The Doorstep: Responding to Putin's War of Attrition, with Atlantic Council's Melinda Haring

Jun 28, 2022 40 min listen

As the fifth month of Russia's invasion of Ukraine begins, Atlantic Council's Melinda Haring returns to speak with Doorstep co-hosts Nick Gvosdev and Tatiana Serafin about on-the-ground realities in Ukraine and how the West needs to manage Putin's long war game. What more is needed from leaders attending G7 and NATO meetings this week? And how can "compassion fatigue" be countered to help Ukraine meet the challenges of the second phase of a more brutal war?

NIKOLAS GVOSDEV: Hello, everyone, and welcome to this edition of The Doorstep podcast. I am your co-host, senior fellow at Carnegie Council Nick Gvosdev.

TATIANA SERAFIN: And I am Tatiana Serafin, also a Senior Fellow here at Carnegie Council in a bit welcoming back to our podcast to speak about Ukraine the Atlantic Council's deputy director for the Eurasia Center Melinda Haring with some unfortunately grim assessments of the situation, but we will get into that.

Before we do, Nick, you are at a Chautauqua this week meeting with leading thinkers on foreign policy, so I can't wait to hear everything that you are speaking about. I want to touch on one thing, though, that you will be speaking about there, which is your Middle East update because today is a momentous day in some ways. The G7 summit is ending, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit is beginning, and the Iran-U.S. nuclear talks are restarting in Doha. I am wondering what you are thinking about that with respect to what it means for our relationship with Iran and why we are doing it now.

NIKOLAS GVOSDEV: Welcome to everyone from Upstate New York, from the Chautauqua Institution. As you said, Tatiana, this is a question that is on people's minds here, which is what exactly are U.S. priorities with the Middle East, how does this relate or change because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the realization that in the end we are back to the fundamental question of energy.

The world economy needs energy. Green transition is going to take longer and be much more complicated than I think some of the cheerleaders a few years ago were making it out to be. We need energy, not only oil but natural gas if you don't want to be burning coal, so when you look at that, if you are not going to get it from Russia, if you are going to embargo Russia—and Melinda will talk a bit about the G7's discussions about price caps and limiting Russian ability to profit from energy and to fund the war in Ukraine—that leaves several other options where the United States and the G7 countries have to make some hard decisions.

One of course is the extent to which Saudi Arabia is "forgiven" or some of its human rights transgressions are ignored in favor of encouraging them to increase supplies to world markets.

The other outlier here is the question of Iran. We have always had this relationship where you can sanction Iran or you can sanction Russia, but you can't really sanction both. So I think the nuclear talks are restarting because Iranian oil but more importantly Iranian natural gas needs to start flowing if you want it to be a replacement for Russian energy. There is the idea that perhaps some compromises need to be made to Iran or the United States needs to drop some of the positions it is holding out on to reenter the nuclear deal. We will see how that plays out, but in the end the world economy needs energy.

We are seeing the impacts of some energy rationing in Japan as they hit record heat, so climate comes back into this, but you need power to run air conditioners and to keep the lights on. I think this is what is driving our policy in the Middle East increasingly and is subordinating our concerns about governance and about human rights in favor of working with Saudi Arabia and working with Iran to try to clear away the obstacles to more energy coming to market.

TATIANA SERAFIN: That leads us back to what we do here at Carnegie Council, which is talking about ethics. What are the ethical implications of, as you say, "forgiving" Saudi Arabia for its atrocities—I am going to use the word "atrocities"—toward journalists, toward women, and what are the ethics of our decisions. I think these are some very hard choices. We talk a lot here about choices, what choices we are making and what is driving those choices, and the doorstep issues driving those choices.

You are in New York State, Nick. We have an election today. It is a statewide election, so it is not Congress but statewide primaries, and it is super-important with what is going on in the United States today—terrible headlines coming out of Texas of migrants dying on a truck, infrastructure problems with Amtrak, and more derailments. We have a lot of doorstep issues that have taken over the headlines that almost make the issues that we talk about here difficult to push through, Nick. Would you say that?

NIKOLAS GVOSDEV: It is an issue, but they are all interconnected. Let me also highlight one other point about why state races are important in light of the Dobbs decision for the Supreme Court, that all of a sudden who you send to the statehouse, who you put in your governor's chair matters a great deal for issues that affect your very person. It is important for people to vote. I am not optimistic that we are going to see a high turnout for the primary in New York, just as we didn't see it for other primaries and special elections this year but voting matters.

