Has Pelosi’s Taiwan Trip Changed America’s Strategic Ambiguity? A Chat with Rupert Hammond-Chambers.

Okay. Thank you, Mr. Chambers for joining Zooming In today.

Rupert Hammond-Chambers:
It’s my pleasure, Simone, it’s always a pleasure to speak with you. Thank you for inviting me.

Right. Um, thank you. So let’s talk about speaker Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. So overall, what do you think of Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan? Do you think it will help stabilize the situation over the Taiwan straight and discourage Xi Jinping from using force on Taiwan?

Rupert Hammond-Chambers:
Well, I think speaker Pelosi had every right to travel to Taiwan. Uh, her trip was consistent with American policy for high level visitors to visit the island. And the United States should continue to communicate with the Taiwan leadership at the highest levels of the American government. We have many mutual interests and her trip to Taipei, to meet president Tsai and some of the leadership was entirely consistent. As to whether or not Taiwan is safer or more dangerous as a consequence of the trip. Um, we’ll have to wait and see. I think the point I would make is that the PRC has been raising tensions in the Taiwan strait now for years. It is hard to determine what is a function of the PRC using American policy as an excuse to heightened tensions and what is just the PLA and the PRC heightening tensions on their own trajectory. So I’m not particularly persuaded, frankly, that the PLA reaction on the direction from the CCP is anything more than just an excuse to continue to ramp up tensions around Pelosi’s trip when in actuality they’re doing it anyway.

Right, right. So it doesn’t matter what the US provokes, so-called provoke, China or not. They’re gonna do it anyway. If not the Pelosi excuse, they’ll find something else.

Rupert Hammond-Chambers:
100%. And I must admit, I know it’s not your words, Simone. I recognize that, but I reject the word “provoke”. No one’s provoking the Chinese, right. Um, countries around the world, particularly the United States have every right to have a relationship with Taiwan. And our relationship with Taiwan has been remarkably consistent over the decades, the only entity, uh, country destabilizing Asia at the moment, and particularly the Taiwan straight is China.

Right. Right. And we do know that China has launched multiple military drills during and after Pelosi’s visit. So do you think, uh, they’re just bluffs or people should really concern, people should be concerned about those operations?

Rupert Hammond-Chambers:
Yeah. Look, um, the Chinese have been spending extraordinary amounts of money over the last three decades or two and a half decades on force modernization. And they’ve built up a significant military capability, training that capability to make it operate at a high level is important for the Chinese. And we can expect them to continue to do that in the South China sea, in the seas around Japan and of course, around Taiwan. So that’s certainly consistent. So anyway, I think we can, excuse me, Simone. I think we can expect the Chinese to continue to do that. Is it outta the ordinary? Uh, I don’t think so. I think that the PLA are going to look to continue to do those sort of exercises.

The only thing that’s somewhat different this time, there are several things. One is the scale of it. Obviously we’re talking about major exercises in a number of different areas around the island. Um, and also what they’re doing. They’re pursuing a blockade scenario or as someone referring to it as a quarantine. I don’t myself like that word quarantine, it’s a blockade. My own view is, is that while we should certainly consider and prepare for the possibility that the Chinese would invade Taiwan, uh, as the difference between possibility and probability, I think is important to hear. The Chinese have a range of options that they view they can pursue in respect to absorbing Taiwan of which a D-Day style landing is probably the least likely and sort of operation that we’re seeing right now, a blockade scenario is more likely. And I think, you know, as a consequence, we can see them practicing that

Hmm. Just practicing, or they will just do that and do not leave?

Rupert Hammond-Chambers:
Oh, just practicing. Yes. It’s very, very hard to imagine that the Chinese… Well, a couple of things, one that the Chinese politically would want to maintain it. Mr. Xi wants to make his point, but he also wants to focus on his own domestic political interests this autumn. And maintaining a crisis in the Taiwan strait is not necessarily conducive to him securing an indefinite third term of power. So I think that that’s important. I think also the longer that they train like that, the more information that the US, Japan, the Australians and others can garner about their capabilities. I mean, an important point I think to note is that their ability to sustain operations is an important consideration for us, as we learn what they’re doing, they may not be able to do it for more than two or three days or four days. That might be the limit that they can, they can handle. So they would want to make their point and then stop when they’ve made their point at a high level, as opposed to trailing off, if they are unable to maintain the tempo of operations.

Hmm. That’s interesting. You know, the Washington Post and New York Times both published articles about speaker Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. So I mean, this is op-ed, and what their opinion is, this trip is not wise because it put the US in an unprepared state. And I don’t know, they didn’t probably use the word “provoke”, but this would definitely give China the opportunity, the excuse to, you know, do these operations, do these preparations and stuff. So they think this is a not right time for Pelosi to do this. Do you think this opinion is popular among the American political circle?

Rupert Hammond-Chambers:
Well, in some quarters it is, certainly for those who advanced it during Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama’s presidency, when a more accommodationist policy towards China was in operation and where American national interest, as it related to Taiwan was often driven by Chinese concerns over America’s relationship with Taiwan. I would simply respond that Taiwan, excuse me, China, Beijing, opposes any, and all American engagement with Taiwan. They don’t, whatever confers sovereignty they oppose. So they’re using this as an excuse, but in the end, they oppose our relationship with Taiwan across the board, what the New York Times and Washington Post editorial pages were arguing was that we should abdicate our own interest because it upsets the Chinese, we’ve tried and tested that approach for 20 plus years. And it got us into a very difficult situation with the Chinese, where they advanced their interests at American cost. And we thought we had a new policy path that was bipartisan, that started in 2017 with Mr. Trump and ran through the first year of the Biden administration. It is possible though that the Biden administrations senior leadership is considering an adjustment to that where we return to a more accommodationist policy towards China. That would be very disappointing. And it’s certainly what the Chinese, pardon me, the Washington Post and the New York Times were arguing.

I wanna ask you this. Do you think Pelosi’s trip has turned America’s strategic ambiguity into strategic clarity over Taiwan?

Rupert Hammond-Chambers:
I do not. No. I think Mrs. Pelosi’s trip is entirely consistent with a high level travel that we’ve been undertaking for you know, three decades plus, and I don’t see it as a shift in the notion of strategic ambiguity over strategic clarity. No, I don’t see that.

And you don’t think, I mean, do you think Pelosi can represent the position of the Biden administration?

Rupert Hammond-Chambers:
I don’t. I think she, obviously she speaks for the house of representatives as a speaker. She’s certainly a senior member of the democratic party, which is the ruling party at the moment in the United States. So of course she has authority, but I don’t believe that when she’s in Taiwan and nor that the Chinese believe that she speaks for the Biden administration, maybe some in China are more conspiratorially driven, might think that, but the separation of powers in the United States are clearly defined. And Mrs. Pelosi doesn’t have to ask Mr. Biden permission, nor does she necessarily have to advocate directly for Biden administration policies or approaches. The Congress has typically been more forward leaning on Taiwan policy than the executive branch, irrespective of whether Democrats or Republicans are in charge.

Hmm. And the Biden administration. Would you still say they are,, they haven’t changed. They’re still going for the strategic ambiguity.

Rupert Hammond-Chambers:
Yes. I think that’s certainly the public position. Although the president has on three separate occasions made very clear and concise comments about coming to Taiwan’s aid if the Chinese attack, I certainly believe, the organization that I represent certainly believes that we are now in an era where US policy is better served with more strategic clarity than strategic ambiguity over American interest and our willingness to come to Taiwan’s defense. We believe that that would be a more active deterrent for Chinese action. I think ultimately the PLA while that, while they, the Taiwan military may cause some complications for them, the militaries that they really fear are the United States, Japan, and possibly the Australians acting in concert to repel an invasion. That’s the real threat to the PLA.

Mm-hmm. Yeah. I was gonna ask you a question on that, but before that, uh, I just wanna nail down on this. So you think both the Biden administration and Congress, I mean, represented by Pelosi are still on the strategic ambiguity side. So if that’s the case, then what has Mrs. Pelosi accomplish for this trip?

Rupert Hammond-Chambers:
Well, what she’s accomplished is, one, it’s important to engage with Taiwan at a high level. She represents the US Congress, one of the three pillars of American power and her ability to dialogue and to hear directly from the leader of Taiwan on the security threat, represented by the Chinese, the economic opportunities represented by a stronger and broader commercial relationship between the US and Taiwan are all hugely important to the US Congress and for the leader of the house of representatives to hear directly from the Taiwan leadership about what is going on, what their interests are, how we could potentially incorporate is important. She has enormous control over legislation and legislation that can have a direct impact on American interests. So 100% she has every right to go. And in fact, the fact that she chose to go will, I hope, become a precedent for speakers of the house.

Mm, okay. So next question, in your opinion, if the CCP launched an attack on Taiwan right now, is there a chance of victory for them, even if the US and its allies intervened?

Rupert Hammond-Chambers:
There’s always, there is a possibility, probability, you know, it’s not zero that they would get defeated. Sure. There’s a possibility that if… it’s a lot of ifs, isn’t it. If they attacked, would they win? I understand what you’re trying to present. And I don’t want to be cavalier about the threat from China, but there are so many considerations that drive the possibility that China might attack Taiwan in that way, and then have some ability to be successful. And then what does success look like for the PLA? Um, there are a whole range of issues. It would undoubtedly be the most complicated invasion and attack in the history of warfare. So difficult is it to transit the hundred mile Taiwan straight and then land a force significant enough to defeat Taiwan and any forces that came to bear from Taiwan’s friends and allies, Japan, Australia, the United States, maybe the Europeans, the British and others. So that certainly gives China pause and is almost certainly one of the reasons why, well, it is one of the reasons why we argue that there isn’t any imminent threat of invasion of Taiwan given the complications that China faces in attacking.

Right, right. You know, from the Russian-Ukrainian war, we learned that intelligence, good weapons, logistics, air dominance, and people’s determination are crucial. So is the US selling the right weapons and enough weapons to Taiwan? And what is the coordination between the two militaries look like?

Rupert Hammond-Chambers:
Yeah, it’s a great question. Simone, one that you obviously know well is swirling around the US policy corridors in Defense Department state up in Congress. And in fact, we talked about it today at a session I co-hosted with the Heritage Foundation on arm sales. There is some debate about what the United States should be providing to Taiwan in the short term. There’s a lot of use of the word asymmetric. Uh, it’s actually very unhelpful. Weapons aren’t asymmetric, strategies are asymmetric. But the Biden administration has a list of weapons they would like Taiwan to prioritize purchasing in the short to medium term, maybe even the longer term. And that list of weapons, while not public, has been made available to the executive branch into some on Capitol Hill. And they’re gonna work through how to procure those weapons in the fastest time.

Some of it may come through regular procurement process like foreign military sale, FMS. And some of it may come through the legislation that’s on Capitol Hill at the moment, which would provide foreign military financing and support, in other words, US taxpayer money to procure weapons and then transfer them to Taiwan, which would be the fastest way to go about this. So the administrative work is working set up for a range of different ways to expedite delivery of weapons over a period of time to attempt to deter and complicate PLA planners and hopefully put off indefinitely any thought the PLA and the Chinese may have on attacking Taiwan.

Okay. What about the coordination between the two militaries? Are there any at all?

Rupert Hammond-Chambers:
There is some, but… thank you, that’s a very good question. On that latter issue, that’s an area where there needs to be a great deal more. Two huge areas that need to be addressed are, one, training. There’s very little training that’s taking place between the US and Taiwan right now, that needs to change. Obviously the Taiwan Air Force has F16’s in the United States that operate and train. That is a good thing, but the army and the Navy have modest contact and engagement with their counterparts in the United States. There needs to be significant training taking place, and there needs to be significant efforts for the two militaries to interoperate together, to learn, to fight as one force. So I think that’s hugely important. The other piece that needs to take place of course, is interaction and engagement between senior US military offices and senior Taiwan military offices. That just doesn’t happen.

And it needs to, you know. The Indo-Pacific commander out in Honolulu, Hawaii should be interacting with the minister of national defense in Taiwan and the senior MND leadership all the time, and it’s not happening. And that’s a political consideration that needs to shift. With your permission, I just want to explain why I think the US has every right to do it. If you go back to the seventies and eighties, the switch in recognition, and the three communiques that were signed with China, the underpinning of those agreements was that the Chinese would pursue a peaceful engagement and effort to reconcile their differences between Taiwan. That was always the understanding. China is certifiably violating that at the moment with its force modernization and its military and political coercion. That should elicit a response from the United States. We are starting to see that. So claims by the PRC that we are disrupting the status quo are nonsense, all we’re doing is responding to their walking away from the commitments they made in the seventies and eighties.

You just said there’s needs to be a lot more coordination between the US and Taiwan militaries. Are you saying they’re not quite ready for a CCP attack scenario?

Rupert Hammond-Chambers:
Who’s ever ready for an attack? Okay. It’s a good question, but in the end, at any military, if it was asked, are they ready? They’d say, well, we’re ready as we can be right now, but sure we’d love more time to get more ready. So I understand the point that you’re making, but in the end, if China were to attack, we’d be as ready as we were that moment that took place. If they waited another year, we’d have one more year to advance the technology in our weapons or have more coordination with Taiwan. So I understand the question, but you’re only is ready each day as you can be.

Regarding the so-called unification, is the time on China’s side or Taiwan side? Because we just talked about it, on one hand we see the Chinese communist regime is getting less and less popular and more and more isolated in the world, and international community is gathering to support Taiwan. But on the other hand, the Chinese military power is set to be catching up to that of the US. So is the time on Taiwan’s side or is the time on China’s side in terms of attack?

Rupert Hammond-Chambers:
Yeah, it’s a great question. I think the Chinese certainly believe that time is on their side, which underscores the view that they’re gonna continue to pursue the strategies they have in place, political, military intimidation without actually attacking Taiwan, because they believe over time, that’ll result in absorbing, coercing the people of Taiwan to accept, you know, in essence political capitulation and absorption into communist China. So they believe that that’s the case. Policy in Taipei and Washington, DC has coalesced around a view of deterrents,the military capabilities of Taiwan and the United States and its allies in the region would suitably deter China from attacking. And I think that is indefinitely into the future.

So you think in terms of the military power growth, time is on the US side because we are getting more and more stronger, surpassing, outpacing China’s growth. Is that what you’re saying?

Rupert Hammond-Chambers:
I think I’m saying beauty is in the eye of the beholder. That the Chinese believe that they’ve got time on their side, and we believe that we have the ability to create more time. So I think it’s really a push and shove match between the US and China, Taiwan and China, over how much time, or who thinks their policies and their approach is the right one. The Chinese obviously would like to press Taiwan and shorten the timeline. And our efforts are designed to try and push the timeline out, both from a military coercion standpoint, and importantly also, as well as an economic coercion standpoint.

Mm-hmm okay. Interesting. So I want you to try to stand in Xi Jinping’s shoes right now. If he’s determined to take Taiwan, which I think he definitely is, which route do you think he would choose right now? I mean, subversion by infiltration or military attack, or both?

Rupert Hammond-Chambers:
It’s those two things. It’s also economic coercion. I mean, it strikes me as interesting that a huge part of what they’re doing right now, while they might have suffered a tactical defeat because Pelosi went and they didn’t want her to, I think overall, they would look at this as a net positive for themselves because two huge things have happened. One, they’ve reentered the US debate of American national interest, which will surely give the Biden administration pause as they look at other Taiwan related initiatives sending high level visitors and so on. So that’s super important. The second thing, which I think isn’t discussed nearly enough, or almost at all, is that what China is trying to do with all of this is also create a perception that Taiwan is a dangerous place.

And that would place coercive pressure on the people of Taiwan and on its economy. And that potentially it would deter global companies from engaging Taiwan and then by extension weakening the country economically. Okay, well, an economically weaker country can’t buy as many weapons. It can’t train, it’s more vulnerable. And then of course, the Chinese can step in and say, “we’re right here. You know, we’re ready to make you part of China. And all you have to do is hand your political system over, and we will make you as wealthy as you want.”

Right. Right. Then what about that? How confident is the American business community in Taiwan? In recent years, many heavyweight American businesses have increased their investment in Taiwan. What other thoughts right now, especially after Pelosi’s visit?

Rupert Hammond-Chambers:
There’s a lot of concern in the C-suite Simone, the leadership levels of American businesses, about the tension in the Taiwan strait, are they making any dramatic changes to their long term plans? Not at the moment, they’re watching with concerned interest, of course, to see what happens, but overall the course is very much set.

