Sanctions moving faster than Putin’s army

Before the invasion of Ukraine, there was a clear consensus on the limitations of economic sanctions. They would take a long time to organize and even longer to have any effect. Just about every commentary I read anticipated Russian tanks in Kiev long before sanctions could have any effect.

That judgement now looks way off the mark. Despite some limited advances in the south of Ukraine, Putin’s invasion seems to have stalled. Meanwhile sanctions, both official and unofficial, have raced ahead.

Booting Russia out of SWIFT, seen as an extreme option two weeks ago, turned out to be only the first step. Not only were Russia’s foreign exchange accounts frozen, but the kleptocrats who have benefited from Putin’s rule saw their assets seized, with a high likelihood that this will end in expropriation.

Even more striking is the speed with which global enterprises have pulled out of Russia, writing off billions in past investments in the process. To take just one example, almost every major car company has shut down Russian factories and stopped supply. And, unlike in the past, Russia can’t fall back on its own capacity. The biggest Russian producer, Lada, is majority owned by Renault, which in turn is owned by the French government. Renault hasn’t pulled the plug yet, but it will be forced to do so soon. Even without a formal decision, shortages of imported parts have forced the plants to shut down.

What this means is that, within a week or two, Russians will be unable to buy new cars or get spare parts for old ones. That in turn means that car dealers will have to shut down, putting their employees out of work, along with production line workers. Repair shops will probably be able to carry for a while on by cannibalising parts from scrap yards, but that can only go so far.

And there’s nothing special about cars. Most of the manufacturing sector is in the same position, along with the stores that sell its products. Most air travel outside Russia has stopped, and domestic air travel is now shutting down as leasing companies demand their planes back and shortages of parts start to bite.

There doesn’t seem to be any obvious way back from this. Even with a rapid peace settlement, foreign investment won’t come back any time soon, and the destruction of wealth won’t be reversed.

Thinking about Putin’s possible reaction is scary. He could blow up the world. But, I can’t see any way that he can salvage the Russian economy.

43 thoughts on “Sanctions moving faster than Putin’s army

  1. Although James Wimberley respectfully disagrees, I feel that Putin is a totalitarian. That implies a certain pattern of behaviour, i.e. the defining features, the architecture of totalitarianism. Of course, this has evolved with time, as technology and cultural aspects change with time. This new kind of totalitarian is ultimately aiming to be the only nexus of power across the entire continent of which Putin’s Russia is a part. He won’t live to see this fevered dream take hold, but he surely intends to be remembered as the guy who made it possible. I think that makes him at the very least an imperialist, but his means of control domestically point to an increasingly more totalitarian behaviour than simple dictatorship. Totalitarians have an ideology that spans the eons, that connects the glorious history of the past with the history of the far future, yet to be written; they sell this as the turning point, the point in history they inhabit, and that “we” are on a plan to restore our rightful place as rulers of the universe. Or something. Anyway, to the rest of us, we just want to be left alone by these ego-maniacal arseholes, only we won’t be, for they are just the extremity of human existence, so they continue to pop up. If we don’t take heed the previous lessons of history, i.e. that we have to smite these guys fast and hard, we give them the extra rope they need to hang us with. Hoping they won’t do the worst thing possible is what they use to push through something a little bit less than the worst thing we could think of.

    Right now, we have a singularly unique event: Putin’s land-based war machine is largely stationed in one country, i.e. the Ukraine. We know where it is, we know how to blow up the roads and bridges to trap it, and then to kill it dead. Every last tank, fuel truck, mobile howitzer, troop carrier, ammo suppliers, caterer’s truck. The Russian soldiers, they can be sent back home. But the equipment, that’s Putin’s weakest point, for the cost of that destruction would be economically ruinous, and politically might be enough to push some internal squabbles to the point of a oh so very Russian Palace Coup. It probably won’t, but at the least it would take off the table—at least for a few years—the land forces Russia uses to try and construct this semi-mythical glorious Russian Empire.

