Former senior advisor the Secretary of Defense Col. Doug Macgregor joined Max Blumenthal and Aaron Mate for a candid, live discussion of the Russia-Ukraine war.
Col. Macgregor analyzed the battlefront as Russia advanced on Ukrainian positions and offered a withering assessment of the “NATOization” of Ukraine and the role of neoconservatives and the “uni-party” in driving the war from Washington.
Guest: Douglas Macgregor, retired US Army Colonel and former Pentagon senior advisor.
MAX BLUMENTHAL: Welcome, Colonel Macgregor, to The Grayzone.
DOUG MACGREGOR: Good to be with you.
MAX BLUMENTHAL: Great. Let’s talk about your latest piece, just to open. You ask, “Is there A Path To Peace In Ukraine?”, and I actually wanted to bring up video of Jen Psaki, but I don’t have it ready. I’m going to throw up your piece on the screen really fast so everyone can find it.
But the exchange that Jen Psaki had really illustrated a point that you make in this piece in The American Conservative, and you’re arguing that Biden should help negotiate a ceasefire, would save countless Ukrainian lives as well as lives in the Donbas where we saw a brutal ballistic missile strike yesterday. But his words and actions have thus far rendered this practically impossible. Jen Psaki, the press secretary, was asked by a reporter, ‘Wouldn’t it be better to start negotiating and de-escalating to save Ukrainians instead of instilling them with the false hope that they can win, that they can actually defeat Russia, and flooding them with weapons?’ And Psaki said, basically, ‘No, we’re just going to keep giving them weapons and we’ve destroyed the Russian economy.’
So, the war continues. Is peace possible? And why is Biden seemingly so hostile to negotiating and de-escalating?
DOUG MACGREGOR: Well, at this point, I think, we have to conclude that there is a universal opposition to any peace arrangement that involves a recognition of any Russian success. In fact, if anything, it looks more and more as though Ukrainians are almost incidental to the operation, in the sense that they are there to impale themselves on the Russian army and die in great numbers. Because the real goal of this entire thing is the destruction of the Russian state and Vladimir Putin. And no one is prepared to stop anything as long as there is the slightest hope that something terrible will happen to Russia and to Putin. Of course, I don’t see much evidence that that’s going to be the case, but it doesn’t really matter here. Everyone has universally signed on for the Russian hate campaign, or hatred for Russia campaign, and that seems to go on regardless of what is reported. And frankly, the absence of much truth and reporting and a lot of wishful thinking in its place is hard to overestimate or exaggerate. It’s terrible.
AARON MATÉ: What do you make so far of the dominant narrative we’re getting here in the US, that militarily this has been a disaster for Russia, that Ukraine is putting up fierce resistance that Putin did not expect, and has inflicted serious military defeat on the Russian invaders?
DOUG MACGREGOR: Well, as to the last point, it’s very obvious that what Ukrainian forces are still active are entirely surrounded, cut off and isolated in various towns and cities. The Ukrainian forces are incapable of anything but an occasional pinprick attack on something that doesn’t appear to be very robust or dangerous. So, the war, for all intents and purposes, has been decided.
The issue for the Russians from the very beginning has been, ‘How do we proceed without killing large numbers of civilians and inflicting a lot of property damage?’ And Putin gave very strict orders from the outset that they were to avoid these things. The problem with avoiding it is that it has slowed the progress of the operation to the point where it has given false hope both to the Ukrainians, but I think has been seized on by people in the West to try and convince the world that a defeat is in progress when, in fact, the opposite is the case. So, the war itself at this stage of the game could be decided very, very rapidly—permanently if Putin were to give the order and allow the forces to disregard the concern for civilians and property damage. But he hasn’t done that. He has continued to negotiate even though he recognizes that the people sitting across from him really are not in a position to deliver very much. They’re being told what to do, and it’s very obvious that Washington wants this to continue as long as possible in the hopes that Russia will be desperately harmed. I just don’t see that happening.
This morning the latest polling data was given to me from eastern Poland about Russia, and 70 percent of the Russian population is firmly behind Vladimir Putin. That’s a very large percentage in any conflict, for any president to enjoy.
MAX BLUMENTHAL: And that’s up almost ten percent.
DOUG MACGREGOR: …allegedly lost two thousand dead. I have no way of confirming that. Nobody else does. That may well be the case, but out of 200,000 forces, 200,000 troops, that’s not an unreasonable amount for three weeks of fighting. The thousands of Ukrainians who’ve been killed, soldiers, is anyone’s guess, because obviously Kiev isn’t going to report that honestly. We’re going to get inflated figures for their opponents and untrue figures for themselves. So, I think the big problem right now is that in the West there is no truth. There is wishful thinking and there is this impression of success by the Ukrainians that doesn’t stack up. In fact, the Russians are capturing large quantities of Western equipment—British and American—that are being shipped to them at this point.
MAX BLUMENTHAL: Yeah, we have a map from SouthFront, which I think might be more accurate than the Kagans’ think tank, The Institute for the Study of War. Right to your left, I’m not sure if you see it on screen, but you see the red marks [are] Russian positions, the Russian incursion, and if you look to the north of Ukraine, just north of Kiev, you can see Russia forming positions around Kiev and essentially encircling—that’s my view—encircling divisions of the Ukrainian military. And then in the east there’s a rapid advance not only of Russian forces but forces from Luhansk and Donetsk who are technically, according to the US, Ukrainian. And you can see pockets there, which I would call cauldrons.