The larger questions—the infrastructure questions, the energy questions—are what, when we had Nahal Toosi on in the past on The Doorstep, we called "omnipolicy" issues. The migrants that died on the truck, this isn't just what happened in the United States. It is also what's happening in the countries where they are coming from. It has to do with questions of opportunity. The war in Ukraine is having an impact in places like Ecuador, where food prices are up and there is unrest as we are seeing, and that has impacts in Central and South America. It has impacts on migration.

Again, as you pointed to the ethical questions, sometimes we have to make hard ethical choices. The Biden administration has taken some heat—no pun intended—for relaxing some of the sanctions on China with regard to use of forced labor of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang so that we can get solar panel imports. If we are trying to get more power, if we are trying to reduce emissions, then solar, particularly for many parts of the United States, is a way forward, but you have to do so knowing that those solar panels that you are installing might have been constructed with unfree forced labor. What is the ethical decision there?

I think the president in going to the Middle East is very well aware that he is walking a moral and ethical tightrope. It was one of the questions that came up yesterday in one of the fora here at Chautauqua about those ethical questions. Where do you come down? What is the more ethical course of action? Therefore ethics does have to be part of your guide, just as it is our guide, and I think we are going to see in our conversation with Melinda some very hard questions up ahead for how the war is being prosecuted, levels of support, what happens when public attention falls, and yet to say we still have moral and ethical imperatives that should be driving us.

TATIANA SERAFIN: So let's get to Melinda right now.

Good morning, Melinda. Thank you so much for joining us on I think a very momentous day. We have the G7 ending, NATO starting, and nuclear talks with Iran. June 28; what a day.

I don't think we thought we would be here—I didn't—in entering month five of the war in Ukraine when we had you on. We are so glad to have you back though to give us some perspective.

Media mentions about the war are down. There is so much going on internally, and I think we need some perspective. We so much appreciate your perspective, especially since you traveled out to Poland and have seen and spoken with leaders on the ground. I want to talk about your discussion the other day.

To start us off, though, on this momentous day, is anything happening with G7 and NATO that you are excited about, that you think will move the needle?

MELINDA HARING: Thanks for having me back, Tatiana and Nick. It's great to be with you. It is a big week.

On G7 the headline and the focus is on the gas caps. The Russians are feeling cocky because energy prices are up. We, the West, continue to shout and scold and tell them that what they are doing is immoral, and it has not hurt them in the wallet.

Janet Yellen has put together this idea of trying to hurt them where it counts, and that is with energy prices. The G7 is working on making this happen. The United States has already put a ban in place on Russian oil and gas, but we actually don't buy that much, so it is kind of a shrug.

The Europeans are the big deal. The question is: Can the G7 come to an agreement—and they are still negotiating—and then, will it work? So there are two practical questions, and we don't know the answer to either of those. I have to say if this happens it could be a big deal, but there is a lot to watch in the weeds.

There were some encouraging signs though at the G7. There is a lot of unity, and that is a good thing. The French, Germans, and Italians are not pressuring and talking about negotiations and off-ramps. Hallelujah. That is a very good thing. This theme that came out of the G7—"We've got your back, Volodomyr Zelenskyy, and we will until the end"—I thought was an encouraging line.

I also was grateful that they were focusing on food security. That is going to be another big issue. The Russians have choked off all of Ukraine's ports, and it is hurting their economy. The United Nations Development Programme estimates that nine out of ten Ukrainians will be poor by Christmas if the war doesn't end, and that blockade along the Black Sea is a big part of it. So I was glad to hear that as well.

Let's wait and see what the announcements are going to be like on the weapons side. That is what counts. The United States is talking about sending additional heavy weapons systems, and this is a beautiful thing. The systems we have sent so far—we have committed to sending eight Multiple-Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS)— are not enough. Four of them have gotten there. I don't know where the other four are, but the rockets we sent in those MLRS systems are not long-range enough. We sent the short-range, and you have to get really close to the frontline, which makes it vulnerable to Russian attack. So the military guys that I talk to say good thing but not enough to change the course of the war in the Donbas.

TATIANA SERAFIN: Speaking of weapons, one of your recent tweets noted that support from the Republican side for more aid for these types of weapons is decreasing. They are increasingly asking why. To bring it back home from Europe with everything that is going on in the internal headlines that have taken over our newsfeeds, what are you hearing on the ground from those constituencies about support?

MELINDA HARING: I think support for Ukraine in Europe is strong. This summer I have been in Bratislava, I have been in Vilnius, and I have been in Warsaw, and I went out to Lublin, Poland, so I have been all over the place.