    Apart from sending in non-NATO, non-nuclear countries’ special forces (or equivalent) to attack the convoys *now*, I don’t see another opportunity for dealing with the Putin Russia that is willing to threaten you with global annihilation using nuclear weapons. If he succeeds in taking over the Ukraine, he’ll have Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine, that land mass being 14–15% of the entire land mass of the planet. If he then takes over Lithuania or Latvia, he has a land bridge through Belarus and to the sea. That’s not a Russia we should be happy about, and it would be incredibly foolish to panic over the threat of nukes now, if at some near future point, it could be used against NATO countries and EU countries, such as Lithuania and Latvia. Putin invades, threatens nuclear retaliation if NATO/EU step in, and then what? Think Neville Chamberlain. That’s why I advocate tackling this megalomaniac now, rather than fantastically wishing he’ll not do the very worst thing possible, then proclaiming it a victory when he just does the second worst thing possible. Please, if anybody in power is listening, don’t appease this dickhead.

    If he has hold of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, how will we hit the bombed out Ukrainians with the same punishing sanctions we are currently applying against Russia? If we do that, we are punishing the victims of Putin’s atrocities. So, I’d wager that the sanctioning states would lose their political cohesion, and sooner or later they would allow Ukraine back in to the economic fold, and since Putin will own it, he’ll simply use it as his way of dodging the sanctions still on Russia.

    Nope, Only time to confront him is now, and I am perfectly aware that is a high stakes roll, for he could just nuke everything in a fit of pique, but if he is that way inclined now, he’ll be just as inclined when he invades Lithuania and/or Latvia, or takes a chunk of territory from the northeastern corner of Poland.

  2. I agree that sanctions are moving faster than Putin’s army. But are sanctions’ EFFECTS moving faster than Putin’s army? To answer that in the affirmative we would have to see the army running out of supplies already or else the home front destabilizing fast enough to give us hope that we would see Putin toppled in the near future. Indeed, an early coup by Generals with more sense the Putin is to be hoped for.

    In the longer run, yes, Russians will suffer and presumably regret the war. It looks like all of this really will deal a serious and long-lasting blow to the Russian economy. J.Q. seems to positing that modern economics in a connected global economy is more powerful than machtpolitik. A month ago I might have scoffed. Now, I am not so sure. The proof(s) will be in the empirical outcome(s). Of course, even the rest of the world’s power-economics (machtWirtschaftswissenschaft?) are backed by its own machtpolitik, especially military might.

    This makes sense. It’s well known that military power needs economic power to be built and maintained. Russia faces a danger of becoming a hermit kingdom like North Korea with a permanent war economy and little else to recommend it to its own people. Such hermit kingdom permanent war economies can persist a long time and are untouchable if they have nukes. But how long can they last without aid? North Korea persists only with aid from China.

  3. Putin’s Russian has around 1,600 strategic nuclear weapons. Given the current state of Russian forces, assuming 400 can be delivered seems optimistic. But assuming Putin throws successfully uses 400 nuclear weapons on whichever nations he feels most aggrieved at with the intent of murdering as many people as possible, then given the general inaccuracy that can be expected, he might only kill 20 million in an afternoon. If 10% work as intended, maybe under 10 million. The large stockpile of tactical nuclear weapons won’t be able to be deployed in any meaningful fashion.

    Of course, it could be far worse than this.

  4. I have read reports suggesting that the wave of repression and isolation from the West is having a negative impact on Russian society – increased pessimism most notably. Many Russians have relatives and friends in the Ukraine and, despite the blindfolds imposed by Putin, are coming to understand what is happening there. Putin will face strong opposition within Russia and will respond with increased repression and even martial law. It’s a downward spiral – a disaster for the Ukraine, for Russia and for Europe.

    Possible steady states? Can Russia set itself up as a large version of North Korea? History would seem to have moved on from the Soviet era but Putin has been in power for a long time and has a secure power base. If things do seriously bad for Putin he may double his bets in the worst possible way.

    Expect the unexpected – along with increasing misery in the Ukraine, expect assassinations, further wars and hundreds of thousands of Russians jailed.

  5. JQ- you might find David Edgerton’s Britain’s War Machine a useful guide. He argues that liberal Britain had a characteristic (and very successful) way of making war, combining lots of technology with economic and financial pressure. In action here. (He’s a very good historian). Would not have worked against the largely self-sufficient USSR, but crippling against oligarchic kleptocracies, which avoid investing in local production.