It’s very difficult to make the sort of dramatic changes that some might think could be made in the short term. These are long term decisions with long term commitments to capital deployment. But I do think in the next several years, if tensions remain relatively high in the Taiwan strait or, you know, close to crisis level, that companies will be making contingency arrangements to invest in other parts of the world where they, if there is this crisis in the street, they at least have the ability to shift manufacturing to another spot.

So thank you Rupert, thank you so much for joining Zooming In today again.

Rupert Hammond-Chambers:
It’s absolutely my honor. Do, please get in touch anytime. Take care.

Yeah. Thanks. Bye.

Rupert Hammond-Chambers:
Cheers. Bye.

Who Will Be the Next Victim of Organ Harvesting after China Exhaust Falun Gong and Uyghers?

Simone: In our last episode, Ethan Gutmann told me that by 2014, the number of organs harvested from the Falun Gong practitioners were running lower, because some practitioners were persecuted to death, some were aging and others fled China. Also in 2014, the Chinese Communist Party Secretary General Xi Jinping announced a policy called “people’s war on terror”. As part of the policy, the Xinjiang Internment camps, officially called vocational education and training centers that are used to indoctrinate Uyghers and other Muslims started to erect. Also starting from 2015, the Chinese government announced that every Uighur in Xinjiang must have their health checked, mainly their blood tested. By 2017, the internment camps became operational.

The camps have been criticized by the governments of many countries and human rights organizations for alleged human rights abuses, including mistreatment, rape, and torture, with some of them alleging genocide.

These camps constitute the largest-scale arbitrary detention of ethnic and religious minorities since World War II. As of 2020, it was estimated that 1 to 3 million people, mostly Uyghurs, had been detained in these secretive camps throughout the region.

Ethan Gutmann interviewed 10 people who were from these camps.

Ethan Gutmann: What I can do is try to interview people who’d been inside the camps. What did you see? And I asked them who went missing? Who left the camp? And they said, well, sometimes some, occasionally an old person would leave the camp because they got sick.

And I’m like, okay. And they’d say, but there was a definite group who left the camp and they were usually about 18 years old. And I said, tell me about that. And they said, well, this is young, this is very young people. They’re about 18 and maybe girls, right. And young women. And they would, would’ve be announced at lunch, usually that they were graduating. This is the term they used ‘graduating,’ which meant that they were going to work in a factory out east, in Eastern China.

Yeah. They were not gonna come back. They wouldn’t see their families again. They were just gonna go and work in some factory. Or sometimes they were going to work in a cotton plantation, essentially a place where they pick cotton and grow cotton in Xinjiang; sometimes they were going in Xinjiang. A lot of times out east, whatever. They would announce this. And it was almost like an award.

It was like people were sometimes they even encouraged you to applaud a little bit for these young women who were going away. Well, that was done very openly, but there was one other group. They all said, well, there’s this other group. And this is about, I’m talking about 10 witnesses, which doesn’t seem like much, but we only have 10 witnesses over here in the West. So these are 10 in Kazakhstan.

So I’m doubling the witnesses essentially, which is not easy. And they, what’s the other group? Well, they said, well, these other people would disappear in the middle of the night. I said, well, what were the circumstances that? Well, they say, well, we don’t really know. We except that they, we were all given a blood test. I said, when did you give them the blood test? And you know about a week before. So they’re given this blood test. And then a week later, three or four people, whatever they remember, would leave in the middle, would just be gone the next day. What was their age? 28.

Their age was 28. Usually sometimes 29. Sometimes it was 30 or sometimes 26 or 27. But it was always right around the age of 28. Now 28 is the magic number. It’s when the Chinese prefer to, the Chinese doctors prefer to harvest organs because their organs are completely mature. But your, your health is perfect. It’s as good as it will ever be. And I asked one woman, I said, well, okay, they were given these blood tests and then they were somehow selected. Some people even described them, the people who ended up being gone, were given vests, like a colored vest, pink or orange, some. One case they had described them giving a little bracelet. They didn’t know what it meant, but then they were gone.

You weren’t supposed to talk about them or mention them ever again. One woman was a teacher and she describes how she was a Chinese teacher. So she sort of worked for the camp but she was treated pretty badly too, and because she was Kazakh. And she, they had a kind of faculty lounge, you know, a place where they could kind of hang out a little bit, and they put up the results from the blood tests. And then they put check marks, pink check marks by the blood, certain names. And those people disappeared.

Now I was concerned about this, but I wanted to check out that there wasn’t something else going on. So I asked, this Uighur woman. I said, look, uh, I said, this is an embarrassing question. I’m sorry to ask it. But these three friends of yours or these three people, you knew, these three women who disappeared in the middle of the night, t I said, were they beautiful?

Were they good looking? Were they sexually attractive? And she came back and said, I don’t like to say this about anybody, but no, they were not beautiful. I said, well what do they have in common if anything? And she said they were healthy.

So this is where it ends. I mean, this is about organs. These are people going off to their death. And if you put the figures together, they’re incredibly consistent from camp to camp. Everybody I interviewed was from a different camp. Every single person. And every one of them described disappearances. And some said it was 2.5% of the entire camp that disappeared in the middle of the night. Some said it was 5%. Some said it was 10% but only one or two. Some said it was like 1%. But everybody describes that figures are very, very close. 2.5 to 5%.

In other words, 25,000 people or 50,000 people are being taken from the camps for organ harvesting every year, 25 to 50,000 people. That’s probably in the middle, there are 32,000, something like that. Now there’s another way of looking at that figure. Let’s look at it in terms of organs for a minute. Let’s say you can take two organs from each person that you can use. That would be 50,000 organs, right? Let’s say you can take, um, let’s say it’s the higher figure, 50,000. And you can take three organs. It’s 150,000 organs. So if China is doing a hundred thousand organ transplants a year, you can see how this can pretty much fill the gap completely, very easily. Right? It’s not a problem.

Simone: They don’t like to waste organs, I mean…

Ethan Gutmann: Well…

Simone: One person’s organ can maybe like…

Ethan Gutmann: You know, it’s funny, you mentioned that because it’s something we’ve argued about – me and Kilgour and Matas – many times – they used to say, oh well you can only take one organ per person. And I’m like, why? Chinese don’t like to waste things. I’m always making that point. And I said, this is a very, it’s a very practical culture. And that’s something I actually find very admirable and appealing about Chinese culture is it’s a culture where you don’t waste, you figure out ways to use things.

And I think what you’re saying is right. However, the logistics of getting, let’s say I have all these perfect organs, and the logistics of getting my organs to all these different people is somewhat complicated. So it could even be less. I mean it could well be the smaller figure, only 25,000 a year, but I will not go below that figure. I would not. I would be misrepresenting the witnesses to go below that figure. This is what they told me. They had no reason to, they didn’t, most of them didn’t even know they were talking about organ harvesting.

I would often tell them after the interview. This is what, why I was asking those particular questions, but I did not lead them on. And I was not interested in people making up exaggerated numbers for me. I had no interest in that at all. And what struck me again, and one of the reasons why I was so relaxed when I was asking the questions, was because at this point I’m very used to it. Everybody says the same thing.

Okay. So to me, there’s no real question in my mind. There’s one last data point. One last piece of evidence that I think I find personally compelling. There are others, but picture a hospital out in a place called Aksu. And this hospital was built for SARS patients back in 2000 or 2001, 2002. This hospital was converted to a hospital for religious dissidents, that is probably extreme Muslims or something.

And then it becomes, it’s renamed again, it’s called the Aksu Infection Hospital and it does transplants. And I know this because … I’m sorry, Gulchehra Hoja of Radio Free Asia actually, called them up and checked in on this and they do do transplants. Okay.

So here’s this transplant hospital. Imagine that they build a labor camp or prison camp for 33,000 people around it. That’s what they did. So it’s facing the road, but around it is 33,000 people, around this hospital. Picture then 900 meters away, less than a kilometer away, is another camp with 16,000 people.

Then to the north is a crematorium. It’s the largest crematorium I’ve ever seen on earth in Google earth. I’ve looked at others. It’s four or five times the usual size. It’s quite extraordinary. It was recently repainted. I’ve talked to people who worked in that area. They all described the smell of burning bone. They all knew it was a crematorium. And it’s not a secret. 20 minutes from that, 20 minute drive, is an airport, Aksu airport. And this has a green lane, which literally says ‘human organ transplant lane’, ‘fast lane’.

It’s a fast lane. Yes, absolutely marked. It has arrows. They’re on the floor and they’re, it’s marked above, ‘human organ transplant lane’. It’s in three different languages.

This is, it’s export only. It’s not to bring organs into Aksu. It’s to take organs out of Aksu. Well, after some, we did some research on that and had a very good researcher who knew, knew about the Chinese medical system. And she found out that hospital, Aksu Infection Hospital, has a big brother hospital on the east coast of China or near the east coast, near Shanghai. And First Hospital has their, in 2017, their kidney transplants went up by a hundred percent and their liver transplants went up by 200%.

This is huge increases. And they were the first hospital, in 2020, in March 2020, when the pandemic was a full swing, they announced that they had done the first double lung transplant of a COVID patient in history. And this was announced not only in Chinese, but in English.

Simone: Oh, I know that hospital. Do you know the name of it?

Ethan Gutmamnn: It’s First Hospital. There’s also another one, which was Wuxi Hospital, which the same day came out and did the same thing. That was under Dr. Chen. Chen Lin or whatever. Cheong Lynn is a very famous guy. He’s very competitive guy. He came out with the same thing on the same day. First Hospital still claims to be first. Yeah, that’s right. I’m sorry, Chen Jingyu.

Yeah. So he, yeah, Chen Jingyu. He’s also the one who created the, the fast lines. He created the green lanes,, the fast lanes in the airport that came from him because he was very upset when China Southern Airlines airplane took off and he was holding organs in organs and boxes that he was going to transplant. The organs died, you know, essentially ran out of time.

Simone: Where did you get that story?

Ethan Gutmann: I don’t know. I don’t know where I read it, but it’s, I mean, it’s just out there. I think he even interviewed and talked about it a long time and said, this is how we ended up with getting these fast lanes. You know, this was a, so he’s a very powerful guy, China Southern airlines said, oh, we’ll do something special. And they even have an ad with banners and green banners. And yeah.

So the point is that, we can, looking at that, we can say, you know, as much as we had a tremendous amount of information about Falun Gong organ harvesting, we’ve never actually had something quite like this before. Where it’s all in the same spot and you can sort of see it physically how this evolves and how it moves. And that is partly because there aren’t that many differences between Falun Gong organ harvesting and Uiguhr organ harvesting.

It is really very the same program. There’s a lot of consistency. And the one big difference is that they have put it into a discrete area. Xinjiang. An area where no one can go. Journalists cannot go there. Politicians don’t go there. Look at the UN, right.

Michelle Bachelet was just there and she wouldn’t go, actually go into Xinjiang. No one could look at it. And because of that, we have this … that means that the World Health Organization or the Transplantation Society can pretend, if they want to, that nothing’s going on. They’ll even say that; they’ll even say, well, I visited some hospitals in China. It’s like, what does that have to do with it? East coast hospitals, aren’t doing, aren’t cutting people open anymore. They’re just receiving organs and transplanting them. That’s not the same thing.

Simone: What’s the difference between the Falun Gong era and the Uighur era in terms of transplanting?

Ethan Gutmann: Really just what I’ve, the difference between the Falun Gong era and the Uighur era is, is simply one of, kind of locational. And… one of the reasons that can happen is because we have this system, ECMO, which can keep organs alive, even in a dead body at times. It oxygenates the organs. It keeps them going and you can use it for live organ harvesting, and you can do it with a dead patient to where you can keep a kidney, for example, alive. You can, if a doctor wants to – it’s the middle of the night and you’re gonna transplant this kidney, but you’re all tired.

A doctor can just say, you know what, we’re all going home for the night, get some sleep, come back in the morning. You know, and eight hours later, they start up again and they take the organ out and transplant it.

Simone: From the dead person’s body.

Ethan Gutmann: Yes. And that’s because of ECMO because it’s keeping this oxygenation is essentially keeping the organ alive, almost like a flower and water. Okay. The flower is still alive. It hasn’t wilted. And if you were to put it back in the ground, somehow with new roots, it would grow again as if nothing had ever happened.

Simone: In terms of the number of transplants what’s the difference? Which one is bigger?

Ethan Gutmann: I think they’re, I think it’s almost exactly the same. This is one of the strangest questions I get is that, you know, every group assumes that it’s gotta be bigger or smaller. But it isn’t because China has reached its peak. It’s reached where it wants to be in terms of…

Simone: What do you mean, reach what peak?

Ethan Gutmann: Well, it’s reached the point where it’s got the customers. It’s not an industry I see that’s building anymore. It’s mature. What we call a mature industry. And it became a mature industry really under Falun Gong. We know that the curve with Falun Gong was almost like this. In other words, it went up and then it leveled. Okay.

So by the time we put out a report in 2016, it was a level curve. It wasn’t going up. We never claimed it was. It was clearly like this. And then what happened when the Uighurs came in, is maybe you got a little jump or something, but not much of one. And then it hits level because China is where it wants to be with this. I believe that many people in the Chinese medical system would love to stop doing organ harvesting.

And many of them would like for China to make its money from the industry that always should have made its money from which was pharmaceuticals. This is the pillar industry. This is China’s destiny. Its future is to make great medicines. Right.

And, and try them out on their poor people. But, you know, whatever. But, you know, I mean, seriously, I don’t mean it that way, but I, I do mean that that is, it’s an inventive medical culture. Maybe they take a little too many risks sometimes. We’ve just seen that with COVID that hasn’t been so great for the world. I think they took too many risks.

I think it probably did get out of a lab, but I don’t know for sure. But what I would say is that, you know, at the same time, there’s a certain genius within the Chinese medical culture, which is not being realized by organ harvesting. Organ harvesting is holding the entire country back, their future…

The future lies in pharmaceuticals and to sell pharmaceuticals globally. That’s where the profits are. You must have the confidence of the populations in the world. And nobody has confidence in Sinovac in the Chinese vaccine that they came up with. Nobody has confidence in a medical system that would butcher its own people. Nobody will ever have confidence that the transplant game is anything but a dirty filthy business, because that’s what it is.

And that’s why they will never get the voluntary donations that they talk about. Because the ordinary person knows that it’s a dirty business. And if they’re gonna give up their organs, they ought to be paid a hell of a lot of money for it because they know those surgeons are making a hell of a lot of dirty filthy money. That is the problem here.

This is a dead end for everybody. But so it’s beyond just the simple tragedy – it’s beyond the tragedy of those lives lost. It is beyond that. It is a tragedy for Chinese culture. It’s a tragedy for Chinese science. Okay. And it’s a cancer in the world.

Simone: So although not many people in the world are talking about this forced organ harvesting, but the trust in China’s medical system is gone.

Ethan Gutmann: I think it’s gone. I don’t know. I mean, anything could be rebuilt; but the terrifying thing to me is that you have Western doctors who want to rebuild trust in China’s medical system before they have even reformed it. Okay. Just because they say a few nice things about reform, and that even if they were to reform it, that they wanna do it without ANY accountability to the hundreds of thousands of Falun Gong and now at least a hundred thousand Uiguhrs, at least that have gone under the knife in this country.

And they want to do it without any accountability, without any talking, without any victim restitution, without any attempt to regain that DNA, or match it, which is actually quite doable. You could match these things. This was something that was impossible during the Holocaust. We didn’t have the technology to do it. People just disappeared. They were gassed. They were gone. This isn’t true today. Evidence is there.

Simone: That’s, I mean, you have all this evidence, that from the Falun Gong era to the Uighur era, things really didn’t change in China.

Ethan Gutmann: No.

Simone: And…

Ethan Gutmann: It’s not even an era. It’s not like the two eras have gone. I mean, that’s another thing I’d like to add the, you know, I didn’t have time to say this in the conference yesterday, but the point is that’s because we were under such a short amount of time, but the fact is two of my witnesses in Kazakhstan said they saw Falun Gong in their camps.

Simone: They moved Falun Gong practitioners to Xinjiang. What percentage?

Ethan Gutmann: Yeah, it was, it was just a couple, I mean, it wasn’t a lot of people, but it was a few,. But both, the two of them mentioned it. I mean, so that’s 10% of my witnesses right there. Okay. And we’re saying…

Simone: Two from two different camps?

Ethan Gutmann: Yes. Two from two different camps. And I said, what happened to them? They didn’t know. They just weren’t, they weren’t, particularly – I mean, people aren’t aware of everything going on in their camp.

Simone: Do you think the Chinese Communist Party, the Chinese current regime, will exhaust the Uiguhr population for transplant and possibly move on to another ethnic group or other group of people?

