Robert Scheer SI Podcast SI: War & Peace

Patrick Cockburn: Will the Ukraine War End Without Destroying All Life on the Planet?

Veteran award-winning journalists Patrick Cockburn and Robert Scheer, who met in Moscow in 1987 when Mikhail Gorbachev optimistically promised peace, now fear a descent into nuclear war hell.
Will the Ukraine war end without destroying all life on the planet?
Will the Ukraine war end without destroying all life on the planet? [Pixabay]

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Patrick Cockburn who reported for the Financial Times and The Independent from the Middle East and other war zones for decades and now writes for Britain’s i News, joins Robert Scheer on this week’s “Scheer Intelligence” to discuss what could come next in this conflict and how far down the nuclear rabbit hole we really are.

In 1987, the prospects for peace were promising when Gorbachev joined Ronald Reagan in committing to a sharp reversal of hostile relations between the US and the Soviet Union following the precedent set by Cold Warrior Richard Nixon a decade earlier in suddenly negotiating peace with Mao’s China. Today, after steadily worsening US relations with post-Communist Russian leader Vladimir Putin, we face the likelihood of a disastrously ever widening war and the tangible threat of a nuclear holocaust. 

Cockburn, whose  most recent book, “War in the Age of Trump,” put events in the Middle East into the context of what he witnessed in the post-September 11 Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Libya offers fresh analysis of the war in Ukraine from the vantage point of a former war correspondent. He argues  thatfrom the beginning, it’s been a bizarre conflict, perhaps unlike any other, and that it’s likely that Putin  did not expect Russia’s invasion to go as it has. Regardless of expectations on either side of the conflict, what’s clear to Cockburn and Scheer is that nuclear war becomes more likely with every minute the violence continues. Even though this threat is more real than ever before, including at the height of the Cold War, Cockburn argues that there seems to be less fear and awareness about it than previously. 

As Cockburn and Scheer discuss different ways the conflict may end, Scheer presses his guest to consider the motivations behind American investment in the conflict. Ultimately, the British journalist warns against the liberal hope that Putin is deposed, bringing about the Russian “regime change” US President Joe Biden accidentally let slip as an objective, and that his ouster would somehow lead to a more liberal Russia. 

On the contrary, the journalists agree, it is highly likely that whoever takes over from the current leader may in fact be more aggressively nationalistic than Putin. Listen to the full conversation between Cockburn and Scheer as the two discuss how other countries see American saber-rattling attempts to establish itself once more as the dominant world power, and what effect this has on the ground in Ukraine, where citizens seem to be cannon fodder for the world’s superpowers. 



Robert Scheer


Joshua Scheer


Robert Scheer (00:20):

Hi, this is Robert Scheer with another edition of Scheer Intelligence, where the intelligence comes from my guest. In this case, arguably one of the most intelligent of foreign correspondents, international reporter, Patrick Cockburn, a legendary journalist for The Independent. And now, the iNews publication based in London. But I watched him work in the field, and close to our subject today about Vladimir Putin and the war in Ukraine. And where is this headed now? We were in Moscow and I watched him work when Gorbachev was in power and trying to institute perestroika and glasnost, accuracy, truth, whatever.

Robert Scheer (01:07):

And so, let us, kind of give me the broad picture of how you assess where we are, how we got here, what it’s all about. And I want to say, I enjoy doing these podcasts because I can learn a lot. And I actually do not know what your answer will be, roughly. I do not. I know it’ll be informed, but I just felt the need to call you up, Patrick Cockburn, and ask you, what do you think is going on and where is it at? Okay? And honestly, to people listening, I really don’t know what you’re going to say. So, take it away.

Patrick Cockburn (01:41):

This has turned out to be a much more crucial war, much more decisive in world affairs than people imagined, I think, on the 24th of February, when Putin first invaded Ukraine. It’s obvious that he’s lost the war in Ukraine. If his war aim was to take over Ukraine and have a pro-Russian government there, that’s lost.