  6. Economic sanctions will hurt ordinary Russians in the long run, but the elites and those responsible for the invasion will find ways to side-step most effects from those sanctions. As for being banned from international sporting events or being shunned by world famous rock stars, this is likley to offend and frustrate a section of Russian society who’ve never been fans of Putin any way. I feel that the average Russian man or woman will not care that much! Western leaders of course know the limits of sanctions and they are probably aware that it will not change the fate of Ukraine and Ukrainians in the short term. Unfortunately, we can only oppose brutal force with the like ! The reason given by government for not intervening ( or even set up a no-fly zone) is that they do not want to start a wider war or even WW3 (with nukes!). Technically, we would be happy to intervene ( and so risk WW3) if Russia had attacked Latvia instead of Ukraine, because Latvia is a NATO member. While that might make sense in terms of international treaties and alliances, it doesn’t make moral sense: it’s OK to let Ukrainians die because their government did not join NATO (or because NATO did not let them in) but not OK to let citizens of a NATO country die… I will go even further. If Instead of attacking Ukraine, Russia had attacked Finland or Sweden ( neither is NATO member), does anybody really think that the US and Europe would have reacted by only imposed economic sanctions on Russia?

  7. Alfred; we are all aware of the potential consequences of a nuclear war. Does this mean that bullies who have nukes should be able to act with impunity? Again the answer to that question might vary depending on who the bully’s victim is! Back in the cold war, US presidents (Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy) had a very different view about the use of nuclear weapons. They “easily” envisaged scenarios where they would not hesitate to use nuclear weapons to annihilate various cities in the Soviet bloc. Yes we are all scared of the possibility of nuclear war, but the real reason why the West is not intervening in Ukraine is that Ukraine strategic “value” is not that important to NATO. After all, Ukraine used to be part of the USSR. So it all boils down to reality geopolitics, not scare about nuclear war!

  8. As i noted earlier $600 bn of Russian foreign reserves have been effectively frozen. Genuine question: does this have any short-term impact, given that income from oil and gas is still flowing?

  9. Phil : i hesitate to reply in detail. instead i’ll post a link & two short extracts from an interview with jeffrey goldberg of “the atlantic” & arch international relations realist henry kissinger, published in november 2016, shortly before the us presidential election and two years after the maiden revolution and the russian seizure of crimea & sevastopol.

    Kissinger: Ukraine should be conceived of as a bridge between NATO and Russia rather than an outpost of either side. Russia can contribute to this by forgoing its aspiration to make Ukraine a satellite; the United States and Europe must relinquish their quest to turn Ukraine into an extension of the Western security system. The result would be a Ukraine whose role in the international system resembles that of Austria or Finland, free to conduct its own economic and political relationships, including with both Europe and Russia, but not party to any military or security alliance.
    Goldberg: I don’t see you and Obama being very different on the question of Ukraine.
    Kissinger: Not on the objective of preserving an independent Ukraine. Technically, his goal is to compel Russia towards his goal. Mine would be to try to make Russia a partner in a solution.

  10. HI Alfred. Thank you for sharing this most interesting conversation with Kissinger back in 2016 before Trump was elected. I totally agree with Kissinger’s thoughts about Ukraine. However since 2016, America’s credibility in the world has further declined thanks to Trump; and Biden looks like he is running away from the crisis rather than addressing it as Obama may have (?). On the other hand, Putin is now irretrievably set against the West and probably not open to any sort of genuine discussion. I am afraid the current situation has been mismanaged from the start with the West failing to adopt pro-active diplomacy; basically it looks like we were waiting for Putin to invade!

  11. If you break it, you own it

    I suggest Zhelensky demand reparations from Russia. These fell out of the diplomatic toolkit after the failure of those imposed at Versailles on Germany, accurately predicted by Keynes. hey failed, and were abandoned after a decade, for several reasons. (1) The level was quite unrealistic and incompatible with German economic recovery. (2) They were only imposed on Germany, while responsibility for starting the war was shared. IIRC Austro-Hungary paid none, since it had ceased to exist. (3) Large parts of German public opinion refused to accept any share of the blame, let alone the main part of it, and considered Versailles as a whole monstrously unjust.

    Drawing on this experience, the western allies imposed no reparations on ruined Germany in 1945, though the Nazi responsibility for starting WW2 was undeniable. Since then reparations have been forgotten, with the striking and significant exception of the Luxembourg Agreement of 1952 between West Germany and Israel , leading to the payment of 3bn DM.

