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Moscow’s march to Kyiv

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WORLD Radio - Moscow’s march to Kyiv

Russian troops are bearing down on Ukraine’s capital, but residents are determined to defend it


Ukrainian soldiers take position on a bridge inside the city of Kyiv, Ukraine, Feb. 25, 2022. Emilio Morenatti/Associated Press Photo

MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Tuesday the 1st day of March, 2022.

Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. First up, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Last week we spoke with Steve Bucci. He’s a former U.S. Army Special Forces officer, retired colonel, and former top official at the Pentagon.

He helped us understand how a Russian military invasion of Ukraine might unfold. And just hours after we spoke with him that invasion began.

REICHARD: Col. Bucci has been kind enough to join us once again to give us an updated analysis of this war from a military perspective. Colonel, good morning!

STEVEN BUCCI, GUEST: Good morning. Thank you for having me back on the show.

REICHARD: Well, last week you told us that Russian forces don’t like to march straight into urban areas. They prefer to surround them. That’s exactly what we have seen in Ukraine’s capital city, Kyiv. Talk about what you’re seeing there and what may happen next in Kyiv?

BUCCI: Well, as you mentioned, they're following their doctrine. It was actually Soviet doctrine prior to this. The Russians have just kept it in place. They're playing exactly by that playbook. They are surrounding or trying to isolate those urban areas—both the capitol in Kyiv, and also Kharkiv, and some of the other bigger cities. But what they didn't seem to remember, which we kind of knew, is they really don't have a good doctrine for fighting within those cities. Their goal was always to take everything fast and hard. But now with this limited range of just staying within Ukraine, they're running into a problem because now they have to go into the cities. They're not very good at it. And the Ukrainian military, augmented by the mobilized reservists, and in some cases, mobilized civilians are really giving them a hard time. In fact, interestingly, they've now killed more Russian soldiers than the United States lost in Afghanistan in 20 years. So, that's a pretty big hurt that they're putting on the Russian military right now. That's got to kind of surprise Mr. Putin and his main high advisors.

REICHARD: How much longer do you think the Ukrainian military can hold out?

BUCCI: That's one of those imponderables that you really can't figure out by just doing the math. Obviously, they need ammunition. They need more weapons. They need more javelins to kill tanks, and more stingers to kill aircraft. As they use up those stocks, it's going to get tougher and tougher to fight this battle. But they're smart people. They're educated people. There are ways to develop improvised devices to fight against the Russians. They've got the will. They seemingly have the skills. And if we can help them a little bit by getting some more stuff in there, they can hold out a lot longer than I think the Russians are hoping.

And right now they're saying "Hey, you get us the ammo, we'll fight the fight." And that’s something. This is not a people who are rolling over on their backs and saying, “Come please help us. You, you guys protect us.” They're saying, “No, just give us the tools. We'll do the work.” And interestingly, some of the people stepping up. Germany, finally, stepping up. Sweden stepping up. Several of the Baltic countries have been sending aid. And interestingly, again, it's all just give us the weapon system, give us the ammunition, and we'll fight the fight.

REICHARD: Has anything surprised you so far about the way Russia has executed this invasion?

BUCCI: I don't (want to) sound like smarty pants here, but no, it's not surprising to me. We're learning that the Russian army even though they've got more modernized equipment than when they were in the Soviet Union, they are still not as disciplined as they should be. They're a conscript army. They're not a professional fighting force other than very small elements of their special operators, their Spetsnaz. The rest of them are just draftees. So they're sitting there going, “Hey, we don't even know why we're here, let alone, why do we want to die for this.” And we're seeing some of that, the Ukrainians are going after their logistical capabilities, which, normally, they can drive their trucks. They can load and unload, but they're not fighters. So the Ukrainians are playing this very smartly and they're showing a resilience that I don't think anybody expected of them, especially President Zelensky. I mean, he's turned out to be a tough guy, not a paper tiger at all. So with the weaknesses on the Russian side, the strength on the Ukrainian side, this thing could go on for a while longer than anybody had a right to expect. And if that happens, it suddenly changes the possibilities. And I think that's what the Ukrainians are counting on and that's why they're making this sacrifice.

REICHARD: Final question, Colonel: Based on what you’ve seen so far, where do you think this is going?

BUCCI: I think we’re going to see a lot more Russians die and probably, sadly, a lot more Ukrainians die. I hope that we can convince Putin to stop what he's doing before he goes to some of the other things he could do—things like leveling cities. He's already threatened that through the mobilization of his nuclear forces, sort of implying, “Hey, I could I could turn this nuclear.” I hope he isn't at that point. That's kind of nutty and way out of whack for what's at stake here. So I hope it doesn't get to that. But if the world stands together, I think we can convince him not to do that and to back off, and just be happy with the gigantic country he already owns.

REICHARD: Retired Colonel Steve Bucci, now a visiting fellow with the Heritage Foundation. Colonel, we thank you for your time.

BUCCI: It's my pleasure. Thank you for having me back on the show.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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