On this episode, Ryan and Mike discuss the liberation of Kherson, the Russian military's strategy before the start of the winter, and Ukraine's efforts to retain the initiative once the weather improves in the spring. We also offer a sample from Mike's latest members-onlypodcast, the Russia Contingency, which features an in-depth conversation with RUSI senior research fellows, Justin Bronk and Jack Watling, about the Russian air performance during the war.
While in Ukraine, Ryan sat down with Brig. Gen. Viktor Khorenko, the commander of Ukraine's Special Operations Forces. They discussed the roles and missions of Ukraine's special operators in this war, from its opening days to the present, as well as how their Russian enemies have operated. We hope you enjoy this discussion, which marks the first time Khorenko has been interviewed.
Mike Kofman and Ryan Evans recorded this episode on the war as they return home from their week-long research trip to Ukraine. They cover the fight for Kherson, Russian failures in the east, Russia's attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure, and dirty bomb threats. If you're interested in hearing more from Mike, we are launching a members-only podcast that he hosts called "The Russia Contingency." We offer a sample of one of the early episodes of that show, which features Mike chatting with Konrad Muzyka about the current and future threat to Ukraine from Belarus. Become a member to get access.
During a visit to Maxwell Air Force Base, Ryan had a chance to visit with Lt. Gen. Andrea Tullos, the president and commander of Air University. We spoke about her career, how she ended up commanding the lead agent for Air Force education, producing practitioners in the art and science of air-minded warfare, the addition of more wargaming at Air University, and preparing the Air Force for an era of strategic competition. She ends with a call for military personnel to engage in professional and public debate.
A blown up bridge, progressing Ukrainian operations in the east and south, and an unimpressive Russian mobilization effort. How should these be understood? Michael Kofman updates us on the war in Ukraine.
Lawrence Freedman and Michael Kofman walk us through the post-Cold War history of the Kremlin as commander. In the second episode of this multi-part series, they focus on Russia's intervention in the Syrian Civil War and its first assault on Ukraine in the aftermath of Euromaidan. In Syria in particular, Moscow thinks it makes major progress on command and high-tech targeting, but that later proves to be something of a mirage. The Western intervention in Libya is also an important part of this period, informing how Vladimir Putin views threats to his own power and influence. Ukraine soon reveals itself to be an unresolved issue for Moscow. Don't miss the first part of this discussion, which focuses on the First and Second Chechen Wars as well as the Russo-Georgian War of 2008. In these episodes, Freedman draws on his new book, Command: The Politics of Military Operations from Korea to Ukraine.
After Ukraine's stunning Kharkiv counter-offensive, Vladimir Putin has doubled down on his war against Ukraine, announcing a large military mobilization, threatening nuclear use, and pressing ahead with referenda in territories Russia has seized from Urkaine. Can Putin salvage his campaign? Michael Kofman helps us understand these issues and more, encouraging people to think more temporally about Russia's mobilization pipeline and delivering a warning: We are in uncharted territory.
Vladimir Putin's role as supreme commander has been center stage, offering a floundering and frightful performance. To understand the present, we reach back to the past. In the first of a multi-part series of episodes, Lawrence Freedman and Michael Kofman walk us through the post-Cold War history of the Kremlin and especially Putin as commander, starting with the First Chechen War through the short Russo-Georgian War (2008). In doing so, Freedman draws on his new book, Command: The Politics of Military Operations from Korea to Ukraine (https://amzn.to/3qYxPEF).
On a foggy morning in August 1918, Allied forces commenced the Battle of Amiens and the Hundred Days Offensive that ended the Great War. A German general later called it "the black day of the German Army." The Russian military has had a black week ever since Ukraine launched a counter-offensive in the Kharkiv Oblast. Whether this heralds the last phase of this war is still unknown. Regardless, recent events have been a massive setback for Russia. We had Mike Kofman on the show to discuss.