Patrick Cockburn (02:10):

One could say it was sort of lost in the first few days when they discovered that the Ukrainians were going to resist, that it just wasn’t going to be a walkover. But since then, the outcome of the war has become even more serious because it’s not just what happens to Ukraine, but what will happen to Russia? Will Russia remain a significant power? Will Putin remain in power? But actually, I think the first question is more important. It was always said in the past, you know, that became something of a cliche, to say that a Russia without control of Ukraine would cease to be serious, a really serious player. So I guess we’re now on the verge of entering a third phase in the Ukraine war. The first one was when the Russians invaded from all quarters. The army offensive broke it up, inadequate everywhere, and there was resistance. But also, because it was a very sort of strange invasion, that they didn’t… It didn’t seem to be properly organized. I’ve seen the US invade Iraq. I’ve seen the Syrian army, supposedly with lots of Russian advisors operating in Syria, invasions in Afghanistan. This seemed sort of a sort of half invasion from the beginning. They didn’t try to destroy the infrastructure like the US did in Iraq in 1990, by destroying the power lines, the oil refineries. It seemed to be a mess. Then it gets, they reorganized things and start an offensive in the Donbas. That again, doesn’t seem to be going too well. And it seemed to be sort of completely lack any element of surprise, that it was on the headlines everywhere, they were going to do this, they are doing this, they’re grinding forward. I guess they’re getting somewhere, but very, very, very slowly.

(04:31): It seems to me, we’re now at a deciding moment: Will there be a third phase when the Russians mobilize their forces? They’ve never had a national mobilization, and after all, for a long time. This was just Putin’s special military operation; it wasn’t a war. And this is more of the matter of rhetoric. They didn’t mobilize what resources they’ve got. Their great military weakness is lack of infantry; you can see that they don’t have the infantry to defend the tanks and they don’t have the infantry to surround cities.

(05:09): So will there be a third round, which they declare national mobilization, martial law within Russia, reorientate industrial production to produce weapons? Which they could do, quite likely they will do because not just the future of the regime, but the future of Russia is on the line now.

Robert Scheer (05:37):

Let’s cut to the chase here. Was Putin provoked, or was he excessively aggressive and ambitious and imperialist to think that they would just crumble? Is it going to be over for Russia and for Putin or can they resist? Do they have the means? You’re quite familiar with that situation. How do you assess it?

Patrick Cockburn (06:06):

Well, there’s no doubt that they had genuine grievances that the NATO, the US had been increasing their influence in Ukraine, particularly since 2014, and were continuing to do so. Putin appears to have thought that time was running out for any military solution that he might try and launch, which is why he did now. There were genuine grievances, but not ones to justify an invasion, to my mind.

(06:49): And also, an extraordinary invasion, because almost everything which he seems to have believed on before it was launched was untrue: that there would be no resistance from the Ukrainian army, that the Zelenskyy government could be easily toppled, that the Russian army would just sort of sweep in from all sides, that there wouldn’t be much reaction from Western Europe, that they’d be divided, that sanctions would easily avoidable. And he seems to have been in this sort of fantasy world. You can see that from the fact that they didn’t even withdraw their… They built up this, what was it? $600 billion reserve, financial reserve, and left much of it accessible to the west to freeze it. I mean, they didn’t even bring that under control, bring it under their own control. There have been very few invasions in history which have been based on so many misconceptions as this one.

(08:07): Why did Putin do it? Well, 22 years in power, always pretty arrogant, surrounded by advisors who are his sort of old gang from the FSB. And before that, the KGB, Russian intelligence services. Even so, a very, very stupid thing to do.

Robert Scheer (08:40):

What I’m worried about more than anything else is the possibility of nuclear war fighting here. I don’t think Putin is going to go quietly into the night or easily be led out in handcuffs or what have you. I have no way of assessing the support he has, or still has in Russia. There is a Russian nationalism that does back him. How do you see this playing out? I think it’s an incredibly risky situation.

