Where does it end: Part 2

With the pace of events accelerating all the time, yesterday’s hot take is today’s embarrassing blunder, to be forgotten as soon as possible. Still, so far this suggested way out of the Ukraine disaster doesn’t look too bad to me.

By explicitly raising the threat of nuclear war, Putin has reminded everyone that any outcome has to look better to him than fighting on. At the same time, in every other respect, things look worse and worse for him. There have been no easy battlefield wins, Europe is supplying arms to Ukraine at a rapid rate, his allies are abandoning him, and sanctions that seemed unimaginable a week ago are already in place. So, both sides have an incentive to seek peace in the talks that are about to open.

The obvious face-saver for Putin, at which the Ukrainians have already hinted, would be a commitment not to join NATO and to adopt a position of neutrality. The first is now irrelevant: the invasion which NATO membership might have prevented has happened, and (if the war ends now) been repelled. As for neutrality, a war between NATO and Russia would kill us all, so the position of Ukraine would be hypothetical.

The other side of the coin would be a Russian withdrawal to the positions held a week ago. This would save face, but would still be an utter disaster for Putin. Whatever its official position, the postwar Ukraine will be remorselessly hostile to Putin and Russia, as well as being armed to the point where the threat of invasion (at least without nuclear weapons or similar) would be irrelevant. And even if Russia is readmitted to SWIFT, its exclusion from the world economy is a fait accompli. BPs decision to dump its holding in Rosneft, taking a big loss in the process, is an indication. The oligarchs who were welcomed with golden passports a week ago, will be lucky if they can get a fraction of their wealth back. Most importantly, Europe will be rushing to end its reliance on Russian gas and oil. Russia might find new markets in China, but it will almost certainly be selling at a discount.

As I hinted at the time, the over-optimistic part of my take was the idea that there would be a positive outcome in the US. No sign of that so far, which means the end of democracy is still on track to happen. But at least there is some chance that Europe will hold out.

74 thoughts on “Where does it end: Part 2

  1. Armchair strategising

    The Ukrainian army is curiously absent from the reporting. This could be a deliberate Ukrainian strategy of highlighting the “nation in arms” narrative, letting the army do its thing in the media shadows, with no embedded reporters. In fact the fate of the nation depends much more on the army than the volunteers. We have been shown videos of wrecked Russian military convoys, which certainly were not destroyed by grannies with AK47s.

    The 50km column of Russian vehicles inching its way in a monster traffic jam towards Kiev has obviously not come under Ukrainian attack. It looks as if the army and the government have taken a cold-blooded decision to fight in Kiev instead, with all the risks to civilians that implies. Cities offer much better cover from air and ground enemies, and the regulars will be supported by the many untrained irregulars.

    Take the antitank rockets I wrote about earlier: 2,000 from the UK, 1,500 from Finland, 5,000 from Sweden, and unknown numbers from the USA and Germany. This reflects a clear professional consensus that these weapons are critical to Ukraine’s defence. It’s a safe bet that the missiles are not held up in warehouses while clerks fill in forms in triplicate. Instead I expect they are quickly being flown in to airbases in eastern Poland, loaded into anonymous trucks and vans, and driven overnight to Kiev by very fit young men with sketchy paperwork and short haircuts.

    These weapons are single-use and man-portable. The launch tube is thrown away after the missile is fired. They are not intended to take out a main battle tank, but are lethal to anything less protected: AFVs, half-tracks, katyusha launchers, jeeps, and ordinary trucks. But the operator has to get pretty close – say 200 metres – and expose himself for a minute while firing. Since the weapons are recoilless, they emit a visible cloud of hot burnt propellant out the back as the missile leaves the tube forward. So fire, drop, and run. I don’t see the Ukrainian army trusting civilians with these highly lethal and risky toys. It does make sense to reserve them for regulars concealed in buildings close to the roads. The improvised anti-tank barriers are probably not designed to stop Russian armour, just to slow it down, leaving easier targets.

