Raymond McGovern is a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) analyst, serving from 1963 to 1990. His CIA career began under President John F. Kennedy and lasted through the presidency of George H. W. Bush. McGovern advised Henry Kissinger during the Richard Nixon administration, and during the Ronald Reagan administration he chaired National Intelligence Estimates and prepared the President's Daily Brief.

He received the Intelligence Commendation Medal at his retirement but returned it in 2006 to protest the CIA's involvement in torture.

Steve and Ray discuss:

0:00 Introduction
01:25 Ray McGovern's assessment of the JFK assassination
26:10 Hunter Biden's laptop
30:50 Ukraine and the U.S. intelligence services' role in the deep state
55:20 Strategic implications of the Ukraine war for the U.S.
01:03:38 Are things worse today, versus 1963?

Books referenced in this episode:

JFK and the Unspeakable

Mary's Mosaic: The CIA Conspiracy to Murder John F. Kennedy

Music used with permission from Blade Runner Blues Livestream improvisation by State Azure.


Steve Hsu is Professor of Theoretical Physics and of Computational Mathematics, Science, and Engineering at Michigan State University. Previously, he was Senior Vice President for Research and Innovation at MSU and Director of the Institute of Theoretical Science at the University of Oregon. Hsu is a startup founder (SuperFocus, SafeWeb, Genomic Prediction, Othram) and advisor to venture capital and other investment firms. He was educated at Caltech and Berkeley, was a Harvard Junior Fellow, and has held faculty positions at Yale, the University of Oregon, and MSU. 

Please send any questions or suggestions to or Steve on Twitter @hsu_steve.

Creators & Guests

Stephen Hsu
Steve Hsu is Professor of Theoretical Physics and of Computational Mathematics, Science, and Engineering at Michigan State University.

What is Manifold?

Steve Hsu is Professor of Theoretical Physics and Computational Mathematics, Science, and Engineering at Michigan State University. Join him for wide-ranging conversations with leading writers, scientists, technologists, academics, entrepreneurs, investors, and more.

Steve Hsu: Welcome to Manifold. My guest today is Ray McGovern. McGovern came to Washington from his native Bronx in the early 60s as an Army Infantry Intelligence Officer and then served as a CIA analyst for 27 years from the administration of JFK to that of George H. W. Bush. Ray's duties included sharing national intelligence estimates and preparing the president's daily brief.

Which he briefed one on one to President Reagan's five most senior national security advisors from 1981 to 1985. In January 2003, Ray co created the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, VIPS, to expose how intelligence was being falsified. To justify war on Iraq. It is a great honor to have Ray on the show.

I've admired you for a long time, Ray, as a man of very high conviction. Welcome to the show.

Ray McGovern: Thank you, Steve. Glad to be with you.

Steve Hsu: So I would, I always like to start with a little bit of the early life history of my guests, and I think the audience appreciates that. You've had a long and I think, important life of service to your country. I was hoping to start by talking about your time in the CIA between 63 and I guess the mid or late 80s.

One of the things that I heard you say in another interview was that the year you entered the CIA was the same year in which JFK was assassinated. I've always felt that given your career path and given your insights into how the world of spooks works, You might have something to say about the truth behind what happened to JFK, which I regard is still an unsettled historical matter and very important to the history of this country.

So maybe we could just start with that for a little bit.

Ray McGovern: Sure Steve, I served from 1963 to 1990. At first, I was a callow youth learning the ropes and learning what Washington was like. When I left, I knew a lot more, but it still did not occur to me that those folks working on the other side of those turnstiles, Turnstiles? Yeah, in the new headquarters building, when I entered the CIA, there were turnstiles on every floor.

Okay. And the analysts could not go to where the operators operated, where they overthrew governments and other things, assassinated people, and they couldn't come to where we were. Now, we could talk on the telephone, of course, but there were. Barricades, there were turnstiles. Okay. Now, we didn't really know what was going on on the other side of those things.

But just to get right to you, right to your question I have become convinced in the last decade or more that it was those photos on the other side of the barricades that did President Kennedy In The Warren Commission was a laugh. It was run by Alan Dulles, who had been head of the CIA, and had been cashiered by Kennedy, lying to him about the Bay of Pigs. We know from coffee stained Notes discovered on Alan Bellis's desk when he died, a little note he wrote to himself on the Bay of Pigs we're going to get bogged down on the beach, but the president is not going to be able to avoid committing U.S. forces when the enterprise would otherwise fail, period, end quote.

What was the enterprise overthrowing Castro? Oh, so he was convinced, despite how many times JFK said. Look, I have my doubts about this operation. Eisenhower approved it. Just realize you're not going to get me to commit any U.S. forces, air forces, army, anything to this enterprise. You guys take credit for it.

You do it by yourselves. Got it? Understand that? Oh, yeah, yeah, yes, sir. So Kennedy was mousetrapped. Worse still, from my point of view, Kennedy was told that as soon as they landed on the beach, there would be a spontaneous uprising and they would throw Castro off. Oh, where'd he get that stuff? the other side of the turnstiles. Yeah, now the analysts were not even briefed on the operation, never asked whether it was likely that Fidel Castro would be overthrown, even if the beach landing succeeded, though. watched all this, okay, and then when Kennedy was assassinated, he and his chief intelligence guy from way back, Admiral Souders, we see from their correspondence, they thought they really had to do something about the CIA.

