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Fareed Zakaria GPS
Interview with Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak; How to Defeat an Insurgency; Is the Ukrainian Counteroffensive Stalling?. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired October 22, 2023 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANCHOR: This is GPS, the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria coming to you live from New York.
ZAKARIA: Today on the program, tensions and deaths mount in the Middle East as the world watches and awaits Israel's expected ground invasion of Gaza.
I'll talk to former prime minister Ehud Barak who is also one of Israel's most decorated soldiers. We'll talk about fighting Hamas, a potential ground invasion, and whether a divided Israel has been united by war.
Then, retired General David Petraeus led the American military's fight against insurgents in Iraq, Afghanistan and more. What lessons from those wars should Israel take into its war on Hamas? I'm ask Petraeus and his co-author on a new book, Andrew Roberts.
ZAKARIA: But first here's "My Take." The crisis in the Middle East has revealed an important reality about the world. While American influence may not be what it once was, it is still true that no other country can replace the U.S. as the pivotal player on the global stage. But to retain that influence, it will need to act wisely and go further than it has yet done.
Consider how absent Russia and China have been from this crisis. Over the last few years both powers have tried om various ways to inject themselves into the region. Russia built up its links with Israel, China helped facilitate the resumption of diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran. And yet, since the Gaza crisis broke, neither has been able to play any role in diffusing tensions or providing solutions.
The United States by contrast has been actively engaged from the start. President Biden's first order of business was to condemn Hamas' terror attacks and stand in solidarity with Israel. Having done this eloquently, he has now shifted to giving them cautionary advice. He urged Israel not to be consumed with rage and reminded them of the United States's response to 9/11, admitting that Washington, consumed with fear and anger, made mistakes.
One hope Israel is listening. The president is right. The U.S. made a series of disastrous decisions after 9/11, for which it is still paying a price. It rushed to build a big new bureaucracy for Homeland Security comprising hundreds of thousands of people and two dozen organizations. It expanded executive power dramatically, trampling on individual rights, adding to governmental secrecy, and sanctioning what many would describe as torture.
Washington's military strategy was also flawed from the start. Rather than focusing narrowly on the people who planned and executed 9/11, it had opted a vast and ambitious approach that in George Bush's words made no distinction between the terrorists and those who harbor them.
So the country went to war not just against al Qaeda but also against the Taliban trying to ensure that the latter would never again rule Afghanistan. A goal that entail a 20-year war that America lost. And of course, it also went to war against Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
Washington's response to 9/11, the wars, the bureaucracy and more, has had a price tag by one estimate of $8 trillion.
The lessons for Israel are clear. A ground invasion into Gaza is an emotional response to Hamas's terror attack. Israel is responding with something big and bold. Demonstrating that it can go beyond a tit-for- tat approach and do something dramatic. But is that wise? Such a course will mire the Israeli army in the alleyways and tunnels of Gaza. It will almost certainly produce even more humanitarian tragedies in Gaza further enraging Arab countries and turning world opinion against Israel.
And even after all this, it wins, what will it have won. Who will govern Gaza after Hama. Who will be willing to occupy the strip and battle what would certainly be an insurgency against its authority.
No Arab or European country would touch that desk so it will fall to Israel. There was a reason that one of Israel's most decorated soldiers and most right-wing political figures Aerial Sherron chose to get out of Gaza.
The point of terrorism is to provoke an overreaction. The best response to it is not to lose your head. In the past Israel had open of Gaza. And the overreaction, and the best response is not to lose your head. In the past Israel had often responded to terror attacks by bidding its time, tracking down those who actually planned and executed the mission, and then killing them. That was its response to the 1972 Munich Olympic attacks.
If Washington had approached al Qaeda with a similarly strategic and targeted approach, the U.S. would be in a far better position today. In addition to his counsel of caution, Biden should press the Israeli government to provide some political pathway for Palestinian pathways. For decades the United States under both Democratic and Republican administrations was seen as an effective broker between the two sides.