Ethan Gutmann: That’s a really good question. And I actually, haven’t tried to calculate it, but I will. Okay. I’ll try to figure that out.

Simone: Because I mean, for Falun Gong, the age and stuff, that’s a different scenario with the Uighurs.

Ethan Gutmann: Yes, it is. Yeah.

Simone: But with Uighurs they try to not let them reproduce, right? They want to…

Ethan Gutmann: Yeah. There’s a basic attempt to sterilize the women. Okay, so that’s a difference. This is an interesting point you just hit, because, you know, there were times when I’ve looked at the Uighur population and said, well, this is very different than Falun Gong because it’s more of an economic enterprise. Falun Gong it was a, you know…

It was, they considered a direct threat to the Chinese state. The Uiguhr, the business, oh, well, they’re a direct threat to the Chinese state. It’s kind of an exaggeration. It’s kind of make believe. It’s like, well, they’re terrorists. So they’re potentially this great threat, but they aren’t. They aren’t a great threat. So in fact, I would say that’s a huge difference.

In a sense, Falun Gong really was a threat to the Chinese state because it was a different, had a different vision of China. The Uighurs don’t offer that they offer a vision of a maybe their own state, you know, independent of China. That’s not the same thing. So that difference is significant. But it’s also significant that the Uighurs were an economic enterprise. They have become that. They’re forced labor. They’re used as slave labor.

Now, Falun Gong were also used for slave labor, but it was the petty things. It was the usual things they do in labor camps, where they make you do all kinds of stupid work. This is much more systematic. It’s like, you’re gonna pick all the cotton. You’re going to work at the factories, certain factories for Western companies at really dirty jobs that are very dangerous, and you’re gonna live in a completely different dorm, and there’s gonna be guns there.

And you’re not gonna mate an all this stuff. The interesting thing is you go back to the old south in America, the plantation system, and, you know, the plantation owner was happy, okay, if the slaves were mating. Because it was like growing your population. It was like growing your resources. It’s like getting a new car. Okay.

And maybe it was, you know, you had to take care of that car, but it was like getting another car. And it’s resources. And the truth is the Chinese, I think, and this is what really does make it racial in a way, that they really don’t want that. I believe they’re almost torn between this instinct to just wipe these people out. I mean by Chinese standards, you know, 20 million people or 13 million people is not that many people. It’s very small population, they’re deemed to be troublesome. So be it.

On the other hand, maybe they, you know, the Uighurs have proved themselves to be sort of valuable in this forced labor area.

The problem we have in organ harvesting in particular is that any human being, really most human beings are not worth half a million dollars. But on the open market, these organs being sold to foreign organ tourists are worth at least half a million dollars. So the equation doesn’t work well anymore. They’re worth more dead than alive.

And I do believe that’s going to continue for a long time. But your question about how long and how much excess their population there is, is a really good one and something I’ll put in my mind to try to solve if possible.

An Industry of Genocide: Why China’s Organ Harvesting Can’t Be Stopped? A Chat with Ethan Gutmann

Simone: China declared that it had stopped using prisoners’ organs for transplantation, and it solely depends on organ donations. But there is a problem.

Ethan Gutmann: So they started showing these voluntary donation numbers and the curve was perfect. And they very quickly came up with the fact that this curve was based on an equation.

Simone: The transplant industry exploded in China at the same rate as the explosion of Falun Gong flowing into jails and labor camps. They, and later the Uighurs, experienced the same bizarre routine.

Ethan Gutmann: So they’re given this blood test. And then a week later, three or four people, whatever they remember, would leave in the middle, would just be gone the next day. What was their age? 28.

Simone: Reports on systematic organ harvesting from Falun Gong prisoners first emerged in 2006. 16 years later, this practice is still going on. The victims have expanded from Falun Gong to the Uighurs. Why couldn’t it be stopped?

And who could be the next victims? I spoke with Ethan Gutmann, a pioneer researcher in this field and the author of the book “The Slaughter: Mass Killings, Organ Harvesting, and China’s Secret Solution to Its Dissident Problem”.

Simone: On March 17, 2006, Annie, a woman who used to work at the Liaoning Thrombosis Hospital of Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine in Sujiatun District, Shenyang disclosed to The Epoch Times that her hospital secretly detained a large number of Falun Gong practitioners.

Her ex-husband was involved in the surgery to remove organs from living Falun Gong practitioners. Since then, a large number of independent investigators have investigated the matter and have confirmed that the Chinese government has been conducting state-sanctioned, systematic forced organ harvesting from living prisoners of conscience, mainly Falun Gong practitioners, for organ transplantation. Ethan Gutmann is one of those investigators.

The Chinese government has always denied harvesting organs from prisoners of conscience or death row prisoners. However, after the revelation of the organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners, the Chinese Minister of Health, Huang Jiefu, suddenly admitted that most of the organs for organ transplants in China came from executed prisoners. His remarks are widely seen as an attempt to cover up the greater crime of organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience.

China officially announced in 2015 that it would stop using organs from executed prisoners. But there is evidence that organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience and political prisoners has not stopped in China.

Simone: So Ethan, you said in your speech that there’s evidence that forced organ harvesting in China is still going on. Tell me about that again.

Ethan Gutmann: Well, it is a complex picture, like everything in organ harvesting; we’ve had to do it. We’ve had to learn new techniques every time because the Chinese communist party always learns. So for example, they came out and said in 2015, we are no longer harvesting prisoners for their organs.

Now, what they didn’t tell you was two things. They didn’t tell you that they had denied ever harvesting, Falun Gong or Tibetans or Uighurs, or house Christians for their organs. So they were just speaking of prisoners on death row; prisoners who were convicted to death.

And they’re saying, we’re not harvesting them anymore, but even then they were lying because in their own press, they were saying, oh, no, prisoners can still be harvested. As long as they fill out the right forms. That’s all; the only difference was what they were saying in English and what they were saying in Chinese.

And to this day, the World Health Organization and the Transplantation Society, choose to act like they actually said we’re no longer harvesting prisoners.

Simone: So they endorsed their statement.

Ethan Gutmann: Well, they said that statement in English, but in the Chinese, they said something completely different. And I can show you the references if you like, because they were all over the Chinese media. They very quickly tried to reassure everybody in the country that don’t worry. There won’t be any shortage in organs. Okay.

Leaving that aside. Let’s say the English part counted. Well, the problem was that we had been working with some Falun Gong practitioners for many years. Me, Kil ..when I say me, I mean, Kilgore, Matas, myself, had been working with some Falun Gong practitioners for many years who’d been working. Actually it was two groups who’d been trying to estimate, volume, transplant volume in China, and they had done almost a, it was almost a superhuman effort to come up with this stuff, but they had traced every hospital they could and said, okay, how many, how many organs are they harvesting a year?

These weren’t estimates. They had to actually say how many organs they were harvesting every year. But what we, what quickly what’s striking about it is that even just putting a couple of hospitals together, you came up to a figure of 10,000. Now 10,000 was the figure that the Chinese medical establishment had been claiming for almost 10 years. They’ve been saying we do 10,000 transplants a year. Okay.

So we could come up with that with just a few hospitals, but we certainly, but then we realized there were 163 hospitals which were authorized by the Chinese state to do transplants. And when we started going, you know, estimating other, looking at other hospitals, we came up to numbers that were quite spectacular. In fact, we very quickly came up with a figure of at least 50,000.

Then when you started adding in some of the hospitals, which had actually claimed they were doing, you know, 5,000 transplants a year, we were up to a number of 60,000 to a hundred thousand. In fact, truthfully the figure came out to about 120,000. I did those figures. And it was about 120,000 per year.

Now I know something about China having lived there. You know, when somebody catches a fish in China, they catch a fish. They describe it. The fish is this big. It’s not, it’s really about this big, okay. Okay. So people exaggerate by about 20, 25% in most cases. So I said, okay, let’s lower it to a hundred thousand, not 120,000, a hundred thousand. Some people have said 90,000 instead. I don’t really care. It’s, we’re talking, either way, we’re talking about a figure of 80,000, transplants per year, something like that.

That’s very different than 10,000. So there was something very wrong with the Chinese story. So if they were no longer accepting, organs from prisoners or harvesting organs from prisoners. How would they get them? Well, the Chinese got very busy and they did two things. First of all, they started to say, well, actually we’re doing more than 10,000 per year. We’re moving very quickly.

Now, now we’re doing about 20,000 per year. But they also showed the voluntary donations going up. So in other words, they were trying to match our numbers, see how this is working. Okay. This is like, when you catch somebody in a lie and they start going, well, you know, no, I didn’t do that. I mean, I did some of that, but not that, some of it, and don’t worry, it’s no longer, I’m not longer, I’m no longer doing it.

Right. So they started showing these voluntary donation numbers and the curve was perfect. It was going like this. Well, that made me very curious, but it also made Matt Robertson and Jacob Levy and a statistician, very curious. And they got together and did, an advanced statistical study.

And they very quickly came up with the fact that this curve was based on an equation, a simple equation. So in other words, it’s a parabolic curve. That’s based on an equation. The chances of real life of getting voluntary donations to go up in that form are impossible. Okay. They’re a million to one. It doesn’t happen in real life. Quadratic curves like that only occur in design. Right?

So they were obviously lying about the voluntary donation in China. And, you know, you have to say, well, if they’re lying about them, then why wouldn’t they just tell the truth?

If they had a successful voluntary donation campaign. But they didn’t. Right, so we had a problem. So right there, we knew that something was wrong, but I think a larger signal that I was particularly attuned to, because don’t forget, I had studied, done direct research on Uighurs being harvested years ago. Kilgour and Matas didn’t do that. Matt Robertson didn’t do that, nor did Jacob Levy.

I was the first person to go out and start interviewing Uiguhrs about the 1990s before Falun Gong was even being oppressed. And what I’d found was that some, first of all, that live organ harvesting had first taken place in Xinjiang, in Northwest China. That they tried it out there for the first time.

And we have a doctor who actually did that. Envor Tohti who actually was forced to do such an operation. The man who’d been shot; the body was in shock, but the man was not dead. In fact, as Envor Tohti has more recently said if he had worked, operated on that man, the man could have survived. He killed him on the operating table.

So that’s what happened. He took out a kidney and two kidneys and a liver and, and the man died; the man expired. And he was alive when he was making the operation; you know, because the blood was pulsing. That was in 1995. So we know for a fact that live organ harvesting was taking place in Xinjiang.

In 1997 there’s a demonstration in Ghulja, in Xinjiang. It was over Ramadan. They weren’t allowed to practice Ramadan. And some of the Uighurs came to this town hall to demonstrate, and the Chinese police shot a lot of them. And then they went on. There was a lot of them. They arrested them en masse and so forth.

But what we also know is that in Ürümqiin, in the capital, for the first time, they started doing blood tests of the prisoners, political prisoners.

That’s new. Up til now all of Chinese organ harvesting – and it’s not that big a program – has been taking place on, on prisoners, regular prisoners. People who’ve who’ve committed crimes; sometimes very serious crimes.

And who’ve been sentenced to death. Now, I don’t know if those sentences are correct or wrong, or, uh, you know, I’m not there with a clipboard, but I can tell you that. I’m sure a lot of those people, you know, a lot of those people were duly sentenced to death; some were murderers and so forth. This was different. These were political prisoners. These were people who put their fist in the air and said, Allah akbar.

And suddenly they’re getting blood tested. And then five or maybe six Chinese cadres arrived. Very high ranking Chinese Communist Party cadres came in, presumably from Beijing, flew into Ürümqiin, and a Uighur doctor whom I interviewed was told to go in and do the blood tests again on the prisoners.

And he said, well, why? And he said, because they need kidneys. They’re here to get kidneys from these prisoners. And he sort of, I guess, looked a little alarmed or something. And then his supervisor said, don’t worry. These are very bad people. These are very bad people, very bad people. This is for the state.

It’s a good thing for the state. So anyways, these high ranking Communist Party cadres got their kidneys . Then they left. And then a couple of months later, some more came in.

Simone: That was when?

Ethan Gutmann: Now that’s in 1997. So in 1999 …and then it sort of died off, and maybe it could have all ended there, but in 1999, China declares the crackdown on Falun Gong and declares, doesn’t even declare Falun Gong illegal, but just treats it as illegal. And by 2000 you start getting the first exams in prisons and detention centers throughout China.

And initially they were very, very scared about doing these exams. The interesting thing is in 2000, 2001. I’ve talked to many Falun Gong practitioners who experienced those exams. And often it was like one at a time. They’d go to these medical exams. There’d be a man with two armed police on both sides of them. So there was a very intense process. They were very worried about something happening.

In fact the practitioners themselves did not have any special insight as to why they were being examined. And most of them, organ harvesting did not occur to them at all.

Simone: Did they? This is in retrospect. They realize what well …

Ethan Gutmann: And now, now they were… not always. You know, one of the interesting things about persecution is that there’s a great tendency for denial. What we call denial. You know, one of the ways. Yes, for the victim, because often one of the ways you keep your spirits up or keep yourself kind of, okay, is you don’t think about the worst thing.

That’s the way some people handle it. Some people think always about the worst. Some people it’s better they don’t think about the worst. So they go, there’s no way they’d do that to me. Or that won’t happen. So for example, I did meet a woman who was one of the earliest cases who had clearly been examined for her organs. And she – this is in Australia – and she said, oh, they never would’ve harvested me. I’m too important. Okay.

Now, in fact, they were examining her for organs and maybe she just didn’t have a good match. Who knows; maybe she was right. I don’t think she was right. I think she was wrong, but who knows? The bottom line is to make a long story short here, the transplant industry exploded in China because at the same rate, as the explosion of Falun Gong into the, what we call the Laogai system of China, the prisons, the black jails, the mental hospitals, obviously labor camps…

And that explosion hits every province. Every province builds a transplant hospital. Everybody gets in on the act, the techniques improve. They start learning how to use lungs, hearts. These become common over time. So they’re experimenting with people and the waiting time for an organ very quickly goes from, you know, China traditionally had a waiting time for organs of a couple of months or something like that.

It’s suddenly two weeks or less. You know, that’s what people leave out. They say, oh, until two weeks. No, it was actually less In 2006, there are several cases of hospitals which did emergency liver transplants. That is somebody comes in with an, an acute liver crisis. Okay. They’re at the point of death.

And four hours later, they have a matching liver and it’s transplanted. And the person, the day after the person is magically rising from the hospital bed. And this is unbelievable stuff. It’s the stuff of science fiction.

And it was only made possible because there were so many Falun Gong in detention. And so many had been tested for their organs, that there was a stable of tissue types, a stable of cross matching, where you could select, you had all these possibilities and you could select from them and pull one out.

That was a perfect or close to perfect match for whoever had a problem. And you could do it that fast. So this is, this is an astounding, point even in 2006. So by 2015, what’s changed? Well the year before 2015 there’s some evidence that they were starting to run out of Falun Gong or at least young Falun Gong practitioners.

Up til then they had been harvesting Falung Gong and mainly young Falun Gong. We’ve seen the records on this. Now they’re not recorded as Falun Gong, but it’s very clear. They say 28 year old male dies of heart failure.

Okay. And I really wanna make sure your camera catches this. 28 year old dies of heart failure. What are the chances? Do you know anyone? Have you heard of anyone in your life who has died of heart failure at age 28?

Do you have a friend or a friend of a friend who’s died of heart failure at age 28? This is nearly impossible. Okay. And that is one of the reasons that 28 year-olds are so valuable for organs. But Falun Gong is aging at this point. A lot of Falun Gong …. Some Falun Gong had left China. Some very dedicated people had been killed and a lot of people had gotten older.

So at that point in nine provinces, in 2014, the police start showing up in Falun Gong homes and opening the door and saying, you’re doing a blood test. Police doing this. And they do a cheek swab, a DNA cheek, swab. The combination of DNA and blood leads you to a perfect organ match. It’s the best possible match you can get.

Simone: Are you talking about, they go to, they went to Falun Gong homes to test Falun Gong practitioners?

Ethan Gutmann: Yes. Falun Gong homes to/for Falun Gong practitioners. These are people who are not in prison. They’re not in jail. They’re not in – they’re just Falun Gong at this point. Maybe they’ve been in the head brush with the law before. Maybe they’ve had a little trouble before, but at this point, they’re just at home. The significance of that…

At first, when I heard about this story, this came out in Minghui. And when I first heard about it, I said, this is a scare tactic. They’re just trying to scare people. They can’t really be doing this. But I was wrong. They were. They were trying to select. to see if they could get them from their homes. They’re looking for young people.

Simone: Do you have evidence that people who were tested at home, forced tested at home, were taken away?