And so, long story short. Truman wrote an op ed saying, this is not the CIA that I created. We have to rein it in. we can't have all this cloak and dagger stuff. They're, they're doing things that I never approved of. Okay. Now, where did that appear? That appeared in the Washington Post exactly one month, one month after the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Oh maybe you didn't know about that, Steve. You're forgiven, because it only appeared in the first edition of the Washington Post. Now, in those days, I can't remember explicitly, but there were either two or three editions of the Post. It was pulled. No radio, TV outlet ran it. No other newspaper ran it except the Independence, whatever it is, observer down there in Missouri.

And so it was forgotten. And most people are just blissfully unaware that Truman himself said this. Okay. Now, Truman knew which end was up. He was giving a warning. He said what presidents need to avoid is being mousetrapped. He didn't say mousetrapped, but being given bad information to justify these kinds of corporate actions.

Okay. So what happened? Well, that was dangerous enough. Even in those days, the media was very patriotic, right? And pull that, right? Pull that, pull that story out, okay? But what did Alan Dulles do? Well, he manufactured a reason to give a speech in Kansas City, Missouri. And he wrote to President Truman, he said, While I'm in the area, I'd like to stop by and see you.

And so Truman said, Sure. So, they had this little tete a tete. And Dulles said, you didn't really, you didn't really write that did you? You don't really think it's true? Of course I do. Yeah, come on, that, you know, that, that, that could endanger our national security of people, but look, I quite scripsy scripsy what I wrote, I wrote.

Okay. And so Dulles goes away. And now what does Dulles do in a traditional covert action manner? He dictates, dictates a memo of conversation about his session with. President, ex president Truman right now, and he says, Truman disavowed what he said in that Washington Post editorial, and he gives that to Larry Houston, the first general counsel of the CIA, who served for 30 years, part of the old boy club, okay?

He puts that in the file with Larry Houston, just in case it could come in handy someday, right? just to show that Truman said nothing of the sort. In other words, what, what, what was written down by Dulles Life Magazine had a big article just a month later or so, and they, and Truman said, sure, I, yeah, that's exactly what I wanted to put across.

This is a dangerous situation. So he was disavowing a thing. What I'm saying here is that when Dulles was able to insinuate himself on the Warren commission, he pretty much ran the whole thing. Now, when people say, Oh, wait a second. Now, there's some wild speculation that the CIA may have had a hand in the assassination.

So this doesn't seem quite right to have the head, former head of the CIA, sacked by Kennedy running the commission, not run, he ran the commission, but yeah, he's one of the principals, one of the members. Okay. So what was the answer? You got it, Steve. Conspiracy theorists. These guys are all conspiracy theorists, okay?

That was when that phrase really took off, okay? Conspiracy theorists, and you can dismiss them. Now, let me just say that there's plenty more detail I can adduce here, but let me just say that it's an excellent book. It’s about 15 years old now. Some people know about it. I think I have a, ah. I usually have it right here so that I can show people it's called JFK and the unspeakable.

It's written by James Douglas, who has no access to grind at all. He's a Catholic worker, if you can believe it. He runs a Catholic worker house in Birmingham, Alabama. He lives on the railroad tracks. You can hardly talk to him on the phone when the train goes by. He poured his life's blood into this.

Okay. And he dedicates it to two people, Vince Solandria and Marty Schatz. Now, Marty Schatz wrote a book which poignantly is called History Will Not Absolve Us. It's really hard to see, but his point is simply that, and of course it's even more true now, most Americans, a majority of Americans believe that Kennedy was assassinated by what is called the deep state national security state combination of the CIA, joint chiefs of staff portion of the FBI, okay?

They believe that's the case. But they don't know it. And the reason they don't know it, is because they don't really want to know it. And the reason they don't really want to know it, is because it's so terribly horrible. It changed the course of history, because Kennedy was about to make a real peace with our country.

With the opposite power there, the Soviet Union after the Cuban Missile Crisis in 62, you know, this is 63, he's, he's made this wonderful speech at American University on June 10th, reaching out saying, look, you know, we all share the same planet. We want the best for our own children. Let's see if we can't have a decent relationship and respect everyone, including Russians as people who want the best for their children.

So he also, I'll finish with this here. Sorry to be so long winded, but he also issued two executive orders. One said that a thousand U.S. advisory troops at the time from Vietnam would be pulled out by the end of 1963, the same year he was killed. And the bulk of the rest of them would be pulled out by the end of 1965.

Whoa, going soft on communism. My God, all of Southeast Asia, China, Indonesia. The domino effect. This is so you want to, you want to know what kind of reasoning was going through the joint chiefs at the time. That was it. You can't, you can't make peace with these communists. It's far better when you had the chance in 62 to destroy the Russians, you missed it, now you're going really, they're going too far.

Now that was the mentality. It's hard for anyone to put themselves in that position, but I was there. Okay. I was. I went to two army schools, the infantry school, intelligence school. And then I served for two years. I know what the mentality was. It was all completely, completely this business about the communist menace. And I was a true believer until I started to learn which head was up.

And that didn't really come, I'm sorry to say, until I started working as an analyst at the CIA and saw that there's a much bigger, a much more complicated world.

Steve Hsu: So you mentioned those two books. Um. Is it fair to say for the audience that the main conclusions of those books you find plausible and rather than rehearse everything on the podcast, we could just tell the readers to go look at those books and that Ray McGovern finds much of what is in those books plausible.

