Putin Arrests Intel Officers; Time for U.S. to Discourage this War to Be Fought to the Bitter End?

Simone Gao: (43:59)

I just saw from, uh, LinkedIn in, uh, a, a news broke out. This is not verified yet, uh, that Putin has, uh, put, um, one of his, uh, senior intelligence officer under house arrest, because he provided not good intelligence about Ukraine before the invasion. So Putin got the impression that the, the Ukrainian people will kind of, uh, even welcome this invasion as like a liberation act from Russia’s part, but it turned out that, uh, they were met with stiff resistance and the Ukrainian people do not like this invasion at all.


Michael Desch: (44:38)

Yeah. I mean, ID heard that story, um, earlier this morning, um, and again, um, you know, uh, I don’t have, uh, great sources in Moscow and I’m certainly not in pres president Putin’s head, uh, on what he was thinking. Um, I do think that, you know, the, the Russians hoped, uh, that, you know, by, uh, a use of military force, they might be able to, uh, cut out, uh, or, uh, scare the Ukrainians, uh, without much fighting, um, you know, and I think that’s what they hoped initially. Um, but I also don’t think that they, uh, were counting on that. I mean, the size of the, uh, force that the Russians built up, uh, you know, look like they were preparing that if things didn’t work out, that they would, uh, you know, go to war and, uh, fight, uh, for what they’re trying to achieve.


Simone Gao: (45:48)

Hmm. In other words, they’re very, they have great resolute. They have a great result.


Michael Desch: (45:56)

Well, we’ll see, you know, how long that resolve holds because, um, you know, uh, there are certainly significant casualties, um, and the war is going slowly, although, you know, no war goes quickly. If you look at, uh, when the United States invaded Iraq in, uh, 2003 in late March, it wasn’t until, um, may, uh, early may that, you know, we sort of declared victory there. So, and, you know, of course our advantage militarily over Iraq was, uh, significantly greater than the Russian advantage over the Ukraine.


Simone Gao: (46:42)

Hmm that’s right. So this is gonna be a long war. And do


Michael Desch: (46:46)

You, it could be,


Simone Gao: (46:48)

Do you see, uh, Putin give up at some point or he thought he wouldn’t get what he originally expected? So he would adjust his goals, like, like there, uh, three demands from, um, the criminal recently. I’m sorry.


Michael Desch: (47:09)

Yeah. Um, again, one would hope that, uh, that would be the, uh, the case, the, you know, war, um, is bloody and terrible as it is as, uh, you know, the German, uh, uh, philosopher of war, uh, KLAS famously argued. It’s a continuation of politics by other means and a continuation of diplomacy and bargaining. Um, and sometimes, uh, you know, uh, before a war two potential combatants, uh, you know, aren’t sure, uh, what the balance of power is between the two sides and the balance of resolve. And so they go to war and war in a way clarifies that, and that makes negotiation possible. And that’s what we’ve gotta hope comes out of, uh, this.


Simone Gao: (48:13)

Right. Um, why did you think Putin make the military move now?


Michael Desch: (48:21)

I, I think, um, you know, they, the Russian military was watching the, uh, uh, build up, uh, and improvement to the Ukrainian military and, you know, was, um, you know, uh, understood that, uh, the longer, um, they waited the, uh, more capable that force might be. It’s also possible that they feared that a better armed and better trained Ukrainian military, um, you know, could, uh, go on the offensive in the Don boss and maybe even, uh, Crimea.


Simone Gao: (49:03)

Okay. And do you think, um, president Biden and our disastrous exit of, uh, from Afghanistan as the play does all?


Michael Desch: (49:14)

No. I mean, the, uh, president Putin is well aware that, uh, uh, a lot of, uh, great powers have, uh, left Afghanistan with their tails between their legs, whether to the British empire and the 19 nine or in the, uh, 19th century, uh, or, uh, Russia in the, or the Soviet union in the 1990s, uh, or, uh, the United States. So, no, I don’t, I don’t think that they put connected those two things.


Simone Gao: (49:49)

Hmm. That’s interesting. So, um, let’s talk about the, um, recent Russia demanded three things now, neutrality for Ukraine, decriminalization of the country. Let me say this again. Russia demanded three things now, uh, neutrality for Ukraine of the country recognition of breakaway regions and loss of crime. First, all does Ukraine cannot have a military?


