Yoroslav Trofimov Book: “Our Enemies Will Vanish” | E192

Transcript generated automatically by Descript.

Guest Episode E90 Yuroslav _mixdown

[00:00:00] Jacob Shapiro: Hello listeners, welcome to another episode of Cognitive Dissidence. As usual, I’m your host, I’m Jacob Shapiro. I’m a partner and the Director of Geopolitical Analysis at Cognitive Investments. Joining me on the podcast is Yaroslav Trofimov. He’s the Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent at the Wall Street Journal.

He took some time out of a very busy travel schedule to talk to us about his new book, Our Enemies Will Vanish, The Russian Invasion. and Ukraine’s War of Independence. We didn’t go as long as we normally go for episodes because Yaroslav was literally about to go on stage to an audience in Berlin.

So we got about 35 40 minutes with him and I thought it was worth it. The book is excellent if you’re looking for some good reading about the conflict and about both the heroism of Ukraine’s defense but also the significant cultural and societal changes that have happened in Ukraine in such a small amount of time.

His book does a really good job shining a light on all of that. I found the book to be very optimistic about Ukraine’s prospects and Yaroslav, as you’ll hear on the podcast, is very optimistic. I’m a little pessimistic based on how things have gone recently, but he makes a compelling case that the long term picture looks better for Ukraine than maybe the short term pessimistic future looks.

So I was happy to hear that message and the book is extremely well written and extremely well developed and I thought Yaroslav was convincing, especially with some of the things he said about Zelensky in the context of the conversation. So Yaroslav, thank you for making the time. I know that your schedule was compressed.

Listeners, first of all, go buy his book. Second of all, leave us a rating or a review. Third of all, email me at jacob at cognitive dot investments. If you want to talk about our wealth management services or our research and consulting services, or you’d like me to speak at whatever audience or event that you are hosting, take care of the people you love.

Cheers and see you up.

Some of you can see this on YouTube, but most of you can’t see that Yaroslav has dressed up just for us. Not really. He’s on his way to a speaking engagement and he’s spending some time with us beforehand. Thank you for taking the time. Thank you for having me. So we’re going to have a link to the book in the show notes, all that other good stuff.

And I thought the place to start with, and I try to do this with most authors who come on the show, is just tell us a bit about yourself first, because I think it’s important to know who the person is behind the book and where they’re coming from. So just give us a brief sort of introduction to who you are and how you ended up writing this.

[00:02:10] Yuroslav: Sure. Great to be on the show. And I’ve been covering wars and mayhem for the Wall Street Journal for the past, 23 years, since 9 11. And I was on a plane to Cairo the day the two cars got hit, and then end up in Afghanistan, Iraq, and, pretty much covered every war ever since.

And all that were wars in other people’s countries, because I was born in Ukraine, I was born in Kiev, I was a terrorist as a child. And, Kiev was always, had a very special place in my heart. And I didn’t really cover Ukraine in my professional career until, a few years before this full scale invasion began.

And coming back to Ukraine in January, 2022 being there as it became more and more clear than the war was inevitable and then staying there and covering the conflict was very different experience, obviously I could use all the all the experiences that, covering conflict that I’ve gathered, in my previous careers, I knew how to behave in the fire and I knew what to do but emotionally, of course, it was very different because, if it’s a city where you have every piece of geography has a sentimental value to you, because you remember, we had your first kiss where, first ice cream when, when your mom took you to see your doctor.

And all of that suddenly is becoming a battlefield. The bombs falling on the gardens of your memory. That’s very traumatic. And it was very different, but also I think pushed me to do things that I wouldn’t have done otherwise because my risk to reward ratio was changed.

And would go and seek out the ability to witness the war at the very edge of the front line in places that were more dangerous than I would otherwise go, because I felt I had a mission as someone from Ukraine who had this background and this platform, being able to write as a chief affairs correspondent for one of America’s and the world’s, most important newspapers.

And at the same time Knowing the audience and being able to convey this story to the audience in, in, in comprehensible terms. And at the same time understanding the Ukrainians, speaking languages, the Ukrainian and Russian and campaigning sort of fingertip feeling for the situation.

And so I think that’s really helped me in the articles and that also drove the book because the book is really part word travel log. Part trip kind of reportage, but it’s really me going from KF to all the other pivotal points of the first year of the war, which is the most important year of the war now, the year three and being I think one reviewer called it like camera, very cinema, very tech.

Sort of, camera, the lens of the reader. And I was trying to stay away as much as possible from the story myself. I just introduced the reader to the key characters the interesting people their emotions, their lives, what’s driving them. And, and also explain that and not only show that, these are people that are very similar to you and I, who have had the same ambitions, the same desires, the same plans for life before this war caught them before they were caught in the middle of this war.