Palestinian officials trusted American diplomats like Martin Indyk, Dennis Ross, and Edward Djerejian because they worked tirelessly to find a negotiated path to a Palestinian state. The U.S. pressed the PLO to renounce terror and recognize Israel. But it also pressed the Israelis to stop building settlements. All of those efforts have petered out as Palestinian leadership proofed feckless and Israel has been ruled by a series of right-wing governments that do not believe in a two-state solution, have increased settlements, and have turned a blind eye to the condition of Palestinians.
These are ideal conditions for Hamas which argues that there is no nonviolent negotiated solution and that acts of terror are the only option.
This is all a tall order for American diplomacy. But the alternative is to let this crisis fester, which could easily result in violence that is even worse than what we are now seeing.
Go to CNN.com/fareed for a link to my "Washington Post" column this week. And let's get started.
Israel is in battles to its west, its east and its north. To the northern Lebanon, the militant group Hezbollah is trading fire with Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu said this morning that it will be devastating for Lebanon if Hezbollah joins the war.
To the east, some 90 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank since October 7th. Many of them in settler attacks according to human rights groups. More than 700 Palestinians have been arrested there including almost 500 who are affiliated with Hamas according to the IDF. On Israel's west flank lies Gaza where Hamas is headquartered and where the death toll is now 4,500.
On its border Israel is massing troops and material and an IDF spokesman said yesterday that the country's military is focusing on readiness for the next stage of its war. Meanwhile, 28 trucks carrying food and medicine were able to transit into Gaza yesterday via the Rafah crossing from Egypt. 15 more are set to cross today.
Joining me now from Aman, Jordan, is CNN's Nada Bashir.
Nada, tell us something about the condition in Gaza. Because these numbers of trucks from everything I've seen, this is a trickle of what would be needed to keep these people alive?
NADA BASHIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, trickle is certainly the best way to describe it, Fareed. We haven't seen that influx of aid that is so desperately needed inside the Gaza Strip. As you mentioned there, 15 trucks have been moved towards the crossing area as seen by our CNN teams on the ground there toward the Rafah border, on the Egyptian side but they have yet to pass security clearance, have yet to actually pause and cross into the Gaza Strip.
But of course there is a huge amount of international pressure on getting aid into those inside Gaza. We know that the civilian death toll is mounting. We know that hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced and this is all being exacerbated by the ongoing siege, no fuel, no water, food, electricity is getting in. And we've heard the warnings from the aid groups on the ground.
We've heard the warning from the medical teams on ground who are struggling to continue to provide crucial medical support during this siege. And now, of course, we've had the warnings from the United Nations saying that what we are witnessing now is a humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Gaza. We heard earlier today from the U.N.'s World Food Program, they are appealing for $74 million to support their relief efforts over the next 90 days.
There is a huge appeal for international support on this front. And we have already seen numerous countries stepping up, preparing aid to get to Egypt, to cross in by the Rafah border crossing. And of course getting it across appears to be the key issue at this stage. And we heard from King Abdullah of Jordan which has been amongst those countries preparing aid to travel to Egypt. He spoke very clearly at the Cairo Peace Summit about the need to get aid into Gaza, and also about the double standard that he says that the world is seeing when it comes to providing that humanitarian relief for Gaza.
Take a listen to this statement. He said anywhere else attacking civilian infrastructure and deliberately starving an entire population of food water and electricity would be condemned and the accountability will be enforced immediately and unequivocally and it has been done before recently in another conflict but not in Gaza. And as you can see we have seen that outpouring of condemnation from world leaders particularly here in the Middle East, and we have seen that reaction from the popular front as well.
Protests taking place, demonstrations in solidarity with the Palestinian people. In fact earlier today my team and I spoke to Palestinian families -- Palestinian refugee families who have lived in Jordan all their lives but still have family members in the Gaza Strip that they haven't been able to return to, they haven't been able to meet with. They say they're checking with them every hour, hoping they're still alive.
And what they are hearing from families is that they simply are struggling to go on with the lack of electricity, running out of food and water. It is a humanitarian catastrophe as said by the U.N. Fareed.
ZAKARIA: Thank you, Nada. Great reporting. Stay safe.
