Lowy Institute Conversations: Crisis in Ukraine and Russia's long game
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Lowy Institute Conversations: Crisis in Ukraine and Russia's long game

In this special edition of Lowy Institute Conversations, Research Director Hervé Lemahieu speaks to Nonresident Fellow Bobo Lo about Russia's tactics and ambitions in Ukraine, and the West's options in response.

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There's been a significant escalation in the Ukraine crisis. The diplomatic pathway pursued by France and Germany - and backed up by the United States and Britain - was 'blown up' by a late-night televised address by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In that speech he sought to revise Ukrainian history and recognise the separatist regions of Luhansk and Donetsk as independent. Does it end here? Or is it a precursor to something new, darker and more dangerous in Russian President Putin’s playbook?


Hervé Lemahieu, Director of Research, Lowy Institute

Bobo Lo, Nonresident Fellow, Lowy Institute


Listen to this episode at Apple Podcasts - Spotify - Google Podcasts


Hervé Lemahieu: There's been a significant escalation in the Ukraine crisis. The diplomatic pathway pursued by France and Germany, backed up by the United States and Britain was 'blown up' overnight by Russian President Vladimir Putin in a late-night televised address. In that speech, Putin sought to revise Ukrainian history and declared the separatist regions of Luhansk and Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine independent. Are we witnessing a classic Putin ploy? Or is this a precursor to something new, darker and more dangerous still? It is Wednesday morning the 23rd of February in Australia. And as we record this special edition of Lowy Institute Conversations, Russian tanks are rolling into eastern Ukraine. How far will Russia go? What will the West do in response?

I'm Hervé Lemahieu, the Director of Research at the Lowy Institute and with me to discuss the Ukraine crisis is the Lowy Institute Nonresident Fellow Bobo Lo.

Bobo Lo: Very happy to be here Hervé.

Hervé Lemahieu: Bobo Lo is a long-time Nonresident Fellow at the Lowy Institute and a world-renowned expert on Russia. In a previous life, he served as a diplomat for Australia, including a posting to Moscow as Deputy Head of Mission at the Australian Embassy there. He's also been affiliated to Chatham House in London, as well as IFRI, the French Institute of International Relations in Paris. He is the author of numerous books and papers, including 'Russia and the New World Disorder', which was described by The Economist as the best attempt yet to explain Russia's unhappy relationship with the rest of the world. And he's also written for the Lowy Institute, including a Lowy Institute paper, 'A Way Embrace: What the China-Russia relationship means for the world'. He's also the author of a forthcoming analysis on the Joe Biden presidency, and its impact on global order. Bobo, without further ado, obviously, we've seen some very interesting developments unfold overnight in Australia overnight as well, I think in Ukraine in the sense that Russian tanks began rolling into the separatist regions of Luhansk and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine. A deeper murkiness prevails now in terms of what the next steps may be, in the Kremlin. Take us through a little bit what's happened just in the last 24 hours or so beginning with that infamous 55 minutes diatribe by Putin explaining the rationale for actions in Ukraine, as well as the Russian Parliament's endorsement of Putin's plans there.

Bobo Lo: Well, thank you, Hervé. Yes, it's really interesting times at the moment, but it's also incredibly unclear. One of the interesting things about Putin's approach to this is that he's clearly trying to retain as many options as possible. There's a sort of a mixture between Putin as the calculating machine, the scheming politician, if you like. And then also Putin as the emotional figure who really believes in notions of Slavic brotherhood, who believes that the West has done Russia wrong, and who very much believes in this, a larger vision of Russia as a resurgent regional and global power. And so we tend to sort of think about, is this about Ukraine? Yes, of course, it is about Ukraine. But ultimately, it's about Russian self-identification, finding a place in the world. A place that is, if you like, strategically equal or at least having equal strategic status to the United States and China.

Hervé Lemahieu: Right. But the United States doesn't, or hasn't, for a long time made incursions into Mexico to prove its great power status. This is truly extraordinary, isn't it? It's not simply - even by Soviet standards - you have to go back to 1956, 1968, Hungary, Czechoslovakia - the pre-Helsinki principles of 1975 appear to dominate here. This goes back to Yalta in terms of carving up Europe, and entire sovereign entities, in order to satisfy and satiate Putin's ambitions and grievances essentially. Is that what is happening here?

