(I don’t remember where I found this, but it seemed appropriate tonight)
I know everyone wants to start with the air strike on the petroleum facility in Belgorod, which wasn’t reported on until after last night’s update posted. Here’s the official line from the Ukrainians. I haven’t seen them say anything to contradict it:
New. Ukraine “does not confirm or deny” airstrike on Belgorod oil depot: “Ukraine has been defending itself to resist aggression. Does not mean that Ukraine has responsibility for what happens in Russia,” says Colonel Oleksandr Motuzyanyk in briefing
— Oliver Carroll (@olliecarroll) April 1, 2022
The reality is that it was most likely a strike by the Ukrainian Air Force. That is the simplest explanation. Could it be a Russian false flag? Sure. Why? I have no idea at this point.
What I think is going on is the strike made both military sense in terms of taking out some important physical infrastructure that the Russian military was relying on, but that it also makes sense in terms of the Information Warfare and Psychological Operations campaign that Ukraine is waging against Russia. Russia has been claiming they’ve destroyed the Ukrainian Air Force. That they’ve destroyed all 36 of Ukraine’s TB-2 Bayraktar drones. Ukraine only has twelve bayraktars and we have confirmation that the Russians have only killed three of them at most based on the reporting I’ve seen. By undertaking the strike the Ukrainians accomplished three things. The first is the tactical objective: they destroyed the fuel depot or a good chunk of it. The second is they just rubbed the Russians’ noses in the fact that Russia does not have air superiority. The third is that Ukraine has just demonstrated that the Ukrainian Air Force, both fixed wing and rotary wing, is still up, running, and effective.
I want to take a moment before we get to the jump and get to something that is both getting coverage, but that I also think is not being paid enough attention to: Russia’s destruction of Ukrainian granaries, theft of grain transport ships from Ukrainian ports, blockade of other countries’ grain transports trying to get to Ukrainian ports to pick up their cargo, and one of the intended effects of this anti-grain strategy. Ukraine’s Prime Minister, Denys Shmyhal, stated:
Russia is blocking grain exports from Ukrainian ports with a naval blockade, said Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal. He added that Russia is deliberately destroying Ukrainian granaries.
Ukraine’s Agricultural Minister, Mykola Solskyi, has also been trying to bring this to the world’s attention:
The ongoing conflict in Ukraine is making it progressively more difficult for the country to export grain, Ukrainian Agriculture Minister Mykola Solskyi said in a televised briefing Saturday, warning the situation is having a “dramatic” impact on global markets.
Ukraine’s grain shipments have dropped from 4 million to 5 million tons per month to a few hundred thousand, Solskyi said.
He said, “Every day the situation will become more and more difficult“ for the country’s grain exports if the war continues.
Ukraine was the world’s sixth-largest exporter of wheat in 2021 with a 10% share of the market, shipping 20 million tons of wheat and meslin (a mixture of wheat and rye), according to the United Nations, and the country is also one of the world’s top exporters of barley and sunflower seeds.
The U.N. predicted that somewhere between 20% to 30% of Ukraine’s crops would be left unharvested in the 2022-23 season due to Russia’s attack on Ukraine.
The drop in Ukraine’s grain exports could increase international food and feed prices by 8% to 22% above current levels, the U.N. said, which were already sharply elevated.
The result of Russia’s reinvasion of Ukraine and the way it has targeted Ukraine’s agricultural sector is going to cause a massive shortage in grain. The Middle East, which has been suffering an extended drought for over a decade in the parts of Iraq and Syria that are both the region’s breadbasket and considered to be the birthplace of agriculture, as well as parts of Africa like the Maghreb and the Sahel are likely to be the most heavily effected regions. You know, places with a lot of political stability!
The agricultural crisis that Russia is causing, and they are going out of their way to exacerbate it beyond just what would have occurred from the reinvasion of Ukraine, is not just going to hit the Middle East and parts of Africa. It will drive up grain prices, as well as other food prices, all over the world. And the people and places that can least afford those increases are going to be in the global south. Domestic and regional political tensions are going to get more inflamed, people are going to starve, there is going to be a lot of damage.
My professional assessment is that this is an actual part of Putin’s strategy. Specifically, to cause a crippling rise in the price of grain and food prices leading to wider spread instability and famine. By doing so Putin increases the pressure on the US and our allies to pressure Ukraine to negotiate an end to the war before the Ukrainians have achieved a successful battlefield termination. Especially one that sets the conditions to negotiate a post war security agreement that secures the peace for Ukraine and prevent Russia from trying something like this again.
I know a lot of people are now convinced that Putin was not only never really much of a strategist, but that now he’s either irrational or ill or deluded and therefore there’s no coherent strategy here. As someone who has been watching Putin very effectively leverage every element of Russia’s national power except for military power over the past decade in his largely non-kinetic war against the US, the EU, and NATO, my honest take is that despite the hot mess we’ve seen of Russia’s military over the past month, the other elements of Russia’s national power are still much more effectively wielded. Creating a global food crisis, which is clearly what is going to happen, is an effective way for Putin to create leverage to try to force the US, the EU, NATO, and our non-EU and non-NATO allies to bring a premature end to Putin’s disastrous reinvasion of Ukraine in a way that let’s Putin save face, maintain possession of stolen Ukrainian territory, and then nurse his wounds while rebuilding to just start all over again.
It won’t be long before the Internet Research Agency and the other social media networks that Russia employs and manipulates are blasting out pictures of starving black and brown children and demanding to know why President Biden won’t do something to alleviate their suffering. That’s the next card in Putin’s Psychological Operations and Information Warfare deck to be played.
More after the jump.
Here’s a fascinating interview with a Ukrainian MiG-29 pilot from The Drive’s War Zone:
When The War Zone first made contact with the 29-year-old Ukrainian MiG-29 pilot known to the outside world only by the callsign ‘Juice,’ he’d just stepped out of the cockpit of his jet. “Fucking night patrol,” he remarked, with typical candor. Our first scheduled attempt at an interview then got pushed back after we had received a message from Ukraine that Juice’s base had just been issued an alert warning of a potential incoming Russian missile strike. Hours later, he checked in again, having scrambled from his home airbase and touched down at an alternative airfield elsewhere in the country, to protect his jet from the bombardment.
This, it has become clear, is very much the life of a Ukrainian Air Force fighter pilot these days. There is also doing battle with hordes of Russian aircraft, of course.
It’s no exaggeration to say that Juice is probably among the most in-demand fighter pilots anywhere in the world right now. In what’s been an unprecedented air war so far, Juice has become something of a semi-official spokesman for Ukraine’s fighter arm. Before The War Zone managed to sit down with him for a videoconference meeting, he had already described the air force’s heroic defensive actions to several outlets, fitting interviews (that are well worth a read) in between Russian missile strikes and alert scrambles. But in the two hours we spent with Juice, he painted an incredibly detailed, if not unprecedented picture from his incredible vantage point of the sometimes heart pounding and at other times outright bizarre air war over his beloved homeland.
On February 24, Juice was sleeping at his home when at around 5:30 AM he was woken by the sound of Russian missile strikes directed against his own base. After seemingly frozen for a moment, the reality of what was happening hit home. Single with no children, Juice’s first responsibility was to check on the wives of those of his pilot colleagues who were on alert and were now about to go to war. Some would likely never return. After emotional phone calls to the spouses to explain what was happening, Juice grabbed his personal AR-15 assault rifle and ammunition and jumped into his car to make the short trip to the base.
As his colleagues took off in their MiGs to disperse to other, safer bases, Juice’s own war began — not in the cockpit, but as an infantryman defending his installation against Russian attacks.
