Feb. 12, 2022

E8: Ukrainian Roulette - Part 2: Hey, Siri! How do I get to Kyiv?

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This is Part 2 of a multi-part series on the Russia-Ukraine conflict. In this episode we talk about the considerations of an invasion timeline, and should it happen, the most likely avenues of invasion to include what exactly Russian goals would be. We also begin our foray into what the West could and should do to prevent this whole mess from unfolding.

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Henri: (00:00)
Welcome to part two of our ongoing series on the Ukrainian crisis. If you haven't listened to part one where we talk about the lead up to the crisis, please give it gander before moving on to this episode, where we explore, when Russia could invade, how Russia could invade, and what are Russia's goals in a set invasion. For context, courtesy of France 24, let's listen to Ukrainian president Zelenskyy's remarks, where he attempts to calm the people and downplay the risk of the Russian threat. Let's have a listen.

France 24, President Zelensky (translated): (00:30)
The feeling you get from the media is that we have a war, we have troops on the roads, we have mobilization, people are going somewhere. That is not the case. We do not need panic.

France 24 reporter: (00:43)
The message in that press conference, which was specifically for foreign media was really, would you please stop spreading this panic and saying that the invasion is imminent, that it's gonna be tomorrow. As Zelenskyy said, it is possible that there will be Russian military action against Ukraine. The threat absolutely exists, and the country is prepared and the world should be prepared. But to say that it's going to be tomorrow, or it's going to be before the end of February or any kind of speculations like that according to Volodymyr Zelenskyy is completely misplaced. We simply don't know.

Henri: (01:20)
Come on. Don't Bullshit Me!

Henri: (01:34)
Even a crappy fiction writer couldn't write this better, you know: the winter Olympics is ending 20 February, Operation Allied Resolve is ending 20 February. Jeez, I wonder when Russia's planning on invading Ukraine.

Henri: (01:54)
Welcome to "Come On, Don't Bullshit Me!", where we peel away the messaging of talking heads to get to the crux of today's issues.

Henri: (02:07)
We have to now consider two situations: when is Russia going to invade Ukraine and, two, where or how is Russia going to carry out the invasion of Ukraine.

Henri: (02:21)
For the first answer, we've kind of already touched upon it, is that they should be doing this sooner rather than later, because every week that goes by, they are losing their leverage, where by keeping Germany hostage with natural gas, it prevents a coordinated Western response into Ukraine course. We don't even need to talk about nuclear deterrence. That's an entirely separate situation that should be considered independently. Obviously, if the west is going to intervene, it has to intervene in a conventional manner that avoids the political discussion of nuclear retaliation, because nobody wants that. So if anything is going to be done, it has to be done in a, much like Russia has been doing for the past seven years, the west has to do this in a somewhat surreptitious manner in supporting the Ukrainians through material and logistics and intelligence, rather than through overt military action.

Henri: (03:25)
In fact, I was trying to get this episode out earlier, like a week or so ago, and there, the big question was okay, is Putin going to invade now or later? Because February isб there is the Beijing in Olympics and China and Shi Jinping don't want a war in the Ukraine right in the middle of their big coming out party by the hosting of the Olympics. So there was a big talk in the sense of, okay, if we can delay Russia up until February, well then China will exert its own pressure on Russia from an ally standpoint, rather than aggressor standpoint, in a sense of saying Putin, you better do what you wanna do with Ukraine, that's fine, but you better not invade during February, while we're hosting the Olympics. And it seems like we've actually been able to do that.

Henri: (04:13)
And from my guess, that's probably why we had that bombshell announcement from British intelligence, outright calling out Putin and Russia, saying, oh, Russia has amassed all these troops and equipment on the Ukrainian border, and oh, by the way, they're about to do a false flag operation of claiming some sort of attack and the cyber attackю And then using that as an excuse to enter Ukraine. And everyone was called by surprise. If you remember that story dominated the news cycle. Defense insiders would say that this was a highly unusual act, because normally you don't wanna give away your intelligence capabilities. So yes, you wanna monitor from intelligence channels, what your enemy is doing, but you don't want to call them out. This was the whole dilemma that happened in World War II. Likewise, when we cracked the Enigma code, but we didn't want to actually position our forces where the Nazis were actually attacking, because if we did that too many times, then the Nazis would've realized that we've, uh, we broke their encryption and then they would change their encryption, and we'd be back to square one. So the point was, it was a kind of a really morbid calculation, where we knew that we were to be attacked, but we still allowed the attack to happen. And obviously our own people died. But that was for the greater benefit of ensuring that we could still read Nazi-encrypted messages to eventually cause their defeat. So the fact that Britain outright came out to the public sphere and saying, Hey, look, this is what Russia's doing, we can see them on the satellites, and then we can also see them through their electronic communications, that this is what their plan is. And essentially calling Putin out. It caused, it, caused the Russians to pause.

