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Russian forces invade Ukraine after Putin orders attack (reuters.com)
2278 points by eis 4 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 1814 comments



In his 1997 book The Grand Chessboard Zbigniew Brzezinski did say that if Europe went to war again it would start in Ukraine.

Some choice quotes:

“Ukraine, a new and important space on the Eurasian chessboard, is a geopolitical pivot because its very existence as an independent country helps to transform Russia. Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire.”

“However, if Moscow regains control over Ukraine, with its 52 million people and major resources as well as access to the Black Sea, Russia automatically again regains the wherewithal to become a powerful imperial state, spanning Europe and Asia.”


The same prediction is made in Dugin's Foundations of Geopolitics. Many of his recommendations have come to pass.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foundations_of_Geopolitics#Con...


That's because these "predictions"/recommendations are taken as school textbook (literally, it's required reading!) by Russian military.


Nowhere does Dugin have a larger stature than in the fever dreams of western military aficionados.


This is one of the issues I see with books of prognostications, they aren't so much as predicting the future as advocating for a course of action. They are selling their own version of the future.


Can you please provide a source? Here are some suggesting that he is influential:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/23/ukraine-crimea... :

Dugin serves as an adviser to State Duma speaker Sergei Naryshkin, a key member of the ruling United Russia party who has loudly supported Russian intervention in Ukraine, and has made widely viewed television appearances to discuss the Ukraine crisis alongside high-ranking members of the government. [Economist Sergei Glazyev] is also an associate of Dugin's.

https://www.hoover.org/research/russias-new-and-frightening-... :

Few books published in Russia during the post-communist period have exerted such an influence on Russian military, police, and foreign policy elites as Aleksandr Dugin’s 1997 neo-fascist treatise Osnovy geopolitiki: Geopoliticheskoe budushchee Rossii (Foundations of Geopolitics: The Geo-political Future of Russia).

https://foreignpolicy.com/2016/07/27/geopolitics-russia-mack... :

The Foundations of Geopolitics sold out in four editions, and continues to be assigned as a textbook at the General Staff Academy and other military universities in Russia. “There has probably not been another book published in Russia during the post-communist period which has exerted a comparable influence on Russian military, police, and statist foreign policy elites,” writes historian John Dunlop, a Hoover Institution specialist on the Russian right.

https://azure.org.il/include/print.php?id=483 :

The publication of The Foundations of Geopolitics in 1997 was received with great interest, and brought Dugin to the attention of powerful figures in the Russian government. He wisely befriended the oligarch Aleksandr Taranzev, who recommended him to the military general staff.

...

Dugin’s book was incorporated into the curriculum of the Russian military academy and became required reading for the next generation of officers. One year later, Dugin was appointed senior political adviser to Gennadiy Seleznyov, a former member of the Communist Party and chairman of the Russian parliament, who headed the Center for Geopolitical Analysis, a think tank dedicated to policy recommendations on internal security matters.

...

The radical intellectual’s stature reached new heights with the appointment of Vladimir Putin to the Russian presidency. Slowly but surely, Dugin succeeded in ingratiating himself with the new president’s inner circle. He forged strong ties with a hawkish, security-oriented clique of insiders, mostly composed of ex-members of the military and the security services. First and foremost among them was Igor Sechin, a former KGB official who has served as Putin’s closest adviser for the past fifteen years and is now deputy prime minister. Other members of this powerful faction include Security Council secretary and former head of the FSB Nikolai Patrushev; former deputy prime minister and Security Council member Sergei Ivanov; and Boris Gryzlov, the speaker of the lower house of parliament and chairman of Putin’s ruling United Russia party.

https://books.google.ca/books?id=0qQixjX1hwoC&q=Gennady+Sele... :

The activities of the copious and studious Eurasianist intellectual Alexander Dugin are making progress, and it is known that he has close relations with the Academy of the General Staff and once headed an advisory group in the office of Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznyov.


I know you think you’re flooding them with facts, but this is hard to read. Did it require this lengthy of a post?


For a book that seems to be mentioned so much it is confusing that there is no English translation (apart from machine learning one).

With "unofficial" translations you will never know if the translators didnt censor/change the meaning somehow.


> With "unofficial" translations you will never know if the translators didnt censor/change the meaning somehow

With official translations, you don't know that, either. In fact, for the same reasons that politicians who speak in multiple languages often give speeches, on a given subject, with substantially different content in different languages, official translations of books that are designed as political propaganda or advocacy often shade the content to different anticipated audiences in different languages.


I laughed at this one:

The United Kingdom, merely described as an "extraterritorial floating base of the U.S.", should be cut off from Europe.[9]


Well they seem to have done quite well with that one. It's a shame it doesn't float or we could tow it a bit further south.


That entire list of predictions is apparently from a PDF dated 2004.

Aaaand now Brexit is a thing. A long-term pseudo-thing, but still a thing.