“Actually, for the first few days, there were no cockpits for me, we had no free jets for me on the base, because they were on another airfield,” Juice explained. “So, my mission was to provide ground defense for my squadron, with some special [operations forces] guys, to help them, because I know this place better than they do.”
The first days of fighting saw Juice’s base come under attack from Russian special operations forces inserted by helicopters and there were also attempts to use Il-76 transports to deliver airborne troops. “Fortunately, my guys shot down two of them,” Juice recalled. One of the transports fell to a Su-27, flown by one of Juice’s good friends, while a MiG-29 from his unit was credited with the other. So far, however, despite widespread reports of the shootdowns, no images of the wreckage have emerged.
“It was a crazy week, the first week, a lot of missile strikes, lot of airstrikes, helicopters around the base, and sabotage groups in the city,” Juice said.
Much more at the link.
The Drive’s War Zone also has this really interesting article that gets at a lot of last night’s conversation in the comments about what type of planes to give the Ukrainians.
Oddly enough, one of the most covered aspects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was the drama surrounding the possible emergency transfer of hand-me-down Soviet-era MiGs from NATO members to Ukraine. This was especially true of Poland’s roughly 28 MiG-29s, a deal that spectacularly fell apart on the world stage nearly as quickly as it was conceived. While Ukraine needs familiar ground-based air defenses the most right now, in the meantime, the U.S. and NATO have to begin getting Ukrainian pilots into training on a western fighter type.
Regardless of the outlandish claims that some are putting forward, including the Ukrainian Air Force itself, this process will take many months or even, in some cases, years to complete. There is no getting around that reality. The same can be said for preparing Ukraine to actually operate and sustain the western fighters once they are in-country. But starting now will make a huge statement to Russia and waiting any longer will only needlessly delay the inevitable further. This is simply a luxury the U.S. and its NATO partners no longer have. They need to move decisively now.
According to our information, Ukraine has no shortage of fighter pilots, but they do have a shortage of fighters for their pilots to fly. By pulling say six to 12 experienced Ukrainian fighter pilots and another six to 12 that are just beginning training, two pipelines can be established to produce aviators qualified to employ the fighter Ukraine will end up with—one near-term and one longer-term.
While the F-16 is often the default answer when it comes to the question of what to equip the Ukrainian Air Force with, it is not the only solution. Older F-16 airframes that can still have their lives extended are becoming a bit more of a prized second-hand item. The USAF’s QF-16 full-scale aerial target (FSAT) program is consuming these aircraft at a considerable rate and demand by other air forces for second-hand Vipers is only increasing. Then there is the private adversary support marketplace, which is snapping up F-16 airframes for advanced aggressor roles, as well. Even the Navy is eyeing used F-16s to backstop its own future aggressor needs.
The USAF is now looking to retire more of its older Block 30/32 Vipers that could potentially be recapitalized and sent to a foreign user and the F-35’s arrival in some foreign air arms will send small batches of second-hand F-16s onto the market. But the point is that the U.S. and even the international F-16 surplus is not a bottomless pit like some think it is.
To start, Ukraine would not need many airframes as it will only have a limited number of pilots to fly them, but that would change over time. What the F-16 has going for it is its wide commonality throughout Europe and around the world with a very healthy sustainment and training infrastructure to support them for years to come. Single engine economy, multi-role capability, easy upgradeability, and great all-around performance round out what has historically been a massively capable and relatively efficient package.
Much, much more at the link.
Also, I don’t believe technical sergeants exist! This should, if the incantation was delivered properly (I was standing on one foot in my living room and waving a chicken counterclockwise nine times while intoning it), summon Leto to discuss all this air force/air power stuff with us in the comments.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) effort to move Mariupol residents has failed. And the ICRC’s actions have generated a LOT of controversy!
From @ICRC: Mariupol evacuation failed. "An International Committee of the Red Cross team that had been on its way to Mariupol on Friday to facilitate the safe passage of civilians had to return to Zaporizhzhia after arrangements and conditions made it impossible to proceed." pic.twitter.com/PdCtlx4mJA
— Christopher Miller (@ChristopherJM) April 1, 2022
2/2 while the convoy is some 50 km south of Zaporizhya stuck at the last Russian-controlled checkpoint. The local volunteers actually helping with evacuation and traveling WITH the convoy tell us that @ICRC was nowhere near that convoy
— Volodymyr Solohub (@v_solohub) April 1, 2022
The Guardian has reporting focusing on the effect of the war on the teens of Mariupol:
‘Who will return my stolen life to me?’ The teenagers who fled Mariupol
As civilians are evacuated from the besieged city, three young people tell of their terrifying escape and how their lives have been changed for ever.
The months before the war were the best of my life. I was in my second year at university and one of the best students on the course. But the thing that brought my life true meaning was playing ice hockey. It was what I woke for every morning. On 23 February our coach told me of plans to set up a women’s hockey team to try and reach the professional league. I went to bed so happy, looking forward to the next day.
The next morning when I woke at 5.30am I didn’t immediately understand that it was explosions, and not my alarm clock, that had woken me up. My bed was shaking from the shockwaves.
My mum and I came out of our bedrooms, barely understanding what was happening. For the first few hours we sat together, waiting for it all to finish, but the bombing just got worse. So we packed a suitcase and ran to my grandparents’ basement.
As soon as I got into the basement I realised my life as I had known it was over. Hockey, work, friends, a man with whom I was very much in love, all of these things finished that day. That is probably why I do not feel anything any more: no fear, no pain, no anger, no desire to live. I feel like I died at 5.30am on 24 February.
There was nothing in the dusty basement. We had no ventilation or water, and electricity only for a short time. The four of us ate a piece of bread and a sweet twice a day. The basement and building were shaking under the constant explosions. Our phones were cut off. It was like being in an underground box. We had no idea whether it was day or night.
Soon we began hearing new sounds. We did not immediately realise that Russian aircraft were dropping bombs. We were able to stretch out our food until 8 March, surviving on mouldy bread. Sometimes the adults went up to look at the sky, the light, but I was not allowed. When snow fell, we were delighted: it could be eaten and drunk. But by that point I was completely dehydrated and had lost all hunger and thirst.
My mother and I were given the opportunity to move from the left bank to the city centre, which at that point was a little safer. But for reasons I can’t go into, only the two of us could go. We said farewell to my grandparents. I have not heard anything more of them.
From 8 March we hid in a warehouse on the left bank. The hunger, thirst and cold continued, and we tried not to succumb to mass hysteria. There was a market nearby and we ran there under the bombing to forage for the remains of vegetables among the rubble and burning cars. We were risking our lives for rotting vegetables.
By 14 March we realised that we could not survive on the tiny amount of food and water we could find, so we decided to leave. We found someone with a car and drove out of the city. To me at this point it was all the same. Die in a warehouse or die in the middle of the road from Mariupol. A few days later we learned that the whole area we were hiding in had been burned down.
Eventually we reached Zaporizhzhia, where it was safe. From there we made it to Lviv and are now in a small village in the mountains.
Apart from my mother I do not know where my family are. My grandparents’ building was razed to the ground and our family’s apartment is probably occupied by Chechen Kadyrovtsy [militia], who are helping the Russians. I feel sick thinking about them touching my childhood photos or my hockey kit.
Who is responsible for this? Who will apologise? Who will return my stolen life to me? Just like my home city, I have the sense that I no longer exist. I have severe skin problems due to the lack of hygiene, and the dust in the basement means I am always short of breath. I no longer have a normal relationship with food.
I could become a refugee but all I want is to go to the door of my own home, which I will never open again. Although we are safe for now I will never recover from this trauma; it will haunt me for my whole life.