Bobo Lo: Very much so. And the comparison with the United States and I would say also, China is really pertinent. Because the United States doesn't need to do things like this. The United States is the only true superpower. The United States is a multi-dimensional great power. It has loads of ways that it can demonstrate that it is a global leader, a global player. Actually, China, to a lesser extent - the same applies. China is a tremendous economic power. It has a growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region. It is, by the reckoning of pretty much anyone, a global force. But Russia doesn't have that status, that cachet. And if you think about the ways that Russia tries to project influence, it actually doesn't have many instruments of influence. It has - it's an energy power, certainly, but it can't exert a global impact. So really, you have to ask, what are Russia's few comparative advantages? And you'd have to say, those are military capabilities and energy resources. And beyond that, you're really struggling to find something. So it's natural - if deplorable - it's natural for Russia to play to its comparative strengths.

Hervé Lemahieu: Right. And so what might happen next? We've obviously got parliamentary sanction now for Putin to be able to expand the presence of the Russian armed forces into what is internationally recognized as Ukrainian territory. But that was already de facto the case, at least when it comes to these separatist regions, Donetsk and Luhansk. There is an effective line of control that has held - more or less - since 2014. Are we likely to see Russia now make incursions beyond that line of control to consolidate The Donbas, which is the overarching region, partly held by the Ukrainian Armed Forces still? What is the Ukrainian reaction likely to be then? Presumably, self defence - and is that going to then be the pretext for Russian aggression, much beyond Donbas into the greater Ukraine and potentially up to the Gates of Kiev?

Bobo Lo: The bottom line Hervé is that - and this is not very helpful to our listeners - is that no one really knows. We don't know how far Putin will go. But what I would suggest, though, is Putin's actions will be determined by his perception of the strength or weakness of the Western response to them. So that if he feels that transatlantic unity for all that it's been 'bigged-up' is actually rather feeble and fragile. If he feels that the Europeans don't really have much stomach to absorb the costs of sanctions, then Putin might feel emboldened and go for broke. I think ideally, Putin would rather not fight a war. It's much better to win without fighting, as Sun Tzu said. But the thing is, he has to show that he has a credible threat. And so what I think Putin is going to do is, if you like, 'suck it and see'. What he is going to look at is, for example, he will - he's got, transferred de facto to de jure control of the Donbas People's Republic and the Luhansk  People's Republic. Now, if it's just limited to the areas that are currently controlled by the Russian-supported militias, then strange though it may seem, that's actually not that big a deal. And I think most people would be rather relieved. After all, Russia wasn't going to withdraw from those territories anyway. So you're just in a sense, signing on the dotted line. It's a little bit humiliating, it's very impolite, but it doesn't actually fundamentally change anything. The problem, however, is that the Donbas People's Republic, sorry Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic only amount to one third of the territory of the old Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts regions. And so if the decision is taken that you want to actually recover the whole of the territory of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, then you're going to have a major firefight. Because you're going to have to - the Russian Army is going to have to take - is going to have to seize, or win by force of arms, major cities like Mariupol. And the Ukrainians will certainly resist that. So that, that is really the challenge. Does Putin think, okay, we really need to make this whole so to speak, and therefore we will go into a firefight. Or will he play it by ear? Let's try this first to see if we can break up this facade of transatlantic unity. Maybe I've made my point. But I feel he won't be satisfied with just making it official, so to speak. Because that will be a pretty poor result for all the opprobrium that he's attracted over the last few months. He will not just look like a rogue actor, he will look like a beaten rogue actor. And this is one of the problems with this whole case. There is no draw option here. People talk about possible compromise solutions. There are no real compromises here. At least certainly not in the Kremlin's mind. You either win, or you lose. And Putin is damned if he's going to lose.

Hervé Lemahieu: And that goes back to what you were saying earlier on about Putin the rational, cold and calculating former KGB agent who takes step by step measures to accomplish his aims but is always probing for the Western reaction. As a test, constant drip feeding of pressure. Versus the emotional Putin who seemed to be on display during his speech, speaking of the greater Russia, speaking of Ukraine, and Belarus as being integral parts of the cultural history of Russia. And speaking of Ukraine, almost as if it doesn't exist. This was a man expunging basically the existence of an entire nation. I suppose it's worth mentioning that the Ukrainian national movement has a history that is that predates the Soviet Union by 100 years at least.

Bobo Lo: Absolutely.