*Reads the rest of the list*


"Airstrip One"


'Prisoners of Geography' is a book that helps me understand some of the these things. Recommended. The first chapter is about Russia.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prisoners_of_Geography


> “Ukraine, a new and important space on the Eurasian chessboard, is a geopolitical pivot because its very existence as an independent country helps to transform Russia. Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire.”

He claims that without any proof. This maybe would have been true in the 19th century given the technologies for war and power at that time.

But we have the 21st century now. Why should the Ukraine be so important? Why could Russia not be an empire without Ukraine? Russia is the biggest country with the most sources of raw materials. It has the most nuclear weapons. It has a huge fleet. It is feared by all of its neighbors.

But that all doesn't matter nowadays. Because if you want to be a world power in 21st century what you need is a huge economy. And Russias GDP is as big as Italy. But invading Ukraine wouldn't help Russia to increase its GDP.

And that is why what Zbigniew Brzezinsk writes is outdated nonsense. Everyone who believes that still lives in the 19th century.


It would be easier to take your opinions seriously if they weren’t contradicted by events happening right now; events which match Brzezinski’s “outdated nonsense” from the 90s perfectly.

You could very well be correct, perhaps the leaders of these countries are living in the 19th century. But the fact that the current leaders of Ukraine, USA and Russia are acting in line with/on these older assumptions makes them relevant still today.

Also there’s plenty of information backing up his claims in the book, you’re welcome to go read it. It’s an excellent window into the way geopolics is rationalised, written by one of the people who have shaped it!


Predicting the future is hard, specially if you think in 20-30 years forward. But, giving enough predictions, you will have a lot of hits in a sea of misses. A lot of development happened in the middle that could had turned things in different directions. Also, beware of hindsight bias.

Anyway, it is not just one data point what matters. What comes after in his predictions and how adjusted is to what happens in reality (without creative accounting, like with Nostradamus predictions) may tell how right that was.


> But, giving enough predictions, you will have a lot of hits in a sea of misses.

I somehow doubt that he made the range of varied and contradictory predictions necessary to make this hypothesis correct. I don't know what to call this muddled assertion that so many people seem to be making about hindsight bias or survivorship bias. It's like a bias towards claiming bias, which seems absurd to me. Is everyone just hunting for places where they can use some witty sounding assertion that they saw someone else use and so they're incorrectly applying it everywhere with little discrimination?


Comparing him to Nostradamus is kind of grotesque.

He wasn't hallucinating, pinning the tail on a donkey or trying to hit a piñata blindfolded.


The creative accounting was done by others. They say that Nostradamus "predicted" this because they choose what they read, when they read, and apply it to particular situations that fit, and not to others that don't, being aware of that or not. There is a bunch of cognitive biases around that, with fancy names like selection bias or Texas sharpshooter fallacy, to name a few.

It may not be for this case, I just point out that you should be aware of the possibility.


> you will have a lot of hits in a sea of misses.

Your whole NATO core staff been voicing this in unison for 2 decades in a row, only for Western politicians to dismiss it. Lookup my other posts today, and especially this https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=30453790


Yesterday, I read your comment, but it is now flagged. Can I read more about that stuff on a subreddit or website?


The Mongols didn't need an economy to create chaos and conquer most of Eurasia. Babylon was conquered by Macedonia, Constantinople fell to the Turks, and Rome to the Vandals. Mixing up economic power with willingness to bleed for a mythical cause is a mistake. Also, who needs an economy when you can just have a big army and take booty? Definitely not Russia.

This is not the modern-day version of USSR vs USA. It's the modern version of the Mongol Horde vs Civilization. (No offense to current Mongols; you guys are cool).


I disagree with that analogy.

Modern Russia is not an unstoppable army of nomadic warriors with a strong martial culture arising from their making their living as herders. It's a badly run kleptocracy trying desperately to remain relevant.


Which happens to command a very large arsenal of nuclear weapons which they can deliver around the globe on 15 minutes notice.


How do you think they will use them to conquer land?


Old men are dangerous: it doesn't matter to them what is going to happen to the world. -- George Bernard Shaw

https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/6809999-old-men-are-dangero...


Precisely.


Come and see. They don't have to hold land and in most cases, the strategic goal is to have puppets hold it for them. USSR was three levels deep in puppets (four if you count "republics").


They tried puppets in Ukraine for some time. They also have a dependent client state on another of Ukraine's borders, in Belarus, "led" by a terrified semi-lame autocrat who needs to prove his loyalty to Putin to continue in office.

Bad things (and increasingly belligerent, isolated psychopaths) on two sides.


As a very credible threat. We will now do 'x', and if you interfere we will nuke the capital of those countries that interfere.

Note that Putin has nothing to lose from all of this.


Not only does Putin have nothing to lose from all of this, there is more than a hint that he has nothing to lose full stop. More than one analyst and political aide has observed that Putin has changed significantly on a personal level, and appears to be paranoid about Covid and about all his generals and advisers.

It's not just a threat; at this point it is a risk.


