Plus ça change . . .

This is from a 1946 Life magazine article written by Joseph Kennedy:

As I keep saying, this isn’t about NATO expansion. Putin knows that NATO is no threat to Russia. He’s using it as an excuse to recreate Greater Russia. He’s not afraid of NATO, he’s afraid of democracy. Appeasing Putin will only make him greedy for more.

PS. The same issue quoted Churchill as stating that an “Iron Curtain” had descended across Europe.



70 Responses to “Plus ça change . . .”

  1. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    26. February 2022 at 11:13

    I agree that Putin’s primary concern is his regime and ability to launder and hide the tremendous amount of moneynhe likely steals and extorts from the Russian economy. But, that doesn’t mean NATO expansion doesn’t threaten Russia’s broader national interests.

    I agree, of course, that we must stare Putin down. I’m willing to support direct war, if necessary. Are you?

  2. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    26. February 2022 at 11:30

    Michael. My view as always been that we should go to war to defend countries that we have a NATO-like mutual defense pact with, and not others. We should help Ukraine in other ways.

    And NATO is not a threat to Russia’s national interest, it’s a threat to Putin’s interest.

  3. Gravatar of art andreassen art andreassen
    26. February 2022 at 11:51

    Scott: After taking into consideration some of the statements he made in his rambling rationalization for his invasion Google “Alexander Duggin”.

  4. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    26. February 2022 at 12:50


    Finland is not a NATO member, but is a member of the EU, and even the monetary union. Should we go to war to protect Finland, if need be?

  5. Gravatar of Classical Liberal Classical Liberal
    26. February 2022 at 13:14

    “He’s not afraid of NATO, he’s afraid of democracy.”

    That’s EXACTLY right. Well done. Hopefully this point has become clear to most people now.

  6. Gravatar of Yohan Yohan
    26. February 2022 at 14:43

    Yeah, please don’t get involved. Russia should not have taken sides either, but I sort of understand putins mentality.

    Your arm sales to kiev was a political blunder. It scared Putin and put all of this into motion. Sadly, it might lead to a global war.

    America needs to learn how to pick and choose their battles. Like Rinat mentioned, it’s also important to be morally consistent. You can’t invade Iraq, or fund rebels in Nicaragua, Somalia, Libya and Syria, then say Putin is violating international law. He is! And I hate that guy. But America is not in a moral position to condemn him. And neither is the military in Kiev. Not after eight years of bombing.

    If Sweden or Switzerland wants to criticize him, then I think it’s reasonable. It carries some weight. But America should probably not mention “idealogy” and “law” to any country.

    Just my two cents.

  7. Gravatar of steve steve
    26. February 2022 at 15:11

    Surprised you economists are not writing about the economics with Russia and Ukraine. Using World Bank numbers Russia and the Baltics all had a Gap per capita of about $2500 in 1995. Russia is now at $10,000 and the Baltics at about $20,000. Ukraine at $4,000. Of importance, Russia peaked at about $16,000 in 2014-2015. This is as much or more about Putin wanting to cover up for recent poor economic performance. In his first 8 years Russia did very well which make him very popular but lately he is not doing well. He helped foment and support, still does, the conflict in east Ukraine in 2014 which gave him a huge bump in favorability but he had lost a lot of that. It is going up again with this attack against Ukraine.

    Note that in the EU vs the Eurasian option Putin wanted the EU agreed that Ukraine could maintain trade with Russia. However, Putin was angry with Ukraine over this and Russia cut a lot of its trade with Ukraine. Now they trade some with the EU and even more with China. Putin wants Ukraine back as an economic vassal state.


  8. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    26. February 2022 at 16:50

    Michael, Of course not. How are we going to get countries to join NATO if we defend them when they are free-riders? The whole purpose of NATO is mutual security.

    If Finland joins NATO tomorrow and Russia invades Tuesday then we should defend them.

  9. Gravatar of Dan Dan
    26. February 2022 at 18:51

    When we talk about NATO, I think it’s important to understand what that means.

    The U.S. has an active military of 1.3M, with 800k to 900k in reserves. So we’ll say 2.2M total. The second most powerful member is Turkey, with 300K active, and 20K in reserves.

    France, Germany and the UK round out the top five (UK only has 144k). Everyone else is under 100K. Latvia, for example, has an army of 6K. So whenever you talk NATO, you are really talking about the American taxpayer and the American military, because no country outside the top five can mobilize by themselves.

    America doesn’t need NATO. Europe needs America. And herein lies the problem. Personally, I don’t want to pay for a European war. Not with my money, and not with American lives.

    WW2 was different. It was a real threat to America. Hitler had already taken France and Japan attacked our soil.

    I believe it’s not only wrong to equate the two, but its also wrong to subsdize european militaries. The American tax-payer didn’t sign up for that.

  10. Gravatar of MIchael Sandifer MIchael Sandifer
    26. February 2022 at 19:45


    Your statement would suggest that Ukraine and Georgia haven’t joined NATO, because they haven’t wanted to badly enough, as if Russia’s interference weren’t a factor in them failing to meet certain criteria for membership.

    Here’s the US State Department’s website on criteria for joining NATO:,respect%20sovereignty%20outside%20their%20borders.

    To quote:

    “NATO membership is potentially open to all of Europe’s emerging democracies that share the alliance’s values and are ready to meet the obligations of membership.”

    There is no checklist for membership, yet, there is a list of essential requirements.

    I can tell you that before this war, Georgia was spending about 4% of GDP on defense, which is double the minimum requirement. Meanwhile, we’ve long let much wealthier NATO members slide on their contributions to mutual defense, and with respect to other criteria as well. I’m thinking of Turkey, in the latter case, which has a much weakened democracy in recent years.

    It is hence at least somewhat naive to suggest that we should restrict NATO membership based on anything like strict criteria in terms of member obligations. It is also naive to think that we don’t have vital interests in defending some non-NATO members in the case of attack from Russia.

    And are you aware of just how strong a statement NATO made about Ukraine and Georgia joining the treaty in the future? I link to, and quote it below:

    “NATO welcomes Ukraine’s and Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations for membership in NATO. We agreed today that these countries will become members of NATO. Both nations have made valuable contributions to Alliance operations. We welcome the democratic reforms in Ukraine and Georgia and look forward to free and fair parliamentary elections in Georgia in May. MAP is the next step for Ukraine and Georgia on their direct way to membership. Today we make clear that we support these countries’ applications for MAP. Therefore we will now begin a period of intensive engagement with both at a high political level to address the questions still outstanding pertaining to their MAP applications. We have asked Foreign Ministers to make a first assessment of progress at their December 2008 meeting. Foreign Ministers have the authority to decide on the MAP applications of Ukraine and Georgia.”

