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Welcome to today's discussion. My name is Glenn Deason. With me is Alexander Mercouris from the Duran and John Mersheimer, the great IR scholar of our time. Welcome to the both of you. I thought we could start off by discussing an article written by Professor Mersheimer, recently called Death and Destruction in Gaza, referring them to Israel's actions in Gaza with the support of the US being a crime against humanity that seemingly has no military purpose. When I first read the article, my first thought was it didn't seem like a usual Mersheimer article because as a political realist, you often tend to analyze cold, hard national interests to assess how to explain the actions of states. But in this article, you begin by writing that some of the purpose was put on historical record now that not all Americans were supporting these crimes being committed. Also in your conclusion, you suggest ask if there's no decency left. I agree with the sentiment completely. I just made that observation that it stands maybe a bit out from your usual writing. But taking me to this point of what would be the cold, hard national interest really in Gaza?


Because for the Israelis, why this indiscriminate killing, the massacre of civilians, destruction of hospitals and civilian infrastructure, deliberately starving the population. Again, what you're describing is, of course, even if we ignore the issue of morality and decency, this action seems to be alienating Israel's allies and uniting its adversaries, which could be even suicidal for Israel in the long run. Well, first, from Israel's perspective, how does this serve Israeli interest? And secondary, how does it serve US or even European interests? Because I would say both the US and the EU continue largely to express unconditional support, making themselves complicit in this crime to a large extent. Again, I don't see how this can be defined by our national interest, either Americans or the Europeans. The collapse of our moral standing surely impacts our position in the international system. It was just interesting, actually, both your perspective, but perhaps go with John first.


Well, you raised a lot of different issues, but let me start by just talking about what I think the Israelis are up to in Gaza. I think their main goal is to ethically cleanse Gaza, to force the Palestinians who live in Gaza to go to Egypt and to go to Jordan, so that Gaza is empty of Palestinians. I think that's the principal goal. What they're doing is they are murdering huge numbers of Palestinians. They've murdered about 70,000, excuse me, about 20,000, 70% of whom are women and children. They're also going to Great Lanes to starve the population. They're destroying the infrastructure. They're making the place basically livable. They're humiliating the Palestinians, destroying hospitals. Again, all of this, I believe, is for the purpose of driving the Palestinians out. However, they may not be able to do that. Therefore, what they're doing is they're punishing the Palestinians and basically sending them a clear message that if they're not driven out, they should understand that if they ever rise up again and rebel, they will pay a god-awful price once again. The Israelis have long believed in the Iron Wall. The Iron Wall, which is a term that was invented by Zeev Yavatinsky, who was a Zionist on the right back in the early part of the 20th century, believed that the Iron Wall believes, or it's predicated on the assumption that you can beat the Palestinians into submission.


I think absent successful ethnic cleansing campaign, what this is, is a massive punishment campaign to get the Palestinians to submit to Israeli domination. At the same time, it's very important to understand that the Israelis are interested in going after Hamas and destroying Hamas. And going after Hamas and destroying Hamas is different than the punishment campaign directed against the civilian population, which I just described. One of the really big questions that's on the table these days is whether or not they can destroy Hamas. But their goal is to destroy Hamas. Now, if they drive all the Palestinians out of Gaza, Georgia is emptied of Palestinians, then they solve the Hamas problem. But if they don't drive the Palestinians out, and so far it looks like they're not going to be able to do that, then the question is, can they defeat Hamas? My argument would be, just to give you a quick assessment of this, is that the Israelis are doing an excellent job of murdering huge numbers of civilians and destroying Gaza, but they're not doing a very good job of getting Hamas. If you follow this closely, there's very little evidence that the Israelis have killed or captured large numbers of Hamas fighters.


They're not parading or showing pictures of Hamas fighters that they've captured. At the same time, if you follow what's going on in Telegram channels, it's quite clear that the Palestinians, here we're talking about Hamas, are inflicting significant casualties and doing significant damage to Israeli military equipment. The Israelis are in quite a fight inside of Gaza, and it's not at all clear that they're going to defeat Hamas. That, I think, is basically where we stand today with regard to the campaign, the Israeli campaign in Gaza.


Can I say this is fully consistent with my own views? I get to speak a little bit lower as a Greek because obviously I was educated and brought up within a Greek tradition of statecraft. I think it is fair to say that amongst in Greeks, going all the way back to antiquity, the fact that there is conflict between states and the fact that there is violence between states is something that is taken as absolutely read. We are not deluded about this, but it's always been understood that… That when you do resort to violence, you must do so for a realizable and achievable objective and that you must know what you're doing. If not, not. Unconstrained violence is not only immoral, if you like, it is also counterproductive. It works against you in the end. If you cannot destroy Hamas and you cannot displace the entire population of Gaza, and if in fact, trying to pursue those two objectives at one and the same time actually means that you can't properly execute on either one of them, then what you are doing is and a profound mistake, at which point it is no longer realistic or rational.


It becomes dangerous and irrational and profoundly conceived. I think that's the tradition, if you like, that I was brought up with. I think what we're seeing in Qatar being played out now is exactly an expression of that extraordinary violence to no rational, at least what I would call rational, achievable end. And of course, that is morally wrong. And of course, when you're doing something that is of that nature and you persist in doing it, then of course, questions of morality become even more pronounced. You see children being killed, you see women being killed in that fashion, and that becomes not just wrong, morally speaking, it becomes abhorrent as well. I think if we're looking at the general situation in the Middle East, not just the Middle East, but in the world, in Europe as well, by the way, I suspect to some extent also in the United States, we can also see that this policy that Israel is conducting is losing Israel friends. It is losing Israel international support after a period of time when Israel has been relatively, in fact, very successful for the last 20, 30 years in gaining international acceptance. It is now forfeiting some of that, and it is turning more and more people to become increasingly critical of it.


And to the extent that the US government has associated itself with these policies, what Israel is doing is pulling the United States down as well. I'm sorry if I brought into this something of my own tradition, but just to say, my aunt was a political leader in Greece. My father was a diplomat. I've known many people within diplomatic academies. I speak to people in our part of the world, in Greece. It is what I was brought up to.


I think what you're saying, Alexander, is that basically what the Israelis are doing doesn't make sense. It's wrong-headed from both a moral and a strategic point of view.


Precisely. Exactly so. And the Greek would say, Because it doesn't make any strategic sense and involves unconstrained violence, that makes it ultimately not just doesn't make sense from a moral point of view. It makes it abhorrent. It becomes literally senseless.


That's why I wanted to allude to before, because if killing all of these civilians inin Qatar would have elevated Israel's security and brought about a political settlement forced through a political settlement, one could, of course, yes, still morally very problematic, but one could have justified it in terms of national interest. But it seems everyone's national interest will be much worse as a result of this. But I do want to extend on that because you mentioned, I think the objective is ethnic cleansing. But if you have this huge Palestinian population in what the Israelis want to be greater Israel, you can either ethnically cleanse the population or you can put them under your administration, under Apartheid. Is there a third option? Is there any other possibility? Because after this, it doesn't really seem like the Palestinians would accept living under Apartheid system, as Netanyahu suggested that they might seize control over Gaza and administer it a bit like the West Bank, I guess. But is there a third option? And again, if a part of that doesn't work, what else are you left with?