Agreed. The attack on Ukraine is actually rather later than I imagined that it would happen (I thought this would happen immediately after Trump lost the election).

What happens next is anybody's guess and that's a very bad feeling to have in times like these, the fate of the world as we know it is in the balance.


As we have seen before, only very recently: bad things happen when psychopaths start to unravel, especially malignant narcissists.

Putin has long kept his narcissism under a kind of control.

A bit of bare-chest, bareback horseriding. A few ice hockey matches with opponents who comically offer little resistance. A gigantic pseudosecret palatial residence that looks like a seat of power for a Bond villain, but is actually his safe space.

But even in Russia's nationally televised broadcasts Putin appears to be struggling to control his emotions and his temper.

It's not particularly difficult to see that loyalty to a psychopath loses its currency when that psychopath has no use for you, but also that using your loyalty as a constant mediating influence becomes impossible when the psychopath departs from reality.

The question for any kind of diplomacy, hardball or softball, is this: is Vladimir Putin still in full control of himself? Because he's behaving unusually on the basis of his prior record. Only a handful of years ago he was a very different figure on the world stage. If his narcissism has no supply, no moderation, things could get even uglier.

And yet again he is signposting it -- "all relevant decisions have been taken."

We kept pretending his signposts were diplomatic noise, when in fact he's just a psychopath telling people what he is going to do to them.


When a narcissist goes down they'll take anybody that is a witness to that with them if they can.


> I thought this would happen immediately after Trump lost the election

It took a minute for them to realize we have two feeble minded and weak kneed presidents in office currently. The cats outta the bag now.


Maybe he has nothing to lose from threatening. But he would have a lot to lose (namely Moscow, and any place where he's known to usually spend time) if he actually fired a nuke at some EU capital.


We all have a lot to lose here. If Russia lobs a nuke, US is next, followed by the rest of the powers. Who knows who China would target.

Once one nuke flies, WW3


I'll bet that that would not be Paris or London. But to try to guess what someone who has nothing to lose will do is folly, Putin might very well be beyond caring even about such stuff: he wants his legacy cemented and there are two ways out of that that would satisfy him: the fact that he is remembered as a great Russian or that there isn't anybody left to remember what kind of an idiot he was.

For some idea of this mentality, if you haven't seen it yet I highly recommend the movie Der Untergang, which is as historically accurate as they could make it, and which gives a unique perspective on how things could get so bad that parents would poison their children to avoid them having to live in a world where they weren't the victors.


> I'll bet that that would not be Paris or London.

Doesn't really matter which one he picks: NATO article 5 would ensure retaliation.

But yeah, I agree with the rest of your point.


NATO article 5 is a meaningless piece of paper in and of itself if the will to retaliate isn't present and we will only find out about that at the moment someone wants it invoked. I would not necessarily bet on knowing how that ends. The response against what happened just now is underwhelming, and the various investments in fomenting nationalism/isolationism may well pay off. These are very dangerous times.


If they’re launching nukes, you think the rest of the world is just going to sit by and watch?


> I highly recommend the movie Der Untergang, which is as historically accurate as they could make it

And in case anyone didn't make the connection, is also the movie where the scene used in all those "Hitler hears about..." YouTube clips is taken from.


Shit, we keep forgetting this!


Nuclear weapons require constant, ongoing maintenance if they have any hope of going bang. Russia doesn't have the assets to keep that up anymore. Their nuclear arsenal is probably a fraction of its theoretical capability.

In addition, if Putin tried to launch nukes, I doubt the other oligarchs would go along with his mass suicide plan.


If there is one thing I've learned about Russian technology then it is that in general it will operate 'good enough' to do what it was designed to do even if that means that it isn't designed in a way that we would consider elegant. Assuming that Russia's nuclear arsenal is dysfunctional or even non-existent would be a very large - and possibly fatal - mistake, especially given that it never was designed as a precision tool anyway but relied on massive overkill. You may well be right, but if history is any guide here making assumptions without hard evidence about the nature of an enemy arsenal, either positive or negative will lead to trouble.


I had a couple conversations with an engineer who worked a long career on maintaining nuclear warheads. I was rather surprised when he told me that he didn't view nuclear war as likely.

As he explained it, plutonium warheads break down over time. They create helium gas pockets and sometimes internal fractures that prevent detonation.

The solution is to reform the warhead every few years.

The problem here is that plutonium has over a dozen crystalline forms. If they don't achieve a uniform crystal, the warhead will fail to detonate due to the imperfections along the lines where the different crystals come together. This takes a ton of time and money (and often many, many attempts).

Together these mean that the warheads are getting very old and the upkeep to keep them working is huge. Russia can keep a few in working order, but not nearly what their previous arsenal would imply.


It doesn't take 1000's of them to be effective.


I have always wondered this. Nuclear Apocalypse scenarios always assume the ICBMs will all function as specified. Maybe they will, but it's not like you can thoroughly test each one. But I guess they don't need to.