    You claim Putin isn’t concerned about NATO, but I strongly disagree. NATO is an alliance that primarily exists to oppose Russia, though that is not the sole perceived benefit of the alliance. I agree that Putin is concerned first and foremost about his powerbase in Russia, but I also think Russia has legitimate national security concerns. I also think Russia has good reason not to trust the US, after many borken treaties in recent years and considerable hypocracy in the application of international law, including the invasion and occupation of Iraq and the recent trade wars.

    That said, I strongly oppose Russia, so I don’t mind making Russia feel less secure. In fact, I want to pressure them into a more rapid collapse. I’m just honest about what I think we’re doing, and I realize that to play the game we’re playing in Europe, we can’t be afraid of going to war.

    And I’m not saying an invasion of Finland is likely at this point, but Russia is threatening Finland and Sweden in the event they join NATO. The idea that we would allow highly developed members of the EU to face Russia without more direct US intervention to me is absurd.

    Developed Europe has many times the resources required to defend itself, but only through collective security, and that has never worked well there for very long in terms of avoiding major wars without US leadership. We are the indispensible nation there, and we have vital interests in defending Finland and Sweden, in my opinion.

    We would not oridinarily have vital interests in defending Ukraine and Georiga, but since we strongly offered a roadmap to NATO membership, I think it became vital to defend their interests too. It’s not enough, in my very unpopular opinion to merely make Russia pay a high price for this invasion. We must absolutely reverse any gains. If we can do so without direct war, so be it, but it would have been easier to have the American forces in place to deter this aggression in the first place.

  11. Gravatar of MIchael Sandifer MIchael Sandifer
    26. February 2022 at 20:10

    I can summarize much of the above by saying that I think it’s in the US vital interest to avoid major wars in Europe, with or without NATO. NATO members know that, which is why even many long-standing members often fail to meet their obligations under the treaty.

    So, while I value NATO and want to maintain it, and then we have to meet explicit committments, to paraphrase Kissinger, alliances without confluent interests are useless, and with strong confluent interests, are superfluous. That’s not quite true in the case of NATO, as the treaty establishes a permanent infrastructure for allied military operations, but let’s not kid ourselves about the fact that the US is the backbone of the organization.

  12. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    26. February 2022 at 22:25

    Dan, If we’d set up NATO after WWI, then WWII might never have happened. Don’t assume that what begins in Europe will stay in Europe.

    “Personally, I don’t want to pay for a European war.”

    You are missing the point. You are paying to avoid a European war.

    Michael, Joseph Kennedy was right—it’s crazy to think that NATO is a threat to Russia. I’m not going to even argue the point. Russia should become a peaceful democratic country and join NATO.

    As far as Ukraine and Georgia, we should not admit members who do not have secure borders. NATO is for countries with well established borders.

  13. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    26. February 2022 at 23:43


    Putin did want to join NATO and the EU early on. I don’t think the Soviet history is relevant here, since, you know, the USSR no longer exists.

    Also, you seem to be overlooking the fact that as the Warsaw Pact dissolved, we promised Russia that we would not expand NATO. Yeltsin was furious when we began to expand NATO, as we openly gloated about winning the Cold War and rubbed Russia’s nose in defeat. This was as opposed to at least offering something like a Marshall Plan for eastern Europe, which would have helped build good will, if nothing else. With appropriate cooperation from eastern Europe, the whole region might have looked quite a bit better than it does today.

    So, we lied to Russia as it allowed the Warsaw Pact to dissolve, we expanded NATO and rubbed their noses in defeat, we violated the ABM treaty, violated international law with our invasion of Iraq, violated our deal with Iran, violated WTO rules with our recent trade wars, and we routinely abuse our softpower capabilities as a bully. We’ve been quite reckless and growing moreso, so I can understand why many may not want to negotiate with us.

    That’s not to say we should have admitted Russia to NATO, and it’s not to say Putin isn’t evil and is currently trustworthy. He is evil, dangerous, and must be defeated. Whatever Putin was in 2000, he now seems to be a wannabe Czar.

    I just don’t think we necessarily had to end up in such a dire situation and I think it was a mistake to offer paths to NATO membership to Ukraine and Georgia, particularly since we don’t see defending them as worthy of spilling American blood.

    Also, just to go back to WW2 for a bit, had FDR insisted on negotiating with Stalin about the shape of post-war Europe while the outcome in the east was very much in doubt, and as the Soviets were heavily dependent on lend-lease, perhaps NATO would not have been necessary. Churchill urged him to negotiate this way, but he ignored him.

  14. Gravatar of David S David S
    27. February 2022 at 00:14

    Overshadowing these discussions is the nuclear threat, and to what degree will Putin play that card as the war continues. My hope—the world’s hope–is that Putin’s self-preservation instincts will overcome his desire to be a grand figure of Russian history. Direct military actions by an NATO member against Russia are too provocative, but at what point does logistical support to Ukraine trigger Putin to issue more threats? The economic sanctions are wrist slaps, and China is obviously seeing opportunities here to expand influence as a reliable customer for Russian exports.

    I’m hoping that there a few Stanislav Petrov’s left in Russia. Up to this point I think that Putin’s generals have only been telling him what he wants to hear. A Ukrainian campaign could turn into a slog that makes the Chechen wars look like a skirmish.

  15. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    27. February 2022 at 02:35

    I should add that, it is absurd to deny Ukraine, for example, membership in NATO on the basis that they have territorial disputes, when it’s Russia that is causing the dispute.

    Also, while I think it was a mistake to offer NATO membership to Ukraine and Georgia in 2008, given our lack of commitment to their security, I would prefer that the US be more committed to their security and at least offer them a parallel implicot arrangement if we can’t get other Europeans onboard for NATO membership. A sizable US military presence in Poland could have served as a deterent to any invasion, while keeping US forces out of any traps in so-called separatist regions in eastern Ukraine.

  16. Gravatar of postkey postkey
    27. February 2022 at 03:54

    The stupidity of NATO?
    “when ronald reagan found out about abel archer 83 he went pale ronald reagan mr evil empire went pale”
    “29:22 it’s able archer 83 there’s a nato
    29:25 exercise
    29:26 it almost brought about the end of the
    29:28 world
    29:29 because nato was was testing their
    29:31 nuclear command and control
    29:34 and the russians looked at that and said
    29:36 we don’t think this is a test we think
    29:37 this is the real thing
    29:39 and so as the as nato started issuing
    29:42 launch codes
    29:43 for training purposes the russians went
    29:46 full alert
    29:47 and all it would have taken was a bird
    29:49 to hiccup
    29:51 and the missiles would have flown and
    29:52 the world would have ended and abel
    29:54 archer when ronald reagan found out
    29:55 about abel archer 83 he went pale
    29:59 ronald reagan mr evil empire
    30:01 went pale and that’s when he said we
    30:03 have to change this calculus
    30:06 so do we really want to recreate a
    30:08 situation so that an american president
    30:10 goes pale to before we disarm or should
    30:13 we have already invented that wheel
    30:16 and just say we don’t need these weapons
    30:19 well that’s the situation in the world
    30:20 today it’s a very dangerous situation”

  17. Gravatar of postkey postkey
    27. February 2022 at 03:59

    NATO realises that ‘confronting’ Russia would mean nuclear war.
    NATO {maybe?} has achieved its objective and provoked a Russian ‘invasion’ and the concomitant ‘problems’ of occupation.