I think there are four options here, Glenn. That's not to say that they're all viable. Let's just say theoretically or analytically, there are four options. You have this entity called Greater Israel, and you have roughly an equal number of Palestinians and Israeli Jews living in greater Israel. You can do one of four things. One, you could turn it into a true democracy, where, in effect, everybody gets one vote. The Israeli Jews will not go down that road because you will end up with a Palestinian state, not a Jewish state. So true democracy or real democracy is off the table. The second solution, which the United States has pushed for years, is a two-state solution. And as you know, lots of people are now saying once the shooting stops, we have to move to a two-state solution. But the fact is the Israelis who are in control have zero interest in a two-state solution. That's not going to happen in large part because the United States and Israel are joined at the hip. And if Israel doesn't want a two-state solution, they can rely on the United States to make sure it doesn't happen. That leaves two other alternatives, which were the ones that you, Glenn, just laid out.


One is Apartheid, which is what you have now, or two is ethnic cleansing. There's no question that the Israelis understand that Apartheid is probably not a viable political order over the long term. This present conflict has put the Palestinian issue on the front burner, and it shows there's no evidence that it's going to go away. The fact that Israel is an Apartheid state and that the Israelis treat the Palestinians with great cruelty is obvious to huge numbers of people in the world. So Apartheid over the long term does not look like a sustainable political order. That's why the Israelis are so interested in ethnic cleansing. They would like to do in 2023 or 2024 what they did in 1948 when they cleansed large parts of Palestine, or what they did in 1967 in the West Bank after they captured the West Bank in the Six-Day War. They'd like to ethically cleanse. And the problem that they face is that it's very difficult to ethnically cleanse. The United States, to its credit, and the United States has not done much to its credit in this conflict, but one thing it has done is said that the Israelis cannot cleanse Gaza or the West Bank for that matter, because you want to understand, the Israelis are not only interested in cleansing Gaza, they would like to cleanse the West Bank as well.


And we have told them they can't do that. So it looks at the moment like they can't do that. And the end result is you're going to have an Apartheid state for as far as the eye can see. And as Alexander was saying, and I know you agree, Glenn, this is disastrous for the Israelis, and it's disastrous for the United States because we're joined at the hip with the Israelis.


Indeed. Can I just say, coming back to your very first point, John, if you read the statements that some Israeli officials have made, they clearly point toward an ethnic cleansing intention. I find it impossible to construe them in any other way. I don't think this is an option that Israel has. I think it's an appalling option, a terrible option for Israel to execute. But I don't think it is one which is achievable. I think the one thing that this crisis in Gaza has perhaps done is that it has brought us to that point where we have reached an impasse. Israel has found it, it finds itself now in an impasse, where it has to look at its various options. That makes it sound more rational process than it can possibly be. But where Israel is looking at possible ways forward and the one that it desires, at least, or at least some of its officials desire, which is ethnic cleansing is blocked. And all the other options look bad also. I think maybe just possibly over time, if that fact is internalized, then who knows? Maybe there might be some rethinking taking place within Israel itself, but that's a long time in the future.


But just to switch gears for a second here and move away from the ethnic cleansing and punishment campaign against the civilian population.




Focus instead on the campaign against Hamas. If I'm right that they are not being very successful, they're not achieving much success in eliminating Hamas, what are the consequences for Israel if Hamas lives to fight another day? The Israeli leaders have promised that they would decisively defeat Hamas. Hamas was going to be eliminated, period, end of the story. It doesn't look like they're succeeding on that front. And we can tell all sorts of stories why they're not likely to succeed. Where does that leave Israel when this conflict is over?


I think defeated is the answer. I think it would be very, very difficult if you have a situation where there is a Hamas still in Gaza and it has not been destroyed and the conflict has ended. I think it would be very difficult to avoid, including within Israel itself, seeing this as anything other than a defeat. In fact, I seem to remember the late Dr. Kissinger made this very point about insergencies. I think he was talking about Vietnam, actually, in the mid-60s, that what the insurgent has to do in order to win is survive. That's right. And that is what Hamas is doing.


Yeah, I think that that's exactly right. And also, I would note for Benjamin Netanyahu's political future, it's essential that Hamas be defeated. But if it's impossible to defeat Hamas decisively, that will have negative consequences for his political future.


It also appears this would have wider implications for Israel's security, though, because it seems Israel's security largely relies on deterrence, surrounded by increasingly powerful neighbors, the image that it's all powerful and can destroy anyone. If there's Hamas fighters disappearing into their little holes or their tunnels, if they can't even be defeated, a lot of the image and the ability to deter would surely diminish, or am I putting too much focus or effort on deterrence there?


Well, I think you're right. But let me just come at it from a slightly different angle. The Israelis have always accepted the fact that they could not completely eliminate Palestinian resistance. What they talked about doing was managing the problem. You want to understand that Hamas was alive and well in Gaza well before October seventh. Indeed, the Netanyahu government worked with Hamas to get Hamas to help the Israelis undermine the two-state process, right? The Israelis were managing Gaza quite well up until October seventh. And it looked like even though Hamas was there as a threat, it was not that serious a threat. What happens on October seventh is you have this horrendous attack and the Israelis are caught with their pants down and they suffer a humiliating defeat. It's a tactical defeat. It's not a strategic defeat by any means, but they suffer this humiliating defeat. And the question then is, how do you respond if you're the Israelis? And the Israelis decide that what they're going to do is eliminate Hamas, right?


We're going to get rid of it. The reason they never tried to get rid of Hamas beforehand was not simply because it was useful for avoiding a two-state solution. They didn't get rid of Hamas because it was almost impossible to get rid of Hamas. And they knew that if they get rid of Hamas, that another group would spring up in its place, okay? So they managed the problem. That management process failed on October seventh. So the question is, what do you do then if you're playing their hand? If I were playing their hand, I would have just said, Look, this was a terrible, terribly unfortunate incident on October seventh. But we can't defeat Hamas militarily. It makes no sense to invade Gaza. We'll just be jumping into quicksand. And instead, what we ought to do is think about how to do the management process more smartly moving forward. That's what they should have done, because you can't eliminate Hamas. But they didn't do that. They were enraged, and they decided that they would invade Gaza and pursue a punishment campaign against the civilian population to maybe ethically cleanse Gaza and also go after Hamas. But as we have been saying here, the likelihood of success is incredibly small.


And the end result, I think, Alexander is right, is that the Israelis will ultimately suffer a defeat.


The great problem, and it actually goes back to some of the things we were discussing before, is that it's… I remember, I think all of us at various points said right at the start of this that it would be a mistake for Israel to march into Gaza, that if they went into Gaza, they would be going into a trap. I was in a discussion program with an American military officer or retired American military officer, Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Davis. He said exactly that. He made exactly the point that you've been making, John. Defeating, destroying Hamas in Gaza is so difficult and could only be achieved at such cost that it is simply not something realistically that you should consider, you should try to do. It's all very well. We could all see that. But was it ever really likely that Israel would act in any way different from the one it has? We've just did recently a program with the former British diplomat, Alistair Krug, who knows this region well. He knows people in Hamas. He knows people on the Israeli side. He got quite close at one time to Ariel Sairon. And his view is that there is going to be a war, that we are now in a situation where a war is inevitable and that the only thing that has to happen is for the process to play itself out.