There were assumptions that lots of missiles would malfunction or not reach their intended targets and so various cities and strategic objectives were targeted with multiple warheads from different launch sites. This led to 'overkill':

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overkill_(term)

Welcome to the eighties...


Ukraine has excellent farmland. Russia has their own local economy and can produce most of the things they need just with their direct neighbors. French cheeses, American-branded phones, and Italian cars may be too expensive for the Russian economy, but the Russian government doesn't care. Close-enough products can be had for a fraction of the price.

Thinking of things in terms of raw GDP is what is getting the west into a total mess. For years now people have said Russia won't do anything and couldn't possibly be a threat because their GDP is so low. China will never be a major player because their GDP per capita is so low.

But that's, frankly, stupid. People in Switzerland pay $20 for a sandwich. People in Vietnam are paying $0.75 for a sandwich that tastes twice as good. People in China are getting locally made phones with the equivalent of US pocket change and riding high speed trains for the cost of a slow and janky NY subway trip. GDP means absolutely nothing outside of international trade within the global sphere. GDP didn't help America beat Afghanistan, one of the absolute poorest countries on earth. It didn't help them beat North Korea or Vietnam either. They still haven't succeeded in removing communism from poverty-stricken, bottom of the barrel GDP Cuba. If Russia decides to keep moving into western Europe, their GDPs mean nothing. Seizing that land just means Russia gets all of what those countries have, forever, without the high price tag.

GDP isn't motivating angry dictators to invade. They're doing it because they can.


All that might be true for consumer products, but it’s absolutely not true for weapons systems and cutting edge technologies. Their J-20 fighter jet has a cost between 30-120 million, whereas the F-35 costs 78 million. It’s also worth mentioning that the high speed rail in China only exists because of strict control over airways making trains artificially competitive. Despite this state rail system holds 850B in debt alone (with some numbers I’ve seen online indicating a total system debt of 1.8 trillion), and is losing money daily. Regardless of the rumored numbers, a debt level that high indicates that they have to pay near-western prices for advanced technology. Tanks, jets and high speed rail are considerably more challenging to produce cheaply than sandwiches or obsolete smart phones.

[1] https://amp.scmp.com/economy/china-economy/article/3127644/c...


Agree 100%. The problem is really, GDP is in one currency. There should be a second metric, adjusted to local buying power, for countries with loads of internal resources, and production capability.

When I look at numbers, for example, which China spends on military spending, and research? Then try to equate it not in USD, but in local buying power?

And also consider many Chinese companies are state owned, including resources (mining), refining, and producing weapons...

Compared to almost everything the US GOV and the West do, being for profit...

It seems to me that China's military budget dwarfs all of NATO, in terms of buying power.

Yet most seem to not consider this. Even in planning.

US air superiority means little, if each US plane costs 40x a Chinese plane, and each US plane is swarmed by 100 planes at once...

(Just an example, viable or not)


> There should be a second metric, adjusted to local buying power, for countries with loads of internal resources, and production capability.

There is, it's called GDP PPP (Purchasing Power Parity). It adjusts for local prices, so countries like Russia and China rank higher than they would at a nominal level. Keep in mind though global commodities are typically priced the same (or similar) worldwide; PPP only applies to goods produced internally.


GDP PPP is a more accurate measure. It factors in what things cost locally. The scales start to balance out more when looked from that angle.

Even then, some places like Afghanistan don't change much--and they're still completely unbeaten by modern militaries.


There's a difference between political failures and military ones. Apples and oranges. No amount of military power can compensate for a lack of (or unachievable) political goals.

Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan all lacked coherent political goals. "Destroy military forces supported by half the country" is not a valid strategy.


> Why should the Ukraine be so important?

Side note: you've used the old-fashioned (and Putin-favoured) english nomenclature for Ukraine as "the Ukraine" in the first sentence, and the Ukraine-preferred nomenclature in the second.

This is actually the crux of the issue in two sentences. Ukraine is a sovereign state, but Putin politically asserts it is merely a territory they control, harking back to a pre-WWII time; Ukraine was a territory regularly divided up and under the control of different neighbouring states as a bargaining chip, gift, settlement, or conquest.

This is I guess why Brzezinski talked about it as it was and as it is. Ukraine used to be passed around and fought over as a set of territories without a home. Post WWII, it is a nation state and its existence as a nation state historically perturbs its neighbours, most notably Russia.

Ukraine still has all the geographical significance it had. It's the second-largest country by land mass in Europe, it is fertile (a nearby breadbasket, geopolitically), it is also mineral rich, etc.

So Brzezinski wasn't wrong to say it was still a source of conflict, a prize, but now being an independent nation state it has the right to defend itself and enter alliances. That makes it a risk strategic point -- even perhaps a pivot -- in a future conflict.

> Why could Russia not be an empire without Ukraine?

If Russia is to (re)build an "empire", it needs Ukraine to do it, for all the reasons above.

Bold to say Brzezinski wrote nonsense, though. Good for you: put yourself out there as an international statesman.