Join us for another discussion with Michael Kofman on the war in Ukraine. The main focus of this episode is the southern counter-offensive launched by Ukrainian forces early this week. Mike explains what has happened so far in this operation, centered around Kherson, and how observers should think about it as it unfolds. The two also discuss what Ukrainian combined arms warfare looks like, manpower challenges on both sides, the airpower picture, and how the counter-offensive is affecting the war in different parts of the country. Also, what is happening in Belarus as far as this war is concerned? And is either side prepared for how long this war is likely to last?
Mike Kofman joins Ryan once again to update us all on the war in Ukraine. The big thing that everyone is watching for is evidence of an impending Ukrainian counter-offensive. Mike explains that we don't see that yet. He also discusses fighting around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, some events that surprised him, Ukrainian strikes on Russian-occupied Crimea, the expenditure of munitions, and the possibility that Russia might hold referenda in the territories it currently occupies in the east and south of Ukraine. Ryan and Mike also discuss slowing aid from Europe and whether European backers of Ukraine will hold through the winter. The big takeaway, however, is the Russia seems to have lost the momentum at this stage of the war and appears to be waiting to see what Ukraine does next.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit was met with fury and condemnation in Beijing, as well as new Chinese military exercises in the seas surrounding Taiwan. In the aftermath of the visit, Ryan invited three experts to talk about relations between the United States, Taiwan, and China. They discuss why the visit generated such a fierce reaction from the People's Republic of China, the role of legislative visits to Taiwan, the Taiwan Policy Act being considered on Capitol Hill, domestic politics in all three countries, and how Beijing tries to move the goal posts. Ryan banged on about discussions over Taiwan's security ought not be separated from debates over the size of the U.S. Navy. The guests called for a new policy review on Taiwan, the first in decades. And all three recommended some essential reading on this topic (episode reading: https://warontherocks.com/2022/08/troubled-waters-around-taiwan/).
Maj. Gen. Frank Donovan of the U.S. Marine Corps sat down with Ryan to discuss the recent mission and exercises of Task Force 61/2, from Greece and Turkey to the Baltic Sea. Aside from playing an important role during a delicate moment in European security affairs, this task force was kicking the tires on Force Design 2030, the future vision for the Marine Corps, which we've previously discussed with the commandant, Gen. David Berger.
Michael Kofman joined Ryan for yet another conversation about the unfolding tragedy of the Russo-Ukrainian War. In this episode, they focus largely on the potential for a Ukrainian counter-offensive on Kherson. They also discuss Russia's repositioning of forces, continued (albeit smaller) Russian offensives in the east, the role of HIMARS, Russia's personnel strategy, and whether we can know if a Ukrainian victory is truly possible.
Shinzo Abe, Japan's former prime minister, was gunned down by an assassin earlier this summer. He is credited with having paved the road to his country's far more more prominent role in global affairs. Mireya Solis of the Brookings Institution and Sheila Smith of the Council on Foreign Relations discuss Abe's story and legacy in this episode.
With military circles abuzz that Ukraine might be preparing to launch a counter-offensive against Russian-held Kherson, Michael Kofman of CNA's Russia team helps us parse the facts. What has been happening on the battlefield since our last episode? How are the two forces faring as they struggle with various problems in mobilizing manpower and equipment to the front? What are the four means by which Russia is trying to squeeze more military power out of its population short of a total mobilization? What of the Turkish-brokered grain export deal? If you want to know the answers to these questions and more, listen to this episode.
Michael Kofman joins Ryan once again to discuss the Russo-Ukrainian War. In this episode, he discusses the looming battle for Slovyansk and Kramatorsk, two small cities near each other that are likely Russia's next effort after the fall of Severodonestk. He also revisits the idea of a Ukrainian counter-offensive to retake Kherson and the prospects for when, whether, and how that could unfold. Mike and Ryan also talk about Ukraine's challenges in mobilizing enough trained manpower at the front and keeping a diverse "petting zoo" of equipment from Western backers in the fight.