Hervé Lemahieu: And then, in large part, the creation of the Soviet Union as such - as a union of Republics - was in part to address the Ukrainian question. So if anything, it's closer to the opposite. Ukraine shaped the Soviet Union more than Soviet Union created Ukraine. But in any way, it certainly speaks to, to Russia's, or to Putin, to Putin's very personal, very emotional view of the non-existence in essence of Ukraine. How do you go about then, as the West, counteracting that? And that very zero sum logic? Are Western sanctions at all going to be useful here in changing the calculus of the Kremlin? This is, after all, a country that has dealt with multiple waves of sanctions, that has become hardened by it, that has stocked up its foreign reserves. So is anything really going to hurt Russia sufficiently in a manner that is likely to make Putin rethink his next move?

Bobo Lo: Yeah, so you raised a number of very interesting points here. So let's start off with Putin the cold, calculating rationalist versus Putin the emotional person. They're really different aspects of the same character. And they're not necessarily contradictory. We often make the mistake in the West of thinking that Putin is some kind of automaton. Some kind of machine. But like a lot of people, even the most calculating, the most cynical, they have some sort of core beliefs. And belief in sort of pan-Slavism is very much part of Putin's emotional makeup. So while he will certainly use, he will lie, cheat, employ subterfuge, in the pursuit of certain ends, some of those ends, some of those feelings are undoubtedly sincerely meant. Now, another mistake I think that Western observers and policymakers make, is that they think that Putin in a sense is a rational actor, like most people are rational actors. But of course, a rational actor in the Russian sense or from a Russian perspective is often very different to a rational actor from a European or American western perspective. And we're often guilty in the West of applying our own logic and our own sort of thinking, ways of thinking, to Putin when he has completely different makeup, different priorities. And so this is this is a problem. So we underestimate him, we think he's either nuts or he's a bit dim. And both of those perceptions are entirely wrong. Now, you raise the issue of, of the Western response. I compare the Western response today to that in after the annexation of Crimea in 2014. Now, there's no doubt that the West has adopted a much more cohesive, committed, and indeed serious approach to the problems at hand than it did eight years ago. So, let's give some credit for an improvement - a significant improvement. The trouble is, the West has also made some pretty shocking blunders. And I would say the worst blunder of all has been - not specifically in relation to the Ukraine crisis - but Biden's over emphasis, I would say almost obsession on China. Because this has essentially given Moscow a free hand. Basically, what Biden has tried to do is neutralize - or to use the word 'park' - Russia, while he focuses on China. Indeed, Biden has been even more naive, because he's assumed that if I'm nice to Vladimir Putin, then maybe he'll see that it's not that great to be so tight with China, and he might become reasonable. And Putin has played him like a violin. And this is the danger. And I trace many of the problems today to Biden's overwhelming, overriding focus on China. And that has, in a sense, put Biden on the back foot from the get-go. Now, I think there have been also other mistakes. I think some of Biden's messaging has been rather confused. On the one hand, he said, 'we will impose sanctions like you've never seen before'. And on the other hand, he speculated about a potential accommodation with Russia in Eastern Europe. Now, in a sense, he's not necessarily wrong in fact, because you do need to look at some form of accommodation, whatever that might be. But it's really unhelpful to speculate about it in public, because it just sets hares running, and it encourages hopes and it demoralizes people on your own side. And I think Biden's handled that poorly. I think one of the problems that we face today is that Putin, in a sense, has picked his moment. He's picked a moment in history when America is focused on China. When Biden is having huge problems at home amidst plummeting poll ratings. We have a new administration in Berlin after 16 years of Angela Merkel. You have Macron desperately trying to get re-elected in the French presidentials coming up in a few months time - shorter than that. And you have the debacle of the withdrawal from Afghanistan. You have liberalism in retreat around the world. You have the notion of a rules-based international order in discredit. And so, Putin looks at all these factors. And he thinks, well, now's the time. This is almost like a perfect storm of circumstances in my favour. And then this perfect storm may not last. Because, after all, the longer I wait, the more westernized, more Europeanised, Ukraine becomes. And I've been in power 22 years, I'm in my 70s. And I'm not going to live forever. So I need a result. And Ukraine has been the big failure of my time as president. So I need a result and I need it now. So to some extent, there are, if you like circumstances which the West cannot help - you know -that it has to confront. They can't change those circumstances. The West's capacity to influence Putin is - it's not minimal, but it's not great either. So if I'm advising Western policymakers what to do, they have to speak with one voice in public. They can have, you can have, the Macron and Scholz and others going to Moscow, you can have different meetings, but sometimes I'm concerned that their messages are mixed. They talk, you know, they bang on about, you know, transatlantic unity, but it's easy to talk about transatlantic unity when you're dealing about vague intentions and, you know, general principles. It's much harder to maintain that unity when you have to actually deliver concrete outcomes. And that's the thing. I don't think European leaders are doing a good enough job about being unanimous on the kind of sanctions they're going to apply. I have to say, this initial tranche of sanctions has been thoroughly underwhelming. A few banks here and there. That's, you know, a couple of people blacklisted. This is not the stuff of epics here. You know, so if you really want to sort of persuade Russia that you're serious, persuade Putin that you're serious, then I think you need to go in hard. You can't just do this incremental, we'll do it little bit by bit, you know, calibrate it carefully, according to what Putin does exactly. I think they probably have to go in hard as a declaration of intent. To show that they're in it, they're prepared to absorb the costs of sanctions, and they're in for the long haul.