Just a very tiny nitpick. Ukraine is not a nation state. It is mearly a state.

In fact the part of the problem is precisely because it is not a nation state.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nation_state


One of the reasons things like the EU are a good idea, is because there are very few if any nation states e.g Basque in Spain, Northern Ireland in Ireland/UK, Scotland in UK, Shetland in Scotland, Swedish Finns in Finland and so on and so on (and it's a global thing, Kurds in Iraq/Syria/etc). It's all a bit fractal and and subjective and shades of gray and often it's the drawing of sharp artificial boundaries over the top of that that causes the problems.


One thing that unifies the extreme socialist left and the extreme and alt-right in the UK is an almost rote belief in regional self-determination, as if all of those movements could have a place of their own if wider agreements can only be broken up. The paradox of both the extreme left and extreme right is that many among them admire Putin as a "strong leader" and believe Putin is acting out of Donbas's interests in liberating them. Their shock at the disconnect with what is actually happening -- that everyone free of motivated reasoning could see coming -- is fascinating.

But there is a funny thing going on right now at great speed. For a while in Europe it has been Putin's world and we just live in it -- he's been the most sophisticated single backer/instigator of discontent across the continent. But it looks like there is a chance, right now, that this bubble could burst for him, and burst domestically. It's going to be a turbulent fortnight.


Oooh -- that is a fascinating nit picked. And that will start my Wikipedia rabbit hole today.

I'm not entirely sure I agree with you, but I certainly should have used sovereign the second time instead of nation.


And Russias GDP is as big as Italy

Russia’s GDP is 25% smaller than the U.S. State of Texas.

It sounds like a joke but it isn’t.

Texas GDP is $2.0 trillion.

Russia GDP is $1.48 trillion.

Most of Russia’s GDP is selling oil and gas which is one of the reasons Putin is able to do this now. Through higher oil prices he’s amassed a war chest of $631 billion in foreign currency reserves that will enable him to weather sanctions. That along with the friendship treaty with China giving them a market to sell their oil and gas and sanctions will prove fairly toothless.

https://www.reuters.com/markets/europe/russia-counts-reserve...


China doesn’t need Russia as an ally, a client perhaps.

Also those petrodollars will slow if Russia has a single buyer.

Not to mention, carbohydrates’ days are counter. Gulf countries are diversifying like crazy, Russia not so much.


I think you mean hydrocarbons, carbohydrates are sugars ;)


Can confirm carbohydrates market is still strong. I just had an almond croissant for breakfast


If Putin wins you'll have babka for breakfast


As it happens, Russia is. Big exported of carbohydrates too (grain).

But yes, pre coffee booboo.


Also the Italy comparison doesn't take into account GDP PPP per capita (Italy 44th in the world, Russia 77th and below several former Comecon states) or the extensive difference in the amount of stolen wealth in their respective diasporas.


This is all assuming you share an underlying rational with the leader of Russia, which you don't. Putin obviously doesn't care about having a good economy or making life better for the average Russian. He cares about making himself look strong and maintaining power, and showing strength. In the long run Russia is going to hurt over this, but that's not what Putin cares about.


+1 to this comment -- as you state it's not possible to apply western success metrics to Russian politics or Putin. Of that Italian-sized economy, the spoils go to Putin's oligarchs and the average Russian is apathetic about political influence and fed government-owned TV news. Historically, they haven't been able to influence things and their needs matter little. It isn't a western democracy or economy -- it's more like an authoritarian regime where it's the needs of the political leadership that matter. They should have seized Putin's super-yacht before it fled Germany last week.


The flipside though is that Putin wouldn't be doing this unless he thought it would be popular and cement his legacy as a czar; and he wouldn't commit his Russians to it if he didn't think it would make Russia stronger and benefit Russia in the long term. His thinking is rational in this regard. Barbaric, but rational. And it will take more than sanctions to shake the foundation of this medieval belief.


Is there a strong reason to believe that Putin thinks this way? As recently as two days ago, people in my circles were presenting this as an argument for why Putin wouldn’t invade, since it seemed so obvious that Russia would be stronger by claiming to occupy the moral high ground while protecting the separatist regions through deterrence.


There is no reason. People are just projecting because geopolitical war is too nuanced. For more informed takes on this check out Peter zeihan. I’m not saying his take is gospel, but at the very least he reveals the plethora of factors that are at play that the news will never tell you about.


Here are my reasons.

Putin's move here is like what you do when your character is about to die in CK3 so you just throw all your armies at a neighboring territory while you still have a claim you can press, even if your casus belli isn't accepted by the neighbors.

The strongest reason for me to believe his thinking is rational in terms of the Russian interest is that there is very little that could make Russia worse after his rule, and there are many reasons to suspect he's facing his own mortality. So here he's making a high-price choice which will dent his bank account and possibly his short-term popularity. As the richest man in the world and the most popular man in Russia, he must be dying and trying to make one last push. Otherwise there's no reason for him not to rest on his laurels: His massive wealth and the total ownership of Russia he has already. The man should retire. But he wants to make himself Peter the Great or Ivan the Terrible; to put himself into the annals of the Orthodox Church, he must conquer the cradle of the Rus'.

