Ryan recently traveled to Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base where he was joined by three of the many big thinkers teaching servicemembers down there: Andy Akins, Anna Batta, and Mark Conversino. They covered the risk of nuclear war over Ukraine, the prospects for negotiations, why so many struggle with strategic empathy, and efforts to learn lessons from this war, which often stumble when we fail to learn lessons about ourselves.
Mike Kofman and Nick Danforth start this episode by analyzing the latest events in the war and the fighting in and around Bakhmut. Mike offers his thoughts on Russia and Ukraine's stockpiles of artillery, and what that may mean for the fighting this winter and beyond. The conversation concludes with a discussion about foreign support for the war effort, and the implications of this for the future of the conflict.
Mike Kofman and Ryan Evans start this episode by taking a step back to the beginning to put this stage of the war in context. Mike offers possible scenarios on the next few months of the war, discusses Ukraine's recent strikes on Russian bases deep in Russian territory, and assesses the state of forces, munitions, and kit on both sides.
War on the Rocks threw a party for almost 200 people on the sidelines of I/ITSEC, the premier modeling and simulations conference held every year in Orlando. At this party, we had a special guest for a live podcast recording: Lt. Gen. Brian "Smokey" Robinson, the commander of Air Education and Training Command. In a chat with Ryan, he laid out his objectives, the future of education and immersive training for airman, and the centrality of data. Robinson emphasized this is not just about pilots — as pilot training is only 10 percent of what his command does — but all airmen. In forging ahead, he echoed former Assistant Secretary James Geurts, saying "We have to demand curiosity." The two also chatted about his career, why he joined the Air Force, and why squadron command was his favorite job. They also took some questions from the audience on professional military education, the T-7A program, his tentative 2023 pilot training goal, and his favorite superhero.
For a transcript of this episode, visit: https://warontherocks.com/2022/12/cognition-and-curiosity-a-conversation-with-lt-gen-brian-robinson
Ryan sat down with Josh Wolfe, co-founder of Lux Capital, in his New York office earlier this month to talk about why he is drawn to invest in companies working on national security challenges. But the conversation covered much more than that. They covered everything from the major defense industry primes to why anger is an important driver of innovation to what he looks for in founders, and beyond.
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.