Mike Kofman joins the show again to update us on the war in Ukraine. In this episode (which was recorded shortly before Russian forces withdrew from Snake Island), he explains that by focusing on the limited territorial exchanges in the Donbass, we might be missing the bigger strategic picture. Kofman argues that the Donbass is not the territory of greatest significance in this war. Instead, he points to Kherson, which he views as much more important in terms of future battles as well as its larger strategic and economic value. Mike and Ryan also tackle a host of other topics from Russian withdrawals of ammunition from stocks in Belarus, to Russian and Ukrainian struggles in mobilizing personnel, to the mirage of capabilities-based analysis. He closes with some thoughts on what defeat could look like for Ukraine.
This is not an optimistic episode. Michael Kofman speculates that the war might be in its most dangerous phase. Why is that? Ukraine's casualties and shortages in munitions are beginning to show as Russia is gaining some operational advantages in the Donbass. Further, Russia's efforts to fill its manpower gaps have been partially successful without relying primarily on conscripts and conducting a large mobilization. Ryan and Mike speculate that, in the end, this war will be decided by the country that can endure the longest, in terms of their economies, logistics, materiel, and political will. And Ukraine's endurance is tied up closely with the will of the West to continue backing Ukraine with arms and other supplies in a war that could continue to drag on for months, if not years.
It is now widely understood that many observers, in advance of this war, over-estimated Russian military performance and underestimated Ukrainian military performance. Prominent among those observers are those who specialize in analyzing the Russian military. To better understand what they got right and wrong, Ryan put two of those specialists ? Dara Massicot of RAND and Michael Kofman of CNA ? into conversation with two people who approach this conflict as generalists ? Chris Dougherty of the Center for a New American Security and Gian Gentile of RAND. Do not miss this vivid discussion.
Michael Kofman sat down with Ryan again to sort through how the war in Ukraine is proceeding, with a focus on the Donbass, where Ukraine and Russia are concentrating their forces. Beyond the battlefields, Kofman ponders the future of the Russian armed forces and reports what he learned at a recent conference in Poland.
Russia's stumbling war was launched almost three months ago. As Russian and Ukrainian forces battle on, how should we understand the state of play? Michael Kofman joins Ryan again to discuss the war on the ground, in the air, and at sea; Ukraine's ability to get Western weaponry into the fight; the crushing economic realities on both sides; how Vladimir Putin's Victory Day speech was the dog that didn't bark; Russia's stark mobilization constraints; and why a sliver of an island named after a snake has played such a prominent role in the conflict. Ryan puts an important question to Michael as Russia faces the real possibility of defeat: Under what circumstance would Putin use nuclear weapons?
Did that title get your attention? It got Ryan's attention too when it came out of Steve Blank's mouth. If you're a War on the Rocks reader/listener, you've probably heard of him before. A successful entrepreneur, businessman, and veteran, Steve was one of the key architects of Hacking for Defense and, most recently, the Gordian Knot Center for National Security Innovation. And he is decidedly not optimistic about the state of U.S. defense innovation. In fact, he worries that the Defense Department's inability to innovate quickly and at scale might lead to defeat in a war against China.
What about all these new entrants into the defense marketplace? Can the U.S. Defense Department be reformed before a catastrophe? And what are the stakes? Our guest answers these questions and more. And don't miss his tour de force presentation, "The Secret History of Silicon Valley."
Our friend Michael Kofman popped in for another conversation with Ryan about where things stand in the Russo-Ukrainian War. He gives a wide-ranging assessment of Russia's unfavorable position as it musters an offensive in the Donbass that might be the last one that the Russian military is capable of launching before it is a spent force. From Ukraine's advanced Western kit to holdouts in Mariupol to the naval state of play to Russia's dire manpower shortages, Mike and Ryan discuss it all. Mike also gets into the nitty gritty on Russian infantry manning levels.
This is the national security podcast crossover of the century! Or at least of the year...ok maybe of Spring 2022! For this special episode, Doyle Hodges of TNSR and ?Horns of a Dilemma? hosts Zack Cooper, Melanie Marlowe, and Chris Preble of ?Net Assessment.? They try to sort through relations between Moscow and Beijing in this time of war, as well as a whole bunch of related issues. And yes, they engage in the airing of grievances, a ?Net Assessment? tradition. Make sure you subscribe to their podcasts, which are a part of the War on the Rocks family.