    A demand for reparations still strikes me as a sound principle and partial deterrent against future adventures. It is also a sound diplomatic tactic, at least in a case as straightforward morally and legally as Russia’s current invasion of Ukraine. Start the cash register ticking now, and present the full bill at the peace conference. The sum can of course be negotiated down as part of the peace.

  12. Yes, sanctions are moving fast in the sense of implementation and escalation, including by private enterprises (credit card companies such as Mastercard and Visa and Elon Musk provides Satellite internet terminals to the Ukraine are among the latest examples). The banning of Russian participation of sporting and entertainment events (eg Eurovision) may be portrayed as silly. Obviously they are no match for military weapons. However, they do convey messages to people in a manner that cannot be stopped via media censorship.

    I wonder how the growing number of armchair generals in various comment pages would act in the field or in a NATO meeting. And why, I ask, are some people apparently unaware of the Minsk agreements 1 and 2 and the Normandy forum, which Macron and Scholz tried to revive and the US President, Joe Biden, as well as the EU continue to offer talks while demanding a ceasefire. There has been a localised war (conflict) in the East Ukraine (Donbas) since 2014. Before the invasion of 24 February 2022 of the Ukraine, Putin’s Russia declared 2 ‘republics’ in the Donbas as being independent of the Ukraine without the agreement of the Ukraine or anybody else. As a consequence of this territorial dispute, the Ukraine could not be admitted to NATO.

    The economic and financial sanctions against Russia will also have costs for the countries who impose them, although not uniformly. IMHO, these measures will constitute a further step in unwinding ‘globalisation’ to some extent. Firstly, at the recent joint press conference of Putin and Scholz, Mr Putin addressed the German public by offering essentially a bribe. He said that Germans should appreciate the cheap gas they get from Russia. It is true that Russian gas is cheaper and more environmentally friendly than say fracking gas. As such the argument would be legitimate if the purpose of the meeting of Scholz and Putin would have been about some commercial trade agreement. But the meeting was about the crisis in the Ukraine (massive Russian troupes on the border of the Ukraine at the time and renewed unrest in the Donbas). The crisis in the Ukraine involves the self-determination of a country and territorial integrity. These are not tradeable commodities. The effect was presumably a disappointment for Mr Putin. Not only the government but the population became concerned about the dependency on Russian gas and demanded diversification of supply and the speeding up of more renewables. Moreover, the population self-organised massive street demonstrations in Hamburg, Berlin, Cologne, Munich (these are the cities I am aware of) against the invasion of the Ukraine. Second, as was to be expected, gas and oil prices shot up. These price changes effect low income people much more harshly than others. The required response, namely to cushion the impact of these price changes through government programs, entails more government involvement ‘in the economy’. The microeconomic notion of economic efficiency (cost minimisation), deregulation and small governments in ‘free’ global markets, which were important elements of ‘globalisation’ at the outset have hit a serious stumbling block.

    And, parenthetically, one may note, economics is very much in Mr Putin’s mind.

  13. First: Ukraine is an independent nation/state/country; this is irrespective of EU ro NATO.
    Second: Ukraine gave up the nuclear weapons on its land, in return for (Russia) never disputing its right to exist ( probably paraphrased, but that was the gist of it, as I understand it). Third: Ukraine had the *right* to choose whether it supported the “western”’ way of doing business, or the Russia way. They chose the Western way, and while I can’t say whether that was their best option at the time or not, they had and exercised their collective judgement as to what was best for them, the Ukraine.

    Roll on a dozen years, and who is wishing to roll it back? Not the Ukraine. Not their trading partners. No, it is the single man army of Putin, and his sycophants and lick-spittles, his minions. This would be sad, if it weren’t for the ongoing damage to both the Ukraine but also to the Russian people. It seems to me that the bulk of the European world, and by extension, many other countries, is being held hostage to the fevered dreams of a single individual, namely Putin. Why? Why are we so concerned at his threats that we would ever give them credence? Yeah, sure, this arsehole could launch nukes upon some notional provocation. Or, he could do it, when he feels we are least likely to respond. Put it this way,, who put the nukes on the table? It was Putin! So, assume he means business, and ramp up in order to counter his insane calculus. Look, this is a guy who does not reverse course, except in the face of resolute *and* undeniably strong defenses against his plan(s).