And that had to make very difficult choices and some were heroes, some were cowards some were something in between and nobody knew how they would behave once it happened because none of us knows how we’ll behave if we are thrown in this sort of

[00:05:21] Jacob Shapiro: circumstances. Did you do much reporting in 2014 or I’m just curious if there was any sort of connection between what happened in 2014 and what happened in 2022 for you?

[00:05:32] Yuroslav: I did not do much reporting. I came to Ukraine 2004 when there was, the first day, first people’s protest and revolution against president against Yanukovych, who would later become president. And I came there after a harrowing, half a year in Baghdad where I, my friends were killed, kidnapped, and I felt so proud being in Ukraine at the time where this massive political change was achieved with no blood spill, not a single subfront vandalized and I was like, wow, my people are know how to do it.

But then, of course, at the time, it was a conflict between two different groups of Ukrainians. In 2014, there was Russia directly involved militarily, and that’s when blood was spilled, a lot of blood in 2014, people forgot that it happened, the U. S. decided to stay away, President Obama at the time said there is nothing America can do to prevent Russian demolition in Ukraine, 14, 000 people were killed at the time in a few months.

I was not there at the time I was, covering the war in Afghanistan, I was stuck in Kabul.

[00:06:34] Jacob Shapiro: Yeah. Connected to that question, and this is really, you do a good job of talking about this in the book too, but what was your feeling, opinion of Russia before 2022? Was it one more were they cousins?

Were they a threat the entire time? I’m just curious what in your mind’s eye before Putin really showed the world what he was in 2022. And maybe from your point of view, he showed us in 2014 or he showed it to Georgia in 2008. But did you have any sort of warm feelings towards Russia or was it always skepticism?

And you said you’re from Kiev. So I guess that means more skepticism, but I’m just curious. I was just recalling

[00:07:08] Yuroslav: my childhood and I remember. I was just having this conversation this week with someone. I remember having a map of Europe and it was still in the Soviet Union. And like drawing the pincer movements of an imagined war within Russia and Ukraine.

So like the possibility of that, I think was in the back of the minds of people in Kyiv for a long time. And that was the, I’m talking about the Soviet Union at times. But Trash Talk was not seen as the enemy before 2014. Yeah. For most people. There was the invasion of Georgia, I was in Georgia and I witnessed it today, and so the abusers that they were committing in Georgia, I remember walking into villages where every man had been killed.

Only the women and the children were remaining. And it was clear to me at the time that, Russia was a dangerous, but that was not the view of many people in Ukraine, especially in Eastern. And Southern Ukraine and President Zelensky at the time comedian working in Moscow. He hosted the New Year’s morning show on Russian state television on January 1st, 2014, as the Maidan revolution was already in full swing just a month before.

Less than two months before Russia actually invaded Ukraine. And that opinion of the Russians changed already in 2014, once the Ukrainians saw the bloodshed in Donbass, was the Ukrainian society mobilized to fight, against all odds and to stop the Russians from taking over much of Ukraine at the time, because that was the plan.

Putin had fomented uprising, started with an uprising, push attempts. in several cities in Kharkiv, in Donetsk, Luhansk, Odessa, Zaporizhia, Mykolaiv, across southern and eastern Ukraine. He was successful only in Donetsk, Luhansk, but he tried everywhere else. But still, there were still illusions among many Ukrainians that no matter what, the Russians will not Go for a full scale war will not be flattening Ukrainian cities because after all, the Russians are saying that, Ukrainians and Russians are one people, we’re brothers, I remember myself talking to a friend in Russia the night before the invasion and saying I can understand all his rhetoric, but I can understand how the Russians can put up with flattening Grozny in Chechnya, flattening Aleppo in Syria, because, those are othered in the Russian imagination.

They are sort of Muslims. They’re not like us. But Putin keeps saying that Russians and Ukrainians are the same. How can the Russians put up with flattening Kharkiv or Bakhmut? And yes, they did. It’s this othering. Thanks to the propaganda machine that is source of escape in Russia happened. And it would be, there were incredible tales that I kept hearing, I would go to Kharkiv as it was being obliterated and speak to a woman there, she would tell me, I’m calling my father who lives in Russia.

And tell him that the Russians have destroyed our neighborhood and like our buildings no longer exists. And he would tell me, I don’t believe you, the Russians would never do that. So the power of the propaganda to Change perceptions of reality is something to behold. especially in Russia, which is, which is a world leader.

