You can hear all of the dumbest people you knew in High School closing their youtube tabs from “researching” covid and inflation and furiously googling Ukraine. Personally, I have no idea what is going on or what to do, and hopefully Adam will re-emerge like the proverbial groundhog and share some of his insights with us.
I will say this, though. I spent my youth and teens hating the Soviet Union and Russia, spent some of the formative years of my life in the Fulda Gap as basically a speed bump for the next Russian invasion of Europe, and I have always considered Russia to be an enemy state and Putin to be a Bondesque super villain. I was aghast the last 5-6 years as the right wing in America cozied up to the Russians and other autocratic regimes, and I still think of them as a long term threat.
Having said that, I am also of the opinion that the only thing that will stop Putin is an actual ground war if he decides he wants Ukraine, and I am not in the mood to throw away tens of thousands of American kids or trillions on another fucking war to promote democratic ideals that we can’t even uphold in Texas and Alabama.
So yeah. I know what is at stake and I know who and what Putin is, but I don’t have the first fucking clue what to do about it.
I’ll lift my reply from Twitter: What makes you think that noting short of full scale commitment to ground war will change Putin’s mind? You don’t think that Putin’s aggression is something we might want to take some steps to check?
@Omnes Omnibus: I’m not trying to be evasive. I literally do not know. I do not know what to do.
And neither does anyone else. No one with half a brain would want to mobilize during a pandemic when holding a baseline level of infections and economy in their own might be taking military might.
Few if any of our politicians have a freaking clue either. Which means they aren’t going to get one talking to each other, which means nothing will change and we will jump in the middle with our dicks in our hands, attempting to make sense of it all while simultaneously trying to bury our heads in the proverbial sand with the other hand, while the assholes that think war is all about their profit do exactly that.
@John Cole: I wasn’t suggesting that you were being evasive. I just thought the response fit here.
A side issue. Think about the Russian response to the pandemic. Very low vaccination rate, very high death rate, a population around half of ours, I’m actually wondering if this is Vlad’s attempt to pivot any attention by his citizens on how crappy his response has been to the pandemic.
The fascification of large portions of the population strengthens Putin. Trump’s and the Republican party’s ongoing attack on democracy not only causes internal strife but weakens us internationally. It is probably intentional.
I’m just glad we have grown ups in charge; the More A Larceny Folks would have responded to any invasion with a targeted tax cut.
@Ruckus: Probably. Jingoism is an effective drug.
As people are reading about this, they should bear in mind that there are two takes on it that should be studiously ignored. One is any view that looks at what is happening from a US-centric view (not that thi US should not act its own interest) The other is anyone who tries to impose a Cold War East vs. West paradigm on what is happening. Oh, yeah, and third, anyone who tries to tell you which takes to take seriously.
See Bill Browder’s book: https://www.amazon.com/Red-Notice-Bill-Browder-audiobook/dp/B00T567KIA/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3J0N3L0GBF2RW&keywords=bill+browder&qid=1643091343&sprefix=bill+browder%2Caps%2C160&sr=8-1
Browder worked with Sergei Magnitsky, and got the Magnitsky Act passed when Magnitsky was killed. Getting rid of that is a prime target of Putin and the oligarchs, because they are all stashing their money in the US so Putin can’t grab it from them. That was the entire point of the Trump Tower meetings with Don Jr. and Manaforte about “adoptions”. All those oligarch-owned apartments are in Trump Tower and other NY and Florida locations, as is the rest of their money. There is saber rattling, but the real battlefield is going to be on the money front, and we have by far the upper hand there.
My only fear is how all-in Republicans have gone on the pro-Russian side. Clips of Tucker Carlson’s show are shown on Russian TV non-stop, and the American right is non-stop why not just let them have Czechoslovakia, I mean Ukraine?
I mean, I sure he will stop there. Right?
From what I’ve seen, you are not the only person to wonder about this. The Moscow Times, for instance, mentions that ‘some observers are wondering’ on a regular basis.
While the pandemic is in full spate, I simply don’t have the bandwidth to collect links about the Ukraine conflict. But I do think it’s the current star turn in an increasingly desperate ‘Look — over there! A jackalope!’ attempts by the existing Russian oligarchy to distract its citizens (and the wider world, and its own members for that matter) from the implacable, dispiriting leakage of Russia’s ‘Great Power’ status.