Only then, when the war is over and one side or the other has lost, is it going to be possible for diplomats like he used to be to come in and start picking up the pieces? That there was never any realistic possibility that Israel, with the state it's become, the politics it's had, would have acted of its own accord in any different way.


One other dimension to this that's worth mentioning is that if you run an Apartheid state like the Israelis do, what you invariably end up doing is dehumanizing the victims. Here we're talking about the Palestinians. They become sub-human. They become intermentioned. You speak about them in terms of being animals or human animals and so forth and so on. If you think of your adversary in those terms, and the Palestinians are the Israelis' adversary, if you think about your adversary in those terms and your adversary attacks you the way events developed on October seventh, your basic instinct right from the get-go is going to be one that calls for going in and killing all of those animals, destroying those subhumans. And if you look at the rhetoric of Israeli leaders about the Palestinians and about what they would like to do in Gaza, I think it's horrifying. It's just hard to believe that the Israelis are talking this way. And by the way, it's quite amazing that here in the United States, hardly anyone has castigated them, criticized them for talking that way. In liberal America, this is supposed to be verbatim. You're not supposed to talk about your adversary in those terms.


I mean, as much as there is acute Russell phobia in the United States, and there is incredible Russell phobia in the United States and the West, more generally, as both of you know, we don't talk about the Russians as human animals or intermentioned. It is a case of good versus evil. They're the bad guys, we're the good guys. But beyond that, we don't talk about Russians as subhumans. Certainly, the elites don't talk that way. But if you listen to the Israeli elites talking, it's shocking the extent to which they characterize the Palestinians in the most horrific terms.


I guess this is where the red flags of genocide would come up because this is always what we would expect before a genocide would be either top-down where the elites are encouraging viewing the adversary as being a subhuman or cockroach. They're usually using these animalistic terms, or sometimes you see it also coming organically from below. When soldiers are sent out to massacre a lot of people, they have often impulse or instinct to deprive them of humanity as they're going to kill them. But either way, the rhetoric is quite consistent if you look at the history of genocide. All of this should really put up some red flags and being discussed because you hear these discussions, they're all animals, they're all terrorists. We should just eliminate all of NASA. Half the population are children or minors. It doesn't get much discussion. But I did want to shift a little bit because obviously, as Alexander pointed out, you can't really stop this war anymore. It's Paris. But it also appears to be spreading because the last time we all met and discussed, we were asking, How could this conflict possibly spread or develop into regional war? We already now seem to have some indications because the Israelis and Americans are now suggesting that they need a military campaign against the Hezbolla in Lebanon as they want to buffer zone pushing Hezbolla further up north, something they're not going to do voluntarily, I assume.


But at the same time, the United States, as well as its partners, might attack Yemen as well, who decontrolled Yemen, to demonstrate its solidarity with Palestine and protecting the ships in the Red Sea. But again, there doesn't seem to be any interest in dealing with the problem. What the Lebanese and when Yemen are responding to instead seems quite determined to go for escalation. Even if they go after Yemen, what's next? Will Iran get pulled in? Will the Chinese, will the Russians allow Iran to fail? This could be a catastrophe. Where are we going with this? If you would look in your crystal ball or as...


Alexander, you want to jump in on this one?


Yeah, I think that this is we go back exactly to the point that John was making. When you are up against, when you hit a wall, when you are no longer able to do what you want to do and you're facing defeat and you have got yourself into the mindset that the Israeli leaders have, and John is absolutely right. The language from Israel has been terrible and I have never done international war crimes law. I've never practiced it. I've known people who do. I can say that some of this rhetoric could certainly conceivably be used if we ever were to get into war crimes, trials, and that thing, which it must also be said, is so unlikely, unfortunately, perhaps, as to be almost inconceivable. But when you have that mindset and you are up against this situation, then it's not surprising that they're looking for other things that they can do to compensate for their failure in Gaza because that's what it looks to me. You talk about Hezbolla, you demand withdrawals from Hezbolla from the north because you're not achieving what you want in Gaza. That will, of course, compound your problems even more.


But that, I think, is what people do. I've seen it happen in legal terms. When I was doing litigation work with people, when they find themselves losing, they start actually making more mistakes and becoming more reckless. I think this is what we're seeing. Of course, we also have this problem now in the Red Sea, and that is a very strange and complex problem as well. Again, the only solution seems to be to deploy more and more warships there and to try this talk now of missile strikes apparently on the Huthis in Yemen. In other words, war against the Huthis, a decade of war against the Huthis, but the Saudis didn't achieve very much. But apparently, we're going to go down that same route. But it seems to me that it is ultimately on Gaza, the situation that is there, which is the core. If Israel had been able to go into Gaza and achieve its objectives, say, destroying Hamas in the first few weeks, then we would not be talking in the way that we are now about Hezbolla and about Yemen. Also, it seems to me.


Yeah, I think there's no question that given what's going on in Gaza, the forces in southern Lebanon, here we're talking about Hezboah, have upped the ante against the Israelis. You have real trouble on Israel's Northern border with Hezboah. The Huthis in Yemen have made it clear that the reason that they're attacking shipping in the Red Sea is what is going on in Gaza. They're doing this in support of the Palestinians. You have these two potential arenas for escalation: one, Hezboalah versus Israel, and two, the Huthes versus the West, because the Huthes are making it almost impossible to send shipping through the Red Sea. And that matters greatly because the Red Sea runs into the Suez Canal, and it's in effect the Red Sea and the Suez Canal that connect shipping traffic coming out of Asia with the Mediterranean, which means Europe. Excuse me. So even if you think about the Persian Gulf, a lot of the oil that comes out of the Persian Gulf comes out of the Persian Gulf and then goes through the Red Sea and through the Suez Canal into Europe. So cutting off the Red Sea is a huge problem for the West.


And that's why the West, and here we're talking mainly about the United States, is assembling a naval task force in the region and talking about attacking the Huthis and eliminating that threat to shipping in the Red Sea. Well, what happens if we do attack the Huthis, who, by the way, are heavily supported by the Iranians? The Iranians may come in, and the Iranians are on one side of the Persian Gulf. Yemen is on one side of the Red Sea. So you see the potential for escalation in this terribly important area for economic intercourse is really great. And then, of course, go back to Hezbolla. Hezbolla has about 150,000 rockets and missiles aimed at Israel. If that one began to escalate in a serious way, who knows where it would end up? The Israelis have promised that they would destroy Beirut, that they would do to Lebanon what they're doing in Gaza. Would you put that beyond the Israelis? No. I think there's a good chance that if a war starts between Hezbolla and Israel, the damage to Lebanon will be enormous. And by the way, the damage to Israel will be enormous from those 150,000 rockets and missiles.


So this one can spin out of control in all sorts of ways. I'm not saying that's going to happen, but it can happen. And this is why the United States is actually working overtime to prevent that from happening. This is not in our interest. But again, how much control we have remains to be seen.