    With luck, the Russians will repeat their attempts to enter Kiev with columns of lightly armoured vehicles, which will be surgically massacred by the antitank missiles. After that they could resort to tanks alone plus infantry on the ground. A battle tank is impressively scary and can defend itself against most attacks, but it doesn’t hold territory. Infantry on the ground are vulnerable to grannies with AK47s, though the grannies are unlikely to survive.

    I suspect many observers are underestimating both Russian ruthlessness and the Ukrainian will and capability to resist. This is going to get a lot worse before it ends.

  2. James Wimberley,

    A military analyst on the idiot box mentioned the “50km column of Russian vehicles”. He stated the Russian offensive was started too late, after China’s Winter Olympics. The late start mean the spring thaw is confining heavy tracked vehicles to roads and even to carriers on roads. Though at what point in the offensive do MBTs go off road? The answer will be “It depends”. Supply columns pretty much always need roads.

    That column of Russian vehicles is only intact because Russia controls the skies and the Ukrainians lack sufficient drones to hit them. Even allowing for that it looks unprofessional (to my inexpert eye) to bunch the column so much. The NATO air-force could turn that into another Highway of Death ( Highway 80 out of Kuwait to Iraq) but that would start WW3. Rumors abound that supplies are short for the Russian army. Why is the column stalled? Out of diesel? Too close to a front that Russia thought would be more advanced at this stage?

    The Russian military look clumsy, ham-fisted. But they have masses of artillery including rocket artillery: some of the best in the world for range and destructive power but how good is their spotting and targeting? Russia can win conventionally by sheer weight of artillery and bombs. But Ukraine’s major cities and infrastructure will be left a shattered wasteland and guerilla conflicts could drag on for years. How that helps Russia or even Putin I have no idea.

    The West was never going to attack Russia. That was WW3 and extinction. So, this war gains nothing. Actually, it could lead to the collapse of Putin’s regime at the hands of Russians themselves. Let us hope so.

  3. A sea of tears.
    Putin won’t be able to lock up all the mums and grans when they turn their sea of tears and grief to anger and action tsunamis on the streets. They are also the bearers of the nasty police. The tide will turn inside Russia. When? And hopefully wash away power this time.

    As Ikon says “guerilla conflicts could drag on for years.” The bubushkas will protect the guerillas.

    “‘Just a sea of tears’: the group helping anxious mothers of Russian soldiers

    “An independent committee is tracing the fate of sons deployed in Ukraine amid reports of heavy casualties and low morale

    “.. tearful family members across Russia frantically tried to figure out the fate of their sons, brothers and husbands fighting in Russia’s bloody war in Ukraine.

    “It is crazy,” said Golub, pointing to her glowing phone. “We are getting hundreds and hundreds of calls. It’s just a sea of tears.”

    “Golub is the head of the Soldiers’ Mothers Committee, an NGO advocating for soldiers’ rights that has become the main contact point for the worried relatives of Russian soldiers.”


  4. My US hopes rose.
    “- drew a rare bipartisan ovation.” and fell again because it takes a war they doesn’t like.

    Poynter on media re;
    “… Biden’s remarks about Vladimir Putin’s war with Ukraine that resonated and drew a rare bipartisan ovation.

    “Freedom will always triumph over tyranny,” Biden said in his speech. “President Putin thought he could roll into Ukraine — and the world would roll over. Instead, he met a wall of strength he never imagined.”

    “And with that, Republicans joined Democrats in a rousing standing ovation that showed support for Ukraine. On the Washington Post live blog, opinion columnist Eugene Robinson wrote, “Shouldn’t be remarkable, but in today’s political environment it is.”

    “CNN’s Jeff Zeleny called the applause “thunderous” and said that many Republicans he spoke to after the speech praised Biden’s comments about Ukraine.

    “Zeleny said, “For all of the bitter divide in the chamber, it’s very clear that on Ukraine and the anti-Putin message, this is something that Republicans and Democrats can both agree on.”