And, frankly, way too many American journalists would be happy to see a new war, at a suitable distance from US, where they could cosplay Roland Headley for brief news hits before coming home to opine upon ‘Biden’s failed WWIII’.
My inner Cynic says the only thing that will forestall an actual shooting war is the death of Putin himself, because he seems to have invested too much of his veneer-thin ‘prestige’ in Standing Down the Oppressive Western Capitalists. And, history informs us, such pivotal deaths have been known to happen! But probably not in *this* case, because the only parties that could feasibly remove Putin are his cronies, and whatever might become of Russia and the Russians, they want Emperor Vladimir to live for a thousand years, or at least until their grandkids can settle down comfortably in Elon Musk’s Martian paradise.
@Omnes Omnibus: Putin wants the Baltic states back in Mother Russia and it would not surprise me that he might like Poland back as well.
John, I’m with you: Where is Adam? We want/need his input yesterday.
CherylRofer has been finding some good threads on Twitter.
VVP should not get to invade neighbors to reconstitute a proto-USSR because he feels like it. Not charging borders by force is a principle worth defending.
Independence means that countries get to set their own foreign and defense policies similarly is worth defending.
But Ukraine, and Taiwan, and other places are complicated. Should Russian speakers and Russophiles be kicked out of Ukraine? When do facts on the ground become legitimate enough? When is corruption so high that the real wishes of the people cannot be determined? When do principles need to be changed to recognize the reality that the world is different from the 1950s?
I don’t know either.
Here’s hoping that VVP doesn’t invade again, and that if he does he pays a severe price. And that we take seriously the dangers of another far away war. (If we get involved, when do we get out, and who are we involved for.)
I’d like to read his informed opinions, too. But since strategizing about situations like this is what he does for a living, I’m guessing he might be busy elsewhere!
Is it irresponsible to speculate that Russia’s animosity toward the US was forgotten by Republicans, in their haste to love the hell out of Putin for busting on gays?
@LongHairedWeirdo: White nationalism with a Christian front.
I think George Kennan’s “Long Telegram” (written in 1947) is still a pretty accurate assessment of Russian outlook. They are paranoid about western power, and want a buffer between themselves and the west. Now, I am NOT in any way justifying Russian actions in Crimea or Ukraine, just stating that historically we should not be surprised it has come to this.
And no, I don’t know what the hell to do, other than what Biden is doing.
Good France24 article on how things have changed with Ukraine’s military since 2014.
@sxjames: Read about Peter the Great foreign policy. SSDD.
@Another Scott: Thanks for that.
Why? It’s not the 19th century. Oligarchs have billions invested in the US and the UK. Other European countries want natural gas and other products that Russia has in abundance.
But I see some of the most idiotic reasons British conservatives advanced for BREXIT had to do with fantasies of restoring the glory of the old Empire.
I have no idea what Putin wants or how far he might go.
I just want to go back to worrying about simple things, like the pandemic.
The Nadal v Shapovalov match is in 5th set after Nadal once again gave up a two set lead at the Aussie Open.
John, thanks for saying what I’ve been thinking about this.
Which could result in a spectacular backlash. Was just seeing on the news (Rachel, maybe), how horrifically COVID is rampaging through the Texas National Guard that Abbot has sent to the border so he can basically posture as a Tough Guy. Of course, Russia would try to cover up and lie about any outbreaks in deployed troops, but they don’t have the lid on the spread of information they used to have. Especially if bodies start coming home and no shots have even been fired. Or trying to invade with half your force symptomatic.
As for what Russia’s opponents can do – I would HOPE we have cyber activities that we’re not being told about. As for the Ukrainians, how about psyops, encouraging Russian forces to either disobey orders or outright defect? I doubt if they’re really jazzed about being in the field in January.
@lollipopguild: He has said so in an academic sounding paper from 2012. He wants the 19C Russian Empire, from the Baltics and Poland to as much of China as he can manage, plus the Kurile Islands. Just to feel safe, you know. And Russia is the Last Bastion of Christianity, too, doncha know, where women, minorities, and gays know their place. (no wonder the MAGAs love Putin).