Is that a fair characterization?

Ray McGovern: It would be, Steve, and hold on one more minute. People who read fast might want to get a hold of this one.

Steve Hsu: Good.

Ray McGovern: Now, this one hits close to home, because the story in this one is written by a man named Peter Janney, who is a son Of a very high level CIA official I worked for my first job, Fred Janney is what we call him. He was involved not in the assassination that we can prove, but in the cover up. Long story short, Mary was Mary Meyer.

She was a very, very close friend of JFK. Okay. She kept a diary. They were desperately afraid that the diary would indicate what JFK and she had talked about in terms of his longevity. Okay. And so they couldn't filch the diary. So they killed her on the towpath outside Georgetown and then raided her house.

Alan Dulles was one of those people, not Alan Dulles, but

Steve Hsu: James

Ray McGovern: Cord Meyer. Yeah. And Angleton. Yeah. So, and for Jenny. Peter Jenny's father was involved in that and I knew Fred Jenny as a kind of taciturn, high level guy who was right in there with all the guys that would have done this thing. And so it came as a surprise, but not a shock when Peter. Visited me way back 20 years ago and interviewed me and I was, you know, really saddened to hear about his father's role in this, but it took a lot of guts for Peter to tell that story. And I've used some of that material, some of the memos that Jani wrote to cover this thing up in some of my lectures.

So yeah, it's the important point maybe I should make here is that it's totally believable that the Warren Commission was a farce, okay? Because of all the evidence that's come out since, okay? and most people appropriately believe that Kennedy was killed by the deep state. Now, again. As Marty Schatz says here in a really well written book, History Will Not Not Absolve Us.

It says a majority of people, a majority of Americans believe that, but they don't know it. And the reason they don't know it is because it's just too, unspeakable too, too terrible to know. And we see it carrying right down to this day. You know, I'll just say one more thing in this respect, but. When Trump came in, now I hold no brief for Donald Trump. Please realize that at the outset, I kept hearing my wife in my ear saying, Ray, for God's sake, tell people what you think of Donald Trump. Okay, I think he was the worst president that we ever had. He's got a close contender now and his successor.

But be that as it may when Donald Trump won this real estate guy from New York. So he's not wise to the ways of Washington. So he's criticizing the CIA, the FBI, he's criticizing. The power brokers in Washington. And so what happens? Well, before he's sworn in, namely on the 2nd of January, Rachel Maddow invites Chuck Schumer in for an interview.

And she said, Chuck, Chuck, you said you had something important to say. What, what is it? And Schumer said, Oh, Rachel, I thought that Trump was a pretty smart guy, but he's done something very, very foolish. Oh, what would that be, Chuck? He's taken on the intelligence community. They have six ways to get back at you on Sunday. He's done a very foolish thing. And then Schumer adds, we need the intelligence community. Without the intelligence community. Well, we would have never learned about the Russian hacking of the DNC emails. No, I'm sorry to say that most Americans don't know how ironic that is. Of course we wouldn't have known without them because they manufactured the whole thing.

But the other point of course is, here's a warning. Look, Trump, don't think you're going to be able to run this place and especially don't think you can denigrate the CIA and the FBI and the other powers that be. We got six ways to Sunday to get back at you and that same month, January 2017, Obama is convening his security officials and saying, okay, how are we going to get this guy? Oh, we got the Russian hacking, which of course has since been disproved. How about those pee tapes? Let's use those pee tapes and use everything else. And, you know, hacking is probably going to do it. We'll blame They're hacking. We hate, hate them both, WikiLeaks and Russia. We'll get WikiLeaks and man, we can distract attention.

We can distract attention. But what's in those emails, which show Hillary stacked the deck with the DNC, so much so that Bernie Sanders didn't have a snowball's chance in hell to get the nomination. So it was a wonderful operation. Jake Sullivan can take credit if credit is the right word for it.

And Russiagate persisted for seven, almost eight years now. And the reason I mentioned this is not to regurgitate old history. This is consequential. Americans have learned to hate Pucci, to hate the Russians, and just have been so accustomed, so brainwashed, I use the word advisedly, to believe that the Russians are capable of anything that I dare say if Biden wanted to put troops on the ground in Ukraine.

My God, with the media in his, in his support he probably would get the majority of not only Congress, but Americans to support that disastrous move.

And I'll just finish up here with this one remark. We talked about John Kennedy. One thing he said in that June 10, 1963 speech at American University, he said, the one thing that's most important here is with two nuclear nations, nuclear weapons nations, we must avoid putting one side to a choice between humiliating defeat and using these damn things. I mean, you didn't say these damn things, but hello.

So ever since then, 1963, during my tenure till 1990. And up until two years ago, American presidents kind of, you know, abided by that. For God's sake, you don't want to put one, one, your adversary with a new name, April Belia, in the choice between humiliating defeat. That's what we've done now. Okay. The Russians are not facing a humiliating defeat in Ukraine. We are. We and the Ukrainians. So, bottom line here, what will Biden do? Humiliating defeat facing election year, some, some fear that if this other guy wins, these guys could go, all go to jail. I don't exaggerate there, the evidence is there. Okay. So what does he do, faced with a humiliating defeat? I'm afraid that some general admiral says, well, now, now we exhausted all those other shells, but we have these little mini nukes, and they're only about 10 percent of what we dropped on Hiroshima.