A veteran State Department official and scholar, Derek Chollet is serving as counselor to the secretary of state. He sat down with Ryan to discuss the various challenges facing U.S. foreign policy. Don't miss their wide-ranging conversation on the diplomacy that preceded the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the diplomacy that continues to keep Western allies on the same page, the withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the difficulties of balancing an increasingly competitive strategy in the Indo-Pacific while dealing with a brutal war in Europe.
Michael Kofman joined Ryan once more to update us all on the war in Ukraine. In this episode, Kofman explains how and why Russia is refocusing on the east of Ukraine, what the war in Syria revealed about shortcomings in Russian air force, and what Ukrainian forces need in terms of weaponry and supply to win this war. The two also discuss Russian war crimes and their relation to the Russian military?s internal culture of violence and hazing as well as Vladimir Putin?s framing of this war of ?de-nazification.? The conversation ended with Kofman explaining Moscow?s big military manpower decision, which you may have missed, and how it connects to Putin?s difficult strategic position.
President Joe Biden recently made headlines when he described India as being ?somewhat shaky? on the issue of punishing Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. Tanvi Madan of the Brookings Institution sat down with Ryan to explain why India is taking a quieter and less aggressive tact as it navigates this international crisis. The answers to the question in the title are far more interesting and complicated than you might think. Join Ryan and Tanvi for this wide-ranging conversation, which touches not only on India?s relations with Russia, but how this all fits in with its relations with China and Ukraine.
With Moscow?s announcement that the core aim of its invasion of Ukraine is now just to secure the Donbass, the conflict has entered a new phase. Michael Kofman of CNA joins Ryan once again, for the fifth week in a row, to help us parse through events on the battlefield. They discuss the resilience of Ukrainian society, stalled fronts, the air war, tactical adaptations, the effects of Western armaments, drones, the maritime picture, where Russian munitions are falling short, why Michael doesn't think Russia will use chemical weapons, why the Battle of Kyiv is not likely to happen, the emergence of the suburban guerrilla, and the ability of Ukrainian forces to continue to turn back Russian offenses and possibly even go on the offensive themselves.
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Michael Kofman joins Ryan once again to help us understand the Russo-Ukrainian War as its fourth week unfolds. They cover a lot of ground: Mike updates us on the three fronts ? where Russian forces are making progress and where they are not ? and how the stalling campaign might drive Moscow to dramatically change its war aims. He also explains why it?s hard to gauge the condition of Ukrainian forces, how Putin?s stated aim of Ukraine?s ?demilitarization? is playing out in terms of strikes against Ukraine?s industrial base, and what role Belarusian forces might (but probably won?t) play in the conflict. Mike and Ryan also discuss the effects of sanctions on the Russian military industrial base, detentions of senior Russian security officials, how long Russian military manpower can last, the role of elite infantry units in this campaign, and the chilling repressive apparatus that seems to be taking shape in Russian-occupied portions of Ukraine. Kofman provides a bracing warning: this war can still get worse in terms of the human cost as it transforms into war of attrition.
Michael Kofman joins Ryan for the third week in a row to discuss the ongoing war in Ukraine. He breaks down the state-of-play on three fronts ? southern, eastern, and northern ? as well as the air war. When will Russian forces become exhausted and require a pause? How does this relate to negotiations between Kyiv and Moscow? How should we understand the risks of war under the nuclear shadow and under what scenarios might Putin turn to his nuclear arsenal? Kofman tackles these questions and more.
People all over the world are watching Russia's assault on Ukraine unfold in real time through social media, giving us a gritty and vivid view of 21st-century combat. But how complete of a picture does this give us? How is the war actually unfolding? Why has Russia seemingly stumbled in the first few days of its invasion? Does this mean Ukraine can hold out? Michael Kofman of CNA sat down with Ryan to give some preliminary answers to these questions.
Keep in mind this was recorded on the evening of Sunday, Feb. 27, and events are changing quickly. Some of what Kofman predicted in terms of more Russian forces entering the fight already seemed to already be underway as we completed post-production for this episode.
