(had to edit out some of the chat questions because of character limits)
AC: We'll be talking about what Gen. Mark Milley (he said "for as long as it takes" about 8 times during the press conference) and Lloyd Austin had to say wrt to Ukraine; the missile that hit Poland, which Zelensky still claims was Russian.
AM: there's expression about protesting too much, I wonder sometimes whether this is the case with Milley, because even as he's talking like this he's apparently going around the corridors of
Washington saying it's time for Ukraine to negotiate, they cannot gain more ground and need to negotiate to cement their gains - so one thing in public, another in private.
We look at this new package and are fortunate to have Brian with us who is unequivocally the best at unpacking and understanding these military packages. My general observation, largely based on things Brian has said in the past but also my own sense of the way this thing has been going since around early summer, that each military package
when closely examined looks less impressive than its predecessor, that they're running out of things they can send. All this at the same time the Russians are launching enormous missile offensives, there was a massive one 2 days ago, 90 missiles per British defense ministry, reports today that more missiles are being launched as we speak - more drones and missiles w/enormous firepower and the Ukrainians seem to be getting increasingly shrill in their demands that help be provided to help them deal with the steady collapse and disintegration of their energy system.
I've noticed the Russian MOD is starting to reference these missile strikes. When they first began at start of October, they seemed to ignore them, were embarrassed by them because they had previously said they weren't going to attack infrastructure. Brian, I think you were the first person to talk about the war of attrition and the limits of the West's ability to wage this war of attrition. So what is your view of today's press conference and this latest military package?
BB: It seems like more of the same. The focus is on air defense systems, because of the barrage of missiles and drones coming in. I don't know why this wasn't a priority months ago, maybe they really
believe Russia was going to run out of missiles, as they've been claiming since April and still claim. 90 missiles at one time is a pretty large number at this stage of the fighting.
The Ukrainians inherited their air defense systems (ADS) from the Soviet Union but the S-300 was always a capable ADS and there's really nothing the US and its allies that can replace it. So they sent
these NSMs made by Raytheon and I believe a Norwegian company; they created a system that's firing air-to-air missiles but in a surface-to-air format and it has a shorter range than the S-300. I was reading a briefing that said the NSM has been enormously successful, 100% effective; I think they have one system there, 6 missiles out of the 100 Russian missiles that were fired. That's if they're telling the truth, seems like that would be an impressive system they would want to back up and show the world. Even if true, they say they cannot get more of these NASUMs to Ukraine, maybe 1 or 2 more next year, then it will be years before more could be delivered. It's a new system and they don't have a lot of them.
They're dusting off the Hawk air defense missiles, a system the US military hasn't used in over 20 years so they were just mothballed. AM, you were talking about the military packages becoming smaller and smaller in terms of quantity and quality. Now they're refurbishing old weapons they no longer use, it's no longer sending weapons from their stockpiles or putting out contracts to make new weapons because that will be years before they arrive in Ukraine. (9:41) Now they're talking about refurbishing old antiquated ADS, We dig into the details to show people how inadequate this is if you want to keep fighting "for as long as it takes." I think a reason Milley kept saying that over and over again, it's like if you say it often enough you'll make it true, contrary to the reality they face.
AM: Observation about the US and wars of attrition: since WW2, the US hasn't had a good record winning wars of attrition - Vietnam, Korea, Afghanistan, etc. Wars of attrition don't play to US strengths. So Milley saying "as long as it takes" seems to demand the US win the type of conflict it hasn't won since WW2 and even that war wasn't won as a war of attrition.
BB: I think you're right, and I forgot to add - when Putin announced the SMO in February he said the goal was demilitarization and there's a lot of ways to interpret that but looking at the last months it looks
like doing away with the military in a methodical and incremental way, i.e., a war of attrition. We - including me - have assigned objectives to Russia that they never actually stated. I still believe they want to create a land bridge all the way to Transnistra, take Odessa, take back Kharkiv, but this isn't something they ever announced. They also didn't announce wanting to incorporate Kherson and Zaparozhia either. We can only guess what their plans are.
As a war of attrition, you want to create as much loss among your enemy while as little loss among your own troops and that is exactly what Russia is doing, they'll trade territory to achieve this. They left
Kherson City - Ukraine was losing brigades trying to take that, even the Western press admitted the lopsided nature of the fighting. And that's because the West doesn't have the sophisticated weapons that they can send in large enough numbers to make a difference and this is enough to prolong the conflict but not enough to change the nature of the fighting or the outcome.
