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Departures Podcast with Joby Warrick, author of ‘Red Line: The Unraveling of Syria and America’s Race to Destroy the Most Dangerous Arsenal in the World’

Before Russia invaded Ukraine, it intervened in Syria in 2015 to shore up the beleaguered regime of their ally, Bashar al-Assad. How did this experience inform upon Vladimir Putin’s catastrophic decision to invade and attempt regime change of the democratically elected government in Kyiv?

This week’s episode of Departures features Joby Warrick, a Pulitzer Prize-winning national security reporter for the Washington Post, and author of the book, “Red Line: The Unraveling of Syria and America’s Race to Destroy the Most Dangerous Arsenal in the World.” 

In their conversation, Bob Amsterdam and Joby Warrick discuss the contrasting experiences of Russia’s relatively successful military intervention in Syria, with the catastrophic setbacks they have encountered in the invasion of Ukraine, which in recent days has called attention to horrific war crimes committed by the Russian military.

Through the indiscriminate targeting of residential areas and hospitals, Putin’s destruction of infrastructure is designed to cripple Ukraine. Instead, the outcome has been devastating for Russian forces. Warrick argues Russia’s systems are not just corrupt at the official level, but importantly at the military level, where platoons lack command and control, and forces can’t operate ground support for armored battalions.

But do these corrupt institutions explain Russia’s failures? Or was the chaos of the Ukraine invasion primarily an issue of poor intelligence and the isolation of the Russian leader? Warrick and Amsterdam debate how the blame falls and how it will make peace negotiations more difficult and more protracted.