Much, much, much more at the link!
Mariupol city officials estimate that $10 billion is needed to rebuild the city’s destroyed infrastructure.
According to Boichenko: “Every crime, every murder and destruction caused by the aggressor must be recorded and brought before an international court. War criminals must be punished.
We are now working closely with the government and the Donetsk Civil-Military Administration to ensure that after the war, we will obtain not only reparations from Russia for the full restoration of our beloved Mariupol, but also large payments to all Mariupol residents for the suffering and damage caused.”
Iryna Vereshchuk, deputy prime minister, said on 31 March that Russian invaders had kidnapped and transported 45,000 Mariupol residents to Russian territory. On 27 March, Mariupol mayor Vadym Boichenko said that between 20,000 and 30,000 Mariupol residents had been illegally deported from the city.
More at the link.
My brother sent this to me. Town of Bucha northwest of Kyiv. The amount of dead citizens on one street alone…I just can’t even process. pic.twitter.com/KOSwISih6N
— Viktoriia ???? (@ViktoriiaUAH) April 1, 2022
Chernihiv region pic.twitter.com/llClwdWBHm
— Illia Ponomarenko ?? (@IAPonomarenko) April 1, 2022
Appalling scenes in the village of Dmytrivka near Kyiv today. Civilians scavenging for discarded ration packs amid smouldering wreckage of at least 11 Russian armoured vehicles. Bodies of Russian tank crews burnt and disfigured. Grim beyond words. pic.twitter.com/prvuR3J4qy
— Dan Rivers (@danriversitv) April 1, 2022
Here’s an interesting thread from a sociologist in Moscow. Consider it another set of data points for my argument as to why the sanctions and economic measures are not going to work or, at least, work fast enough. (I’m pretty sure he’s using TNC for trans-national corporation, what we’d call a multi-national corporation):
I am constantly asked about atmosphere in Russia. I am making a THREAD?to give an impression of how it feels in Moscow but also to explain how what I call “A few months theory” reigns supreme 1/19
— Greg Yudin (@YudinGreg) April 1, 2022
- In Moscow, one is unlikely to recognize at first that this is a country at war. However, tuning in to occasional chatting reveals that people are constantly discussing international situation. “Haven’t we already taken Kherson?”, or “the Chinese will never let us down” 2/19
- Businessmen take the new situation as a given and quickly adapt without much debate. “We have switched our logistics and run deliveries through Belarus now, it is very convenient. We can always switch back if the situation resolves” 3/19
- Inside shopping malls, everything indicates that current closedowns are temporary 4/19
- Even McDonalds hasn’t really pulled out from Russia but rather made its presence less visible. Its franchises keep operating, mostly in the Eastern parts of Russia 5/19
- There are very few known cases of layoffs because of sanctions. Most TNCs are putting people on paid leave for 2-3 months and discussing what their strategy will be “when everything is back to normal” 6/19
- Medvedev says TNCs approaching the government to signal they have to pay lip service to sanctions fever but are unwilling to leave. From what I know, sounds plausible. One of Big 4 firms is rebranding in Russia and tells clients contracts will be kept under th new entity 7/19
- In the offices few white-collar people feel like they are living through a catastrophe. The majority is planning to explore new business opportunities and tends to believe things will get back to normal pretty soon 8/19
- Open discussions about military operation are rare, for dissent is criminalized. Keep this in mind when reading numbers. A relative was stopped on the street by an interviewer; when she declared she’s against the operation, a passer-by almost attacked her for being a traitor 9/19
- Many families are split along the generational line, younger people prefer to abstain from discussing with parents. Parents are more willing to impose their view (probably deep inside they feel uncomfortable). A friend gets tons of messages from her mother about “Ukro-Nazis” 10/x
- There are minor shortages of meds, and some people are trying to replenish their stock. However, the initial panic seems to have died down 11/x
- The ruble has bounced back. It is difficult to buy currency in Moscow but the exchange rate gives confidence. It is possible to go to the neighboring countries and buy $ practically at the same rate as it was before the “military operation” started 12/x
- The inflation is not necessarily connected with war. A taxi driver from Belarus complains about rising prices. However, from his perspective prices were rising for several years already, it is just that for some reason it got even worse now. He doesn’t mention war 13/x
- The tension is in the air, however. Several people have approached me to ask if I think there will be a war. This implies, of course, that there is currently no war. There is a belief that Poland could probably cause a war 14/x
- Possible use of nuclear weapons got normalized. Conversations about consequences of war often trigger the nukes threat. “They will lift all these sanctions b/c we have nukes” “They will give in anyway, otherwise we will try our nukes on them” 15/x
- For many Russians, Putin is testing, once again, the ingrained belief that might makes right. Hubris is unlimited: one simply has to be impudent enough to become the master of the universe. The West is often said to be weak because it is not ready to risk a nuclear war 16/x
- Still, not much enthusiasm about military operation around. The cars with Z-symbols are few, the chance is higher to see an anti-war slogan on the wall. This stands in sharp contrast to 2014 when there were many ribbons on the cars. Many of these ribbons are there to stay 17/x
- The situation in universities probably deserves a separate thread. Students are told to spy and report on their instructors. Although very few agree, it suffices to spoil the climate in the classroom. One spy is enough 18/x
- It is difficult to say what the reaction would be if the “few months theory” fails. It is possible that a significant part of society will conclude that it is too late to stop, and this war will finally be perceived as existential, to be won at any cost END
If we fall, you are next. You know this. Mothers raped in front of their children, evacuees pushed to mined roads, peaceful cities erased: wanna try this in your country? If not, go to the streets, protest, write to your MP, and campaign to send WEAPONS NOT SANDWICHES to Ukraine.
— Dr Sasha Dovzhyk (@sasha_weirdsley) April 1, 2022
Don’t try this at home!
Yes, the Ukrainian military are just kicking anti-tank landmines.
It’s called the Ukrainian curling on the Warsaw Highway close to Kyiv. pic.twitter.com/9xAxRjFdYL
— Illia Ponomarenko ?? (@IAPonomarenko) April 1, 2022
And we’ll end with more from Chef Andres!
Yesterday, the city of Irpin near Kyiv was liberated. Today, @WCKitchen joined the amazing Irpin mayor to deliver food to residents who have been trapped for weeks. We also went to Bucha… Cannot put in words the destruction. We will bring more meals tomorrow! #ChefsForUkraine ?? pic.twitter.com/Vv5DgvDpvE
— José Andrés (@chefjoseandres) April 1, 2022
Alison Rose ???
Thank you, as always, Adam.
So…are we looking at a second Holodomor? Or are there differences between then and now that would prevent it from being that atrocious?
Many of the linked threads are more depressing than usual.
As a college professor I find this fucked up six ways to Sunday. I guess it is just par for the course over in Russia these days.
Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)
Somebody needs to show these people Threads or The Day After
Thank you, as always, Adam.
tokyocali (formerly tokyo expat)
Thank you so much, Adam. I follow your threads every day and am grateful for the analysis you bring to this war. That essay from the 19-year-old university student is heartbreaking as is everything that is happening in Ukraine and to its people.
Many thanks to the other commenters who bring their professional and technical expertise. Thank you to Omnes and Ruckus for holding the line.
Most of Ukraine’s grain production is exported. Russia’s actions are mostly destroying Ukraine’s export capacity which will raise prices and cause crisis in places like Syria more than in Ukraine. And cripple Ukraine’s export earnings.
I expect Ukraine will also have internal difficulties but it borders European states and there will be free flow of food from the west. So no Holodomor, but lots of suffering in other parts of the world.