Can you give us an assessment based on what you see of this map as of March 14?
DOUG MACGREGOR: Well, on the southeastern side towards the bottom you have as many as 60,000 Ukrainian troops that are completely surrounded in what the Russians are referring to as a cauldron. That’s been going on for several days now; no one knows what the status of those forces is. They’re probably running out of water, supplies, ammunition. The Russians would prefer that they surrender. Some have, but there may be pressure now to end this, which would result in the mass slaughter of some 60,000 troops, and I don’t think the Russians are interested in that.
I think what the Russians are interested in is what you see: they’ve gone to the large population centers, they’ve tried to avoid the center, the central portion of Ukraine because that’s the agricultural area. In fact, Russian troops have been told to stay out of the fields. The Russians realize that we’re on the verge of spring planting in Ukraine. They’re not interested in destroying the wheat and barley crops at all. They would prefer to see that go ahead. So, the issue for the Russians right now is that everything worth controlling is controlled. This notion that you hear over and over and over again on television, ‘Well, they haven’t increased their territorial control’—they’re not interested in territory. The entire operation from day one was focused on the destruction of Ukrainian forces. That’s largely complete, with the exception of those that are still surrounded.
They’ve got a huge problem in Mariupol, which is off to the right, where you have roughly 3,000 of these fanatical fighters in the Azov regiment or battalion, whatever you want to call it, who are refusing to allow any of the civilians in the city to leave. In fact, I saw footage this morning of these Ukrainian Azov troops telling the population there, ‘You can’t leave,’ even though the Russians had opened a corridor for humanitarian assistance and evacuation. Again, these things are not reported in the West because it tends to damage the narrative. So, my great concern is, the determination to annihilate the Azov crowd could result in real destruction in Mariupol, which would be terrible for the people there. But again, one doesn’t know what the thinking is at higher levels. I suspect there’s a desire to end this, get this over with. But, as long as Zelenskyy stalls, the more Ukrainian forces will be killed. And it doesn’t make any difference how much we try to ship into Ukraine; they can’t assimilate it and use it effectively in any case at this point.
But again, this satisfies the narrative that the Russians are losing, Putin is evil and must be driven out, and he’s the aggressor. All of the information going back to 2014 and earlier is essentially deleted from the discussion. The fact that they’ve lost 14,000 people killed in the war since 2014 that the Ukrainians have waged relentlessly against the Russians in the east, that’s ignored.
So, it’s very tragic. But I think what will happen is the truth will out. Eventually this will end. The Russians will be successful in what they’ve set out to do, and the Ukrainians will be destroyed. I’d rather not see that. I don’t think Putin wants to see that. Remember, he’s fighting against people that he largely considers to be very much like himself. There is no desire to murder all of these people, contrary to popular beliefs. The biggest lie I’ve heard repeated on television is, ‘Russian troops have been told to deliberately murder civilians, Ukrainian civilians.’ It’s absurd. It’s nonsense. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Do they make mistakes? Do munitions fall on things they’d rather not? Of course. We make those mistakes. Every military organization does, but it is as ridiculous to assert that the Russians are deliberately murdering civilians as it was to assert when we were in Vietnam, or then subsequently involved in other wars in the Middle East, that we were deliberately murdering civilians. We were not. We didn’t always tell the truth about it. In the sense when we made mistakes, we tried to dress it up, but the truth is we never set out to do those things. I don’t see any evidence that they are doing it either. If they were, this would have been over 10 days ago.
AARON MATÉ: I would take issue with the idea that we weren’t setting out to deliberately kill civilians. I’m reminded of Henry Kissinger saying in Cambodia, ‘anything that flies on anything that moves.’ I mean, that was essentially a call for genocide.
DOUG MACGREGOR: Aaron, you can fight that war with somebody else. I’m telling you as a soldier in the United States Army and my experience with people in those forces, they don’t deliberately murder civilians.
AARON MATÉ: Okay, we can have that discussion another time. Let me ask you, on the question of the US arming Ukraine, you have people right now like [Senators] Amy Klobuchar, Rob Portman, they’re in Poland. They’re saying that if we can get those jets from Poland to Ukraine that that can make a difference. Can you address that argument, and this widespread notion in Washington that if more weapons could be sent to Ukraine, then that could turn the tide in Ukraine’s favor?
DOUG MACGREGOR: Well, obviously, it’s not going to turn any tide whatsoever. It does seem as though many people on the Hill, obviously responding to their donors, want to widen and escalate the war on the assumption that somehow or another the Russians are weak, that Mr. Putin is sitting on a wobbly throne, all that sort of business. It’s not true, and if we actually intervene against Russian forces on the ground in eastern Ukraine in any meaningful way, we will end up at war with Russia, and that war will escalate horizontally as well as vertically, up to and including the use of nuclear weapons.
Remember nuclear weapons only have value in the modern world in terms of their potential to protect your territorial integrity. That’s it. The use of a nuclear weapon in any other situation is so destructive that no one sees any military utility to it, and no one wants to use it because it would have horrific consequences on the ground for anybody who’s near it. And keep in mind that if we were to use a nuclear weapon or the Russians were, you would end up with the prevailing winds blowing the fallout across Central Asia into Northeast China, Korea, and Japan. The whole idea is insane.