Patrick Cockburn (09:12):

Well, they’re really two questions there. I mean, one, let’s take the nuclear threat first. I find it one of the most amazing things about this amazing war, is that it’s not taken more seriously. In the ’50s and ’60s, people were really worried about a nuclear war, a nuclear exchange. This time around, the likelihood is actually much higher, but nobody… You don’t see any demonstrations about it. People don’t even seem particularly worried about it.

(09:44) And you see the same people who say Putin is a mad dictator, his power has gone to his head, he’s completely crazed. And then you say, “Well, hold on a minute, but he’s got nuclear weapons. What if this crazed guy might decide to use them?” And then they say, “Well, no. Well, I think, in that case, he would be behave rather reasonably and can see that was not in his interest to do so.” You can have one or the other, but you can’t have both these arguments, but people do.

(10:18): And you see the most sort of dove-like liberals now advocating basically overthrowing Putin. If that’s the objective and the overthrow of the Russian state, sure. People don’t have nuclear weapons just to keep in their arsenals. And there’ll be a lot of saber rattling, but saber rattling runs out of steam, it runs out of effectiveness until you actually use the saber, or in this case, nuclear weapons. So I find it pretty amazing that people shouldn’t-

(11:03): So, I find it pretty amazing that people shouldn’t be more worried about that. Now, there was a second question.

Robert Scheer (11:09):

Now, let’s talk about the first a little bit here, because this is what has startled me about the whole discussion. There’s almost a giddiness about the nuclear [threat]. Oh, of course, he’s not going to use it. There is even a sense that even if he does, it’s not the end of the world or anything rhetorically. There’s a lack of seriousness of discussion of this risk. And it’s generally put into, oh, it would only will be used to scare us, but he wouldn’t use it. Well, there’s been a lot of talk in our own society, as well as theirs, why do you have weapons if you can never use them? And it may turn out, that’s the only effective way he has of trying to preserve some of his power. It would be self-defeating, of course. But you’ve covered this for a long time. How did we get to this point where we’re indifferent to it now, the nuclear threat?

Patrick Cockburn (12:12):

Well, first of all, like you, I find it very strange and alarming, mysterious, and alarming that people aren’t more worried about this. And we’ve seen this has been a gradual process that people have seen arms limitation agreements discarded, or simply have not been renewed. And they hardly made the front pages. When these were first agreed, they were topping the news. But somehow people … it’s as if the limitations on missiles … was irrelevant, belonged to a previous era. So, I think people just didn’t think about it, and because it hasn’t happened before for a long time, they felt that it wouldn’t happen now.

(13:07) And it was out of mind, but it’s still pretty extraordinary, because it seems very clear to me that if Putin and the regime are in genuine difficulty, they think they might go, then sure, they’ll only threaten to use these. But once you make a threat, to make that threat effective, you have to really, in part of your mind, be willing to follow through on the threat. I think the one thing that happened with the original land invasion in February, the Russian land invasion of Ukraine, was that Putin felt that the sabre-rattling wasn’t getting him anywhere. It seemed to me, it was actually getting him places, but somehow he didn’t see that. So, I think once they start threatening, not threatening to use nuclear weapons, this could [be] dismissed, and it’s almost an act of treachery to say, well, he means it, pursue it. Oh, you’re giving into Putin’s threats. But these are very real. But used in Britain, you used to have a great CND [campaign for nuclear disarmament] … from the nuclear disarmament [movement]. Similarly in the US, people were very conscious of Dr. Strangelove situations. And that seems to have disappeared.

Robert Scheer (14:47):

Well, even in Germany, where there was such a strong resistance to the concern about the threat of nuclear war, now they’re increasing their military spending. And you have this US flooding in what, now 35 billion more dollars of weapons, and the democrats want to increase it by another 8 billion, talking about a lend-lease program like in World War II. And the Russians actually were doing much of the fighting, and then we supported with lend-lease. Now, I guess that’s the model, get the Ukrainians to do the fighting, but support it with a lot of weapons and then ultimately put troops in. But Russians have tested now, according to the reports this week in Odessa, and they did it earlier in the region, right up next to Poland, their new missile delivery system, which evidently can’t be stopped. It’s been conceded and they’ve blown up things with it. And those can be on with the nuclear warhead.