Ethan Gutmann: Well, we know we do have some evidence that a lot of them were arrested later on pretext. So we don’t know about did they, were, they just grabbed from their homes and take it away? Probably not. That’s not the way that … that’s not the way the CCP works.

They tend to not want to do things that way. They’ll sort of say you’re being arrested for this and that. And then, then you just disappear into that system. Now, as Matas has pointed out, and a lot of practitioners have pointed out too, Falun Gong were extremely vulnerable of across us because they were not giving their names in many cases, and not even saying which province they were from.

So that meant that their families couldn’t really advocate for them. And of course they were trying to protect their families from damage. Similar situation arises with the Uighurs.

But we’ll get into that briefly. The bottom line is that what this tells us that about 2014, they’re running out; they’re, they’re going low on this. Uh, and what happens in 2015? There’s an announcement that every Uighur in Xinjiang has to be health checked, given a health check.

Every Uighur above the age of 12 must some mandatory health check. People formed long lines all over in bizaars and in shopping centers and all kinds of places, school houses, and were given health checks. These were basically blood tests and other brief tests. But the main thing was the blood test. What they’re trying to do is map out the population. Han Chinese half of Xinjiang, as you know, is Han Chinese.

They didn’t have to take any tests. There was no mandatory health check for them at all. Okay. So this was Uighurs and I believe Kazakhs, I’m not even sure about Hui… Yeah. Hui too, at that time, I’m not even sure they were sort of, they were always in between. Okay. They’re giving that test. That’s 2015. By 2016, the camps have begun. And the tests are done. That’s when, you know, these people start pouring into these camps. Okay.

Simone: So 2015, they had the test. In 2016, they built the camps and they put those, people who had been tested to the camps.

Ethan Gutmann: Right. And the interesting thing of course is that the camps did, were featuring mainly young …. They were going after young people and middle aged people, they weren’t going that much after…

Simone: Not like every single one who has been tested is, is put into camp.

Ethan Gutmann: No, no, because older people are pretty much exempt from all this. In a sense, you can say whatever’s happening to older people is sort of for show. We don’t tend to think of them as great candidates for organs. You can use elderly organs, but I wouldn’t. Why would you trade an old, you know, if I needed an organ, why would I trade it for another old organ?

I mean that doesn’t make a lot of sense. The point is this … when we look at the camps and what happened to Uighur villages, for example, they became places – and many people have described this who’ve been through them – with nothing but little kids and old women. Sometimes elderly men. So it’s like elderly people and little kids and all the rest of the people are gone.

There are no young people. Okay. There’s I mean, any adolescents were in there – you know, all the way from 15 up and people of 45 were in there. The rest is just left behind.

Now, what we know at this point is that 2017, the camps are fully constructed and we probably have, and it’s very hard to make these estimates, but based on what we see from satellite technology, it’s probably at least 2 million in the camps at that point. It’s an extraordinary number.

Now I tend to use the figure 1 million, because it’s a conservative figure. It’s simple to defend. I think everybody can accept that at least 1 million people are in the camps. Even now, 1 million people in the camps. And what I did, and this is, I think, the important point I bring in here, is that I went to Kazakhstan because…

I only was interested in talking to people who’d actually been inside the camps. I wasn’t interested in family members. That’s not that I wasn’t interested, but they weren’t helpful to me. Stories about people who they … you know, my mother’s in the camp.

I mean, I can’t help with this. There’s nothing I can do. What I can do is try to interview people who’d been inside the camps. What did you see? And I asked them who went missing? Who left the camp? And they said, well, sometimes some, occasionally an old person would leave the camp because they got sick.

And I’m like, okay. And they’d say, but there was a definite group who left the camp and they were usually about 18 years old. And I said, tell me about that. And they said, well, this is young. This is very young people. Uh they’re they’re about 18 and, and maybe girls, right. And young women.

And they would, would’ve be announced at lunch, usually that they were graduating. This is the term they used ‘graduating,’ which meant that they were going to work in a factory out east, in Eastern China.

Yeah. They were not gonna come back. They wouldn’t see their families again. They were just gonna go and work in some factory. Or sometimes they were going to work in a cotton plantation, essentially a place where they pick cotton and grow cotton in Xinjiang; sometimes they were going in Xinjiang.

A lot of times out east, whatever. They would announce this. And it was almost like an award. It was like people were sometimes they even encouraged you to applaud a little bit for these young women who were going away. Well, that was done very openly but there was one other group.

They all said, well, there’s this other group. And this is about, um, talking about 10 witnesses, which doesn’t seem like much, but we only have 10 witnesses over here in the west. So these are 10 in Kazakhstan.

So I’m doubling the witnesses essentially, which is not easy. And they what’s the other group? Well, they said, well, these other people would disappear in the middle of the night. I said, well, what were the circumstances that?

Well, they say, well, we don’t really know. We except that they, we were all given a blood test. I said, when did you give them the blood test? And you know about a week before. So they’re given this blood test. And then a week later, three or four people, whatever they remember, would leave in the middle, would just be gone the next day. What was their age? 28.

What Has Beijing Learned from War on Ukraine, an Interview with James Fanell | Zooming In

Simone Gao: When the war on Ukraine is turning more and more frustrating for Russia, both Beijing and Taipei are watching closely.

If you were a senior Chinese general at this point, would you suggest Xi Jinping, uh, take or not to take Taiwan by force because of, you know, how the war has turned out in Ukraine?

James Fanell: If I was a PLA general, I would be, you know, I would be telling, uh, you know, general secretary Z. Here’s what we know about what has occurred in the Ukraine. Here’s where the Russians made mistakes. Here’s how we have, uh, overcome those mistakes.

Simone Gao: But are the Taiwanese as alert as they should be?

James Fanell: From what I’ve read is that the, you know, the crash of a, an ROC air force training aircraft that killed unfortunately, uh, Taiwan air force pilot, That seemed to have garnered more attention and criticism from the press in Taiwan than the fact that the PRC had sent 30 aircraft into their air defense identification zone.

Simone Gao: The Russian army’s performance has been less impressive than many military experts had expected. Is China’s military on the same caliber?

Seeing how the Ukraine war has been unfolding, is China less likely to take Taiwan by force?I had this conversation with James Fanell, former director of Intelligence and Information Operations for the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

I am Simone Gao and you are watching Zooming In.

Simone Gao: Then how would you compare Russia’s military power to that of China after seeing what happened in Ukraine?

James Fanell: Well, I mean, this is a, again, an assessment based on my, my own observations of the Chinese military over the years, and that obviously has to be couched in terms of, we don’t know, because we haven’t seen them in action. Like we’re seeing the Russians right now. Uh, but from what I see with the, the amount of training that the Chinese have, the amount of arms and capabilities that they have, their focus on joint integration, uh, it seems to me that, uh, that they have a capability that I think is greater than the Russians in terms of, of mass. Uh, Russian has a lot of forces Russia, amassed, you know, over a hundred thousand ground troops on the Ukrainian border. Uh, but I think that that when China decides to take, uh, Taiwan, they’re gonna be able Tomas a million or 2 million to be able to come across the Taiwan Strait.

Uh, and I think that’s something that people don’t really, uh, comprehend, uh, especially when you’re talking about the concept of People’s War, where the totality of the Chinese, uh, society would be brought to bear against, uh, Taiwan. Uh, but there’s, and there’s another difference. Obviously, the, the terrain, you know, it’s a land war in Russia and Ukraine, uh, going across, uh, the Taiwan, Strait’s a different, uh, endeavor. That’s why the Chinese Navy is much greater than the Russian Navy, uh, in terms of, uh, this kind of, uh, operation. And then you add in the strategic rocket force of the PLA uh, the strategic support force. I think there’s a lot there that the Chinese have capability-wise. And I think what they’ve done is they’vely used this, uh, three months of conflict as a, as a, as a schoolhouse, the Chinese military leaders, PLA leaders, central military commission are probably studying intimately studying what the Russians are doing.

Uh, they obviously have connections with the Russians. We saw the Russians and the Chinese flying together. They’re bombers in formation with fighter escorts in the sea of Japan this last week. Uh, that doesn’t happen if you don’t have close military contact. And so if the Russians and the Chinese are operating together in the sea of Japan, you can, you can very well be sure that China’s also requesting and getting intelligence and, and, and, um, feedback from the Russians on what’s working, or what’s not working. How are the, uh, Western, uh, allies, uh, supporting the Ukraine and what is Ukraine doing? So I’m sure that Russia’s are China is studying all these details and, and getting smarter and updating their war plans and their contingency plans that they have for Taiwan.

Simone Gao: After seeing what happened in Ukraine, some analysts say it almost looks like Russia is not fighting a war of the 21st century but a war in the late 19th and 20th century. Their different military branches are not well-integrated, they don’t use intelligence well, they fire heavy artillery and move their troops in big blocs. What’s your opinion on that? Is China the same way?

James Fanell: Right. That’s a good question. I mean, there’s basically this idea of, uh, attrition warfare, slow, uh, tank battles and, and, and ground forces supported by heavy fires of artillery, you know, mass bombardments on artillery at certain locations, and just kind of slugging it out like they did in World War II, in Stalingrad or something. And so I think that’s a fair assessment that, from what we’ve seen so far, I don’t think that’s too much off the mark. So then the next question that you raised and I’ve seen the discussions is whether or not that the Chinese military is wedded to the same kind of doctrine in the way they fight. And I think up until the last, uh, 20 years and maybe, uh, 10 years Chinese military doctrine, especially for the PLA army is very much probably influenced by old Soviet, uh, military doctrine that we’re seeing played out in the Ukraine.

But I do think because the Soviet Navy is now the Russian Navy and their talk, their doctrines didn’t really, I don’t think influenced the Chinese Navy and their development and the Chinese air force and the Chinese strategic rocket force, uh, in the same fashion. And so I think what we have with the PLA today is a much more modern force, not just in the weapons that they have, but in the way that they look at fighting a war. I mean, I gave a speech, um, eight years ago where we were quoting Chinese generals talking about conducting a short, sharp war. So they’re aware of this. We know that the Chinese leaders, military leaders have gone to school on Desert Storm from 19 90, 19 91. And the, uh, shock and awe campaign that the us military inflicted on Saddam Hussein, and his military. So we know that the Chinese, uh, have studied these things have tried to mimic the, and the development of their own military to be able to do these kinds of short, sharp war, uh, lightning strikes.

So I, I think that Chinese have a different doctrinal perspective when it comes to this. Now we know in 1950, when they fought in the Korean war, they fought much like the Russians are fighting today in the Ukraine, but again, that was 72 years ago or, or, or so, and I think the Chinese in the last 20 years have really adapted and altered their doctrine and have gotten much more in tune with the United States’ military, uh, way of fighting, uh, in this 21st century. And so I would expect that Chinese would operate that way.

Simone Gao: You are the one who has been sounding the alarm of how the PLA military power is advancing and in some areas surpassed the U.S.. How is the situation right now? Do you think America has the ability to protect Taiwan?

James Fanell: I’m very, very concerned about our ability, the United States’s ability, to protect Taiwan, defend Taiwan from an invasion from China. Uh, as you, as you noted, I’ve have been warning about this and, uh, what I see today, and I’m seeing more and more, uh, like-minded security officials, people that hadn’t said anything in the past few years are now starting to sound the alarm that were really in a serious situation, especially when our, our budgets that are being submitted, uh, are, are clearly not the kind of budgets that we would expect to see in the face of such a, a growing threat from the PRC and the PLA. So I worry that the, the relatively static size of the US Seventh Fleet and the Fifth Air Force and other air force, our, our, our, our Marine three Third Marine Expeditionary Force in Okinawa, those permanently deployed kind of are former forward deployed permanent forces that we have out in, in the Western Pacific, that, that, that size and the capabilities are generally the same over the last 30 years.

Now, there’s been improvements in, in the different types of, uh, equipment that they have. And there’s been 2,500 Marines, uh, that are rotationed out of Darwin in Australia. But other than that, there hasn’t been a dramatic increase in the presence and size of the US Western Pacific military forces while China has dramatically changed and grown and altered the military balance of power in the region. China’s Navy is now the largest Navy in the world. Ours is, uh, around 297 ships, but we have to split those ships essentially between our east and west coast. So they’re not all focused and on station in the Western Pacific. So China’s advantage, even though they’re the largest Navy is even greater than just saying, they’re the largest Navy by a few, few ships. They’re now actually much larger because they’re concentrated. They’re in China, inside the first and second island chain while ours are on our west and east coast and have thousands and thousands of miles, uh, to sail before they could actually get into the combat area to help defend Taiwan.

Um, so I’m really worried that we’re, we’re not prepared. I think the people that are in the military, uh, the people that are at sea today are, are, are good Americans, and they’re, they want to do the right thing. They’re planning and practicing to do the right things to defend Taiwan. Uh, but they don’t have the resources there there’s been cuts to, uh, you know, training and maintenance funds over the years, uh, that make them less able to, you know, be as sharp as they should be. Maybe as when I was in active duty, we’re seeing more and more pictures of US Navy warships that are rusted out and not prepared, not materially ready as they could be or should be. And so I worry about all these things, and I’m very concerned that our Congress doesn’t seem to be, uh, alarmed. They should be at a, you know, it’s like a, if a house is on fire, they call the fire department and there’s a four, four alarm fire. That’s the, the highest number of alarms. You can have to get the whole fire department out to put out the big fire. And we should be at a four alarm fire status right now inside the United States Department of Defense and our Congress, as it comes to realizing that China is on the brink of doing something like we’re seeing, being done in the Ukraine.

Simone Gao: So that was what I was going to ask you. After seeing what has been happening in Ukraine, do you think Washington will be more candid or less candid in boosting the U.S. military? Do they see Russia as not as competent as they thought and so would it be similar for China or do they see China doing something similar so the threat to Taiwan is real and the U.S. had better be prepared?

James Fanell: There’s a mixed message coming out of this White House. And it’s confused people from the left, from the right side of the aisle. Uh, and then we have to look at things like arm sales, and there’s a great concern that arm sales from the United States to Taiwan, there’s been a, either a cancellation or delay of a number of, uh, weapons here in the last few months. And that’s a that’s alarming given the one thing that we we know from the experience in the Ukraine is that if we had armed up, uh, the Ukraine before the Russian invasion, it may have altered Putin’s desire to, to risk a war in Ukraine.

I know many, many people in Washington, DC, the experts, the so-called experts say, if you do that, you will be provoking China to attack. And my answer to them is, uh, that’s what you assess. However, what we know is that Chinese intend to attack Taiwan, and if we’re not going to do anything to deter them, so what’s the difference. If they’re going to come after I send arms into Taiwan, at least we have a fighting chance; if I don’t do anything, then those people in Taiwan have no chance.

And so I would suggest that we start providing them those, uh, materials, uh, those weapons as soon as possible. And that we would also establish a combined command structure in Taiwan that we composed of Taiwan military, US military, uh, Japanese military, and other members of the quad, or whoever else wants to join that, uh, to conduct, uh, training and, and, and not just training, but to have a command and control structure that would allow us to be effective. Uh, when the invasion were to occur, if it were to occur. We have such structure on the Korean peninsula today, it’s called combined forces command. It combines US and mili and Korean military together, and they sit shoulder to shoulder with each other in command centers and in the field and in the fleet. And, uh, we should be doing something very much similar, uh, towards, uh, Taiwan right now.

Simone Gao: This question has always perplexed our non-military people. Does the DOD have an existing operational plan regarding the Taiwan strait under various circumstances? If so, does the ambiguity coming out of the White House matter? What role do the President and congress play in a potential conflict over the Taiwan strait?

James Fanell: Well, you, you, it’s always natural to assume that militaries plan. I mean, each and, and plan for contingencies. Um, we have a whole, if you could look at our joint doctrine, we have operational plans O plans, and we have contingency plans, con plans. That’s part of our doctrine. You can read about it, it’s in the open, open press. Uh, I can’t talk about specific plans that the INDOPACOM has. I can just say that I was almost 30 years in the Indo-Pacific command, or then called PACOM, Pacific command. And I can say that, you know, at every level that I was at, we had a, what we call the, in the, the military high, uh, nomenclature. We have the planning shop, the 5, the J5 at the joint level, the N5 at the Navy level. And so there’s planners, there’s people on, on the staffs of these, uh, military commands inside the US military that are planners and our counterparts and other militaries are planners as well.