My theory on Putin is that he may be suffering from cancer. It would explain his terror of close contact with people, and this extreme move --

My fear about him is that he may want to take the rest of the world with him when he dies, including Russia.


someone should dose him with some acid, see if that won't make him chill out.

I kinda feel bad for him, he must live a rather unhappy life.


Hah. Did you ever read this? He seemed like he did some acid and had some fun..

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2017/9/10/1697580/-Back-in-...

I've met little "non-political" Russians like Putin playing guitar, working illegally at restaurants; accidentally overstayed a visa, have to go home to visit Moscow; you know because there's a soviet pin inside the jacket. Yuri Gagarin, or something. He's one of a type that exists and travels around Europe now.

[Edit: I saw this article had never been posted on HN so I just put it up... but it's been immediately deleted, for reasons I don't know].


The author seems to admit in the comments that he made the whole thing up?


Hah. Wild. I had read this a few years ago and never saw the comments. It's a pretty great piece of writing, maybe even more brilliant if it's totally fake; but yeah, his comments call it into doubt. It's hard for me to tell whether he's being sarcastic, on drugs, or admitting to making it up. Or all three.


nice, thanks for the read ^_^


One theory being discussed is that Putin will declare Russia + Belarus + Ukraine a new country, and thus can be the leader of it and avoid difficult changes needed to continue to serve as President. They've done quite a bit of dancing to keep him in power despite term limits, and a new constitution would greatly facilitate his (and his cronies) ability to hold power


> They've done quite a bit of dancing to keep him in power despite term limits,

Wasn't it hilarious how in 2008-2012 (? or thereabouts) the Prime Minister was suddenly more important than the President, when before and after it's been the other way around?


There seems to be an "anschluss" underway with Belarus already. But it doesn't appear today that Putin needs any legal grounds to declare anything he wants; he's essentially president-for-life already, without changing the borders.


Ukraine has gas reserves that seem to be mostly untouched because of regional turmoil and therefore a temporary inability to get that gas out of the ground.


sadly, Putin lives in 19th century and wants everyone join him there


Russia is close to a modern day feudal state if you think about it. The only difference is that Putin splits the country's mineral resources with the oligarchy instead of the land. This is coming from an acclaimed Russian novelist, Vladimir Sorokin. This Spiegel interview with Sorokin dates from before the 2008 Russo-Georgian war:

https://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/spiegel-intervi...


at some level, it’s fair to say that serfdom just never stopped: you can call the leader “tsar”, “comrade”, “president”, or whatever else you want if it makes you happy, but “prole” and “serf” are more or less cognates too.


> Because if you want to be a world power in 21st century what you need is a huge economy.

Lol being a world power was never about the economy, it had always been about military strength. Americans might think that they are a superpower because they have one of the largest economies in the world, but that’s being totally small-minded and missing the fact that the reason why their economy is that big in the first place is that the purpose of economies is to power the military with networks, talent, and money.


So many commentators did not live through post-USSR 90s to completely miss the mentality and culture which shapes Putin's decisions.

First, you need to understand values of a person, then their goals, then their methods to achieve the goals. 90s in post-USSR countries were a relatively free environment (from state prosecution) and it naturally selected for individuals which wanted as much power as possible and were willing to take it. For these individuals power is given only to those, who are powerful enough to have it, and must be taken from those, who are not powerful enough to keep it. If you are having your power, than it is moral for you to keep it until you don't.

This way of thinking is not something new or unique to post-USSR 90s - we as humanity have lived with this way of thinking for millennia and our thinking gave birth to countless empires and kingdoms. Those, who were powerful enough to be emperors, also had a right to be. Those, who challenged them in their power, would be new emperors, if proven powerful enough, otherwise would be painfully killed, their property and wives taken and their name forgotten. Let's call this mentality a "Cult of a Warrior". When you are living in this mentality, nothing is worse than feeling shame of abandoning your ideals or friends; you must be a truthful Warrior of the Cult until you die. But in the same time you can freely take anything you like which does not already belong to any of your friends, because if somebody is not powerful enough to fight you, than this person is not worthy of keeping this thing in the first place.

Some of us (humans) during a course of time have countlessly discovered and rediscovered that people can be treated as equal in principle, independent on their physical/economic/political power. This arrangement led to a more productive economic environment where zero-sum-game of Cult of a Warrior changed to a positive sum game of "Everybody Must Be Soft Cult". Also less overall human suffering is kind of cool, but economy thing is always first. In Everybody Must Be Soft Cult power over people can be used only with great care, everything is governed by a bureaucracy and no-one is unwilling to take too much responsibility for any action. This Cult uses a strong moral system to prohibit each of its members from using too much power on the others and those, who do not accept this system, are gradually punished with worse and worse strikes of punishment each time to learn their lesson. At the end, those individuals, who do not understand the reason for given punishment (its always abuse of power over others), are brought to death or exiled. Welcome to the Western civilization as we know it.