So we can, you know, now we show the Russians. We will, we will avoid a humiliating defeat and defeat in the election, and then we'll be, we won't have to worry about that guy with the orange hair anymore because he's not going to put us in jail.

Now, you know, I've been an analyst for a long time. That may sound a little strange to you, but it's factually based, and I stand by it.

Steve Hsu: So you, you mentioned so many. Interesting things and all of those things, we could go down a rabbit hole and we could talk about the cover up of the JFK assassination, what happened to Mary Meyer, we could talk about James Angleton, we could talk about, , what happened to Donald Trump the activities of the so called deep state against Donald Trump after he was before and after he was elected.

But I, I fear we don't have enough time, but maybe I could paraphrase something of what you said and just see if you agree with it. That is the extent to which there is some kind of power structure, which we could call the deep state, which might involve the military industrial complex and the intelligence agencies, and I believe you've even sort of extended it to include parts of academia and other things as well. That entity. exerts influence domestically and is not above interference with elections here in the United States and the conduct of the executive branch, for example, to the extent, I mean, going even to the extent of assassinating the president right in the past and trying to undermine a recent president, Donald Trump.

Is that a fair picture of reality? Is that the thing that you would like Americans to understand better about their own society?

Ray McGovern: Short answer, yes. I can adduce one more example that is illustrative. And that is having to do with the 2020 election, it was nip and tuck, Trump and Biden, you know, all of a sudden, a couple of months before the election. Hunter Biden's laptop was discovered. The FBI didn't want to touch it with a 10 foot pole or a 12 foot check.

You know, I just didn't want to touch it. And so, but they had it. Ooh, they had it. Well, it comes down to the last debate, right? And Tony Blinken, this is sworn testimony now by a former acting chief of the CIA. His name is Mikey Morrell. Tony Blinken calls Mikey Morel, his old friend, now retired, and says, This laptop, you know, it shows that not only Hunter, but his daddy were, you know, on the take. We gotta do something about that. Can you get a handful of former intelligence directors to, to say that that's a Russian intelligence disinformation operation? Could you do that? And Mikey says, no problem. You want five? I'll get you 50. Two days later, 50 former intelligence directors, some of them former CIA directors, plus Mikey Morozov, 51, pronounced and gave it to Politico. We have considered that this bears all the earmarks of a Russian intelligence disinformation operation. Okay. Oh, that's publicized. Okay. The next debate, a week later Trump, naive to the ways of Washington and probably not well briefed on this. Says Biden, what about that laptop, for God's sake, it shows you're on the take, right?

And Biden says, oh, Mr. Trump, don't you realize that 50 former intelligence directors were said to bear all the earmarks of a Russian intelligence disinformation? I mean, didn't you know that? Now that was just days before the election. I don't know if that affected the election results or not. Who can know that?

Okay. It surely didn't help Trump. So you talk about interference with elections. Well, there's a good example, even more recent than 2016. One last remark, of these 51 former intelligence directors, how many thought to ask the FBI, who had the computer, Hunter's laptop, whether this bore the earmarks of Russian intelligence information? Well, if any did, they lied when they signed that statement. It bore no such earmarks. And, you know, that's the kind of thing we run into. Again, I hold no brief for Trump, but fair is fair. this kind of stuff that goes on domestically now, as well as in foreign affairs, in this conjunction between the FBI and now Homeland Security and other things, you know, it's a danger to our democracy, pure and simple.

Not only the fourth and the first amendments, but some of the others as well.

Steve Hsu: So, for my audience that maybe didn't follow this laptop story so closely. I believe it's now been acknowledged, for example, even by the New York Times that the laptop is actually real. And so, so these, these 50 plus former intelligence directors that, you know, they're not, they're probably being very quiet now about their evaluation back in 2020.

Now, I think the only question that is still the, I think the uncertainty that the New York Times would like to maintain is that, oh, if you, if someone leaks out an excerpt from that laptop, some video of. Hunter Biden smoking crack or, you know, some receipt from some Chinese company or Ukrainian company that gave him a lot of money.

Well, that might not have really come from the laptop. That might, you know, be some kind of fake intelligence, but they no longer deny that the laptop is real and that there is damaging information on the laptop. Is that a fair characterization of where we are?

Ray McGovern: Yes, that is.

Steve Hsu: Okay, so now you've started talking a little bit about Ukraine and obviously we have another conflict in the Middle East. And so I think, you know, we could shift over to maybe you would consider those the most pressing things that we could talk about. I did want to spend a little bit of time with you.

Sort of worldview of the role of U.S. intelligence services in deep state. And you know, in what, to what extent they affect or influence the polity domestically here in the United States. And so I just wanted you to be able to express yourself about all of that.

Turning to Ukraine, obviously, every 1 of these things that we could discuss, for example, the Ukraine conflict or what's happening in Gaza or in Yemen has a very long, deep history.

We could spend the whole hour just talking about that history. I believe it's your view that Ukraine was in some sense an unnecessary war. That if the United States had given Putin some guarantees concerning the neutrality of Ukraine, the whole thing could have been avoided. but if we ignore that water under the bridge, the situation now is perhaps we are about to take the loss in Ukraine.

Maybe you can just elaborate on what I just said, or, or you, you can disagree, obviously, with what I just said.