And so if you’re assigned, uh, to the Indo-Pacific, it’s probably a good chance that you’re planning for something that, that has to do with an invasion of Taiwan. That’s not a, that’s not a super, that’s not a secret, but your question is, well, because we have a plan, therefore we don’t have to worry so much about what Biden or the Congress say. And I, I disagree with that. I think, as I said before, the entirety of lead leading a nation into combat in terms of making decisions about what a nation will do that has to be led by the President of the United States. We’ve seen it play out in, in, in, in Afghanistan in terms of how, uh, the, the, uh, you know, the, the, uh, evacuation of Kabul and the decision making about why to lead Bhagram Air Base. These were all decision parameters, excuse me, that were set by the President of the United States.

We’ve seen it here in the Ukraine president of the United States has had the, kind of the, the most influential say, even to the partners in NATO about whether or not we would allow, uh, you know, combat aircraft and other kinds of weapons to be given to the Ukraine. And it will be exactly the same thing in a Taiwan scenario. The President of the United States will have this influence over how, uh, a fight would be, uh, engaged whether or not we would be full in or where we would try to hedge. And the Congress has a role, both constitutionally and through, you know, its ability to, I mean, in terms of authorizations of war and that nature, but also through what they authorize in terms of funding for the, the, the build up of military forces and readiness. And so both institutions have a responsibility, uh, to, uh, they have a huge responsibility in this, and it’s not just left up to the commander of INDOPACOM and his planning staff and his fielded forces to just go about and do the business of defending Taiwan. It’ll take much more than that.

Are Putin’s Sanctions Countermeasures Working? Chat with William Wohlforth, Part 2

Okay. Let’s talk about the sanctions. What do you think of Putin’s countermeasures to the sanctions so far? He forced so-called unfriendly countries to buy Russian oil and gas with rubles. Uh, how long do you think he can insist on that?

The EU has responded. So, that was back in March, and the EU responded and said that they would refuse to settle the accounts into rubles because essentially, if you do that, then essentially you’re in some ways kind of insulating Russia from the financial sanctions. And, um, and so far it’s unclear to me what’s happened. Putin claimed, about a week ago, that the Europeans were not settling up in rubles. So, the status of that particular move by Putin is unclear to me at the moment. In other words, the news that I had seen, and even from the Russians themselves, is that Europeans are continuing to insist on payment in convertible currencies. But the Russian overall response has been sort of effective in the near term, particularly in defending the ruble and other defensive measures they’ve taken against these sanctions. However, the Russian central bank chief yesterday, the head of the Russian state bank, I think it was yesterday or the day before yesterday, essentially said in no uncertain terms that all of these measures are temporary in nature that Russia has taken and that the costs to the Russian economy are going to be quite spectacular and compounding and escalating in the weeks and months ahead. So, you can expect the bite of those sanctions to get tougher and tougher and tougher for Russia, according to Russia’s own officials, with each passing week.

You talked about Russian central bank. The West has frozen much of Russia’s, you know, over 600 million dollar foreign reserves held in foreign banks. But this, I mean, has not really crushed the Russian economy. China won’t freeze Russia’s, you know, foreign reserves held in [unknown phrase]. And because Russia still makes money from energy sales, its economy is getting by. The ruble now even bounced back to its pre-war value. So, do you think, you know, you just said this could be successful, but it would not be long lived. Is that right?

Yeah. I mean, the ruble bounce back is the result of very high interest rates being paid on ruble holdings, ruble assets, and capital controls. I mean, basically you’re putting on capital controls and you’re turning the ruble into a, into a domestic-only currency. In some sense, the long-term effect is to cut off the Russian economy from the world even more. The more you make, uh, impose these capital controls. So, that’s essentially a limited, that’s an option, that is an option for maintaining the ruble’s value that is not going to be sustainable forever without a significant cost to Russia’s ability to act in the international economy. You know, Russia needs to supply its inputs for everything that it creates. We still live in a globalized economy. There are still such things as supply change, and Russia is part of this. Indeed, there’s speculation that even Russian military production requires some degree of access to imports. And they’re not getting any of these now and therefore the ramified effects throughout the Russian economy of their inability to obtain these key inputs is, according to the Russian central banker herself, going to be escalating with each passing month.

Hmm. Okay. What do you think of Putin’s measure to link the ruble and gold? I mean, he said that the central bank will buy gold at a certain price with ruble from, I mean, at least until June 30th.

And from whom? Who wants to own all those rubles? That’s the question. When you have capital controls on the ruble, the ruble’s only really particularly useful for people inside of Russia. So, the question is who is now holding rubles is gonna want to transfer those rubles into gold? So, I don’t know. The international finance can have many tricks and many schemes within it, but to my mind, I’m not seeing that as a lifesaver for the Russian economy. Bottom line is you have an unprecedented set of sanctions against Russia, and they do take time to work. And as I’ve stated, we’ve now had the mayor of Moscow, we’ve had the deputy prime minister and we’ve had the Russian central bank head all say that, “get ready for feeling the bite of these sanctions.They’re going to hit and they’re going to hit hard.” So I–essentially, in some sense–defer to them and their expertise. In fact, in a way, they’re kind of brave to be even saying these things since they’re cutting against the line that Putin wants to send out that we can handle these sanctions, no problem.

Yeah. Yeah.

It should be stressed that it’s not clear that any of this is going to materially affect Russia’s ability to continue to prosecute the war. So, if the idea of these sanctions is to stop Russia from any kind of immediate action in the coming weeks or months in Ukraine, that’s not their capacity. That’s not their strong suit. Their strong suit is a longer term imposition of costs, such that if Russia’s contemplating trying to continue this campaign over really long periods of time, that the costs are gonna be very, very high for the Russian economy.

Mm-hmm. If Russia stops the war, do you think the sanctions will come off right away?

I’m worried about that. I mean, that goes back to what I was, how I was responding to your earlier question about Western, how the West can help try to find a resolution. If you put Russia in a position–again, I don’t like, you know, it’s very hard to have much feeling of concern for Russia’s wellbeing given that that country is responsible for this horrific war. On the other hand, if you wanna try to find a settlement of some kind, there ought to be some thought given to the upside for Russia. In other words, not just imposing costs but suggesting benefits if they are to cease this action in Ukraine. And so for that, saying it’d be nice if these sanctions were contingent, namely saying, “we put these sanctions on you because of what you were doing in Ukraine. If you stop doing that, we’ll take the sanctions off.”

Unfortunately, I’m not seeing any kind of talk of that nature because of the first part of the Zelensky speech that you referred to some time ago, his outrage at seeing that mother looking down the well and seeing her son. The emotions that are elicited by what Russia is doing in Ukraine are so intense that the feeling now is a desire simply to punish Russia and isolate Russia indeterminately. And as much as I can understand those emotions, I don’t think it’s prudent to act in this way. I think it’s better to suggest the possibility, the conditions under which the sanctions would be relieved. Certainly we should say explicitly that if the Ukrainian government agrees to a deal with Moscow, we will certainly, at the behest of the Ukrainian government, reduce these sanctions.

Hmm. What if the Ukrainian government does not require the West to reduce the sanctions? If, they say, you know, this is your decision?

Yes. Well, that gets to this tricky point of does the West want to actually be pressuring Ukraine to accept some kind of deal that the Ukrainian government does not want accept? Do we want to tell Zelensky that, “Hey, you know, the deal that Russia’s offering right now looks pretty good to us, and we really think you should accept this deal. In fact, you’re being unreasonable if you don’t accept that deal. You’re not being a responsible statesman.” I would love it if that scenario were to happen. In other words, for this to happen, we need to have some sign from Russia that there is some remotely plausible deal, some remotely acceptable agreement that Russia’s prepared to accept. And if we see some language like that, then it’s not inconceivable to me that we would really strongly urge Ukraine to begin to talk about such a deal. But we see nothing of the kind right now.

On the contrary, I think it’s very important to recognize that we’re seeing rhetoric from Russia, from Russian commentators and even some Russian officials, that literally does sound like genocide. I mean, I don’t use that term lightly, but there’s talk that basically says any assertion of an independent Ukrainian national identity is by definition Nazi, and our job is to de-Nazify Ukraine. If you hear talk like that from your so-called bargaining partner, how can we possibly be pressuring Ukraine to accept the deal? But if Russia starts to talk more reasonably and unless this kind of, if it were to cease, this kind of crazy talk about Nazis in Ukraine, then the West certainly would be in a position potentially to put some pressure on the Ukrainian government if the Ukrainian government is the one that seems to be blocking a deal.

When you talked about the tough talk from Russia about the genocide and stuff, do you think that’s also Putin’s thoughts?

Yeah. I mean, look, Putin’s rhetoric fed this kind of talk. It began last summer with an article he wrote on the historical unity of Russians and Ukrainians. Its very extreme nationalist take or view of the relationship between the Ukrainian nation and the Russian nation was in that article. And we moved on and on from there. There’s been a ceaseless strain of Russian state propaganda which supports this idea that essentially equates the assertion of an independent Russian, I’m sorry, an independent Ukrainian identity that is not part of the Russian world, that any assertion of that kind is essentially Nazism, fascism, unacceptable and needs to be destroyed. They are denying the right of an Ukrainian government or intellectual, or an educator or anyone to assert the idea that yes, we Ukrainians are independent of Russia. And in fact, we’re not really part of the Russian world. We’re part of the West. That sentiment, they are saying in Russian propaganda, is in and of itself Nazi. And that propaganda line is official Russian government propaganda. And the head of that government is named Vladimir Putin. So, he has to accept some responsibility for this.

Do you think Putin regretted his war?

I hope he does. I mean, I have no idea. He, of course, would never admit to this in public. When you are a personalistic dictator whose claimed rule in part is based on power and just the ability to continue ruling, but your claim to legitimacy is partly based on the image of a highly competent leader, as someone who is smart strategically, is a grand master of the game of politics, and when your legitimacy hinges upon this image, you are never going to admit that you made a catastrophic strategic blunder of historic proportions. However, I very much hope he recognizes that it was a blunder in private, and I hope he’s seeking a way to get out of this with a modicum of prestige intact so that he can go home, lick wounds and rethink his approach. I don’t know that’s the case, but I certainly wish it were the case.

I think Putin is a very puzzling figure. If you listen to his speech, I mean, a lot of his speeches a few years ago made a lot of sense, to me at least. I mean, he was talking about the country, the direction the country is taking, and he talks about some of the problems the West has and, uh, their way of dealing with it, and direction of the country and stuff like that. I think it all made a lot of sense, but, um, on the other side, he has this dictator authoritarian instinct in him that I think the West has not paid enough attention to. What do you think?

I agree. I actually have read and carefully studied many, many, many of Putin’s speeches about international position of Russia and how Russia has been treated, particularly by the United States. I have assiduously and carefully read the writings of public affairs and foreign policy commentators in Russia who articulate this viewpoint. And I view a lot of it, much of it, as completely reasonable, but none of it justifies what they’re doing in Ukraine. I think you can hold those two views in your head at the same time that yes, Russia has, actually does have some legitimate, reasonable complaints about its role in the world since 1991 or since 2001 or whatever year you wanna pick. You can agree with that and also say, but seeking to dismember Ukraine in 2014, fomenting a rebellion in Ukraine in 2014, and now attacking Ukraine and blowing up cities in Ukraine is not a good way to deal with those problems. So, yes, I do think we underestimated, potentially, the emotion, the degree to which Putin was willing to take drastic steps. And perhaps also, frankly, the degree to which Putin and his high command underestimated Ukraine’s position as a state with an identity of its own and with institutions that function, particularly with a military that functions. All of those are blind spots of Putin that many of us observing his foreign policy did not see as clearly as we probably should have.

Hmm. I think Putin probably had one huge miscalculation. That’s the stiff resistance of the Ukrainian people. If he thought he can get away with this, if the work can be finished very soon, very quickly, then, you know, maybe this is not a bad thing for him to do from his point of view. You know, his relations with the West and how it didn’t work out and all these supposedly grievances and stuff. If he can solve all these problems with a quick war with no real consequences afterwards, I mean, from the previous experiences, that might not be a bad thing for him. But he miscalculated how the West just solidified after the stiff resistance of the Ukrainians.

That’s right. The fundamental miscalculation had to be. The only way we can make even any sense out of what Putin did was the fundamental miscalculation was about Ukraine. Because the West’s response is a result of the Ukrainian response. Had the Ukrainians not been so powerful and brave in their resistance to Russia, had they not been so effective to force Russia to fight hard, you wouldn’t have seen this Russian, this, uh, Western response. So everything, the fundamental miscalculation, is a miscalculation about Ukraine, a blind spot, an inability to see the Ukraine that really existed and only seeing in the mind of Moscow, in the mind of Kremlin, seeing only the Ukraine that they thought existed, that they wished existed, that they imagined existed, but not the real Ukraine. That was a profound and deep blind spot that led them into this quagmire, led them into this disastrous war.

I can tell you, interestingly, there were people in Russia in February writing articles saying don’t do this thing. This is crazy. In fact, there was a wonderful article by a former, by a retired Russian colonel in the Russian armed forces who was retired from the general staff of the Russian armed forces who wrote a whole article saying stop talking about a quick two to three day invasion of Ukraine. It’s not gonna work that way, folks. It’s going to be, if you do this, it’ll be a total disaster. And he wrote this article in early February. So, there were people in Russia who could see what a disaster this would be, but it’s just Putin and his leading circle didn’t see it that way, as you suggested. The only way we can make sense of this is they literally thought they could make this thing happen very quickly, get a regime change, and the West would sort of protest and be bothered about it, but ultimately come around and accept a pro-Russian government in Kyiv.

Right. Right. So that just means Putin is isolated. He is not getting good intelligence from his people.

It’s one of the, it’s one of the problems of a personalist regime like this where the personalist, the person, the figure, the person who’s running the country has been in power for 22 years is that you cultivate around yourself, the leader cultivates around himself, people who are very compatible, who think the same way, and it gets harder and harder for people to bring to the leader contrary or uncomfortable or unwelcome assessments and opinions.

Yeah. That’s bad for Putin, but it’s also bad for the world. Let’s talk about how the world would change after this war. Do you think even before the war broke out, we were still living in this America-dominated unipolar world order?

I think much less dominated than it used to be. I still think there really remains one country in the world that truly does still stand above most others, indeed, all others in certain areas. I mean, you can see this in the financial area of dominance, there’s still layers of technological and economic strength, still some military advantages the United States has when compared to contenders, even China, but these advantages are far slimmer than they were in the 1990s, in the first decade of the two thousands. So, no question about it this unipolar era is not as robust and strong as it used to be. Indeed, I find it very unlikely that Russia would have contemplated an attack like this if the United States had been as strong and as dominant as it was in the early two thousands, let’s say,

Huh. Okay. So, I mean, America’s weakening and also, I mean, do you think President Biden played a role as well? If, uh, Trump is in power, do you think Putin would do a thing like this?

Nobody knows. I mean, that’s one of these speculations. We have no idea what role in the Kremlin’s thinking was played by, uh, their assessments of a given U.S. president. When I look at the carefully articulated analyses coming from highly connected Russian analysts, I see a rather different story. I see a story where they were thinking, you know, Biden’s a kind of realistic guy. He understands America really needs to focus on China and, therefore, he needs to kind of deal with Russia. And therefore, now is a good time to push for a renegotiation of our position, vis-a-vis NATO and Europe. And so, all of these analysts saw that buildup around Ukraine culminating in January and February as simply an attempt to bargain and get a better deal. What they did not expect, these analysts, was the actual invasion of Ukraine as it actually happened.

So, I’m not sure the assessment of Biden was, oh, he’s weak, he’s a pushover. It was more like, perhaps–again, speculating–that, oh, this president is one we can deal with. The problem with Trump was that it was a hard administration to negotiate with because it was so dysfunctional and kind of all over the place and hard to get its act together. In addition, you could argue that Trump was so hostile himself to NATO that you could calculate– again, this is all speculation–but you could calculate from a Kremlin perspective, like why should we upset the apple cart here? Why should we invade or do anything dramatic? Trump’s gonna do our job for us by, uh, if he gets elected to a second term, he’s gonna do something that’s gonna destroy NATO, which for us is a big part of the problem.

Interesting. Okay. So, we were talking about the world order after this war. If Russian, if Russia in the end is seen as the loser of this war, wouldn’t an America-dominated liberal world order be strengthened?

I think it will be given a kick in the pants. I think it will be given a little bit more, a little bit more esteem. I’m not saying you’re gonna restore this supreme self-confidence that the liberal world order had back in the 1990s when we were talking about a kind of an inexorable march towards democracy and globalization. But I do think that if Russia really ends up having a very, very costly and tough slog in its attempt to take territory from a sovereign neighbor, and if you–and by the way, and if we see that result happening in part because of the United States’ continued abiity to put together global coalitions, to impose intense economic costs, to dramatically funnel effective military technology to the victim, in this case Ukraine–if this result is seen as a result partly of American leadership, then yes, this rules-based order under the auspices of American leadership will receive a bit of a boost.