So let's go back to Putin and Ukraine. If we accept as an axiom that Putin is an adept of the Cult of a Warrior, then we can make the following conclusions:

1. Putin sees himself as a Chief Warrior of his tribe and therefore has factual and moral power to make any decisions for his tribe as he likes it. I will call him the "Chief Warrior" from now on.

2. The Chief Warrior sees that as time goes on, more and more fellow members of his tribe are turning from Cult of a Warrior to the Cult of Everybody Must Be Soft. From a point of view of a Warrior nothing is worse than to convert yourself to an Everybody Must Be Soft person. Worse is only when your children convert to Everybody Must Be Soft Cult and become all PC and LGBTQ drug loving hippies. No Warrior wants that to their children.

3. So from the Chief Warrior point of view he (in the Warrior cult its always he) does not have any choices at all regarding what to do with his life and how to guide his tribe next. First of all, he must save the tribe from this fucking Everybody Must Be Soft epidemy which is happening right now and must do so ASAP.

4. To save the tribe from Everybody Must Be Soft epidemy it must be separated from the source of the illness in the first place. That means economic and information blockade. All key technologies and industries must be developed in house, all external communication must be ceased, the nation must be quarantined until it find its Warrior soul again. Also its awesome if some of the most active bad blood from the Everybody Must Be Soft movement emigrates in the process.

5. So how to turn a course of a nation of 100+ million people, rapidly integrating from 1990s into Western economy and system of values? It is not so easy. You nee some help from your opponent in doing so. Remember Eastern martial arts - it takes less power to use your opponent against himself, then to do everything all by yourself? So you need to use Everybody Must Be Soft system of punishment to get yourself excluded and expulsed from its system. Economic sanctions is the name for it. For all sanctions the national economy will get a strong hit in the short term, but will become independent from the Everybody Must Be Soft economic system in the long term. Everything, which does not kill us, makes us stronger - said a fellow Warrior (or something like that) once.

6. How to get economic sanctions from the West? Everybody Must Be Soft always punishes for abuse of power, so we must show it to them. Crimea in 2014 was a nice start and we also reminded our fellow Warriors that our soul of the Warrior is not lost yet to the illness, that the times are turning. Also have to make internal reforms regarding freedom of speech, independent news media and political parties to smoke out all the Everybody Must Be Soft elite, so that this liberal pus comes out of an ill body of the Warrior which always has been and always will be Russian Empire, or Russia as it is simply called right now.

So what can people from Everybody Must Be Soft Cult can do to gain advantage in this fight? First of all, get their heads out of their arses and imagine that some people from another culture living on another continent might think differently than they are regarding fundamental ways of living and morality. Take some LSD and watch Chinese martial arts movies for Christs sake if you have so limited imagination.

Second, launch a program of giving free Western university education to Russians with a condition of returning back to their shitty dictatorial country as it is right now and starting improving something in this regard. Subsidize creation of Russian voice-over for all Western movies, give free English language classes to people over 30 and overall increase cultural transfer to people living currently in Russia. To kill Putin you have to convert all these people into the Everybody Must Be Soft mentality.

Third, in NO CASE create any new economic sanctions to Russia and repel all the old ones. Going the sanctions route would be like giving the Chief Warrior exactly what he wants on a silver plate. Give large amounts of aid to Ukraine to compensate for inconvenience of having a bully neighbor at the same time.

Fourth, either Everybody Must Be Soft Cult wins by converting everyone over, or it dies from hands of the Great Russian and Chinese Warriors who are getting stronger in the meantime.

PS. Sorry for my grammar and typos, not a native speaker. Also slightly edited regarding grammar/typos.


I think the Sanctions/No Sanctions debate is mostly moot. North Korea has been in the status of pariah state for decades and hasn't bent an inch. Compare that to China for whom we gladly swept the Tiananman Massacre under the rug, respected their sovereignty, made them a top trading partner and they have also not bent an inch. And we have hosted thousands of Chinese grad students at our universities. They are also watching the events in Ukraine right now and thinking "Why not Taiwan?" Modern dictators have learned very well the propaganda game. "We're rich because our enemies fear us" or "We're poor because our enemies are mistreating us" both work pretty well.


North Korea has definitely bent. Their nuclear program is moving slowly. Their cruise missile program is moving slowly. Without the sanctions they would have had missiles to carry out a global nuclear strike decades ago. South Korea launched satellites in the 90s!

China also bent. But in a way that is very different from what people expected. There was this idea that economic freedom must lead to political freedom. It was the cornerstone of political calculations for a century in the west. But it turns out China bent on the economic side without bending on the political side. This wasn't preordained, if hardliners in China had won their battle against reformers China would still be trapped. But by the time that it became clear that this was the greatest miscalculation of the last half century, it was too late. China became too entrenched economically in the global order for any sanctions to be possible.