Yes. They

[00:10:08] Jacob Shapiro: they’ve brought us many sort of I think you’re exactly right. A world leader in propaganda is the right way to say it. I even had a Russian analyst on the podcast. I used to have him on the podcast all the time, thought of him as a friend. And the whole time he was telling me, Oh, Russia’s not going to invade.

This is all political posturing. It’s not going to be sort of anything. And I managed to get him on the podcast a couple of weeks after the invasion. And the narrative had completely switched. It was Nazis and fascists. And all these other things in Ukraine, and they have to be wiped out. It was really shocking to watch even the Russian analyst community go in that direction.

Yeah, please. Maybe the head

[00:10:38] Yuroslav: of the Carnegie Central Mosque of Mediterranean, who was the, the most respected Russian analyst, And I

[00:10:47] Jacob Shapiro: don’t know if that’s propaganda or if that’s fear of what Putin’s regime is going to do, or if it’s something in between, but it doesn’t really matter what it is.

[00:10:57] Yuroslav: I think the problem is that what Putin thinks about Ukraine is not something of an outlier in Russia. A lot of other Russians, probably the majority of Russians have always thought that Ukraine is not a real nation. It’s a fake nation. Ukrainians Ukrainian identity as Putin, told Tucker Carlson was made up by the Austrian Hungarian general staff in World War I.

And there was never an acceptance of Ukraine being a separate country, which is very understandable because if you look at the Russian national foundational myth, and it’s all based in Kiev, the great Kiev principality of the 10th century, the Kiev Rus, and Putin is named after Prince Vladimir of Kiev.

As is Zemensky the prince of Brooklyn, Kiev. And if you strip out all that history or the centuries of history, at the time when Moscow didn’t even exist, there was no Moscow then you’re left without a history of Russia. So if you accept that Kiev is a capital of a foreign country then suddenly half of Russia’s own, what they consider their own history is gone.

And it’s very difficult to accept.

[00:11:56] Jacob Shapiro: Yeah. Turning to really the book now Everybody underestimated Ukraine. I underestimated Ukraine. Putin underestimated Ukraine. The United States underestimated Ukraine. Literally everyone thought that they were going to fold. I don’t think that Biden’s initial policies were that different than any other previous administrations.

They were withdrawing embassy staff and everything else. Why do you think everyone underestimated Ukraine so much? Had something changed in Ukraine between 2014 and 2022? Was it just Biden? People didn’t know what they were talking about. Was it an overestimation of the Russians? I’m, everybody literally was wrong about that.

And I wonder what your take is on why everybody was so wrong.

[00:12:33] Yuroslav: I think first of all, to be fair, I think many Ukrainians also underestimate Ukraine. Because, you don’t know how things will pan out, but I think that there are several reasons for this. One of them is that, the colonial legacy meant that everybody was looking at Ukraine through Russian eyes.

The journalists that used to cover Ukraine used to be based in Moscow. And they the history of Ukraine was seen as a history through Moscow eyes. There was Little appreciation of how different it is. And then second, there was very little appreciation of how much it has changed.

Not just since 2014. I would argue since Sicily independence, since 1991 because a lot of people had experience of Ukraine in the nineties, didn’t realize how different it is 20, 30 years later. And. The nature of Ukrainian nationalism has changed because Ukrainian nationalism, historically in the thirties and the forties was a very dark, often anti Semitic, anti polish, ethnic nationalist of the kind that’s a blood and soil nationalism that we had in every country in Europe, pretty much.

The Ukrainian nationalism that was born in the seventies and the eighties, and that was the foundation of the Ukrainian state in 1991 was by design inclusive, when Ukraine became independent, like in Latvia, in Estonia, they said, only people who used to live here are citizens.

Half the population or third of the population will not get passports. In Ukraine, they said, everyone is Ukrainian, doesn’t matter what religion, language you speak. It’s a very American and inclusive idea of nationality. And that gave strength and resilience to the country. That’s why It did not split along those lines of language or religion that Putin thought it would split, that’s why the Russian speaking Ukrainians were as or more patriotic and as or more dedicated to fighting the Russians as the Ukrainian speaking Ukrainians. That’s why the country today can have, president who happens to be Jewish, defense minister happens to be Muslim, and the head of the armed forces who happens to be actually, I think, Russian born General Sersky and It’s not an issue of discussion.

It’s not something you need to hear about because Ukraine had overcome the idea that being Ukrainian means being of, some kind of mythical Ukrainian blood and of certain religion. And I think that’s the source of the strength of the country. That’s what allowed it to fight.