    Putin! Why can’t you be content for all of us to live together? That’s my message.

  14. These fell out of the diplomatic toolkit after the failure of those imposed at Versailles on Germany, accurately predicted by Keynes. hey failed, and were abandoned after a decade …

    Reparations payments resumed after the Second World War, on a revised and reduced schedule. Germany made its final payment of (reduced) reparations for the First World War in 2010.

    The level was quite unrealistic and incompatible with German economic recovery.

    I don’t know enough about this to say you’re wrong, but it’s certainly not a generally agreed view; according to Wikipedia: ‘Despite Keynes’ arguments and those by later historians supporting or reinforcing Keynes’ views, the consensus of contemporary historians is that reparations were not as intolerable as the Germans or Keynes had suggested and were within Germany’s capacity to pay had there been the political will to do so.’

    They were only imposed on Germany, while responsibility for starting the war was shared. IIRC Austro-Hungary paid none, since it had ceased to exist.

    Austria and Hungary both continued to exist after the First World War; both the Treaty of St Germain with Austria and the Treaty of Trianon with Hungary imposed reparations, as did the Treaty of Neuilly with Bulgaria. The Treaty of Sèvres with the Ottoman Sultanate also imposed reparations, but after the collapse of the Sultanate it was replaced by the Treaty of Lausanne with Turkey, which included no provisions for reparations.

    Large parts of German public opinion refused to accept any share of the blame, let alone the main part of it, and considered Versailles as a whole monstrously unjust.

    Lots of people in Germany felt that it was unfair that Germany had lost the war, but that’s not a basis for concluding that they were right.

    Drawing on this experience, the western allies imposed no reparations on ruined Germany in 1945, though the Nazi responsibility for starting WW2 was undeniable.

    After the Second World War reparations obligations were imposed both on Germany and on other Axis powers:

  15. J-D is right. The consensus is that the post World War I reparations had the effects they did because German elites remained determined to pursue the ambitions that had led them to war, and resisted by every means possible. In any case, looks like Putin’s Russia will not be able to pay reparations for the next several decades at least.

  16. This seems a good time to recall WH Auden’s verse:

    “In the nightmare of the dark, all the dogs of Europe bark,
    And the living nations wait, each sequestered in its hate.
    Intellectual disgrace, stares from each human face,
    And the seas of pity lie, locked and frozen in each eye”

    Why not talk (as the Chinese suggest)?

    “With your unconstraining voice, still persuade us to rejoice.
    With the farming of your verse, make a vineyard of the curse.
    In the desert of our hearts, let the healing fountain start.
    In the prison of our days, teach the free man still to praise.”

    Stop the sanctions! If Western countries continue to prioritise their own security over other countries, we will end up in a “lose-lose” state.

  17. JD: I stand corrected on Austro-Hungary and on WW2 reparations. But with the exceptions of the Gerrnan industrial assets shipped to the USSR, and the Luxembourg agreement with Israel, a quick read of the Wikipedia article does not suggest the latter were very significant, compared say to the Marshall plan. “The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia received a value of US$36 million, in industrial equipment from the dismantled German factories. West Germany also paid 8 million German marks as reparations for forced human experimentation on Yugoslav citizens.” Elsewhere in Wikipedia: “The Yugoslav government estimated the number of human losses during World War II in Yugoslavia at 1,706,000”.

    I did not suggest that German opinion was right on the justice of Versailles. But it’s a material point in assessing whether the original demand for reparations was right or realistic. Contrast the BRD’s reparations for material loses inflicted on Jews by Nazi Germany, which were accepted as fair by most West Germans (though not all Israelis) and paid in full. That example suggests that financial reparations, perhaps modest, could help Russians come to terms with their war guilt. This lies mostly with Putin and his cronies, but a majority of Russians supported him till very recently.

  18. J-D PS on Keynes
    In the red corner we have the greatest economist of the 20th century, who predicted that Versailles (which he had witnessed close up) would turn out badly, and was proved right, perhaps not exactly in the way he had expected. In the blue corner we have a bunch of historians with limited expertise in economics, second-guessing Keynes after the event, and proposing alternative histories in which the defeated Powers could have paid the reparations in full if they had really tried. Yeah.