Ray McGovern: Well, I was just making a little note here writing Stoltenberg the head of NATO in a real monumental gaffe about, well, actually in September said You know, it's all about NATO. Putin told us he doesn't want any NATO expansion. And he said if you expand NATO to Ukraine, we will invade Ukraine. And so, we said, no, we won't agree to that, and now, Putin has an expansion of NATO. Look at Sweden, look at Finland, haha, so he wanted to contain NATO, and he got NATO expansion. We told him no, and so he invaded. Huh? My God, you know, every bombing had the weeks before, this has nothing to do with NATO. No, no.

Putin wants to take over Ukraine, and then after Ukraine, the rest of it, so. That's that.

One aspect that most Americans have no idea about, and which I think gives you a good feel for how Putin and his it's not only Putin, of course, we'll say Putin instead of Moscow or the Kremlin. They were really, really trying to warn the United States that incorporating Ukraine and Georgia into NATO was a bridge too far, or as the smart people in Washington say, a red line, right?

Okay, so in 2008, so let's go back a way, Bill Burns, who's now head of the CIA, was our ambassador in Moscow, and on February 2nd, 2008, he was called in by the then new foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov. Lavrov. Mr. Barnes, do you know what nyet means? Oh yeah, yeah. What nyet means, nyet. This is a red line for us, no NATO membership for Ukraine or Georgia.

Do you understand that, Mr. Barnes? Yes, I do. Will you report that back? Yes, I will. Because, says Lavrov, if NATO incorporates Ukraine, there will be civil war in Ukraine, and we will have to decide whether we have to intervene or not. So, we don't want that choice, tell your people, and besides, we have geopolitical interests in our deck of the woods, just like you do, let's say, in the Caribbean.

What does Burns do? He reports it straight back to Condoleezza Rice and Dick Cheney, who were running the government in those days. He says the title of his cable is Nyet means Nyet, Russia's red lines on NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia. And then he has a whole, and he permits himself to make a comment.

Now ambassadors can do that, but they usually don't when the comment goes across the grain of what Dick Cheney or Condoleezza Rice, his nominal boss would think. He says, you know, every major country has a right to have strategic concerns in their area. And so it's not surprising that everyone from the, from the lowest guy in the Kremlin to the very, they're, they're, they're neuralgic about this.

Okay. So that's still his credit. Why does Bill just say parenthetically? What does CIA director Bill Burns say now? Oh, it's completely unprovoked that the Russian invasion was completely provoked. Okay. So let's get back to the scheme here. 2008, February 2nd, Lavrov to Bill Burns.

April 3rd in Bucharest, NATO summit. Declaration. Ukraine and Georgia will become members of NATO, period, end quote. Wow, that was Bush, that was Cheney, that was Condoleeza Rice, disregarding this warning. So it goes back there. Now it took a while, it took till 2014, until the neocons running our government got their act together and overturned in a coup.

the duly elected government in Kyiv, in Ukraine. Now there's a long story to that, but just trust me. Okay. That was the most blatant coup in the history of mankind because it was advertised in detail two and a half weeks before by an intercepted message between Victoria Nuland, assistant secretary of state for European affairs and Geoffrey Pyatt, U.S. ambassador in Kyiv, they named who would be the next prime minister and so forth. They said that they said, oh, and by the way, we have word that Joe Biden, vice president Joe Biden is willing to come in at the end and seal this because we may need an international personality to put this up, put this thing all to glue it all together.

And we know that from, Oh, from Jake Sullivan. Who of course is vice president Biden's national security advisor. So now,

Steve Hsu: 1 point. Um.

Ray McGovern: sure.

Steve Hsu: This conversation, the famous conversation which involved Victoria Nuland, is there a U.S. official line on this? Like, is there a claim from the U.S. side that this is faked? Because obviously it's very damning. It does implicate the U.S. in a coup in 2014 against a democratically elected government in Ukraine.

Is there a formal position of the U.S. government on that phone call or that communication?

Ray McGovern: There's no denial. Au contraire, we know it's genuine because Victoria Nuland allowed herself to say in response to the ambassador, the ambassador said, you know, the EU, the EU is not going to like this. And, and she said, F, you know what the F word is, right? F the EU. And so two days after the conversation appeared on YouTube, she apologized.

She said, I didn't really mean. F E U. Please forgive me for that indelicate remark. So, I mean, the voices themselves are authentic. It's really quite bizarre. I was on Amy Goodman right after that happened. And I was debating this fella Snyder from Yale.

Steve Hsu: Yale.

Ray McGovern: Yeah, big. And so, you know, he was really going off the deep end, I thought.

So I said, well, what about that intercepted conversation that was released two and a half weeks before the coup? And he says, is that all you got? And you know, you know, you know how you wish you had more compos mentis? And I mean, I mean, I've, I've seen a lot of coups in my career. I've never seen one more blatant than that. But Amy, Amy jumped in and said, well, no, no, we'll go to the next question. So I said, well, I got, well, how much, what do you need, Ted?

So, you know, anyhow there's this mindset that nothing, no facts, not even a deceptive conversation acknowledged as authentic by one of the interlocutors can be accepted as evidence if you don't want to believe it. So I guess, I guess your original question was how we got into this. Well, that was the coup in 2014.

then the question became what do we do about this? You know, I, the US is in control here. The Russians, it's, the Russians are on deck. What, what are the Russians gonna do?