However, we have been flying B-52s very close to Russian airspace; we’ve moved our submarines close to them. They have detected this presence; they have no idea whether the aircraft are carrying nuclear weapons or conventional weapons. They have no way of knowing what the submarines may or may not use, and as a result they’ve gone to this alert—high nuclear alert—which is very dangerous. And their detection capability—in other words, the ability of their radars and their satellites to detect launches from us is not nearly as good as ours—they are behind in that area, which means that you may end up with some people that report that a launch is imminent, or they are under attack by someone with a nuclear weapon when it’s not. So, there is room for serious mistakes there. But no one should doubt the willingness if they feel that their territory is going to be threatened with an attack with nuclear weapons. They will launch a strike against us. And that will bring the war to North America, to the United States.
MAX BLUMENTHAL: Aaron mentioned, Colonel Douglas Macgregor, that there was discussion or a push in Washington to deliver MiG-29 fighters to Ukraine, I guess, so the Ghost of Kiev can get up there and continue knocking down dozens and dozens of Russian jets, seemingly fantastical. Nancy Pelosi, in her rambling discussion of the war yesterday—I kind of am tempted to play video of it, where she fantasized about taking out the Russian convoy—wished for the MiG-29 delivery from Poland and said the US would backfill it. And this is obviously because Ukrainian pilots are trained to fly those and not US aircraft, etc. But it seems like such an insane plan that even Biden opposed it. And so…
DOUG MACGREGOR: First of all, let’s give credit where credit’s due, Max.
MAX BLUMENTHAL: Yeah.
DOUG MACGREGOR: The President of the United States has made some very good decisions. He’s made it very clear: number one, we will not send any ground forces into Ukraine. Remember, there was some discussion at the beginning of whether or not our forces or troops would go into Ukraine to rescue American citizens. Absolutely not. We will not go into Ukraine under any circumstances on the ground. Then when the no-fly zone was raised, it’s perfectly obvious that if you send any NATO aircraft into Ukrainian airspace, the Russians are going to shoot them down, in which case you’re at war with Russia. He said, ‘Absolutely not.’ So, then they came up with the third scheme, and this was, of course, Anthony Blinken who kept pushing for this, on the assumption that, ‘Well, we shouldn’t be afraid of Mr. Putin. Mr. Putin won’t respond.’ I listened to Senator Lindsey Graham, a man with infinite military experience as an attorney serving in the staff judge advocate [SJA] corps on military duty in places like Iraq, and he certainly understands that no matter what we do, ‘Mr. Putin won’t respond. Mr. Putin is intimidated by us, and we can do pretty much what we want.’
This is a huge problem. For the first time, certainly in living memory, I heard Senator [Marco] Rubio actually say something yesterday that I thought was exceptionally intelligent, and he announced to everyone, ‘Russia is not Iraq.’ Gosh, what an insight. Russia is not Iraq, and therefore he said, ‘No, we can’t do the no-fly zone and we can’t transfer those MiGs.’ So, there is some evidence for rationality in the Senate, but unfortunately, people like Graham continue to argue. You’ve got Mr. Blinken, who has some rather strange ideas about what the Russians will or won’t do. He’s going to continue to push for dumb ideas.
The key question is: Can President Biden retain his presence of mind and continue to say no to these dumb ideas? I don’t know. I hope so. So, I credit him with common sense on that level, and I think he’s letting the people on the Hill say and do otherwise what they want because he knows they’re answering to donors. I mean, we don’t care about the people that elect us to office anymore; they’re irrelevant. Donors are everything. Donors run the city. So, they’re responding to donors who obviously want to find ways to widen and escalate the conflict. But I don’t think the president does, and he will stop it at any opportunity he has to do so.
MAX BLUMENTHAL: Well, it sounds like—and this goes directly to my question—it sounds like you’re identifying a particular faction in the Biden administration that wants to escalate this war. That is the real war party, and you’re locating them in the State Department. You know, based on your own experience in an administration.
I know that the kind of neoconservative and more hardline elements, they were not elevated the way they are in the Biden administration, but can you just address maybe the tension between the State Department, particularly the Blinken State Department and the Pentagon, which seemed opposed to this MiG-29 transfer idea?
DOUG MACGREGOR: The Department of Defense, at least on the uniform side, is dominated by people who, for the most part, don’t want to have to fight a real war against a real enemy that can fight back. They know that we’re not prepared for that. They know that our forces are woefully unprepared, untrained, and ill-equipped. They know this because they’ve had a hand in creating the mess that we have today inside the Department of Defense. So, someone like General Mark Milley will advise: under no circumstances provoke the Russians; under no circumstances drag us into this. We’re not ready. That much is clear.
The problem is there are other hotheads, and I think it’s a mistake to talk exclusively about the administration. I think we need to understand that this really is the Uniparty. Democrat versus Republican labels are irrelevant. They’re all responding to the same collection of donors. The donors want conflict. The donors enjoy conflict, enrich themselves as a result of conflict, and the donors grossly underestimate the dangers because the donors have no real experience on the ground in the military. They don’t know what they’re dealing with. I read a number of reports that were given by former soldiers in the United States Army Special Operations forces and Marines who have since been to Ukraine and come back, and they recorded with horror what it was like to fight against the Russians and said, ‘Don’t come over here. If you do, you’re going to get killed. This is a real army. This is really high-intensity, conventional warfare. Forget it. Our experience is irrelevant.’
