from the far Northeast to the South, they have to go all the way around the circle. It takes much longer to reinforce.

There’s a huge inbuilt advantage that Ukrainians have, but why not make that even worse? Sever the two bits that are connected. The East suddenly becomes one war, and then the South becomes another war. If you want to cut the South off, then you take out the Kerch Bridge. If you’re in Mariupol, your high arms might have enough range to hit the Kerch Bridge, which is the bridge that connects the Eastern bit of Crimea across Russia. There’s some bold stuff going on. Whether they’ve got the troops to take advantage of it, you could be quite imaginative. They have been so far.

They have the initiative and the world on their side. A small, simple figure of the momentum they’ve got is 101 nations voted in support of having Zelenskyy address the UN General Assembly, and only 7 didn’t. Those seven are your stock standards, like North Korea, Iran, and Syria. It’s not unsurprising at all. One prominent question that keeps popping up is, why is the US refusing to give Ukraine ATACMS, the Army Tactical Missile System? Any thoughts on that from either of you? Many are saying that this could be a decisive change if they were given such weapon systems with such significantly increased range. What are your thoughts? Maybe John and then Mike.

Why didn’t they supply some weapons earlier? It’s a National Security Council decision, weighing risks and benefits. In my opinion, some of it is not fear-based but concern about allowing Putin to escalate because he said certain weapons in his view, which is ridiculous. Ukraine has earned those weapons in how they’ve used the aid that they’ve received so far.

Here’s what I think. Do the Ukrainians need ATACMS to win this war? No. Would it speed up operations in their ability to hit deeper into occupied Ukraine into key objectives? Yes, but keep the aid that is needed. Some of the stuff is about bullets and vehicles. That isn’t the decisive tool. That isn’t saying, “They deserve it.” Some people think they may have variations of it, and there’s a reason why there’s got to be this plausible deniability. I didn’t know what blew up the base in Saky and Crimea. That wasn’t us. It’s something that we grabbed onto, but they should be given any weapon that will help them. That’s my opinion.

Mike, any thoughts?

There are two schools of thoughts in Western capitals. One is that everyone agrees that Ukraine needs to win the war. By winning, I mean evicting Russian forces, but beyond that, there are two schools of thought. If we cause the Russian Army to collapse, then that’s probably the end of Putin. That’s a good thing. Maybe Russia will break up.

VOW 68 | Ukraine Update
Ukraine Update: There are two schools of thought in Western capitals. One is that everyone agrees that Ukraine needs to win the war. The other school of thought is that if the Russian Army collapses and causes the end of Putin, God knows what’s coming next.


The other school of thought is if the Russian Army collapses and it caused the end of Putin, God knows what’s coming next. There are people to the right of Putin, and these guys are real nut jobs. I wonder whether that plays out in the types of weapons that are given because they’re like, “We want to win not too quickly.” If they win too quickly, then we don’t know what’s going to come. I feel like weapons, like all bureaucracy, come out of a process of horse trading in negotiations between these two camps, which are like, “When it’ll be great, and when it’ll be a disaster?”

You see that with Macron. The President of France was saying, “We don’t want to humiliate Putin.” There’s a concern in Europe, certainly amongst European leaders. I don’t know so much about what the US thinks about this. If Putin loses and Russia breaks up or someone worse than Putin gets in power, then that will be an even more of a headache for us to deal with.

That’s potentially a real possibility. If you were to judge it by Twitter, the solution to this is to give Ukraine all the weapons you can get, decimate Russia, and get a coup inside Russia to decapitate Putin, but that does forget the reality that there are still some significant players in Russia who are on the far right and who want total war. It’s in every country in the world. The far of both spectrums are the most motivated. They’re the loudest. They command the most attention. It’s the 60% that are indifferent. The everyday person who’s not wedded either way will end up being folded by the most powerful voices.

There are 5,000 nuclear weapons in Russia. If there’s a coup or some instability, where do they go? What happens with those? Maybe the only thing worse than a strong Russia is a weak Russia.

There are 5,000 nuclear weapons in Russia. If there's a coup or some instability, where do they go? The only thing worse than a strong Russia is a weak Russia. Click To Tweet

We’ve seen what happens. What potentially can happen post the fall of the Soviet Union by decommissioning nuclear weapons? It’s not necessarily the same world.

You are from Bosnia. Look at what happened in the Balkans when a big state that was comprised of different ethnicities came apart. It’s a tinderbox. What would Russia look like if Russia started to come apart?

Undoubtedly, that’s got to be a consideration for European leaders, if not global leaders. Also, what happens if you leave Russia completely destabilised, and there’s a China to the South from the Western perspective?

Russia’s the number one natural resource exporter in the world. A lot of those resources are in the East. It’s not population dense at all but resource-rich. China is population-dense but resource-poor. It seems like China would say, “Thanks very much.” I don’t know.

It is undoubtedly a scenario that holds the power in the West or to be analysing if they’re already not, but I’m sure they already are. I’ll be surprised if this wasn’t part of the calculus, which is why listening to the Twitter pundits is always a little bit dangerous. Sorry, noting both of you are those, so I’ll take that back.

There’s more faith in the quality of our leaders than I do.

I have more faith in the quality of our institutions that exist to analyse this. Even there, I might be too hopeful. Here’s a last question to put you both on the spot and call it. What do the next two weeks hold since this conversation? What should we be looking out for? What are some of those indicators and warnings of this going one way or the other?

For me, that one’s easy. Two weeks at this phase of the war is not that much time. It will take over 2 weeks to see where these Russian soldiers are put with 2 weeks of training. Maybe ask me about two months from this conversation. We didn’t even talk about the air campaign, which is very surprising that’s happening over Kherson. It’s stuff that we haven’t seen in a war before of the number of sorties being flown and things like that.

I can’t make a prediction of 2 weeks or 2 months from this conversation of where that line stabilises in the East. I’d call at least the West of the Dnipro controlled by Ukrainians. That pocket’s going go to fold, personally. The Ukrainians spent so many weeks shaping the conditions for that environment. This is hard. I’ll make the bolder statement that Ukraine achieves victory in a matter of months and not years.

Mike, anything from you?

I pretty much agree. It’s going to be hard. Probably the most interesting thing to watch is where that frontline settles in the Northeast. There are not many defensive positions for the Russians if they get pushed off the reverse school. Where are they going to build that frontline? I’d also agree with John that this is the beginning of the end of the war. We’re looking at Russian defeat after the spring of 2023, but with the speed at which their front lines collapse, if Ukraine has got a strategic reserve, they could do it in 2022.

Gentlemen, on that note, thank you very much. It’s been a fast and furious discussion but enjoyable as always. I’m sure we’ll speak again in the near future. Thank you both.



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