Hervé Lemahieu: We've heard overnight - I tend to agree with you that the sanctions are underwhelming and perhaps they're saving the big guns for what they anticipate to be the next steps - but as you say, sometimes it works better as a pre-emptive measure, rather than retrospectively. The Germans have dropped their strategic ambiguity on the viability of the gas pipeline that crosses the Baltic Sea.

Bobo Lo: They took their well enough time to do that, didn't they?

Hervé Lemahieu: They did. And of course, that was not a pipeline that was in active use. So the fact is, energy exports to Russia for the moment are largely untouched. And that would be what would begin to hurt Moscow. I thought it was absolutely fascinating, also, what you were saying about Moscow being the major beneficiary of deteriorating relations between the US and China, and that fixation on the Indo-Pacific. It's odd, I think, given everything we've seen, that the rhetoric has more often been one of trying to prise Russia, away from China, than the reverse. Which in this case - I wanted to ask you about China here, because it does seem as if China has been caught into a bit of a bind. On the one hand, there is this deepening, historic - I'd say - partnership between us, between Russia and China. We saw that treaties between them, established shortly after the Winter Olympics in Beijing, and China having gone further than ever before, in terms of mimicking or mirroring some of Russia's concerns around the expansion of NATO, which is not a core interest necessarily of China. Nevertheless, China does recognize the territorial borders of Ukraine officially. And it does appear to be deeply uncomfortable with Russia trashing essentially the Minsk process - or the accords there that were the diplomatic framework for how to resolve this. So has China been caught in a bind? Has Putin not only played the US very well, but has he played Beijing and President Xi very well?

Bobo Lo: It's very interesting. I think it's quite a mixed bag, actually Hervé. I think, let's start off with the first thing here, which is that I think the Chinese will be mightily relieved that there was no major Russian military action while the Olympics was still going on in Beijing.  because there was a lot of speculation that Putin would somehow defy logic, and Sino-Russian friendship and launch action. While the Olympics were still going on, in much the same way that he did in Georgia in 2008, when you had the Beijing Summer Olympics, of course. Now, I think there are pluses and minuses for Beijing in this whole affair. So let's start off with the minuses. The minuses are this: that China cannot be seen to be supporting a state that actively encourages secessionist movements. So for China, the national sovereignty is everything. So it's rather hard to then make the case over Taiwan, Hong Kong, and previously Tibet, and yet somehow green-light Putin's declaration of independence for the Donetsk People's Republic and the Luhansk People's Republic. There's an obvious contradiction.

Hervé Lemahieu: Because it would create - sorry to interrupt - but precisely because it sets a potentially alarming precedent whereby breakaway territories of what China considers to be essentially its own, like Taiwan, could themselves declare independence and that is why China is so profoundly conservative on these matters.