I just feel what the Coalition of the Willing, if you will, which has been built up in the Red Sea by the United States. I'm just wondering if there's a switch and bait going on here because at the moment they're building up this coalition to protect the ships going through. So, Britain, Norway, a bunch of other countries, Netherlands have all signed up for this. However, at the moment we see the Yemen sending a drone, $2,000 drone, and Americans have to intercept it with a $2 million missile. Obviously, in the long run, this isn't going to work. It appears that the decision has been made to strike Yemen if this doesn't stop, because certainly doesn't seem to be sustainable in which that whole coalition would not merely protect ships anymore, but then join in on the attack against, well, to be honest, the people which have been ravaged since 2015 at last. I don't know. Do you think the coalition would hold if this transfer or translates from protecting ships to going on an attack against the Yemen?


I personally don't know. I think the United States would be in a good position to coerce its allies into coming along with the Americans. How much of the actual fighting America's allies would do is open to question. But I think those allies would basically do enough to make it look like the coalition was holding. I mean, the real problem here, Glenn, is that all sorts of shipping companies just are refusing to send ships through the Red Sea. I mean, the Huthis don't even have to strike and hit a ship to send a message to these shipping companies that they shouldn't send ships through the Red Sea. The mere presence of threat that those ships will be some is pretty much enough to keep those shipping companies from sending ships through the Red Sea.


Very much like the Black Sea, Alexander.


First of all, I should say that there are already British warships in the region and I believe they're there from other Western states and I'm sure we'll be there. Whatever the Americans have to do, I'm sure we will support them. But what I wanted to ask, and let's go back to John, because it's a point I know that you've made in the past, which is that this unequivocal support for Israel, this sense of the United States and Israel being joined at the hip can produce outcomes which are not at all in the interests of the United States. You just talked about the fact that the United States does not want to see an expanded war in the Middle East. It does not want to see the Red Sea closed. It does not want to see the Persian Gulf closed. It wants oil to move and it wants peaceful conditions, or at least stable conditions. Let's not talk about peaceful conditions, stable conditions in the Middle East. Yet the reason why the situation in the Middle East now is becoming so unstable, the reason why there are these problems in the Red Sea and in the Gulf potentially, is because there is this conflict in Gaza and there are problems on Israel's northern border.


Surely the logical thing to do, if you were the United States, is to tell the Israelis to stop, say to them, Look, we understand that you have this major problem with Hamas. We understand that it might be a defeat for you, but it would be fundamentally contrary to our interests and to most of the world to see a regional war in the Middle East and the interruption of oil supplies. Now, am I getting this wrong? And if I'm not, if there is some American interest in expanding the war, which I can't see, well, I can understand that. But if I'm getting it right, why is this never talked about in that way in the United States? And why is the United States unable itself to sort out its own problems and explain these things so clearly and straightforwardly to the Israelis? This is a difficult question, perhaps, but nonetheless, am I not making a point here?


No. Look, there is no question that Israel is not a strategic asset to the United States. Indeed, if you look at what's going on in the Middle East today, it's clear that Israel is a strategic liability for the United States. I would emphasize that since the administration of Jimmy Carter, every United States President has worked hard to get Israel to accept a two-state solution. Because American presidents and the American foreign policy establishment in general has long understood that if you're going to put an end to the Israel-Palestine problem, you're going to get real stability surrounding Israel. You had to have a two-state solution. But we have been unable to get a two-state solution. Instead, we've ended up with an Apartheid Israel. And the end result of that is the mess that you see today. This tells you that Israel is a strategic liability. Now, some people will say we support Israel unconditionally, not for strategic reasons, but for moral reasons. Well, if you look at what's going on in Gaza today, it is impossible to make the argument that we should support Israel for moral reasons. In fact, we shouldn't support Israel if you're going to bring in the moral dimension.


But what this all says is that there is no strategic case for supporting Israel unconditionally, and there is no moral case for supporting Israel unconditionally. Therefore, why do we support Israel the way we do? Why are we joined at the hip with Israel? Why do we have this relationship which is unparalleled in modern history? And the answer is the Israel lobby. And the fact is, in the United States, we have this Israel lobby. We have an Israel lobby that is a remarkably powerful interest group that works over time to make sure that the United States supports Israel unconditionally. And anyone who comes along and criticizes Israel or criticizes the lobby or criticizes the relationship between the United States and Israel, points out that it doesn't make strategic or moral sense, is going to be attacked, and there is a good chance that that person's career will be ended. And the end result of all this is hardly anybody is willing to stand up and say the Emperor has no clothes. You just don't have any real discussion in the United States. And I would argue you no longer have such a discussion in Britain or in Europe, more generally, on whether it makes sense to support Israel unconditionally.


And again, it's because of the lobby. I mean, look at what happened to Jeremy Corbyn. I don't believe for one second that Jeremy Corbyn was an anti-Semite, but the British version of the Israel lobby went after him, a hammer and tongue, and did a successful job of portraying him as an anti-Semite and making the argument that layber the Labor Party had been infected with anti-Semitism. I believe the lobby's great concern was that Jeremy Corbyn was critical of Israel, that labor was critical of Israel. If Labor came to power and Corbyn was the Prime Minister, he would go after Israel on human rights grounds. The best way to avoid that is to go after Corbyn and make sure he doesn't become Prime Minister, which is exactly what happened. So you have this situation where Israel gets unconditional support from the United States and increasingly so from Europe as well. And you have a situation like the one that we have today. Now, my final point on this is that I believe, and Steve Walt and I argued this when we wrote our article and then book on the Israel lobby, that this unconditional support is not only bad for the United States, it's bad for Israel as well.


In other words, the lobby's efforts to get the United States to never criticize Israel and support it no matter what it did has allowed Israel to turn itself into an Apartheid state, and it has allowed Israel to avoid adopting a two-state solution. If we had, we meaning the United States, had been able to put enormous pressure on Israel and get it to accept the two-state solution, I believe we wouldn't be in the mess that we're in today. The Israelis would not be in the mess they're in today. But that was impossible to do, and here we are.


What you're describing now is the US almost as an irrational actor now because from the realist perspective, a irrational actor should respond to the systematic pressures according to the logic of the International Ballas of power in order to maximize its security. But what you're suggesting is the decision maker being influenced by the lobby isn't actually acting the way it would have been in order to elevate the security. I'm just thinking this seems to be maybe a common trend because, of course, we have a very powerful Israeli lobby. But I also feel the rhetoric itself is limiting the ability of states to act according to their own national interest. As for example, we see the same with Ukraine or first with Israel. If you criticize Israel, as you mentioned, you end up by Corbyn, perhaps. You're an anti-Semite and you can't wash that off your reputation afterwards. But we saw the same in Ukraine as well, because at least me and Alexander, we often discussed that why do we keep sending all these men to die? There is no way you can win this war. But again, we had the same rhetoric around this that if you call for diplomacy, negotiations, then you're treasonous, you're a Russian propagandist.


If you're pro-Ukraine, it means you suppress the opposition in Ukraine and you send all their men and women to the front to die. This was the only acceptable pro-Ukraine position. This was preventing states from acting in their national interests because I think this is a commonality both with Israel and Ukraine. I don't see how this is benefiting us or our client states, but let's call them our partners, if you will.