Robert Scheer (15:54):

And then there can be the illusion, the damage will be limited. That’s always been the theory of nuclear war fighting, that it doesn’t have to be all out. But anyone who’s studied it seriously knows that you would not restrict it. The damage would be so awesome and compelling that you would have to write and you would react on the use them or lose them fashion. So, I mean, you’re a journalist, you’re out there, you talk to people. And you mentioned, we don’t even have a peace movement. There’s no real force of anyone anywhere in the world saying, stop, negotiate.

Patrick Cockburn (16:38):

Yeah. And you see that there’s lack of pressure at any level for diplomatic solution. Now, it’s reasonable enough to say Putin won’t accept that at the moment because he’s made no gains and had many losses. But you sense that there’ll almost be disappointment if Russia did go for a diplomatic solution, did accept, did make concessions, and so forth. So, the comparison here is between the atmosphere in 1914, at the beginning of the first world war and now, that the German invasion of Belgium, various atrocities committed by German troops, the great wave of hostility to Germany and patriotism. Turned almost all the political parties who’d been previously anti-war, into advocates of fighting Germany to the finish. I think it’s quite a real comparison.

(17:53): And in both cases, you have this wave of popular hysteria based on real atrocities. I’m not denying that for a second. But there’s a lack of restraint or a lack of foresight of seeing what might happen down the road, and a lack of policy objectives. What is the real objective of the US? Is it to get the Russians out of the Ukraine? Is it to get regime change in Moscow? Is it the permanent strategic defeat of Russia? Which are the feasible to do, incredibly dangerous to my mind, because it’ll bring another round in the war. And not just nuclear weapons, that’s one form of escalation, but what if Putin goes for a national mobilization and other measures, which I mentioned? Imposes Martial law, instead of having a special military operation, choosing instead total war. That’s quite conceivable that would happen. And part of that escalation might be nuclear weapons, but it would only be part of it. And this isn’t just something on the margins of possibility, it’s something which is really quite likely and even probable, if the war goes on.

Robert Scheer (19:16):

Time for a break, we’ll be back in a few minutes. We’re back with Scheer Intelligence and our guest. There’s some relief this week in that Putin did not stress that in his victory speech, actually talked about going on domestic life as usual. And with the idea that somehow this would not inconvenience the Russian population very much, but you do wonder how that could last. And the real issue now is with flooding weapons into the Ukraine from the west, whether by accident or intention, if those supply lines get attacked. And certainly in one of the countries where they’re part of NATO that they’re coming from, it’s pretty difficult to see how it could stop. It’s also difficult to see how you can reconcile the rhetoric on the Ukrainian side with the position of the Russians, because they’re now saying they want turn back to before 2014. They wouldn’t even have the Russians stay in the Crimea, right?

Patrick Cockburn (20:28):

Yeah. So, that’s part of the Ukrainian rhetoric. On the other hand, when there were peace talks, they said they’d deal with Crimea in 20 years. And there seemed to be quite reasonable suggestions from the Ukraine side and from the Russian side, but it didn’t, then it seemed to evaporate. Now, it might be that this was all to a degree propagandistic, but these were quite the Ukrainians at that point were talking about, we’re not talking about going back to 2014, but going back to the 23rd of February this year. But that has disappeared since. And there is another question which I think one should touch on, Bob, which is, if Putin went or came under extreme pressure, this seemed to be an assumption that this would be towards making peace, but that isn’t at all really what’s most likely. There is some evidence that the institutions, the most powerful institutions that are now criticizing Putin within the Russian elite, are some parts of the FSB, of the security services in the military, but above all, security services who thinks he’s only half fighting the war.