Henri: (05:54)
And another reason why I also think that Russia was firmly committed to attacking Ukraine is that normally in the past, when we've seen, when, before we see Russia starting to do some sort of invasion, there's a pretense that their propaganda arm of the state usually sends out messages to frame public opinion. Or should say, international opinion, saying like, Hey, look, this is happening, it's hurting Russia, and we're being threatened and we need to defend our interests. But when this bombshell announcement happened with the UK, famously, the Russians didn't answer immediately. They were hemming and hauling a lot and they didn't have a proper answer. Then only eventually did they start talking about: Oh well, we're against the NATO expansion, and we feel that you, guys, promised us you wouldn't expand East. Which was all complete fabrication and complete lie, but it was a very uncoordinated quick response to this British intelligence announcement. Which kind of leads at least me to believe that they didn't think that the West would call them out on the invasion of Ukraine. They were ready to do that false flag operation and just say, Oh, look, the Ukrainians attacked our, you know, whatever, and so now we need to go in and move in.

Henri: (07:10)
But because we called them out on it before they could present that to the international circles, they had to come up with some other bullshit reason, which didn't carry much weight. And it gave them a pause. And now there's a lot more dialogue going back and forth, which may have actually helped in the in long run. Maybe historians will look back at this moment and say, Hey, this may have ultimately saved Ukraine's bacon.

Henri: (07:33)
Now of course, we're firmly at the recording of this podcast, Olympics just started. And if was a betting, man, I would say that Russia's not going to invade Ukraine at this point in the middle of the Olympics. In fact, just, I believe it was Friday, when Putin and Shi Jinping had a bilateral summit, where they discussed God knows what, but I'm pretty sure part of the things there was that China was demanding that Russia not carry out any invasion during the Olympics. In fact, that's kind of funny that the 2008 Russian-Georgian war happened during the Beijing summer Olympics. So they don't want Russia to screw up now their winter Olympics.

Henri: (08:15)
So, everything that I'm saying right now is completely circumspect. Because nobody knows when Russia is going to attack. Not even the Russian army knows when Russia is gonna attack. Because when it comes down to it, the only person that knows when Russia is going to attack is Putin himself. He has complete control and authority to initiate this invasion. So it's his own personal calculus on whether and when they should cross the border and begin the invasion. So I'm trying to look at this from a rational perspective, but that assumes that Putin himself has a rational mind. We can do our best to try to put ourselves in his head, but ultimately it's his own thoughts that will dictate the schedule.

Henri: (08:56)
So with that caveat, now let's look at this. If we can assume that nothing's going to happen during the Olympics, well, okay. The Olympics end on 20 February. Rasputitsa is coming... there's not a specific date, but it's March-April timeframe. We'll just call it, give it a, say, mid-March, if you want to, especially considering global warming and whatnot. But either way, the sweet spot, if they are going to invade, is going to be at the end of February or early March. So if Russia is going to indeed invade Ukraine, they're going to do it after the Olympics. And any further delay into the March, April timeframe, I'm not saying they're not going to attack, but with rasputitsa coming all around the corner, it's definitely gonna make their tactical advantages diminished, shall we say, in the sense that the logistics chain is going to be severely taxed.