    “The media’s coverage of a surreal State of the Union addressBiden’s remarks about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war with Ukraine resonated and drew a rare bipartisan ovation.”

  5. Putin is a totalitarian. That means, among other things the police are used to maintain “order” in the occupied territories, the military being for foreign affairs, for the most part. The Stalinist practice of having floor managers and block managers in the residential buildings, of grabbing people off the street, accusing them of some crime and threatening them with prison or worse unless they dob in some other people; all this has a habit of keeping people trapped in their own skulls, too worried about shooting the breeze for fear of saying something today, that is acceptable, but weeks or months or years from now, it is not acceptable, and you get retrospectively marked for oblivion as a citizen.

    There are only two choices here: get involved at risk of nukes being used (by Putin first), or don’t get involved enough to stop the dismembering of Ukraine, and suddenly see a country the size of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine, bordering NATO, and full of nukes. Either way, there are nukes, but for the time being they are stuck in Russia. The window is closing fast.

    As for the Russian convoy to the north of Kyiv, I think they are waiting until strategic cities in the south and east have been taken by Russian forces, and once they hold the routes into Kyiv, they can stop anything from getting into Kyiv by road networks, while being able to supply their own troops from the southern approach to Kyiv. If the European countries are determined to avoid this fate, they need to send in special forces to help disrupt those supply lines and convoys, and to help with weapon resupply. If non-nuclear, non-NATO European countries get involved, that would be the least risky way of fighting the Russians directly. Totalitarians don’t stop; they always have to *be* stopped.

  6. An idle thought. Suppose Putin “wins” in the sense of capturing or kllling the legitimate Ukrainian government and installing trusted pro-Russian replacements – though the new team has not been advertised, perhaps because of a shortage of non-ridiculous candidates. Mr. Quislingov will be expected to travel around the country, or the occupied bits of it, to show that everything is under control. There will be a fair number of unused Bofors AT4 antitank missiles (good against any vehicle short of a battle tank) and Stinger portable SAMs (good against helicopters and light aircraft) floating around and hidden in barns. The same goes for long-range sniper rifles. The Czech resistance killed Heydrich in 1942 with nothing more than unreliable Sten guns and grenades, Kube was killed in Minsk in 1943 by Belarussian partisans using a bomb in his mattress. Quislingov will face much greater threats. I wouldn’t take the job even if I were an extreme Russian nationalist and Putin toady.

  7. Did Fukuyama watch Star Trek? Gene Roddenberry got it. Good pick up and Ukraine post by…

    Eric Hoel today; 
    “We can’t imagine an “end of history” in sci-fi anymore
    On Star Trek, Fukuyama, and Ukraine”

    …”Certainly, the influence was at minimum one-way. The term “End of History” shows up in a speech by Captain Kirk in the 1991Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, a retelling of the end of the U.S.-Soviet Cold War. Yet now the Cold War is resurgent; as I write this, Russia just invaded Ukraine, shattering the world order by bringing war to Europe once again.”

    “In the end, what Picard and his crew are is a fantasy of effective UN peacekeepers. For what is the United Federation of Planets but a dream of a functional United Nations? And in this I think there’s a danger Star Trek: TNG gets presented as the peak expression of neoliberalism or classical liberalism (the terms are often conflated). But Star Trek: TNG is actually quite radically different; it represents not so much an expression of neoliberalism, as some sort of end-of-history evolution of it that mixes in the best elements of marxism—as far as I know, within the class of popular imagined sci-fi worlds, Star Trek alone dares to imagine a future without money. Indeed, the characters are dismissive of, even disgusted by, capital. Libertarians weep, for neither are property rights a meaningful thing in the Star Trek universe—replicators and computers make property fungible.”