And they’re right. People that were able to essentially do whatever they wanted because we dominated people in Iraq and Afghanistan with overwhelming firepower, people that had no armies, no air forces, no air defenses, they know that this will not work. Problem is that that’s irrelevant to the people on the Hill. They are again performing for donors, and sadly there are people out there in the United States, I call it the Bombs Away Club. There are people in the Bombs Away Club who are always prepared to bomb anybody and attack anybody. They think this is some manifestation of our greatness.
And then you have the preoccupation with bullying everyone. The State Department is accustomed to bullying others, bullying them into acceptance of whatever policy stance we want them to take. I think that’s going to end as a result of this conflict, because over time many of the Europeans have now realized what the Indians, the Chinese, most Asians have figured out, most of Africa and Latin America: that we are bullies, that we inevitably end up in a position where if you don’t agree with us, we brand you as the enemy and we try to punish you with control of our financial system.
I think that’s going to end. I don’t see this ending badly, necessarily, for Russia. Russia’s going to be hurt. Any time you fight any war you are hurt. Look at us during the Second World War. How long did it take us to recover from that war? And it was not easy. But the point is, they will come out of it. And the Chinese, thanks to Jake Sullivan who met with the foreign minister in Rome, have seen the wisdom of reaffirming their support for Russia now. Because he [Sullivan] went in and essentially threatened the Chinese, where our instantaneous response to anyone who doesn’t agree is to threaten. We don’t practice something the British empire used to practice, at least until World War I, which was ‘economy of enemies.’ We go in and say, ‘You’re with us or you’re against us.’ Whereas the British usually went into some place and said, ‘Well, who can we work with and who is neutral, and who can we bring on side and who is the real problem? Perhaps we can isolate that individual or those people.’ We don’t think in those terms, and this is part of the moral hypocrisy. But it comes with the globalist-Marxist-elitist mentality. We have a monopoly, they think, on wisdom, morality, decency, and anyone who opposes them is of course the opposite.
MAX BLUMENTHAL: Our Marxist fans are going to take issue with that one. But I love the idea, and I’ll hand off the baton to Aaron. But I just wanted to say I love the idea of the guy who ran Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign trying to establish a cleavage between Russia and China, referring to Jake Sullivan. But Aaron, go ahead.
AARON MATÉ: Well, let me ask you about the speculation and allegations that have been hurled in recent days about biolabs and chemical weapons, false flag plots. First you had Victoria Nuland under questioning by Marco Rubio in the Senate last week, asked directly if Ukraine has chemical or biological weapons. She didn’t give a direct answer; she did say that Ukraine has biological facilities and she’s concerned about Russia, those facilities falling into Russian hands, which raises the obvious question that if they’re benign then why is she concerned about Russia possessing them? And then right after that we started to get these allegations coming out from both the US and Russia that the other side is plotting false flag chemical attacks. I’m wondering what you make of all this.
DOUG MACGREGOR: Well, usually the winning side does not stage a false flag, and right now the Russians are clearly winning on the battlefield. So, I don’t see any particular reason why they would stage a false flag. If anything, the Ukrainians might be interested as a last-ditch effort to drag us in, they could certainly turn to the use of biochemicals if they can weaponize them and use them effectively, or if they’ve already done so, they could simply fire a missile that is of Russian origin and design into Poland and claim the Russians have done it. That is a possibility. We should be on the alert for that sort of thing. I don’t see the Russians doing that. They don’t need it.
If anything, the Russians just want to come to the table, get a signature on a ceasefire arrangement, and see their terms met. And as far as I can tell the terms have not changed very much, and they’re very straightforward. Number one: Ukraine will be neutral and not aligned with any block. Number two: the Donbas regions de facto independence and Russian identity will be acknowledged by Kiev. And then finally, the Ukrainians will renounce any claim on Crimea which, as we all know, this is an ahistorical claim. It’s never been Ukrainian. Those have been the sort of standard three.
Now, there are other things that they want to discuss, no doubt, and they want to be certain that future governments will not be incurably hostile to Moscow and host weapons and systems designed to destroy Russia on their soil. That’s clear, but I think they’d go along with something on the model of the Austrian State Treaty. Clearly Mr. Blinken, Victoria Nuland and their cohorts, and I suspect Mr. Soros has also got his hand in this, are all stonewalling that till the last Ukrainian is dead, I guess. I hope not. But it certainly looks that way.
AARON MATÉ: And on the chemical weapons allegations, do you see a parallel here to Syria, a sort of recycling of the Syria playbook where the US accused Syria and their Russian ally of committing chemical attacks? Syria, with Russia’s support, that was the allegation. But, meanwhile, as we know from the reporting of Seymour Hersh and also from OPCW leaks that all the intelligence pointed to these chemical attacks either being carried out or staged by sectarian death squad rebels fighting the Syrian government.