Michael Desch: (50:28)

Well, um, uh, neutral Finland, um, had a, uh, a military, a small military, but, uh, a capable one, um, Japan after the second world war, uh, you know, uh, the United eights rewrote its constitution. So, uh, it couldn’t have a military, it had self defense forces. So, um, I, and again, not knowing how the Russians would define it, but, you know, I think, uh, de militarized, uh, Ukraine would not mean Ukraine without any military capability. That’s certainly possible


Simone Gao: (51:13)

Maybe put purposely, uh, I mean, maybe put in intentionally, put this term, do not explain this term very much, very clearly. So it has a room to adjust and step


Michael Desch: (51:29)

In. Right, right. And that’s the art of democracies to use, uh, ambiguity creatively.


Simone Gao: (51:38)

Right. Uh, but I mean, in either sense, do you think Ukraine will accept a terms like that? The militarization of the country? Uh,


Michael Desch: (51:50)

Uh, not in the sense that, uh, you know, it would have no defensive military capability. I mean, if, uh, what the Russians expect is Ukraine to become Costa Rica, which doesn’t have an army, uh, that it seems to me, a nonstarter probably was before the war, but now in the war, it certainly is.


Simone Gao: (52:17)

Hmm. Based on Russia’s,


Michael Desch: (52:19)

But that, but, uh, just to finish the thought, uh, that doesn’t mean that, um, limits on its military would be, uh, unacceptable.


Simone Gao: (52:31)

Hmm. Based on Russia’s, uh, demands right now. Can we tell what Putin’s real goals are in Ukraine, for example, is it to prevent a NATO expansion into Ukraine or to, you know, revive the so-called Russian empires glory by reclaiming lost land or divert, uh, domestic pressure political pressures, uh, or all of them, because, uh, put this facing reelection in 2004, uh, 2024,


Michael Desch: (53:03)

Well, you know, uh, political acts like this are always the result of, uh, multiple factors and all of those things could be a part of the calculation. The important question, which we can’t really answer is what’s the relative importance of each of them I would’ve guessed. And I think I would still guess that, um, prime in, uh, Putin’s mind is gone. It’s part of Russia. I think he would negotiate a way, uh, Hans and Donette as part of, uh, some sort of, uh, federal arrangement in Ukraine. Um, and I think he’d do it for two reasons. You know, I don’t think he wants to next those, uh, uh, republics to Russia. Um, you know, they they’d be almost more troubled than there were, but I think he also count on, you know, the more pro Russian people in those countries as, uh, being, uh, a check on the, uh, you know, the pro Western, uh, elements of Ukrainian, uh, society.


Michael Desch: (54:23)

Um, so, and I trying to control all of Ukraine, I think would be impossible for Russia. I think even the area east of the Neer, um, is gonna be very hard, uh, for Russia to occupy and control. Um, and the further there west, you go in Ukraine, uh, the more overwhelmingly pro Western and anti-US the sentiment of the population becomes. So I find it hard to, uh, believe, um, that, uh, Putin, you know, thinks that Russia could control all of Ukraine and, you know, the fate of, uh, uh, Ukrainian president Yna Kovi indicates that installing a puppet and Kiev, uh, is not a reliable strategy that, you know, they could be ousted as he was, uh, by the myON uprising or voted out of office. Um, and so if, if he’s thinking about this whole thing, uh, in a rational, strategic way, uh, the end game would be, uh, a negotiation, um, that, uh, limits, uh, the size of the Ukrainian military force and keeps it out of NATO. Um, but you know, once wars begin, they take on a dynamic of their own. Um, and also my, uh, more optimistic scenario depends on some assumptions about Putin’s mindset that, you know, we can’t know if they’re right or not, but that’s my instinct.


Simone Gao: (56:13)

Hmm. So do you think, um, I understand, uh, you, you think, uh, that Putin from the very beginning never thought, um, never thought that he could, Russia could occupy the whole Ukraine, but what, what about his, uh, three demands? Do you think those demands are, are his goals always, or they have changed because the outcome of from the battlefield is not what he has expected so far?


Michael Desch: (56:43)

Well, the, the one demand you didn’t mention is, uh, what he calls deification. Um, and, uh, you know, that’s


Simone Gao: (56:54)

The most talk about that anymore.


Michael Desch: (56:56)



Simone Gao: (56:58)

I mean, um, from the recent, the latest Kremlin spokeswoman, uh, from the latest, uh, uh, claim, um, I mean the latest claim from the Russia side did not include the, the deification anymore.


Michael Desch: (57:15)

Right. And that’s an important, uh, modification of demands. I mean, that, uh, demand was always is, uh, you know, both the most amorphous, you know, what exactly, uh, were the Russians talking about in terms of, uh, you know, Nazis and Ukraine, um, and also potentially, you know, the most difficult to deal with because, you know, if you were equating, uh, Nazi with Ukrainian nationalism, that would be the majority of the Ukrainian people. So, um, you know, the, the it’s, uh, a good thing that, that seems to be moving off the agenda.