The Russians are exhausting Ukraine, they hit the military and now they're hitting the infrastructure. How long do people think this is going to last for Ukraine vs. the much fewer losses on the Russian
AM: important to remember that the price of "as long as it takes" is being paid by Ukraine itself. The Russians said 12k men died in Ukrainian forces in the month of October. So their losing 10k plus men
a month. It's very glib for people in the West to talk about "as long as it takes" when it's Ukraine paying that kind of price. I see pictures every day of the cemeteries in Ukraine full of flags on the graves of
the soldiers who have died - BTW, this is never talked about in the West, you never see those photos.
BB: Western media doesn't want to talk about Ukrainian losses. They create these numbers about Russian losses and they never explain how they came by the 80k or 100k numbers. You're right about Milley's statement - it's not their blood, it's not even their money, it's Western taxpayers' money, so they can afford to do this as long as they want. We've seen the US wage proxy wars around the globe, they have no concern about the futures of these countries, they don't care if there's nothing left at all, look at Libya for example, look at the state Syria is in. They're going to do the same thing to Ukraine until something Russia does to shape the battlefield makes it impossible for the US to continue. Maybe like what Russia did in Syria - sort of win the conflict but also freeze what remains of the conflict - that something Russia may have to do one way or another in Ukraine.
AM: Q about these Hawks - I know little about them but remember from the 1970s Greece buying Hawks from the US to supplement our ADS. These are very old, as I recall they were designed to fend
off Warsaw Pact aircraft, I've never heard of them being used for an anti-missile system before. Is this a newer version? How do you refurbish something like this and make it effective in a modern
BB: Good questions but all we know is what the DOD has said about the matter, which isn't much. These Western journalists trying to put a positive spin on things but you can tell they're frustrated trying to get these senior Defense officials to say something they can at least spin. These are old systems, designed in the 1960s, the US hasn't done anything with them for over 20 years. I've heard that the Iranians, I think, had some of them and were able to use them effectively but as you said I don't think it was in an anti-missile capacity. Anti-missile systems are very complex, very difficult to get right - look at the modern Patriot system in Saudi Arabia and the trouble it's having. How are they going to refurbish them to be remotedly useful for Ukraine? Even if they are useful, they'll be in such small numbers they're not going to make a difference, like the NSM (Naval Strike Missile) - 100% effective per the Pentagon but you can only fire 6 missiles at a time from a system and they only sent 1 or 2 systems so what good is that going to do when you're facing a barrage of 100 missiles going in different directions, not just hitting one target. The quantities are such that even if it were a superb system it's still not enough to defend Ukraine's air space.
AM: seems like the West has never developed air defense systems to the degree that Russia has because in every war since WW2 we've fought with air superiority.
BB: that's true and something the weapons analysts in the government and think tanks admit. CSIS has a whole program to study missiles, including missile defense and they've said this. But it was a top priority of the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation and they have the best air defense systems on earth. So it's not just the capabilities the West didn't invest in, it's the quantities.
They're also sending 4 Avengers - they're mounted on the back of a Humvee They have high tech looking missile pods but when you open the door the man portable system just plops in. They're
already out of Stingers so their idea is to send Ukraine a system that's going to expend even more of these missiles they're running out of. Quantity and Quality - the worst kind of problem to have in a
war of attrition.
AM: did a program on my channel about a year and a half ago looking at the history of Soviet air defense developments. They go back to the 1940s, the Soviets were confronted with sense of the
overwhelming power of the US Air Force and knew they would never compete with that, be able to build aircraft in the volumes the US did or train the needed # of pilots so they focused their attention on
building an ADS.
What I learned is that the Soviet ADS, which evolved into the Russian ADS, is never about one missile. It's an incredibly integrated, heavily layered system, with each part complementing the others.
So this complex integrated system backed by electronic warfare capabilities which the Russians have invested in massively. I don't see anything remotely like that in the West.
Ukraine has the remants of the old Soviet system because during the Cold War Ukraine was a major staging area for Soviet forces moving west. The S-300 is a family of missiles, not a single missile, all of which are able to operate together. We have nothing remotely like that because we've never imagined ourselves waging a war where we don't have air superiority.
BB: exactly right and an excellent rundown. It's an antiquated version of what the RF now has but is far superior to anything that NATO can hand over to them. Now we hear the system is battered, they replace launchers and can't build new missiles for it so we have to give them Western systems. So you have all these different systems from different countries and different decades, and they're saying they'll turn that into an integrated system, which may be possible but it will be difficult.
