JN: are we dangerously depleting our own arsenals to provide equipment and ammunition to Ukraine?
DM: it's clear our ammunition stocks and key items of equipment like the self-propelled 155 mm gun, are in short supply now due to supplying the Ukrainians. Dangerous? Only if we're contemplating a confrontation with the Russians and it would be equally ill-advised were we to go back to the Middle East and take on any number of
JN: have we supplied Ukraine from our surplus or our substance?
DM: both. But we've had to rely increasingly on the substantive American military capabilities. There's talk now in the media of sending more sophisticated missiles with greater ranges, which I
find disturbing; the more we do this, the likelier we'll end up in a confrontation with the Russians, for which we're completely unprepared.
JN: last we talked several days before Thanksgiving, we talked about whether there was impetus by the State Dept. or NATO to push
Zelensky to the negotiating table. In the interim you sent me some videos that are too horrific for me to show of Ukrainian atrocities against captured Russian soldiers - who ought to be protected by the
Geneva Convention. Why would this happen, why would there be videos of it, why would the videos have been displayed on Ukraine streaming sites?
DM: the videos were taken by and posted by Ukrainian soldiers, essentially as a point of pride. But I think there's another dimension to this - I think there's an interest in Ukraine, esp. in Kiev, to ensure there can be no negotiated settlement between Ukraine and Russia. Not so much because of people in Kiev who might be willing to talk to Russia, I think there's growing fear that Washington will ultimately abandon them.
They know that "Ukraine fatigue" is not exclusive to Europe, and that the new Republican Congress may be less willing to support them. Videos showing Russian POWs being executed poisons the waters with Russia, if you will, when it comes to openness to a peace settlement. The Russian people and Russian military commanders have seen these videos.
From the beginning we've accused Russia of horrible things, and they did none of them - they did not mass rape, mass murder, this was propaganda cooked up by Ukraine and disseminated across the
JN: I'm assuming what you sent me was real.
DM: it's absolutely real.
JN: would this have been approved by the Ukrainian high command, or is this some rogue elements among the more hardcore troops?
DM: If the Ukrainian government had made a statement and taken down the videos, said they would be investigating whether it was true and take action if so, one would conclude it's rogue elements. But that hasn't happened. So the only conclusion I can reach is that the people in Kiev are thinking this will keep the war going, make it harder for the US to abandon us because the Russians won't negotiate, and that's what they currently think is in their interests.
JN: Going to put on screen a map of Ukraine you sent us. Red starbursts - concentration of Russian missiles and artillery. Blue is areas of blackouts where there's no electricity or water to speak of.
The striped area in the lower portion of the map is areas that have been under Russian control for a while.
Starting all the way west - are you surprised the Russians sent their missiles this far west? What is the country that's over there across the border?
DM: about 20 miles west of L'vov is the Polish border.
JN: is it reckless for the Russians to send their missiles so close to the Polish border? Is that a lesson to NATO?
DM: No, it's not reckless. This is similar to what the US did in Iraq, to what it did to the Serbs in the Kosovo air campaign, very similar to what we did during WW2 to Germany and Japan. We systematically identified the networks, the infrastructure for fuel, fuel storage, fuel distribution and today power plants on a grand scale. We did that and put countries in the dark; part of the plan was to make it effectively impossible for them to lead normal lives. This is part of the larger plan to prepare Ukraine for the coming offensive (i.e.,
During the first phase no one ever grasped that Moscow wanted a negotiated settlement, they didn't want to destroy Ukraine or kill large numbers of people. By the middle of the summer it was clear
that strategy wasn't going to work. So they threw those assumptions out, went on to a strategic defense, essentially, an economy of force using as few troops as possible to hold what was theirs while they built up for the offensive.
JN: referring to map: red bursts (missile attacks) in areas shown to be under Russian control.
DM: today we have this capability we call "strike" which is different from what we imagine the standard use for artillery or rockets or missiles might be in the West. The only thing separating one strike from another is time and space. And we have precision. Which means if we saw something in your backyard that we thought was threatening, we could destroy everything in your backyard without
harming you. The Russians can do the same thing.
So there was a decision to attack there ostensibly because there was some (con?) activity to this power generation network and they decided to remove it. Beyond that, I don't know any details.
But they're more than capable of doing this, which is why striking so close to the Polish border was not reckless.
JN: that means their strikes around L'viv and Kiev which we know destroyed residential areas, homes and apartment buildings, were destroyed intentionally.