Next on GPS, I speak with one of Israel's most decorated soldiers. Former prime minister Ehud Barak. I'll ask him about the potential ground invasion when we come back.
[10:16:12] ZAKARIA: As Israel's military masses on its border with Gaza ahead of an expected ground invasion, I want to bring in someone uniquely qualified to talk about IDF strategy. Upon retiring from the IDF in 1995, Lieutenant General Ehud Barak was Israel's most decorated soldier. He would go on to serve his country as defense minister and prime minister. As prime minister he led Israel through the second intifada or Palestinian uprising, and as defense minister he oversaw Israel's massive ground operation in Gaza against Hamas in 2009. Ehud Barak joins me now from Tel Aviv.
Prime Minister Barak, let me begin by asking you about this siege. Do you believe it is militarily necessary to have such a dramatic cut-off of water, fuel, food, which means hospitals can't operate? I don't recall, you know, when the United States had faced insurgencies in Iraq, that they ever imposed this kind of complete siege of civilian population. Is it militarily necessary, you think?
EHUD BARAK, FORMER ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: It is not the utmost important element. But it's part of it and I don't believe that there is a major crisis in Gaza. Basically whoever went to the south and lives near the new camps, tent camps, started by the UNWRA, will get these convoys in the humanitarian corridor and Israel will not let other Gaza feel empty of medical kind of materials for the hospital and so on. So, it's important but it's not the most important element.
ZAKARIA: Tell me about the goal. The Netanyahu government has said the goal of their strategy is to destroy Hamas. Do you believe that's possible?
BARAK: Yes, I think that the goal should be to eliminate any military capability of Hamas and its capacity to reign over the Gaza Strip. We do not intend to erase the ideology or the wishes and dreams of many members of Hamas, and all around our world they're part of a wider power, the Muslim Brotherhood and occupying Turkey and some people in Qatar. We cannot erase Hamas as an entity, but the operator or military operator in Gaza and as the ruler of Gaza, we can do it.
Of course it could not be competed from the air. It will need these massive ground operations with thousand, probably tens of thousands of boots on the ground.
ZAKARIA: The Biden administration is from what best we could tell cautioning Israel to be careful not to go in too big, to, you know, to kind of devastate Gaza completely. Again, you've done this. Is that possible? You know, or is the idea going to have to go in, in massive numbers, go door-to-door, you know, tunnel to tunnel, building to building?
BARAK: Look, I would say that I never use the word inevitable in military affairs, but I would say that in 90 percent plus that we'll see in the coming days a major invasion into Gaza Strip. It will take -- even to take the notion part of Gaza Strip will take some time. Probably two weeks or three, it depends on what pace it will be won.
[10:20:08] But to clear it from the physical and the human resources of the Hamas, it might take many weeks or several months before it's completed. And we are aware, we do not intend to stay there forever. The whole operation has to face a fold, different constraint. One is the hostages, the other is the risk that it will spread into much wider conflict with Hezbollah in Lebanon, probably others. It's how to manage this dialogue with international law. We are committed to the international law. And we are fully aware that our universal support and legitimacy will erode a long time when the numbers of people who are citizens, who are hid there will grow.
In spite of the fact that the reason for them being there is the fact that Hamas coerced them into becoming kind of human shields. We're well aware of this constraint and the last one is the question to whom we can pass the torch because we do not intend to stay there for years to come. So, all this are interactive, intertwined and interconnected kind of constraint. Only those like war cabinet or the upper echelon military command who sits it in real time, facing the data, the defects, and the leaks that emerge, can run it. We cannot predict in advance how exactly it will develop.
ZAKARIA: And let me just ask you about the question you raised. Whom will you pass this to? Because it seems to me that whomever you try, whether it's the Arab, whether it's the Europeans, whether it's the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, they're not going to want to come into Gaza on the back of Israeli tanks. So how do you solve that problem?
