Remarkable stories of war told by those who fought for a proud nation. Their words. Their voices. Our first episodes tell riveting stories from World War II, then we move on to the Vietnam War and other dramatic conflicts.
In this bonus episode, Col. Jack Tomarchio provides his reflection on the war in Ukraine based on his research since leaving the military. This doesn't fit in with our usual content, but we wanted to share his insightful take.
The first photo was taken in Grenada in 1983, and the next two were taken in Kuwait in 1991.
Hi it’s Ken Harbaugh, host of Warriors In Their Own Words. Our guest on this week’s episode is COL Jack Tomarchio. His stories about his time in uniform are extraordinary, and you can hear them in our main interview. But, I wanted to publish this segment separately. It’s his reflection, based largely on work and research since leaving the military, about what is happening between Ukraine and Russia. This is an insightful take, so while it doesn’t fit our usual format for “Warriors in their Own Words,” I’ve decided to share it anyway, as a short bonus segment. Here is COL Jack Tomarchio.
I give a speech on Ukraine. I don't give a speech on the military operation because a lot of people can see that. Every day, you can turn on the news and there's somebody talking about what the Russians are doing, and what the Ukrainians are doing. What I give a speech about, a talk about is I try to understand why the Russians do what they do, why they've done what they've done. The idea is people say, "Well, Putin's a crazy man. He's a madman. He wants to recreate the Soviet Union." My thesis is no, he's not a madman. He's not a crazy man, and he doesn't want to recreate the Soviet Union. What Putin wants to do is ... Again, understand the way he views the world. He views the world through the eyes of a Chekist. A Chekist is a member of the Russian Security Service, as far back as the czars. The Cheka, it was first Intelligence Service of the Bolsheviks in 1918, and so members of the Cheka became Chekists. It's now a name that's used to basically say that's the IC, the Intelligence Community. They believe that they are the true guardians of the motherland, the rodina. They look at the world differently, and Putin grew up that way. He grew up in the KGB. He was not a covert officer. He was not an operations officer. He was more an admin officer in East Germany, but he grew up that way.
If you look at the world through their eyes, the Soviet Union and the Russian state, which had grown from the time of Ivan the IV, the Terrible in the 1580s, to 1940 with the German invasion of Russia, the Soviet Union, it had grown statistically 150 square miles every single day from 1580s to 1940. Statistically, every day, it grew, statistically, 150 square miles a day. In the course of several years, you see 14 of the 15 Soviet socialist republics go away and become independent nations. You see these buffer states, which were populated by other countries, other nationalities, not Great Russians, Belor Russians, Armenians, Estonians, Fins, et cetera. Then you see the outer buffer states of the Warsaw Pact leave the Warsaw Pact. Then to make matters worse, they join NATO. You see your world falling apart, and that's what he did. What he's trying to do is he wants to recreate the, what I would call the status quo of the Russian state. Whether it's the Russian state of the czars, or the Soviets, it's just a Russian state.
The Russians have a tremendous paranoia about invasion. They've been invaded ... The big invasions were by the Swedes in the Great Northern War, certainly by Napoleon and then, of course, by Hitler. There's been a lot of other smaller invasions by Mongols, and Turks, and different kinds of Circassians have plagued the Russian people, so they have this paranoia of their security, and that's why they always felt better when they had buffer states around them.
If you look to the world through his eyes, and you look beyond that to what he believes and what those around him believe as the destiny of the Russian state, they look at the Russian state in almost religious and holy terms. The Russian state is very linked to Russian Orthodox religion. They view Russia as the new Jerusalem. They view Russia as the new Rome, as the true Rome, as the true Christian religion. They view that, and there have been writings going back as far as the 19th century that talks about this importance of Russia to lead what they call the Russian man, the Russian woman, which is viewed as superior to other races, almost like the Aryans of the Germans or Nazi rhetoric. They view these people ... They view this mission of their state as their preeminent goal.
I believe, and I believe if you read a lot of these philosophers, Russian philosophers from the 19th century, the early 20th century, they're espousing the same stuff, and if you look at that stuff, it's ... This guy, Dugin, whose daughter was killed, he's one of these guys. He's a latter-day inheritor of this kind of rhetoric, but he takes his stuff all the way back to the 19th century. Putin and his followers, for good or for bad, they're relying on that kind of philosophy to justify their mission, which is to reclaim these lost lands, and so I believe that's what they're trying to do.
If you look at the world through their eyes, it makes sense. Of course, if you look at the world through our eyes, it does not make sense. It's bold-faced aggression against another state that does not want to be part of the greater Russian state, so that's where I'm coming down on a lot of this stuff. Not just a war, but the philosophical, intellectual, and historical, and religious underpinnings of the war, which I think is really interesting.
I think, parting thoughts, I think we're in a real dangerous time. I think we have a dangerous time domestically with our country. I think we have a dangerous time internationally with our pure competitors, and I don't just mean the Russians, but certainly the Chinese. That's the varsity right now. They're not 100-feet tall, but they're very aggressive. I think right now, we need excellent leadership in Washington. We need excellent leadership in the Congress. We need excellent leadership in the military. Not sure we're getting excellent leadership from the politicians, and certainly not in the Congress. I'm really worried about what the next war looks like, especially if it's against the Chinese. I don't know. I don't think right now we are in any way ready for that type of a conflict, and that scares me.
That was COL Jack Tomarchio. You can hear our full interview in the main feed for this show. Thanks.
Thanks for listening to Warriors In Their Own Words. If you have any feedback, please email the team at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re always looking to improve the show.
And if you enjoyed this episode, don’t forget to rate and review.
Warriors In Their Own Words is a production of Evergreen Podcasts, in partnership with The Honor Project.
Our producer is Declan Rohrs. Brigid Coyne is our production director, and Sean Rule-Hoffman is our Audio Engineer.
Special thanks to Evergreen executive producers, Joan Andrews, Michael DeAloia, and David Moss.