  18. Gravatar of postkey postkey
    27. February 2022 at 04:12

    “54:39 if you take a look at what was going on
    54:40 in nato last year 20 000 nato troops
    54:44 were on ukrainian soil
    54:48 dozens of american fighter aircraft were
    54:50 rotating through hundreds of american
    54:53 military personnel had established a
    54:55 permanent mission
    54:57 we don’t want to call it a base because
    54:58 then we’d have to report to congress
    55:00 there was a mission
    55:01 which was a base where we trained the
    55:04 ukrainians on nato tactics using nato
    55:07 equipment
    55:08 uh the navy the ukrainian army dressed
    55:10 like a nato army
    55:12 they were starting to be organized like
    55:14 a nato army
    55:16 and what happens when you look like a
    55:17 duck just
    55:19 it’s quack like a duck walk like a duck
    55:21 you’re a duck
    55:22 so
    55:23 even though people say well ukraine
    55:24 wasn’t a nato member they were they were
    55:26 a de facto member of nato they had an
    55:28 army that was an extension of nato so
    55:30 much so that ukrainian troops were
    55:32 deploying overseas in support of nato
    55:35 missions
    55:37 um when when nato holds an exercise in
    55:39 europe
    55:40 ukrainian troops go and train with the
    55:43 nato forces so the the idea that
    55:46 you know russia had nothing to fear from
    55:48 uh from ukraine is absurd in the extreme
    55:51 uh nate you know ukraine was very much
    55:54 a um
    55:55 a a nato member . . . “

  19. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    27. February 2022 at 08:40

    The news of SWIFT sanctions is very welcome and early reports out of Russia are that bank runs may already have begun. Also, there are reports that Putin has agreed to talk with Ukraine directly, hopefully indicating Putin is seeking a way out of the crisis.

    Why we didn’t put these sanctions on sooner, such as during the build-up on the border, is beyond me. European NATO partners are very frustrating to deal with.

  20. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    27. February 2022 at 08:42

    To all those who talk about Russia’s “legitimate security concerns”: What about everybody else’s legitimate security concerns? What about Ukraine’s? What about all of Russia’s neighbors, smaller and weaker than Russia, yet so close to it? Is it their sole purpose of existence to serve as Russia’s doormats, because, you know, Russia deserves doormats? How come the closer countries are to Russia, the more they run from it, rather than towards it? So many questions, I know.

    To all those who talk about promises to not expand NATO, well there were no treatises about that. There was however the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, a treatise whereby the US, the UK, Russia, and to a lesser extent China (!) and France, guaranteed Ukraine territorial integrity in exchange for giving up their nukes. The wording via Wikipedia : “The memorandum included security assurances against threats or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazahkstan.” This very specific wording suggests that, NATO membership or not, the US and the UK actually signed a treaty giving assurances to Ukraine against the use of force or political domination. And Russia became the chief violator of said agreement. Lesson, never give up your nukes, no matter what Russia signs. And: assistance to Ukraine in the current crisis is actually guaranteed by treaty.

    Just on one thing, I do feel a bit bad about Trump. All the while many of us called him an irrational maniac with a potential hair trigger finger on the nuclear arsenal. Turns out that person was Putin, all along. He masqueraded as a cool strategist for decades. That mask is now gone for good. When a German social democrat government orders a 100 billion Euro defense spending increase on a Sunday session of Bundestag convened overnight… some message finally hit home.

  21. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    27. February 2022 at 08:56


    I think the US has created legitimate security concerns for many countries around the world, but I haven’t had sympathy for Russia for quite some time. I favor killing as many Russians as necessary, if that’s what’s required to end their adventurism. If necessary, I support a full counterattack from Poland, spearheaded by the US, or even the US going in alone.

    But, it would be foolish, in my view, to ignore mistakes we made in the past that helped lead to the ridiculous situation we find ourselves in.

    Most European members of NATO, including especially Germany, did not want to extend even a roadmap for membership to Ukraine and Georgia in 2008, but we did it anyway. The US insisted on it. How dumb can foreign policy be? Now that we’re tested, we don’t have the stomach for a war.

    I’m truly disgusted by American foreign policy incompetence and even cowardice at times. We are a stupid, decadent people, lacking the wisdom or resolve to use the vast power we wield with much sense of responsibility.

    Not only do we now have to defend Ukraine for practical reasons, but for moral ones as well. How can we let Russia crush them, after having helped lead them down the path to confrontation?

    Whatever may have been possible with Putin in the past, he is now untrustworthy and only demonstrable strength will contain him.

  22. Gravatar of David S David S
    27. February 2022 at 09:21

    For purely selfish reasons I’m annoyed by having to think about Armageddon. I’m halfway through Kevin Erdmann’s book and have just gotten to the good parts. If I’m motivated, and the world still exists, I’d like to cross reference the timelines with Scott’s book. Erdmann is focusing on events in 2005-06 and that corresponds with my memory of how things seemed to be sliding a little bit sideways in the housing markets. Like many people, I still tend to associate the start Great Recession with the collapse of Bear Stearns, and then Lehman. It’s hard to overcome this false causation.

    Where are the usual crazy trolls on this thread? Are they taking some time to be with their families before the end?

  23. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    27. February 2022 at 09:37


    not sure if one can have a foreign policy w/o some mistakes, I think the worst behavior of the US was where they abandoned allies or, as you pointed out, where the policy was ambiguous. Otherwise I wouldn’t blame countries for being cautious, or in the case of Germany, going literally overboard trying to rope in a belligerent country like Russia with peaceful means. As long as there is life, there is hope, and oftentimes, it works. What I don’t get is that in the case of Ukraine there was an actual treatise. And this could and should have been enforced with international pressure much much earlier.

    Cold comfort, this thing now hopefully broke the back of the 5th columns the Russians built everywhere, especially in Europe: the far right parties, the Brexiteers (sadly too late), the more lunatic green fantasies, the Putin whisperers, the loony media. So Ukraine may be a blessing in disguise (as long as it doesn’t end in nuclear war already). People finally realize why NATO exists. Nevermind Brexit and EU squabbles, the West has shown it exists as a strong bond of shared values, its unity is quite impressive across and beyond EU, NATO and what have you – a unified bloc of Western (W.E.I.R.D.) values actually stood its ground this time, and coming from grass roots public opinion. I had lost all hope of that ever happening in my life time, but I suppose, a frightening genuine threat from the outside does work wonders. So, far from showing Western decadence: I am actually impressed by the West this time.