Okay, well, now Putin is in Sochi. Okay. He was in Sochi when the coup happened. Now, I asked myself, why is Putin, well, it's the winter Olympics, but you know, well, he must have thought as I did.

That coup attempt was blown. I mean, that's the intelligence word for you blowing a coup by releasing it two and a half weeks before. So probably Putin felt the same way I did. Well, good try for all these guys who were slated to take over Ukraine. They're not going to do it now because it's blown.

Not so they do it anyway on the 14th of February. So it comes back on the 15th and he says. Okay, guys, as military and other advisors, what are we going to do? Well, the new Ukrainian government had already said we're going to join NATO. And had already said we're going to ban Russian as an official language in Ukraine. Now, the real deal had to do with Russia's only warm water all year round naval base in Sevastopol in Crimea. Okay. The biggest base they have, naval base. Okay. What would they do about that?

So Putin says, well, we can't let that be taken over by, by NATO for God's sake. And they said, well, you know, the people there in Crimea don't want that either.

They're all, mostly all Russian speakers. So, how do they feel about it? Says Putin. Well, they would vote to join us. And Putin said, you know, I remember when Crimea was part of Russia, not part of Ukraine, what happened? And they say, well, you know, Khrushchev, when, when Stalin died, Khrushchev needed all the political support he could get, he lived right next to Ukraine.

And he thought, well, he did a ukaz, you know, he wrote, got a piece of paper and declared that Crimea now would be part of Ukraine. He got lots of support. Ukraine, of course, was part of the Soviet Union. So it was sort of academic, then not academic. So, why don't you do a U because there, Putin? And Putin says, I don't like the U.

Let's do a plebiscite. Let's see how the Crimeans feel. And they did that. Now, the results of that plebiscite, over 90 percent said, yeah, we'd really like to join Russia, okay. And that happened, okay. A month later. And then a month later Putin had a big celebration about that. Now, what happened next?

Well, the people in Donetsk and Lugansk also didn't want to live under this coup regime, but they wanted to be able to speak their own language. And they wanted not to be shelled as they were starting to be under this new coup regime. And so, what they did was they went to Putin and said, oh, it's a really good idea to embrace Crimea.

Please take us in too. And Putin said, No. Nyet. You work it out. We have this Minsk agreement where we're negotiating under German and French supervision with the Ukrainian government and leaders of Donetsk and Lugansk have a ceasefire and work this thing out so that you, Lugansk and Donetsk, can have a reasonable degree of regional autonomy, be able to speak your own language, and so forth.

Now, that was what they decided. The Ukrainians mounted a major offensive. It didn't work. So they got together in Minsk , and worked out an agreement where those provisions would be abided by.

That was 2015, early 2015. What happened? Germany and France diddled and diddled for seven years, and finally, there was no movement on any of that stuff, least of all regional autonomy.

Now, how do we know this? Because Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany at the time, and Francois Hollande, who was the president of France, admitted it. And Angela Merkel said, we were just buying time for the Ukrainian army to be trained up to NATO standards and equipped and weaponized, you know, we're just buying time.

And look at them now. Look at the Ukrainian army. Now all along, I said the same thing.

Okay, so this is Putin. at the end of 2021, he says, okay, we're gonna make one last chance. We'll give a treaty to NATO and to the US and we'll have provisions which will prohibit Ukraine from joining NATO and other provisions.

They do that in the middle of December. The US NATO rejected out of hand. I quoted Stoltenberg before. Okay, so now we're getting to the end of December, 2021. Remember the invasion started February 24th, 2022. So we're just two months before the invasion. What happens on the 21st of December, Putin addresses his top military.

He had to have four stars or the equivalent to be there and the defense minister, and he says, you know, we are in increasing danger. because of medium and short range missiles already emplaced in Romania and Poland and about to be in place in Ukraine. Now these right now have about nine minutes time to target from these Romanian and Polish bases, if, and when the U S gets hypersonic missiles, which they will surely get eventually, I will have five minutes to decide whether to blow up the rest of the world. Now, he didn't say it in those words, but he's looking at these military guys, you know, and I'm looking at them too. I've seen life. Okay. So, I could see them thinking, wow. And then he says, so we need concrete agreements. We need something on paper.

We need something better than oral promises. And I can see these guys thinking, yeah, Vladimir Vladimirovich. Was it the ABM treaty piece of paper? Wasn't the INF Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty on, was it open? Come on, but we need a little bit more than that.

So nine days later, the 30th of December, 2021 Putin calls up the White House or as people do, and they say, Mr. Putin wants to talk to Mr. Biden right now. And Biden says, well, the White House has been waiting. Our negotiators are going to meet. In Geneva, on the 9th and 10th of January, for God's sake, why would you have to talk to him right now? Well he just needs to, and to his credit Biden takes the call.

And Putin says you know, I told my military people that you're going to give hypersonic missiles to Ukraine. They wanted me to get a personal commitment from you not to do that. Read out from that conversation, Mr. Biden said that the U.S. has no intention to put offensive strike missiles in Ukraine, period, end quote. January 30th, the next day, New Year's Eve was never so big in the Kremlin. Ushakov, the main advisor to Putin, jumping up and down and saying, look, this is not only, this shows that they're taking our security concerns seriously. of those provisions in that draft treaty, we gave them fully five of the eight are addressed by, by this, this commitment.