Henri: (09:54)
But I don't want to say, this is going to be like a rasputitsa is some sort of silver bullet. This is the Russian army we're talking about. Russia, obviously, after United States is probably the most capable military in the world, especially after they're experiencing Syria. They actually have now battle tested veterans in service. Whereas before for Syria, the Russian army was largely untested. And we could even see this happening in Syria in the initial stages where Russia was foundering in Syria. But to the point now that they've actually used their experiences in Syria to better themselves. And this is even, you can even see this within Russian military circles, that now, the most sure way to get a promotion and to advance the ranks in the Russian military is to show a service record in Syria. So the Russian general staff places an enormous amount of respect and importance to an experience in Syria, which makes sense they need battle tested soldiers. And those who have experienced in Syria, obviously warrant promotions and leadership positions that promotions require.

Henri: (11:06)
So that being said, I don't wanna put all my eggs in the rasputitsa basket, but given that it's more favorable to do it sooner, rather than later, I would say, we need to consider the end of February early March. Of course, after rasputitsa, you know, May-June timeframe, Germany and Europe, doesn't really care about natural gas and they have more freedom to respond to any specific aggression. So it looks like if anything's going to happen, it's going to happen in this end of February - early March timeframe.

Henri: (11:39)
But of course this in itself is a precarious situation, because if you look at the Russian calendar, the Russian Armed Forces, which I know for us in the West, no one really gives a shit about Armed Forces. It's kinda like a "Ho-hum, who cares" type of thing. But in Russia, this is actually kind of a big deal. And that's on the 23rd of February.

Henri: (11:58)
The other big deal holiday, that's also coming up on the 8th of March, is International Woman's Day, which is also is a huge, big deal in Russia. Again, in the West, you may not understand this or really care, but it doesn't matter what we think, what matters is what the Russians think. And for them, in fact, the 8th of March is on a Tuesday. And if you look at the Russian public calendars, they show 7th of March is also going to be holiday to bridge the weekend through to Tuesday.

Henri: (12:22)
So these two holidays are enormously important to the Russian people. And when you're a populist autocrat, like Putin is, you need to make sure that during these national patriotic holidays, that something good is happening. So having invasion during this time is a very precarious situation 'cuz under the offhand chance that things are not going well, imagines trying to celebrate Armed Forces day, when your armed forces are getting decimated by a supposedly inferior Ukrainian army, right? And then imagine celebrating the International Women's Day, when Russian mothers are crying over the coffins of their young sons, who have just died in battle. You don't have to take my word for it, look at the reports during the Chechen and the Georgian wars of there's constant documentation of, news reels -- Russian news reels -- of Russian mothers crying over their dead sons and screaming and cursing at Putin and the Russian leadership. So this is a very precarious situation that if Russia is going to attack, they're going to attack, but they might be in the danger of overcommitting, because of these patriotic holidays.

Henri: (13:34)
Now, of course you can be saying, that I'm putting too much emphasis on these type of things and it's much to do about nothing, whatever's going to happen is going to happen. Russian military is obviously a very professional military, so what's going to happen is going to happen, sure. But again, it's not up to the Russian military to dictate when this thing's going to happen. It's about Putin's own personal whims. All I'm saying is that these considerations are exactly that considerations for his own personal whims. And if you put enough pressure on the calculus of, Hey, this is going to be a painful adventure, you might actually give him pause to the point where he doesn't actually commit to the invasion. And ultimately if you're the West, that's what you want. You wanna make sure that this thing doesn't happen. And the further you can delay and give pause to the potential Russian invasion, the better strengthening bargaining position in not only the west is, but also Ukraine is.

Henri: (14:29)
So that basically covers the potential timeline of when an invasion is going to happen. If it's going to happen at all.

Henri: (14:45)
The other part that we have to consider is that, if it's going to happen is from where and how it's going to happen. And if we're considering the fact that Russia does not want to integrate Ukraine into its own country, for the reasons that we've already discussed, but really make Ukraine into a unstable satellite or client state to give Russia a buffer against the West. Well then you just see that a lot of people are saying, Oh, Russia is going to cross the Dnieper river and completely take over Ukraine. That's not going to happen. Our, it would be very poor decision to make that happen, because especially now after eight years of fighting... If you look at the polls, a lot of people like to quote the polls, Ukrainian polls about, Oh, well, Western Ukraine, yes is totally pro-European, but the polls show that Eastern Ukrainians are very pro-Russia. Well, yeah, sure, but that was prior to 2014. No serious polls have been done after eight years of war, where clearly Russian back separatists were killing and maiming Eastern Ukrainians. And given the fierce resistance that Ukraine as a whole, but also more specifically Eastern Ukrainian civilians have been giving against the Donbas separatist, it would be very reasonable to believe, that most of Ukraine is firmly anti-Russian at this point.