And then I think people underestimated the fact that the Ukrainian military has changed dramatically. It’s the Ukrainian military, there were 14 of us shabbos and Ukraine only resisted in Donbass at the time because all these volunteer units came up. Just people, you know, one of the characters in my book was a dive shop operator in Thailand and in 2014, he came back and, he joined one of his battalions and he fought and, rose to the ranks and was a senior figure in the defense of Malibu in this war, in this phase of the war and the spirit of volunteer units of sort of private initiative.

And of, some of the very different demographic, so when some of the thinkers and poets and, some of the most intelligent people in the country actually joined these units and joined the military. And so when Putin invaded, he thought that he would have a big Soviet army fighting against a small Soviet army, which would have had a preordained outcome.

But in fact, the Ukrainian army was no longer a small Soviet army. And it fought differently in a surprising way. And, it was David versus Goliath, David at the very

[00:15:51] Jacob Shapiro: least, brought the work to a standstill. And David had a slingshot that worked while Goliath in this case has, hulking machinery that hasn’t been serviced in 10 or 20 years or whatever else you,

[00:16:02] Yuroslav: I would argue that that the initial the initial phase of the war actually was won thanks to the very same Soviet equipment that the Ukrainians had.

Primarily the foreign weapons were a very drop in the ocean at the time. Now that changed obviously the course of fighting. But it’s more about tactics and spirit and just, how the Koreans organize themselves.

[00:16:19] Jacob Shapiro: I want to spend a second on what you said about how, it’s really remarkable how Ukraine transformed itself into a more inclusive idea of who constitutes the nation.

Even the United States, if you see the debate about immigration or the debates about race and things like that, like the United States is far from perfect and is struggling with this yet again in its history. And there’s not really any precedence for this in the region. It’s not like Poland has become an all inclusive country.

It’s that it’s become a homogenous country because of decades of how populations have moved and wars and conflicts and things like that. How did that happen? Do you have a sense of how that happened? Cause it’s really remarkable if you take a step back and just like observe it. I think it was from

[00:16:54] Yuroslav: a very, technically how it happened, I think, because a lot of the Ukrainian dissidents.

Yeah. We’re in the same prison camps as the Jewish Sharansky and many other nationalities of the former Soviet Union. I think there was also a rethinking, you mentioned Poland, but Poland also had a, a big intellectual rethinking of what it means to be Polish. There was a magazine in Warsaw called Kultura in the seventies, where the Polish intelligentsia and exile actually, because Poland and Ukraine, had a lot of problems in the past.

And, Ukraine now has territories that used to belong to Poland before World War II, like the city we live in. And so, until it’s rethinking by the Kultura magazine, intellectuals around it, a lot of Poles were in exile, were talking, the Polish government in exile, were talking about reclaiming all the borders, et cetera, et cetera.

And the conclusion there was, a free Poland isn’t, is impossible that a free Ukraine. And so there was a historic reconciliation of Poles and Ukrainians. And when Ukraine became independent, Poland was, it’s biggest backer actually Poland recognized it’s Eastern border. Before Germany organized Poland’s western border but the United, unified Germany, and and Ukrainian nationalism, very largely become more anti Polish than anti Russian.

But it didn’t because of this reconciliation. I think a lot of the ghosts of World War II were played to rest. By people who, learned lessons, the right lessons of all the horrors of the past.

[00:18:18] Jacob Shapiro: Yeah. Do you think, ironically, that the war will, in some ways cause a little bit more of that, an anti Russian sort of perspective?

Or do you think that Ukraine is maybe immune from that sort of response?

[00:18:30] Yuroslav: There is no anti Russian perspective in the sense of perspective against people who speak Russian in Ukraine. Or Russian heritage, there are actually Russian units now in a Russian bit, Russian, let’s say opponents of the Putin regime who are, have come to Ukraine and they, there are two or three Russian battalions fighting for the Ukrainian army.

Is there going to be a long term hostility to the Russian state? Yes, definitely. Will will generations of Ukrainians hold a grudge against the Russian? State and Russian culture. Yes. We see what’s happening. Is there now a move by a lot of Ukrainians who grew up speaking Russian to switch to Ukrainian?

Definitely. And I’ve seen it again and again, people who would text me in Russian two years ago would no longer do it. They would now only speak Ukrainian, but that’s also, it’s part of the reclaiming of the history, because of most people who are Russian speaking in Ukraine.

Are Russian speaking because of the colonial heritage. Their grandparents or maybe even their parents spoke Ukraine at home, but because of the schooling, because of the social pressures they had the switch languages to fit in the society. And so now this sort of natural reversion to, to try to rectify some of the historical, yeah.


[00:19:46] Jacob Shapiro: Let’s, so I wanna put some cards on the table for myself. I try to be objective in all of my analysis. It is hard for me to be objective about this. I am rooting for Ukraine, so I have to say from the outset, like I want Ukraine to win. I don’t want Russia to be able to overrun Ukraine.