Hmm. Okay. Talking about the American-dominant liberal order, do you think there’s anything America should reflect, do you think there’s anything that America should reflect on in terms of its effort in supporting and spreading democracies around the world?

I really do. I mean, I can hold two views in my head at the same time that Ukraine is right, Ukraine is the victim, Russia is wrong, this is Russia’s war, and it is a disaster, a mistake, and, in many ways, a crime. I can hold that view while also holding the view that the United States and the West should reflect on how it dealt with Russia in the past, how it dealt with European security and indeed how it dealt with Ukraine. I mean, again, we will argue forever whether the NATO issue was really important or not important in explaining this decision. I happen to think if you were to wind the clock back long enough, back to the 2007, 2008 period, a more proactive, more thoughtful Western policy would have told Ukraine that membership of NATO is not in the cards, and we need to come up with an alternative arrangement.

It’s just possible that if we had worked hard at it, we might have ameliorated or reduced the intensity of this problem between Russia and the West that puts Ukraine in the middle of this. But we didn’t do that. We didn’t put the effort into it. We didn’t think Russia was really worth it. It wasn’t strong enough for us to bother. We had other issues. We had war on terror. We had all these other things going on. So, I do think there is a cause here for reflection on our policy for a difficulty that America sometimes has in accepting trade-offs and saying, you know, we really can’t have both this principle and also this other principle at the same time. So yes, I completely agree that this should be an occasion for a little bit of introspection and some circumspection going forward as to how we conduct ourselves.

Hmm. And also if Russia, I mean, this is another scenario. If Russia was perceived as the winner of this war, what kind of new world order are we going to see?

Well, Russia has, again, Russian officials, leaders and commentators and intellectuals have been telling us forever, really, but really strongly since 2007, 2008, that they’re very, very dissatisfied with a U.S.-led so-called unipolar type of world. They want a multipolar world. They want a European security order in which the United States is either absent or has a much smaller role. They want a much larger role for themselves. If you look at the treaties, the draft treaties, they put forth back in February, in the lead-up to this invasion, you could see the kind of order that they wanted. They wanted one in which NATO would back away, in which Russia essentially had a sphere of influence, in which even countries that are part of NATO but joined NATO after 1997, even those countries would not host any permanent NATO forces, would not station certain kinds of weapons, et cetera, et cetera, you get the story. That’s the world order that Russia wants. And that’s the world order that, if they win, they’ll seek to create. They have been very clear about this for many, many years. They do not like a U.S.-dominated world. They want a world in which there are multiple centers of power and that Russia is one of those centers of power.

So, if Russia is perceived as the winner of this war, you think an America-dominated unipolar world order will come to an end?

Well, it depends on what you mean by winner. I think the answer to that question is if they just gain some sort of dominant position in Ukraine, so they “win” in some sense of defeating the Ukrainian military and somehow getting–whatever the outcome is–a slice of Ukraine. They take Donbas. If they succeed in doing that but the rest of Europe solidifies, and Finland and Sweden join NATO, and NATO gets stronger, in no sense could you call that a weakening of this world order. It will be a much worse situation for Russia in which the world will be very much more severely divided into different camps, in which Russia will be excluded from much of the global economy, and in which Russia will be poorer and Russia will be isolated.

So, a victory in that sense, it seems to me, just purely a victory in Ukraine without gaining some sort of understanding with the West and some sort of allies within the West, within Europe, won’t get them this new world order that they seek. That’s why I see this as such a strategic blunder, because the only way Russia can really get what it says it wants, which is an equal role as a respected pole of power in the world, is by agreement with the West, by having the West talk to it and make bargains with it. But invading countries and killing people and blowing up cities makes it so much harder for the West to be able to do that. It puts a barrier in the way of any possible negotiation with Russia and makes the West inclined to just sort of isolate it. So it’s really, the invasion has really worked at cross purposes. So, to get back to your question, it’s not clear to me that a military victory in Russia, I’m sorry, by Russia in Ukraine would end this moment, would dramatically end this so-called U.S-led rules-based order that we keep talking about.

Hmm. Okay. So all around, this is a bad deal for Russia. Putin just had one miscalculation. Okay, go ahead.

Sure. When you do wars of choice, that is to say you choose to fight wars that are not really necessary, that are optional wars, and when you misjudge the country you’re invading and end up losing or not winning, it’s bad for you. So, to take an example, the United States did this in 2003 by invading Iraq. If we rewind the clock and the U.S. never invades Iraq, my guess is if we run that alternate history, America’s position as the global leader would’ve been much stronger than it turned out to be because ultimately, our ultimate failure to achieve our objectives in Iraq really hurt the U.S. position. So, similarly, a dramatic Russian decision to invade Ukraine and not get what it wanted, not get what it sought and only bearing costs, will harm rather than help Russia’s international position. For sure.

Mm-hmm. What about China? Do you think a China-Russia alliance would last? I mean, is China the beneficiary? I mean, can China benefit from this war either way?

Yes. I mean many Russian, I’m sorry, many China analysts and analysts of the Russia-China relationship tell me, and they write and analyze, produce analyses, that say that China, in some sense, benefits here in that this whole crisis in Europe prevents the United States from that laser-like focus on China that was the original intent of the Biden administration. In Washington, DC, there are plenty of China hawks who really want the United States to refocus on China, and Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine has essentially distracted that. So, that side of the coin, that side of the equation, is good for Russia, I’m sorry, good for China, helps Chinese, gives China greater freedom of action. However, the costs imposed on the United States, the sanctions imposed by the United States, the deepening attention between the United States and Russia also put some stress on the Russia-China relationship and put up Chinese diplomacy, in some cases, in a very awkward position.

So, it’s a double-edged sword. But I’ll put it this way: Russia has no choice here. If it’s going to continue in Ukraine, it doesn’t have a westward option anymore. It used to. You know, there used to be this idea that Russia can kind of dance between China and the West and so on and so forth. That’s over for the time being, which means Russia has no choice. Now, if you connect the dots, what does that mean for China? If Russia has no choice, it means China is in the upper hand in this relationship to a greater degree even than before, which means China will be able to dictate, to a much greater degree than before it was willing to do, the terms of the Russia-China strategic partnership.

For example, if Russia has nowhere else to go, then China can try to, Chinese state-owned corporations and other entities that have to deal with the potential for secondary sanctions, they can tread a very careful line and try not to ruin their business plans via too much support for Russia. And they can do that and know that it’s not like Russia has another option. There’s no other great power Russia can go to. Only Beijing. And so, I think that’s going to play into the terms of their strategic partnership.

Yeah. Russia is trapped.

In a way.

Well, thank you, professor. These are all my questions. Do you have anything else to add?

No, I very much enjoyed the conversation.

Alright. Thank you, professor.

You’re most welcome.

Does Putin Want an Off-Ramp? An Interview with William Wolhforth

Simone Gao:
Thank you, Professor Wohlforth, for joining Zooming In again.

William Wohlforth:
Happy to be here.

Simone Gao:
Um, you know, the Russians gave an ultimatum to the last remaining Ukrainian troops in Mariupol on Sunday, and they basically said either lay down your weapons and leave or die. Uh, obviously no Ukrainian soldiers have left. Ukraine’s president Zelensky said that the already difficult negotiation would end if Russian soldiers killed the remaining Ukrainian troops in Mariupol. Uh, he also said atrocities witnessed after Russian retreat from Kyiv soured the negotiations. Putin admitted that the negotiation had reached a dead end. So, what do you think will happen next?

William Wohlforth:
Everything depends on the battle over the Donbas, which is now getting underway by all accounts. The initial blows, the initial artillery barrages and attacks, are beginning to prepare for what may well be the decisive battle of this war, at least that’s what most observers think. Negotiations will not be possible, as each side thinks that it is likely to do better in this particular battle than the other side expects it to do. And so with both of them essentially unable to agree to terms until they test their strength in this sad and tragically bloody battle to come, I don’t expect much to occur on these negotiations.

Simone Gao:
Hmm. So everybody, everybody is watching the battle in Donbas. If Russia does take Donbas, would you think it will make the war more difficult or easier to end?

William Wohlforth:
It is, um…I don’t know exactly what will happen. War, as everybody who studies it will tell you, is the province of the deepest kinds of uncertainty. So, it’s not at all clear to me that Russia will succeed in taking the Donbas; however, should it succeed in essentially reliably conquering those provinces and keeping Ukraine from any significant counterattack, we could then see a situation of a kind of a stalemate where the war simmers on and no one is willing to reach an agreement, or there could be some temporary ceasefire. But it’s still hard for me to see any Ukrainian government formally acceding to the succession of those two republics and their acquisition by Russia, and have that Ukrainian government stay in power. So, I would expect–again, forecasting is difficult–that if the scenario you set forth actually occurs, we’re likely to see a kind of a stalemate and a percolating, ongoing conflict. One final point, though, is we are so uncertain about this war that we don’t even know if Putin is necessarily going to be satisfied with the acquisition of Donbas, if that’s indeed what he does. In other words, for all we know, if he succeeds in conquering this part of Ukraine, he will simply bide his time and build up his forces and attempt yet further attacks. We just do not know at this stage.

Simone Gao:
What about if Putin cannot succeed in the Donbas area? Would he just give up?

William Wohlforth:
It’s just very hard for me to see, right now, the avenue by which he would simply give up and say, “sorry we ever invaded Ukraine. I really deeply apologize for this. We’re all going to go home.” Nobody who studies Russian foreign and security policy thinks that scenario is likely. So, somehow, for the Russians to be willing to stop this, most people think there’s got to be some measurable gain. Now we don’t know exactly what that sort of line or that threshold is, what is necessary to get Russia to sort of declare victory and go home. But most people think that a minimum is some kind of arrangement under which Putin can claim to have saved or rescued or protected the residents of the Donbas, which he claims were under threat from Ukrainian authorities.

Simone Gao:
Hmm. In a situation like this, I mean, I just saw in a CNN interview with Zelensky, he was commenting on a video clip in which a Ukrainian mom discovered her son’s dead body in a well. Zelensky said as a father, he couldn’t watch it because it made him want to fight and kill. But as president of a country, he needs to do his best to stop the war. So, I mean, obviously this is a very, very difficult situation for him. If you were the advisor to president Zelensky, how would you advise him? What is the, what is the truly good thing to do right now?

William Wohlforth:
You know, I think that statement that he made is one of many that he has made to continue to project the image of a person who is willing to talk and not come across as a person who literally is sort of blood thirsty to fight to the death. He has already given way on the question of Ukraine’s international status. Namely, we have heard Zelensky suggest the possibility of a neutral Ukraine. Now that was coupled with a request for security guarantees that would look very much like NATO membership, but still it was a start. And so, I think that that is exactly how I would advise them. In other words, if I were so presumptuous as to do so, that to maintain that implacable commitment to the fundamental sovereignty of Ukraine while at the same time suggesting we’re willing to talk about Russian security concerns that are legitimate, that don’t involve the destruction of Ukraine or the subjugation of Ukraine. That’s exactly the face that he needs to show both to Moscow and to the rest of the world.

Simone Gao:
Hmm. And at this point, what do you think is the moral and truly prudent action the West should take?

William Wohlforth:
You know, I think that the West is, should the United States and its allies need to be, I think what they’re doing is completely understandable. That Russia’s clearly in the wrong here, let’s be honest. Even if you agree that it had some legitimate security concerns in the past, none of those justifies what it is doing to Ukraine, to Ukrainians, to Ukrainian people. And so, under those circumstances, it seems to me absolutely right and proper that the West should aid the government of Ukraine in defending its sovereignty up to the limit that we judge will not cross some threshold that would elicit a major Russian escalation. But we should also, I think, suggest that the punishment that we are imposing upon Russia with these sanctions is contingent. Namely, that we would remove these sanctions if Russia were to agree to a deal that could be accepted by the Ukrainian government. So, I think we need to both raise costs on Russia but also suggest a future in which Russia could live as a normal member of the international community if it only would revisit this decision to invade Ukraine and accept some sort of reasonable settlement.

Simone Gao:
Hmm. Talking about those possible settlements, a few weeks ago–from the terms the Kremlin had given–it seemed like Putin had shrunk his goals in Ukraine, at least he was not seeking regime change anymore. Now it seems, I mean, as you said, the biggest obstacles are the ownership of, you know, of course, Crimea and the status of the Donbas area. So, I mean, do you think these two sides could still reach some kind of agreement on those two issues? Or do you think it could only be decided by the outcome from the battlefield?

William Wohlforth:
Unfortunately, I think–as I said before and I’m sad to say it–but I just don’t see…the two sides are just way too far apart for any kind of agreement to emerge. And it’s possible that the distance between the two sides will be reduced depending on the outcome of this battle. If one side performs dramatically better than expected–let’s say, for example, as I hope is the case, Ukraine just really performs very, very well, as it has done so far, better than expectations and Russia literally is not in a position to continue the campaign–it could be that the trend that you’ve mentioned of Putin reducing his war aims could continue and we could imagine the two sides coming together on an agreement. But right now, before the outcome of this battle is known, it’s hard for me to see that happening.

William Wohlforth:
And finally, I have to say that I’m, I just remain a little bit uncertain about where Putin stands here. Some of his spokespeople and even he has used language that it seems to be refocusing Russian objectives on this Donbas question. As if, as you say, that the war aims have been reduced. But some of the rhetoric emanating from Moscow commentators and even some officials really sounds blood curdling as opposed to what they mean by de-Nazifying and demilitarizing Ukraine. So, are we really certain that the whole object can be, in fact, reduced to Donbas or, as I hinted at earlier, could it be that he wants a cease-fire after seizing Donbas, build up forces and keep going? We really just don’t know that yet. I hope that it’s true that his war aims are being tempered by the realities on the ground, but we’ll just have to wait and see if that’s really the case.

Simone Gao:
So, you don’t think Putin is seeking off-ramp right now at all? He wants to fight it out?

William Wohlforth:
I’m not seeing evidence of off-ramps yet by Putin. That is to say, summarily he rejected some of the key bottom line Ukrainian demands, way back when these negotiations were still going on and when the sides were leaking to the press what was being discussed in Turkey and in Belarus many weeks ago now when these negotiations were going on. At that point, I didn’t see off-ramp kind of talk. And so far from Moscow, we haven’t heard specifics as to what’s being talked about short of, as we suggested, a complete dismemberment of the country. Recognition of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. And, by the way, it’s important to recognize these are not the region that are these little separatist republics that exist, but the entire constitutional regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. And so far, I can’t quite see how a Ukrainian government could agree to that until, as I suggest, unless something quite dramatic happens on the battlefield.

Simone Gao:
Hmm. You know, many people are worried about this and they see, they are worried that if Putin is not seeking an off-ramp or does not have an off-ramp right now, they’re worried about the possibility of him using nuclear weapons. Regarding that, I have a question. I mean, if Putin only talks about nuclear weapons, it could be a effective deterrent. Once he really uses it, I mean, do you think he will be retaliated against by nuclear weapons from either the U.S. or NATO? And if so, wouldn’t that put Russia on the fate of nuclear attacks, which could lead to its total destruction? So, if that’s not Putin’s real goal, he wouldn’t really use nuclear weapons. Am I right?

William Wohlforth:
Well, it’s important for us to clarify what we’re talking about when we talk about nuclear use. If, by nuclear use, you mean some big strike, something that hits a NATO country or hits the United States with nuclear weapons, then I think you’re right. This just doesn’t seem to be in the cards. I just, I have a hard time envisioning how Putin could ever see such use as working out for Russia or even for him personally. However, the scenario that most people worry about is, let’s stipulate, for this conversation, let us suppose that Putin actually really just cannot or will not or refuses to or feels unable to reduce his war aims and be satisfied with less than total victory in Ukraine, or at least a substantial victory. Let’s suppose that’s the case. We don’t know that it’s true. Let’s suppose it’s true. And let’s suppose that Ukraine continues to do very well on the battlefield. And let’s suppose the United States and the West continue to pour weaponry into Ukraine.

William Wohlforth:
Well, in that case, people worry he could resort to a small yield tactical, so-called, nuclear weapon in Ukraine as a kind of shock and awe approach that would somehow upset the apple cart and somehow lead to some sort of quick resolution or capitulation. And so, then the question becomes how would we, the West, respond to a small yield nuclear use inside Ukraine as a kind of demonstration or a kind of, again, shock tactic to try to bring some sort of resolution to the crisis? I think it would be very hard for us to escalate to nuclear use ourselves in response to such a small nuclear use on Ukraine. I also think that it’s very unlikely that he will choose this. I’m just suggesting that it’s, of all the scenarios discussed, it seems to me the most likely of a relatively unlikely potential.

