Month: December 2022

Background Briefing: December 29, 2022


A Moscow-Based Defense Analyst on How the Ukrainians Are Winning So Far

We continue on this interregnum between Christmas and the New Year to look back on the major stories we covered in 2022 and how they evolved focusing on Russia’s war on Ukraine. We begin with a broadcast of Background Briefing from March 13, 2022 when we spoke with a Moscow-Based Defense Analyst on how the Ukrainians are winning so far at a time when most pundits and military analysts in the US and Europe were assuming a quick Russian victory in a war that started on February 24. We went to Moscow to speak with Dr. Pavel Felgenhauer, a Moscow-based defense analyst, columnist and journalist who previously served as senior research officer in the Soviet Academy of Sciences. From 1994 to 2005, Felgenhauer published a regular column on defense in the English language local daily The Moscow Times and in 2006, after more than six years as an independent defense analyst, Felgenhauer joined the staff of Novaya Gazeta. Felgenhauer’s regular commentary on Russia used to appear in many other local and international publications but is now shut down due to censorship. We discussed how the military landscape in Ukraine looks from the Russian perspective and how the Ukrainians are not just holding their own, but are likely to do better as the war drags on into the fall when Pavel predicts there will still be a Ukrainian army fighting, not just a guerrilla force.

Ukraine’s Successful Counter Offensive and Pressure on Putin to Take More Desperate Measures

Then we go to a broadcast from September 12, 2022 about Ukraine’s successful counter offensive and pressure on Putin to take more desperate measures. We began with the successful counter offensive underway by the Ukrainian military in the north east around Kharkiv that had routed the Russian invaders and provoked unusually harsh criticism from nationalists and military bloggers inside of Russia who the regime has so-far tolerated. Joining us was Michael Weiss, news director at New Lines Magazine who has reported on international affairs for over ten years with a focus on the Middle East and Russia. He has interviewed ISIS operatives and Russian spies; published and curated a series of still-classified KGB training manuals; reported from rebel-held Syria and war-torn Ukraine; broken major stories about financial corruption; and exposed the Russian intelligence services’ ongoing subversion efforts in the United States and Europe. He is the the author of The Menace of Unreality: How Russia Weaponizes Information, Culture and Money and coauthor of the New York Times Bestseller ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror. We discussed calls from municipal figures in Saint Petersburg and Moscow for Putin to step down and whether pressure from the nationalists on Putin might result in him seeking more desperate military measures as his so-called “special operation” appears poised to collapse.


Why has Such a Small Man as Putin Had a Disproportionate Impact on the World Stage?

Then finally we go to a broadcast from December 4, 2022 asking why has such a small man as Putin had a disproportionate impact on the world stage? We also assessed President Biden’s suggestion that he would enter into peace talks with Putin if the Kremlin had any serious interest in ending the war in Ukraine to which Putin responded by indicating he’d be willing to talk if the West accepted his precondition that Russia retain all the Ukrainian territory it has claimed. Moving beyond the devastation of the battlefield as winter grips the seemingly endless conflict, we will look into the man and the myth behind the tragedy Putin is inflicting on the people of Ukraine to try to understand why such a small man has had a disproportionate impact on the world stage. Joining us was Andrew Weiss, Chair and Vice President for Studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace where he oversees research on Russia and Eurasia. He previously served as director for Russian, Ukrainian, and Eurasian Affairs on the National Security Council staff, as a member of the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff, and as a policy assistant in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy during the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush. We discussed his new book Accidental Czar: The Life and Lies of Vladimir Putin.