I think that would be bad for the world. It would be bad for Ukraine, everything else. And I have to compartmentalize that and put that aside. So I want to say that I’m rooting for Ukraine before I ask you what may be a couple of difficult questions and the one that I want to zoom in on, is the relationship between Zelensky and Zelushny.

And you talk about it early in your book, and you really talk about how the pair of them were almost perfect. Zelensky becomes the symbol of Ukrainian resistance rises to the occasion in a way that none of us probably thought that he could. Really, he was incredibly brave, he was incredibly perceptive, knew his people, knew what he needed to do, also seemed to be willing to delegate to Zelushny.

Who according to your book is really the architect of that transformation in Ukraine’s military forces He is the one that figures out how are we going to beat russia if it invades and his You know the loyalty that the troops have to him and looking up to him make them feel confident Zaluzhny at the end of last year started publicly breaking with Zelensky and disagreeing with Zelensky on how the future needed to go with the conflict on the battlefield.

Maybe the counter offensive was not such a good idea. Maybe it’s a World War I style stalemate. And then he was quickly ushered to the side and he’s no longer the commander in chief. And there’s a new commander in chief. So I wanted to give you a chance to talk about. Zelensky and Zaluzhny because they’re such important characters.

But the more pressing question is, where do they go from here? Is this just the normal ebb and flow of, a president needs different generals throughout the different courses of a conflict? Or is there something really problematic here at the heart of Ukraine’s defense with the break between these two men?

[00:21:29] Yuroslav: Zaluzhny played a key role in the initial weeks, I would say of Ukraine’s defense, when he chose to trade land for time and for troop preservation. And instead of fighting in this desperate battle for every little hamlet, pulled back and then destroyed Russian supply columns and made it impossible for the Russians to sustain their siege of Kiev.

And at the time, say from February 24th until May 2022, he was running the military and Zelensky was focusing on this outreach. To the global public opinion that was really successful in dragging governments, because it was pretty unique in the history of, in recent history, that the public opinion rallied so much about Ukraine that governments from the U.

S. to Europe, That any deal wanted to watch for Ukraine in the beginning felt like they had to, and they did. And but from May Zelensky already concentrated decision making in this new supreme command called Stavka. Where in addition to Zelensky, Zelushny, there were also the Ministry of Defense, other ministers, other intelligence services.

The decision making became more and more of a collective decision making. So Zaluzhina was no longer running the war simplehandedly and Zaluzhina is popular, was popular. And I think there were some jealousies from the presidential administration and and I think they, they were afraid of him as a potential political rival.

Never voiced this political ambitions. So now he’s gone. He’s been replaced by General Sirsky, who was the commander of land forces. Has the way the war is being pursued changed? Not really. I don’t see any huge differences in how the war is waged. Were lots of people in Ukraine and in the military not very happy about this?

Yes. Did they do anything about it? No, because everybody recognizes that at the end of the day, President Zelensky has full authority to, appoint the generals he sees fit like the American president president Obama replaced the commander of Afghanistan twice. And and Zelensky himself graciously, hugged the president, accepted the medal and for a while is staying in the shadows.

Does he have a political future? Very likely. Will Zelensky win the next election whenever it’s held? Who knows? The Ukrainian, he’s the sixth president of Ukraine. Out of the six, only one has been reelected. I know President Kuchma in the 90s. Ukrainians, quite fickle in their political love.

And the war is not for Zelensky. And Zelensky is the symbol of Ukraine abroad because he’s been such an effective spokesman. But Ukrainians are fighting for the independence and survival of the country. Zelensky is doing an okay job. There is no campaign to remove him. But also it’s not guaranteed that he will win the election after the war.

[00:24:12] Jacob Shapiro: And that sort of is, was, leads into the next question. When is Ukraine going to next hold elections? Because I understand that it’s problematic to hold elections in the context of war. For our American listeners, though, they will think back to U. S. history and say the U. S. held an election during the middle of the Civil War, which pitted a general against Abraham Lincoln, and Abraham Lincoln eventually prevailed, but it was not clear that McClellan was was going to lose that originally there was no war that the United States ever fought where it wasn’t actually having an election.

This was supposed to be election year in Ukraine. So like I understand the sort of security trade offs between having the election and not having the election but it seems to me that Zelensky is in a difficult position because the counteroffensive has not quite done what he hoped it would do and he’s Had to fire his general.

And we don’t know when the next election is going to be. I’m not sure that if the answer is whenever the war is the war could go on for years. The war could go on until the end of the decade, possibly if we keep going on this front. So are you really confident that, or I guess the question there is like, when do you think Ukraine is going to go to the polls?