(22:03) Security services who thinks he’s sort of only half fighting the war. Why doesn’t he get on with it? Why doesn’t he call the National Mobilization? Why did he let conscripts go home? Why did he sort of continue to pretend this is just special military opposition? It’s not going to make life more difficult for Russians.

(22:23) There seems to be a growing a sort of total war element within sort of powerful parts of the Russian elite. Very difficult to identify this. People who say this, “How do they really know? This is deeply secretive system, power is very concentrated on Putin himself.” But these are quite sort of significant, I think, reports, I think, that part of the Russian state system thinks it’s not against the war, it’s against Putin not waging the war effectively and not mobilizing Russian resources.

(23:03) That’s another option that’s going to come in. It’s not going to be the progressive liberals who are going to overthrow him and declare peace.

Robert Scheer (23:13):

Yeah. That is an incredibly important point, because after all, you and I were in the old Soviet Union under Gorbachev. And folks like us thought Gorbachev was a good choice. He was talking about genuine democracy and challenging power of perestroika, glasnost. He talked about all the distortions and so forth.

(23:38) That didn’t play well in the old Soviet Union. And in fact, Gorbachev ended up being a person who was very unpopular. I think one poll he had one or two, 3% support because he was giving away the store. And the irony is that Putin… Yeltsin was then the alternative when you, and well, later when I was there. And what bailed Yeltsin out at the behest, really, of the United States and others was Putin who at least didn’t drink and seemed to be able to make the trains run on time and would be pro Western.

(24:18) And how this thing spun out of control is amazing to me because Putin after all was the one who defeated the old communists. He defeated the old people who thought you had to have more authoritarian power, that Gorbachev was weak. And he comes in and now he’s described everywhere as this Hitler figure.

(24:39) And you make a very important point. Why do we assume? That’s always the assumption that somehow liberal Democrats will emerge. And it happened very often. We just saw in the Philippines, we’ve been waiting for that a long time and we got another Marcos back.

(25:01) So this is a historic trap, I would suggest. And also, let me ask you one other factor, to what degree does the whole Russiagate Democratic Party concern that the Russians were siding with Trump and that domestic politics play into this? Because I feel there’s a big irrational element here in the hostility to Putin in that respect. Well, he hurt us, now we’re going to hurt him. And not sufficient worry to what comes after.

Patrick Cockburn (25:35):

Yeah, I think that that’s definitely the case. I mean, there are two things since 2016, blaming it on the Russians, Hillary Clinton saying… Didn’t she say, “Our big mistake was making an enemy,” or what made her vulnerable was making an enemy of Vladimir Putin? Two things. First of all, it was kind of ridiculous. Those were never the evidence for this, this ridiculous intelligence thing by the former British agent. You looked at it as just complete rubbish.

Robert Scheer (26:11):

The Steele Memo.

Patrick Cockburn (26:12):

The Steele Memo, yeah.

Robert Scheer (26:13):


Patrick Cockburn (26:15):

But suddenly, this bit, things that nobody, no media outlet would run for months and then suddenly as the whole sort of anti-Trump business ratcheted up, this was suddenly treated as if it was sort of a holy rite or something. There was also, I think, a presumption that Russia was amazingly powerful. It could actually, had the means and the to determine or strongly influence the outcome of an American election. And what’s surprising in Britain and America is the way that this currency was accepted, nonsense that it was. You just have to read any of the books about Hillary Clinton’s campaign to discover why she, rather good reasons why she lost it.

(27:12) But you suddenly have people like Steele, and who produced this memo, being interviewed seriously by sort of mainline media in Britain and in the US. So this was always not but it created an atmosphere of hostility and I think a sort of paranoia that somehow the Russians were far more powerful than anybody imagined.

(27:43) I think there were also, Russia, the regime, going in for these kind of infantile sort of gangster-ish attacks or not very important exiles, like the poisoning, attempted poisoning of somebody in Salisbury in England and stuff like this. That showed a sort of something that was both aggressive, crude and pretty dumb.