BARAK: Well, I would tell you an anecdote. In 2008, as you mentioned, I was minister of defense between one of those rounds that usually ended with certain understanding with the Hamas, mediated by Egypt, then giving the relative calmness for a year and a half or two years. In one of them I sought of the same, why not get rid of the Hamas and pass it to someone, so I approach Mubarak and asked him, why don't you -- once we eliminate Hamas military capabilities, you can demand from us to withdraw with no condition from day one.
After three weeks it was easier at that time. We will capitulate with your demand. You will organize a multi-national Arab force led by you, or probably Moroccans, Emirates, whatever, Omanis soldier, and you take it for a very short periods, three or six months, during which you will bring back to the place the originally internationally recognized owner of the place which is the Palestinian Authority.
Your viewers might already forget it, but originally after Oslo agreement, we gave Gaza to the Palestinian Authority. They were removed from power through a violent coup d'etat by the Hamas. So Mubarak cancelled, no, no, Barak, you conquered it in '60s, I will never ever put my hands back into it. So why can't I go to the bride itself, to Abu Mazen, I don't want to cut a long story short, Abu Mazen told me basically I cannot afford coming back to power in the Gaza Strip sitting on Israeli bayonet.
I didn't like the answer but I cannot tell you that it doesn't carry certain logic into it. But it was 15 years ago. Now after we have another 15 years of peace with Egypt then Jordan, after we have the Abraham Accord, just two and a half weeks ago, we already discussed the trilateral deal with the United States, so the Arabia and Israel in a way suspect the Hamas pointed the timing of the attack, which they prepare for more than a year now, in order to torpedo exactly these trilateral deal which Israel is perceived by them as ignoring the Palestinians issue.
So basically, when you think it this way, probably what was impossible in 2018 is might be possible now. Backed by a Qatari or Saudi financial kind of support and backed by Arab League and probably U.N. Security Council resolution.
They can take the whole area. Make it -- keep it quiet for a few months after we leave and bring back the perceived sovereignty, to take over the --
ZAKARIA: We have to take a break. When we come back, stay with me, Ehud Barack.
I will ask Ehud Barak whether the peace plan he proposed between Israelis and Palestinians so many years ago is now a distant dream or is it something that can still be revived? When we come back.
ZAKARIA: In July of 2000, President Bill Clinton welcomed Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leaders Yasser Arafat to his presidential retreat at Camp David. Their aim was to end the decades long conflict once and for all. After two weeks they appeared tantalizingly close to a historic deal until the Palestinians pulled out and talks broke down.
Later that year, violence erupted across the region to begin a Palestinian uprising known as the second intifada. By then, prospects of a lasting peace were long gone.
Back with me one of the key players from that summit, Ehud Barak. Prime Minister Barak, is that dream of a two-state solution, you know, just a complete fantasy at this point? I mean, I think about the map that Clinton proposed right at the end, the so-called Clinton Parameters, which I know comes from Dennis Ross and was not accepted by either side. But, you know, it gives you a sense that there was a possibility of a rational solution here.
The Palestinians got in that map, which was not accepted, but it was close to what was being offered, 93 percent, 94 percent of what they had. Is all of that dead with this wave of settlements that have taken place in the last 20 years and Palestinian -- you know, the Palestinian authority not having much credibility anyway?
BARAK: Look, it is not the right time to discuss it because we are now at war. And first of all, we are focused on eliminating the military capabilities of Hamas and making it out of the picture in the Gaza Strip.
But if you ask me on the longer term, there is an old woman saying, if you don't know which port you want to reach no wind will take you there. And those who sail know that if you have a headwind, you have to zigzag in order to reach this objective.
I never lose eye contact with these visions. It's not about dreams, it is about the vision for the future which is needed for Israel. Not because of justice for the Palestinian because our own future, security and identity.
But there is a great debate in Israel, the other side of the political map led by Netanyahu and these two racist messianic guys that he joined hands with, they have a different -- they want one state. They want to block those in a way that a foundation of this conflict of the last two weeks, the strategy was taken by Netanyahu in the last five years could be summarized in the sentence Hamas is an asset and the Palestinians is a liability rather than the other way around.