Enhanced Voting Techniques
I don’t know, I was always told that Ukraine was a big part of the food supply for Russia too and that was one of the reasons Putin is frantic to get back.
I am still not buying Putin is some Super Genius Master mind, he’s going to take some chunk of Ukraine, yeppers, and it’s going to bleed Russia dry like Crimea did because the place will be trashed because Putin ordered it annihilated. Meanwhile, taking hostages doesn’t work if one shoots them, which Putin did with the Ukrainian food supply. Blockades and few airstrikes would have done this, give me the peace I want and the food flows again, now the Russian army burnt all the food so no hostage to negotiate a release over. This is more Putin retconing like his claim that Kyiv and 15,000 Russian dead was just feint.
Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)
Do you think Russia’s likely propaganda re: famine in places like Syria will be effective at getting the West to remove sanctions, allow Putin to consolidate lands he illegally occupied, allowing him to start the process again like Adam predicts?
I certainly hope not
Got my 2nd booster today, and have been struggling to stay awake for your post. Read it and will read comments tomorrow. As always, thank you, Adam.
Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)
Thank you, Adam, again your updates
It’s disappointing almost no action has been taken to dismantle Russia’s influence operations. Other than banning RT, almost nothing. And the US has enormous leverage here.
Adam L Silverman
@Alison Rose ???: My understanding from Ukrainian government statements and reporting is the Ukrainians are in decent shape to weather this and their farmers are preparing to start spring planting. The problems, I think, are going to be in other places.
@Goku (aka Amerikan Baka):
No. Honestly, no.
We are still sanctioning Russia for the USSR’s refusal to let soviet Jews emigrate to Israel back in the 1970s. Unwinding this stuff takes a lot of time and a big push to unwind sanctions would require Russia to turn over a new leaf and be a good boy which ain’t happening. No one cares about famine in Syria or anywhere else in the middle east frankly. The Saudi’s can buy them grain.
Adam L Silverman
@Sanjeevs: The Ukrainians have been doing a good job on countering them.
Retired General Mark Hertling’s tweet thread about the Belgorod strike:
Sounds plausible to me and since it fits with the narrative I want to believe happened…
Adam L Silverman
@Enhanced Voting Techniques: He doesn’t have to be a super genius to have one part of his strategy actually work. It just means that the ways and means for this line of effort are properly aligned and functioning as intended.
Adam L Silverman
Everyone is welcome.
@Enhanced Voting Techniques:
This idea seems to be just a holdover from the Soviet era that people guess must still be true without checking. (It also seems to be popular among wingnut Russia apologists.) The modern reality is that Ukraine is not one of Russia’s top food import suppliers (and couldn’t be), and Russian food production is much better than the USSR, so their food imports are mostly back and forth trade in different types of food, not making up for a lack of domestic production.
Here’s a source with more info, for example, and it’s not hard to find other similar assessments.
List of Russian army losses recorded on 4/1/2020 by Oryx (an amateur group tracking both sides equipment losses based on community sourced intel).
It is a long list. Starts with 3 choppers, then 25 assorted tanks, and continues quite a ways. It seems most of this stuff is from the Russia pullback north of Kyiv. The good news is a fair amount is listed as captured (like 9 of the tanks) and may be able to be repaired and quickly put to use by Ukraine.
Sara Taber has done a bit of research on the global wheat trade and concludes there’s enough wheat but getting to where it’s needed maybe troublesome.
I didn’t realize that Russia was deliberately targeting granaries. Of course, I’ve heard that there would be grain shortages because of the war in general. How infuriating and depressing, another horrible way for more people to suffer and die.
It’s hard for me to understand why the number of Russian military deaths and casualties isn’t having more of impact on the Russian people.According to that one Twitter thread life is proceeding as if everything is near normal. I heard on tv there are maybe 15,000 deaths as of today, and seven generals?It seems like even 5,000 would be too many in such a short period of time but I suppose these losses are hidden from the populace, even their surviving families.
@Tazj: I’ve read that if you look at the lists of dead and wounded, you find that most are not from European Russia. So: the Far East and Central Asia. Not ethnic Russians, of course. Apparently this is part of the explanation: in the big European cities, people don’t see the dead as much. And …. out in the hinterland, they can’t do much: they’ve been treated like colonies by the Russian Empire for ever and ever. And they’re easy to hornswoggle, just like rural types here in the US.
Or so I have read.
Last, then bedtime for me: there is reporting in the last hour or so that Ukrainian forces have now used a British Starstreak missile system to shoot down a Russian helicopter. This would be the first time the missile has been used successfully against a hostile target.
Let’s keep flooding the zone over there, support the Ukrainians with what they need and help them throw the Russian military an anchor while they are flailing around. I did see that earlier this evening the US announced we are sending another $300M in military aid, this time including some form of armored high mobility multi-purpose wheeled vehicles so it seems like the Biden administration is onboard with that.
Have a good night everyone.
@Chetan Murthy: Kamil Galeev, who has had a few twitter threads quoted here said the reason for the high number of ethnic soldiers in the RU army was: 1 (biggest part) those are the populations in RU with positive birthrates so there are more young men to conscript within them; 2(small part) that young men in the urban areas (Russian russians lol) are much more savvy at avoiding the conscription process entirely by bribes or favors or other means.
@Goku (aka Amerikan Baka): My read is that the sanctions—all of them—stay in place until Russian forces return to their 24 February lines. I cannot imagine the Ukrainian government agreeing to a settlement of the war short of that, and I can’t imagine the politics of the West letting up the sanctions without the consent of the Ukrainian government.
I also believe that the effect of the sanctions is going to be far worse than is currently projected, because the linear projections on oil revenue, GDP, etc. cannot account for the nonlinear effects of supply-chain shocks, due to vanished capital and missing industrial inputs removed by export control measures at many, many critical places of the economy, principally among which food.
One key factor to keep in mind: the progress of the war has evolved, and will continue to evolve, on timescales of weeks and months. On the other hand, the 24-hour news cycle creates narrative-driven expectations of daily progress. We saw this in the early days of the war, when many in the media were bemoaning daily the inaction by NATO, which was in fact engaged in making the massive weapons deliveries that assisted the Ukrainians with their counteroffensives weeks later.
CNN and BBC and FOX demand to be fed stories daily, and feature those stories at equal wattage, irrespective of their relevance. Twitter then bursts into feather at every dollop of news. But the drivers of the war’s outcome will likely occur on timescales of months. It will take patience to see them.
@Chetan Murthy: That makes sense.
Russia has been cut off from European and US corporate software. Many companies have stopped doing business in Russia, essentially abandoning existing customers. Russia has decided to shift to home-grown software products. This will include open-source projects since there are often Russian companies or individual programmers who contribute code to the project. From The Register, a UK-based computer industry news service:
While there are viable open-source alternatives in some areas, like operating systems (Linux) and databases (PostgreSQL, MySQL, etc…), I’m not aware of any viable open source alternatives to the big ERP packages like SAP or Oracle. These software products are used to manage orders, shipments, and run financials. These are extremely complex programs and will not be easily replaced.
Well-put, and a fair cop. I also find myself bemoaning that we aren’t giving UA the tools to *finish* Putin’s minions. End this war. And sure, I know that there’s stuff going on that we won’t learn about until long after it’s had its effect, but OTOH, I don’t feel like we can just trust that our elected officials will back UA to the hint — and maybe we should expect that our pressure is necessary, b/c that’s what it is to live in a democracy.