In Russia they're building missiles that will work with their integrated system, it's all the same people working on it, and they're able to do trial and error and get everything working properly - how is the
West going to do this for Ukraine in the middle of a war?
They sent 1 or 2 NSM systems now, they'll send another 2 or 3 next year and so on. Who's to say that Ukraine will have the systems they have now next year, that they're not going to be found and destroyed? They're less capable than the S-300 systems and Russia has been finding and destroying them. The ADS obviously limits what
Russia can do but it hasn't changed the outcome, Russia is destroying the military faster than it can be built back up while not losing the same numbers of men and equipment themselves.
AM: There's also the fact the NSM uses and air-to-air missile and however well you adapt it, it is an adaptation. It's not the same as an integrated system with cannons and missiles and radars, etc.
all operating together to provide air cover. On top of this, the Russians have set another order for hypersonic missiles, they're going to be building dozens of these zircon missiles which no ADS in
the world is able to intercept, not even the Russian at the moment ("a scramjet powered maneuvering anti-ship hypersonic cruise missile"). Isn't it rather cruel to pretend to the Ukrainians that we can help them when we can't?
BB: Absolutely, the whole thing is ghastly with the US egging them to topple the government in 2014, instituting a client regime and setting them on a course for this proxy war. And now saying the aid
will be limited and it is indeed limited when you look into the aid packages. People in alternative media are talking about it but the Western media isn't. I've seen them try and spin refurbished T55s as
adequate aid. It's cruel to tell Ukraine "this will solve the problem" when really there's no chance.
The Ukrainians ask for all these different weapons systems no matter how unrealistic because they have nothing to lose. The US has a lot to lose sending weapons that are inappropriate, that will be
underwhelming on the battlefield, which will hurt the perception of US military strength and also their arms sales. Who's going to buy these systems if they see them perform poorly in Ukraine, whatever
the reason for that is.
Multiple limits at play: technical in terms of manufacturing and quantities that are on hand and then these political and economic considerations. Russia has a single military industrial complex so
they don't have these problems and are better suited for a war of attrition.
AM: I've actually visited Russian factories. which are built with the capacity to (surge?), very different from our style of industrial planning which is based on "just in time." The Russians like to operate with enormous reserves, spares, components, raw
materials, they build them up in the factories. That means when the moment comes that 100 tanks are needed, the system is designed to produce them at great speed. It looks inefficient to a Western eye but the system is designed to operate this way. It goes back to WW2 when the Russians had to surge and they designed their industrial architecture on that ever principle since. They've also had issues of
landscape, geography and communications which mean Russian factories can't operate on a "just in time" basis like the big ones can in the West. I've seen how Russian factories work, how they can
bring in people very quickly to start production moving at enormous speeds.
You've been talking recently about 155 mm artillery. I read a piece today somewhere that if we devoted every single shell we have in the West plus those we've ordered, if we supplied Ukraine all they
needed we'd still run out of shells in 2025. The Russian military system is designed to keep on churning out whatever is needed, it can bring in the steel, the components, the coke and coal, whatever
is needed, at rates of millions whereas we struggle with tens of thousands.
BB: And that's the difference, because the Western MIC is driven by profits. They're corporations, supposedly private (hmmm) and designed not only to make profits but constantly expand them. The
MIC in Russia and China and in many Asian countries is purpose-driven; they have to make profits and look for ways to do this but first and foremost it's about serving national interests and national security specifically.
This is why Russia is able to get all these industries focused, on the same page and I would say they knew they were going to have to do this years ago and were preparing for it. Meanwhile in the West -
these companies do have long-term visions but it's always about profits. The thought of outproducing Russia even if they didn't make profits never probably entered their heads. So now we see these
two systems clashing in this proxy war.
AM: so what happens now? We've talked about the Russians building up, inducting hundreds of thousands of reservists into their military which you've covered brilliantly. We're getting more reports of more guns, artillery, tanks, shells, missiles. etc. What do you think the Russians are likely to do? Big offensives? Grinding down?
BB: I'm trying to go by what Putin said in February about demilitarization. Then Gen. Surovikin said he's going to grind the Ukrainian military down and this whole process we've seen since late February where they moved forward incrementally, they avoid these type of big arrow offensives because you will suffer heavy losses. If your goal is to grind down the enemy it's best to do it in a methodical way that protects and preserves our fighting capacity while undermining theirs.