Because why is this? Because if the Hamas is still alive and kicking, no one can argue with us to start negotiations with the Palestinian. Since we can easily -- the government can easily say Abus Mazen does not control even half of his own people and with Hamas no one will require from us to negotiate with a terror organization.
So basically, it is an indirect way to block the possibility of two states. So, it is not the time to deal with it because we have to unite and first of all defeat Hamas on the ground. Later on, there will come a day when we left Camp David and say whether it take five, 15 -- it's already more than 20 or 50 years. At end the time will come to make an agreement it will come at a certain point. You will need a magnifying glass to see the difference between what was on table and what would be concluded. And a few years after a deal will be strike, no one will -- can explain why the hell it took so long and needed to bury so many people on both sides.
ZAKARIA: Finally and quickly, Prime Minister Barak, you said Benjamin Netanyahu is to blame for the greatest failure in Israeli history. Can he survive as prime minister after this failure?
BARAK: You know, if you ask the people, they will tell you, no. You know, he got their trust, the mandate from the -- to build the government, some 10 months ago, or a little bit more. The trust evaporated during the 7th of October, totally. No one trusts, especially with these two (INAUDIBLE) in his government.
And if you look at the polls that were passed in the last week, you will find that 70 percent of Israeli public wants Netanyahu to resign. Half of them wants him to resign immediately and others said at the end of the war. But in their mind they have Israeli wars. Six days war was one week. The '73 war was a huge war, three weeks. The longest conflict in the last generation, five years ago, was less than two months.
So, in two months, let's bite our lips and fight and put it on the shelf. But when you start to see in terms of a longer war that might take, as you mentioned, many months, probably a few years or more than a year, this is -- paint (ph) it in a different way.
I don't believe that the public trusts Netanyahu to lead these -- these wars. Everyone is happy that Gantz and Eisenkot, two opposition leaders who both happen to be chief of staff of the armed forces and one of them, Gantz, even minister of defense, that makes the people more -- feel more secure. That irresponsible decisions won't be made.
But having said that, people would expect accountability. I kind of sorry to tell you that there is no Hebrew word for accountability. Think of the reason for it. But it is time to demand accountability and I think that, you know, everyone tells you, oh, he's over. It is not over.
Netanyahu is focused on -- on relieving himself and the -- what we call the poison machine that blaming others have been responsible -- he's working 24/7 behind briefing against Gantz, against Eisenkot, against the army leadership, against the intelligence, everyone responsible except for the man at the top.
ZAKARIA: Ehud Barak, pleasure to have you on, sir. I hope we can have you on again. Thank you.
Next up, David Petraeus and Andrew Roberts on lessons for insurgencies everywhere.
ZAKARIA: In his almost four-decade long military career, retired General David Petraeus face plenty of insurgencies mainly Iraq and Afghanistan. What do his insights from an extraordinary career tell us about this new war between Israel and Hamas?
David Petraeus joins me now alongside the historian Andrew Roberts. The two are co-authors of the new book, "Conflict: The Evolution of Warfare from 1945 to Ukraine." Andrew is, of course, now Baron Roberts of Belgravia having been elevated to the peerage.
David, let me start with you. This issue of destroying Hamas, is that a realistic goal?
GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS (RET.), FORMER COMMANDER, COALITION FORCES IN IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN: I think it is a realistic goal but it is going to be exceedingly difficult. We've seen how long it takes to clear cities, roughly the size of Gaza City, nine months for the Iraqi security forces to clear the Islamic state out of Mosul, as an example, with our assistance, IDF much better, much more capable but still it's going to be very, very tough. And how they do it is important.
Again, we had a question on the wall always, will this operation take more bad guys off the street than it creates by its conduct? And you have got to be careful that the answer to that is going to be yes. And there has to also be a vision for the future. They can accomplish this mission, but then keep in mind that the definition of destroy in military doctrinal terms is render the enemy of incapable of accomplishing his mission without reconstitution.
So, whatever it is that follows, has to ensure that this cannot be reconstituted. Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad will try to come back. So, whatever it is that takes over from the Israel, they have to determine that urgently.