Problem is, Russian GDP is about equal to that of New York City (really) with 20x the population. So Putin would need to pillage, starve, and enslave all those now free and prosperous (except for Ukraine) countries he wants to control. Not a value proposition.
I have spoken Russian since back in Soviet times (I am a physicist, it’s been really useful) and have enjoyed working with Russian and Ukrainian researchers (there used to be no difference except a bit of accent). So I am no Russophobe. But I am alarmed about this turn of events.
I never thought Ukraine would make it on its own. Great farmland, much better vegetables. But no oil. Ravaged by Soviet mismanagement and fortune (famine in 30s, war in 40s) and corruption. Russian language dominant.
But something changed. They found an identity and threw out a Putin puppet on Maidan. Still chaotic, corrupt govt. Putin grabbed Crimea and then Donbas, despite heroic defense by outgunned soldiers called the Cyborgs doing the 300 Spartans thing.
(Donbas is basically the flat bits of WV with dying coal mines, no jobs, no decent shopping, and hideous winters).
This situation really triggered them to upgrade the use of Ukrainian language (Slavic, but closer to Polish than Russian). As their identity grew, they realized that having been governed for the. last 1000 years by the Mongols, Poland, Lithuania, Austro Hungary, Russia, Romania (!), Germany, and the USSR, they’d had a bellyful. And this is the land of the the live free or die Cossacks.
So 70% of what used to be thought of as an anti Semitic country voted for a Jewish stand up comedian as President. He banters and jousts equally well in Ukrainian and Russian, and seems calm under stress.
And it looks to me like they are gonna put up a fight. And if they lose the conventional war, they’ll go partisan, like they did against the Wehrmacht.
So I reckon we should send arms and money, and use our financial wizardry to tie their economy and oligarchs in knots. The Moscow share market is off 30% since October, and the central bank had to suspend dollar conversions to keep the ruble from collapsing. Faster, please.
I still like speaking and reading Russian, and enjoy the company of non butthead Russians. But I am going to learn some Ukrainian, out of spite.
@Nettoyeur: Apropos of how poor Russia is, it’s also a kleptocracy.
@Mary G: A lot of the electronic components Russia needs for its military and industry are made by other countries under US license. Sales to Russia could be prevented.
It is always difficult when you have a country such as Russia, with the population used to having very limited freedoms. But when you add in better world communications, even those used to and who sometimes benefit from those limited freedoms can get less malleable. Some of the people can run out of the ability to look the other way when the leader is stealing everything and killing some of them. I’m not sure Russia is there (or will ever be) but is it possible that Vlad has gone as far as he realistically can? Countries are working desperately to be free of the oil and gas that he sells them and are likely not going to be sad to be free of him. He may also be making noise because his castle may be falling apart, stone by stone. Now all of this may be wishful thinking but it wouldn’t be the first time someone of his nature and position has gotten a bit desperate. His work/money to get SFB elected and therefore him having an ally too stupid and gullible to think Vlad as anyone but a friend seemed to be him trying to buy off an entire country, which has opposed many of his policies and bullshit.
Horrible men are often taken down by their own inability to see anything but their smiling reflection and they often have to walk a very fine line between power/corruption and having it all fall apart because of their hidden desperation.
OK that got a chuckle….
If and this is a very huge IF, any of my suppositions have any basis in fact, this is exactly what he likely fears. His basic premise of his glory and power is that he controls everything, even his largest enemy’s political power. If he is losing that concept left and right and loses his military power, what is left for him?
That’s really a great line. I’ve never seen it expressed like that.
David ? ☘The Establishment☘? Koch
I blame lack of school prayer for this situation. Also too the gays and joos.
what to do about it
draft TFG and his kids and send them to Moscow to solve the problem
Although your world wonders me,
With your majestic and superior cackling hen,
Your people I do not understand,
So to you I shall put an end.
And you will never hear surf music again.
NATO is responding.