Not to put offensive strike missiles in Ukraine. What happens? Whoa, that was December 30th. They meet in Geneva on the 9th and 10th of January and the Russians say, okay, let's go to it. And what was her name? Wendy Sherman, or she said, what do you mean? I said, well, you know, that undertaken by Biden in the personal conversation with Putin on 30th of December, not to put offensive strike missiles in Ukraine, let's, let's work that out.

And Sherman says, I don't have any instructions about it. I don't know anything about that. Long story short, on the 12th of February, so 12th, February, January, December, but about six weeks after that undertaking by Biden. Biden talks to Putin one more time, right? Probably the last time they'll talk. And the, and the readout from that is Mr. Biden refused to address the business about not deploying intermediate or what they call offensive strike missiles in Ukraine. And he also refused to talk about Ukrainian non membership in NATO, period. 12th of February, 24th of February is when the Russians invade. Okay. Now, I'm not saying that's the only reason that the Russians wanted to make sure that Ukraine was not part of NATO. I'm saying it was a big reason, and I'm saying that those Americans with hair like I have here can remember something very, very analogous, and that was the Cuban Missile Crisis. When Khrushchev got it into his head to put offensive strike missiles in Cuba, and I'll just finish up with this analogy, those offensive strike missiles back in the day could reach Washington in about 10 minutes, could reach Savannah and Norfolk, our naval bases there in about seven to eight minutes.

Okay. They were trying to ship But ship in its immediate range ballistic missiles, but the blockade put in by Kennedy prevented that, but they were ready to go. Okay. Until Kennedy faced them down and Kennedy did a blockade. Okay. That's an act of war. He did anyway. He assembled an invasion force in, in, in Key West. He had threatened nuclear war. You're not supposed to do that, right? Nobody.

I was on active duty at that time at Fort Benning, Georgia. Nobody in the whole country ever thought to say, you're overreacting there, JFK, for God's sake. You're overreacting. This is illegal, what you're doing, a blockade and all these other, and besides. Cuba is a sovereign nation. They have every right to pick their alliances and to import weaponry and all that. So, what are you going to have cocked for? And the answer, of course, is because we're a nuclear nation, and we have the power to make sure that our core interests, and in this case, it's our core interest not to be seven, eight minutes away from Washington.

Now it's you know, similarly, five minutes for, for Moscow from, from bases in Ukraine. The core interests will be taken into account and whether it's legal or illegal, people are going to do things to protect their core interests.

Last thing I'll say is that before Putin did this, he got assurances from Xi Jinping that China would support him. This came as a big surprise to all my Chinese analyst friends. The Chinese who were in it in support of Russia from the get go, violating their old policy of non intervention, you know, thus failure, thus failure 1648. You don't mess around, you don't cross borders and all that stuff.

They put that on ice. And they said, and they even changed their rhetoric. And they said, we have to judge each situation according to its own merits. And when core interests are involved, as Russia's core interests are in Ukraine, as ours are in Taiwan, look, you do what's necessary to protect those core interests.

Sorry to carry on so long, but most Americans don't know a lot of this.

Steve Hsu: So, Ray, thanks for going through the details leading up to the conflict and. As you just said, I think very few Americans, even people who consider themselves well informed, who consider themselves intellectuals, university professors, very few of them know the history of the lead up from, say, 2014 until the invasion in 2022.

I'm glad you went through the details. I think it's fair to say, I think you and I both believe the U.S. could have prevented this conflict on many occasions between 2014 and 2022. 2022. We did not. However, that is now history. So in the final, say, 20 minutes that we have, I guess, let me ask you to address two things.

So one is the strategic implications of the U.S. In a sense, not taking the off ramp from this Ukraine conflict. Because to me, it looks like a disaster to have China and Russia in a tight alliance against the United States. And in fact, if the U.S. had just been somewhat more accommodating to Putin, they could have peeled Russia away from China actually over the last decade or so.

But in fact, they did the opposite and solidified that alliance. So to me, in a world where in the next 20 years, the main competitor, geopolitical and geostrategic competitors, China, this was a terrible mistake. Maybe we, maybe we won by degrading the Russian military or whatever. We may have won some small tactical victory by causing this war at the cost of killing lots of Ukrainians and Russians.

But the long term strategic consequence to me seems like. A very negative one for the U.S. grand strategy. Maybe you could just react to that.

Ray McGovern: What you say is true. And the question, of course, is why? Why are these people so blind? Why do these people think they can do these things and prevail? Now, the notion that the U.S. is exceptional, or as Madeleine Albright once put it, indispensable, is something that rattles around In Joe Biden's mind, together with an innate fear of those Russians and those Chai coms, for those of younger age, Chai coms are Chinese communists, but they're always pronounced Chai coms.

Okay. This is an old guy who has a mindset. And I used to think that, well, maybe it was mostly rhetoric, but then I got an account of a living room conversation where he had some folks up in Maine about three months ago, and he said the same thing, we can prevail, and he quoted Madeleine Albright, we are the indispensable country of the world, we're excluded, and Madeleine had it right, you know, and I'm saying, my God, the guy believes it.

Now, two weeks ago, he was on, what, 60 Minutes. Okay. And, uh. The journalist says, well, now, Mr. President, do you think that you can really handle the situation in Ukraine and the Middle East and China and, and Biden, you have to watch it. He looks and he says, listen, you're talking about the United States of America, the most powerful nation in the history of the world, in the, in the history of the world. So are Blinken and Sullivan and Newland and Avril Haines, the head of the intelligence setup, going to say, ah, you know, Mr. Biden, we used to be that after World War II. And then after Russia, the Soviet Union imploded, we used to be that, but that ain't so anymore, and we're not going to be able to handle Ukraine and Southwest Asia and China.