When is it going to become a problem that Zelensky is calling the shots in this way? I

[00:25:15] Yuroslav: think you answered the question. Ukraine will go to the polls. One, it becomes a problem, I think, it has not become one yet. I think the Ukrainian law is different from American law and the way elections are run is different.

Ukrainians would tell you the better example is the United Kingdom. They also did not have elections during World War II, bad election in 1939. And the next one was in 1945. So they had, the same parliament sitting in extending its term because of the war. Under Ukrainian law, you’re not allowed to have elections as long as martial law is in effect.

Zelensky’s term is expiring in May. Right now, there is no major political force in Ukraine that is calling for new elections. So everybody understands that, an election is a divisive process as we all know, by its very nature, and it’s going to be a very, if it’s a close election, it’s going to be very hard to prove its fairness.

If there is active fighting in many of the areas where the voting takes place. And, the Russians are able and are, bombing pretty much every major city in Ukraine with the missiles and the suicide drones. But I think at some point it’s quite possible, if Zelensky’s popularity dips, if there are some big developments in the war and there is popular pressure to replace him maybe there could be an election.

But we’re not at that stage yet. I don’t think, I don’t think in the next few months, this will become an issue. And, and it’s perfectly legitimate from the Ukrainian law to keep extending this. Yeah,

[00:26:39] Jacob Shapiro: That’s an important point. The last sort of thing sticking on this topic what happens to Zelensky and what happens to the Ukraine Armed Forces with Zelensky on the sideline?

I take it that he’s not going to disappear. I take it that he’s going to be around. But I, in some ways, I guess the question I’m asking is the views that he articulated in The Economist and in Western newspapers and things like that was that this is a stalemate. Yeah. Like that we’re not going to be able to push here.

This is a world war one type scenario. And unless we get very specific types of game changing technologies and weapons platforms, there’s nothing to be done here. Like we just have to take our gains and protect them. Do you think he’s right about that? Do you think that the new Ukrainian command has a different view?

I’m just curious. To what sense do you think that Zaluzhny was that important? And do you think his analysis is correct this time? Just because he was right before, it doesn’t mean he’s right now, but that is what he was saying.

[00:27:25] Yuroslav: He was not saying last bit. He was not saying that let’s take our gains and keep them and stop the war.

Yeah, so what he was saying that right now, the war is at a stalemate because changes in technology make it very hard for either side to have massive offensive operations. And that’s true. There was an article in like the West Point magazine explaining this just recently. It’s true that the development of the drone technology, means that whenever there are larger masses of tanks and armored vehicles, it gets discovered right away and destroyed right away.

The Ukrainian strategy didn’t fail it. The Russians now are trying it and every day there are videos of Russian tank columns being destroyed. I think stalemate at this point is actually that for this year is an optimistic scenario because Russia is on the offensive. Right now, the U. S.

military aid has pretty much ceased. It’s been several months since the deliveries were large scale disauthorized. It’s been a year and a half since Congress last approved military aid. And Ukraine is starved of ammunition. The Europeans are trying to make up for the shortfall, but it will take them time, at least until early next year to be able to produce enough.

And so Ukraine’s best hope this year is just not to lose territory. Nobody’s talking about counterfeiting this year. Next year, maybe, but again, so much also depends on the internal political developments in Russia. There’s a whole new, it’s not just a ground war that’s going on. There is also an air war and Ukraine is attacking targets deep inside Russia.

Some of the U S and you’re like. Trying to also create leverage in the Russian economy and, create bargaining chips for any future

[00:28:57] Jacob Shapiro: talks. And Ukraine has done a, a magnificent job in the Black Sea. It’s done a magnificent job of asymmetrically hitting back against Russia. But I’m struck by the title of your book is Our Enemies Will Vanish.

They’re not vanishing. I thought for a second that Purgosian was going to be the beginning of the end for the Putin government. He put Purgosian in his place, and now he’s doing his thing. It looks, and like you said, the Russians have shown the ability to take a defeat, reconceptualize, counterattack, and now push back.

That is not something that a military does if it’s on its last legs. That’s something that a military does if it’s going, it’s willing to admit, okay, we lost the battle, but the war continues on and there’s real prospects for success in the future. And I was We had some military experts on the podcast in the last couple of weeks responding to some of the reports in French media and English media about a Russian potential breakthrough.

And those military experts said, okay, calm down. There’s not gonna be a Russian breakthrough or anything like that. But to your point, like they are on the offensive, they’re not vanishing. So I don’t know, like what is your perspective on, on Russia? Are you concerned about the coming year? Cause your book is really about it’s a positive book about what Ukraine did for defense and that Ukraine is going to be here for the long haul.