The Pale Scot
From what I’ve read, Putin isn’t likely to invade Ukraine. He doesn’t want the Donbass. Its economy is obsolete and majority of the population is on pension, like northern England. What he wants is the Donbass and it’s pro Russian population to have a larger than they should have role in the Ukrainian government to stop the steady movement into the Western sphere. If he actually takes Donbass the rest of Ukraine will join Nato as soon as it can, along with Sweden and maybe Finland.
So far the massive troop movements have been supported by last generation T-72s and other long in the tooth weapon systems. Ground support aviation hasn’t moved up, nor the M-26 helicopters that deliver fuel forward to armor divisions, the Russian Army doesn’t trust trucking fuel forward, the roads suck and they probably read Red Storm Rising back in the day. I’m curious about Ukraine’s procurement of drones. The consensus is that the Turk model that Azerbaijan used to smoke the Armenians will be vulnerable to Russian SAMs, but that’s expensive, and I’m thinking using off the shelf commercial models to drop mines or incendiaries on those huge fuel bladders the MI-26s would be dropping off at the front.
Ukraine should call Putin’s bet and cede the Donbass to Russia, prepared with an agitprop campaign in Donbass to get the “we are Russian feelings into overdrive.” Then close the border completely. Let the Russians airlift fuel and commercial goods into Donbass, The roads going east suck, it will be a financial millstone around his neck.
There has been a steady stream of defectors slipping out of Donbass, their stories are like the tales of living in the Soviets outside of Moscow
@The Pale Scot:
I seem to remember reading that the Ukraine government is paying those pensions, even today, even though those people live in a breakaway region at war with Ukraine. Incredible.
@Ruckus: That is how I see it. Purin trying to change the subject.
It also seems unlikely that Ukrainians want us there as ground troops. They seem more than competent as soldiers rhemselves.
@Ruckus: so same as it always goes…
I don’t think there’s any reason to doubt it.
What he’d like and what he can get are two very different things.
The thing about Ukraine is that even if he can take it, it’ll take an army to hold onto it. Russia’s not in good shape these days, they’re getting socked pretty good with Covid after all, because for good reason nobody trusts the government, so their vaccination rate is way worse than ours, and their vaccine is crappier to boot.
He may be able to take Ukraine, and he may be able to hold onto it. But that’s not going to enable him to take the Baltics or Poland, that’s going to use up the limited resources Russia can bring to bear these days.
The Pale Scot
I didn’t know that, but it doesn’t surprise me. The Ukraine gov seems to have a delusion that Donbass can be pacified. But 8 years of Soviet style propaganda and population control has made that impossible. Like East Germany, I’d say the people leaving are woman or families pushed by the women. Both East and West. Donbass is a shithole filled with booze and simpletons
The Pale Scot
Their international disinformation campaign to discredit western medicine has bit them in the ass as western morons projected to BS back into Russia
The Pale Scot
@The Pale Scot:
I should edit that, the Donbass isn’t filled with simpletons…. yet. Give it a decade
With the conservative side of the aisle being what they are these days, yes.
As someone above says, NATO has a plan, which basically involves massive sanctions against Russia and its rulers.
If NATO wanted to send military advisors and trainers to Ukraine, I wouldn’t object, although I’m not convinced they are needed. The modern Ukrainian army seems OK, if under-resourced for a fight against a much larger country.
Selling them the latest weaponry at cost or on generous credit terms would be an answer.
I don’t think there’s one weird trick that solves all this. I think NATO has to use a combination of things, economic, diplomatic and intelligence assets.
Putin is in a weaker position than we realise. A full scale invasion of Ukraine is likely to start a domino effect, not just the measures I’ve mentioned, but increases in NATO troops in Poland and the Baltic states, but also Finland seriously and publicly talking about joining NATO. They are already pissed off by Putin trying to tell them what they can and can’t do.
@Brachiator: “Why? It’s not the 19th century. ”
Yep, it aint 1945 either
I can understand how the USSR wanted a buffer after being invaded 2 in the last 40 years
But if you believe Putin wants to steal Ukraine resources because he is afraid of German tanks rolling on Moscow, then I have a bridge to sell you
@Ruckus: Of course it is.
@jefft452: I speculate that talking about recreating their perceived glorious past of buffer slave states is a requirement for upper level Russian leadership. It is rah rah talk to them. The population imposes the expectation on it’s leaders and at the same time the leaders think they are manipulating the population. It makes them feel better.