The poll that you are referring to looks at what I would call "changing attitudes within the Trump Right." Before the war the number of Trump voters in the GOP who thought that the United States was doing too much on Ukraine was 13 percent, and it has doubled since the war started. I would not say it's alarming, but it is definitely something to watch. We have midterms very soon, and politicians are going to be watching public opinion as well.

I went to a humanitarian distribution center in Lublin, and donations are down 80 percent there since the war started. This is a wonderful organization called Help Ukraine Center, and people give individually. They send the weirdest things. They send great things and they send weird things. They send food, clothes, stretchers from Vietnam. It is a really exciting place because it feels like a tangible way to give back, but donations at this individual place are down.

I think in America it is increasingly more difficult to get people to pay attention and to give as well. Even in The New York Times and The Washington Post Ukraine is not making the front page anymore. If you look at the analytics, the interest in this story took a nosedive.

I think Vladimir Putin is counting on that. He thinks he can wait us out. If interest in the public wanes, that means that support for Ukraine will likely fade as well. That is a longer conversation, but how to keep people interested in a very grim and long-ranging war is hard.

This is not abnormal. This is something that happened with Syria, it happens with all conflicts, and maybe it is best to be open about that from the outset, that there is great interest but that compassion fatigue eventually does set in everywhere.

NIKOLAS GVOSDEV: Melinda, do you think that part of the issue is that the administration and our European allies need to message differently on this now. I think in the early days we talked a lot about values and defending values. For many people that is abstract at a certain point.

Here at Chautauqua, since I am at the Chautauqua Institution for this week, there were questions about more tangible things: What can we do with the food supply? How do we get food to market? How do we get allies and partners to work on the energy front?

Do you think it is time now for G7 leaders—as you said, they are politicians, elections come up—to start shifting the emphasis toward these kind of doorstep issues, saying, "This is why it matters to you in Seattle, Peoria, London, or Sevilla?" It is not just something that you see on the screen that is happening but that they have these impacts. Do you think that political leaders have been doing enough of that, of connecting why this matters to people in the United States, Western Europe, and East Asia?

MELINDA HARING: Nick, that is a great question. As the war grinds on, energy prices have gone up. We are all paying a lot more at the tank, and the food crisis is going to worsen and worsen unless we are able to alleviate those blockages along the Black Sea. It is going to be a worldwide crisis.

So I think your question is spot-on. It is not enough to talk about the big picture and "the European security architecture." We need to get real and talk about why people should be willing to pay more at the pump. I think Biden has acknowledged that this is going to be long and hard. He wrote a very good piece in The New York Times and explained why we are supporting Ukraine.

But I think you are right. The politicians are going to have to explain to American voters how this is directly related to our interests. Ukraine is a long way away. It is 5,000 miles away, and the link between our values and interests is not necessarily obvious. So yes, we need to be much more explicit and practical I think when we talk to American voters.

TATIANA SERAFIN: I am curious that you mentioned the op-ed in The New York Times, which is important but is not the way we have seen the war being communicated, not in the mainstream. It has been on Instagram, it has been on TikTok, it has been on Telegram, it has been on WhatsApp. The communication in those channels I think is still very strong, perhaps not breaking through to the headlines, and if you look on Google Trends there is a 93 percent plummet between February and today. It is a crazy line—you mentioned it—but it is a 93 percent decline in searches for Ukraine and Russia as well.

But I do think there is all this activity in places that we are maybe not seeing that is keeping this story alive. I want to address that because I think this is very different and unique to this story and to this particular conflict, that there might be a compassion fatigue as you mentioned, but the story is still there and simmering.

Yesterday unfortunately a shopping center was hit with a missile, and a couple of days before there were local targets as well, and this gets out there. As soon as it happened, on all of my feeds people were talking about it. I am wondering if this might be one way in which we do garner the support, in which politicians can tap into this local connection and sentiment between people, so it is not at the G7/NATO level but it is this people-to-people connection. I wonder what you are seeing also from your travels on this level.

MELINDA HARING: I think that is a great point, Tatiana. That is how the interest, generosity, and support for Ukraine will be sustained, at a people-to-people level.

I am seeing a lot more Ukrainian delegations in Washington, and they are not just coming to Washington. They are focused on Washington, but they also go to New York and they also go out to diaspora areas. I think the Ukrainian diaspora in America has been amazing and in Canada. They are organized, they are working with people, and they are working well with Congress. I think that is a big piece of it.