    The new US administration looks good too. Professional, strategic, well-organized. And the exit from Afghanistan was obviously necessary to handle this crisis, which was well anticipated (though not in its extreme form), and to handle coming crises with China too that one can easily anticipate at this point. I am pretty confident that someone, somewhere in D.C., said something along the lines of “we need to free up our backs for threats that really matter, getting out of Afghanistan, yea maybe it won’t be pretty but who cares”. Because, really, strategically, Afghanistan matters zilch to the US as soon as Al Quaeda was gone. Nation Building in Central Asia is not a strategic imperative for the US. But Ukraine matters for Europe, and Europe is the US’ bridge head in Eurasia. And China matters for all of the Pacific. So, diversions such as Afghanistan had to be let go.

  24. Gravatar of Sarah Sarah
    27. February 2022 at 10:24

    “To all those who talk about Russia’s “legitimate security concerns: What about everybody else’s legitimate security concerns? What about Ukraine’s?”

    – I believe to answer this question one must first recognize that there is assyemtric information. When it comes to RU, western news is very “one-sided”. For example, you won’t hear about Kiev bombing Donbas for eight years. They simply won’t mention the 100,000 deaths. These are ethnic Russians, who have been fighting for their freedom since 2014. Do these people deserve autonomy?
    Our media tells us these are just Russian soldiers. They call it a “false flag”, but there is independent media & films that show otherwise. Biden says he has “evidence”, but he’s not revealing it (See AP article). For me, this is concerning. The American people deserve evidence, not incendiary rhetoric.

    And I think this concerns much of the East. Putin looks at the 1.5B in arms sales to Kiev, the anti-russia western media, and the coordinated sanctions as a “security threat”. When you factor in the clear violations of internatioanl law, such as America’s involvment in Nicaragua, Somalia, Libya Iraq, Afghanistan, Boznia, Cuba, Syria, just to name a few – then I think it’s resonable to conclude that he see’s the west as a “threat”. These are not unreasonable views. Noam Chomsky has spoken about this for the last fifty years. It’s not morally consistent to prop up dictators and invade others when it suits one’s interest, then claim other countries are violating international law when they do the same thing.

    I don’t agree with some perceptions that NATO is a wonderful and peaceful organization, or that it’s presence is a deterrent. I don’t believe paying taxes for NATO “stop’s war”. The facts, in my view, don’t support that claim. The rise of Nazi, Germany, was predominetly the result of threats to the rhineland (to pay debt that was impossible to afford). The German people chose a strong man to protect them from the outside threat that was making their life difficult.

    “What about all of Russia’s neighbors, smaller and weaker than Russia, yet so close to it? Is it their sole purpose of existence to serve as Russia’s doormats, because, you know, Russia deserves doormats? How come the closer countries are to Russia, the more they run from it, rather than towards it? So many questions, I know.”

    – They don’t all run from Putin. Belarus has close ties, as does Moldova, Azerbaijan, Khazkhstan, China, Mongolia, North Korea (don’t laugh), and Crimea.

  25. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    27. February 2022 at 10:52

    Don’t want to jump the gun(no pun), but there are increasing indications that Putin is looking for an off-ramp. Looks like Belarus may get involved militarily, which could signal that the invasion has not gone nearly as well as planned, and perhaps Russia needs Belarus to supply reinforcements to at least allow for a stronger negotiating position.

    Or, negotiations may just be a stalling tactic and Putin will continue to try to meet certain military objectives with said reinforcements, or some combination.

    Either way, Belarus must now be severely punished with an eye toward regime change there.

  26. Gravatar of Classical Liberal Classical Liberal
    27. February 2022 at 11:06


    This is complete nonsense. Ukraine was absolutely no threat to Russia and showed no aggression towards Russia. Putin’s claims of “Nazism” and that the Ukrainians have committed genocide are so obviously absurd to the rest of the world they are laughable. Here’s the issue: the people of Ukraine don’t want to be ruled by Russia. They want to be closer to Europe politically and economically. The want to have a democratic government not a dictator for life. And THAT is what Putin hates. But you and Putin should ask yourselves why that is. If being in Russia’s “sphere of influence” is so great, why do people in Estonia, Latvia, Latvia, Romania, Slovakia, Poland and Ukraine want to be tied together with Europe and the EU as much possible?

    The Ukrainian people will never accept rule by Russia or a Putin stooge. And neither will the rest of the civilized world.

  27. Gravatar of Sarah Sarah
    27. February 2022 at 11:12

    The Swift sanctions is the same as declaring war.

    It’s not smart to back Russia into a corner. This is exactly what happened after WW1. The international community kept verbally threatining Germany, and it led to the radiclization of it’s people. (me against the world mentality).

    You are repeating all the same mistakes.

  28. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    27. February 2022 at 11:29

    What does Russia offer the world, other than raw commodities? It is mostly a gloried petro state, with all the typical trappings of severe economic underdevelopment and extreme corruption. Putin is a gangster who steals every ruble, dollar, or Euro that he cannot extort. His hand is personally in every major pocket in Russia, and far too much of his stolen wealth makes its way to foreign politicians, media sources, think tanks, and business people. Exhibit 1 is the erstwhile NRA, right here in the US.

    Putin is a cancer on the world and should be eradicated, irrespective of the unfair treatment of Russia vis-a-vis the US in the past.

  29. Gravatar of Sarah Sarah
    27. February 2022 at 11:42

    “Putin’s claims of “Nazism” and that the Ukrainians have committed genocide are so obviously absurd to the rest of the world they are laughable.”

    I think it’s important to separate Putin comments from independent media. I’m not referring to anything Putin says, because what people say is not evidence. I don’t care what Putin or Biden says. I care about facts.

    I’m referring to the documentaries that show bombings in Donbas, and the people in Donbas talking about their long fight for self government. (indepentkyiv, breaking point, amongst others). These videos are hard evidence of the day to day reality. People in the region estimate around 100,000 lives have been lost. I didn’t use the word genocide. You are attacking a strawman. To deny the bombings, is to deny reality. To deny that these people aren’t fighting for their freedom, is to deny the truth.

    I presume you are not denying the 1.5B in armsales, or the 20,000 NATO troops training Ukrainian militia?

    Stating something is “laughable” is not providing proof. Documentaries show a Ukranian civil war, not a false flag operation. We haven’t seen any information from Biden, Obama, or Trump that shows “false flags”, other than what they tell us at a press conference.

  30. Gravatar of Yohan Yohan
    27. February 2022 at 12:03

    Sarah, the two you mentioned show the civil war, but they are Hollywood and therefore a bit biased towards the Ukrainian side. This is probably the best documentary that show’s Donbass’s view of events.