Well, I just want to be very clear here that I agree with you completely that our policy, America's policy towards Israel, is inconsistent with realist logic. As you know, I'm a well-known realist, and I believe the world, by and large, works according to realist principles. My argument is that states usually act in their national interest. The Israel case, the Israel lobby story contradicts my basic theory of international politics. That's effectively what you're saying, and I want to be clear that that's true. By the way, my co-author, Steve Walsh, who teaches at Harvard, he's also a realist. He has a different realist theory than I do, but he's a realist. Our article and our book contradicts his theory as well as my theory.


It doesn't have to contradict because if you have the international distribution power, it's not realism, it's not a foreign policy theory. You're just saying this is the incentives to maximize security, but it doesn't mean that foreign policy will reflect this. For example, in neoclassical realism, you would have the decision-maker as an intervening variable, which could be influenced by irrational issues such as lobbies or the fear of being called an anti-Semite or this. But anyway, maybe too much.


I'm tempted to say I agree with you because that would rescue me, and then my theory is correct, but I actually have a theory that includes a theory of foreign policy, to use your rhetoric. What is going on with the lobby does contradict my basic theory. I'm upset to say, but it is what it is.


I have to agree about Ukraine, though, because again, it seems to me that what has happened, if we look at the last 30 years of Ukraine, is that those within Ukraine who have always taken maximalist positions in terms of relations with Russia have always been able to win because they've always been confident that behind them is the United States and, by the way, the rest of the West too. They're always able to come to other Ukrainians who have been prepared to say, Well, look, it is actually in Ukraine's interests at various times to compromise and to reach solutions. They can always come back and say, Well, we don't need to do that because ultimately we're going to win, because the Americans and the Europeans will back us. That has been, I think, a consistent problem. It's always ended this way. It's why, for example, they felt that they could take actions like the one we saw in Maidan in 2014 when a government was overthrown and pursue military campaigns, ill-judged military campaigns in Eastern Ukraine in the summer of 2014, and why they could ignore the Minz agreement and do all of these things because they say, Well, in the end, we can get away with this.


We can do this. Because the Americans will support us, so why do we need to compromise? Why do we need to accept people like President Yanukovych, who does his deals with Russia? Why do we need to grant autonomy to the Eastern regions? Why do we need to give people the ability to have some formal status to Russian? This has steadily had the effect of making Ukrainian political discussion within Ukraine itself increasingly radicalized and voices of, if you like, moderation or compromise, increasingly marginal. I think both and Ben and I have been following Ukraine one form or another for many years now. We have seen this, how this has actually played out on the ground.


I do not disagree with you at all. But there is a difference between the Israeli case and the Russian case, and that is what is driving the train. In the Israel case, it's this powerful lobby, this powerful interest group inside the United States that really matters. If you talk about the Russian case, what you were just describing, I'm not disagreeing with what you said for sure, but there's no lobby there, right?


I accept that. Yeah, I bet that you're right.


So the question is, what's causing this? I would make the argument that it's, first of all, just acute Russophobia, right? Then second, it was this widespread belief that we had triumphed in the Cold War and we were free to move NATO, to move the EU eastward, regardless of what the Russians thought, that we could promote color revolutions regardless of what the Russians thought. There was this sense of omnipotence, this sense that we were the indispensable nation. We had this huge amount of military power, and we could shape the world the way we saw fit. And when you marry that to the Russell phobia, you get a pattern of behavior that you were just describing, Alexander, that allows the Ukrainians to not negotiate with the Russians and to think they can get away with X, Y, and Z. And of course, in both cases, it's blown up in our face. Both in Russia and in Gaza. But you do want to remember that I think in the case of Israel, the American foreign policy elite had the right instincts, which is that you had to get a two-state solution. They just couldn't do it because of Gaza.


With regard to Russia and Ukraine, the American foreign policy establishment and the Western foreign policy establishment, certainly to include the British, didn't understand anything in terms of what the consequences were going to be of pursuing this policy toward Ukraine.


I accept that point completely.


I think we'll the wider geostrategic plan, I guess that would be rational to some extent because if you're the United States in the 90s, you want to create a world based on one center of power, hegemony, then of course, expanding NATO is how you create collective hegemony in the pan-European space. As Brazinsk and others always pointed out, Ukraine is a key piece because once you have Ukraine part of the collective West, then Russia is completely expelled from Europe. This would be the logic. I can accept, I see the rationality behind this. If you want to have a secured system based on hedge money. That being said, there seems to be the implementation of this. There seems to be some irrationality because on one hand, the impulse to do this always because the Russians can be all powerful and evil. On the other hand, we're always saying, Oh, no, they're all so very backwards and they will fold immediately. They can't stand up to us, which you just alluded to. This assumption of, or even hubris, it also would diminish some rationality because it just seems a lot of the foreign policymakers, the ones publishing foreign affairs, all the articles seem almost like wishful thinking, hoping that the natural order will restore itself, that the Russians will fall, then the West will cease the battlefield, if you will.


It's amazing what's going on in the West these days. I think everybody recognizes that the balance of power has shifted significantly toward the Russians. The Russians are on the march. If you think about what the war is going to look like over the next year, it looks like the Ukrainians might not even be able to hang on and continue fighting. The Russians could knock them out completely. I'm not saying that's going to happen, but the Russians are on the march, and all of the key indicators of future military success favor the Russians. What is the West doing? It's filled with articles. The Western press is filled with articles talking about different ways that we can rescue the situation and ultimately achieve victory over the Russians. It's delusional. The ideas that they lay out, Alexander dissects these arguments every day on his show. The arguments that people lay out are just not serious. They more or less assume the Russians are dumbcofs and that they're going to be able to bamboole the Russians into accepting some scheme for ending the war that will eventually allow Ukraine to win. What are these people thinking? It's just hard to know.


They blew it and they can't really acknowledge that simple fact.


There's been some very, very interesting comments made both by Putin and Lavrov, by the way, about this over the last 24 hours. Lavovs were in some way the more interesting because he basically said exactly what we've been saying for weeks that we're not going to agree to just freeze the war and South Korean solutions because the way the West is talking about this, it's clear that this is simply another device to buy time. They're not going to go down that road. But I was wondering whether because I don't know how closely either of you follow the statements that Russian leaders have been making recently, do you sense that there's a now risk that the Russians themselves are starting to become dizzy with success? Because I'm starting to think, wonder about this. There's been some very, very extraordinary statements about the solution is total victory, total surrender by Ukraine, that either Ukraine accepts wholesale everything that we demand of them. I've been hearing some extraordinary things about what some people in Russia might be demanding of Ukraine. Either they accept all of that or they're just going to be absorbed into Russia all over again.




Whether the Russians themselves are becoming a little intoxicated with their recent successes and aren't perhaps at risk of taking on more in Ukraine than they can actually realistically absorb now. It has been an independent country for 30 years. It has developed an identity of its own, particularly in the Western regions, but also, I suspect, in central Ukraine too. The Russians perhaps do need to start being a little bit more realistic also about what they might be able to achieve there. I don't know whether Glenn, you have any thoughts about this with John maybe?