DOUG MACGREGOR: Well, there’s a lot of evidence for that. There’s also, I’m told, some evidence for the involvement of MI6, which is a very effective organization and very adept at this sort of business in Syria. They may once again be involved. Who knows? I mean, we all have intelligence services. All intelligence services are involved in these conflicts in one way or another. So, I think if you go to Ted Postol’s work, who’s very good on this as well as to British sources, and you will confirm what you just outlined.
You’re asking me what I know, and, unfortunately, I don’t know too much. What I know is what is open source. And I’m prepared to believe any number of different possibilities. But I’ve said repeatedly, until someone gets in there who is not Ukrainian or Russian and looks at the evidence, we’re probably not going to know with certainty what’s really there. I found that in the Balkans, when we were dealing with the Serbs, and so many things they were accused of turned out to be false, that the Finns were enormously helpful. The Finns would go in, and they were the truth tellers. We really need some truth tellers like that, but for the moment that’s not going to happen.
So, the worst thing that could happen is a false flag. We have to be prepared for that, and again that’s where the President of the United States plays such a critical role. Unfortunately, Mr. Trump was deceived on both occasions, because his inner circle kept pushing him and pushing him to launch those missiles, and, ultimately, we did. They went into the dirt. They accomplished nothing. By the way, the Russians accommodated it. It’s unfortunate, but that’s the way it went. But finally, in 2019, when Mr. Trump was ambushed by people in his own administration and the military in an attempt to bring on a war with Iran after the shoot-down of the Global Hawk that was deliberately flying a path that everyone knew would be engaged, he said no and ended that possibility. Thank goodness. So, I think it depends on the president and whomever is close to him to make the decision, no, we’re not going to act if that in fact occurs.
MAX BLUMENTHAL: Yeah, I think there’s a higher chance now of some kind of staged event or false flag than at any point, because all of the other military options have been expended. I was actually in a debate on CGTN with one of the main kind of Ukrainian influencers who’s a hardline parliamentarian, Inna Sovsun, and when I heard her say that ‘we are expecting a chemical attack,’ that’s when I knew, and then I started to see this narrative get rolled out by all of the Biden proxies and the State of Nuland proxies about biological weapons, false flag by Russia. It became clear they were preparing for something along with all the censorship and the attacks on Tucker Carlson, because he would be the one person with a national audience to push back on another Douma-style incident. So, it really does feel like all the signals are blinking red, as Mitt Romney’s former advisor Cofer Black, who went on to work for Burisma, said days before 9/11.
Now, if you want to add anything to that, feel free. But I wanted to ask you about another issue. There was a cruise missile attack on the Yavoriv [military] base, which is just east of Poland inside Ukrainian territory, and it’s known as this kind of international peacekeeping center. It was home to mercenaries and Redditors who were coming because they were bored with their lives as computer programmers, to participate in a war they thought was going very well for Ukraine. Let me just throw up on screen some of the testimony from one of the people who was a witness to that attack, who was a US medic who wanted to be a combat medic, and this is from one of the Reddit chats.
“You weren’t expecting missiles at a war?”
“No, just not at that base at that particular time. S*** surprised all of us, including the Ukrainians.”
And then he gets called an idiot. And then he refers to the volunteers who have come in from around the country as cannon fodder, basically being bodies shoveled in front of the Russians. He called the Ukrainian commanders crazy and so on, and then they all turned tail and ran home. At least 35 foreigners are dead; it could be as many as 200, but that seems to be the end of the Ukrainian foreign legion.
But my question is not only about that, but about this wider issue of that base being there and having hosted many NATO training sessions. Could there have even been NATO trainers who were hit in that attack, and can you address this concept of the NATOization of Ukraine. I mean, most Americans think Ukraine has not been formally admitted into NATO; however, we hear from the Russian side that it effectively has been NATOized. What do you know about this base, and what about this wider concept of NATOization?
DOUG MACGREGOR: Well, the NATOization has occurred, and this is one of the reasons why when people say the probability that Ukraine would be admitted to NATO was always low for all the usual reasons: the lack of human rights standards, the lack of true democratic elections, the overwhelming corruption and so forth. The problem with that is that the Russians have watched carefully at how rapidly we are willing to wave things in order to get new members into the alliance, and I think they concluded that regardless of what the true circumstances were, this NATOization had reached the point where, if Russia did not firmly object and demonstrate its opposition, that Ukraine would be admitted. So, I think the NATOization argument is very true. And that’s one of the reasons we got large numbers of people out of there as quickly as possible, when it became clear that the Russians were going to intervene. We didn’t want hundreds of our advisors and so forth captured by the Russians.
So, yes, the place is NATOized, that’s true. But NATOization is really US-led, and we tend to drag other NATO members with us. The British are there because they tend to be fellow travelers with us and, like us, they don’t live on the continent, so if things really go badly, just like the United States, the British will simply go home to the island. This is why large numbers of Europeans dislike them intensely and don’t trust them.
So, yeah, that’s very much the case. There’s something else, though, at work here, and that is that Putin wanted to demonstrate—I’m sure he gave permission for this strike because I don’t think any operations west of the Dnieper happen without his authorization—because I know that in the original thinking there was no desire to press west beyond the Dnieper River. I mean, that’s the heart of Ukraine. The people that live there really are Ukrainian in language, culture and so forth. Doesn’t want to go there. And I think what he did is, he said, ‘Yes, we’ll do this because we need to show these people that we can reach out and touch them anywhere in Ukraine.’ This happened to be very close to the Polish border, so it had a double message. It was a message to the Poles that if you continue to provide support to the Ukrainians, and if you try to widen and escalate this war, you, too, will become a co-belligerent—and Ukraine and the West, the Poles don’t want that. They know that.