  31. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    27. February 2022 at 12:12

    Michael, As you know, I’m not one to defend all of US foreign policy.

    If we admitted Ukraine to NATO right now then we’d have to send US troops to try to retake Crimea. No thanks. Don’t admit countries to NATO if they don’t have well established borders.

    mbka, Good comment.

  32. Gravatar of Classical Liberal Classical Liberal
    27. February 2022 at 12:22


    “People in the region estimate around 100,000 lives have been lost.”

    That is total BS. It’s complete RT/Putin garbage. The truth is this:

    “The UN estimates 14,200-14,400 people were killed in eastern Ukraine between 14 April 2014, when the conflict started, and 21 February 2022, including:

    at least 3,407 civilians
    4,400 Ukrainian forces personnel
    6,500 members of armed groups
    Up to 39,000 people have been injured, an estimated 7,000-9,000 of them civilians.”

    We’re not going to believe Putin’s lies. Or yours. Putin will not lead Russia back to greatness. Quite the opposite.

  33. Gravatar of MIchael Sandifer MIchael Sandifer
    27. February 2022 at 12:42


    3 more comments on this:

    1. Even I think an attack on Crimea would perhaps be a bridge too far, given the Russian naval base there, its strategic importance, and its history. I don’t think we’d necessarily have to take Crimea to admit Ukraine into NATO, and even if some change must be made there. Something short of it being part of Ukraine might be worked out.

    2. We’re already adding American forces in Poland. We can simply swell our forces there, without rhetoric, and make the Russians always have to think twice before taking such actions again. That’s probably the best way forward.

    3. I think your moral hazard concerns regarding NATO, while not completely unjustified, are way overblown, simply because we have no choice, but to be the hegemon keeping the peace in Europe, and everyone knows it.

    If fellow NATO members wanted to dissolve the alliance, but we were still welcome in states bordering Russia, would you want to wash your hands of Europe?

  34. Gravatar of Todd Kreider Todd Kreider
    27. February 2022 at 12:53

    Steve wrote: “Using World Bank numbers Russia and the Baltics all had a Gap per capita of about $2500 in 1995. Russia is now at $10,000 and the Baltics at about $20,000. Ukraine at $4,000. Of importance, Russia peaked at about $16,000 in 2014-2015.”

    You need to use purchasing power parity (PPP) to compare per capita GDP across countries. The World Bank uses constant 2017 dollars. Putin came to power when Russia’s economy was starting to grow again in 2000. Russia’s GDP per capita PPP was $22,000 in 1990 and that had fallen to $12,000 by 1998. Russia rebounded to have a GDP per capita of $25,000 in 2008 but has only reached $27,000 since then.

    Ukraine’s GDP per capita PPP was $16,000 in 1990 and slid to $7,000 before it began to rise at a slower rate than Russia’s recovery, stalling at around $13,000 since 2008.

  35. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    27. February 2022 at 13:53

    I am very glad that we have managed a rare unity between Scott, Michael and mbka on this important point of our own survival. This leaves me hopeful that the Western world as a whole will show a united response. The world as we know it depends on it.

    Scott made two very important points:

    1) It has nothing to do with NATO. It is purely nationalistic-ideological. I refer, for example, to Putin’s speech on Monday in which Putin referred to Ukraine as an artificial creation by Lenin – and this “creation” of Ukraine as a historical mistake. And we still think we provoked Putin. What else should happen so that our debate culture somehow arrives in reality? Already in July 2021 Putin has published a page-long “historical treatise” as an author (!), in which he negates the existence of Ukrainians. They are Russians, he said. Ukrainians do not exist.

    2) Russian interests and Putin’s interests are no longer identical – and this is true now for several years. The time has come for the Russian Elite to remove this war criminal from office. The Germans did not have this willpower in 1933-1945, even though a vanishingly small minority of very courageous individuals came very close in 1939 (Elser) and 1944 (Stauffenberg).

    Otherwise, I like Michael Sandifer’s hard line. Direct NATO intervention would be foolish, but anything less now must be carried out immediately. This means the delivery of conventional weapons on an unlimited scale. And why not the deployment of volunteer battalions outside of NATO ranks?

    So what do I like about Michael Sandifer’s point of view after all? Well, it’s his merciless, self-sacrificing look at bitter reality: we must be willing to die for this conflict. Let the threats of nuclear war come. We must stand strong, Putin’s threats must not impress us. Putin will otherwise only be further encouraged.

    The Social Democratic German chancellor now wants to deliver 1000 anti-tank weapons and 500 Stinger missiles to Ukraine “in order to force Putin back to the negotiating table.” Apparently, the good chancellor still hasn’t learned his lesson, or what makes him think that anything could be negotiated with a notorious liar like Putin who has broken every agreement so far? On what basis of trust should this be done? Would Scholz also want to call for negotiations with Hitler? There is nothing to negotiate with war criminals.

    The same goes for deterrence. Deterrence is lovely, but for effective deterrence the opponent must be sane first. Putin is obviously no longer sane to a large extent.

    Parts of the Russian elite must now stand up and remove this lunactic from office. If necessary with the Stauffenberg method. The Russian general staff owes this to the thousands of Russian soldiers who are dying senselessly in this war for the delusions of geriatric lunatic president.

    Of course, I also like mbka’s true point: who would have thought that in direct comparison Trump vs. Putin, the Russian dictator is the real Madman, whom the press has only disguised as a “strategist”. — Well, I did.

    I say the same thing about the Chinese CCP. These people are just as dangerous. These people will drop their mask like Putin dropped it. Whereby “dropping the mask” is really a grotesque euphemism. Putin and the Chinese CCP have never really hidden who they are.

    The CCP remains composed of ideologues (even worse since Xi), who, by the way, “argue” in the same crude pseudo-historical way as Putin. It is exactly the same. These people have sent a secret note to the regime of the GDR as late as 1989/1990 that they would like to send 500,000 to 1,000,000 Chinese Red Army soldiers to the GDR to put down the popular uprising. At a time when the Russians had long since withdrawn. So much for how supposedly “sane” the Chinese Communists are compared to the Russian Kleptocracy. — Scott is known to have a different opinion here. Let us pray that he is right and I am wrong. Putin is already bad enough.

    P.S. I would negotiate with the Russians about NATO expansion for one reason only: If they bring us Putin’s head on a stick. But not a second before that.

  36. Gravatar of Classical Liberal Classical Liberal
    27. February 2022 at 14:04

    Just a thought,

    Ukraine is using small (Turkish made) drones to hit targets with 300lb bombs. Well, if we started hitting targets with the similar type of drone, how would the Russians know if they were Ukrainian or not?

  37. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    27. February 2022 at 14:06

    Cristian List,

    Yes, I think it’s important to take a sober look at our foreign policy failures and put them into context as we go forward. While I do think we may have missed opportunities for a better relationship with Russia years ago, it’s all water under the bridge at this point. It isn’t possible to go back and Putin is now someone who only understands consquences.

