Noam Chomsky: Putin, Ukraine, China, and Nuclear War | Lex Fridman Podcast #316

Last updated: Jun 2, 2023

The video is a podcast interview with Noam Chomsky discussing the war in Ukraine and the complicated geopolitics of the 21st century, including the potential for a war between the US and China and the motivations of Vladimir Putin.

The video is a podcast interview with Noam Chomsky, focusing on the war in Ukraine and the geopolitics of the 21st century. The interviewer asks Chomsky about his thoughts on Vladimir Putin and his motivations, and Chomsky discusses the history of US-Russian relations and the expansion of NATO to the east. Chomsky also expresses concern about the possibility of a war between the US and China, stating that it would destroy the possibilities of organized life on earth. The interview is conducted remotely due to Chomsky's age and the limitations of audio and video connection.

  • The podcast is an interview with Noam Chomsky about the war in Ukraine and geopolitics of the 21st century.
  • A war between the US and China would be catastrophic for organized life on earth.
  • The interview is remote due to the pandemic and is more of an interview than a conversation.
  • Our decisions and actions can either help humanity flourish or unleash global destruction and suffering.
  • Chomsky has no particular insight into Putin's mind.
  • The war in Ukraine is a complex issue with many factors at play.
  • The US and China are engaged in a power struggle, but there are also economic ties between the two countries.
  • The danger of nuclear war is higher than ever before.
  • Putin's actions are motivated by restoring Russia as a great power, controlling it as a dictatorship, and enriching himself and his cronies.

Noam Chomsky: Putin, Ukraine, China, and Nuclear War | Lex Fridman Podcast #316 - YouTube

Noam Chomsky: Putin, Ukraine, China, and Nuclear War | Lex Fridman Podcast #316 001

Introduction

  • The podcast is an interview with Noam Chomsky about the war in Ukraine and geopolitics of the 21st century.
  • A war between the US and China would be catastrophic for organized life on earth.
  • The interview is remote due to the pandemic and is more of an interview than a conversation.
  • The podcast aims to get Chomsky's thoughts on the war in Ukraine and the geopolitics of today.
  • Our decisions and actions can either help humanity flourish or unleash global destruction and suffering.
Noam Chomsky: Putin, Ukraine, China, and Nuclear War | Lex Fridman Podcast #316 002

What motivates Vladimir Putin?

  • Chomsky has no particular insight into Putin's mind.
  • Putin took power almost 25 years ago and his first task was to overcome the chaos and disarray of the 1990s.
  • Gorbachev had a proposal for a cooperative enterprise with the West, but it was quickly smashed.
  • Clinton started the policy of expanding NATO to the east in violation of promises to Gorbachev not to do so.
  • Russian society became a deeply authoritarian society under Putin's tight control.
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The war in Ukraine

  • The war in Ukraine is a complex issue with many factors at play.
  • The US and Russia have been involved in a power struggle for decades.
  • The US has been expanding NATO to the east, which Russia sees as a threat to its security.
  • The US has been supporting anti-Russian forces in Ukraine, which has led to tensions between the two countries.
  • The situation in Ukraine is a result of a long history of geopolitical struggles and power plays.
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Noam Chomsky: Putin, Ukraine, China, and Nuclear War | Lex Fridman Podcast #316 - YouTube

The potential for a war between the US and China

  • A war between the US and China would be catastrophic for organized life on earth.
  • The US and China are engaged in a power struggle, but there are also economic ties between the two countries.
  • The US is trying to contain China's rise as a global power, while China is trying to assert its influence in the world.
  • The US and China have different political systems and values, which makes it difficult for them to cooperate.
  • The US and China need to find a way to peacefully coexist and work together for the good of humanity.
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Background on Ukraine and Russia

  • Russia under Putin continued the policies of the Soviet Union.
  • Clinton's policies towards Russia were reckless and provocative.
  • Russia had a clear red line before Putin, which was no NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia.
  • In 2014, the United States and NATO began to integrate Ukraine into the NATO command.
  • Russia objected to this policy but did not do much until after the 2014 uprising.
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Joe Biden's Policies and Putin's Motivations

  • Joe Biden expanded the program of de facto integration of Ukraine within NATO.
  • In September 2021, he proposed an enhanced program of preparation for NATO admission.
  • Putin's position hardened, and he dismissed possible negotiations.
  • Putin's motivations are to establish his legacy as a leader who restored Russia's position as a world power and prevented Ukraine from entering NATO.
  • He may have further ambitions to dominate and control Ukraine.
  • There is a theory in the West that Putin wants to restore the Great Russian Empire.
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The Potential for a US-China War

  • The US and China are in a dangerous situation that could lead to war.
  • The US is trying to contain China's rise as a world power.
  • China is expanding its military and economic power, which threatens the US's global dominance.
  • The US is trying to maintain its hegemony by surrounding China with military bases and alliances.
  • The US is also trying to prevent China from accessing key resources and markets.
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The Danger of Nuclear War

  • The danger of nuclear war is higher than ever before.
  • The US and Russia have thousands of nuclear weapons, and both countries are modernizing their arsenals.
  • The US and China are also developing new nuclear weapons and delivery systems.
  • The risk of accidental or intentional use of nuclear weapons is increasing.
  • The only way to prevent nuclear war is to eliminate nuclear weapons altogether.
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Motivations of Putin