No, I've seen some comments from this from the Russians at the UN mission. They made the statement as well that they have no more belief in the possibility of a peaceful settlement in terms of the West putting forward an actual solution which makes Ukraine neutral. Indeed, whenever we propose freezing the front lines, casually not in official agreement, it is always in the context that yeah, we'll fight them another time. But of course, does make sense. On one hand, yeah, I agree. I think the Russians are now very openly stating that they have no more belief in any political settlement, which means they will only accept full capitulations from the Ukrainians. I also saw recently now Putin speaking about the historical lands of Russia and Odessa being a Russian city and how all these territories were just given in 1922, it was unjust. Perhaps the Poles should take back Lovov, this thing. It seems rhetorically preparing that I'm not sure if it's a warning shot or if he's just preparing his own population that this might be, we're going to take back this land. In other words, everything from Karkov to Odessa, we transferred it to the Ukrainians under a Soviet or under a Soviet Union, under their administration.


However, they have not been reasonable caretakers. They have abused this and oppressed the Russians, and now we'll take it back. This was effectively what I took from his speech. But now I don't disagree with you. I think one of the things the Russians underestimated was the development of a distinctive national Ukrainian identity over the past 30 years, even for the historical Russian regions, which still have a... This is a whole new generation over the past 30 years which have grown up. This is why I think it was Solzhenitsyn who wrote that the Ukrainians don't understand were both from the same origin that we're brothers. And the Russians, he said, don't understand that once you cross the Nipur, they're completely different from us. I think this is still something that the Russians might be underestimating that if they just knock out Zelensky and the Bandera influencers, that somehow they will just naturally gravitate back to Russia. I think they might be a bit of wishful thinking. I'm not sure, John, if you have any thoughts on this.


Let me make a couple of points. One is if you look at Putin's famous July 12th, 2021 article that he wrote, I actually think it's quite apparent in that piece that he recognizes Ukrainian nationalism. Putin's own view is we're blood brothers and we're blood sisters. That's Putin's view. But if at the piece, he is very clear that there is this powerful force out there called Ukrainian nationalism. He's actually writing that article in the context of the civil war that's going on in the Donbas. That's very much about Ukrainian nationalism. I think Putin is a very smart guy, and ultimately, he will understand that there are limits to what the Russians can do in Ukraine because of Ukrainian nationalism, especially the further west you move, and the more the land is populated by ethnic Ukrainians. But I want to just raise a more general framework for thinking about this issue. I think, Alexander, that the Russians do sound intoxicated these days. It's what we in IR, used to call the victory disease, right? You begin to think that you have the magic touch and you can go on and on and everything just gets better and better.


But the Russians, and here we're talking about Putin, talk about the three objectives that they have, which is denazification, demilitization, and a neutral Ukraine, a Ukraine that has no security arrangements with the West, no NATO membership. I think to achieve actually all three of those goals, you have to conquer all of Ukraine. In other words, if you conquer about 40% of Ukraine, I often argue that the Russians are likely to end up with about 43%. Let's assume that they conquer 40% of Ukraine. The other 60% will be a dysfunctional, rump state. But that, rump state will be run by people that the Russians consider Nazis. It will not be demilitized because the West will continue to support it however meekly, but will support it. It will have a security relationship with the West. They will not have achieved their three objectives. I think you have to conquer all of Ukraine to do that. You have to win a decisive victory to achieve those three objectives. Now, is that going to happen? There, there's two ways of thinking about it. One is that the Ukrainian army just completely collapses. I'm not saying that's likely, but it is a possibility.


This is an army that's on the ropes. It is in terrible shape. It could collapse. If it collapses, is, would the Russians then occupy all of Ukraine? I'm not sure that would be a good thing to do. Then the second question is, if it doesn't collapse, right? The army doesn't collapse, it hangs on, the West continues to support it over time, you don't end up conquering all of Ukraine. The end result is you don't achieve all three of your objectives. But what you do achieve is that you get back a lot of territory from Ukraine, you make it part of Russia, and you have left over a dysfunctional rub state that is in really no position to join the EU or to join NATO. But I think that's the best the Russians can do, because I think that conquering all of Ukraine is just asking for really serious trouble. I'm curious what you think of that.


Out there. Well, Putin did give this speech yesterday to the Russian Defense Ministry, and I'm going to say two things. I haven't read it fully. I haven't yet had time to read it properly. But two things. Firstly, he is very bitter and very angry with the West, and that was something that came across very, very clearly. But I did notice that in terms of what he was saying about Ukraine, he certainly seemed to stop well short of some of the things that some of these other Russian officials have been saying. He did not talk about total victory, total surrender, those kinds of things. My strong impression was that the major focus for him, the thing that he really will focus on are two things. One, that we will hold on to what is ours and he defines that as the Russian territories, the territories that he thinks were improperly given to Ukraine by the Soviet Union. He wants to hold on to that and he wants Ukraine to remain out of NATO. I think that.


If he.


Gets those two things, he, Putin, will probably still be satisfied. He'll be prepared to walk away. He won't trust the West again. He won't be happy to deal with us in the way that he used to do. He's very self-critical. You can see this. He's very angry with himself, as he puts it, for having been led along the garden path for so long. He's not going to whilehe is there, while he's still there, we're not going to see any rapport between the West and Russia. But in terms of Ukraine itself, I think he's still more level-headed, a lot more level-headed than some of the other people around him are. That was my quick takeaway from the speech that he made yesterday. Probably, if I could just say, I'll be discussing it more likely tomorrow than in my program today.


Glenn, what are your thoughts on what Alexander said and what I said?


I agree. But I also think there's another option because often it's either either this territory, strategic territory remains in Ukraine, which will be very anti-Russian and also courted by the West, or it's annexed by Russia. But of course, the problem for Russia is the further west it goes, the less welcome it will be. But I remember this map, which Lukashenko was standing in front of where Ukraine was split into regions. Now I'm not sure if there were some goals or objectives of balkanizing or splitting up Ukraine, but that would possibly be a solution because I think for Ukrainian nationalism in the decades to come will probably remain fiercely anti-Russian. But the problem isn't only to have an anti-Russian Ukraine. The problem is it's too strong. You can either make a, as you in your course, use to make a basket case out of it to make sure that the economic regions, what makes it strategically valuable, will cease to be part of Ukraine. But in order for Russia not to expose itself or to overextend itself, it also has the option of attempting maybe to break up the country a bit because the southern regions from Odessa are not necessarily too happy with Lovob.


I think now that Ukrainians are losing a lot of the foundations they had for solidarity starts to diminish. They all seem to turn on each other now, so they might choose to walk down that path. I'm not sure if that's something they're even contemplating. But but the difference between annexing it from Russia or leaving it in Ukraine will be to push for independence of certain regions and then provide them with security guarantees or even some economic benefits. They might, once they've taken the territories, they can't accept ending up in NATO's hand at least. But it's hard to say. This is similar as in the conflict in the Middle East. I'm not and no one will be able to get everything they want here. How do they deal with it? I'm not sure.


Glenn, it's quite clear that Putin is talking about Odessa as a Russian city. Alexander has emphasized this on his various shows. Do you think the Russians will attempt to take all of Odessa? And do you think that they will be able to swallow it in the sense that there will be enough pro-Russian sentiment in Odessa that the Russians will not have significant problem absorbing it or annexing it to Russia?