    I’m happy to see more resolve on behalf of NATO than appeared would emerge last week. Now, I hope the growing American presence in Poland will be permanent.

  38. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    27. February 2022 at 14:51

    @Michael Sandifer
    I completely agree that it’s all water under the bridge now.

    These questions can be discussed with a reasonable, honest, maybe even democratic, Russian politician.

    And basically, this has already been done with Putin: Georgia, Syria, Crimea, Donbas. That was his Austria, his Sudetenland, his rest of Czechia, his Danzig. But now he has invaded all of Ukraine, and enough is enough. The West has been patient long enough. Putin has crossed the Rubicon — and now one fraction has to go. At this point it’s either us or him.

    @Classical Liberal
    The problem with drones seems to be that we don’t really have them. Interestingly, Turkish drones are considered quite good. The Russians fear them, and they have a good cost-benefit ratio. American drones are very expensive and not necessarily that much better. And many Europeans don’t have drones at all, German politicians for example have blocked armed drones for 15 years with the argument that then more soldiers won’t have be risking their lives at the frontline directly. — Ehm yes, that’s exactly the point.

    Overall, the American, Russian and Chinese armies still seem to rely quite heavily on foot soldiers. Maybe it’s a gigantic bureaucratic apparatus that stands in the way of progress?

    But I certainly hope that there is secret massive American support for Ukraine in the areas of military advice, strategy, and intelligence. As much as I appreciate the Ukrainian army, I hope that they are getting massive reconnaissance support from American agencies — via satellites and via surveillance drones.

  39. Gravatar of Carl Carl
    27. February 2022 at 15:30

    I am not a military expert. I have been frantically trying to figure out who best to trust during this crisis to understand what’s coming. Doing so has made me fear the next couple of weeks as I learn more about Russian tactics. The Ukrainians have surprised everyone so far, but the Russians have still gained a lot of Ukrainian territory in that time.
    The Russians may complete the encirclement of the Ukrainian army in the east and decimate Kyiv and other cities with artillery including thermobaric weapons the way they leveled Grozny. Putin may ride out the sanctions with the hundreds of billions in reserves he has apparently moved beyond our reach, ramp up his nuclear threats and dare NATO to put in our own men to liberate Ukraine. Then we will no longer be in a situation of helping Ukraine defend itself, but something more like D-Day where we have to fight our way across Ukraine under threat of nuclear counter strikes.
    Do we have the stomach to do that when the alternative might be simply to accept a puppet regime in Ukraine? And though we are united in the West, the rest of the world is neutral on what they see as an inter-European squabble. Putin may be able to accelerate his pivot to the East and South and remove himself further from our influence.
    A lot hinges on the next couple of weeks.

  40. Gravatar of Classical Liberal Classical Liberal
    27. February 2022 at 16:00

    “But I certainly hope that there is secret massive American support for Ukraine in the areas of military advice, strategy, and intelligence. As much as I appreciate the Ukrainian army, I hope that they are getting massive reconnaissance support from American agencies — via satellites and via surveillance drones.”

    Amen to that.

  41. Gravatar of Jim Glass Jim Glass
    27. February 2022 at 19:11

    I was a student in the USSR during Brezhnev days, and on my way home was caught in Prague during the invasion of Czechoslovakia when the Soviets deposed Dubcek. I saw Soviet tanks rolling over the locals’ cars that were waving Czech flags … and still remember how strange it felt to see a people being crushed right before me while I, as an American, had a free pass to watch and go home.

    IMHO best authority on Russia (definitely on Stalin, also on Putin and modern authoritarianism generally) is Stephen Kotkin. And he’s entertaining too! Check him out:
    (Look for him in the Youtube search engine. He’s always worth it.)

    Kotkin points out that nations don’t pursue their interests, regimes pursue their interests. (Does Kim Jong-un really pursue the best interests of North Korea?)

    “Putin knows that NATO is no threat to Russia.”

    Well, Putin has very strong, emotional memories of NATO intervening in the Yugoslavia breakup and in Libya — and of Milošević being charged with war crimes and Gaddafi being left dead and mutilated in a ditch.

    Of course, NATO had never been a threat to Yugoslavia or Libya either. It intervened in those places only for humanitarian reasons after civil unrest broke out. And that was the end of Milošević and Gaddafi.

    And Putin said this: “Who gave NATO the right to kill Gaddafi?” Look it up. He felt *very* strongly about it. After all, he’s a dictator too.

    So, yes, Putin knows NATO is no threat to Russia, in that it would never attack Russia any more than it did Yugoslavia or Libya — but he also dang well fears it as a threat to HIM and his regime.

    Now we’d all say, nah, that’s just paranoia. But he thinks of NATO and nearby Slavic Yugoslavia and Gaddafi’s mutilated body — and it’s what he thinks that counts.

    For how dictators like Putin ponder their potential exits check out “The Dictator’s Handbook” by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita.

    They have a very different take on such things than do we liberal democrats.

    “he’s afraid of democracy. Appeasing Putin will only make him greedy for more.”

    Yes, and Yes. Absolutely.

    Happily, the reverse is happening. NATO’s woken up from a 30-year sleep. He poked the bear (a Russian saying – you’d think he’d appreciate it). Even Germany is angry at Russia now. That always ends well for Russia. Good work, Putin!

  42. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    27. February 2022 at 19:41

    Michael, The key to successful foreign policy is clarity. Ambiguity causes wars. NATO is clarity. That’s why it matters.

    Christian, The CCP has many of the same bad qualities as does Russia’s leadership. But they are not as dangerous, because they are not as expansionary. It’s unlikely that China will invade any country (beyond a tiny border dispute here or there) that is currently recognized as independent. That still leaves room for China to do lots of harm to Taiwan, but the danger from Russia is vastly greater. The risk from China is localized, whereas Russia threatens many countries. The risk from Russia is another world war if things spin out of control. Sure that’s very unlikely, but I’m not comfortable with even a small risk of world war.

  43. Gravatar of Classical Liberal Classical Liberal
    27. February 2022 at 19:56

    So Belarus is now sending troops to fight Ukraine?

    Can someone explain to me why we would let that happen? Why not strike Belarus if they attack Ukraine? We wouldn’t be at war with Russia. They don’t have nukes.

  44. Gravatar of Classical Liberal Classical Liberal
    27. February 2022 at 19:58

    The Russians are moving nukes into Belarus?


  45. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    27. February 2022 at 20:31


    That’s what I meant by my comment above – you, I, Scott, and Michael on this blog, and more importantly, governments, and pretty much all of Western public opinion, seem to all agree that the buck stops here. That Russia must be stopped in Kyiv or the rest of Europe will follow. There is a remarkable unity of values here that I never seen before.