A question many have asked including me is why are the bridges over the Dniepr still intact? I agree with you that if they really wanted to take these bridges out they would. The reason they're not is, if their goal is to consume and tax and undermine Ukraine's military through attrition, forcing them to go all the way from the border with Poland to the Donbass, then when something breaks down having to go all the way from the Donbass to the workshops in Poland where the Western technicians can fix it then having to take it all the way back to the Donbass - just think about how that
accumulates in terms of fuels and the trucks themselves, the maintenance and spare parts and repairs, how that makes it so much more difficult for Ukraine to fight. If they blew the bridges, then they'd have to find a way to cross the Dniepr to assault the
other side. If your goal is to destroy Ukraine's military you're still going to have to do it but now you have to cross a river to do it and you've helped shorten their supply lines by a significant amount.
That's just speculation.
I followed the Russian military situation in Syria very closely from 2015 onward, and there were a lot of ups and downs though we look on it as a success in retrospect. I don't remember a lot of days of
optimism, there was often frustration and letdown because the Russians are very methodical and patient.
AM: something people don't understand, when Russia wages war it uses every single tool, including diplomacy. In the West, we tend to see diplomacy ending when war begins. Russia doesn't view it that way and they've been very careful to build up their alliances over the last year. In ways this has been the most impressive thing for me
about how they've conducted this war. China was important, India was arguably going to be harder, but one would have thought Turkey would be the hardest of all. And yet it's increasingly obvious Turkey is tilting toward the Russian side of this. Is that your view?
BB: yes. I don't remember what year it was but Turkey did shoot down a Russian war plane in Syria. I know a lot of Russian people who were upset by the Kherson withdrawal wanted Moscow to
nuke Ankara. The reason Moscow didn't is because they were thinking long-term, they could see if they reacted emotionally they would be burning bridges they needed to cross in the future. They're thinking about Syria, and Ukraine, and Asia - they're thinking about all of it and considering that when you look at every decision Russia makes on the battlefield. The conflct in Ukraine is not happening in a vacuum, it's interconnected with all of these other conflicts and
People ask about the SMO why don't they just go in and do what needs to be done. I think the incremental way they've done it they have to do for domestic and international political considerations.
There's a political dimension that makes sense when what's happening militarily doesn't seem to. If your allies abandon you the US is able to destroy your economy and then you're not able to fight a longer term conflict you're pretty sure you can win.
AM: I've been following Indian and less so the Turkish commentaries about this war, and the Indians seem surprised at how far they've gone along with the Russians, because a year ago, 2 years ago, 3, we were hearing about the Quad, about India re-aligning with the US against China, relations w/China had become intense; they had good relations with Russia in part because they didn't want Russia to align too closely with the Chinese. This is the type of calculations you saw
coming out of Delhi at the time.
Then this conflict begins, the Indians don't want to be seen coming down too obviously on the American side because they value their
independence and sovereignty and their ability as an independent actor. Step by step the Russians brought them along, the oil deals, the currency deals, the other economic deals. And the Indians have discovered along the way that this has given them leverage with the US which I don't think they ever expected.
The Americans come to Delhi, say you can't possibly support the Russians, and I think they come across as very overbearing and arrogant, in contrast to how Russia has dealt with them. I think the Indians have soured on the US and warmed to Russia and may even be starting to warm toward China. With Turkey it seems like the same game has been played, with equal skill.
BB: I agree. And we have to remember this isn't just a war between the West and Russia playing out in Ukraine, it's a battle between multipolarism and the US-led unipolar world order. When you talk about multipolarism you're talking about every except the US and these hopelessly subordinated nations to Washington and Wall Street, Brussels and London.
So you want to get these others on board and you don't want to make the first step so high they can't make it. I think this is why they wanted to keep it small, an SMO, not declaring war on the first day, and then escalating incrementally. Even in Russia, a mobilization on the first day might have taken people by surprise, now the Russian people are invested in the conflict. It's not really dishonest, it's understanding human nature, they need to understand how serious this is and sometimes you can't do that by explaining it to them, you have to show it to them - watching the West overreact, the animosity of the West toward ALL Russians, not just Moscow; it was a wakeup call, this is what makes the first mobilization and any mobilation to follow possible. I saw Russia play the same balancing act in Syria.