The fact that we haven’t invaded when they were weak and would ignore them if they didn’t invade countries or export criminals is unflattering and too subtle.
@The Dangerman: You may have noticed that Putin’s burning desire to expand his invasion in Ukraine was much cooler when his buddy was in the White House.
I don’t see any commentary on Lukashenka, the junior partner in this sorry enterprise. The west turned a blind eye to his Putinizing of Belarus, until it didn’t. I would expect the same sanctions being considered against Russia would also be leveled on Belarus as well, and they might not be as resilient as Russia, nor if Belarusian soldiers followed Russian ones into the Ukrainian meatgrinder. Even Lukashenka might be having second thoughts.
I hope this just devolves into Ukraine (with help) sitting on the porch with a shotgun until Russia and Belarus finish their exercises (in response to western ones?) and then go back home. Knock yourselves out; don’t start none, won’t be none.
It would be hilarious if Ukraine cut the Donbass loose and stopped paying pensions there, saying you’re Russia’s problem now, but I realize they’ll never do that.
Just my 2 kopecks. Until Adam answers the bat signal, here are Matt Berry and Peter Capaldi performing Reply Of The Zaporozhian Cossacks To Sultan Mehmed IV:
I have a friend whose dissertation was “Whither Ukraine” and was about their giving up of their nukes.
@Mary G: Like your approach. Too bad our thug party and its mouth piece the Pravda of the US (aka fox) support putin; once putin, and our slavery based constitution reinstalls Rump, he will remove us from NATO, then it is dark days for us, Europe, and Russia will quickly reacquire its old empire (or as much as it can.)
We have destroyed countries, committed mass murder and that was just our early history – we’ve gone and dialed that up to an eleven since ray-gun. So only fair the chicken hawks come home to roost (or is it more accurate to say roast) and we will start tasting some of the destruction we’ve bestowed upon the world – all in the name of corporate and christian profits.
Russia’s animosity toward the U.S. was stoked by Reagan’s lording it over the breakdown of the Soviet Union. What goes around…
What to do is give Putin rope to hang himself. Of course this is also unacceptable, because it neglects collateral damage, but every other option is worse.
@Ruckus: And I’m wondering if Russia has the manpower for a full invasion, because of covid. The have enough troops to attack, but do they have the capability to hold any territory?
So, the same thing as when he bombed his own buildings to set up a second war in Chechnya?
@sxjames: If they take Ukraine, then Poland becomes the buffer. Then Germany. And so on…
Here’s the deal. Under Putin’s rule Russia’s annual GDP levels out at about 1.7 trillion USD. That’s about the same as Texas or Italy. America’s Defense Budget – Which we do not debate, filibuster or audit. – is half of that,750 billion USD. In two budget years the USA spends as much on defense as Russia’s entire GDP. Granted Putin has nuclear weapons; but he is just a two-bit despot. The only reason Putin retains his grip on power is his open willingness to attack, jail or kill his opponents. A disgruntled citizenry, COVID, mud, internal infrastructure and oil prices are Putin weaknesses this Spring. The USA and Europe should exploit those weaknesses. Russia has a long history. Putin’s Russia should be history.
Putin is the devil we know. Russia after Putin is the devil we don’t know. I don’t know what Russia looks like after Putin, but I do know that they have nuclear weapons and that the propaganda they feed their wingnuts makes ours look tame.
@lollipopguild: And don’t think that the Poles and the Baltic states don’t know it too. Which makes it twice as bewildering to me– how can the 2nd and 3rd generation Polish and Ukrainian Americans stand by and cheer the Russians threatening their ancestral homes?
@debbie: and we know how that went, don’t we?
What is worrying me is the question of Putin’s end game. Where will he stop? I have family in Hungary. How real is the threat to the former occupied countries? Is Orban enough of a friend to Putin that he will leave Hungary alone? The role of importance of energy to all these countries has not been taken account. Germany has keep quiet because they are dependent on the Russian gas line which could be cut off. It is a very complicated situation.