Simone Gao:
Hmm. So, I mean, that’s very, I mean, doesn’t sound very good because if Putin does use technical, I mean, if Putin does use tactical, uh, nuclear weapons and the U.S. would not retaliate with the same weapons, then what does that lead to? Ukraine just has to surrender at that time because there’s no way they can fight that way?

William Wohlforth:
I’m not sure. I think there may be ways of calling the bluff of Russia, of escalating in response to that–to potential tactical nuclear use against a non-nuclear power, namely against Ukraine–I think there are possible ways the United States and potentially its allies could escalate in response that would be much more than we’re doing today. So, for example, I believe it’s quite…so, the economic sanctions front. Believe it or not, there are economic sanctions that have not been used yet that could be pretty devastating to Russia–what is called, somewhat confusingly sometimes, the nuclear option on sanctions–which would essentially be, of course, cut entirely the cutoff of Russian gas export. So all, basically, Russia’s main revenue streams to the West would be cut off. Or cyber escalation, where the United States maintains lots of things in the back pocket that it’s not doing. Or conventional escalation where the types and nature of intervention in Ukraine would increase. Or possibly even intervention via actual troops. In other words, there are escalatory ways, there are responses to a Russian escalation to tactical nuclear use that are not themselves replying with nuclear weapons that might be very, very, very bad for Russia. And so, my hope is that that sort of escalation is sufficiently credible to deter Putin from even considering this tactical option.

Simone Gao:
Hmm. You talked about the West just totally cut off Russian oil export. You’d think in a scenario, nuclear scenario, the European countries would be on the U.S. side to do that. We can, you know, agree on that.

William Wohlforth:
I do. I think people, scholars, who study these things debate, sort of, the normative or ethical prohibition on nuclear use against a non-nuclear state. Sometimes this is referred to as the nuclear taboo, and people debate its strength. How strongly will the moral approbation of such use affect countries’ decisions. And I think that if you look at this pattern of events thus far, you can see that as Russian actions in Ukraine get more and more extreme and there’s more and more civilian casualties, more and more innocent victims, you’ve seen a ramping up of the Western response. And if Russia then moves to a nuclear use–particularly as, very likely, civilians are potentially victims–I cannot imagine German public opinion would not simply compel the German government to reverse its position on accepting Russian gas, just to name one potential response. So, I do think you’d see real solidarity on the part of the West in response to an unprovoked nuclear attack against a non-nuclear country, Ukraine, that is only trying to defend its own sovereignty. No good explanation on the part of the Russians as to why they’re doing this. So, yes, my expectation is that that would be a credible deterrent for Putin and that, therefore, he’s unlikely to do it.

Oil Prices Soar, but American Oil Producers Are Not in the Mood to Drill, Why?

As the war in Ukraine continues into its second month, fears about global oil shortages and costs continue. European countries that have been deeply dependent on Russian oil are now looking for quick alternatives and looking to countries like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Iran and Venezuela to provide them. In the case of natural gas, European leaders are also reaching out to what Campbell Faulkner, chief data officer at OTC Global Holdings, calls “the Saudi Arabia of natural gas”—the United States—to do more to help their ailing NATO allies. 

Although the United States ranks 4th in proved natural gas reserves, behind Russia, Iran, Qatar, and Turkmenistan, it is the biggest natural gas producer in the world followed by Russia. 

President Biden has heeded the European leaders’ call for more natural gas from America. He committed to send 15 billion cubic tons of liquefied natural gas to Europe through the end of 2022. He has pledged to increase that total to 50 billion cubic tons per year through 2030.

But that commitment comes amid rising gas and oil prices in the United States and ongoing pressures on the shale oil industry. Despite what Bloomberg calls “vast shale fields holding a seemingly endless supply of natural gas and giant terminals capable of liquefying it and shuttling it abroad,” the U.S. shale oil industry has spent decades caught in a boom-and-bust cycle that threatened to undo the entire industry as recently as 2020. 

In the late 2000s, new technologies introduced in the U.S. oil and gas industry, like horizontal drilling and advanced hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, led to the boom of a “shale revolution.” In big shale states like Colorado, this revolution brought with it a six-fold increase in production between 2010 and 2019, according to Chase Woodruff of Colorado Newsline. That production increase drove down prices and, as Woodruff reports, “in 2018 the U.S. made the world’s top oil producer for the first time since 1973.”

These new drilling technologies were not cheap, though, and the required capital for the technologies and operating expenses came, in many cases, from Wall Street. Investment money flowed freely in the early excitement of the fracking boom. But investors soon soured on oil companies’ use of their capital to fund production with little regard for investment returns. And as early rounds of funding dried up, publicly traded companies simply issued new stock to balance the books, a habit that sent many investors packing.

Then came the chaos of 2020 and, alongside it, a sharp decrease in the demand for oil amid COVID lockdowns. The price of crude oil has once dropped to below $0 dollar a barrel in the United States.

46 American oil and gas companies filed for bankruptcy that year. Many more were involved in mergers and acquisitions that began even before the pandemic and continued well into 2021. The companies that remain, says reporter Irina Slav, “rearranged their priorities from ‘growth at all costs’ to ‘returns above all’.”  We are now in a time, says Slav, “when investors are wondering if it’s even worth it to stay in oil, what with the energy transition and [environmental, social, and governance] commitments.” 

To hold on to current investors and encourage new money coming in, the shale industry has shifted its business model. This shift can be seen clearly in their financial results reports of 2021 and investor outlook documents in 2022. Language like a “new return of capital framework” or “new shareholder return framework” or “updated stockholder distribution strategy” permeate these documents. And despite the now surging oil prices, oil executives and analysts doubt we will see a change in this new industry direction. Says Scott Sheffield, CEO of Texas-based Pioneer Natural Resources, “Whether it’s $150 oil, $200 oil, or $100 oil, we’re not going to change our growth plans.” So, despite the oil and gas industry as a whole having 9,000 unused permits to drill on federal lands, they have no intention of using them to help ease the gas shortage created by the conflict in Ukraine.

They have little reason to, given the sentiments President Biden has made so clear in prioritizing alternative energies. Biden has consistently mentioned his belief that fossil fuel industries will be obsolete within 30 years and committed his administration to the work of energy transition. 

In November 2021, the Biden administration proposed reforms to the country’s oil and gas leasing program that would raise costs for energy companies to drill on public lands and water.

The report completes a review that Biden ordered in January. The president directed a halt to new federal oil and gas lease sales on public lands and waters, but a Louisiana federal judge blocked the administration’s suspension in June.

To make his intention more clear, In his recent Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, Biden provided a more than $65 million investment in clean energy and the electric grid. That investment will go to upgrading the U.S. power infrastructure, expanding renewable energy, research and development for advanced transmission and electricity distribution technologies, and the promotion of smart grid technologies. Investments are also made in “next generation technologies like advanced nuclear reactors, carbon capture, and clean hydrogen.”

No new investments were made in the fossil fuel industries or the technologies that support them. And now, with global need climbing and no viable energy alternative, Biden is pleading with U.S. oil companies to ramp up production. Shale oil producers aren’t buying in, and for good reason. The industry needs funds to survive, and those funds will not come from Washington. They will come from shareholders and those shareholders “have been very clear that that money is theirs and they don’t want them to spend it on growing supply.” 

A Zooming In audience member summed it up quite bluntly: who wants to drill and be attacked, vilified and the profits taken by socialist? Hmm, another way to look at it.

I’m your host Simone Gao and I’ll see you next time.

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.

Why Putin Chose to Invade Ukraine Now? Was NATO Expansion to Blame? A Chat with William Wohlforth

thank you, professor workforce for joining zooming in today.

Very happy to be with you.

Okay. Today I wanna talk a about the situation in Ukraine, uh, you know, after the collapse of the Soviet union, should Russia take the Soviets place and still be viewed as a major threat to the security of Europe? Why has NATO decided to expand eastward all these years?

Well, that’s complicated because at first NATO did not really regard Russia as much of a threat after the collapse of the Soviet union and its reasons for expanding were really about kind of making Eastern Europeans and central European countries like Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and ultimately others to feel a little bit more secure in an unstable post cold war atmosphere. You know, um, Watchers of this with long memories may recall the Bacan wars of the early 1990s. And people thought somehow extending NATO guarantees eastward would reduce the propensity for such conflicts, but ultimately, um, yes, uh, as relations between the west and Russia deteriorated more and more one saw the argument that ultimately at the end of the day, the core purpose of NATO is to deter or prevent any kind of Russian advance or attack or aggrandizement westward into Europe.

Hmm. That that’s interesting. So you think Russia was, I mean, I mean, still is a threat to the security of Europe.

Well, yes. Uh, and Europe is at least, uh, Russia sees Europe and sees NATO as a threat to itself. And, uh, NATO countries see Russia as a potential threat to them. So it’s a mutual perception of threat, uh, between the Western, uh, between the Western Alliance and

Right, right. Uh, another aspect to this is, I think it’s fair to say that NATO expansion and especially EU expansion was not just the decision of those member states and America. It was also the wishes of the Eastern European countries that were under a former Soviet union previously, and they wanted to become democratic societies and be connected to the west. So, I mean, should NATO bear the blame of expanding eastward alone

You’re, that’s totally fair. There is no question that, uh, there was a big demand for NATO and, uh, perhaps even a bigger demand in some places for the EU. It was demand driven in many ways. Although obviously these two institutions were happy to welcome members, as long as they met, you know, the criteria that all the existing members agreed upon. So I really do think that it’s easy now to go back and try to rewrite history and say, maybe NATO shouldn’t have expanded. Maybe the EU should have held back from trying to expand, but you’re absolutely right to focus on the reality of a big demand for these institutions, from those countries. And it’s very hard to say, no, particularly if the countries really do look like they’re ready for member. Um, just a quick point here is that, you know, this is a problem that Russia has long had Russia and the Soviet union. And zarus Russia. Even before that always say, uh, the, the leaders of, of Russia, either from St Petersburg or Moscow, they always say they want to have friendly neighbors, but they face a problem. They neighbors are often wanting to go west and that then puts Russia in a bind. How can I make these countries live in my sphere of influence if they really don’t want to, that’s been a perennial dilemma of the foreign policy of the Russian empire, the Soviet union, and now today’s Russian Federation for literally centuries.

Well recently, just on that, the, the United States and Britain agreed to embargo, uh, Russian, uh, oil exports to their own countries, but that hasn’t been extended more widely. The reason is clearly fear of, uh, energy shortage and driving energy shortages and driving prices up to high to feed inflation and lead potentially to an erosion of the support for sanctions within domestic societies. It’s a, it’s a delicate political balance, the Western countries that are opposed. And by west I’m including all the allies we’re talking about Japan, we’re talking about Australia, et cetera, et cetera, South Korea, and more, but this, this coalition is trying to impose costs on Russia, but not imposing so many costs on their own population that ultimately these sanctions become unpopular and they’re removed to sustain the sanctions. They must be politically sustainable. And for many countries, embargoing Russia’s petroleum exports, gas and oil would potentially generate such economic cost that they would, these, these governments would be in fear of losing public support for their stance against Russia.

Right. Uh, I’m talking about in 2006, I mean two, no, 2006. So, um, in 2014, right after, um, Russia annex crimee do you think America at that point knew Putin’s intention regarding Ukraine and had a coherent strategy to deal with him?

No, we did not know his intention. There were some who thought his intention was to bring Ukraine under the sphere of influence of Russia. There are some analysts, both inside and out of government who actually feared that Huta, uh, Putin had a grander objective of incorporating the entire country back into some sort of reconstituted Soviet, uh, a Russian empire, but people were uncertain because after all, what he was doing in 2014 was still relatively low cost operations for Russia. So it was hard to know how intently he was fixated on this Ukraine issue. It was difficult to know how far he would go. It was difficult to know how resolved he was on rectifying, what he regards as this historical injustice or this historical problem of Russia, of Ukraine’s westward drift. And so I think the, the United States and many of its chief allies, um, kind of were de debating among themselves about the strength of, of Putin’s intention. That debate wasn’t really solved until two weeks ago,

Right. Uh, but after crimee the us and NATO should at least know, Russia is determined to stop the NATO expansion. Then why were we still arming the Ukrainians to provoke Russia?

Well, we were attempting to make Ukraine a tougher nut for the Russians, for Putin to crack. We were trying to make it a, that to raise the cost of Russia, to Russia, of seeking a military solution. We were seeking to respond to Ukrainian demands for aid. After all Ukraine was at war it’s a sovereign country. It was asking for aid and of a military nature from its friends around the world. There was nothing illegal about this, nothing underhanded. It was all out in the open. So the United States figured, um, if Russia’s gonna play hardball by annexing territory, namely crimee and intervening in Eastern in Ukraine, the Don bass, well, we can play hardball too, and we can bolster the Ukrainian’s ability to resist by transferring some of these weapons. The problem with that is it seems to have created in Russia, in the Kremlin, in Putin’s mind, a fear, not just of Ukraine in NATO, but a fear of NATO in Ukraine.

In other words, in the speeches, you saw the Russian leadership give in the lead up to this invasion, you saw them saying, you know, this whole issue of Ukraine’s membership in NATO is kind of a, a, a, a, a, a red herring, because what’s happening. As we’re sitting here, debating NATO is Western countries are aiding Ukraine and making crane essentially a part of the Western security structure. Now to finish this off in defense of the United States and the others who were aiding Ukraine, really the weaponry that was being transferred was not particularly threatening to Russia. It was really sort of, I mean, there’s no such thing as a purely defensive weapon, but these weapons were pretty much to defend Ukrainian territory. It was kind of hard to see how they would be a threat to Russia. And in short, in some, the us did exercise a little bit of care in the kinds of gear and hardware that was given to the Ukrainians up until the invasion.

Hmm. So do you think NATO expansion justify Putin’s invasion of the Ukraine?

No. I think NATO expansion to Ukraine. I think that Bucharest declaration, I’m not sorry that Bucharest, uh, uh, NATO declaration that we discussed at the beginning of this interview. I think those were mistakes by, uh, by NATO. I don’t think NATO should have offered this promise to Ukraine, if it couldn’t actually keep it. I, and it couldn’t, everybody knew it. So they kind of didn’t do Ukraine any favors by suggesting membership when it wasn’t really happening. So that’s a blunder, that’s a mistake. We shouldn’t have done it, but in no way, does it justify this brutal invasion. I think frankly, Russia is the main one at fault here. I don’t think it’s particularly controversial to say it. They faced no threat from Ukraine that justified this ruthless and bloody use of force. Indeed. I think that a lot of the fault, frankly, lies with the Kremlin, their policies in 2014, the annexation of crimea the cyber attacks they did on Ukraine, their intervention in Eastern Ukraine, the Don BOS region, their attempt at election Medling and information war against Ukraine. All of these policies have just pushed Ukrainians more and more favorable towards the west. If public opinion in Ukraine was split regarding their relationship between Russia and the west back before 2014, it’s not split anymore. And the reason for that primarily is what the Russian government has done to Ukraine. So I think really most of the blame for this falls on the Kremlin, and certainly there’s no justifying this, this brutal attack on a country. That, again, just in no way, presented a serious national security threat to, to Russia as of 20, uh, 20 21, 20 22.

Right. Uh, I think we can definitely see an escalation. I think we can definitely see an escalation on Putin’s part regarding Ukraine from, you know, 2014 to 2022. So why do you think Putin made the military move right now?

There’s uh, no one knows. We have to be very, very, very careful here. Uh, uh, I have read and listened to his speeches. I listened to his top officials. I have, I, I go, I used to, before the pandemic travel to Russia all the time, have many good friendships and connections to Russian international relations scholars. It’s important to recognize that top Russian political commentators connected experts, uh, did not expect this to happen. Uh, so why, why he did it? People don’t know there’s two basic arguments here. Argument, number one is he saw it that as a propitious, a, a good time to move because he had his army ready because he thought China Xing ping would have his back and help him out if there were any sanctions, because he had a $630 billion, uh, foreign currency and other, uh, reserves that he could draw upon, should he face sanctions.