    Henrich is right. W.E.I.R.D. rules. And contra what appeared to happen these past 10, 15 years, these values seem to really matter to a lot of people. Not just me. It’s not just what you see, it’s what you don’t see. I don’t see pacifist demonstrations in Europe. The way the West is reacting here must be absolutely terrifying for … China.

  46. Gravatar of MIchael Sandifer MIchael Sandifer
    27. February 2022 at 21:03


    I would argue that the existing situation vis-a-vis Ukraine was ambiguous, hence the war. The 2008 public statement announcing a path for NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia was an open confirmation of ambivalence within NATO.

    Keeping a US presence in Poland, especially if we deploy them at some point in this war, will reduce ambiguity. NATO membership for Ukraine would further reduce ambiguity, though I don’t think that’s a necessary step.

    Again, because we’ve undermined our credibility in the past, we must now be more willing to step up as a result. That may include direct use of force by the US. I’d like to at least see US air power employed, if this crisis doesn’t end soon, as I think it could make a huge difference on the battlefield and would greatly reduce ambiguity.

    It seems Russian supply lines are stretched and stressed. US bombing sorties could turn this inconvenience into a nightmare, and offer Russian troops no quarter to fix the problems. Meanwhile, it will provide cover for Ukrainian forces to go on the offensive on some areas.

  47. Gravatar of postkey postkey
    28. February 2022 at 00:00

    “I’d like to at least see US air power employed . . . ”

    Unless there as been a change in policy?

    “By the time you got to the first Bush administration, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, they came out with a national defense policy and strategic policy. What they basically said is that we’re going to have wars against what they called much weaker enemies and these have to be carried out quickly and decisively or else there will be embarrassment—a way of saying that popular reaction is going to set in. And that’s the way it’s been. It’s not pretty, but it’s some kind of constraint.”

  48. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    28. February 2022 at 01:32


    uh… you take Noam Chomsky’s esteemed opinion as gospel of what US policy is, was, or ought to be? Right.

  49. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    28. February 2022 at 06:11

    Both the extreme left and the extreme right are kooks on foreign policy, as they are on most issues. Ideology can’t inform useful opinions.

  50. Gravatar of Kenneth Duda Kenneth Duda
    28. February 2022 at 07:05

    Scott, I suggest this John Mearsheimer lecture:

    It is several years old, focusing on the Crimean annexation, but I found it convincing that Putin’s primary goal with Ukraine is to create a buffer state to reduce NATO/EU influence on Russia.

  51. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    28. February 2022 at 07:27

    Kenneth Duda,

    Yes, there are many IR scholars and former practitioners who think NATO
    expansion is a significant, and even rational national security concern for Russia. Also, more than one former practioner who used to deal with Putin say that he’s paranoid about this to a degree, as dictators tend to be paranoid about anything that might limit their power

  52. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    28. February 2022 at 09:32

    Michael, At this point, US military action would be a propaganda victory for Putin. Let him try to get out of the mess he created.

    mbka, You said:

    “The way the West is reacting here must be absolutely terrifying for … China.”

    If there’s a silver lining, perhaps a Taiwan invasion is a bit less likely, at least in the near future.

    Ken, Yes, that’s plausible. But I suspect that Putin doesn’t understand the modern world, and doesn’t understand how to achieve his goal. He’s a 20th century strategist in a 21st century world. He doesn’t know how to create that buffer state. This action will make Ukraine even more pro-Western.

  53. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    28. February 2022 at 09:54


    That still leaves room for China to do lots of harm to Taiwan, but the danger from Russia is vastly greater.

    I’m just saying that the narrative of the two powers is exactly the same: crude pseudo-historical narratives mixed with extreme nationalism. There is no real rationality here, but then we can’t really tell where and how the madness will end.

    Not to mention that Putin is even a bit more right here than the CCP: Ukraine was a nucleus of Russia. Taiwan was never a nucleus for China. It is not at all important for the history of China. Nevertheless, the CCP is so extremely aggressive about Taiwan. This is not reassuring.

    Your thesis seems to be that the CCP will be allowed to conquer Taiwan without real resistance from the US, probably based on racism from the US side: The Asian Taiwanese are not important enough. This is hardly good news.

    And one more point is important here: Taiwan has exactly this status of ambiguity that you always correctly warn about. The CCP doesn’t really know how the West will act in case of an invasion — and neither do we or the Taiwanese. There is an immense room for errors and misunderstandings.

    @Kenneth Duda
    I’ve just watched the theses from Minute 28 but that’s more than enough stupidity for a lifetime.

  54. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    28. February 2022 at 09:54


    Possible, but I highly doubt it. The Russian army is incredibly vulnerable at the moment such that perhaps destroying a large portion of it is highly possible. Particularly if large swaths run or surrender, it will be the worst case scenario for Putin PR-wise.

    There is increasing PR prsssure for NATO to get directly involved now, as there may limited tolerance in the west for watching brave Ukrainians die for their homeland while significant nearby military assets sit idle.

    Biggest risk is escalation, in my view, as the PR nightmare of us slaughtering Russians by the thousands may make Putin believe he has no choice, but to double down and expand the war. Such direct intervention by the west must be coupled with an undeniable display of willingness to more overwhelm any additional Russian challenge.

    These are decisions that obviously need to be made by people much more informed and intelligent than me, but I certainly don’t want to see an opportunity go to waste, while brave men and women we should have defended better die daily on TV, as their country is wrecked.

    If we can sting Russian forces now without a significant escalation that we couldn’t easily blunt, we should do it. This would be the first major engagement between Russian and US forces, and destroying much of this invasion force might keep Russia in a box for a long, long time.

    I want to cause as much national trauma for Russia as possible, without significantly expanding the battlefield.

  55. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    28. February 2022 at 10:00

    I recognize this is potentially a very delicate situation with a nuclear power, so any decision we make should not be taken lightly. We should always keep the probability of nuclear war in mind,

    But, Russia is not a power in any other sense. Long-term geopolitical competition is hopeless for them. A sufficiently stinging defeat now, in every dimension, may just make them realize their best option is to die slowly, and quietly.

  56. Gravatar of Carl Carl
    28. February 2022 at 10:21

    You said: “I want to cause as much national trauma for Russia as possible…”

    That didn’t work out so well after WWI with the Germans. I believe we want to convince everyone in Russia that our aims are limited to stopping Russia from invading its neighbors, reversing course in Ukraine and then stop meddling in Ukraine’s affairs. I have absolutely no interest in traumatizing Russia.

  57. Gravatar of MIchael Sandifer MIchael Sandifer
    28. February 2022 at 10:22

    John Cochran is thinking along lines similar to mine:

    For all I know, Scott is right though. No one should listen to me on military, foreign policy, or PR matters. I’ve taken some IR courses…

    I’m more confident in my view that it is a mistake for the Russian central bank to raise rates to try to defend the Ruble.