Ehud Barak was absolutely right on that. But they're not going to just do humanitarian assistance and reconstruction. They're going to have to conduct a counterinsurgency campaign to keep Hamas and the Islamic Jihad from coming back.
ZAKARIA: When you did the surge, one of things that seemed to me so successful in that post operation was you brokered a reconciliation between the Sunnis and the Shias politically.
ZAKARIA: So -- I mean, do you need some kind of political vision?
PETRAEUS: Very much so. There has to be a vision for the people in Gaza, for the Palestinians, that distinguishes, very clearly, the war is not on them. It's actually to make their lives better. If they will reject Hamas, their life will be better. By the way, the same for those in the West Bank. There has to be that.
And again, what we did is we said to the Sunnis, if you'll break with al Qaeda and Iraq, support us first and then the government. And then later the same with the Iranian supported Shia militia, let's strip you -- and, of course, we defeated then the other elements, the militia that remained and also al Qaeda and Iraq and the Sunni insurgent groups. So, that vision is crucial. And again, I think, Ehud Barak had that exactly right as well.
ZAKARIA: A quick thought on Hezbollah before I go to you. Do you think Hezbollah will launch a serious attack from the north?
PETRAEUS: I don't think they want to do that. But the pressure will grow as the damage and destruction -- inevitable there are going to be civilian casualties. Urban combat is fiendishly difficult. And I can't imagine a context that is more difficult than this one. Hundreds of miles of tunnels, suicide bombers, enemy that doesn't wear uniforms, uses human shields, civilians and of course the over 200 hostages that are still there.
So that is going to be very, very challenging for them. And again, you have to have this vision that is going to try to separate the people from Hamas, again also in the West Bank as well. Hezbollah, though, got hammered in 2006. Much worse than we realized at the time. We reassessed it several occasions. They'll do the occasional attacks and all the rest of that. I don't think they want to launch all 150,000 rockets which would be devastating for Israel but then would be even more devastating for Hezbollah and they know that.
ZAKARIA: Andrew -- ANDREW ROBERTS, HISTORIAN AND JOURNALIST: Operationally, of course, it
is also very good for Israel to be able to promise the Palestinian Arabs that they will be able to go back to Gaza because then you could physically also separate them from the Hamas that you're trying to fight in Gaza City.
PETRAEUS: Lots in history that bears that out.
ZAKARIA: Historically, you talk about Malaysia as being one of the great successes of counterinsurgency. What do you draw as the key lesson to succeeding in a counterinsurgency?
ROBERTS: Well, the way that Malaysia works is that they were able to offer their people independence and later became independent in 1957. And that was immensely important in winning what was said at the time, to be the hearts and minds --
ZAKARIA: That phrase was coined in that campaign.
ROBERTS: That was the phrase. Yes. Exactly.
PETRAEUS: And that matter -- they matter. And they matter here as well.
ROBERTS: So General Templer coined that phrase and it worked. And it wasn't just in Malaysia, it also worked in the Oman campaign where they were able to offer progress, physical educational, agriculture, medical progress, and that is also something that obviously could be an important part to play here.
ZAKARIA: All right. Stay with us. Next up, I'm going to talk to General Petraeus and Lord Roberts about the other major conflict in the world right now, Ukraine, which we might have forgotten about but is still going on when we come back.
ZAKARIA: We are going to pivot to the world's other major war in Ukraine. The long awaiting Ukrainian counteroffensive is stretching into its fifth month and many in the West remain concerned that it is lagging. As winter approaches, what hope does Ukraine have against its much bigger and more powerful adversary?
We are back with General David Petraeus and the great historian Andrew Roberts. Both of you have been to Kyiv and to Ukraine. In fact -- and you were there just a few weeks ago. The conventional wisdom is the Ukraine counteroffensive has not gone as well as planned. The Russians are fighting back, better, harder, smarter. What can you tell us about all of this?
PETRAEUS: Well first of all, I think, one of the key factors I'm watching for is do the Russians actually crack and crumble at some point? No plan survives contact with the enemy. The Ukrainian plan did not. They had to adjust from armored breaching and the minefields are just much longer -- deeper than anyone realized. So, they've used M3 (ph) squads. That means you're going to gain 100 -- 150 meters a day as opposed to several meters if you get a breakthrough.