And besides Mr Biden, you've been told all kinds of bad things about China. We've learned that the Chinese have this long history, like, would you believe? Not five centuries, but five millennia, you know, and, and, you know, they're traditionally not expanding. They have walk probes, they got a hundred, they got a billion point four people there and, and, you know, what they say is the Chinese, they say, look, can't we, can we just work things out?

I mean, could we have a win-win thing? And we used to think that, oh, that was a Tricom plot, but maybe Mr. Biden, we ought to think about that because. You know, they don't like us running our ships up and down their coastline and going through the Taiwan Strait and all that stuff. And we made a deal over 50 years ago that Taiwan was part of China and they see us reneging on that.

And so, so maybe we ought to, maybe we ought to see if this Chinese is serious and that they really don't like us impinging on their part of the world. And when they hear John Kirby, for example, the White House spokesman for national security he said recently, you're not all Chinese. So when they come into Cuba or they're coming to where they're not coming into our ocean, I'd tell you that for sure. Well, how about the Chinese attitude? Could they be thinking? You know, why is the U.S. coming into our ocean? Now, if we were, we were going to attack the U.S., that would be something else. But we're not Japan in 1941. I mean, we're, we ain't got enough problems. We've, we've succeeded in bringing about 60 percent of our people out of abject poverty over the last two decades.

That's what we're concerned about. And we don't need all this, this stuff going on in Taiwan and all that stuff. So let's deal. Unfortunately, there's one other factor that we haven't mentioned, and that's what I call the MICCYMAT, the people who profiteer on this situation. Very briefly, it's a new acronym.

It substitutes for the old MICC, the Military Industrial Complex. If you've got a pencil, you might want to take it down. It's the Military Industrial Congressional Intelligence Media Complex. Academia, think tank, complex, each one of those institutions plays a vital role in keeping all this stuff going, none more important than the media. That's why I say media as if in all caps, okay?

The media is the linchpin without the media, which is controlled by the rest of the Mickey mat. Mind you, you can't make this succeed. And Eisenhower himself knew that because he warned. That the only way you can have an antidote to the MICC, as he called it, Military Industrial Complex in those days, he said, was by a well informed citizenry.

And we ain't got that now, Steve. I think you'll probably agree with that. And that's why I'm delighted to come on to a program like yours too, to speak my truth and to draw on where I've been for five decades watching Soviet and now Russian leaders.

Steve Hsu: But a couple of quick questions. So well, actually, let me, let me first remind my listeners that because every time someone said in my mind, every time somebody says something same about the Russians, the tactic is to call them a Putin appeaser, a Putin you know someone who's been, who's been corrupted by Putin, et cetera, et cetera.

They did this to Stephen Cohen, who for many years when I was growing up was one of the leading public experts on Russia. And because he didn't agree with everything said about Trump and Russia, they vilified him in the media. I'm sure they're vilifying Ray whenever they get the chance. But I just want to remind my audience that Ray is one of the Cold Warriors who won the Cold War.

That was his job from 1963 until 1990, and we won the Cold War. So people like that, I think, are the ones who probably have the most expertise to judge what is actually happening today in the world.

My question for you, Ray, is are things actually worse than they were in 1963? Because in 63, they may have killed a president to get their way.

You've pointed out that they control the media and the think tanks and the Congress, etc., etc. But, you know, maybe you could just compare the situation today and the situation when you were a young man.

Ray McGovern: Long time ago, Steve. gosh, it's worse now. No one has been held accountable. The media in particular, George W. Bush running around. War criminal that he is starting an unnecessary war in Iraq based on intelligence that was cooked. The media. Let me give you just one example. On the pages of the Washington Post, the op-ed pages, in 2002 and early 2003, It was something like 90 percent of the op-eds were saying, Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction. We have to get them before he uses them on us, okay? Fred Hiatt was the name of the fellow running that op-ed page. And after this was all over, oh a year or two after, he went up to the Columbia School of Journalism. And he was asked by one of his students Mr. Hiatt you kept asserting and your columnists kept asserting the cold fact that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass desertion.

Flat fat. Now, how do you do it, but he didn't. How do you explain that? And Hiatt said in this very pregnant comment, please listen. Well, if Saddam Hussein didn't have weapons of mass destruction, we probably should not have said that he did. Period. End quote. Now, my, my, my tutor in professional journalism was a fellow named Robert Parry, who died about five years ago.

Okay? I was at his side when he heard that and he said, Ray, I thought that was sort of a core belief of professional journalism that if something is not so, you're not supposed to say that it is. I mean, hello.

So what's the teaching point here? Well, Hiatt was cashiered as soon as this all came out, right?

Well, actually, no, they kept him on as head of the page of the Washington Post for 20 more years. Enough said.

Steve Hsu: Okay. Well, I think that's a good place to end it. Ray, I really enjoyed this conversation. I'm glad I could finally get you on the show. And I just want to say again that I admire the actions you've taken in the last 20 plus years to do what you can to restore sanity to the American polity. So, thank you very much for your efforts.

I wish you all the best.

Ray McGovern: Thank you, Stephen. Appreciate it.