(28:12) But I think going back to your point that a whole political atmosphere was created in which Russia was sort of assumed to be hostile, which might have been true, but far more powerful than it really was. And that sort of paranoia never ended and has been sort of taken another direction during the war in Ukraine.

(28:42) And again, there’s a contradictory thing on one hand, it’s very clear the Russian armed forces are much weaker than people imagined or in Ukraine. But at the same moment, people say, “Well, what if they attack Poland and Eastern Europe?” Which is they can barely map an offensive in the far east of Ukraine. So I think that it’s this strange mixture of acting as if Russia was very weak, but somehow very strong at the same moment.

Robert Scheer (29:18):

Well, it sort of goes back to your countryman, Orwell, in the search for an enemy. And we’ve been talking about that for a long time, giving first the old Soviet Union and then Russia its own Vietnam, a popular war that they’re saddled with. We thought we did in Afghanistan.

(29:37) But I wonder, maybe we could end this by thinking about what might be the ultimate goal. I think it’s containing China. And you hear increasingly talk of that. And this agreement that Putin made with China, with the Chinese leader, at the time of the Olympics must have been quite alarming.

(29:58) They both challenged American hegemony in a very fundamental way. And you hear a lot of talk about the importance here is to send this big message to China. And I wonder if that is not driving the drama and why we need a humiliating defeat for Putin and a regime change. Anything less won’t do. If he gets to hold onto Crimea, if he gets to survive, he gets to sell his oil, well, that won’t do it.

(30:31) As I see it, the Hawks that used to be the neo-conservatives when they used to be in the Republican Party, they now are the Biden State Department, and the same people who fermented a lot of this issue in the Ukraine. And it seems to me they have a larger picture, which is really that they’re serious about American hegemony.

(30:54) This is a new Rome. This is in no one else in the world, whether it Russia or China is going to make our life more difficult. And I think maybe I’m going too far here, but I think that’s the ultimate game plan.

Patrick Cockburn (31:10):

Yeah. I think, I don’t know how far it’s a motive, but I’m sure it’s a pretty significant motive. And it’s perceived as that, so not so much in Europe, but it is not just in China, but in India and the Far East. They think, “What will be our status if there’s just one single superpower?” And you hear that not just from sort of radical folks, but you hear that from sort of Malaysian business tycoons and significant players in India that there’s this fear that Russia goes that this is kind of a new sort of American West European hegemony, which is going to affect them and not just China, but all the other sort of paths that are sort of feeling that there was more room to maneuver in the last few years. But they can see that disappearing.

Robert Scheer (32:10):

The plates have shifted. This is not the kumbaya moment of the UN where we accept people with different political systems. This could be, if there’s a humiliating defeat of Putin and he’s taken away in handcuffs, this is the crowning day for the Neo-Conservatives. This was their vision. This is what’s supposed to happen. You can’t trust the rest of the world to find its own path, and you have to step in and be the heavy. And it is an ocean of the good Rome. And I think it’s taken seriously.

(32:50) Now, Joe Biden actually seems to have some resistance to that, seems to be a bit more cautious because of his past experience. But then you hear the folks from the Pentagon and the State-


Here are the folks from the Pentagon and the State Department and the CIA; they’re not talking about any hesitation. In fact, let me end on this. I never thought I would read a Thomas Friedman column that I really was cheering for, but he had one this morning, I guess it’s Wednesday… No, it’s still Tuesday, in The New York Times where he cautioned, he cautioned about going too far with this America First example. And he brought up in particular the assassination of these 10 generals that the U.S. seemed to have something to do with, and the blowing up of their flagship, and he said… And they’re boasting about it. And he said, “Wait a minute, this has real consequence. What are we talking about here?” So, do you want to take the last word on that?