    Script of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)

    …”Due moon’s decimation means the deadly pollution of their ozone.
    They will have depleted
    their supply of oxygen
    in approximately 50 Earth years.
    “Due to their enormous military budget, the Klingon economy does not have the resources with which to combat this catastrophe. Last month, at the behest of the Vulcan ambassador,
    I opened a dialogue with Gorkon,, Chancellor of the Klingon High Council.
    He proposes to commence negotiations
    at once.
    “Negotiations for what?
    “The dismantling of our space stations
    and starbases along the neutral zone, an end to almost 70 years

    “What’s the meaning of all of this?
    “It’s about the future, Madam Chancellor.
    “Some people think the future means the end of history.
    “Well, we haven’t run out
    of history quite yet.”


    ** Spoiler **
    ” While several senior Starfleet officers want to rescue Kirk and McCoy, the Federation President refuses to risk full-scale war, even if the Federation stands a good chance of winning. Azetbur likewise refuses to invade Federation space.”

    hix, maybe we need to rewatch with fresh eyes to see parallels. I thought Star Trek a bit of a space shoot ’em up. I know more now.

  8. The Russian MoD has admitted 498 deaths among its military. The number is ficticnal, but it’s nevertheless a breach in the propaganda myth of a police operation in the Donbass welcomed with flowers. Some staff colonels said “We can’t get away with this rubbish any longer, we have to notify the families and news gets out”. Let’s hope the rot of reality spreads fast. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/3/2/moscow-says-498-russian-died-in-ukraine-since-invasion-started

  9. Don: “Putin is a totalitarian.” No. He might wish to be one, but I stand by my argument that Putin is closer to Napoleon III than to Stalin. It took Bolshevik Russia two decades to build its full police state. There is no true Putinist cult of personalty, comprehensive ideology, or cradle-to-grave mass surveillance. The elections and the constitution are rigged, but they aren’t fictions. Keep your nose clean, don’t stick our neck out, and I understand you can grumble as much as you like to your friends. Stalin survived the colossal disasters of 1941. Putin is a nasty piece of work, but one big defeat like Sedan and he’s gone.

  10. One cynical reading of totalitarism theory is that it was just a cheap western attempt to say communism=facism=Hitler* during the cold war. Not my opinon, but when you turn Putin into a totalitarian one comes pretty close to such an application of the theory. He´s many bad things – a totalitarian he is not. Maybe not for lack of wanting, still in any halfway scientific reading of totalitarism theory, it means a much larger degree of control over society.

    *Nazi Germany was the worst outcome of facism and Stalin the worst of communism – so even facism gets a worse name than it deserves by equating it with Nazi Germany.

  11. Sergei Lavrov was just talking about how Napoleon and then Hitler tried to take Europe, and failed and the US is also trying the same.

    This is so wrong on so many levels and shows just where their collective minds are at; back in some godforsaken mud strewn medieval dark age.

    Putin, Lavrov et al should be stuffed and mounted in a museum, under ‘Dinosaur’.

  12. Putin is a totalitarian, he answers to nobody and does as he wants.

    He can suspend existing laws and issue by laws.

    He can appoint members of the govt, judicial and military; directs foreign and domestic policy; calls the federal assembly; grants pardons and reprieves.

    He holds the power of life and death over everyone in Russia.

  13. “… one big defeat like Sedan and he’s gone.” – James W.

    Who’s going to give Putin a defeat like the Battle of Sedan, a pitched, conventional battle? There’s no-one to do it and in any case if Putin looked like losing a conventional war he would turn it nuclear with tactical nuclear weapons at the least.

    So, in reality, neither conventional nor nuclear war can defeat Putin. That leaves unconventional, asymmetric actions from protracted guerilla war to economic war. “Time has reduced more fortresses than all the armies of the world”, according to Kutuzov. We need time and protracted actions as mentioned above to reduce Putin.

    At the same time, I admit myself wrong on the issue of “Offensive Realism” (Mearsheimer). Its fatal moral flaw is exposed when hegemonic states oppress smaller states in the name of realism (realpolitik and machtpolitik in their own relations). Maybe I will write on it some time in a Sandpit, though of course we have become a world where the opinions of the little people are meaningless so I would be wasting my time.