  19. Kien: In a time of moral crisis, it is also worth remembering that Auden, though a fine poet, was not an example of moral clarity or courage in 1939. Evelyn Waugh’s merciless satire of Auden and Isherwood as Parsnip and Pimpernel in “Put Out More Flags” was justified.

  20. Late the party already but a small comment: A way out for Putin would be for talks to end the war to exclude USA participation. EU members only. Maybe a way for Europe to step back away from its security dependence on the USA? A way for Putin to think he has defeated the USA?

  21. ukraine & russia will have another round of talks in the next 24 hours. meanwhile, in other news, a member of the ukrainian delegation to the 1st round of gomel negotiations with russia, denis kireev, was shot dead in broad day light on the main street of kiev by officers of the ukrainian security service during an arrest. some sources says kireev was shot while in detention, other eyewitnesses say he was shot outside the pechersky court in downtown kiev.
    kireev was accused of being a russian spy & charged with treason. since the conclusion of the 1st round of talks, kireev had been subjected to a campaign of sustained vilification by mps of the volkish svobada party, and spokesmen of the azov brigade & right sector. -a.v.
    [there is no wikipedia entry (yet) for denis kireev ]

  22. Ernestine Gross refers to “armchair generals” via an implicitly critical rhetorical question. She is right to do so. Placing myself among the “armchair generals” it is clear that we didn’t have a clue. Few of us expected an outright Russian assault intended to take the entirety of Ukraine. Many of us overestimated Russia’s strength and abilities at battlefield and logistics coordination. More than a few of us underestimated Russia’s ability and willingness to escalate to indiscriminate aerial and artillery bombardment ; facets Russia excels in against second rate powers. I, at least, labelled NATO weak and probably smeared the EU with the same brush. The reality is far more complex.

    The slightly old-fashioned word “brinkmanship” applies to the situation. “Brinkmanship (or brinksmanship) is the practice of trying to achieve an advantageous outcome by pushing dangerous events to the brink of active conflict.” [1] NATO and the Western or democratic world is thrown into a brinkmanship contest by Putin’s bold, criminal and morally indefensible actions. How much can the West respond without risking nuclear war? The West’s response has to be carefully calibrated.

    I certainly think that globalization has taken a serious hit. I’ve been wondering for some time whether democracies should trade with totalitarian regimes, at all. My bias is “no” but perhaps that too holds dangers. But certainly, overt criminal aggression should be met with full economic sanctions for the duration of the offense. Russia’s actions are a war crime as explained by Geoffrey Robertson in the media. The offense remains while a single Russia soldier remains on Ukraine’s soil. Czar Alexander of Russia refused to make peace with Napoleon “While a single French soldier remains on Russian soil.” It seems reasonable to apply that same principle to Russia. At that time, IIRC, the River Nemen (or Niemen) marked the border. The Nemen rises in what now is central Belarus and flows through Lithuania which illustrates that borders (and soil) do change hands over time.

    Putin’s actions have also made me question my previous adherence to my own variant of John Mearsheimer’s offensive realism. Without going into detail, while offensive realism makes useful suggestions related to the issue of regional hegemons staying out of each other’s bailiwick and avoiding direct and escalating confrontation, it has other serious drawbacks. It seems to suggest essentially that major regional hegemons at least (USA, China, Russia, EU) have the right, by might, to do whatever they like to smaller powers, especially but not only those bordering them and that hegomons should let each other along when this goes on.

    That sounds find until you see something like the Iraq 2 and Afghanistan wars (both of which I opposed to standard powerless citizen lack of effect). Then, the Ukraine War puts it into even clearer perspective. Muslems could say to us, “Okay, now you get it.” The invasion of Ukraine is outrageous and a war crime. It cannot really be allowed to stand. Whatever measures can be usefully sustained without provoking WW3 and nuclear war must be sustained. This involves difficult brinksmanship decisions and pressure on Russia of various sorts. This has to continue until not a Russian soldier is on Ukraine soil. What is Ukraine soil will have to be defined by a new border agreement if that can ever be made. There’s no easy solution to all this but letting Russia swallow Ukraine with impunity is not an option. This would just encourage endless totalitarian aggression.

    1. Wikipedia.

  23. But with the exceptions of the Gerrnan industrial assets shipped to the USSR, and the Luxembourg agreement with Israel, a quick read of the Wikipedia article does not suggest the latter were very significant, compared say to the Marshall plan.