Then there's military considerations. The first thing Russia did in Syria is start bombing the supply lines to ISIS and Al Queda coming from NATO. But the fighting was still going on in some areas, and you ask yourself how that's possible - because even though you destory the supply lines and significantly reduce the enemy's fighting capacity, there's always ways to get guns and ammunition in, not enough to change the outcome but to keep the conflict going. This is what the US was doing in Syria and will try to do in Ukraine.
AM: talking about relationships between great powers, I'm sure you saw the extraordinary exchange at the G20 between Xi Jinping and Justin Trudeau. I think this was significant, more than just about Xi being cross with Trudeau, which he was and I'm glad about, I can't stand the man. I've rarely seen Xi mad as he clearly was. The point I want to make is that what Xi was accusing Trudea of doing is something all Western leaders do - they all manipulate conversations, give away what was said in private, spread it through the media giving distorted accounts.
Putin recently said that he had a phone conversation with Macron then discovered later that the entire French media was sitting with Macron while they were holding that conversation.
The point Xi was making to Trudeau was, if you behave like that, treat me in that way, there's no possibility of trust or serious understanding between us. The fact that Xi of all people is willing to say this not just to Trudeau but probably others as well is a sign to me of how trust between the great powers has completely collapsed, largely because of how the Western powers pretend to conduct diplomacy.
BB: Absolutely. And I think you said in reviewing the G20 summit that Biden and Xi were talking past each other. The US isn't there to talk to China, they're there to subordinate them. No country in the
world is going to be okay with that. So they're going to come with what they planned to say - the US is not interested in respecting China as a nation, its sovereignty, its best interests, it's not going to learn anything or agree to anything. And China is not going to accept the US interfering with its internal political affairs, trying to encircle, divide and destroy them.
Canada is one of the countries subordinating itself to the US and it's all about posturing and in their minds not to ever show respect to these other nations because they view that as weakness. It's all
about projecting strength, strength that they don't have anymore which is what has made them so insecure. I'm just waiting for Alex's impression of what Trudeau said when he scampered off to the
AM: the other thing about that exchange was how Trudeau responded. He didn't apologize, the West never does. He did what all Western leaders now do, retreat into cliches - he does exactly what you said, he postures, "we're Canadians, we're open people, it's who we are." And Xi just said, "if you want a dialog you have to create the conditions", then shakes Trudeau's hand and walks off. It told me so much about how diplomacy isn't conducted by the Western powers anymore - they can't accept that the other side might be bothered by the fact their entire conversation is leaked to the media and then distorted. They can't accept that this is offensive to them, a violation of confidence and destroys trust. Instead they posture. This isn't how you conduct diplomacy at all. No wonder India and Turkey and Saudi Arabia are starting to change sides.
BB: if you conducted your personal relations like this you would have no friends. And yet the stakes are so much higher when we're talking about national leaders not wanting to talk to each other. It's a complete waste of time to talk to these Western leaders because what they want to do to the rest of the world is something they know is unjust and no one would consent to so why are they even having a conversation except biding time or pretending you're the reasonable one so when things get rocky down the road, "it wasn't us, we tried, it's them" and they have the whole Western media to back them up and create that narrative.
Comparing the readouts from China and the WH about the meeting between Xi and Biden, two completely alien perceptions. China's said the current state of US-China relations doesn't serve the interests of either, that if you look at the 4-chip alliance the US is destroying its own IT sector saying you can't do business in China, they're closing off that market and all the money they could use for R&D.
The WH readout talks about Xinjiang, Tibet, Taiwan, Hong Kong - as if any of this is their business. I don't remember the Chinese readout talking about how Americans don't have clean drinking water or have the largest prison population in the world because those are internal political affairs and China respects that. It's easy to see who's the
source of these tensions.
AM: re S-300 episode in Poland. Lots of speculation it was a failed false flag but I don't believe that, I think it was an accident. The strange thing for me is Ukraine continuing to lie about it after everyone knows what happened. Even the FT said they're lying. If they can lie about this why does the Western media continue to assume that anything they say is true?
BB: I also believe it was an off-course air defense missile that landed in Poland. The US has gone so far as to say it was a Ukrainian missile but we're still going to blame Russia, and Ukraine is still lying about it. It's a tragic irony that we're told how dangerous Russia is, to Europe, to NATO, to everyone. And yet it's a Ukrainian missile killing
Europeans in Poland, a NATO country, and Ukraine not accepting responsibility and continuing to try and deceive the world about it. To me that's a demonstrably greater threat to Europe.