AARON MATÉ: Well, on this topic of NATOization, let me ask you about the dimensions of this that go beyond Ukraine itself. I’m asking you to talk about, for the last 20 years the US has been continuously dismantling arms control treaties. The Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty was dismantled in 2003; the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty expired in 2007. Putin in his Munich speech vocally protested that, and countries like Romania and Poland have built these US missile sites. The US says that they’re intended to protect Europe from Iranian missiles. I’m wondering if you would comment on that and the role that the dismantling of arms control treaties—also the INF [Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces] Treaty which expired under your administration, under the Trump administration—how that’s contributed to Russia’s feelings of feeling encircled, and how those developments played into Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine.
DOUG MACGREGOR: I think all of those issues contributed to the build-up in the minds of Russians of the need to protect themselves. There’s no question about that. I think the decision on the INF Treaty was a serious mistake. The Russians, frankly, were shocked by it. But there was a huge lobby: all neocons on the inside of the administration as well as outside who were trying to convince everyone that arms control was a waste of time, arms control protected us in no way, arms control should be abandoned.
Now, I’m the first to admit that arms control is difficult, because if you see a violation by one side or the other, you’re very reluctant to admit it. Because if you tell the other side that you’re aware of their violation, then you risk revealing that you have the collection capability, that you have sources, maybe even human sources, on the ground reporting to you. So, you have to judge the violation very carefully and decide whether or not it is egregious enough to justify bringing it to the table.
Now, I was not part of the INF talks at the time, but I was told by several people, ‘You have to know, you have to understand they’re not doing what they said they would do, and we have to pull out of this.’ And I looked at the evidence that I could see, and all of it seemed to point in the direction of Russian paranoia about our behavior. You mentioned the missile sites down in Romania, for instance. And I had suggested on one occasion, why don’t we invite Russian officers to come over and view it, if we’re absolutely convinced that this is all for the purpose of defending ourselves against a potential Iranian ballistic missile attack, then we should bring them in and let them look at it and satisfy themselves that this is no threat to Russia. Well, you can imagine the response that I elicited! I was told that I’d lost my mind, and this was never going to happen, which leads me to believe that these things had very little to do with Iran and a great deal more to do with Russia.
Again, you’re always weighing as a great power the wisdom of doing something or not doing something on the assumption that what you do is going to have an effect on your potential opponent. I don’t think we’ve done a good job of that, and I think we have too readily dismissed the potential adversary as too weak economically and too backward in many ways to respond. That’s not true. That has never been true. The difference in the size of the economy is real, but that does not reflect on the Russian military or on the quality of its scientific and technological capabilities. So, I think we’ve put ourselves in this position, and we did so, in my judgment, very cavalierly. Because we actually did have a long period of time where we had established a degree of mutual trust and cooperation. And all you have to do is look at the space programs, look at the extent to which we purchased Russian rocket engines, look at the cooperation we’ve had with them on the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the Iran Nuclear Deal)] and other things. This is not being a black-and-white situation, but we are now transforming it into one, which I think is stupid, self-defeating, and unproductive. And, of course, we’re not thinking at all about the blowback on ourselves, economically and in other ways. And we talk about proliferation of dangerous technology, well, the Russians have been very good about not necessarily providing much of what many of their alleged friends or temporary partners have wanted. What will they do in the future given the way we have treated them? I don’t know, but I don’t see much good happening. It does worry me a great deal.
AARON MATÉ: What did you make of the Biden administration’s responses to Russia’s proposals, when they called for neutrality for Ukraine and for a rolling back of offensive weapon systems inside Eastern Europe? My reading of it is, there was some flexibility. For example, you mentioned inspections of US missile sites in Poland and Romania. I could have it wrong, but I believe the Biden administration signaled some potential openness to that. I’m wondering what you think of how Biden responded, and, also, Putin’s decision to invade. Do you think that he had other options and, strategically, from a Russian point of view, was this strategically the right move? Or do you think there was possibly more room for diplomacy, not only on NATO and missiles but also on the status of the Donbas and the war there?
DOUG MACGREGOR: Well, I think the one voice of reason in the Biden administration is the CIA director, and that is William Burns. He has always been a voice of reason on the subject of Russia. And he has tried to modulate the Russian hate that is so prevalent. But, again, he’s being crushed by those who see Russia as something that has to be denationalized, much as the left is denationalizing the United States as a place whose borders have to be opened to allow mass migration from the developing world into Russia. All of these things are part and parcel of the reasons people hate Russia. And, of course, Russia declares itself to be an Orthodox Christian country. That’s completely unacceptable, because atheism, nihilism, multiculturalism, all of these things are caught up together, and there is a vile hatred for anybody who thinks the kinds of things that exist in Russia could be remotely positive in any way. William Burns has tried to push back against that; he’s tried to reason with people about it. It hasn’t worked very well, but I think there was a chance for a short time.