    I also admit myself wrong on my criticism of NATO. It is doing all it can realistically do at this stage without provoking the madman Putin into starting WW3.

  14. I for one now, from today, vote that I don’t care and don’t want to know ‘who’ may be analogous. Agree?

    I want to know exactly what specific heuristics, axioms, laws, processes, policies, procedures and human & governance support & market systems are needed to stop such wars in future, once and for all.

    History is the past. History  provides at best heuristics. I say heuristics  because if they were axioms, rules or laws we would have acted on them and we wouldn’t be doing a Putin now.

    Language is all important. Taxonomy is great. Yet taxonomy doesn’t help answering JQ’s opposite questions and actions -the most important questions and actions –
    > where does it start and
    > what actions are needed to move towards peace.

    Slime mounds are better at actual actions in a system than taxonomy. Imagine evolution as taxonomy debates. 

    Humans deciding on a new path imo – or maybe it is just me – won’t be asking taxonomic questions,  we will be designing systems to provide for the language and actions of peace and equity. Then we may get a new set of taxonomic labels. 

    Debating who the current instigator is likened too only muddies the analysis now, as all the historical figures mentioned still damaged the world and we have kept repeating and being functional amnesiacs, when a short term stable equilibrium exists. As we have had sort of for 70yrs now.

    And trying to pin labels of type of method or regime, again ceases listing type of perpetrator in favour of a label. And doesn’t make laws for the new system.

    Here is a set of data which has led to where Russia is now, and what we already know we need ro stop such in the future. Proper laws, judciary and courts.

    Stalin had more judgements in favour of plaintiffs than Rusria under Putin. Read that again.

    Why di we need taxonomy and historic analogies at the present moment. 

    “Carnegie’s Moscow Center states that judges only give out not-guilty verdicts once every seven years, and that those verdicts will be repealed.[50]”

    “The number of jury trials remains small, at about 600 per year, out of about 1 million trials.[53] 

    Lawmakers are continuously chipping away at what types of criminal offenses merit a jury trial.[53] Juries have granted acquittals in 15-20% of cases, compared with 

    ● less than 1% in cases decided by judges.[53] Juries may be dismissed and skeptical juries have been dismissed on the verge of verdicts, and acquittals are frequently overturned by higher courts.[53]”

    Taxonomy of above?  No need. Just fix the system. 

    The other two fixes needed are;

    i) complete take over of algorithms of news dissemination with complete transparency via sortition style review body and

    ii) same as above for cryptocurrency 

    iii) continued reporting to avoid functional societal amnesia

    iv) a new super ministry of “system dynamics” to place disparate policies into potential outcomes again with constant sortition like involvement of hoi poloi and

    v) education system to include above with practice and learning to become abke to be a public servant or sortition substitute at anytime. 

    Please feel free to fix my list. 

    And cryoto! Will Putin be held afloat via crypto? I see no reason to doubt, as Alan Kohler writes, that “the ultimate tool of libertarians, became the tool of totalitarians”.

    Just like the Internet was going to be free! Knowing history and taxonomy hasn’t altered system takeover. We are functional amnesiacs wasting precious brains in analogy and taxonomy. 

    “‘This week, cryptocurrency exchanges one and all turned down a request from Ukraine to join the sanctions and freeze Russian accounts, because it would go against their libertarian values.

    “Which is ironic given they are tacitly supporting an anti-libertarian autocracy.

    “The world may once again be in the process of dividing into two: Democracies and autocracies, with the democracies shutting the autocrats out of the global financial system.

    ‘How ironic it would be if Satoshi Nakamoto’s invention, designed to be the ultimate tool of libertarians, became the tool of totalitarians instead, escaping a fiat currency prison.”

    Where and how does it get fixed?

  15. Changing leaders and Govts, by democratic means, hinders the growth of totalitarianism.

    It’s fair to say that anyone who is placed in a position of absolute power will become, given enough time, absolutely corrupt. Govts need to change, refresh, renew.