I also think that the relationship between cities is an interesting one too. There is desire among American cities to adopt Ukrainian cities as things get closer to reconstruction. I think we are far away from that point.

Maybe I can step back for a minute and say that the war has changed a lot since we talked, and a lot of our analyses have changed. I think maybe we should take a pause for a second and say some obvious things. The Ukrainians did very, very well in phase one, and there was a lot of optimism and hope, and Americans like winners. It is easy to get caught up in this when it looks like the good guys are going to win. I am sorry to use crude terms, but this is a moral case and it is very clear which side is the victim and which side is the aggressor.

But it has changed a lot. Ukraine won battles, and I think there are a lot of interesting stories that will be written about the role that U.S. intelligence played in those battles. In the Battle of Kyiv at Hostomel U.S. intelligence was key. It wasn't everything. Ukrainians deserve the credit. They did the fighting, they are the ones who suffered, and I don't want to diminish that whatsoever, but U.S. intelligence was super-important. I know in other particular battles it has given Ukrainian officers advice on very tactical things—"Blow up this dam so that tanks can't roll in." I hope that that story will be written.

But as the Russian forces have retreated, as we have seen more brutality, the story gets harder and harder to watch. Russian forces, of course, are focused right now on Eastern Ukraine, on the Donbas, and we have not seen a whole lot of action across the country. More Ukrainians started to go back. I think in the month of May more Ukrainians have gone back from Poland than left Ukraine, so people were starting to feel a sense of security, that it was safer.

Then there have been moments where, for instance, this weekend Vladimir Putin's troops fired rockets across the country and they hit this mall that you talked about and about 20 people are dead. So people cannot have a normal life.

I said that more and more Ukrainian delegations are coming through town. Tatiana and Nick, they have told me over and over again: "You don't get what Putin is up to. You don't understand the strategy."

I said: "Okay. Pardon me. What are we missing?"

They said: "Look at what he is hitting. He's hitting infrastructure."

This isn't super-sexy, but Vladimir wants to make Ukraine unlivable and ungovernable. He wants to make it so painful that Ukrainians can't live there. The city of Chernihiv, which is in the North, was a pretty great city. It had 290,000 people, and then during the height of the war in March it went down to 90,000, and it is back to 190,000. So they have lost 100,000 people.

It is a city of entrepreneurs. It had a pretty cool tech scene. It was a pretty sophisticated, midsized Ukrainian city. When you talk to people on the city council they want Ukrainians to come back. It is pretty safe. But they don't have enough schools. I think 80 percent of their schools were either hit or underwent some damage and trying to convince parents to send their kids back to schools that may get hit again sounds pretty scary.

To convince people to come back you have to have a basic level of security. You also have to have infrastructure. Power and heat, cut at the worst days in this city, have been restored, which is fabulous, but we don't know about heat during the winter in a lot of cities in Ukraine. If the bombing continues, these infrastructure problems are likely to be replicated across the country.

Vladimir Putin's strategy may not be very sophisticated, but he wants to starve people and he wants to freeze them, and he doesn't care that his rockets hit 20 innocent people at a mall. The Ukrainians keep reminding me that he cares about his place in history. He is thinking in much bigger terms.

We Americans like to talk about plans and how are the Russians going to integrate the Donbas, and how many oblasts are they going to take. A lot of the folks I have been talking to say it is not that sophisticated. The thinking in Moscow is very tactical. It is: Destroy as much as possible in Ukraine and force Ukrainians to leave.

That was a wake-up call to me.

NIKOLAS GVOSDEV: I think that's an important point, Melinda. Watching all the way from March to see that there was definitely an economic strategy, which is destroy infrastructure, destroy ports, destroy storage places, as you say, make the country unlivable because a depopulated Ukraine, particular if Eastern Ukraine and Southern Ukraine is depopulated, then it makes it easier to move forward.

Also I think this is a way to say to the European Union: "We're just going to increase the bill. You want to bring Ukraine into the European Union, here's the bill," again, counting on internal fissures within Europe over time to maybe balk at that.

Also I wanted to touch back because I think it is really important are two things that Tatiana and you have been discussing that I just wanted to emphasize more. The first is this idea of the ability of the new social media tools to connect people. Inkstick Media published a very interesting piece, not only for Ukraine but for Russia, of the proliferation of smartphone technologies and people-to-people contacts as a way.

The other thing when you were talking about the cities is it brought to mind the work that Jen Bradley had done at Brookings about the role increasingly in America that cities should be playing. It is not all foreign policy at the State Department level but city-to-city. It sounds like what you are seeing on the ground confirms that these trends are moving forward.