The armed services are modernizing across the board, perhaps most importantly in the closely related areas of talent development, education, and data. Maj. Gen. Andrea Tullos of the U.S. Air Force, Brig. Gen. Charles Lombardo of the U.S. Army, and former Deputy Under Secretary of Defense Al Schaffer joined Ryan to discuss how these changes might unfold.
Special thanks to iFest and Sae Schatz for making this event possible.
Gen. David H. Berger, commandant of the Marine Corps, had Ryan Evans over for a discussion on the service he leads. As rising great powers and transformative technologies reshape warfare, presenting marines with new challenges, how should the Marine Corps adapt? From talent management to force transformation, listen to their wide-ranging conversation about what the service needs to become in order remain a top-tier fighting force.
You can find a full transcript for this episode, as well as reading and listening here: https://warontherocks.com/2022/01/general-berger-on-the-marine-corps-of-the-future
Eric Schmidt of Google fame and former Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work join the show to talk about their work leading the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, which released its final report earlier this year. They tackle a huge range of questions, to include when Ryan can finally replace his editors with an algorithm.
Enjoy the show! And read the Final Report of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence.
Will we remember early 2021 as a key escalatory moment in offensive cyber operations? Three top experts join us to unpack the implications of two major recent cyber operations ? the SolarWinds hack attributed to Russia and the Microsoft Exchange hack by China. What does it all mean? What should the United States do? What should it have done differently? Dmitri Alperovitch, Erica Borghard, and Jason Healey tackle these questions and more.
Dmitri Alperovitch and Ian Ward, "How Should the U.S. Respond to the SolarWinds and Microsoft Exchange Hacks?" Lawfare
Erica Borghard and Jacquelyn Schneider, "Want to tell Russia to stop hacking U.S. systems? Here?s what works ? and what doesn?t," Monkey Cage
Jason Healey and Robert Jervis, "The Escalation Inversion and Other Oddities of Situational Cyber Stability," Texas National Security Review
Michael Poznansky, "Covert Action, Espionage, and the Intelligence Contest in Cyberspace," War on the Rocks
After four...strange years, what can we expect from the Biden administration on the intelligence front? From key appointments to the strategic context, from insurrection to counter-intelligence, our guests have you covered. Carmen Medina, David Priess, and Mark Stout join Ryan for this episode
For many people, terms like ?piracy,? ?stowaway,? and ?kidnapped? conjure up romantic visions influenced by the literature of Robert Louis Stevenson or C.S. Forester. But as this episode?s guests tell us, these terms actually have deadly serious meanings without much romance and with a great deal of grim reality to them.
Doyle Hodges, executive editor of the Texas National Security Review, sits down with Ian Urbina, investigative reporter for the New York Times and author of, The Outlaw Ocean: Journeys Across the Last Untamed Frontier, and Martina Vandenberg, president of the Human Trafficking Legal Center, to discuss issues related to piracy, kidnapping, and stowaways on the high seas.
Rebecca Lissner, Mira Rapp-Hooper, and Stephen Wertheim join Doyle Hodges, executive editor of the Texas National Security Review, to share their views on American foreign policy and international order. They have recently published two books on the subject: An Open World: How America Can Win the Contest for Twenty First Century Order, by Rebecca and Mira, and Stephen?s Tomorrow the World: The Birth of U.S. Global Supremacy.
The successful military is the one that adapts and innovates. Dave Barno, Nora Benhahel, and Frank Hoffman join Ryan to talk about how the U.S. military changes, or fails to do so. They have two new books on the subject between them: Adaptation under Fire: How Militaries Change in Wartime, by Dave and Nora is out now. And Mars Adapting: Military Change During War, by Frank, will be out soon.
(This was recorded before the election results were projected)
In this episode, two members of Congress from two sides of the aisle came together to deliver a message of consensus on the future of the American military. And they did so on the eve of the most contentious presidential election in living memory. Looking for an escape from the drama? Interested in the revolutionary steps the United States needs to take to maintain its military edge? Listen to this episode with Rep. Jim Banks and Rep. Seth Moulton, who c0-chaired the Future of Defense Task Force. You can read the task force's final report (pdf) as well.