Patrick Cockburn (34:00):

Yeah, it goes back to what we were saying earlier, which was this amazing self-confidence based on nothing that this won’t escalate into a much bigger war, which nuclear might be one part, but it wouldn’t necessarily be the only part. We could have a much bigger war without that, but mostly people are extremely lackadaisical about this. It just reminds me, I was in Afghanistan 2001-2, Americans came in, seemed partly successful. Same thing, 2003 in Iraq, at one moment in Syria, all these other places where you had the same self-confident rhetoric coming out of the security establishment in Washington, and then things fell apart for them. I can sense the same rather mindless overconfidence again, taking over. So, I think that… and there’s a sense that we have a total war already. We don’t. This could get an awful lot worse.

Robert Scheer (35:23):

Must take a minute to think about that, even short of nuclear war, which would be the end of humanity, let’s just be clear about that. But it could get, very quickly, a lot messier. Do you have the feeling, I mean, you’re quite knowledgeable about all this. As you say, you’ve covered those other wars. You’ve seen them go south from their rosy expectations. What could happen here? Would it extend into Russia itself? Would the Russian military back Putin? Would they take on this Western force? Where would that leave China? What is your assessment of the risks here?

Patrick Cockburn (36:08):

I think that it could go either way, but people underestimate the way that there are guys sitting in the Russian security forces and then the army thinking “Putin doesn’t know how to fight a war, we need somebody who knows how to fight.” So, this could get, the war, could get an awful lot hotter. I think partly this demonization of Putin, brutal fellow no doubt, but demonization is one aspect of that things can get no worse, but actually they could, because you could have a leader who is rather better at fighting a war than Putin has turned out to be.

Robert Scheer (36:49):

And what would that entail?

Patrick Cockburn (36:52):

Well, it might include nuclear weapons, it might include national mobilization. They’re really rather a small army that’s been doing the fighting. Putin sent the conscripts home after a year. People said, “Oh, but under Russian law, you couldn’t keep them and send them into Ukraine.” I don’t think that in the Second World War under Soviet leaders you would’ve got away with that. So, I think that the chances of this, if there is a regime change in Russia, then there’s a very good chance it’ll only be a much tougher, more militaristic regime, not one that’s going to run up the white flag. I think that all the neocon attitude in Afghanistan and Iraq just seem to think “we win a victory, we run up the stars and stripes and that’s it.” But actually, as they discovered in both countries, worse things can happen and tougher guys can emerge. Tougher enemies can emerge.

Robert Scheer (38:03):

So, you think nationalism and militarism remains a strong force in Russia after the Soviet Union, and this victory day rhetoric and the analogy with defeating the Germans, you think there is… It resonates to some degree?

Patrick Cockburn (38:25):

To some degree it does, but they’re conscious that things haven’t worked out. Somebody who is at one of those Victory Day celebrations in Petersburg was saying there used to be 1 million people out on the streets, now there’re far less. I think people are conscious things are not going well.

(38:47) Do they have an appetite for a bigger war? Most of them probably absolutely don’t want a bigger war, but maybe the guys, in Russian security and elsewhere think differently. I’m not saying it’s going to happen that way. It could fall out, Russia simply agrees to a peace, which is pretty humiliating and so forth. But it seems to me that that’s not very likely, that the Russians are likely to double down on trying to get a victory out of this. And not just Putin doubling down, but I think Russia in general doubling down and trying to win a final victory.

Robert Scheer (39:37):

On that depressing note, because doubling down means doubling down on civilian deaths and casualties and as well as that of conscripts and all that. But on the other hand, you bring a great deal of expertise, you’ve witnessed these wars, and so I want to thank you, Patrick Cockburn, formerly of The Independent for many decades, now of the i publication.

(40:05) And that’s it for this edition of Scheer Intelligence. I want to thank Christopher Ho at KCRW, and the great staff there for posting these shows. Joshua Scheer our executive producer, Natasha Hakimi Zapata who writes the introduction and edits it, Lucy Berbeo does the transcription, and The JKW foundation for helping us with some financial support. See you next week with another edition of Scheer Intelligence.

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