AC (1:02:53): we have a lot of good questions and comments. But on the Poland missile story - I agree it was probably a stray missile, but from what I understand they - NATO, the US - were tracking
this missile from the get-go. I've read a lot of reports and imagine it's 100% true that they know the exact missile, when they're being fired, where they're being fired from. So they knew it was from Ukraine, had a certain trajectory all the way to Poland. Yet they allowed the MSM to lie about it for about 24 hours - it took 3 or 4 hours for the truth to come out, and it didn't even come out in the West. I think they were pressured to admit the truth after the internet experts - Ukrainian and Russian - saw the fragments in the photos and ID'd it as Ukrainian S-300.
So what do you make of that, that you had this certain faction in the West surveilling this missile who knew exactly what happened and yet they allowed Western media to blame Russia and Zelensky to make those ridiculous comments, "I told you Russia would attack outside of Ukraine, we have to act now, invoke Article 5." That was the most sinister side to all of this to me.
BB: We see how bad Ukraine's judgment is so maybe it was a false flag because they have such bad judgment. I still think it was an off-course missile. They allowed the lie to continue so long because they knew it would do damage and that for a majority of the minds they're targeting with this message, even when the truth comes out they're not going to care. They're going to hate Russia even more. We've all encountered people who are fanatical in their support for Ukraine, they'll never accept that Ukraine is ever in the wrong. So it was to create maximum damage and they're indifferent to the lack of trust that will engender.
AC: could it also be argued it was about securing another $36 billion in funding and more air defense weapons? Which is what they accomplished by letting the story run for 24 hours.
BB: maybe the argument could me made that a lot of that $36 billion should be diverted to the border of Ukraine because you never know when this might happen again. I don't think there were major political implications in Poland but think there were some lower level politicians who were upset about Ukraine's behavior in all of this.
AM: the Mayor of Lublin has spoken up. Want to add to what Alex said, that we had a senior administration official talking anonymously to the AP actually fanning the story, actually saying Russian missile attack on Poland.
AC: Also, a lot of people miss the fact that on the day when all this happened CIA Director Burns was in Kiev meeting with Zelensky. You said, Alexander, that this was most likely the common route - going
from meeting with Russians in Ankara to meeting with Zelensky in Kiev. My thinking is it was a missile that went off course but once they saw it was going to happen they decided to capitalize on it to get more $$ for Ukraine.
BB: Or at least distract them from the fact that we're sending this additional money. I think that's a good point.
AC: I have a question about Kherson. I agree with everything you're saying but why did they decide to do the referendum if they'd started to realize it would take too many resources to hold Kherson
BB: This is speculation. Comparing to what they did in Syria, they liberated Palmyra from ISIS and then they lost it. They then retook it. It might have been a mistake to take it in the first place. In our minds we're pretty sure they'll retake Kherson because it's Russian territory now, and w/o the referendum this would be an open question and it would just look like they were losing territory.
AM: reminder that there's Kherson City and then there's Kherson region, which is 60% east of the Dniepr and I think this is important to them because it's part of the land bridge from Russia to Crimea.
And if you have a referendum, it would be difficult to have it in the east and not the west.
AC: Chat Q: Ukraine prep on the Belarus border suggest they don't think the Russians will cut the Dniepr crossing when they start their offensive, or they do and are preparing to accept that loss. Thoughts? We haven't talked about Belarus. They're building a wall, mining the border.
AM: I don't know what the Russians plan to do. WIll say there aren't enough Russian troops in Belarus ATM to form a major offensive strike against Kiev. If the Belarus army were to participate perhaps that would change but Lukashenko has ruled that out. I think the role Belarus is playing is providing a useful platform, there's MiG 31 fighter jets there, they're apparently engaging Ukrainian fighter jets with long range missiles in Ukraine, they've got the Kinzal missiles. And the Russians may want to keep Ukraine guessing about what they're planning in Belarus.
BB: I agree. They've certainly convinced Ukraine they're thinking of doing something from there and this serves as a fixing operation because Ukraine has to commit resources in that direction, whether
something comes or not.
AC: there was an earlier question about news from Africa since the meeting between Putin and the African Union president.
AM: I've heard no news but there was another attempt to get a UN General Assembly resolution to make Russia pay reparations and African countries overwhelmingly refused to support it. I think the
mood in Africa by and large, as in the Middle East, has hardened in support of Russia in all this. The British are very upset about this, they consider Africa to be a place where they still have influence.
And we've seen in French West Africa, country after country booted the French out and invited the Russians in, Burkina Faso being the last one.