  • Putin's actions are motivated by restoring Russia as a great power, controlling it as a dictatorship, and enriching himself and his cronies.
  • He wants to establish a legacy as a major figure in Russian history.
  • He wants to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO and maintain control over Crimea and the southeastern quarter of Russia.
  • Speculations about Putin's motivations beyond this are inconsistent with the analyses of Russian power by the same people making the speculations.
  • Putin's invasion of Ukraine is on par with acts of aggression such as the US invasion of Iraq and the Stalin-Hitler invasion of Poland.
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Changes in Putin's Policies

  • Putin's policies have not changed significantly over the past 22 years.
  • His policies have changed in response to changed circumstances.
  • Recently, Putin announced recognition of the independence of the unbest region, which is a stronger position than before.
  • Up until then, he had pretty much kept to the long-standing position of some kind of accommodation within a federal structure in which the donbest region would have considerable autonomy.
  • Even the human mind of Vladimir Putin cannot be read, and speculations about his mind are not based on anything.
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Speculations about Putin's Plans

  • Speculations about Putin's plans to conquer NATO and become like Peter the Great are inconsistent with the analyses of Russian power by the same people making the speculations.
  • Putin's military power is seen as minuscule, and he cannot even conquer towns a couple of kilometers from the border.
  • It is impossible to make sense of Putin's position, which includes both gloating over the fact that the Russian military is a paper tiger and planning to attack NATO powers and conquer Europe.
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Blame for Invasion of Ukraine

  • Any power that commits aggression is to blame.
  • Putin's invasion of Ukraine is on par with acts of aggression such as the US invasion of Iraq and the Stalin-Hitler invasion of Poland.
  • The US committed 6.9 million troops to the invasion of Iraq, while Putin's invasion of Ukraine involved a much smaller military force.
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Support for Ukraine

  • There are two questions regarding support for Ukraine: defense against invasion and ending the war.
  • Providing support for defense against invasion is legitimate.
  • The second question is not discussed in the West and anyone who dares to discuss it is immediately subjected to a flood of invective and hysterical condemnation.
  • There are two things to ask: what can we do to support Ukraine in defense against aggression and how can we end the war before it leads to even worse destruction of Ukraine, more starvation worldwide, and possibly moving up an escalation adder to war, the nuclear war.
  • Official U.S policy is to reject a diplomatic settlement to move to weaken Russia severely, so that it cannot carry out further aggression but not do anything on the Georgia side.
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Potential for Nuclear War

  • There is a lot of war war but no joy jaw joy.
  • There ought to be a joy if you care about Ukraine and the rest of the world.
  • Official U.S policy is to reject a diplomatic settlement to move to weaken Russia severely, so that it cannot carry out further aggression but not do anything on the Georgia side.
  • Anyone who doesn't worry about nuclear war doesn't have a grey cell functioning.
  • Steps could be taken that would lead to nuclear war.
  • There are proposals coming from Congress and other leading figures saying we should establish a no-fly zone, but the Pentagon objects.
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Calibrated Support

  • The U.S should continue with the kind of calibrated support that's been given.
  • The Pentagon wisely has vetoed the initiatives to go well beyond support for defense up to attack on Russia.
  • Calibrated provision of weapons to blunt the offensive allows Ukraine to defend itself if sensible.
  • Efforts should be combined to see if something can be done to bring the crimes and atrocities to an end and avert the much worse consequences that are in store.
  • All of our discussions limit themselves to the first question in the United States and in Britain, not in Europe.
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Ending the War

  • The second part of the question is how to bring the crimes and atrocities to an end.
  • The U.S only deals with the first question.
  • Steps could be taken that would lead to nuclear war.
  • Proposals coming from Congress and other leading figures saying we should establish a no-fly zone, but the Pentagon objects.
  • The assumption is that Ukraine wins, drives out all the Russians, and drives them out of the country, but we don't know that Russia won't react.
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Putin's Strategy in Ukraine

  • Putin is not a madman seeking power and out of control, but rather a rational actor with a strategy.
  • US and British leaders were surprised by Putin's failure to adopt their strategy of shock and awe destruction of communication and energy facilities.
  • The West is taking an extraordinary gamble with the fate of Ukraine by insisting on fighting until Russia faces total defeat.
  • If Putin is crazy and insane as claimed, he may use weapons he hasn't used yet to destroy Ukraine.
  • This could set the stage for escalation and lead to nuclear war.
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Propaganda in Russia, Ukraine, and the West

  • In Russia, propaganda is total, while in Ukraine, propaganda is expected due to the ongoing war.
  • Graham Fuller, a highly placed US intelligence official, has never seen such extreme Russophobia as he sees today in the West.
  • The US has cancelled Russian outlets, making it difficult to find out what Russian officials are saying.
  • Propaganda is outlandish, and independent outlets have been crushed in Russia.
  • Media reporting is generally reasonably accurate, but there is selection, framing, and ways of presenting things that form a kind of propaganda system.
  • There is a difference between propaganda and lying, and a propaganda system shapes and limits information.
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