I was talking a few nights ago to a woman in her 40s from Russia who has been living in the US for 15 years. She comes from a military family – Ukrainian father who was KIA in Afghanistan, and both grandfathers who had been senior officers in the Soviet Rocket Service, that she said, “died young, of course”. Apparently, the radiation safety for Soviet nuclear weapons crews wasn’t very good (and I can’t imagine it has improved since then). I mentioned this to Madame Dr. divF, who said that this was well-known in the US medical community.
@VOR: Except for Microsoft. Apparently they still want to profit in Russia, at least according to what I read today. Apparently they stopped new retail sales, but are still doing business with cloud clients in Russia or something to that effect.
The Times of of the UK just published an article, citing Ukrainian SBU sources, accusing China of a “massive” cyberattacks against Ukrainian military organizations days before the Russian invasion:
However, WaPo’s national security reporter, Ellen Nakashima, just posted on twitter that “According to U.S. sources, this is routine scanning and attempts to gather intelligence.” Other cybersecurity experts on twitter are saying the same thing, that the attempts appear to be efforts at cyber espionage & not cyber attacks. In another twist, the Ukrainian SBU has issued the statement that kind of disavowed the Times’ reporting. I assume if China had indeed launched massive cyber attacks against Ukraine in advance (& in support) of the Russian invasion, it would have leaked long before now (& observed by any number of non-government cybersecurity organizations), & the conversations between Beijing & DC/Brussels would be much chillier than they are now (& they are frosty).
The timing of the leak to the Times is also interesting, coming just as the China-EU Summit was ending. All around depressing affair. The like the high level Sino-US meetings, the high level Sino-EU meetings are increasingly characterized by each sides making accusations against the other, making demands of the other, & posturing for domestic audiences. In short, talking past each other.
Xi expressed hope that EU would operate an independent foreign policy (meaning not being led around by the US) & become a separate pole in the increasingly multipolar world. It might actually be a long term development could be accelerated as 2nd/3rd order effect of the Ukraine Crisis, as European nations (especially Germany) wake up to the need to have credible independent military capability. As they become militarily less dependent no the US, the EU will inevitably behave more independently in foreign policy, as they already are in economic policy, all the more so when the highly objectionable GOP regains control of Congress & the White House at some point. However, saying it out loud now simply rankles Brussels & most European capitals.
Meanwhile, van der Leyen called on China to refrain from helping Russia evade sanctions, not provide material aid to Russia, to publicly condemn the Russian invasion, & to engage more actively to force a peace settlement (presumably by pressuring Russia). A common theme from people who have worked extensively on China relations is that the surest way to incentivize Beijing not taking any particular action is to publicly demand Beijing take said action. Any appearance of giving in to Western pressure is absolutely anathema to leaders in Beijing (including every single one before Xi). We will have to see how China behaves in practice. The consensus opinion remains that Chinese corporations w/ international exposure will comply w/ the Western sanctions to avoid secondary sanctions, China will not provide any material aid that might be construed as military or dual use in nature, China may set up or assign special commercial vehicles that are not exposed to the West or the US dollar regime to conduct sanctioned trade w/ Russia, China will continue the rhetorically pro-Russian neutrality w/ constant calibration as needed, China will continue seeking to exploit any opportunities presented by the Ukraine Crisis (in Russia, in Ukraine & in the Global South). If & when the outcome is becoming obvious, China might jump in to share in the credit of peacemaking.
If anyone is curious why China refuses to abandon Putin at of this moment, even while courting ire of the US & the EU (who are, after all, the largest markets for China), just look at the world map of countries that are sanctioning Russia. There is extraordinary unity w/in the so called West, including Japan, South Korea, Taiwan & Singapore. However, very few countries outside of the western bloc are sanctioning Russia, not a single country in the Global South, nor are some important middle powers such as India, Brazil, the Gulf States, Turkey & Israel. I think China is calculating that it has found a viable third position, however uncomfortable, & is increasingly appealing to the Global South. Many countries in the Global South are outraged by Russian aggression, but the secondary/tertiary impacts of the sanctions (in terms of skyrocketing commodities prices) placing further pressure on their economies (already ravaged by the pandemic) are directly felt. They see it as the developed West launching yet another moral crusade, w/ zero thought given to the effects of such crusade in the Global South, very much in line w/ historical practice. All of the high minded talks of preserving European order means nothing to the Global South, who thinks the Americans & the Europeans have done little to promote such order in the Global South, & often the opposite.
I think the aim of Putin’s machinations at furthering volatility of commodity prices is to drive wedges into the sanctioning coalition, & to solidify the huge mass of straddling neutral parties into an anti-sanction coalition (pro-Russia will not happen). China is certainly working to solidify such a consensus in the Global South (& even working on India). The US & EU can counter Putin’s efforts by simply pointing out that, as least as far as disruption of commodities supplies from Ukraine, it is entirely the result of Russian invasion. Clarifying that some of the toughest sanctions will only last until a negotiated settlement between Ukraine & Russia, & no further, might also help. (Probably political suicide for any political leader in the US/EU to say out loud.) Alas, US/EU engagements in the Global South have been lacking, for decades. Which has allowed China to take advantage, for decades.
@divF: Shit. I didn’t know that. Their SLBM subs must have been plague ships.
@YY_Sima Qian: At some point, the US, China, and Europe are going to have to give some mature consideration to how to move beyond these zero-sum-type calculations. It’s going to take a much cooler atmosphere to do so, certainly after the current nonsense has blown over.
I think Putin may be being too clever by half with this genocidal behaviour. His best option as the war drags on would be for the war to become page 17 in the daily news cycle. In essence for it to drag on with no ‘drama’ for a media and their audience 100’s if not 1000’s of miles away with no one they know in danger. This would give Russian bots and quislings to keep up an incessant drip feed of pro Russian bullshit and undermine Biden and other Western leaders efforts to keep arms & aid flowing. “why are we giving all this money to?, Your food costs more because…, why are we risking nuclear war for Ukraine? etc. etc” We already hear this from the GQP. At the moment it’s not gaining much traction but if in a few months time the war is not providing the media with dramatic stories of advances, victories and defeats, that may change. If the quislings and fascist Putin fan boys around the West can sell the message that it is a “a quarrel in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing” then public apathy becomes a serious problem.
So far the West & espescially Ukraine has proven far more effective than the Russian at ensuring Putin is seen as the monster responsible for death and suffering. Causing mass famine around the world would keep providing the media with the stories it craves. Far from Western apathy becoming a problem it would keep revulsion at Putin and his regime in the public mind
@Carlo Graziani: @YY_Sima Qian: I read this analysis, and it makes sense. But then I think back to the way that our “openness” to Putin and Russia has allowed them to attack our country, and literally execute a regime change. And I’m completely unsympathetic to the argument that we must relax sanctions when and if there is a negotiated peace settlement. We need to beat Russia like a rented mule, until they stop attacking our country.
Beat them like a rented mule. B/c the alternative is to let them *again* execute regime change in America.
@Enhanced Voting Techniques: Russia is a big exporter of grain also, I think between first and third in many categories: wheat, barley, oats, etc. They also make and export a huge amount of fertilizer. (The sanctions have carve outs for fertilizer exports.) They’ll be just fine in that at least.
One thing I wonder is a lot of that is built on western tech. Most of the parts for their vehicles come from countries sanctioning them. In fact, they were able to get around many export controls post-2014 by using this loophole to buy dual use parts to outfit their military vehicles (probably why there are Bosche motors being found in some of the latest armored vehicles), but that won’t be true this time around. I haven’t seen projections on how this will hurt them in the future. (By the way, it is believed the 2014 sanctions were successful in denying Russia parts for precision guided munitions (PGM) which is why they seem to be using their latest gen air superiority fighters in flying low to drop dumb bo,ba and getting promptly shot down.)