    I don’t know how to measure that. You may be right; I can’t say. The Wikipedia article mentions the use of German forced labour as a component of reparations: how significant was that?–certainly more significant after the Second World War than after the First. The Wikipedia article mentions also German payment for Allied occupation expenses–how significant was that?

    It may be that if you add up every component of reparations you would find it was balanced (or more than balanced) by assistance received under the Marshall Plan; but then, it also may be that if you add up all the assistance received by Germany under the Dawes Plan and the Young Plan that it balanced all that Germany actually paid in reparations over the corresponding period.

    If you think strictly in dollar terms*, I don’t think it’s going to be possible to arrive at an adequate final accounting which will tell you whether Germany was more harshly treated after the First World War or after the Second World War.

    * I make this qualification because the key difference in my view was that after the Second World War the whole of Germany was subjected to a prolonged military occupation, which is not what happened after the First World War, and whatever the material cost of the occupation, the psychological effect of prolonged military occupation is always going to be severe.

    I did not suggest that German opinion was right on the justice of Versailles. But it’s a material point in assessing whether the original demand for reparations was right or realistic.

    I’m not sure I’m following your logic correctly here. It’s not right or realistic to penalise people when they themselves think it’s not fair for them to be penalised? It’s only right and realistic to penalise people when they themselves think it’s fair? If that’s what you mean, I can’t agree. Maybe I have failed to understand your meaning correctly.

    In the red corner we have the greatest economist of the 20th century … In the blue corner we have a bunch of historians with limited expertise in economics …

    How do you know how much expertise in economics they have/had?

    Anyway, if you want to rely on Keynes’s opinion, you need to take account of reports that he later changed his mind on this subject.

  24. Perhaps we may have a better tomorrow if we try solve for the future our present problems, without the same language, history, processes and and thought patterns – historiography & punitive retributions – that created them. 

    By using names or tribes, instead of higher level future focussed abstraction so as NOT to be triggering of history wars. We get caught in an intelligence absorbing historic streetlamp, distracting from solving for a better tomorrow. As interesting as all this is, I don’t see progress toward a better tomorrow.

    OP in NYT states below, nothing has changed, as imho, we use the past to hobble the future.  “Nothing that matters has been changed by Yeats’s death. The opening section expects nothing better than…

        …”the importance and noise of tomorrow
         When the brokers are roaring like beasts on the floor of the Bourse,
         And the poor have the sufferings to which they are fairly accustomed,
         And each in the cell of himself is almost convinced of his freedom.”

    Most here are more learned than I, so see if you might try compose a comment with concepts, not curmudgeonly cronies and horrible history, or insightful yet ambiguous poets. Yes, me too.

    When I was  confronted, as a system dynamics trainer, with people who knew zero jargon nor history, yet had absolute power, control and insight into the system in question, I tried not to use jargon or refer to “some person” as if they’d get it! Very hard ask I know. 

    I think different high level communications is really important for the future. 

    Give it a go. You’ll like it. So will the future. JQ, how about a jargon free thread. Worth a try.


    Wildly hopeful suggestions.
    Truth & Reconciliations instead of war crimes tribunal? “Oh how Pollyanna-ish that is KT2”  I hear you cry. We may still cage forever those intransigent enough to not recant.

    And  maybe use in reverse, the social media and comms megaphones to catch those conspiring to undermine the future with the past. Although this is fraught with danger, comms and social media is a tool – we could revert to good Commons if we agreed with total transparency imo. No oligarchs,  perpetual premiers, States or billionaires invited.

    And I hear your deafening cries at the suggestion of a jubilee. Reparations, what are they good for?

  25. I’d read many of Solzhenitsyn’s books but was surprised of his belief in the Russia of old and approved of Putin’s views on nationalism. Strangely enough these views are essentially fascist.

  26. “Or perhaps Grey’s corollary: “sufficiently advanced stupidity is indistinguishable from malice.”

    “The Ukrainian Ambassador very intentionally asked each of us on the zoom to NOT share anything on social media during the meeting to protect the security of President Zelenskyy. Appalling and reckless ignorance by two US Senators.”
    — Rep. Dean Phillips (@RepDeanPhillips) March 5, 2022″

  27. Putin, Putin & Putin. Sanctions won’t change the hoi poloi in Russia, but this might.

    Angry relatives realising lies, “the soldiers thought they were going for military drills in Belarus.”