Because you were in Europe and you said right now there is that enthusiasm still, European governments see Ukraine's cause as their cause, did you get any sense from your trip in Central Europe that down the road some of the support for Ukraine's accession to the European Union might not be as strong or might run into roadblocks, or do you have a sense that Europeans have really "crossed the river," so to speak, and are now committed in a way that they were not before, that Ukraine has to have a European future, it has to be fully integrated into the Euro-Atlantic bloc?

MELINDA HARING: Those are great questions and great points.

Just to draw out some of your starting points on the role of local leaders, one of the most interesting conversations I had in Bratislava was with a former Ukrainian minister, and he said, "Everyone is focused on Zelenskyy." Zelenskyy is a hero, he has done a great job with communication, I love his short videos, and he is a powerful communicator. But they said, "Do not neglect these local governors and these local mayors who are very capable and who are showing their mettle." They started to show how capable they were during the COVID-19 period and then during the war.

I think that is one other interesting footnote to chase, and it is not just in Western Ukraine. It is across Ukraine, and it is a result of Ukraine's decentralization reform in 2014. It is the least sexy reform. It is too boring to write about, but it is so important. I think that these things are going to be in tension. There was a drive for decentralization, but as the war set in there is a desire for centralization, and as we get closer to a point of reconstruction I think these tensions are going to be very real.

Nick, one other point on costs. This is a war of attrition, a race to resupply, however you want to put it. If the war grinds on and it continues to get nasty and there is a huge amount of bombing like we just talked about, I think there is probably going to be another major refugee crisis into Europe in the fall. I think that is going to be another reality check for Europe. So I think Western Europe would like to get back to business as usual. This crisis does not directly affect them, so it is a lot easier to ignore.

Poland can't ignore it. Poland is right there, and it is had to absorb between 2 and 3 million refugees. Their economy is tighter. The subsidy for taking in Ukrainian refugees into your home is about to end, and there is concern there among some of the Ukrainian activists I spoke with that the hospitality may begin to dry up.

You can't have your husband there unless you left before the war, so if you are a mother with children it is very hard to make a living. Polish and Ukrainian are similar languages, but Polish is pretty hard and it is different, and you have to speak it well to get a job. So you can get handouts, you can get enough food so you don't starve, but it is very, very hard to pay the bills. That is another theme that I am watching.

On European attitudes, I think to quote the late and great Donald Rumsfeld we are seeing a division between "old Europe" and "new Europe." Is it distinct? Not really at this point, but I think as the economic side gets harder and harder for Europeans we are going to see those divisions.

Putin can play a mean hand. If he does the things that I have predicted and bombs infrastructure, it is going to get nasty. I saw different attitudes. I don't want to paint with too-broad brushstrokes. In Slovakia, the conversations were all focused on reconstruction, and at one point I said: "Hello? Are you guys paying attention to the fighting in the Donbas? It is not time to talk about reconstruction. It's time to talk about how to win the war. It's time to talk about artillery and heavy weapons."

In Lithuania they are scared. The foreign policy elites think that Putin is coming for them next. They want as many troops on the ground, they want NATO troops permanently stationed, they want U.S. troops, and they want air defense systems. The Estonians are also very freaked out and paranoid, and I think the Poles are nervous as well.

In the Baltic States and Poland this is real. There is a sense of: "We told you so, we have been saying this for a long time, and you guys, Western Europe and the United States, are finally in the same place that we are."

NIKOLAS GVOSDEV: Estonians in particular, as you talked about nervousness, when Putin starts talking about Peter the Great and Narva and "We are going to take back what was once ours," you definitely can see it is going to send up alarm bells.


TATIANA SERAFIN: Speaking of Putin, one of the things I have noticed in coverage, though, is that we are not covering what is going on in Russia well at all. Never mind Ukraine mentions are down. So are those of Russia. But I think our coverage has just been atrocious. I realize it is because we don't have journalists in there. Many organizations had to pull out.

On the top level this is Putin's strategy, but on a personal level what is going on with the people in Russia? Why aren't sanctions really impacting and changing course? Yes, one is energy prices, but on a day-to-day level, on a communications level, again going back to the idea that we are all connected, I don't get the sense that we understand what is happening in the country.

You pointed to an article that billionaires are not speaking out against Putin. What is this major grip going on to month five that it does not seem that there has been as big of a shift as we expected in February, when all of this was implemented?

MELINDA HARING: I think that is an excellent question. There are definite holes.