A lot of what they import food-wise are exotic stuff that they’ll have to do without or go the the black market. At the moment, talking about how the “ruble has recovered” (in one of the threads above) belies what the exchange rate is on the black market where it hasn’t recovered at all. Since citizens cannot exchange their currency, the FX rate is just a bomb that will be getting bigger as it gets pushed down the road.
Like Adam, I don’t think this will make any difference in the short or medium term. For example, we’ve sanctioned or locked up 100’s of billions, but they have reserves in China and such that they hve enough to make payments for at least another 3 months before that goes to pot for them. The way to think of these sanctions has always been on the order of years. That seems to be the way they are set up, because that’s how long it’ll take to unwind European dependence on oil and natural gas. If they though this could have an impact in weeks or months then why leave a loophole for Europe, why not sanction that too? The only answer is they think these are going to be near permanent sanctions.
Not sure starving people in Syria or the global South will get the West to change tact. After all, many are unaware that Russia is a huge exporter of wheat, so the easiest frame is that Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine is the thing causing grain to be not available. If anything, blowing up Ukraine’s grain stores and blockading ships is likely to backfire in those regions, then it is to drum up any support.
Do you suppose that the Ukrainian military is getting any supplies into the defenders of Mariupol? If not, how long will what they have suffice to keep up an effective resistance? And what are their options?
@kalakal: The war might become page 17 news in the US, but the EU has 4 million refugees and counting on its doorstep, it will be a long while before it’s off the front page there.
Same with one of the tweets about multi national companies “putting their operations in Russia on hold, and expect to start up again in a few months”. How many of the two million Ukrainian refugees in Poland do you need to say organize protests in front of all the McDonalds in that country, if McD was operating in Russia again?
The logic of “great power competition” is zero sum, & it is unfortunately firmly implanted in both DC & Beijing. The logic of Cold War all the more so. There was some hope that the EU would provide some stabilizing influence (jointly put pressure on Beijing on issues of common concern, but dissuade the US from the most confrontational course of action, or at least not joining such actions), but the Ukrainian Crisis has upset things for now. Plenty in DC would like nothing more than the EU in lockstep w/ the US in a new Cold War against China.
@Calouste: McDonalds has company owned stores and franchises. My understanding is that McDonalds in Russia is entirely franchises, and from the beginning the company localized their supply chain in Russia. So I am assuming that the Russian franchises can operate on their own without relying on US company support.
““Now we’re going to f*ck them all.” What’s happening in Russia’s elites after a month of war”
@terry chay: Replying to myself re: sanctions is that I don’t think anyone knows what impact they will have. What was important is that Russia was totally unprepared for the scope and scale of them. Since they didn’t plan for them, and are still operating as if they are temporary, they are likely to have a larger long term effect that we can imagine.
It may just be that the way to interpret things like “Europe will have to pay for gas in rubles” is a sign that the sanctions are working. Furthermore, since that is impossible (Germany has already refused and Russia backpedaled, also no insurer would underwrite a contract specified in a dead currency like the ruble and contracts need to be honored if you are going to see a penny), shows that Putin is trying to score cheap political points at the cost even more uncertainty and downgrading of their value down the road.
Russia has some pretty smart people in finance (they are, after all, probably the largest mob/mafia the world have ever seen), so doing stupid self-owns like that shows a lack of trust that Putin has in them. Can’t see such smart people ever recommending that course of action.
Even courses of actions like freezing currency exchange and opening the market without any foreign divestment and no short selling only makes sense if you think this stuff is temporary.
All signs point to Putin acting like he will have Ukraine wrapped up by May or June at the latest. Not sure what is going to happen when that doesn’t happen, nor on what scenario that can be achieved by Russia.
@Calouste: I think my scenario is possible but not probable. If you have a US where Biden is hamstrung in providing material assistance by the GQP, assorted stooges and public indifference, an EU experiencing severe energy shortages with associated economic problems will be a playground for the Le Pens, Wilders and Schutzs, there you will indeed have front page news but a lot of it will not be positive towards Ukraine and refugees. There’s a lot of far right xenophobia in Europe. It would lead to huge stresses between EU states.
Not everything is “great power competition”. Sometimes, it’s just a brutal war of imperial conquest and genocide. Nobody with eyes to see thought the Iraq War was somehow “great power competition” — we thought it was a war crime.
@marcopolo: My first thought was Doolittle’s raid on Tokyo. Put doubt in the heads of the enemy as to whether they are in control of the battle and things are normal at home.
@Chetan Murthy: Your sentiment are completely understandable. However, that just means Global South countries will continue to band w/ China, or at least against the West, on global issues.
It has been very effective in shaping/consolidating Western public opinion. Far from the case in rest of the world. & it’s not even Russian sh*t stirring (or Chinese amplifications) that is shaping opinions in the Global South.
@YY_Sima Qian: As some wag put it, these Indian politicians line up with Russia against the West, but all their children live in, study in, make their businesses in, the West. All a buncha hypocrites.
@Chetan Murthy: I am talking about dynamics between the US & China right now, not the Russian invasion of Ukraine & the US/EU response. Every single country is the world right now is feeling the tug & pull, being asked (implicitly, especially by the US) to choose sides, & a lot of the issues are seen in DC & Beijing through that lens. It is often counterproductive & corrosive for all involved, but that is where we are, & I fear that is where we will continue.
Nobody thought of the Iraq War as competition between great powers because it was not, no great power was backing Saddam. The US was the only great power (indeed, “hyperpower” in the words of one French Foreign Minister) at the time.
@Chetan Murthy: See this thread for analysis.
It should come as no surprise there is a rally around the flag effect going on in Russia. The difference, this time, is it is clearly based on fear, not pride. The article you linked basically shows the same when read with that lens.
It means sanctions are having the intended effect. It seems strange only if we are thinking them as temporary like these people do. If they are permanent and Russia is being driven back to Russia of the 1980’s then their words and macho talk look different. More similar to how Japan thought the US is soft and would get a bloody nose after Pearl Harbor sort of thing.
Very amused that they think China is going to bail them out. There is no win for the Chinese to do anything other than tokenism and NOT taking a side in this conflict, and besides, China is also weaning themselves of oil dependence as we speak. China fancies themselves as the next superpower (and so do we), why mess with that destiny by throwing your chips in with a now proven third rate one? It’s bad enough Putin conned China into a joint “airing a grievances.”
@Chetan Murthy: Hell, the CCP regime rails against the subversive influence of western ideas that may pollute the minds of Chinese youths, yet Xi Jinping’s own daughter graduated from Harvard. Presumably the justification is that her “pure blood” “Red” lineage inoculates her against such subversions. Hypocrites indeed!
I put my case in terms of Western opinion because that has been, up till now, a determining factor in the supply of arms and aid to Ukraine. Should that dry up then Ukraine’s military position will rapidly become catastrophic.
The Global South covers a huge range of societies, cultures, historical experiences etc. There’s a lot of different opinions.
@YY_Sima Qian: If China isn’t exporting grain to them, I don’t think that’s likely. India will probably be the biggest winner here don’t you think?
China’s foreign policy seems to be zero sum post 2016, so maybe they’ll accept that because anything negative on US influence should count as a win to them. Heck they seem to be counting Germany upping defense spending as a win, when the U.S. has been practically begging for that also, so they can redirect resources to the Pacific.
On the world stage, the US seems to be operating that the realignment is not West vs. but rather authoritarian vs. democratic. China operates you can have the benefits of the West without democracy. We shall see if they prove that formulation true.