Now Putin, from where he sits, looks at what’s going on. He’s aware of the things that we’re discussing, but he also saw a large troop buildup in eastern Ukraine, approximately 60,000 troops that were poised to strike at the Donbas, at Luhansk and Donetsk, and I think he was persuaded that this would happen, and that obviously the Donetsk and Luhansk republics and their population would be destroyed, and he could not sit by and tolerate that. I also think he thought that there was no hope, that every time he tried to make the case, which he did several times, [but] no one would listen to him, somebody said, ‘Well, the reason this didn’t happen under Donald Trump was that Donald Trump is strong and no one would challenge him.’ It had a lot less to do with that than Trump’s private willingness to listen to Mr. Putin’s position. What disappointed Putin—and I think many others—was Donald Trump’s inability to get control of his own administration. He appointed people that were absolutely opposed to him in his thinking. So, from the moment he opened his mouth and said, ‘Why can’t we have a better relationship with Russia?’, he was sabotaged and subverted. Putin realized that.
Then, I think he waited to see how Biden would respond and, of course, you know that Biden was bragging about how he told Putin that he was a vicious killer and a thug, how proud he was of insulting the man to his face and denigrating him and what he’s done inside Russia. I think you put that together with the build-up in the east and I think he felt Russia was genuinely threatened, and he thought it was only a matter of time until something akin to the Pershing II missiles that we once had on the ground in Germany would show up in eastern Ukraine. And we can all sit here and say, ‘Oh well, that wouldn’t have happened’, but he had a lot of reason to believe that it would, for the reasons we’ve already discussed. The NATOization of things, and that’s the kind…remember the Pershing II was a hypersonic missile. You’re talking a few minutes and it lands in Moscow, and he kept telling people this. No one would listen, and there was no willingness to reassure him and his government in any way, shape, or form that this was not the intention.
So, I think he rightly concluded he didn’t have much choice, and I think the biggest mistake that he’s made, if he’s made any with this operation, so I think he’s tried to be too careful. And I think it’s tragic, but when you do what he’s done with his force, you try very hard to avoid unnecessary civilian casualties and avoid damage, you end up in the position he’s in. This thing has lasted three weeks, longer than he would have liked. It creates opportunities for your enemies, for your opponents to meddle in what’s happening. It gives false hope to people on the other side. That’s the problem, and that’s what he’s up against. And I’m sure he’s heard that from his inner circle; I’m sure some of his senior officers have said that. And if you try to convince anybody in the United States, by the way, that Vladimir Putin was remotely concerned about the loss of civilian life in Ukraine, well, they’ll laugh you off the stage. ‘That’s impossible. He’s evil. He’s terrible. He’s bad.’ It’s a lot of nonsense. He was and he still is, I think—he would like to get an agreement because I don’t think he wants anything to do with going into Kiev.
MAX BLUMENTHAL: Yeah.
DOUG MACGREGOR: That’s the last option. I mean, if you look at it right now, Kharkiv and Kiev are about it. The cauldron—it has to be dealt with, and they’re still laying siege to Mariupol. But I’m afraid, given the enemy that they have cornered there—the 3,000 Azov members—they’re probably going to reduce it and be done with it. But that’s clearly not what he wants in Kharkiv. That’s clearly not what he wants in Kiev. But if he can’t get somebody to put their name on the agreement and agree to those basic terms, then I suppose he’s going to act.
AARON MATÉ: Russia has attacked Kharkiv. I mean, there were civilian buildings hit there.
MAX BLUMENTHAL: Yeah, the question is whether they will actually go in, and in the way they treat it, the way they did Grozny [capital city of Chechnya], for example.
DOUG MACGREGOR: Yes, I think you’re right, Max, and that’s the point, Aaron. If you go back to World War II, one of the first things that all sides learned in the war was that you don’t win a city by going room to room and building the building to flush out your enemy. Doesn’t work. You bring up artillery, you lower the guns and direct fire, and you bring down city blocks. That’s what happened in Warsaw; it happened in Stalingrad; it happened all over Europe all during the war. When we went into Manila, we did exactly the same thing. It was ferocious.
Nobody wants to do that. It is the worst possible outcome. And that’s why, for instance, as I was telling you earlier, I looked at some film footage this morning that came from Poland, that was transmitted into Poland from Ukraine, showing Ukrainian citizens that had showed up at an exit point from Mariupol where the Russians said, ‘Come out. We have humanitarian assistance’—in other words, food and medicines and so forth—‘and you will be protected.’ And sure enough, there was the Azov Battalion: ‘You’re not leaving. You’re not going anywhere.’ And the people, of course, were destroyed, but that’s where we are.
MAX BLUMENTHAL: Yeah, we’re seeing a lot of these sort of incidents at checkpoints, of motorists being shot, particularly men. There may have been even some Western journalists, or a journalist, who was shot at one of these checkpoints. Still looking into that, but that narrative obviously isn’t getting out.
I know you have to go soon, Colonel Douglas Macgregor. Just wanted to ask you, based on your last comments, about negotiations. That is obviously part of the Russian strategy; it’s the linchpin of the Russian strategy to advance, to inflict damage on the Ukrainian military while negotiating, in order to affect what’s been taking place at the table. Because there have really been no negotiations for the last year that have had any effect at all. So, now we’re starting to see some movement, I think. Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said publicly that Ukraine does not wish to join NATO. I guess my question is, do you think—you have sources all around the region—do you think Zelenskyy even has the ability to negotiate, given the different forces in Ukrainian politics, the hardline forces, the US? And how do you see the negotiations shaping up when the US is so, at least at this point, when the Biden administration is so hostile and determined to escalate?
