Show NotesIn this episode, former acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker talks with General Keith Kellogg.
They discuss the current military situation in the Ukraine-Russia war and discuss the United States
options regarding the war.
General (Ret) Keith Kellogg is Co-Chairman Center for American Security at America First Policy Institute
(@A1Policy). He is the Former National Security advisor to Vice President Pence & President Trump.
General Kellogg is Author of War by Other Means and is a FOX News Contributor.
Matthew G. Whitaker was acting Attorney General of the United States (2018-2019). Prior to becoming
acting Attorney General, Mr. Whitaker served as Chief of Staff to the Attorney General. He was
appointed as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa by President George W. Bush, serving
from 2004-2009. Whitaker was the managing partner of Des Moines based law firm, Whitaker Hagenow
& Gustoff LLP from 2009 until rejoining DOJ in 2017. He was also the Executive Director for FACT, The
Foundation for Accountability & Civic Trust, an ethics and accountability watchdog, between 2014 and
2017. Mr. Whitaker is Author of the book--Above the Law, The Inside Story of How the Justice
Department Tried to Subvert President Trump.
Mr. Whitaker graduated with a Master of Business Administration, Juris Doctor, and Bachelor of Arts
from the University of Iowa. While at Iowa, Mr. Whitaker was a three-year letterman on the football
team where he received the prestigious Big Ten Medal of Honor.
Mr. Whitaker is now a Co-Chair of the Center for Law and Justice at America First Policy Institute and a
Senior Fellow at the American Conservative Union Foundation. Matt is on the Board of Directors for
America First Legal Foundation and is a Senior Advisor to IronGate Capital Advisors. He is also Of Counsel
with the Graves Garrett law firm. Whitaker appears regularly to discuss legal and political issues on Fox
News, Newsmax and other news outlets. He splits his time between Iowa, Florida and Washington, D.C.
Eposode TranscriptAnnouncer [00:00:06] Welcome to Liberty and Justice with your host Matt Whitaker.
Matt Whitaker [00:00:10] Thanks for joining me. I'm joined today by General Keith Kellogg, a man that needs no introduction. Long distinguished career in the army and then served in the Trump administration. White House on National Security Council advised the president and vice president on important issues. General Kellogg, thanks for joining me, Matt.
General Keith Kellogg [00:00:30] Good to be with you today.
Matt Whitaker [00:00:32] Yeah, we talk every once in a while. I'm I'm a big fan, a big admirer of yours. I respect just the living daylights out of you. And I loved your book that talked about your, you know, career of service. But the reason I want to have you on today is I I want and I want anybody listening today on CPAC now to understand what's going on with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. So could you, I guess, explain to me how you see it? And then I got a bunch of specific questions if you got that.
General Keith Kellogg [00:01:06] Yeah, sure, man. Well, I won't insult the audience by doing what Vice President Harris did, which was a pretty insulting way of explaining what was happening, was like third grade explanation. Let me what we're looking at is Putin has always expressed a concern that Ukraine was too close for comfort, meaning he thought it was a security issue to him and he didn't want Ukraine emerging with Naito or any any movement to the West at all. But he's always said that that is something he's been saying for the last five, six, seven years. So when he didn't get those concerns, he basically invaded the country. I think a couple of things happened during his right to an invasion. I think he he hugely underestimated the the Ukrainian will to fight and to stay independent, and he greatly underestimated their president Zelensky. He's become a real rallying cry to the Western world. He was one of the guys when he said, You know, when you invade, you will see my face, not my back. And he kept true to his word. And I think he was also Putin was unaware of basically, I understand that understanding the resolve of the West, that's always been one of his fatal flaws. We've known that for years, even when your White House. We always knew that Putin had a problem. His problem was understanding the West when he was a KGB officer. The furthest west he went was to Dresden, Germany. So we never had an a real assignment overseas to really understand what, how the West worked and what they thought. So he bought into a couple of big mistakes there. You know, frankly, he violated rule number one that I've always believed, which actually goes back to a Chinese military philosopher named Sun Tzu, where he said, If you understand yourself and understand your enemy, you will win all your battles. If you understand yourself and you understand and not have the enemy, you'll win fifty fifty percent of them. If you don't understand yourself and you understand the enemy, you lose all your fights. He's in the lower one third category. He even made a big mistake today, Matt, even though you see the inexorable advance of the Russian forces because of sheer mass and it's eight to ten to one Russia compared to Ukraine. He's in fact losing because every day that goes by that he has not taken key the capital city of Ukraine or decapitated a government defined as eliminating the government and putting somebody that he likes is in charge. Every day that goes by, he loses. He loses in the court of world opinion. We all see that he loses when the allies get much stronger, which we're seeing there. And so he's not gaining any ground at all. He may win this fight long term. But I think he's bitten off more than he can chew. And I think what you're looking at, if I would pick up the phone and call him, I said, Look, here's what you need to understand. Don't want an answer for me now? No, Vlad, here's my recommendation to you. Go back and look what happened to Afghanistan in the Soviet Union? Yeah, this is going to be your Afghanistan now. You can do what you want to do fine. But I think this is one of those efforts that Ukraine will be the thorn in the borough under a saddle, and he's going to pay a long term price.