A Most Terrible Weapon is a podcast about the dawn of the nuclear age, hosted by Usha Sahay and produced by War on the Rocks, with support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the John D. And Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. In each episode, Usha takes listeners on a journey into the early years of the Cold War, telling stories about the dilemmas nuclear weapons posed for American and Soviet leaders, and introducing a fascinating cast of characters who were all trying to prevent Armageddon in different ways. Along the way, Usha interviews scholars and other nuclear experts to help make sense of the many atomic mysteries that have yet to be solved.
How do you plan for the most destructive war the world has never seen before? After the bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, American leaders had to figure out how - or whether - nuclear weapons would be used in the wars of the future. In the pilot episode of A Most Terrible Weapon, Usha looks at the very first nuclear war plans, the debates inside the Truman administration about whether the bomb could ever be used again, and a terrifying new development - the arrival of the hydrogen bomb.
Featuring: Dr. Lynn Eden, Dr. Marc Trachtenberg, Dr. Alex Wellerstein
As a part of our exploration of national security learning, we had Joan Johnson-Freese of the Naval War College and Mark Conversino of Air University on the show. Tune into this rich and wide-ranging conversation on what's right and wrong with professional military education in the Navy and Air Force.
David McCormick, the CEO of Bridgewater Associates ? the world's largest hedge fund, dropped in on the pod to talk about how the United States can prepare itself to compete in a new era in which, more than ever, economic security is national security. Speaking from decades of experience at the highest levels of industry and government, McCormick lays out what America needs to do from policy to innovation to government reorganization to immigration to talent management and beyond. He also discusses the state of the global economy, the impact of COVID-19, and how America's economy could be reshaped to realize equality of opportunity. Want more? Don't miss his essay in the Texas National Security Review with co-authors Charles Luftig and James Cunningham: "Economic Might, National Security, and the Future of American Statecraft."
Undersecretary of the Army James E. McPherson chats with Ryan about how the Army is coping with COVID-19 ? starting with the recruitment pipeline ? and the challenges of modernization. He also tells us about his military journey: Jim started as a young man in the Army then later joined the Navy, and he retired as judge advocate general of that service. In the last few years, he was called back into public service as a civilian as Army general counsel. In March he was confirmed as and promoted to undersecretary of the Army. He then served briefly as acting secretary of the Navy. Listen to this episode and learn, among other things, why he thought a request to speak to Secretary of Defense James Mattis was a prank and why his first CO in the Navy (a certain John Allen Williams) left a plant in his bed.
In this episode, Doyle Hodges, executive editor of the Texas National Security Review, chats wth three authors of recent fiction related to military security that explores questions of how technology, society, and the distance between people and violence affects our conception of war and security. Hodges is joined by Linda Nagata, author of The Last Good Man, a near-future science fiction novel that explores a private military company and what they are capable of doing when they use autonomous weaponry combined with surveillance; August Cole, co-author of Burn-In, a counter-terrorism story that looks at the way American society is going to be transformed by everyday automation and robotics; and Matt Gallagher, author of Empire City, which is an alternate dystopian history set in a contemporary America that won the Vietnam War.
Well, are they? Mira Rapp-Hooper, Paul Miller, and Emma Ashford dazzle us with a wide-ranging debate on America's alliances, in part through the lens of Mira's new book -- Shields of the Republic: The Triumph and Peril of America?s Alliances.
There's a revolution coming in education that promises to empower lifelong learners in the national security space. In the first of a series of special episodes, pick apart the technological, organizational, and -- most importantly -- cultural issues at play. What does it all boil down to? What kind of learning should count and how can you make sure it counts? To understand all this, Ryan spoke with Sae Schatz, the Director of the Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative; retired Marine Corps Brigadier General Frank Kelley, vice president of Defense Acquisitions University; and Jason Tyzsko, the vice president of the Center for Education and Workforce at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.