  16. It might end if China takes Taiwan, and TSM and chokes semiconductors. Forget money and oil, we will run out of smart defences – “”TSMC,.. I believe manufactures around 50% of all semiconductors in the world. And I think that still understates how important it is, because these are some of the most advanced chips out there,” Wang below in charts-show-how-much-the-world-depends-on-taiwan-for-semiconductors.

    Adam Tooze invoking a prerequisite for amnesia, a “double blind spot” and Taiwan indicating semiconductors are imperative to the war machine. Why aren’t semiconductors now a public good and why are we dumb enough not to have fab plant and solar panel manufacturing? Oh: da market.

    Scary. This war keeps revealing my blindness and amnesia. Awake now.

    Tooze with Klien in NYT
    “So it’s a kind of double blind spot. 

    “It’s what Palardy called the peace interest. So powerful, heavy hitting groups — not just, as it were, sentimental attitudes — resist the onset of conflict because it ruptures those trade relations. It has a romantic side, but there is also a kind of realist version of this, which says, well, if in the end, money talks, you’d expect money to talk peace quite a lot of the time. And that, I think, is the idea. And there are moments in the ’90s, there are moments beyond the ’90s, when this doesn’t seem like an implausible idea.

    “In fact, all the way down to the present day, one has to really pinch oneself to believe this is happening, given the losses that are being inflicted on, no doubt, powerful and influential people in Russia at this moment. 

    “And if you think about analogous conflicts around Taiwan or something like that, the global semiconductor industry isn’t just the supply chain. It’s one of humanity’s great technological scientific achievements. Our ability to do this stuff at nanoscale is us up against the face of God in a sense. And it happens to be in Taiwan, and are we seriously going to talk about D-Day style amphibious operations — you know, and dig trenches, and attach explosive devices to fabs, which are the human spirit incarnate. Like, there’s something totally incongruous about this, right? They are also capitalism, and they also have geopolitical consequences. That’s the fly in the ointment.

    “But anyway, if you wanted to tie down that liberal vision and give it meat,”…


    Semiconductors & Taiwan.
    “So TSMC, if you just have a look at market share, I believe manufactures around 50% of all semiconductors in the world. And I think that still understates how important it is, because these are some of the most advanced chips out there,” said Wang.

    “2 charts show how much the world depends on Taiwan for semiconductors”

  17. As terrible as it is to think it, Putin holds most of the cards in his utterly unjustified invasion of a neighbouring state, i.e. Ukraine.

    For all the convenient commentary from various western leaders’ teams, the fact is this: If Putin is able to carve off enough of the Ukraine to reach the river system, then he has in his possession more of Ukraine than any fight about Russian-Ukraine was warranted. There is no way of regaining any of the lost territory, short of an outright war. Putin has done what no other leader has done, which is to fairly openly threaten—twice—nuclear conflagration against the rest of us, should any third party intervene (presumably militarily) in the very one-sided dispute.

    Here is the problem: If Putin is allowed, or at least not stopped, from taking over part or all of the Ukraine, then he’ll use the success to tell his generals that the nuclear card is effective. Imagine now, that he goes for Lithuania, in an attempt to gain a direct land path through to the Black sea. The old premise of all for one and one for all would buckle, for all Putin would need do is rattle the nuclear sabre again. Even though Lithuania is a NATO country, if things were to develop to this point, why would Putin feel remotely threatened? Would the USA risk many millions of its own civilians against another nuclear power? I’ll add that since the start of his so-called special military operation, it has grown in scope (predictably) from pacifying a certain eastern area and into taking over the entire country and, in Putin’s own most recent words, occupying it. Occupying the Ukraine! Think about it.

    And in my above remarks, I feel I have belled that cat. If Putin is not dealt with in the now, and is not blocked from achieving possession of any more of the Ukraine, and is not resolutely defeated on the battlefield, then there is nothing more to stop him from chomping at bits of the old Soviet Era states, irrespective of NATO membership.