@Kelly: Yep. We can prevent famines if we want. I don’t really trust the market to sort this out, so I hope Biden has the feds buy a shitton of it and hand it out through USAID.
I think Biden’s SPR release and related policies is pretty good. The main purpose of it was to take all the traders that were pulling oil off the market so they could sell it later at a higher price and fucked them all over by having the feds dump more on the market than the traders can withhold.
@Martin: Interesting point. I don’t know much about the oil market. Any links to share that you ran across? would love to read more.
@terry chay: China has been stockpiling commodities (grains, minerals, fossil fuels) since 2019, & accelerated after the start of the pandemic, to the tune of 9 – 12 months of China’s total consumption (not just imports). It is in a position offer some help to the Global South, not enough to prevent famine, but enough to win some favors.
India exports rice, that is about it.
Just to be clear, I do not believe the impact from the Ukrainian crisis & the subsequent anti-Russian sanctions to be widespread famine. Instead, skyrocketing commodity prices, on top of everything else, will cause social & political instability in emerging markets, possibly causing collapse of the weaker governments. Sri Lanka & Tunisia might be the 1st 2 examples, more likely to follow. Adam Tooze has been highlighting this risk.
@terry chay: No, that’s just my analysis of the market. You rarely see anything about it in writing because we don’t speak of the speculators. Nobody wants to draw attention to the fact that we tolerate them.
To be fair, in normal times they’re actually a bit of a help to the market because they help smooth out prices. But when wars and various crises hit, they basically shift into price gouging mode and we let them.
A 1 million barrel per day release is Biden say ‘go ahead assholes, see if you can buy and store a million barrels a day.’ See, the US produces roughly as much oil as we consume. We import some and export some because it’s convenient to do so, but shakeups in the global market shouldn’t have much bearing on US prices. It’s not like we’re going to suddenly start shipping oil to Europe. Hell, the big supertankers pretty much aren’t even used any more.
Biden is basically calling everyone out. If they think they can starve the market to drive up prices, this release will pretty much negate that effort. They could of course turn down production more than that, but by invoking the defense production act for car battery minerals, he’s signaling he’s open to do the same for oil production.
@YY_Sima Qian: India has a shit-ton of wheat and they just last year built out a lot of export capacity for it. Their exports went from a million tons to 6 million last year. My understanding is they have the capacity to double that again this year. They have about 28 million tons in storage. The US has a similar amount in storage, and we’ve just started harvesting this year. So, the US and India can cover the shortfall. The question is really just will we cover it.
@YY_Sima Qian: Interesting analysis, I had forgotten about China hoarding commodities but now that you mention it, I do remember it in a Youtube video where some guy was spitballing facts about the war.
BTW, I’m pretty sure India is a large exporter of wheat: https://www.reuters.com/world/india/india-set-export-record-7-mln-tonnes-wheat-this-year-2022-03-05/ That, and being more clearly part of the Global South also, like China, “neutral” in this conflict makes me believe they have the most to gain with respect to the these other nations (only about half of which are neutral, and a single nation, Eritrea. that is pro-Russian).
I know China produces a lot of agriculture now, but I seem to remember hearing that they became a net importer of food recently. If so, that would jibe with why they have a huge strategic reserve of grains and would really make them loathe to release it (or its oil reserves), even for purposes of soft diplomacy.
@Martin: Interesting. Thanks for the thoughts. I know the US is a net exporter of oil (I think we’re like #7 in the world). I never have put much thought about how we use and the purpose of our strategic oil reserves (other than they are mind-blowingly large). TBH, I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that they think Venezuela has more oil than Saudi Arabia. One weird thought is that putting it on the market today is going to net the US a tidy profit since it was probably put in there when oil was less than $50/barrel and we’re likely to restore it when prices stabilize.
Didn’t know that! Thanks! I just see Indian rice here in China (behind Japanese, Thai & Vietnamese varieties). I can see countries draw down some of their reserves to help relieve the situation elsewhere, but not the bulk of it. If they are substantially drawn down, it will be to stabilize domestic prices in the US/India/China.
@YY_Sima Qian: The thread someone linked above basically pointed that the U.S. or India alone could practically cover the grain export shortfall of Russia and Ukraine just over their increased plantings this season (it’s already done and booked because grain futures went way up in anticipation of the war). The issue is shipping.
Given that most of the main shipping lines are no longer going to Russia, and India is closer to much of the Global South than the U.S. (outside of South America), I was putting my money on India benefiting the most from this shortfall. I could be wrong, after all it seems the shipping containers leaving the U.S. are now mostly empty so maybe the logistics/shipping people compute it’d be better to ship the excess grain from here to those countries than India.
You do remember who was the US President post-2016, & his China policies (if it can be called that)…
Whatever Germany (& France, Italy, Spain, Poland, etc.) spends on the military, very little of it will ever be deployed to the Asia Pacific. If a more independent military capacity allows the EU (as opposed to the NATO) to act more as an independent geopolitical player, then China sees that aaas net positive. That means an EU not lock step w/ the US in imposing economic sanctions, imposing technological restrictions, & restricting investment. As China sees trade & investment to be the primary means of achieving primacy, a more independent EU matters much more than whatever additional military assets the US can shift to the “Indo-Pacific”. OTOH, the US strategy (if it can be called that) for countering China through the last 3 administrations has been overwhelmingly securitized & militaristic, which is rather missing the point when it comes to the core interests of the Global South countries (SE Asia, S Asia, Middle East, Africa, L. America), the countries that the US wants to win over, which are trade, investment, economic development. Obama at least tried to play the geoeconomics game w/ the TPP, but it fell by the wayside, & there is little prospect of the US re-joining the successor CPTPP.
@terry chay: As a consumer living in a grain importing country, I sure hope you are right.
I do know Chinese state energy companies have diverted a number of LNG ships originally destined for China to Europe, selling at high prices, & earning windfall profit, to the tune of > US$ 30B.
@Martin: One of the agenda items on Secretary of State Blinken’s recent trip to Israel and North Africa was grain supply. I haven’t read much about the substance, and reporting has concentrated on other issues like the JCPOA, natural gas supply (in the case of Algeria), and Western Sahara, a bone of contention between Algeria and Morocco.
That former Spanish colony has potash reserves so it could help make up for shortfalls in that important fertilizer, but I think that would be more of a medium and long term contribution.
@YY_Sima Qian: You mentioned nations of the “Global South” that have not joined the U.S. led sanctions regime against Russia or have otherwise kept to a more neutral path in this conflict. There was an event on Secretary Blinken’s recent trip that was interesting in this respect. It was a meeting in southern Israel hosted by Israeli Foreign Minister Lapid, and besides Blinken the foreign ministers of Egypt, Bahrain, Morocco and the UAE attended. None of those countries have taken Ukraine’s side in the war, but Blinken didn’t seem to raise that issue. Rather, discussions were reported on the expected revival of the JCPOA as well as the novel diplomatic relations between Israel and three of the four Arab countries.
More likely to be the liquid fuel/oxidiser combos used on most Soviet-era ballistic missiles. They’re nasty, toxic, carcinogenic and can dissolve people if the spills or leaks are big enough. The Space Shuttle used a similar mix (Unsymmetrical DiMethyl Hydrazine and Nitrogen Tetroxide) for the OMS for in-orbit manoeuvering and re-entry. If you ever watch extended video of a Space Shuttle landing you’ll see people in bunny-suits working around the rear of the Shuttle after its landing, safing and draining the tanks holding surplus fuel and oxidiser.
The warheads themselves sit inside quite a lot of other structures that provide shielding to protect electronics as well as people. There’s very little radiation exposure from deployed and ready-to-fire weapons, the manufacturing and maintenance processes are another matter though.