Matt Whitaker [00:04:18] Yeah. Watching this play out on television and social media, I think one of the things that I wasn't surprised by, but to your point of the not understanding himself and his military is how behind the times it appears the Russian military is they may have 200000 or so fighters, but their equipment looks very Soviet era almost. What are you seeing, as you see?
General Keith Kellogg [00:04:45] Well, here's what's stunning that they've gone through a 10 year modernization plan. I mean, that's reason all of us who would have military backgrounds thought this would be he'd be in Kiev and three or four days surround the city pounded and keep moving on. He hasn't done that. So all this modernization may have been. In equipment, but it sure wasn't on how he fights. And, you know, you can have the best equipment in the world, but if you don't know how to fight, you've got a real problem. I used to tell people that from the first Gulf War, I said if we had taken all of our equipment, which was the best in the world and given it to the Iraqis and we'd take it all of their equipment, we still would have it because we thought differently. We we our leadership taught us how to fight well. We were conditioned to fight well, we trained how to fight well and we executed well. They their their method of command and control and leadership is in fact Soviet. Their equipment, maybe modern, but their leadership's not. And that's causing enormous problems. And frankly, we're picking up on it because they actually had to resort to unclassified and, you know, open discussions on their radios because they're real secure system is broken down. So we're seeing the confusion they've got in their ranks.
Matt Whitaker [00:06:06] Yeah. And one of the other things I read is speaking of the training is that the West has been training the Ukrainian military like five divisions a year over the last several years since Ukraine determined that a Russian invasion could be in the works.
General Keith Kellogg [00:06:24] Yeah, well, now we train them, which what you can't ignore is the fighting spirit. You know, I've told people and my wife was reminding me that she's getting a little bit old here in it, but it's an older, polyphonic axiom that the moral to the physical history is to one which meant even Napoleon understood this, that you can't ever discount the will and the fighting spirit of an army. And that's what he meant. You know, fighting spirit really count. And I'll tell you about the Ukrainians are really showing that they're showing a spirit of fighting and an unusual tactic. And I think it's really confounding the Russians. And I think as they said today, if this was a fight prize fight and we were in, say, round seven, right now, Russia is behind on points pretty clear. Ukraine's winning the fight may be close, but the problem I've got right now is over time, just the sheer size of the Russian military mass will will eventually take over. But here's what's going to be really interesting to me. You know, I said this all alone, all along. I said he does not have the distance or the legs, the capacity to take all of Ukraine. That's been proven out. If you look at it, he is now committed almost 100 percent of his invasion force. He is nowhere near the Dnieper River and crossing over the Dnieper River to get to the West. He's nowhere there. He's overextended and is showing the real gaps in his army. I mean, if I was first of all, he's really emboldened Naito because NATO's now going. We're afraid of this guy. Right, right. And I think even President Xi is probably saying the same thing. Well, I'm not too worried about this guy. This guy, maybe. Maybe I'd made this handshake deal too early.
Matt Whitaker [00:08:06] Yeah. Well, I mean, this, you know, I always I didn't think that the Russians could project power much past their borders. And to your point, that's playing out before our eyes. But you know, one of the other interesting things I've been reading about and paying attention to is not only the regular Ukrainian army, but this this irregular army where it appears anybody that's physically able to is is picking up arms and defending their country is kind of like you would expect to see if the United States was ever invaded. But the I guess the thing I really want to understand is from a from a military commander standpoint and from your point viewpoint, how do you command this irregular army of volunteers and, you know, sort of ordinary citizens that may or may not be armed? I noticed one picture at a guy with a wooden gun waiting for his issue to, you know, to come through. But how do you how do you how do you command an irregular army together with a regular army?