DOUG MACGREGOR: Well, let’s be frank because Zelenskyy right now has better press than Mother Teresa, so he’s reluctant to give that up, and he’s become a rock star to the West, pretending to be a lot of things that he’s not. But it’s worked very well for him. He has always been in danger of some of the hardliners, the radicals that control, frankly, the SBU, the equivalent of the secret police inside Ukraine, as well as the military, of being assassinated himself if he went too far. I don’t know if that’s still the case; I’m sure there’s some truth to that, but I really think that the cards are in the hands of Washington and in the hands of President Biden.
And President Biden is in a position that’s not very different—since Aaron Maté is interested in Vietnam—not very different from Lyndon Johnson in this sense. Lyndon Johnson wanted to end the war in Vietnam; in fact, there’s a lot of evidence that he didn’t want to go there at all. But it didn’t make any difference because he was afraid that if he didn’t do those things that he would be outed as soft on communism and a friend of the Reds and so forth. And so, Johnson found it impossible to simply cut his losses and get out, which was the right thing to do in 1968-69. All the generals privately said, ‘This is a waste of time. We’re not going to win it. Let’s go.’ He didn’t do it, and obviously he didn’t run for re-election. I think Biden’s in a similar position right now. He’s got the Uniparty out there depicting him as feckless, weak, incompetent, incapable. If he were to simply say, ‘Alright, Mr. Z, the show’s over. Sign on the dotted line. We’ll back you; we’ll help you rebuild, etc., etc.’ I think he can’t do that. I think he should, but I don’t think he can. And I think every time he’s inclined in that direction, he’s warned by the people around him of the dangers associated with that.
MAX BLUMENTHAL: The political dangers.
DOUG MACGREGOR: Yeah, but there are a couple of things that are also happening. The assumption is, ‘Well, if we can just keep the Russians in the field long enough, their army will collapse.’ Well, there’s no evidence for that. ‘If we can just keep them in the field long enough, the population at home will say, “Bring them back,” and “This is bad.”’ There’s no evidence for that right now.
But there is a lot of evidence that our position economically is going to continue to weaken. You had [chief economic adviser at Allianz and president of Queens’ College, Cambridge] Mohamed El–Erian, just the other day, who said a 100-basis-point increase in the interest rates—in other words, a one percent rise—could send the American economy into a recession, a deep recession, maybe something worse. Well, the longer this goes on the harsher the outcome for us here at home. You know that gasoline prices, like so many things, are lagging indicators. So, the real problems have not even struck yet. So, if you look at the prices of food, energy, metals, these kinds of commodities, then add to that the enormous sovereign national debt that we have to service and the unambiguous requirement to increase interest rates and deal with inflation that is ostensibly dangerous to the economy, the question is: How long before we fall apart. How long before we simply can’t go on? I mean, I’m always reminded of the question that used to come up in graduate school, and then subsequently when I was teaching: When did the British leave India? Well, the British did not leave India when they should have, when it made sense to do so, when it was strategically advisable. They left India when their debt-to-GDP ratio was 240 percent after World War II, in 1947. That’s when they left because they were broke. I suspect that we’ll have something similar to that here in the United States. That will be a game changer.
But all the expectations of imminent failure in Russia, I think, are ridiculous. I don’t see any of that, and I think they’ll stay the course. It’s a vital strategic interest for them; it isn’t for us. It never has been. That’s the problem.
MAX BLUMENTHAL: Well, Colonel Douglas Macgregor, we’re coming up on an hour. You’re invited to stay with us. We have a…
DOUG MACGREGOR: I’m glad you’ve invited me. I’m surprised my phone has not jumped off the table here. But thanks very much for inviting me. I appreciate it. I wish you guys well.
MAX BLUMENTHAL: Thank you so much, and judging from the feedback we’re getting, our audience salutes you and thanks you for your honesty in a time of just complete deceit. So, thank you so much for joining us.
DOUG MACGREGOR: Well, Americans are beginning to figure things out. It’s slow, painful. But they’re beginning to figure things out. And when you start to hear people refer to anyone they disagree with as a traitor, you’re in a lot of trouble. That doesn’t speak of strength; that suggests real weakness in the government and the people that run it. And I wish the president would step forward and put a stop to it, but he won’t.
MAX BLUMENTHAL: Yep. No, it is a complete sign of a lack of confidence in the system that they claim to represent, the democracy they claim to represent. And I’ve been saying…
DOUG MACGREGOR: One last thing, during the Kosovo air campaign I had a British major who was in the intelligence section of the Joint Operations Center where I was the director. He got into something of an argument with people that worked for [former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s spokesman] Alastair Campbell. These were professional spinmeisters that had been sent across by Tony Blair to help quote-unquote ‘spin the air campaign as a big success.’ And this British major got into an argument with him, and finally the British major said, ‘Look, you can’t say that. That’s not true.’ He said, ‘Well, of course we can. It doesn’t matter whether it’s true or false.’ And he said, ‘Look, if our cause is just, why do we have to lie about it?’ And I think that’s where we are right now in Washington.