I couldn't say enough about the sentiment. I think this war has changed a lot. I'm also not sure the pro-Russian elements. I also got impression from a lot on Ukrainian Telegram channels that there's a lot of some sympathies for Russia, which don't dare to raise their voices because they will have consequences. But I think there's also been a lot of Russia alienated, also a huge part of that population. I wouldn't be able to say, but I think that Russia would want to cross the Nipah River and go all the way to Odessa. Furthermore, it would be the historical legitimacy given that these were historically Russian lands, but also for the Black Sea, because if NATO is able to link up with Odessa in Ukraine's hand, it will always be a possibleall in dagger pointing at Crimea. I think they would want to solve this issue. But again, it remains to be seen because I think once the Russians cross the Nipah River, will attitudes in Europe and America change because then we might get a renewed interest in Ukraine, if you will, because I don't think the native countries would like to see the Russians in others either.


But I'm not sure. My guess that's as good as yours, I guess.


But if I can ask Alexander a question, just building on what you said, you used the phrase, if the Russians cross the Nipra River, there may be a renewed interest in the West in supporting Ukraine. Alexander, do you think.




There would be a renewed interest or just a continued interest? Because as I look at things, there's no evidence that the West is losing its interest in supporting Ukraine. They are having trouble getting this package through the House of Representatives, but it looks like the West is doubling down.


Well, in terms of Europe, definitely they are. Certainly in Britain, the fervor within the political class to support Ukraine remains as strong as ever. I believe the same is true in Germany. I don't see any sign of any slack in England there. On the contrary, the greater the problems and the more doubts there are about where the Americans might be going, the more intense emotionally the commitment becomes. Of course, if you talk to people outside the elites, then I suspect most of them have lost interest in this a long time ago and they probably won't be very interested if it goes to a a or not. But they're not the people who will make the decisions. Amongst the people who make the decisions, I don't think there's been any change at all. I think the enthusiasm is exactly the same. I just wanted to just go back to this idea of balkanising, dividing up Ukraine, which is the thing 19th century states used to do. Bulgaria, for example, was divided up into various different places. I think this would be extremely difficult to do today. I think that for the Russians to balkanise and parcel up Ukraine and to say, This region can be this, Giv, Gitany, can be run this way and love another way.


I think in order for the Russians to do that, they would actually have to be physically present there. I think that if they were not physically present in these places, any lines they draw might very, very quickly lose the reality. You could easily see things like that come together again. I suspect there would be pressures from people within Ukraine to come together again. I'm sure there are people in Moscow who draw these little lines across the map of Ukraine. I don't think that they're realistic and I don't think Putin himself and Lavrov and people like that actually think that they are realistic. My own personal view, for what it's worth, is that I think that the Russians would be very judged to try and advance into Central Ukraine and Western Ukraine and try to manage this place themselves. I think it would create enormous problems for them. It would be a huge drain also on their economy. It would create endless tensions with Europe, which at some point, presumably the Russians, would want to see end. I think that Odessa has an almost magical pull for them. I suspect that there is quite a lot of Russian sentiment still in Odessa, and they might be able to get away with that and bring the Black Sea Coast in.


But I think if they start meddling in places like Gitymir, and Vinitsa, and those places, I think that it would be most ill-advised for them to go there. Just coming back to what I said, I think Putin himself probably deep down understands this. I suspect that eventually at some point, he will tell all these people like Vladin and the others, Look, we've swallowed as much as we can. Let's not try and swallow more because we'll get a very, very bad case of indigestion if we do.


Alexander, this is why It's interesting. I think Putin was so reluctant to invade Ukraine to begin with. I mean, here in the West, everybody thinks that he was just itching to invade Ukraine. He wanted to conquer it, annex it, and so forth, and so on. I believe nothing can be further from the truth. I think Putin fully understood that going into Ukraine would be entering into a hornet's nest. He did it because he felt ultimately he had no choice.




Would note that one thing I've learned over the years, going back to when I first entered the American military during the Vietnam War, is that nationalism is a remarkably powerful force. When one country tries to do social engineering in another country, you invade another country and you try to do social engineering, you are invariably going to get yourself into really deep trouble. Think the Americans in Vietnam. Think the Soviets in Afghanistan. Think the Americans in Afghanistan. Think the Americans in Iraq. It almost always ends up badly because the local population doesn't want an outsider coming in and telling them how to run their politics, and you invariably get resistance. Again, this goes back to a discussion of the Israelis in Gaza. As I said before, they would have been better off just trying to continue to manage the problem rather than go into Gaza and do Major League social engineering. And finally, I would point out, as I have said on a number of occasions in recent months, that the Soviets or the Russians have significant experience occupying territory in Eastern Europe, and it was not a pleasant experience. The last thing they want to do is be back in Poland, back in the Baltic states, back in Romania.


This is just not the way to do business. I think Putin will go to great lengths not to overstep and not to get too deeply involved in areas in Ukraine, where there are lots of ethnic Ukrainians. And the idea that he would pursue a scheme that was designed to cut up what's left of Ukraine strikes me as a far-fetched idea. Not that any of us-.


To clarify, I meant if they can reach Odessa, but local sentiment doesn't permit for swallowing it, then having some temporary occupation, I don't know if it will turn in that direction. But obviously, I don't think anyone in Moscow, in their right mind, would ever want to march further west because... Well, I think you used the word swallowing, a hedgehog as a way of describing it. It's only porcupine. Porkupine. Sorry, that's the one. Well, before we start wrapping things up, I also wanted to ask both of you about much like in the Middle East, how can this spread from here on? Because this seems to be so far we've been lucky, I think, that it hasn't spread in other regions. But now that things appear to be unraveling along the front lines in Ukraine, it could. I know the Georgans, they complained that they thought Ukraine was planning a Maidan regime change in Georgia to set up a southern front against the Russians. Others were in Moldova that NATO and Ukrainians can go into knockout, transnister, and the Russian peacekeepers there. Others look to Finland, Sweden, Norway. Where are we going with this? Do you see it as likely or if so, which direction do you think we might be heading?


You want to go first, Alexander?


Can I just say, coming back to the point that John made again, I haven't read the speech that he gave properly. I haven't read it through carefully, but from what I could see, there were long passages in it in which Putin set out his own deep reluctance before the war to start a conflict there. He obviously gives his own account of this and his own perspective of this and his own reasons, but he makes it very clear. The one thing that did seem to me very clear was that everything that happened, which eventually up to the wall, was on his side, and of course, he would say on Russia's side, a forced response to things that the other side, the West in particular, and the Ukrainians to a great extent were doing, that it was not something at all that he had set out to do right from the outset. I think that is actually there in the speech. Now, of course, it's Putin. Putin says that. Some people will say, Well, because Putin says it, it's not necessarily true. Maybe he was planning to reconstitute the Empire all along. But anyway, that is what he said.


Can I just say, John, I completely agree with you. I don't think Putin had any such plans. I think he went, as he says, to immense lengths to avoid the situation we are in today. It was not the optimal situation for him. It still isn't. I think that my sense of where this conflict is going in terms of what Putin himself wants to do, and he might be still very naive about this, is that, yes, he wants to absorb the Eastern regions, the Russian regions of Ukraine. I think in his own mind, Odessa is won. He might change his views about that, but I think at the moment, he's clear that Odessa, the Black Sea Coast, these places which he believes are Russian and which are pro-Russian, they will join Russia. But for the rest, I think he accepts that there's not going to be a good relationship with the Europeans for the indefinite future. I think he also accepts that there will be a Ukraine and it will be a dysfunctional state, but it will be one that Russians will have to deal with. What he wants to see, what he would like to see is some minimal understanding with the Americans.