General Keith Kellogg [00:09:06] Well, they merge him. And I think that's what the Ukrainian military is doing is just a quasi military of the military. They're bringing them into their their organizations. It's sort of like, OK, we bring 10 people in and tell the number one guy the tallest guy there, OK, you're the squad leader, the rest. You follow me and you put one soldier with him and you go out and you kind of do good there. I'm sure there's ways that they're doing this, and that's the way we would do it. It's sort of like our National Guard concept or the leader. Delayed concept work or agenda is one or two soldiers and you sort of follow me and this is what we'll do. And he's turned a whole neighborhood and turned the whole nation against him. I mean, he can't. There's no way that I can see Russia occupying this nation. They don't have the garrison force to do it. And there is going to be they're going to pay a terrible price here, you know? Here's what's really interesting to me, though, is the one thing that I'm confused about. I've got the military efforts going on. I've got the resupply of equipment to Ukraine. I've got Naito. Reinforcing all the nations, you know what I don't see, I don't see the diplomacy, the I don't see any diplomatic efforts now. Part of that, I think, is because Biden has got no credibility with Putin, and Putin, of course, has no credibility with Biden. I mean, they they don't like each other. It's clear, but he's Biden is basically written off talking to Putin. You know, he can say all he wants to that I want to talk to Putin. He won't. So I heard it. I read, heard today or read about it that it looks like Macron, a French and Schultz of Germany, are talking with Xi. That's what you may see it. And I think what you may see long term because of that, you're going to see a European alliance that doesn't rely on the United States diplomatically. So Biden can say, Well, we're leading the West lead in the West while we're lead in the West by following them. And I think you're going to see that because Putin is not talking to the US, he's talking to everybody but the US and long term people needed to understand who this is. I know where this is going. We've got no credibility with the Russians.
Matt Whitaker [00:11:06] Is there. And so in your mind, this where we, for example, on Nord Stream or some of these other energy sanctions waited for the Germans to come along. The Biden administration is very are they happy to be taking a backseat to France and Germany? Or is this some jujitsu diplomacy? I never want to give the Biden administration much credit, but you know what? What could just nobody nobody trusts are believe them is what you're telling me.
General Keith Kellogg [00:11:41] Yeah, I think they realize that it's, you know, what do they say in Texas? All hat? No cattle? I think that's true looking at Biden in. And but here the Europeans again are, you know, I had a hope when Schulz of Germany said they're going to resurrect their army, go up to two percent GDP spent on defense. I was fine with that until today, he said. Well, we're not going to cut any energy imports. He just undercut himself because that's the way you get to Russia is you attack them economically in that they the biggest one is energy. You know, I'd always thought it depends on what no use. I can give you a three different four numbers from three different sources. Bottom line is, between 40 and 60 percent of Germany's energy comes from Russia. Well, they need to go cold turkey. Well, they're not going to do that, Schultz said. He wasn't. Well, then if you're going to continue to draw their energy, you're going to continue to pay them. You've kind of, you know, in a country case and you're never really as well Naito, Naito, Naito, whatever, whatever, whatever. This is going to be interesting game to watch, play out. And that's what I said about the diplomatic piece, because sooner or later, wars end. They always do. The question is, how do you end it? And I don't even think we're thinking that. I just don't get the feeling. We're being creative. I don't think we're pushing back on Putin, and I don't have a good answer for you, Matt. But I think what I would do, I'd I'd probably grab my smartest people in and move them over to the executive office building next to the West Wing in the White House and take them up on the fifth floor of the lobby and give them a whole lot of really warm beer and cold pizza and say, you guys come up with good solutions and let's figure out what the solutions are and go forward. I don't think we're doing it. I think we are entirely reactive to what's happening.
Matt Whitaker [00:13:27] Yeah, and Germany has done this to themselves, general, because they can't. As soon as Trump left office, they canceled the two liquid natural gas terminals that they were going to construct to import US LNG. And I believe they've been taken off line their their nuclear power plants since, I guess, since Fukushima happened. And so now their dependance on natural gas from Russia to power their energies, like you said, somewhere between 40 and 60 percent with no plan to wean themselves off of Russian gas.
General Keith Kellogg [00:14:02] Yeah, there's not. And I read this morning that it looked like the nuclear power plants and most of them are in a bottom Rutenberg in the end. And actually in the Munich area that they've they've decided they haven't decided they want to talk now about least extending their life for another three years and because they realize I've got an energy issue. But but you're natural, by the way, that's the reason why the French aren't worried. You know, the French is a nuclear nation, basically does all its energy from nuclear, and I think they they now they dependent on Russia. And I think when this is all said and done, they're going to continue to stay dependent on Russia. And that's going to be and that's going to put us back in this really interesting predicament of, OK. You know, Germany, if you're going to continue to take all of that fuel from Germany, where do you really stand? Because, you know, people said, Well, we've shut down. The Nord Stream two pipeline didn't make any difference in Nord Stream. One pipeline is still open. The Atlantic Pipeline is still open. You know, all those pipelines going across Europe, not one of them has been shut down.
Matt Whitaker [00:15:10] What do you see as the most? I mean, what are the what are the possible outcomes of this conflict and what's the most likely outcome?