Henri: (16:05)
So completely subjugating Ukraine doesn't make sense, not only from a operational war fighting standpoint, but also from a strategic geopolitical standpoint for Russia. So then you're saying, okay, well it's not gonna be the complete invasion, well, what other options do we have here? Well, if you're the West and you're trying to delay this invasion or at least give Putin enough pause where he doesn't invade, look at what are the most vulnerable parts of Ukraine?

Henri: (16:36)
Well, clearly there's going to be, given the satellite imagery that the Brits were nice enough to share with the rest of the international community, predictably, we've seen a lot of military build up and equipment East of Ukraine, just to the East of Donbas. So it comes to no one's surprise that any Russian invasion is going to consist of a sizable force crossing the Eastern border of Ukraine, right into Donbas, and from Donbas out into Eastern Ukraine.

Henri: (17:10)
Other things we need to consider now is with the annexation of Crimea is there going to be a Southern flank of the invasion as well. Now there you have the Isthmus of Perekop, and that's the land bridge that, actually that organizer treat that I was talking about in 2014, where they left Crimea after the Russian invasion, they organized their pull out up to the Isthmus of Perekop, and that's this land bridge that connects the Crimean peninsula to the rest of Ukraine or the European continent. So that's kind of like a "hot gates at Thermopylae" type of situation, where the entire Russian army has to go through this itty-bitty land bridge in order to get through to the rest of Ukraine proper. There's that, but also with Sevastopol being the major Naval port of Crimea, there is a reasonable expectation, if there's going to be a Southern flank to this invasion, that's going to be accompanied by a amphibious force from Sevastopol to Ukraine proper. Either through Odesa or up the river to Mykolaiv. And part of the reason why a Southern flank makes sense, other than the fact that obviously more flanks that you can open up, or from a war fighting operational standpoint obviously makes sense, but the point here is that if an amphibious force actually lands and takes Southern Ukraine, you've effectively cut off the entirety of Ukraine's access to the Black Sea, and Ukraine effectively becomes a landlocked nation.

Henri: (18:48)
And to give more credence to a possible amphibious assault on the Southern flank of Ukraine is that for the past several weeks Western navies have been shadowing six Russian amphibious landing ships, traveling from the Baltic sea, through the Mediterranean. And now they're right now, as of the recording of this episode, they're somewhere in the Eastern Mediterranean, conducting drills and exercises. Now, of course they haven't announced yet to Turkish authorities that they're going to transit through the Turkish straits. And there's the Montreux convention, there's a treaty there, saying that Russia cannot be impeded during peace time. They cannot be impeded from moving Naval war ships back and forth through the Black Sea. But in order to do that, they needed to give the Turkish government eight days of advance notice before they plan on entering Turkish straits and up into the Black Sea. So as of yet, at least I haven't heard any news yet of Russians requesting or Russians announcing to Turkish government their plan to enter the Turkish straits.

Henri: (19:52)
But we shall see as the days progress if that announcement happens, because if that does happen, that only further reinforces the fact that, Hey, if you're going to be sending amphibious ships to Sevastopol, that an amphibious landing onto the Southern flank of Ukraine is going to be a very real operational consideration for the Russian military.

Henri: (20:13)
And not only that, but if we look further West, one of the other regional instability shenanigans that Russia has been doing to prevent further NATO enlargement is Transnistria. And Transnistria is this small thin strip of Russian separatist. I guess Russia would not say they are separatist, but they're Russian separatists. It's a thin strip of land between Moldova and Ukraine. And they've been backing these separatists in Moldova to have that regional or border instability of Moldova, which prevents Moldova from being invited into the European Union and also NATO. Not only that, but that there's lots of talks between Roman and Moldova that they unite. And in that case, then Moldova can just bypass all of these European Union and NATO requirements of stability and whatnot, because by becoming a part of Romania, well, Romania is already in the EU and NATO. So then Moldova will be in it as well. So it's kind of a backend way of doing that. Romanians and Moldovans of course, for those of you who don't know, are essentially the same people. I mean, there's a little controversy here and there, but broad strokes-wise, they're considered the same people. So that's why there's this talk of reunification.