I think that is still his preferred wish, not perhaps the understanding that he looked for back in the early 2000s, but one which will allow Putin to say, Well, our Western borders are secure. We don't have to worry about those things any longer, so we can from this point on, focus on our compelling internal problems. I think that is what Putin would want to see. Whether the Americans would be interested in going there is an entirely different question. And of course, if there's going to have to be a long-term confrontation between the Americans and the Russians over this, I think Putin is prepared for that. But personally, the sense I am getting, in fact, he's even said this, he's actually said some time ago, With the Europeans, I don't see any way forward. With the Americans, we may still be able to come to some understanding.


Let me just make a point on that and then go to the escalation issue. To reinforce what you're saying, you want to remember that after the war started, there were negotiations in Istanbul, and those negotiations show clearly that Putin wanted to end the war. He did not want a long war. He did not want to conquer Ukraine, right? Furthermore, he is very slow to mobilize Russia for the war. I was actually shocked over the course of the summer of 2022 that he wasn't mobilizing the economy, mobilizing the population for a protracted war once the negotiations in Istanbul failed. It wasn't until September, late September, that he mobilized 300,000 troops. He didn't annex any territory until the fall of 2022. So Putin was not some bloodthirsty aggressor who was looking to conquer huge chunks of Ukraine from the outset. He has slid into this war, this protracted war, where he or Russia is going to end up annexing quite a bit of territory. But he didn't start out that way. There was an escalation in the goals, and he was a reluctant escalator, for lack of a better term. I know that in the West, it's very hard to make this argument without being called Putin's puppet.


But I do think the facts bear it out. Now, just let me say a word about escalation in response to what Glenn said. I think there's really significant potential for escalation revolving around the Ukraine War. I want to make it clear that I believe that even when the war, the shooting comes to an end and you have some frozen conflict or armistice or whatever, the potential for escalation will still be there. Now, when I say there's much potential for escalation, what am I talking about? I talk about five flashpoints. One is the Black Sea, two is Moldova, three is Belarus. What happens when Lukashenko goes? The Americans will try to foster a color revolution in Belarus. Oh, my goodness. Belarus is strategically as important as Ukraine is to the Russians. So Belarus is three. Four is the Baltic. Now that Finland and Sweden are in NATO, if you look at the Baltic, it's surrounded, say, for the Russians, by all NATO states. And then finally, there's the Arctic. There are eight countries that are physically located in the Arctic. Seven of them are now NATO, NATO members. The lone exception, of course, is the Russians.


Without the ice melting, there's all sorts of potential for disputes up there. So again, if you think about it, the Black Sea, Moldova, Belarus, the Baltic, and the Arctic. We're talking about a conflict that's not going to go away. The shooting may end, but the West, as we were all saying before, is committed to causing trouble for Russia for as far as the eye can see. The Russians, therefore, will have an incentive to cause trouble in Europe, to cause trouble in Ukraine, and to cause trouble with regard to trans-Atlantic relations for as far as the eye can see. I think the potential for escalation surrounding the Ukraine conflict, much like the potential for escalation surrounding the Gaza war, is significant and worrisome in the extreme.


I agree. You can already see that there's also problems in the Balkans as well, which is again a region I know. But there's unrest now apparently in Bulgaria and of course, there's a political crisis in Serbia and the Balkans also as potential flash point. But all of the ones that you said, John, you're absolutely correct.


Any final thoughts before we finish this? ?


Well, just to say again, an opportunity for a rapprochement, a successful piece lost. And the reason, again, is I would say because policies were made in Europe that were not judged to the realities, the actual European realities. And in a way, the same in the Middle East, I'm not saying the peace in the Middle East was as easily achieved there. I don't know the Middle East so well, but I think that we could have had a much more stable situation in the Middle East a long time ago if diplomacy had been, if foreign policy rather had been conducted more realistically. And if we're looking at long-term confrontations with the Russians in Europe, a long-term commitment by the United States to preserving an unstable and impossible situation with Israel, even as pressures for the United States to focus on the Asia-Pacific seem compelling. Well, if we have all of these things going on at the same time, it's because of a whole set of mistaken decisions and bad policy outcomes which could have been avoided and which would have been avoided.


I make one final point, and that has to do with the discourse surrounding both.




Israel case and the Russia case. As I pointed out before, because of the lobby's influence in the United States, it's almost impossible to have a meaningful discourse about Israel and even about the Gaza war, certainly in the mainstream media. I think when you talk about Russia and you talk about the Ukraine war, as the three of us know very well since the war started on February 24th, 2022, it is well, nigh impossible in the mainstream media to have a meaningful discussion about Russia and about Ukraine, because people who have our view, our basic view of the situation, are excluded from the discourse. I would make the argument that when you are in a liberal society, it's very important that you don't let these illiberal tendencies come to the fore and quash out or eliminate a meaningful marketplace of ideas. I just think it's very important that people be able to talk about controversial issues and that people who have views that contradict or challenge the conventional wisdom be allowed to make their case and to be heard in effect. I think with regard to Israel, again, that has not been the case for a long time, and it's to the detriment of Israel and the United States.


I think with regard to the Russian case and especially with regard to the Ukraine war, as the three of us know very well, that has certainly been the case. And we have been served well by that. I think moving forward, more and more people in the West ought to be self-reflective about this issue. And there ought to be some attempt made to open up the discourse and to let the dissenters have their say based on the principle that this is for the good of the country, that it's good for making sound decisions. It doesn't guarantee you'll make a sound decision, but I believe that having an open discourse maximizes the prospects that you do the right thing. Or if you don't do the right thing, you'll make a quick correction. But in the world that we live in, it's very hard for voices like ours to be heard in the mainstream.


I completely agree with that. I would also add, by the way, that in my opinion, far too many decisions nowadays in the West are not only made without proper discussion, but are made to a great extent in secret. I don't want to push this too far, but I think that particularly, for example, about the Syrian war, for example, all sorts of decisions were made by all sorts of people. A relatively small group of people talking to each other, not listening to people from outside who perhaps knew the area and the region and the complexity is there better. The result was very, very bad decisions were made. If that is only possible when debate is basically shut down.


If you want to maximize your security, I always advise start with the security dilemma. How do you elevate your security without undermining the security of your opponent? The problem I feel is you're not allowed to discuss even the security of the opponent. Try to explain the security concern of the Palestinians. Well, then you hate Jews, you're told. Try to explain the security concern of the Russians. Well, now you're legitimizing imperialism. I think this is also what John and also Alexander referring to this, they were effectively wiped out all space for debate. If you can't have debate, this competition of ideas, how can you possibly reach good policies which actually elevates your security instead of just fueling this hate, I would say, to a large extent. Anyways, thank you so much again. Not every day we speak to the great John Mershy-Wurso. It's a great privilege. Thank you so much.


Thank you, Glenn. Thank you, Alexander. It was a privilege to talk to you.


Thank you, John. Thank you very much.