DM: no, that's not accurate because the power stations and the power distribution networks were inside those areas. If they wanted to level Kiev they could do it in a couple of hours.
JN: re: Nuclear power plants (NPP)
DM: the one of most interest is the one in Zapparozhia which the Russians are protecting. The Ukrainians have repeatedly tried to launch missiles, rockets and artillery rounds against it in the hope of precipitating a nuclear crisis that they think they would benefit from.
They have, as you point out, removed the connectivity involving the transmission of power from these plants to Ukraine; that has been done and will continue to be done.
We should pause and consider the cascading effect of these attacks. Not just the lack of power and water but the farm fields lying fallow, livestock are dying because they can't feed them or move them or sell them or care for them. It's destroying the Ukraine economy, output is about non-existent.
JN: Dec 1st is 3 days away, there's already snow on the ground in northern parts of Ukraine, where do you see things going between now and the first of the year?
DM: the experts on this who know something about the weather and the terrain, and I'm not one of them, say Ukrainian black earth top soil varies from 4, to 12, to 15 ft. deep depending where you are,
that's why it's such a productive region. If it's not thoroughly frozen, you sink like a rock if you're in a truck or a tank. It's not frozen yet, it's only just now dropped below freezing on a permanent basis;
before now it froze at night but warmed up during the day. It has to drop below freezing and stay that way for at least 2 weeks. So if it's freezing now and stays that way, doing the math you're looking at
something happening no earler than the 10th and no later than the 19th of December.
Based on satellite images, the intelligence community says they've accounted for 540k Russian troops. Of those we're talking about 5k
armored fighting vehicles, at least 1,500 of them tanks. Probably another 1k self-propelled artillery, the rest infantry fighting vehicles. 1k rockets, missiles, drones. Then there's hundreds of fixed wing aircraft, hundreds of helicopters that will move troops, there will be some ground support. The fixed wing aircraft will be air support and also bombers now. And they all have precision munitions.
JN: what you've described must be known by Zelensky, by Ukrainian intelligence, by American intelligence, by the State Dept., Pentagon and WH. And what are they going to do about it?
DM: Yes (it's known to them). What they're trying to do is ship more equipment to the Ukrainians, the problem is that Ukrainian casualties have been horrendous, esp over the past few months. There was an article today in Euronews and I heard it's in the NYT as well describing the heavy casualties. The big lie that always accompanies such reports is that the Russians have taken heavy casualties as well but this is nonsense, they haven't.
Right now the ratio in southern Ukraine is about 10 Ukrainians for every Russian. And the Russians aren't running out of anything whereas the Ukrainians are running out of everything - ammo, spare parts, fuel, you name it. Most of their best troops are dead or wounded, and they're shoving untrained reservists into the defensive positions. They say "we sent 10k more troops to England for training for 3 weeks." You're not going to train a soldier in 3 weeks or even 5 weeks. You need time, something Ukraine no longer has. The whole thing is on the verge of collapse.
JN: let's pretend you're back in the Pentagon and Blinken and Austin came asking for advice, what would you tell them?
DM: I'd show them the map and the identified concentrations of Russian forces, along with a list of the capabilities which is impressive in terms of firepower and maneuver. Then I would give a truthful picture of Ukraine's fighting capabilities right now, which are very modest. I would argue that given the terrible conditions the population faces in Ukraine, it's no surprise the government is telling them to leave, including the mayor of Kiev - this is the capital city. And millions of Ukrainians are going to pack it in and head west, with millions of refugees pouring into Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania. In many cases they will just herd them further west into other countries because they can't take anymore.
JN: back to the hypothetical - what could the US say to Zelensky to get him to the negotiating table?
DM: first of all, Zelensky will do what you tell him. If you tell him the game is up, this is a monstrous injustive to the Ukrainian people; negotiation is necessary; concessions will have to be made. If you do that the Ukrainians will go along even though they won't like it. Yhere's a theory that Zelensky will be killed by the radical nationalists if he goes along with something like this. I don't know
if it's true.
We're suffering in the US because of the sanctions, which did more harm to us than to Russia, but the ones who are really suffering are the Europeans. And it's not just energy - again, cascading effects
with huge problems across the economic production spectrum.
It makes sense to end this and accept the fact that you lost. But if you tell Biden and others in his administration to go forward and do this they'd say you're out of your mind, we're not going to admit that. Do you remember anyone in 1971, 72, 73, 74, 75 admitting the Vietnam war was a mistake? They did years later but not at the time.