    Sent by Putin himself to war as cannon fodder
    ” .. made by the country’s national guard, a separate internal military force directly subordinated to the president, Vladimir Putin.”

    And 15 years now for teting to tell the truth.

    Is civil war possible in Russia?

    “On Friday, Putin signed into law a bill that introduced jail terms of up to 15 years for intentionally spreading “fake” or “false” news about the Russian army, forcing many Russian and international outlets to cease their coverage of the events.”

  28. On a point of history, on 1 December 1991 a referendum in which some 80 per cent of eligible voters participated, Ukrainians voted by a 90 per cent majority to declare independent. To achieve such an outcome, a majority of ethnic Russians as well as a majority of ethnic Ukrainians must have voted in favour of Ukrainian independence.

    This was followed by the Belovezh Accords in which Russia, Ukraine and Belarus agreed to recognise each other as independent states.

  29. If the latest “military action” can be viewed as an escalation of the 2014 Russian/Ukrainian war then these sanctions are very late.

    However, the delay has allowed the Ukraine military to remake themselves into a more formidable fighting force.

    It’s unfortunate that NATO and the UN are seen to be acting as observers, Russia views this as a sign of weakness and presses on regardless.

    The oil/gas sanction by the US doesn’t seem meaningful – it is the EU, in particular Germany and Italy, that are major markets for Russian energy. This could be difficult, but not impossible to alter quickly.

  30. rog: – “The oil/gas sanction by the US doesn’t seem meaningful

    The US is a net gas exporter, so a US sanction on Russian gas won’t hurt US fossil gas producers but will hurt US consumers with rising gas prices.

    The US is a net oil importer, so a US sanction on Russian oil imports will hurt USA with rising petroleum fuel prices. Rising petroleum fuel prices increases prices for nearly everything (pretty much everywhere on the planet).

    IMO, we are all witnessing the beginnings of the 4th global oil supply shock. Buckle up for a rough ride!
    See YouTube video titled Worst Oil Price Shock Since 1980 — When Will It End? (If Ever) | Energy Expert Art Berman, published Mar 9, duration 0:57:07:

  31. But as Prof. J.Q. and others have pointed out, there is such a thing as demand elasticity and substitution. We really do not have to guzzle the amounts of oil and gas we have guzzled in the past. This applies particularly to the US and Australia but also to the EU somewhat.

    Under COVID-19, retired people like me and my better half are using 1/10th of the fossil fuels we used to use and zero passenger jet fuel. And you know what? It isn’t killing us. Actually, if we go for more walks and read more literature on the page (for example) it improves our general health and even life amenity i some ways. People just have to stop being such egregious fossil fuel junkies.

    The other thing is substitution. Move to renewable energy. Get an electric car when affordable and even contemplate the radical move of living without a car. The latter depends on location of course.

    We should welcome a massive oil shock and the consequent accelerated transition to a renewable economy. We should welcome a move away from endless growth and wasteful consumer capitalism to a new frugalism which nevertheless provides high levels of essential government services, especially human services and high tech services with a low energy cost per unit of quality “use-value” output.

    Bring on the oil shock! It won’t kill us. Only holding on to old, unsustainable life-styles and having idiotic wars over empire-building and stealing resources will kill us.

  32. It seems the US oil/gas embargo is having an effect; the Italian energy firm ENI has cancelled any deals with Russia.

    Is this meaningful? I think so, about 40% of their product is from Russia.

    ENI joins Shell, Exxon & BP in pulling out of Russia.

  33. Ikonoclast, the environment will suffer when media-generated resentment gets everyone Left of GhengisKhan booted out of government and Rightie vandals take over.

  34. “Chartbook #91: What if Putin’s war regime turns to MMT?… or to wartime Keynesianism?

    Adam Tooze
    Mar 3

    “So with these kind of arguments floating around Moscow, here is the question.

    “In placing so much weight on sanctions, are we not tacitly assuming that Putin’s regime, rather than using Keynesian fiscal and monetary policy to cushion the impact, will stick to the hawkish conservatism that dominated his regime’s fiscal policy up to the recent past?

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