Bobo Lo: Yeah. And when you think that the DNR... DPR and the LPR claims to be independent as so much just - a paper thin - not even paper thin - whereas Taiwan has been de facto independent for sort of 70 or 70 odd years. When is it? So? 94? Yeah, so 75 of my maths is so poor, but anyway, nearly 80 year. So the - but there's a bigger problem here, Hervé, which is this - does China really want to be associated with a country with a state of government, a leader that behaves in such an obviously loutish and delinquent fashion? Because China pretends that it supports a rules-based international order, but one centred on the UN rather than the United States and its allies. And yet your closest partner, or your largest partner, is this country that's basically invading another country. That shows absolutely no regard for international rules and norms. So this is pretty embarrassing for Beijing. So it faces a problem here, that you don't want to be too closely associated with the worst of Russian actions. On the other hand, you need the Sino-Russian partnership to stay strong. So the question, the tricky thing for the Chinese leadership is to sort of balance these priorities. Stay on the sweet side of Moscow, but not be too tainted by the worst of Russian actions. But there is a good side. And the good side for China is this: for much of Biden's first year as president, China has been essentially enemy number one of the United States. Its reputation in much of Europe has been in freefall. So suddenly, China isn't enemy number one. Because, badly though China has behaved in a number of areas. It's not Russia. Russia is a country that's fought a number of wars - in Syria, Georgia, Ukraine - its mercenaries are running around Africa, Libya, Central African Republic, Mali, also in the Middle East. China hasn't fought a war since 1979. So China - because Russia is behaving so badly - China actually comes out, if not smelling of roses, at least in considerably better odour than a few months ago. And so that is an advantage for China. Definitely.

Hervé Lemahieu: Bobo, there's been some speculation that China may be learning lessons here from this crisis and Russia's playbook in terms of its own confrontation and possible forcible assimilation of Taiwan. Do you think there's any validity to that?

Bobo Lo: I don't think so. I think Beijing will make decisions on Taiwan, irrespective of what Putin does in Ukraine. But what I think the Chinese are doing, is looking at how the West - the United States and its allies - handle a crisis. Are we talking about a completely fractured West, the impotent West, that talks a big game, but doesn't actually do very much when push comes to shove? Or are we seeing a West that's showing a new level of resolve and therefore needs to be taken more seriously. So not specifically in relation to Taiwan. But I do think the Chinese are observing, carefully, how the Western powers are responding to the Ukraine crisis. Whether they're still in the game so to speak.

Hervé Lemahieu: Interesting. The other thing that was interesting at the UN Security Council yesterday, the time that we're recording this podcast, was the splits apparent among the non-western countries. On the one hand, countries like Kenya, coming pretty much out of the blue with no previous association or direct proximity to this conflict. Nevertheless, standing by the basic principles of UN Charter. A really robust defence of Neo Imperial revisionism and linking this back to the colonial yoke that they've had to struggle with for decades. Which was a powerful intervention. On the other hand, somewhat more muted, I would say, countries like the UAE, like India. And do tell us - where is India on this? India being such, or having formed such an integral part of the Western imagination, particularly in the Indo-Pacific - in the now Quadrilateral security grouping alongside the United States, Japan and Australia, supposedly forging a club of democracies against authoritarian regimes. But of course, India has a long association with Russia, and has not been quick to dispel those ties. So, where does India sit on this question? How is this challenging New Delhi and what are we likely to see if anything from New Delhi here on forward?

Bobo Lo: I think India is trying to keep its nose clean. So basically, it's pursuing a non-committal, if you like non-aligned policy. Why? Because although US-India relations have improved steadily over the last 15-20 years, I think New Delhi is really committed to pursuing as strategically a flexible policy as it can. And so that means not being completely in, in the western camp, but also retaining options with Russia. Now, it's not the Soviet-Indian relationship anymore. Let's be clear, here - India leans much more towards the United States than it does to Russia. Not least because the Indians see that Russia is in bed with China, and therefore it's just not meaningful to have any great expectations of Russia's strategic orientation here. But I think the Indians feel that you need to keep Russia on board. You need to make sure that the Western powers don't take India for granted. And you also want to preserve the option of as diverse and strategically flexible foreign policy as you can construct. And I think that's very much India's purpose here. I see India's vision of itself as an independent centre of now regional, but possibly in time global power. In that sense, its ambitions are not so dissimilar to that of Russia. They don't really see themselves in one camp or the other, but as forming a camp, or centre, all of by themselves.