Henri: (21:34)
And interestingly enough, this is also considered as an option to backend a peace deal for Kosovo and a more legitimization for Kosovo, because an overall majority of them are, again, broad strokes-wise, ethnically Albanian. So just talk of, rather than dealing with the whole Serb situation for Kosovo, that they just unite with Albania, and then they'll automatically be part of NATO. And then of course, what the talks of EU accession for Albania, Kosovo will also be part of the EU as well. So, it kind of avoids a Serbian veto, if you will, of the legitimacy of Kosovo.

Henri: (22:14)
But anyway, going back to Moldova, of course, while we are having these problems with Transnistria, Romania is not going to accept this responsibility of dealing with that Transnistria mess. And with Transnistria being a land locked region, this Southern invasion of Ukraine will allow a complete land bridge from Russia proper through Southern Ukraine, or what would be formally Southern Ukraine, all the way into Transnistria, where Transnistria is now connected to Russia itself. And to further cement their hold of Transnistria and, more importantly, for Russia to prevent Moldovan accession into either integration into Romania or more broadly, entering the EU and the NATO Alliance. So that would be the Southern aspect.

Henri: (23:08)
Another potential flank here is the Northern flank. And this is what's going on with Belarus, is that, we know that the Dnieper river is a big natural obstacle, right? It cuts Ukraine in half. A lot of people are saying what Russia is going to do is move all the way across Eastern Ukraine up to Dnieper river, and then stop there, fully integrate Eastern Ukraine into Russia, and then call the day. I don't think that they would do that, because it doesn't really make sense to me.

Henri: (23:40)
Because if you hear Russia and your concern is about NATO and having a pro-Western Ukraine, well what you've essentially done by taking over all of Eastern Ukraine is basically removing the entire supposedly anti-Western portion of the Ukrainian population and leaving a completely pro-Western Western Ukraine. Now it's not the complete region of Ukraine, but that Western Ukraine is going to be firmly pro-European. I mean, they were already firmly pro-European before the Crimea invasion, 2014. Now it's gonna be even more so. And now that you don't have the, quote, "baggage" of Eastern, you know, pro-Russian Eastern Ukrainians, well then Western Ukrainians are gonna be free to completely run into the arms of the EU and NATO. And in that case, now you have NATO territory. You know, again, this is from Russia's perspective, you have NATO territory all the way up to the Dnieper river.

Henri: (24:38)
To kind of give a tongue and cheek example of this Eastern Ukraine annexation situation, well, there's a lot of talking in the United States about Republicans saying, Oh, well, you know, the Democrats are blah, blah, blah, they're evil and blah, blah, whatever; and we want Texas, being the biggest Republican state, to say, Hey, we're going to secede from the Union. And they keep talking about that and threatening, Hey, we're gonna leave the Union, we're gonna cause another Civil War. And of course, everyone on Twitter and Democrats and in the news cycle, in the left leaning news, they always get up in arms about Texas threatening to secede from the Union. Obviously it's a ridiculous situation, but think through this for a second: if Texas actually left the United States, well, that's the biggest portion of Republican control of Republican votes in Congress, so if Texas actually left, that I would make the United States more democratic and completely erode any control that Republicans had in the United States. So not only is it ludicrous from a military and a historical situation of Texas leaving the United States, but if you're talking about strictly politically, it makes absolutely zero sense, because you just lose your entire political leverage in the United States.

Henri: (25:50)
So it's the exact same situation with Russia annexing Eastern Ukraine. Because it goes against everything, every geopolitical goal that Russia and Putin has in Ukraine in preventing a pro-Western Ukraine on the doorsteps of Russia. So I really don't buy, that full annexation of Eastern Ukraine is in the works. I don't see this as a probable or a smart objective for the Russian military to incur.

Henri: (26:19)
But what I do see is that in order to quickly capitulate Kyiv and maybe install a puppet government is that they need to quickly rush into Kyiv before any considerable resistance can formulate itself and push the Russians back. Now with Kyiv being about, I forget how much, but like 250 or so kilometers from the Russian border, that's gonna take a while to go through. But from the Northern side from Kiev is only about 70-ish kilometers from the border of Belarus. So it's much easier to if you're going to attack Kyiv that you attack them from the North.