But the picture today on April 9th it’s maybe a little more pessimistic than when you were writing or when you were going to press. The,

[00:30:10] Yuroslav: our aims of the banished is a line from the national anthem that was written in the 1860s. So obviously it’s been a century and a half, they still haven’t vanished.

But be more serious I think the battle for Ukraine’s independence Has been what, there will be Ukraine in what borders are clear, but I think that the prospect of Russia extinguishing the Ukrainian states, which, seem to be, common wisdom, February 23rd or 22 is no longer in the cards in the foreseeable future unless Ukraine implodes from within, which again, is not likely to happen as the extent now.

But Russia’s military, a, has shown its ability to. Rico City itself, the Russian people have absorbed the losses, starting losses, hundreds of thousands of people were killed, remained in Ukraine for no apparent reason. And there’s been zero protests, 15, 000 Soviet casualties in the Soviet Union really helped collapse the Soviet Union.

So to put it in perspective. And, uh, Russia’s economy is being, is doing okay with the sanctions because the sanctions are also very porous and nobody wants the U. S., the Russians not to be able to sell their oil. And so they are reaping all those billions and billions from the oil trade.

And then, uh, the Russian military industries are able to function. But I think long term, the logic of attrition still works for Ukraine, because as long as the Ukraine continues receiving aid from the West it is destroying the Russian military machine. For every tank that Russia is able to make or refurbish or refuel at a piece, Ukraine destroys three now.

So at some point, in a year or two or three, Russia will just run out of all this gear. And unlike Ukraine, it has nowhere else to get it. Nobody else is going to sell tanks to Russia. And in that sense, while the, the dynamic in the immediate future is in Russia’s favor, it’s unnecessarily so in longer term.

But, of course, that presupposes continued Western support, which is in question, especially, seeing what’s happening in the Republican party and what may happen in the elections in prediction

[00:32:25] Jacob Shapiro: of November. I think it’s very important that you’re in Germany because as a risk analyst, I think support from the United States is very tenuous.

In either scenario, and certainly if it’s a, if you believe what Trump says, it would, it would vanish automatically if he’s going to follow through on what he says, but the key country in all of this is Germany and France and Ukraine and everybody else needs to get Germany to come along to the party because if you, I think if Ukraine is going to have that successful future, it’s going to be not because the West supplies Ukraine, but because Europe supplies Ukraine.

So I’m curious, you’re in Germany now. Okay. How are you feeling? What are you gonna tell the audience when you rush off this podcast, you’re gonna tell them to get off their butts and what get to shipping the art turbo shells.

[00:33:01] Yuroslav: I think the Germans actually in terms of production are, have greatly increased and the European production is decreasing rapidly.

Germany has been very reluctant with some capabilities, just like the US and Germany has refused to supply crane with crewman sales. The French and the British have supplied but in terms of artillery production, in terms of just general military hardware, they are doing their bit and they are increasing their production.

It just takes time, but they’re doing it too fast in the U S and you have seen all some Czech Republic leading this initiative, collecting money all over Europe and finding hundreds of millions of shells around the world to send to Ukraine. So you do see, and France honestly is also, it may not have as much money as Germany, but it’s leading politically and again, it’s leading this debate on capabilities and it’s ready to give the Ukrainians what the Germans are reluctant.

So I think there is this new sense of urgency in Europe. Macron did say that the word Ukraine is existential for the future of Europe and France very strong words and There is also this new discussion about nuclear aspect of it. To what extent the French and nuclear capabilities could provide any degree of deterrence against Russia.

If the U S just walks away from Europe under Trump as many in Europe fear and people in Europe talk now about living in a pre war. Period. So I think the idea that could be military action, but that Inside the European Union inside Native Borders in the next two to three to five years, which was dismissed as fantasy a year ago now is actually seen as the, as a very realistic, probably the most realistic scenario.

. And and that is why support for Ukraine is, which was seen initially as well, let’s try beyond Americans because they wanna do it. It’s, it’s okay. Some global Geo poets now is actually seen as. Homeland security issue, because people are having this moment that, wow, if the Russians don’t stop there, they will come here.

And, I was just before this, I was I was in Estonia and in Poland and, already people are talking about, should I refurbish my home? Should I invest the money in buying property in Spain? People are having these discussions already in NATO, the European Union countries,

[00:35:14] Jacob Shapiro: which I guess is good for Ukraine.