Hervé Lemahieu: It's interesting as well, that it is both Russia and India that speak of a multipolar world order and future. Whereas I think China would sometimes describe it as a bipolar or as a G2. The United States, of course, as you say, incredibly fixated on the China challenge to its global dominance. So there is that divide between US and China who are very fixated on each other, and Russia and India, slightly smaller, but still very powerful players who would much rather see a multipolar future. But let's, let's move back and perhaps end on the question of the future of European security and European security architecture. I know this is a big one and hard to predict. But clearly Putin is not only harking back to the Cold War, but a certain era of the Cold War - the early Cold War, the days of the Yalta Conference where the great powers could carve up spheres of influence between them, and where territorial integrity was very much a lesser concern, and secondary to the grand plans of the great powers. Now, is that at all a basis for a stable resolution of this conflict? What does that mean for Ukraine? And if you were advising the United States, or Berlin or Paris, what would you be saying? Other than sanctions - Macron speaks of perhaps a new entente cordiale, or new architecture for European security? Is Putin at all an interlocutor? Is there a glimmer of hope that we can at least create or forge some stability? And at what cost as well to the notion of sovereignty and independence for smaller countries?

Bobo Lo: It's hardly the most surprising answer, I know - but the future of European security and political architecture is very much an open question here. I think what is - the only thing that we can be relatively sure about is that the environment in Europe - and actually in the world more generally - will become increasingly fragmented and disorderly. In my view, there is zero prospect of a Yalta 2.0. We will not revive 1945 here. I think the idea - that you're sometimes seeing in journals like Foreign Affairs - of a concert of great powers harking back to the 1815 Congress of Vienna, that's also deluded. I feel on the liberal side of things that a revitalized Helsinki agreement also looks improbable. And I think generally speaking, we need to get it out of our heads that there can be grand bargains involving great powers. International power is much more diffuse than it's been in a very, very long time. The great powers no longer rule the roost. We talk - people talk about living in an era of great power rivalry. But the paradox is that the great powers have rarely been more impotent, and rarely at greater odds, other than obviously, during World Wars themselves. So I just don't see great power fixes. What does a great power fix have to offer on issues like climate change, or global poverty or technological transformation? It ain't going to happen. So I think what is perhaps more feasible, potentially, is a series of bilateral and multilateral agreements in more specific concrete areas. For example, in nuclear and conventional arms control. But we should really have no illusions here. Europe, and I'd say the world, is in for a period of prolonged and very bumpy instability. And I think the situation is going to get a whole lot worse before there is any realistic prospect of improvement. Now you asked - where does this leave Ukraine? Well, I think Ukraine's future as a nation state is problematic. Now, I'm not saying it's its sovereignty will be extinguished. I think it will survive - probably - as a nation state. But I don't see a stable Ukraine for the foreseeable future. And this is not just because it is located in an extremely difficult regional environment. But also, in all this concentration on Russia and outside forces, Ukraine has major domestic failings here. Problems of corruption, bad governance, regionalism, a fundamental lack of leadership. So the danger here is that in our focus on Ukraine's problems with Russia, is that we're forgetting the domestic problems and domestic dysfunctionality of Ukraine itself.

Hervé Lemahieu: Fascinating. Bobo, that that was a very rich discussion, obviously, not very optimistic in terms of your outlook on how this situation evolves, and what this portends for global and regional order in Europe. There is, of course, another parallel back to 1980, when the Soviets were amassing troops on the Polish border, and it looked as if there was an imminent invasion of Poland on the cards. At that time, they stepped back because of Western resolve and unity. But it was a very different era. It was a time when the US was much closer to China. When the Soviet Union was embroiled in Afghanistan, and looking like the weaker party. Of course, now, the shoe is on the other foot. And we have to deal with the consequences. But at the very least, you do sound a note of optimism in terms of Western unity having improved, albeit from a low base since the annexation of Crimea. And there are lessons there to be learned, I'm sure, that apply just as well to the Indo-Pacific, to the to the Asian region, and how we go about dealing with great power, competition and challenges in our part of the world. So, no doubt a pivotal moment in world history and one we'll be continuing to follow. But we're very grateful for this immediate response and analysis of a very fluid situation on the ground. So thank you for your time and your wisdom. And no doubt, we'll be coming back to you in coming months. And we're looking forward to publishing your paper for more analysis to come. Thank you, Bobo.

Bobo Lo: It's my great pleasure Hervé. Thank you.

Hervé Lemahieu: You've been listening to Lowy Institute Conversations. Thank you very much for joining me.

Areas of expertise: Strategy and geopolitics; global governance; Australian foreign policy; Southeast Asia; Data analysis