Henri: (26:55)
Not only that, but if in order to attack them from the East you have to cross the Dnieper river, which is obviously going to be a very difficult thing to do. River crossings for armies historically have always been a precarious situation. Whereas what you can do is, since Belarus is a supposedly allied nation of Russia; and in fact, if anything, it's a de facto puppet state of Russia, is that you can cross the Dnieper river in Belarus and then swing down from Belarus into Kyiv. And it's kind of like a Vietnam Cambodia situation where the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong would use Laos and Cambodia, 'cause technically it wasn't part of Vietnam. So the Americans couldn't attack them. And then from there swoop down and then attack American South Vietnamese forces. So it would be a similar situation there.

Henri: (27:42)
Of course, there you have to a deal with the Chernobyl exclusion zone, but they've already shown a want and disregard for the dangers of any radioactive dust that may be kicked up into the atmosphere.

Henri: (27:54)
And in fact, now there is Operation Allied Resolve going on, which is a joint Belarusian and Russian exercise going on in the middle of Belarus. I think it should be ending around 20 February, which actually coincides with the closing of the Beijing Olympics. So who knows, after the end of that exercise, they could use as a pretense to be like, well, we're already in Belarus after this exercise, and now we're gonna immediately go down to attack Ukraine. Of course, there is a situation here and that's specific to international trees of the OSCE, which is the Organization for Security and Cooperation of Europe. It specifically states that if you have any military exercise over 13,000 troops, then it invites international observers it. And in this case for a Russian exercise, it would mean Western observers would need to be invited into Belarus to observe the exercise. Of course, what did Russia do? They made sure to keep this Operation Allied Resolve below that 13,000 number. There ,you have it. So if any force that's going to come through, at least from an initial attack standpoint, it's going to be a small one. But it may be small, but it's still sizeable enough to provide a Northern flank that diverts Ukrainian resistance from the East to the North and spreading out the already limited Ukrainian forces.

Henri: (29:17)
And in order to give even more credence to the situation, all you have to do is look at Belarussian Twitter right now. And there's a lot of pictures... Actually, Twitter now within the concept of war is kind of an amazing thing right now, because with Operation Allied Resolve, there are pictures right now on Twitter of pontoon bridges at Rechytsa, which is a Belorussian city on the Dnieper river. So you already have Russian troops, if not training for pontoon river operations in Ukraine, using the Operation Allied Resolve as excused to get all their heavy machinery across the Western bank of the Dnieper river for a potential Northern flank for the invasion of Ukraine.

Henri: (30:00)
Yeah. So you can't make this even more blatant. Like even a crappy fiction writer couldn't write this better: the Winter Olympics is ending 20 February, Operation Allied Resolves is ending 20 February. Jeez, I wonder when Russia is planning on invading Ukraine.

Henri: (30:29)
So in the Eastern Ukraine invasion situation, the risk for Russia is not losing an invasion of Eastern Ukraine. The real risk is being successful in your invasion of Ukraine, where now you're controlling a territory of anti-Russian population, where your only choice is to hold the territory that you didn't really wanna hold in the first place. And this is exactly what happened in Afghanistan and Iraq. In that United States wanted to go into these countries, affect change, and then get out, so that we could focus on other things and not bleed our treasury. But we ended up holding the bag there and getting stuck in a nation building quagmire, and sucking the life out of our own military. This is exactly what Russia does not want to do. 'Cause while yes, United States did that, it was really bad. United States being, you know, the largest economy in the World can easily weather, as disasters as that was in our Iraq and Afghanistan, it didn't really economically really hurt us. Whereas with Russia and the economic situation, that it is in, the last thing it wants to do is divert much needed national treasure to the holding of Ukrainian territory.

Henri: (31:48)
So what should the west do? Well, we just spent all this time talking about if we were Putin's advisors, that we'd be telling them to attack sooner rather than later. Now, if we were Biden's advisors, what would we say to President Biden?