    My simple reading of Putin is that every new action is chosen to create at least a couple of good alternatives, if not a few less exciting alternatives; and, he isn’t as ignorant or irrational as various media outlets would like to portray him. Besides, if a media outlet had said Hitler was mentally unstable, based on his most recent speeches, what material difference would such a comment have made? Heck, there actually *were* media outlets who tried to goad people into noticing the new dictator (actually, a totalitarian) in their midst.

    As for Putin, I believe he has made the rational calculation that he’ll weather the international sanctions, if he has managed to go from 11\% of the global land mass, to around 13.2% of the world’s, agriculturally significant, land mass. We can probably maintain sanctions against Russia, but what about the combined Russia/Ukraine/Belarus territory? Could the entire world manage long-term sanctions against that much bigger land mass/ power bloc? And, if Putin does acquire that land, it means the now shredded nuclear non-proliferation treaty (shredded, in the most recent comments by Putin) cannot prevent him from emplacing nuclear weapons in both Belarus and the Ukraine, right along the border to NATO and/or European countries.

    If my analysis is even halfway correct, we have essentially two choices: ignore the nuclear peril for now, stay away from active military involvement in the Ukraine, and hope to Hell that is all Putin is after (a dubious hope, for he is willing to raze the “spiritual capital” of the Russian Empire to the ground, just to deny the Ukrainian people their own land); or, simply refuse to engage him on his threats, i.e. play a closed ear to his vocalisation of these threats, and carry on with a non-nuclear, non-NATO active military engagement, in order to stymy his plans for the Ukraine.

    The easiest course of action is to ignore the fact that nuclear weapons have been used as a naked threat to stay away from the Ukraine horror show…and if capitulation of even the mildest sort happens on this matter, why wouldn’t he use the nuclear threat again, when he has attacked another new-Europe state, or new-NATO state?

    Finally, Putin has in many ways signalled ahead of time—even years ahead—of just what his ambitions were, with respect to some kind of “restoration” of the old Russian Empire; he has also signalled, by saying that the Ukraine is part of Russia (the Empire), he has by absence of comment signalled that the Ukrainian born Ukrainian people are of no consequence, don’t exist, have no rights to the territory. All the commentary from him that I have heard is purely focussed on the Russian-speaking Ukrainians (and a lot of them were actually born in the Ukraine, but never mind that inconvenient little fact), and is all about some kind of liberation of them from their oppressors. It’s a classic case of projection, one that totalitarians the world over tend to resort to. Sadly, Putin is a modern totalitarian, about to launch into flight…unless we clip his wings.

    Fight him now, or lose to him later. That’s it.

  18. I’ll follow up with one more remark: apparently some of the wealthiest people in the Universe, who got that way through the integration of dog-eat-dog business practices with a rabid right wing echo chamber these billionaires created and nurtured, are currently using their organs of power—sorry, propaganda—to wax lyrical about a totalitarian ex-communist regime invading and destroying a neighbour’s nascent democracy *and* a chunk of its old (white and Christian) domestic population. Isn’t that strange? That a plutocrat would side with a totalitarian? [Ironic comment]

  19. The coming battle for Kyiv

    It will look like Borodyanka, a satellite town 50 km north of Kyiv. Drone video from Reuters: https://twitter.com/i/status/1499561807840616450 Note the heavily damaged buildings and a dozen wrecked Russian vehicles. The locals claim to have got some of them with Molotov cocktails; https://www.ndtv.com/world-news/ukraine-war-video-from-borodyanka-shows-destroyed-buildings-smouldering-fire-2802816.

    It won’t be quite like Stalingrad. IIRC the suburbs there were flimsy structures largely built of wood,as in this photo: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/96/StalingradRus.jpg Massive air attacks by the Luftwaffe set fire to most of these buildings. This made the German army’s advance easier, till it reached the more solid structures in the centre, such as the famous tractor factory near the Volga, which offered good cover to defenders even as ruins. The suburbs of Kyiv look I expect like Borodyanka: solid concrete and brick. The Russians can wreck these buildings with artillery, but ruins offer almost as good cover as intact houses and blocks of flats. This time the defenders – meaning the nearly invisible but undefeated regular army – will have very effective weapons against vehicles, including many thousands of portable antitank missiles of varying vintages. Donations of these have passed 20,000.