Because he feared that Ukraine was moving faster and faster west, and he had to move now because energy markets were tight. You know, you can put this list together of things that sort of give you this idea of now is the time to move rather than later. Um, but there’s a second argument. And that is that, especially once he isolated himself, that is say, once president Putin, isolated himself, uh, in the pandemic times, he became ever more kind of closeminded, uh, ever more insulated from contrary views and began to obsess on historical matters and his legacy in history, and some sense became a somewhat different and more risk acceptance leader than he was prior to this isolation. I mean, what, how many, how many leaders of big countries, you know, write, you know, 10,000 word essays on historical subjects and cite all kinds of ancient documents and ask their aids to go pull documents from the archives so they can make these elaborate historical arguments. It began to seem a little weird. So those are the two different kind of stories as to why now and why he took such a fateful and costly and ultimately disastrous both for Russia. And as, especially for Ukraine, a decision that he did, uh, two weeks ago,

Do you think president Biden and Afghanistan also played a role?

People say they thought that that suggested, uh, uh, an administration that was in disarray or incompetent. I don’t really buy that. Frank, I think, uh, an it’s possible that the most important thing that by the administration conveyed that may have, uh, incentivized or not incentivized, the more, most important message coming from Washington that may have fed into Putin’s decision was the consistent message that we want the focus on China, not Europe over and again, Biden officials said, look, we need to sort out our relations with Russia. Let’s get this thing settled. Let’s kind of get the Europe thing, quiet it down so we can do what we really wanna do, which is deal with China. And that might have fed the impression that the Americans would sort of kind of accept it. Ultimately if Russia could achieve quick, relatively low cost regime change operation in Ukraine, of course, that turned out to be a pipe dream, but that’s one of the arguments. I frankly think this idea of Biden as a rational kind of real statesman, who wants to focus on China is far more important than any inferences that Moscow might have made from their disasters handling a of the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Hmm. Uh, you know, let’s talk about today. Uh, Russia demonstrate, I mean, Russia, Russia demanded three things, basically neutrality for Ukraine, demonetization of the country and recognition of, uh, break rate regions, break way region regions and loss of crime here. First of all, I was wondering, uh, what does de militarization mean? Does that mean Ukraine would no longer have a military?

Well, these demands, first of all, are, uh, uh, uh, articulated by Putins, uh, spokesman, Demetri, PEs golf, and they are coming out of reports of the negotiations in Turkey that recently took place and negotiations in villas that recently took place between Ukrainians and Russians. They haven’t a been able to even agree on such basic issues as safe, safe passage corridors, uh, not to mention a ceasefire and certainly not to mention an actual settlement to the crisis. So we don’t really know what Russia’s bottom line actually is. I would say that, um, that, um, by demilitarization, we, we, we just don’t have it spelled out yet what they have in mind. Uh, I think it’s probably fair to interpret what they mean as a severance of any Ukrainian military cooperation or connection with NATO or any NATO country, uh, not necessarily to mean that Ukraine can’t have any military at all, but just that it can’t have any military that has any connection to the west. And I think that’s a non-starter for Ukrainians. I mean, think about it. If you were just invaded by a huge neighbor, I mean, to be told that your only way to settle the crisis is to de militarized is simply an invitation, uh, to UK Ukraine to continue fighting.

Right. Uh, what do you think of Russia’s demands, uh, from what they said, or do you think Putins mango for this invasion is to stop the NATO expansion or to revive the Russian Empire’s glory by reclaiming lost land or both.

I can tell you what I hope and I think I, and I think there is at least some evidence for this hope. What I hope is is that Putin will attenuate and reduce his demands in light of the unexpectedly potent resistance put up by Ukraine and the clear evidence that overwhelmingly Ukrainian society has very, has no receptivity whatsoever Russia’s role as a ruler over Ukraine, or as a, a kind of a, a overlord over Ukraine. I mean, we’re seeing such potent evidence for this, that one hopes that Putin will see that he miscalculated and therefore will reduce his aims because to go back to your original question, I originally would, if you had asked me that a year ago, I would’ve said yes, if we could make Ukraine neutral, that will settle the whole problem, but then this, uh, in over the summer and this fall in winter, we started getting these speeches from Putin about all the historical things about how Ukrainians and Russians are really one people about how the state of UK Ukraine doesn’t really have any organic essence to it.

It’s really a, a confection, a creation of the, you know, vagaries of history. We really shouldn’t take it very seriously. I mean, why did he say those things? I mean, if you say those things, you’re basically saying to Ukraine, I don’t accept you as a real country. Right. And so when he started saying those things, I began to worry that his aim actually was this much more grandiose aim, reintegrating Ukraine, one way or another into the Russian state. Um, but now I’m hoping, and there’s some evidence that you just cited regarding the negotiations that are underway. I’m hoping that the Russian leadership will scale back its demands in the face of the powerful resistance by the Ukrainians and the overwhelmingly powerful response by so many countries around the world.

What do you think would be put in bottom line in Ukraine?

Just don’t know. I’m hoping the bottom line could be something like, uh, arm neutrality for Ukraine, so are not, not a Ukraine that is de militarized and can’t defend itself, but a Ukraine that could have a significant military, but that would, uh, be, uh, constitutionally or by international agreement. Um, not able to join any block, either Russia or a Russian led block or the, the NATO block that he would be, uh, that he would pro I he’ll always will demand car. I think, uh, the Ukrainian leadership might exceed to that then some kind of autonomy, uh, some kind of special recognition for those Eastern statelets, uh, he might insist upon their full, uh, succession from UKrain. I mean, he’s already recognized them farcically in a way as independent states. I think those might conceivably be thought of as a bottom line. I don’t, I don’t know because you’re also seeing rhetoric coming from Moscow that suggests they really want to subordinate Ukraine in a kind of definitive irreversible way that it seems almost no treaty could possibly deliver. So I’m uncertain about that, but there’s at least hope that they would settle on those demands. Now will the Ukrainians accept them? They’re pretty tough demands for any Ukrainian leadership to accept, but we’re seeing at least some movement in that direction in recent days.

Yeah. Um, how do you comment on poor mental state? I mean, he do, he definitely demonstrated the will or, you know, the, he doesn’t care too much about, he doesn’t have a lot of problem killing civilians. That’s what I’m talking about.

Oh, no, he never has. I mean, if you look back to I, he was a freshly minted prime minister and president when they ramped up the war in that breakaway or attempted breakaway province in Russia. And, uh, they flattened grows need to rubble, uh, no problem. And if you look at what the Russian military did in EPPO and Syria, they, they leveled that city. This is a person who has absolutely no qualms whatsoever about laying waste, uh, to a, to a city. Uh, and I can imagine he would, well, we already see his willingness to undertake such operations or to, to, to, to order or accept such operations in Ukraine, but regarding his mental state. I don’t know, obviously, but I would say I have no evidence and no good reason to believe that he cannot calculate costs and benefits. I mean, I think you saw a miscalculation.

He thought the west was more disunited than it was. He thought Ukraine was, uh, more, uh, uh, collapsible and less resilient than it was. And so he made some mistakes. So it’s possible that he can update his cost benefit calculations in the face of new evidence. I see no evidence that he’s incapable of doing that. So I’m not quite as freaked out as some are by the potential for him to be somehow crazy or have lost control of his senses. But again, as I stress, this is all based on circumstantial evidence rather than some sort of, uh, analysis of, of blood Putin on some couch somewhere. I mean, it’s just not possible.

What about the nuclear threat? Do you think he really could do something like that?

Uh, he wouldn’t do that in response to simply sanctions or in response to us sending, uh, various, uh, uh, defensive weaponry to Ukraine. Um, but he wants to remind us that he has these things. And so on two occasions he’s made reference to the nuclear option. Uh, there’s no evidence, according to us intelligence, that’s been discussed of the actual chains in the alert status of the Russian nuclear force. It’s simply kind of a reminder like, Hey, Wes, just to, so you don’t forget, we’ve got these nuclear weapons, I’m just trying to draw some red lines here. I do think they would apply, however, if the, uh, military of any NATO country, but especially the United States began actively operating in the skies or on the territory of Ukraine. Then you’re starting to get into escalation territory, but you’d have many, many steps to go even from, uh, scenario in which us and Russians were fighting, Americans and Russians were fighting directly. You’d have many steps from that, uh, to any situation in which nuclear use would become something that I think he would seriously contemplate.

Hmm. Interesting. How effective are the sanctions?

Well, sanctions, um, uh, work over a long term. I mean, they, you have these financial sanctions, they tend to hit hard right away, and then people kind of adjust and then you have these commodity sanctions. So sanctions on all kinds of goods that, uh, Russia, uh, would normally export and import. And, um, and those generally take quite a while to actually affect the target. So the sanctions are impressive. Uh, the financial sta sanctions are still working their way through the system, both the global financial system and Russia’s financial system, the degree to which they’ll be able to compensate and find work arounds the degree to which China will help out all of these remain somewhat uncertain. But I think the consensus of sanctions experts is that sanctions are going to work. If they work at all in imposing, in affecting the actual calculus of the Russian leadership, they’re going to work at a much slower pace than military events on the ground, uh, put differently. They, they’re not gonna on their own stop Russia from doing essentially whatever it wants to try to do militarily on the territory of Ukraine. It’s a sad truth, but it’s one that most experts accept. It’s the anticipation is looking forward to the future and thinking about the cumulative cost of sanctions over the long run it’s that that might affect calculations in the Kremlin regarding the terms they’ll seek from Ukraine to end this war.

Hmm. Uh, you know, I heard some analyst say there’s only one person in this world that can influence president Putin and that’s Xin P I mean, do you agree with it? And, uh, how much support, uh, do you think China is giving Putin right now?

Well, that’s a question for China experts, uh, and experts on the CNO Russian relationship, you know, uh, not to deflect your question at all, I’ll answer it. But I would say that this is such a re an important strategic partnership between Beijing and Moscow. Now that there are actually people, experts who spend all of their time, I’m just studying this relationship. That’s a sense sign of its geopolitical geo-economic importance. Um, I’m seeing some subtle signs that the Chinese leadership is kind of like trying to hedge a little bit here. They’re a little bit reluctant to endure the threat of secondary sanctions that is sanctions on Chinese firms, if they deal with certain, uh, commerce with Russia. And so you’re seeing a little more hesitation, but at the end of the day, my reading of the situation of these experts who study this relationship is that China, although is uncomfortable with some aspects of that.

Uh, Shing will be very reluctant to abandon Putin and do anything that would be the kind of that Putin would see as having caused him to have to surrender. And you, I can’t, I mean, most people cannot imagine the Chinese leadership doing such a thing to their key, great power rival in Moscow, especially since in some sense, Moscow’s success in pushing back against the west is in some sense, helping China because it’s deflecting American power from relocating into its region. So there’s a kind of geopolitical benefit to China of this, uh, China, Russia fallout, although China will want to insulate itself from as much of the economic fallout from this as it can. And that’s where we see some and subtle evidence of kind of backing away from completely 150% support, you know, a, a partnership without limits, as they said at Beijing. But I think at the end of the day, I to repeat and the, to emphasize the people who spend their time studying this Alliance cannot imagine being, playing the role that you suggested. People think namely as the person who literally causes Putin to give up on his Ukraine gambit very hard to imagine that happening.

Hmm. Um, you know, uh, America has made it clear, uh, it’s not going to impose no-fly zone over Ukraine. And, uh, you know, now Ukraine, I mean, although Putin has met a steep resistance from the Ukrainian army and, uh, civilians, but Ukrainian army is not winning either. So do you think America and NATO should still support Ukraine to fight to the end

If the Ukrainian, uh, leadership, and as far as we can tell, uh, in these crazy circumstances, as far as we can judge Ukrainian society wants us to continue aid them. I think we should continue aiding them. They have a, they are a sovereign government. That’s been attacked viciously and in an unprovoked fashion, uh, by a neighboring great power. They, as a sovereign country, have an absolute right to ask for assistance when they are under Dures. And we are together with many other countries providing a large amounts of such assistance. And so that, to me, as long as it is something that at the Ukrainians want and is not going to risk escalation of this crisis into a us Russia war, uh, I, I think it is absolutely, uh, uh, uh, the best, uh, policy to follow.

Hmm. How do you see the way out of this?

The only way out of this is for Ukraine and Russia to find terms that they both can accept, and it sounds banal, but somehow, each has to conclude that a deal with the other that is on the table is better than the continuing bloodshed and war. And they seem to me as best as I can judge to be far away from that for now each, you know, know, especially, I think Russia needs to tone down or reduce its expectations, but the problem is each side has a story. It can tell itself as to how it can continue the fight. I mean, Russia has this huge army. It can keep going. As I said, the sanctions are not gonna physically stop Russia from continuing the fight. They have a lot, unfortunately, sadly tragic, a lot left. They can do. They might still Harbor this idea that they can pumel bludgeon bomb, Ukraine, society into submission, and somehow extract some sort of victory from this Ukrainians based on their extraordinary performance so far.

And based on some evidence of poor morale and training on the part of the Russian army might include that they can continue fighting and keep imposing costs on Putin, such that he’ll agree to a deal closer to what they want. So that’s how wars end you should watch out and keep an eye out for negotiations about, uh, corridors, uh, for humanitarian relief and especially for talks about a potential ceasefire. These sometimes, um, it can lead and morph into actual peace negotiations. And so it can be a subtle process where they first negotiate the immediate crisis, and then kind of it spreads into trying to find a general settlement and certainly the international community, including the United States and all of its allies and others, including China, India, the whole world, a Turkey is putting itself forward. Israel should provide their good offices and their resources to try to support such a deal.

How likely is it for the Ukrainian army to drive Russian military out of their country? I mean,

I don’t think it’s, I don’t, I don’t think it’s likely at all. All they can do is make it as costly as possible to the Russians. The I’m, I’m not a military expert. I think you’re gonna talk to one. I mean, but everyone who’s spent any time studying military operations knows that an offense in this kind of, well in any situation, offense is much harder than fence. In other words, the exchange ratio of losses tends to be on the side of the, uh, uh, uh, of the favor of the defender and able to inflict more casualties on the, uh, on the attacker than the defender. And so Ukrainians to switch over to the offense and start driving these gigantic armored forces out of their country would be an extraordinarily difficult thing to do on the other hand, in their cities and in their forest and in their mountains and the west, their mountains and Russia isn’t there yet, but anyway, in their cities and in their forests and in their fields, and they can inflict terrible losses on the Russians, as long as the Russians are the ones trying to advance. So I think that’s where you’re gonna see the conflict going in the near term.

Hmm. Okay. If that happens, do you think, uh, the Russians will eventually give in

Again? I just don’t know. I think that, um, uh, I, I don’t see the signs yet, uh, that the Russian general staff and the top military leadership and the political leadership of Russia under Putin have sort of reached the end of what they think they can do with this military operation. I mean, they’re, they’re trying to do something. They are trying to encircle Kia. They have more cards to play. Unfortunately, these cars are bloody and in some cases, uh, inflicting untold misery and death upon civilians, but they have cards yet to play that they can, that they can, that they can attempt to try to force Ukraine, uh, into submission. And so I, I hope that this is not true, but I I’m afraid if I had to bet, I would say that they are going to attempt to play some of those cards before you see any willingness on their part to really give up on some of their demands.

Last question, how will Europe and the world be different after this?

Well, this is a terrible answer, but it’s the only honest one. It depends on how this conf uh, this conflict ends, how this conflict is seen to end how the world sees the conflict as, as ending. If Russia easily wins, what it wants, gets everything it wanted, uh, with a military assault directly on a completely defend, uh, innocent, defensive, uh, country like Ukraine and wins. That will be in some sense, a blow to the entire order for which the United States and allies say, they stand to their position in the world to their, if you can use an old fashioned word to their prestige, the, the, the, the esteem in which they’re held and, and the respect for their power, if the west, and especially the Ukrainians, but help by the west, kind of, in some sense, are seen to have won this crisis. It will, in some sense, it might be seen as Buttressing their position reversing, uh, their perceived decline up to this point, showing that that thing we call the west is still meaningful.

It’s still United, and it can still really impose horrific costs on countries that seek to on actors that seek to harm it. So that’s essentially partly what’s being fought over here is how this conf thatconflict will seen, will be seen to have ended. Will it be seen to have ended a as a kind of further push against the American led order, a further move towards multipolarity in the international system, or will it be seen as ending kind of in some sense, revivifying, rejuvenating strengthening, ratifying the position of the United States and its allies in the world. That’s, what’s at stake. And until the, we see how it ends out, uh, until we see where the bottom line is, where the bargaining comes out, we won’t know in my, if I had to predict it would be, in fact, it will ne be seen neither as a decisive victory for one side, nor as a de decisive victory. For the other side, they’ll be competing interpreter of this outcome, but again, that’s a, a rank guess.

These are all my questions. Do you have anything else to add?

No, I think that was comprehensive. It was a great conversation.

Oh, thank you. Thank you, professor.