Henri: (32:02)
Well, first of, United States has its own conundrum in the sense that there's a lightning rod around American troops, especially when considering that any attack or any perceived attack by American troops could lead to nuclear retaliation. And we definitely don't want that. I'm sure you have other countries like the UK and France that are also nuclear powers, but in that sense international opinion, which ultimately is what's going to matter or what Putin's going to attempt to manipulate, international opinion doesn't really equate a British or a French attack as an attack that would warrant a nuclear response.

Henri: (32:45)
So it would be very easy for us to say, and a lot of armchair generals on the Internet are now saying, Oh yeah, United States needs to deploy troops to Ukraine and end this thing once and for all. Well, that's really, we're really rolling the dice here with the threat of nuclear weapons. Now you could say, well, now Putin's bluffing, he's not an idiot, he's never going to use nuclear weapons. Well, yeah, that's maybe the case, but with the finality of a nuclear event, me personally, I'm not willing to risk that outcome. And I think a lot of people within Washington are also not willing to risk that outcome. So the point for United States is at best to provide surreptitious military aid or at worst, galvanize enough of the West to provide the military aid that Ukraine needs, which would not warrant a nuclear response or, more aptly, nuclear threat from Russia to the West.

Henri: (33:39)
And with that regards, one of the first things that United States can do, since the United States is already in talks with President Zelenskyy in Ukraine is to address the UN general assembly. Notice I didn't say "UN Security Council", 'cuz obviously on Security Council nothing's gonna go through with Russia and also China holding veto powers there. And so we can't expect any response or any help from the United Nations. But through the UN General Assembly, by calling an emergency meeting of the General Assembly, no one nation holds veto power there. In fact, when we're talking about with Palestinian recognition in international circles that was done in, again, not through the Security Council, because of America's veto of Palestine, but it was done through a petition through the General Assembly. And Zelenskyy could do that as well.

Henri: (34:32)
And there's two reasons for this. One, 'cause, like we already mentioned, the security council with Russian veto is a non-starter, but more importantly from a diplomatic endpoint, we see that European nations are very much into rule of law or rule of international law. You know, United States is not one of those countries that believes in this. Or I should say, believes in it, but doesn't subscribe to this notion of international law in the sense that, unlike Europe or unlike the European nations United States is not part of a lot of international legal frameworks. To include the International Criminal Court, the UN Convention on Law of the Sea, UNCLOS, the Kyoto protocol, you know, about climate change. There's even other things like the ban on cluster munitions, the ban on torture, famously, the ban on mines, the Ottawa treaty. And there's a whole list of these things, a whole bunch of different international frameworks, diplomatic frameworks that the United States is not part of and refuses to be a part of. Did I mentioned the comprehensive test ban, nuclear test ban treaty? Banning nuclear weapons tests, which actually it's funny enough, Russia has signed, whereas the United States hasn't. So, uh, let's, that's the United States for you.

Henri: (35:53)
Whereas the European nations are really big on these type of international frameworks and really hold those to high regard, even though Americans don't. In fact, even the Bush administration, George W. Bush, he understood this, because while he wanted to go straight in guns blazing into Iraq during the second Gulf war, he still had to wherewithal, administration still had the wherewithal to plead their case to the United Nations. You know, that was the whole thing with Colin Powell or Secretary Powell talking about the yellow cake uranium in Iraq. And obviously that turned out to be a fabrication, but again, the fact that they spent the time and energy to plead their case to the UN shows that the United States understands that Europeans hold this into higher regard. So that if you want Europe on your side, you have to plead to international norms, which the Europeans hold to a high regard.

Henri: (36:51)
So the things that the US could do is implore president Zelenskyy to go to the General Assembly and then one by one list all these violations that Putin has done, that Russia has done. You can refer Putin to the International Criminal Court, you know, to the Hague. And there's plenty of evidence there to brand him as an international criminal with a violation of the Budapest memorandum and the Helsinki accords. Budapest memorandum being the maintaining of the territorial integrity of Ukraine, as well as Belarus and Kazakhstan in exchange for them giving up their nuclear weapons, when the Soviet union disbanded. So by Putin annexing Crimea, he's in direct violation of the Budapest memorandum of 1994. So as far as the International Criminal Court is concerned, this is grounds for not just the penalties against the Russian Federation, but also by making the case that Putin is the single architect of the annexation of Crimea, branding Putin as an international criminal.