The pressure though has been unrelentless on the Russians and I think we need to see where that does lead. They intend -- this is not just a summer and fall offensive, they're going to fight all winter and they've stated that publicly.
Beyond that, we tend to overlook what they've done against Crimea. The Russian bases there -- the base -- the naval base of Sevastopol has had to be evacuated basically because of the Russian losses due to the very diabolically clever maritime drones that Ukraine has developed.
Ukraine hit the actual headquarters of the Black Sea fleet during their command and staff meeting. They are reducing the capabilities in the airfield. This all takes time though. And what they're trying to do is to reduce the logistical capacity to support these forces so that at some point in time, again, they might achieve that kind of breakthrough.
But no, I think, it is accurate to say that the hopes for the counteroffensive have not been fully realized. But it is not over and they are still driving to be able to cut that key line of communications that comes in from Russia along the southeast and southern coast.
ZAKARIA: Andrew, when I look at Russian history, the thing that what worries me is they seem to be able to fight very long wars with very large numbers of casualties.
ROBERTS: They do when they're on the defensive and that's very true historically. But actually, they are not that good on the offensive. And this -- Russian soldiers recognize that this is an offensive war into somebody else's country. And historically there it hasn't been such a happy prospect.
The other thing, of course, and something that comes out very strongly from our book is how important the moral is. And the moral of an army that has taken a very serious bloody nose and also doesn't necessarily see any quick way to victory is going to be less than the Ukrainian army which has still not the same kind of moral that it did at the early stages of this war, but still over historically, at least, at a level that can win a victory.
ZAKARIA: In a sense, is the Ukraine situation a little bit like say the Algerians? The Algerians trying to get independence. The French say, no, we're going to -- the French by some accounts killed a million Algerians but the Algerians never gave up.
ROBERTS: That is right. And also, of course, the other thing you saw in the Algerian war was the horrific use of torture and brutal viciousness which you're also seeing with the way in which the Russians are treating ordinary Ukrainian people, and that ultimately has the effect of just enraging the population. And in a sense helping its moral to want to push through to ultimate victory.
ZAKARIA: Has President Biden been handling Ukraine well in your opinion?
PETRAEUS: I think he together with Congress actually have led the effort much better than Vladimir Putin expected. And I think quite impressively, $44 billion worth of assistance is a very substantial amount.
We do need to continue to do more. I hope Congress can come together on that issue. There have been decisions I felt that should have been made for rapidly. Some of the capabilities that Ukraine did not have during the summer might have been there. It might have helped them more than marginally, I think.
But by and large, I think, the U.S. has led well, effectively, kept NATO together, kept the western world together, kept Russia from driving a wedge between Europe and North America, and also led the effort on the personal, economic, and financial sanctions and export controls and now going after the sanction evaders very effectively as well.
ZAKARIA: The Russian strategy clearly as far as I can tell is to wait until November 2024, hope that Trump gets elected, hope they can cut a deal with -- Trump will essentially sell the Ukrainians down the river. What do you say about that?
PETRAEUS: Well, I think it is a concern, what the outcome of the election is without question. Will someone be elected who might actually not support this effort? Which, I think, is as right versus wrong as anything in recent memory except until what happened on 7 October, which was also absolutely horrific.
And keep in mind when we think about that, that would be the equivalent of America having lost 50,000 innocent civilians on 9/11 as opposed to the nearly 3,000 that we lost.
ZAKARIA: Final question, Andrew, this is an extraordinary book. How did the two of you write it across the Atlantic?
ROBERTS: Well, we got together immediately after the Russian invasion and decided that we were going to write this book. And we divvied up the chapters by saying -- I said, do you -- that David would work on all of the chapters of the countries he has invaded and Vietnam, and I did the rest.
ZAKARIA: All right. Must have meant a lot of emails. Thank you both.
ZAKARIA: Amazing book.
PETRAEUS: Thank you, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: And thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.