John McCain said it correctly that Russia is a gas station masquerading as a country. It has no economy for the most part. Two thirds of its economy is exporting of natural gas, oil and electricity. These are state controlled. The 11 billion dollar pipe line gave him his wedge in Europe. Putin has never forgiven the west for expanding NATO after the collapse of the Soviet Union. America to my knowledge broke the promises not to expand NATO. This is his second power play after the Crimea annexation. He is now in a box of his own making, NATO and non NATO countries are now stepping up to formulate a coalition against this aggression. Knowing mankind, his fall back position is always violence, sadly. It will take I think unfortunately greater world leadership for peace than currently inhabits the worlds stage. You would think since most or the world leaders are extraordinarily wealthy and invested around the worlds different economies that they would not risk collapsing the system they defend upon. Having said that I at this time find little hope out of the box they are quickly escalating.
Hopefully I am wrong.
Cheryl Rofer posted on LGM and for some reason I cannot provide the link. It is a good read. It is titled Three Reads On Russia’s Threats
All I know is that the past few years of Russian aggression that they literally are getting away with e4v4ry day (including the pirating of the internet and social media to be used to bring down Democracies like us around the world) is horribly and scarily reminiscent of pre-WWII and if we look the other way when they roll across the sovereign borders of Ukraine then it literally WILL NOT STOP THERE.
So play this one smart, stay calm and use caution, but don’t go all Neville Chamberlain on this shit, Wesgtern World.
Sounds like the best plan to me. But I am a very low-paid mountain couch potato, so it’s unlikely that anyone will actually solicit my opinion. .
wombat probability cloud
Recent news about the SWIFT option for financial sanction:
@sxjames: The Long Telegram is a quick and revealing read. Still. People talk about the long form version in Foreign Affairs, but you can skip that.
The key observation in Kennan’s recommendations back then was that Stalin was so criminal that no relationship was going to work, so the free world should just stand aside, stay in touch, maintain its values, and keep its powder dry. Attentive abstention. This was blown up into justification for overactive intel ops, apparently to Kennan’s disappointment. (He was dismissed as a nervous Nellie).
Kennan also observed that the West could afford this non involvement because the USSR had nothing that the West needed to buy. And that is what has changed that makes the present crises so dangerous: they’ve got oil/gas that the rest of the world pays for.
This cuts both ways. Yes, Russia can use energy as a weapon. But if their customers’ economies fail, or they get vaporized by war, there will be no one to pay for the energy. And as it is, Russia (pop 140M) only manages to produce a GDP equal to that of New York City (pop 8M).
A rational leadership would understand this (see Saudi Arabia, most of the time). But the whole Ukraine is Really Russia bit seems to have derailed thinking in the Kremlin.
@Ruckus: sounds right. same trick as electeds use here periodically.
There is thinking in the Kremlin?
OK it is possible, it’s just not very good thinking… It’s the thinking of an oligarch, which might be funny if oligarch wasn’t exemplified by the country of Russia and if many of our conservative leaders in this country didn’t think/feel that is the perfectly normal/acceptable actions of the wealthy because being wealthy by any means necessary/possible IS perfectly normal to them, and goes along with the second half of their ideals, which is fuck everyone else. Sort of difficult to live in an actual democracy with this political outlook.
35 billion (or more) stashed away in offshore accounts.
They don’t. One thing the right and left in the Ukrainian Diaspora agree on is that Putin is evil, Russia is the enemy and Ukraine must defend itself.
The right, though, has twisted itself into pretzels explaining how Trump was actually anti-Putin and was working secretly to protect and defend Ukraine.
I wonder how much of it might be rather offshore, in a country that seems to specialize anymore in making money from and for money. Say one like this one……
J R in WV
I have the best, most brilliant idea for dealing with this foreign affairs clusterfuck. Let the trained Diplomatic and Military professionals take care of this international catastrophe — just like we did from 1955-1975 in SE Asia. War crimes, unexploded munitions still going off killing farmers, kids, livestock all over the region.
Obviously I am joking. The professionally trained security people are bound by their preconceived notions they were spoon fed by the older security staff as beginners, back in the era of Vietnam / Iraq / Afghani wars — and we know a little bit of how those turned out thanks to the professionals in charge at the time. Drafting kids into the front lines…