Henri: (37:57)
Now of course, branding Putin as a criminal might not do much against Putin himself, but you can use this as leverage for the international loving Europeans, by constantly going to Germany, to the German government, saying, Hey, look, what are you talking about? Nord Stream 2 and not imposing sanctions, because of Russian gas. Why is Germany dealing with an international criminal? And you already have the German guilt trip of World War I and more importantly, World War II and the Nazis, and the Holocaust, and all that. So really playing in and needling the German sense of guilt of all the crime and destruction that they've done in the 1940s, using that as a way to affect German sentiment against Vladimir Putin, by bringing this case to the international criminal court.

Henri: (38:45)
Even going further back to the Helsinki Accords, which emphasizes, among many of different things, but the territorial integrity of states and those other things about self determination of people, respect for human rights, yyadi yadi yada, non-intervention of internal affairs. You can use this as a solid base for a case against Vladimir Putin in the International Criminal Court. And more importantly for the international public opinion court, vis-à-vis, the UN General Assembly.

Henri: (39:14)
And another thing that the United States can do is have talks with Poland and Lithuania. One of the things that they're worried about is being cut off. Especially the Baltic nations, being cut off from the rest of Europe, because of the small border that the Baltic nations share with Poland and the rest of Europe. And that's because of the territory of Belarus and Kaliningrad, which is an exclave of the Russian Federation. That's called the Suwalki grad, uh, the Suwalki gap. And the Suwalki gap is this thin corridor, essentially it's the border between Lithuania and Poland, but this border also provides a visa-free access for Belarussians and Russians to travel across the, for there to be a ground-based connection between this Russian exclave and Belarus and of course the rest of Russia. So by Poland at least suggesting the rescission of this visa-free access to the Suwalki gap, that can put further pressure on Putin to maybe not change the decision, but at least force him to consider a different calculus, should he invade.

Henri: (40:28)
Now, another thing the United States can do is put pressure on France. President Macron is talking about, oh, well, the thing is that we can't rely on the United States anymore. And this is like when Trump was president, but we can't rely on United States anymore for military security of Europe. Well, okay, fine. Well, put your money where your mouth is, especially talking about this US conundrum of if we deploy our troops that could potentially warrant a nuclear reprisal. Well have France, since they wanna make this European army, EU4, as they call it, this would be a great case of mobilizing, at least the progenitor of EU4.

Henri: (41:08)
Not only that, but also Macron right now, he's the president of the European Union Council. And with that, he has a not only enormous amount of power, but enormous amount of responsibility to guide the European union in international affairs. And one of the things that he was saying is his staff was advising him even while he was having trips and discussions with Russia, they were saying, oh no, Macron shouldn't go to Ukraine, because if he goes to Ukraine, then given his prestige, not only as President of France, but also president of the EU, this would be unnecessarily antagonize Russia. Which, basically you have to call him out on him, like saying, Hey, that's a ridiculous statement. Is Ukraine not a nation as well? You're talking about, Europe, you're so you're so much into the, you know, international norms and the supremacy of international law and how we should all be adhering to that as all nations are being equal. Well, how can you at at the same time then be saying that, Oh, you as head of state don't want to visit another head of state, because you risk antagonizing another head of state. It's just, it's, it's ridiculous. By Macron not going to Ukraine, especially during the time of crisis, you're essentially saying that Ukraine is not a legitimate state in the international community.

Henri: (42:26)
So these are the ways we have to frame the discussion at the international level. And basically break this narrative, this Russian narrative, that ultimately Russia considers itself as a regional hegemon, where all of its neighboring states should be client states and subservient to Russian interests. Which is antithetical to the European notion of international order, where all states have the right for self-determination and an equal standing at the international level.

Henri: (43:04)
But to properly address the Russian narrative, let's explore what exactly is the Russian narrative in the next episode.

Henri: (43:18)
If you would like to comment on this podcast or on the topics covered within it, or you'd like us to raise a new topic in our next episode, please feel free to leave us a message or a voicemail on www.codbsm.com. That's Charlie, Oscar, Delta, Bravo, Sierra, Mike, dot com. Thank you for, for listening and see you at the party, Richter!