J R in WV
Thanks Adam, Carlos, Martin et al for the reporting and analysis of the situation in Ukraine and nearby areas. Very interesting as usual.
I must confess I enjoy seeing the images of obliterated RU armor scattered around the streets of Ukraine cities…
If the EU has more sanctions up their sleeves, they should impose all of them NOW.
[Sorry, crashed last night, resuming discussion at nearly dead-thread time.]
There are some reasons to believe in possibilities beyond the “zero-sum” of the “Great Power Competition” model. That model is getting a bit old and creaky, and based on historical examples whose relevance to modern conditions is not totally obvious to me. It may mislead as much as it illuminates. Consideration of some alternative models can at least broaden the possibility space.
One thing to keep in mind is that both the US and China are going to face a common existential threat in the decade to come: climate change. This is going to get much, much worse everywhere than it is now, forcing population migrations in the hundreds of millions, with catastrophic geopolitical consequences. Mitigations will require very large, disruptive industrial shifts by everyone in the developed world, in cooperation. So this model is a bit like “common response to threat by alien invasion” in science fiction. There are enough examples of US and Chinese leaders behaving rationally in the bilateral relatioship at times of overheated rhetoric in the past few decades to imagine that this possibility is not outlandish.
There is also the power of imagery, nonexistent in the time of Metternich or Bismarck, but real today. One factor in the rivalry, it appears from a Western perspective (and I hope you will forgive my presumption here), is a deep-seated psychological resentment of the US government by many, perhaps most Chinese, that colors the view of all US foreign policy with cynicism, and dread. On occasion, as occurred after the USAF bombing of the Chinese Embsssy in Belgrade, it can even devolve into the kind of conspiracy-theoretic explanation-seeking that takes obvious self-harming incompetence for intentional hostile action directed at sending some kind of inscrutable message.
Which is to say, there seems (to me) to be at least a component of this rivalry that is driven by perception: the perception that the US always has, and always will, act to deny China the place in the world that it rightfully deserves. I believe that this aspect, at least, is addressable, because the West has no choice but to treat China as a senior partner in management of global affairs now, and there is no sense in not managing the perceptions along those lines.
While Taiwan will remain a sore point for years to come, pompous State visits, cultural exchanges, concrete examples of cooperation, and growing, if grudging mutual respect is a scenario that I like to think is not for the madhouse.
@Carlo Graziani: I may have to engage more deeply at a different time, but I agree w/ everything you wrote, & there are US based China experts/academics & former government officials advising such courses of action, but the policymakers in both countries have not been able to break the vicious cycle. If they cannot even manage the most basic confidence building measures such as reopening the Houston & Chengdu consulates, I have little hope that progress can be made. That is not the outcome I wish to see, but that is the outcome I increasing expect to see. Graham Allison warned against the Thucydides Trap years ago, & the two countries are still slipping into it.
As for treating China as a senior level partner for managing global affairs, there was a serious attempt during the Obama years, & had Hillary won some semblance of that modus operandi might have continued even w/ the inevitably growing rivalry. However, Trump won & the rest is history.
I mean, the western powers are accusing the CCP of being a genocidal regime against the Uyghurs, that means there is zero political space for treating China w/ any kind of respect.
(I have opinions on what might be going on in Xinjiang, but perhaps another time. In short, the idea of physical genocide of the Uyghurs is utterly preposterous. Cultural genocide is more difficult to assess, since it is nebulously defined. Clearly Uyghur culture is being suppressed, especially development of “high” culture, meaning creating new poetry/prose/songs, as opposed to repeating the select “classics” that the CCP regime deems acceptable. There is clear grounds for believing crimes against humanity have taken place, even if you disregard all of the testimonies of the Uyghur diaspora & take the CCP’s claims at face value – extra-judicial detention under the rubric of “vocational training” of even 10% of the Uyghur population (higher if we consider only the adult population), even if it is for “only” weeks or months in most cases, even if the abuses in the “training” facilities are not intended policy, still constitutes crime against humanity. Criticize/censure China for provable crimes against humanity, some people in China might stop & think for a bit. Accuse China of genocide, people in China simply dismiss it as the US weaponizing charges of genocide. There is a reason Mike Pompeo made the genocide accusation on the last days of his term, against the advise of State Department lawyers (who thought there was “only” credible evidence supporting crimes against humanity). The objective is clearly to box in the Biden Administration into following the paths laid down by the elements of the Trump Administration who wants a new Cold War. There were other landmines, too. To my dismay, the Biden team decidedly to step on every single one.)
Here is a couple of interviews w/ Obama era State Department officials (Susan Thornton & Jeffrey Bader) that lay bare just how dysfunctional the Sino-US relationship has become on Supchina (which is a great resource for nuanced & complex analysis of everything related to China)
Susan Thornton on the urgent need for diplomacy with China over the Russo-Ukraine War
Biden’s China policy needs to be more than “Trump lite:” A conversation with Jeff Bader
OK, that wasn’t so short, but I am wading into perilous controversy here.
Thanky kindly, you saved me a deal of typing. A bit of background for the peanut gallery:
Early-generation ballistic missiles on both sides were liquid-fueled. The first generations (US Atlas, USSR R-7) used liquid oxygen that had to be pumped into the missile immediately before launch. The associated delay left them vulnerable to destruction on the ground by an enemy first strike. Follow-on ICBMs, still liquid-fueled, used “storable propellants” (N2O4 and hydrazine/UMDH for the US Titan II) which could be kept in the missile’s fuel tanks to enable a faster launch. As Mr Sneddon notes, these compounds do nasty, nasty, nasty things to insufficiently-protected human beans; launch crews’ exposure to them over years is much more likely to be the cause of premature death than any radioactivity that might have leaked out of warheads that were (and are) pretty tightly sealed.
Ella in New Mexico
Being a sociopathic, power hungry monster doesn’t require genius or sanity. As a matter of fact, the latter two impair a ruthless man from getting what he wants
Ergo, the EU, UN and Nato leadership.
The Pale Scot
Just percolating in my mind. How about a 95% income tax on any company or person doing business with RU. The Cock Brothers, Nestle etc
Dr. Sarah Taber, a crop scientist, suggests the missing wheat is not globally a big problem — while Ukraine does grow a lot of wheat exports, most countries are relatively autarkic and so the 25% of wheat exports is really just 0.9% of the global wheat crop. Which doesn’t mean that this isn’t a big deal for countries in MENA, but as suggested, it’s a transportation problem. Not a crops problem.
@Earl: (replying to myself)
And tbh, it’s very disappointing that eg articles in the NYT haven’t provided this crucial context towards understanding the risks from a lack of Ukranian and Russian wheat exports
Beyond feeding people in MENA, it also damages Ukrainian exports. But figuring out how to ship the abundant wheat in the world to MENA and support the Ukrainian economy seem like the proper frames to view this through.
Adam—I Find your daily BJ posts essential reading to understand the interplay between the progress of the war, what’s needed for Ukraine to prevail & those pushing the West to provide the tools to do so. Thank you!
I listened to a couple Charlie Sykes (Bulwark) podcasts yesterday, and both people he interviewed (Francis Fukuyama & Josh Rogin) made the point that with ‘anti-ship’ weapons, Ukraine could decimate the Russian war ships in the Black Sea. Is there some strategic reason they haven’t been given such weapons?
Interesting thread. I am old now; bit this is the war I trained for. About nuclear war… who embraces nuclear war? Which race of people? Which religious leaders? Poets? Philosophers? Will capitalist embrace nuclear war? A cost of doing business. Young people? Old? What of the survivors?