You nailed it. Reporters can't work there, and even when they could work there it was very, very hard to report because of all the restrictions. We are basically stuck with surrogate broadcasting and independent media, and, god bless them, they have a hard job to do. But even that billionaire article that The New York Times wrote had a lot of holes. It was not reported as it would have been if the reporter had been living in Moscow.

I don't have anything profound to say. I see the same dearth of coverage, and I don't think I am that surprised that attitudes have not changed in Russia over the last five months. They have been fed a steady diet of propaganda. You can look at the individual Russian, you can look at think-tankers who have changed course. There is a lot of attention on Dmitri Trenin right now, who spent his life trying to bridge U.S. and Russian relations, and now he has changed his tune. There is a sense that "you get behind your country."

I wish I could say I am surprised, but I'm not. Some of the interesting reporting I would love to see is that Russians with expendable income went to Yerevan, Istanbul, and Tbilisi for a short period of time. What I have been hearing anecdotally is that people are starting to go back. Unless you are an information technology guy or gal and have very transferrable skills, money is running out, there are limits on how much money you can take, and you probably have grandparents and need to head back. I would love to see more reporting on that, especially among attitudes: How many people have left, how many people have gone back, and how many plan to stay?

NIKOLAS GVOSDEV: Your point about how attitudes are formed and what images and what you get from news sources, we have even had reporting—I think Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has reported on this—on the disconnect when people who are in Russia are talking to relatives in Ukraine and are refusing to accept the relatives in Ukraine saying this is what is happening, and the relatives in Russia are saying, "No, that is not happening." Even at that person-to-person level if you have bought into the narrative, then you are less likely to change it, even when you have your own family on the other side telling you what is actually happening. That is I think a very striking point.

MELINDA HARING: Those reports have been everywhere, and they are totally disturbing. It doesn't matter if your brother is saying, "Our mom was just hit in Ukraine" or "Her apartment building was just hit." People are in total denial about it. They have been fed that diet, so I don't think we should be too surprised.

TATIANA SERAFIN: I want to be very conscious of our time today and to ask you back in a few months to see where we are. Hopefully the conversation will be about reconstruction and not as dire as some of the predictions we have talked about today in terms of an escalation, but I guess we will see what comes out of the discussions this week. As you mentioned, G7 agreements, NATO starting today, and more opportunities for reporting.

MELINDA HARING: Tatiana, before we cut this off, I think it might be useful to say a little bit more about the military situation, if that's all right.

We talked about phase one and phase two. Phase two is very focused on the Donbas. The situation on the ground is very bad. We have seen a lot of images. The Russians have a lot more forces than the Ukrainians do. The ratio of 10:1 is probably correct, so Russians have much more artillery, and the ground has hardened, so it is a lot easier to drive tanks. There are probably about 160,000 Russian troops. This is the equivalent of 98 battalion tactical groups, and 56 of those have not seen battle.

Some of the military guys I talk to say that Russia is ready to mobilize, and if that's true that is going to be a big problem. We know that the Ukrainians are running out of ammunition. The United States is trying to fix that problem and address that shortage, but the Russians have also intentionally tried to take the ammo that the Ukrainians need off the market. Russia has threatened countries that sell ammo to Ukraine.

My military guys say that—this is the really depressing part and why I am not sleeping well—Russia can keep up the current tempo of the war until the end of the year, and if they restock, they can keep that current tempo until 2024. We know that a lot of Ukrainian soldiers are dying every day—the estimate is up to 200—and that Russia has not abandoned the idea of taking Kyiv.

If you look at sheer numbers, it is 160,000 Russian troops to a much smaller Ukrainian force. There are still problem with outfitting. Half of the territorial defense guys and gals don't have flak jackets and proper equipment, and a lot of the stuff we're sending may not be up to snuff. The Russians have about 3000 armored vehicles, Ukraine has about 250. When you do a sheer look at who has what the Russians have a lot more equipment.

The question I get a lot now, Tatiana, is: Can the Ukrainians win? The Ukrainians can push the Russians back if we send enough heavy weapons, but I think the best summary is that we have been sending enough for Ukraine to defend itself but not enough to allow it to win. So it is up to the West and the decisions that are made this week and in the coming weeks. Time is really not on Ukraine's side. So the sooner the better for the public opinion reasons we have talked about and how that impacts American elections and Western elections but also for the loss of life as well.

TATIANA SERAFIN: Thank you so much, Melinda, for that.

MELINDA HARING: My pleasure. Thanks for having me back.

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