    On paper the regulars are outnumbered, and the volunteers outmatched, against trained Russian infantry; but many reports suggest morale is low among Russian squaddies, and remarkably high among the fired-up (and far more numerous) Ukrainian volunteers, see Britain after Dunkirk. I give the Ukrainians a good chance of stopping the Russian advance short of the historic centre, forcing Putin to end the war. But indiscriminate artillery and rockets can do an awful lot of damage first.

  20. Scary, wierd and weirdly reassuring.
    “Outcry after US senator Lindsey Graham suggests Putin’s assassination”

    . ..”Even Marjorie Taylor Greene – the extremist congresswoman who has sparked outrage for, among other things, comparing coronavirus-related restrictions to the treatment of Jewish people during the Holocaust – chimed in from the right with criticism of Graham.

    “While we are all praying for peace [and] for the people of Ukraine, this is irresponsible, dangerous [and] unhinged. We need leaders with calm minds [and] steady wisdom,” Greene said on Twitter. “Not blood thirsty warmongering politicians trying to tweet tough by demanding assassinations. Americans don’t want war.”

    Death penalty and assassinations, what are they good for.

  21. As Don says, over time Putin has tested the West repeatedly and found them to be unwilling to respond. He feels he knows their weaknesses and can now exploit those weaknesses with impunity. He’s not afraid of sanctions or losing men – he can play the nuclear card anytime.

  22. Prediction: If Putin’s Russia “wins” Ukraine, the historians will judge it as a “Pyrrhic Victory”.

    There is ultimately no win for Putin in all this. The Russian economy will be brought to its knees. This will occur not just by sanctions but by war costs and the general costs of developing and maintaining such a vast military machine on a population base of just 140 million in round numbers. That is a puny population base for a modern super-power and it carries with it a puny productive base by super-power standards.

    Before this war kicked off Russia’s economy was smaller than Canada’s though I guess its heavy industry manufacturing base was/is bigger. But seeing that that base is churning out guns and not things that make “butter” (things humans can subsist on and gain quality of life with) this will make it difficult to maintain a decent life for Russian citizens going forward. Putin will lose domestic support over time. Conquest of Ukraine, if that even occurs, will accelerate Russia’s and Putin’s decline.

    The West needs to be patient and wear Russia down. Going in boots, planes, missiles and all starts WW3 and we all die. All measures short of those that provoke direct hot war between NATO and Russia must be used, but no more. Judging that line will be very difficult. In terms of judging risk, we may stop a little short of that line. That is reasonable as taking, keeping and digesting Ukraine will strain Russia beyond breaking point anyway. It’s to be hoped that some of the saner generals there depose him: a palace coup in the Kremlin. How likely that is I have no idea but it should become more likely over time.

  23. IKO: One faster scenario for the end of the war is mutiny, as in 1917. Are the conscripts stuck in the monster convoy, aka traffic jam, north of Kyiv actually getting fed? They are certainly cold and wet. SFIK their mobile phones have been confiscated, so they can’t tell their families what it’s like, but they have plenty of time to think about Putin’s lies and the horrors that await them in the Kyiv suburbs. Not the likeliest outcome, but a significant chance.

    If I were in command of Ukrainian special forces, I would be thinking about infiltrating snipers to about a kilometre away from the convoy and hitting a few trucks every night with 0.5″ Raufoss incendiary bullets from those pacific Norwegians. (Even in the gun-loving USA, it is a federal crime for civilians to own such ammunition). The point would be less material damage but lowering morale. Less sleep, constant anxiety, and no possible defence. The Ukrainians may already be doing this; it would not necessarily show up on satellite images – a truck on fire would be visible, not one immobilised by a hit on the engine compartment.

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