Simone Gao: (57:59)

Hmm. So Putin is adjusting, his goals


Michael Desch: (58:03)

Seems like it. Yeah.


Simone Gao: (58:08)

Um, now the EU accepted Ukraine as a member, how is that going to change things?


Michael Desch: (58:15)

Not at all.


Simone Gao: (58:18)

Okay. Why


Michael Desch: (58:19)

It could, uh, make a difference in terms of, uh, postwar, um, Ukraine, which, you know, will make available to Ukraine, even more resources to, uh, rebuild the country. Um, and maybe, you know, uh, a, uh, a deal could emerge in which the Ukrainians, um, you know, uh, are given by the Russians or allowed by the Russians EU membership, uh, in exchange for, um, NATO membership, not being on the table. Um, and you know, that could be part of a, uh, uh, a settlement.


Simone Gao: (59:08)

(twitter clip)Um, although, uh, the Ukrainian army has made a great, I mean, although Putin has met, um, you know, unexpected a stiff resistance from the Ukrainian armies and, uh, civilians, but the Ukrainian armies are not winning either. So as time goes on, do you think America and NATO should still encourage Ukraine to fight to the end?


Michael Desch: (59:39)

I think that’s the, uh, the big question, um, you know, both strategically and morally, uh, that we in the west, um, need to, uh, engage candidly. Um, and I’ll, I’ll premise what I say, uh, with the assumption that, uh, Russia, uh, can continue to bring overwhelming military force and that the ability of the Ukrainian army even, uh, with, uh, Western military support to continue to fight, uh, you know, at the level of intensity they are, are now, uh, is gonna decline. And also just the human cost of this war, uh, on Ukrainian civilians, uh, continues to, uh, to be catastrophic. So if you, the, if the Ukrainians cannot win militarily, which I don’t believe they can, um, and if prolonging the war means, uh, more, uh, Ukrainian civilian deaths, then it seems to me, uh, you know, we ought to be thinking, uh, about ending the conflict as soon as we can. And that can all only end, uh, by a quick defeat, which I don’t think will happen by either side or, uh, by a negotiated settlement. I think, uh, we really need to be, uh, pushing towards a negotiated settlement.


Simone Gao: (01:01:19)

Hmm. But now it doesn’t seem like that’s a America is trying to do. I think it’s almost, uh, politically impossible to walk back from the current stance that, uh, Putin is imoral invader. Uh, we need to support the Ukrainians to fight, to, to win this battle, to fight to the end, to show the, and all that stuff. It’s very important. It’s very, it’s almost impossible to walk back from that stance and say,


Michael Desch: (01:01:50)

You’re, you’re right. It’ll be very difficult. We’ve painted ourself into a corner, um, you know, uh, in, in making exactly those arguments. Um, on the other hand, uh, very few wars are fought to the bitter end and eventually, um, you know, uh, people are even in the, uh, United States are gonna come to the conclusion, um, that there’s gonna have to be, uh, some sort of settlement. And I would think that, um, if it hasn’t already started in the Biden administration, uh, it will soon, um, that, you know, pressure to, uh, think about, uh, negotiated off ramp for this war.


Simone Gao: (01:02:42)

Hmm. Okay. And you, you see, uh, that is the only way out of this.


Michael Desch: (01:02:49)

Yeah. Well, and look, um, president Biden, courageously in my view, uh, stuck with the withdrawal all from Afghanistan, even though, uh, he got a lot of criticism for it, not only in the chaotic weeks before and after the evacuation of cobble, but, you know, when he started talking about it, but, you know, the American public was just tired of the war, um, after 20 years. Um, and, uh, the stomach, uh, of the, uh, not only the American public, but the European public, uh, for this war, uh, is, uh, you know, going to, uh, wither, um, over time as well, you know, right now in Poland, um, you know, to their credit, uh, they’re welcoming, I think, over a million now, uh, Ukrainian refugees, but, you know, over time with more Ukrainian refugees, that’s gonna put more of a burden, uh, on Poland or Romania or Hungary. And, and, uh, they’re gonna get tired of that. Um, and so, uh, and I think the, you know, the Ukrainian people are gonna get tired of it as well, too. So, uh, a solution that maintains Ukrainian sovereignty and, uh, especially in domestic politics, uh, you know, could be attractive, whether it is now or not. Uh, I’m not sure, but I think it will become so as the war grinds on.

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