During an appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," former Naval College professor and current Atlantic contributor Tom Nichols claimed that Vladimir Putin's invading military in Ukraine is rife with dissent and full of soldiers who have no idea why they are invading their neighbor.
Speaking with host Joe Scarborough, Nichols said that morale within Russia's military force is cratering the longer the invasion drags on.
"I wanted to ask you about that, the morale of Russian troops," host Scarborough prompted. "Unlike us, they did not grow up in a cold war, where they were trained from the earliest age to look at the west as an enemy. These are people who wanted to be a part of the west. These are people who have listened to western artists, watched western movies, used western technology. Talk about Putin's problem with a group of fighters, many of whom didn't know they're even going into Ukraine. People who have relatives in Ukraine there and the talk of morale being low in the first days of this invasion."
"You know, Joe, they didn't grow up with the cold war, but they have grown up with eternal war where they have just had this beaten into their heads that everyone is their enemy," the military expert explained. "The Georgians, the 'Ukrainian Nazis,' you know, which I am putting in scare quotes, you know, NATO, everyone."
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"But I think they were genuinely surprised to find themselves first fighting their brothers and sisters in Ukraine and second not being greeted as liberators," he continued. "Because these guys were all told that this was going to be, you know, a quick in and out, a so-called special operation. And I think what's really degrading their morale is the opposition of the local population and the fact that nobody seems to know what they're doing now."
"They're going on ten days in -- they are bogged down," he elaborated. "We have all been watching that 40-mile long column, you know, [fellow panelist] Congressman Moulton can tell you what happens for an eight-mile column of people, gas and food just stops. You know as a military problem and they are making phone calls and you know they are subject to the rumor mill and they are looking around and I think a lot of those, especially those young conscripts are saying, 'you know, I was supposed to be fighting NATO. I was supposed to be fighting, you know, terrorists. Suddenly I am here in Ukraine, a place that I know and where I may well have friends. I may have relatives, a place that I may have visited many times and suddenly I'm fighting."
"Americans really need to appreciate just how much Ukrainians and Russians mix and intermarry and travel. I think the last numbers I saw some years ago, the city of Kyiv is 20% Russians. This is really a morale-destroying excursion for them -- it's going to get worse," he predicted.
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