General Keith Kellogg [00:15:20] Well, the possible or probable outcome is, I think you see and what we used to have in East and West Germany, you have an east and west Ukraine. I think that's the worst case because I don't think Putin can continue this fight into the West out there. But he starts to. But the NATO countries, which is violation of exactly what he said he wanted, which was to have some buffer. That's what I would say. His best case and our worst case, our best case in his his worst case is that Ukraine actually continues to survive and and he sees his military being basically humiliated in the world and people say, pull back. But I think there's going to be constant conflict because I don't think he's willing to give up on the autonomous zones on the East. I don't think he's one of the other Crimea. And I think if they went to Zelensky and said, this thing's over, if you recognize both of those, I don't think Zelensky will do it. I think Zelensky has reached a point where he said, I give it in anything to this guy. So that's where somebody is going to have to broker this diplomatically and turn it either over to the EU or the UN or somebody because neither side is going to give. I don't think so. As long as he stays alive is going to give one inch to Putin, and Putin is too stubborn because he doesn't understand Zelenskiy to do the same. So I think you're heading for a real stalemate intellectually and diplomatically.
Matt Whitaker [00:16:48] And so do you see I mean, if I'm if I'm a Russian with any kind of historical knowledge, you don't have to look very far back to their invasion of Afghanistan and ultimately their humiliation at the hands of shoulder fired rockets. Supplied? Nominally, I guess, arguably by the United States. And it seems like that's exactly what's going to happen here in the Ukraine are at worst, a guerrilla war, but most likely a continued conflict with these, you know, tank and surface to air shoulder fired missiles.
General Keith Kellogg [00:17:24] Yeah, that's true. It's sort of like Putin got himself in a brier patch and he's going have to figure out how to extract himself, and Zelensky is not going to give him an easy way out. So he's going to keep throwing, you know, him back into the Brier patch, even if he may try to get out because Zelensky won't give up any territory. And he's refused to over the years during the making process when they tried to do some type of solving the problem with the two breakaway republics unleashed. So Putin is going to try to figure this one out to try to save face. And the only thing he's going to try to do, I believe, is continue the advance to finally take Kiev. Finally take the eastern part. But but I mean, you've been, you know, you've seen the White House and how to do it in May. And I would if I was Biden, I would have called in my my CIA director and I would have issued a presidential finding the first day. And that finding is to use all those covert clandestine capability to train Ukrainians to go against the Russians. And that's what I said about going back to Afghanistan because that's what we did in Afghanistan. I would make life a living hell for Putin.
Matt Whitaker [00:18:32] Well, he's got to be certainly unhappy with what's happening and the progress, and maybe he's deluded enough to think that he can just continue to press the force because you said the numbers are just in his favor. But what what do you think is next if we are in kind of this standoff in a war of wills at some point in time, doesn't Putin risk a threat from inside Russia?
General Keith Kellogg [00:19:00] Yeah, that's what you said, which is long term concern today. If I was Putin, I double up my bodyguards because you see the oligarchs going to get him with the military is going to get him or something is going to happen because if he can't produce this and and Russia has become a pariah state, I mean, Putin's beyond being a pariah. You know, he's actually reached the point is he he's actually, you know, just not just a thug, but you know, this is a guy who can be brought up on war crimes. But his military is going to say, God, we're looking stupid, we're looking bad and we're becoming a pariah nation and being embarrassed by everybody. And that's going to be hard to forget. I mean, I will tell you if you if the war stopped today and I've known, I know people in the military, everybody is saying across the board, you know, those guys aren't very good and you don't you don't want to have that then your reputation as a military when they start equating your military to the Vermont National Guard. And that's probably an insult to. The Vermont National Guard.
Matt Whitaker [00:20:06] Yeah. One. One final question, I know we'll get limited time here, but one final question. I've noticed that Russia has lost a couple of field generals in this last two weeks. I mean, how devastating is that for an army that needs that type of leadership on the field?
General Keith Kellogg [00:20:26] Well, I say one thing. I say tongue in cheek. It's always good for morale to lose a general cause. And I think it's really because the soldiers say, Well, they're out there with it. They've they've lost a couple, according to their reporting. The biggest one they lost to me was the general commander, their seventh airborne, and he was a top flight general. You know, and in a backhanded compliment to him, he was out, where were you supposed to be? Which was with his troops near the front. But when that's telling me, is there, the Ukrainian targeting is pretty good and they're going after their senior officials, senior officers and losing generals like that is never good. You know, we lost, I think, six in Vietnam total. But it's always it's never good to lose a general because that kind of tells you that the enemy's taken. You take the fight to you.
Matt Whitaker [00:21:15] Yeah. Well, General Keith Kellogg, thank you for taking the time to help me understand some of these issues. You know, everyone that follows CPAC now and and follows my show livery injustices learned something every time they listen to you. So I very much appreciate your time and we'll do it again soon.
General Keith Kellogg [00:21:34] Thanks, Matt. Thanks for having. Me.
Matt Whitaker [00:21:36] All right, general. Thank you.