The flip side of this also is, do you have any sense of Ukraine’s relationship with China and whether Zelensky has because the thing that is really propping up the Russian economy from my point of view is that China is just willing to continue buying. Is there any world in which you think Zelensky and Ukraine can put pressure on China to say this is not what you want to be doing?

Or is that a pipe dream? I don’t think Ukraine has and can put

[00:35:35] Yuroslav: pressure on China, but I think Europe, certainly has a degree of leverage with China. And I think the reason why China is not militarily directly helping Ukraine has to do with Europe, because China’s goal is to divide the US and Europe traditionally.

And they know very well that if they were to be directly intervening in on Russia’s side in Ukraine, then any sort of European Chinese cooperation would be very difficult, but that’s it works both ways, I think, because. If the U S were to abandon Ukraine, I think there’ll be a lot of pressure within Europe to grow closer to China, because there are already lots of voices, especially in Germany, but also out there just saying okay, we are sacrificing our economic interests for America’s political interests.

Because when do we care about that one? Or the South China sea. And it’s okay. As long as America is on our side in Europe, but if America were to walk away from Europe, why would we do that? Because China is not a direct threat. to Europe, because it’s far away. Russia is. You have this whole debate in the U.

S. about splitting Russia from China. You have the debate in Europe about splitting China from Russia.

[00:36:46] Jacob Shapiro: Yeah, exactly right. Are you going to write volume two? Are you going to keep reporting from the ground in Ukraine? Or do you move elsewhere for the Wall Street Journal now?

[00:36:53] Yuroslav: My, my job before the war and after the war is still the same as chief foreign affairs correspondent.

So I’m trying to. Put things in a perspective and also explain how this war is affecting, the rest of the world. And so I’ll be going to Ukraine again. And, but also I’m in Germany now and going to other places to also explain how it’s affecting, the global balance of power, especially as the election in the U S I’m arguably already, the fact that, that.

It is a possibility of Trump returning to the White House and the fact that, he controls the House effectively is already changing reality on the ground, even without the election occurring.

[00:37:31] Jacob Shapiro: And the outbreak of hostilities between Israel and Hamas also, probably materially changed the picture there.

And, there, there’s no shortage of conflicts around the world. So Ukraine has had sort of the headlines for two years, but eventually people get war fatigue. Eventually they get distracted and worry about other things, which is another reason that cuts against Ukraine having enough having time because the longer it goes on, the more maybe people get acclimated to it in the background.

[00:37:54] Yuroslav: Yeah, though, arguably, Ukraine doesn’t need attention. It just, it needs ammunition and money. And and shells, and there is not that much overlap between what the U. S. is giving Israel and what Ukraine needs, it’s just different kinds of weapons.

[00:38:10] Jacob Shapiro: No it’s more a psychological thing.

It’s okay so sending weapons to Israel, sending, we’re, doing stuff with Taiwan, doing stuff with Ukraine, immigration across, you start to add all these things up. And that really, I think it gives, it gives some momentum to the isolationist wing of the Republican Party, and it’s in the Democratic Party too, like you start putting the things all together.

Yaroslav, I know you have to go, I don’t want to keep you too long, and as somebody who speaks often, I know that it’s nice to have ten minutes to collect yourself before you go on stage. Thank you so much for taking the time and I hope we’ll hear from you again soon, and take care. Tell the Germans to get it going.

I think you’re literally in the most important place for your message that where it needs to be told. So cheers to that. Thank you. Thank you. Great to be on the show. Thank you so much for listening to the Cognitive Dissidence podcast brought to you by Cognitive Investments. If you are interested in learning more about Cognitive Investments, you can check us out online at Cognitive.

Investments. That’s Cognitive. Investments. You can also write to me directly. If you want. Jacob at cognitive dot investments. Cheers. And we’ll see you out there. The views expressed in this commentary are subject to change based on market and other conditions. This podcast may contain certain statements that may be deemed forward looking statements.

Please note that any such statements are not guarantees of any future performance. And actual results or developments may differ materially from those projected. Any projections, market outlooks, or estimates are based upon certain assumptions and should not be construed as indicative of actual events that will occur.

Cognitive Investments LLC is a registered investment advisor. Advisory services are only offered to clients or prospective clients where Cognitive and its representatives are properly licensed or exempt from licensure. For additional information, please visit our website at www. cognitive. investments.

The information provided is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute investment advice and it should not be relied on as such. It should not be considered a solicitation to buy or an offer to sell a security. It does not take into account any investor’s particular investment objectives, strategies, tax status, or investment horizon.

You should consult your attorney or tax advisor.

Share this Article

Subscribe to Jacob’s weekly newsletter through Cognitive Investments to stay up-to-date on the latest in global affairs.

Subscribe Now