  58. Gravatar of MIchael Sandifer MIchael Sandifer
    28. February 2022 at 10:24


    I’m not looking to declare war on Russia or impose anything like the Versaille Treaty in the aftermath.

    We should be clear that we can start lifting sanctions as Russia withdraws its pressure on Ukraine.

  59. Gravatar of Art Andreassen Art Andreassen
    28. February 2022 at 11:09

    Scott: Does anyone else see evidence in China’s rebuffing of the unity of the U.N. This is the course she will take when she becomes the dominant power? She will do what she wants. I also think she would be happy to see Russia fail in the Ukraine, collapse financially and leave Siberia for the taking.

  60. Gravatar of Carl Carl
    28. February 2022 at 11:23

    Thanks for clarifying. I think one of the best incentives we can offer Russians right now is the prospect of an immediate return to normal relations, even, unfortunately, if that means leaving Putin in power. We need to make it completely clear that we don’t get to choose who rules Russia just as they don’t get to choose who rules Ukraine (or Estonia or Poland…). I don’t think anything could better demonstrate the non-aggressive nature of NATO (plus its new member in Ukraine) than to return to normal as soon as Russia evacuated Ukraine.

    One could even argue that there would be no greater unifying tool for the EU and NATO than leaving a humbled Putin in power after this catastrophe. The Russian people might choose not to keep him in that role. But that would be up to them.

  61. Gravatar of Carl Carl
    28. February 2022 at 13:20

    And not to be a downer, but moral victories aside, the Ukrainians are losing this war on the battlefield. And should that trend continue, we will be switching from the role of trying to prevent regime change to trying to cause regime change, albeit a very young regime. That is a very different proposition. That is what I meant by a lot rests on the next couple of weeks(on the battlefield).

  62. Gravatar of postkey postkey
    28. February 2022 at 13:27

    mbka L.O.L.. Play the man not the ball?

  63. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    28. February 2022 at 18:11


    at this point the best hope is that the Russian elites recognize that Putin didn’t act as a cool strategist here but as a blinded ideologue, that the loss of Russian military prestige with the war dragging on is threatening Russia’s credibility more than all the nukes in the world can make up for, and that therefore, Russian elites stick a knife in Putin’s back. The prospects are dire for Russia: the war wasn’t won convincingly in a few days. The only way to win it now, for Russia, is through complete and utter destruction. The West, merely by supplying weapons and information, can keep this war going for a long long time, nearly without limit. While this would be apocalyptic for Ukraine, it would be the ultimate war of attrition for Russia. It would utterly drain Russia of any kind of energy, morale, money, military hardware, remaining international commerce, what have you. Militarily, Russia could be wasting its entire stock of advanced weaponry in a few weeks or months here, and be really quite defenseless to do anything militarily elsewhere. Politically, if Russia believes its own narrative (of Russians and Ukrainians being the same people), then this becomes the great civil war Russia never had. Industrially, Russia has no way to replace the advanced weapons they’re using now at a sufficient pace. And in terms of international friends, good luck to find any if you’re literally no use to anyone but maybe Iran.

    Russia has already lost, it just hasn’t blinked yet. The question now is, how much deeper will it dig itself into the hole.

  64. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    28. February 2022 at 18:12


    “L.O.L.. Play the man not the ball?”

    When it’s about Chomsky, totally.

  65. Gravatar of MIchael Sandifer MIchael Sandifer
    28. February 2022 at 18:34


    Your comments seem very reasonable.

    I think in addition to everything else we’ve discussed, the West, and any others who matter, should not only freeze the assets of the Russian oligarchs, as we’ve begun to do, but we should seize them, and hold them indefinitely. We know that much of this money was stolen/extorted, and we should hold it as we open a global corruption investigation to try to expose the sources of wealth. That is, if we can do this legally and/or through new legislation. Those oligarchs and others who refuse to participate will simply surrender their wealth to the jurisdictions that hold it. Ultimately, I’d like to see it used to help rebuild Ukraine, with the remainder returned to a non-criminal Russian government.

  66. Gravatar of MIchael Sandifer MIchael Sandifer
    28. February 2022 at 18:55

    Just read that Senator Chris Murphy is working on a bill to seize oligarch assets.

    Might be time for bargain shopping in Miami soon.

  67. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    28. February 2022 at 23:10

    One tiny little piece of evidence that Putin may have lost Russia too already.

    With all the sanctions and the talk of nuclear readiness, surely you would think that Putin commanded his cyber armies (official secret services and unofficial allied criminals) to stage massive cyber attacks on the West. Yet, once again what you don’t see that matters too: I haven’t seen any reports of heightened activity here. Quite the contrary, it’s Russian sites that are being hacked. To me this looks like a man whose orders aren’t followed, at least not by the intelligentsia capable of performing said hacking.

  68. Gravatar of postkey postkey
    1. March 2022 at 01:43

    mbka. Ignorance is bliss?

  69. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    1. March 2022 at 02:25


    we all judge information by our priors. It’s just prudent real-life Bayesianism. Chomsky’s entire life work is 1. absurd misinterpretations wherever I can agree on the facts, or 2. fudged facts of untrue facts everywhere else. And yes, an ageing, died-in-the-wool communist Berkeley professor with a 50 year-odd history of siding with the Soviet Union, and after that, with everyone else who likes to trash the US… yea, I admit it: I’m not listening.

    Or do you, by any chance, not know anything about who Noam Chomsky is and what he normally peddles? Please look him up then.

  70. Gravatar of Arlom Arlom
    2. March 2022 at 20:34

    @ Postkey

    Re “ignorance is bliss”…

    Ignorance of the reality of lies and deceptions (=most mainstream news and establishment decrees) is bliss because exposing yourself to that is self-propagandization.

    Ignorance of truths (especially if they’re upsetting) is not, or only temporarily or rarely, bliss because it is ultimately self-defeating.

    The FALSE mantra of “ignorance is bliss”, promoted in the latter sense, is a product of a fake sick culture that has indoctrinated its “dumbed down” (therefore TRULY ignorant, therefore easy to control) people with many such manipulative slogans. You can find the proof that ignorance is never bliss (only superficial fake bliss), and how you get to buy into this lie (and other self-defeating lies), in the article “The 2 Married Pink Elephants In The Historical Room” ….

    “Blissful” believers in “ignorance is bliss” — blissfully stupid people — are nearly always self-destructive indifferent immoral ignoramuses and/or members of herd stupidity… speaking of which, with the letters of “omicron” an alleged Covid variant you can spell “moronic”

    And further speaking of stupid herd people not getting the glaringly obvious truth/ie not getting the constant onslaught of BIG lies of the official authorities……

    “2 weeks to flatten the curve has turned into…3 shots to feed your family!” — Unknown

    “If ‘ignorance is bliss’ –there should be more happy people.” — Unknown

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