I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 24-28 February

I always forget that February is a short month!

The Daily (New York Times). The episode ‘A Knife to the Throat: Putin’s Logic for Invading Ukraine’ is really excellent. A specialist who speaks Russian goes through Putin’s speech on 23 February where he explained his rationale for ‘de-communizing’ Ukraine as a way of assuring Russia’s security. There’s a transcript if you don’t have time to listen to the whole thing. Really good. Check it out.

History of Rome podcast Episode 111- Phase One Complete. After the Battle of Abrittus, with two dead emperors (Decius and his son) killed in battle, Trebonianus Gallus knew that the last thing Rome needed was another civil war, so he agreed to share power with Decius’s youngest son Hostilianus. It was a rotten time to become Emperor, with the Persians fomenting war in the East again, and with about twenty years of plague (what a discouraging thought). The plague probably carried off Hostilianus because he disappears from the historical record, and the plague and its effect on agriculture destroyed the economy. The Moesian troops became dissatisfied with Gallus, and proclaimed Aemilianus emperor instead, who lasted less than a month on the throne before being ousted by Valerian. Episode 112 Captured Alive continues this messy 3rd century. In the 18 years since Antonius Severus was killed, there had been 11 emperors. Valerian brought 15 years of relative stability, but only in the central areas of Rome, Greece and the Balkan – not out in the provinces. Valerian went to Syria, while his son Gallienus (who he had promptly made caesar) went north. In this way, the defence of the empire was divided again – although this was probably the only way it survived. There was peace while the emperor was present, but as soon as he left, skirmishes would commence again. Valerian left Syria to go to the Rhine where the Franks, a Germanic tribe, were uprising and on the way back he was captured by Shapur the king of Persia. There are lots of stories about his captivity: some that he lived quite peacefully, others that the king used him as a footstool or flayed him alive. We don’t know. Either way, the Emperor was captured and everything was in turmoil.

The Real Story (BBC) The title of this podcast Why is China Supporting Russia on NATO? may have been overtaken somewhat by events, because I’m not completely sure that China is supporting recent events in Ukraine. Nonetheless, this interesting podcast goes through the history of Russia/China relations since the 1950s, when the two Communist countries saw each other as brothers. However, it was a very personal relationship between leaders, and Mao Tse-tung was only prepared to defer to Stalin, and not his successors. In 1970 Richard Nixon executed a triangulation move of the US and China against the Soviet Union, which changed the balance. In 2001 a new Sino-Russia pact was signed, and then in February of this year we saw a new Putin/Xi statement issued during the 2022 Winter Olympics. It was suggested that the pact was not person-to-person, but an agreement to strategic military co-operation as pushback against the United States, and as a way of freeing up troops on their shared borders so that they could be deployed elsewhere. It was pointed out that Russia sees itself as European. China has extensive economic ties with Europe, but Russia would be able to fall back on China for exports. However, it was an agreement, not a pact, and they would be able to stand aside militarily from each other’s conflict, with no commitment to become involved (which perhaps we might be seeing in the Ukraine) The panel comprised Sergey Radchenko – (Professor at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University and author of Two Suns in the Heavens: The Sino-Soviet Struggle for Supremacy, 1962-1967) Bonny Lin –( A senior fellow for Asian security and director of The China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and Robert Daly – A former US diplomat in Beijing, now director of the Kissinger Institute on China and the United States at the Wilson Center in Washington DC.

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