But sanctions have worked. Iran doesn't have nuclear weapons because of sanctions.

What sanctions don't do is they don't lead to regime change. But they absolutely lead to massive behavioral changes.


"Bent" meaning in their intentions. Opening up to China was always meant to show them that capitalism was to everyone's advantage and that in a few decades they'd trend away from authoritarianism naturally. That absolutely hasn't happened. They are not the same country as they were 30 years ago but in many ways they are much worse.


> North Korea has been in the status of pariah state for decades and hasn't bent an inch.

There are sanctions on the NK leadership and you have to convert them and their children into the Western way of thinking before they can even give open information to regular people. Right now Russia just started to censor its internet and Western values together with Western media cat still freely flow to Russia's people. This window of opportunity is closing rapidly, over though.

> Compare that to China for whom we gladly swept the Tiananman Massacre under the rug, respected their sovereignty, made them a top trading partner and they have also not bent an inch.

Because China has ~ 1B people and it heavily censors its media from the start. You cannot change mentality of so many people so fast.


Yeah China censors media. So does Russia. So long as the control media they can make the population believe nonsense. Even countries with statutory freedom of speech are getting bombarded with propaganda very effectively. It's never been easier to get huge swaths of a national population to believe abject lies. Once they believe that government abuses are necessary for security they will get away with them forever.


You can not really compare Chinese and Russian censorship as of 2022. They are still on a completely different scale.


Thank you, this is a very useful model of the philosophical differences between Russia and the west since the fall of the soviet union and provides some quality food for thought about how to change the direction geopolitics are going with the resurgence of strongmen across the globe.

I have traveled to Ukraine and Russia several times, dated a Russian briefly, then a Ukrainian, worked with Ukrainians in DC for several years, learned a bit of Russian and Ukrainian along the way... One of the things that I did not anticipate at first was the shared philosophical heritage with the west - my Russian ex-girlfriend's favorite book was Seneca's Letters to Lucilius, for one random example. For another, take a visit (in better times) to the Hermitage in St Petersburg and notice how the museum honors greek/roman philosophy and empire as much as any western museum.

The philosophical position upon which this country was founded - the rise of what recon517 is calling the "Everybody Must Be Soft" philosophy - has only been a dominant force recently, really only coming onto stage in the 20th century. It is not what has ruled the world for the majority of our 6,000 years of civilization and there is no guarantee that it will continue to do so. The idea that those who take and keep power by whatever means have a moral right to it is not new. I recently finished reading Xenophon's Anabasis (aka The Persian Expedition), and this philosophy seeps through just about every page as the Greek army lays waste to anyone not deemed of benefit to them, even fellow Greeks. Xenophon was a close friend of Socrates, remember.

Xenophon addressing the army, Anabasis book 6: "As long as you stay together united as to-day, you will command respect and procure provisions; for might certainly exercises a right over what belongs to the weaker."

My point with all of this is 1) we have more shared history than you might think, and 2) that if you enjoy the fruits of an equality mindset over the fruits of a winner-takes-all mindset, then do not take it for granted. Its dominance in politics is not guaranteed, at home or abroad.

Live it, understand it, be it, calmly share it, never force it. We cannot win this war of ideas by treating it like a war. The irony is that in the end it is far more powerful to cooperate than to take, but the success rests upon preventing individuals from concentrating and exercising that power.

My two cents, another imperfect model for consideration.


What do you suppose makes it so impossible for a soft cult politician to recognise a warrior when they see one? Because warriors seem to have no problem seeing the other way around.

The Americans had their noses rubbed in it for 20 years in Afghanistan, only to see the warrior Taliban spring right back up overnight. I can’t imagine a more effective wake-up call than that.

It would have been better if they had just called Gorbachev and asked if invading Afghanistan could ever work or they should just drop it. He has the experience and I’m sure he would have been happy to share it.


I don't think they have a problem recognizing those that subscribe to the warrior cult mentality - notice how often our politicians publicly call Putin a "thug"? It's dealing with it that's the issue. You literally have to change a culture - how does one do that? Clearly sanctions are a blunt tool and often backfire. And violence is supposed to be the last resort for those of the equality mindset, whereas it's the first for the warrior mindset. It's tricky.

I've tried to map this model onto Afghanistan but I think that's a bit of a different beast. America was 100% foolish to invade, I agree. But an equality mentality and a warrior mentality are not the only cultural philosophies. Religion alters the picture in yet another way.


Perhaps, but the way the last cold war ended was by economic collapse. The warrior cultists needed somebody feeding and arming them, so they needed an economy, and their economy wasn't up to the task. I'm pretty sure the folks pushing the sanctions understand this.

Also, you could choose more neutral labels. The point of the egalitarians isn't that people should be soft but that people have rights even if they can't defend them. And really Putin believes this too, he just ignores this when convenient. He isn't okay with harms done to Russia when it was weak. If he really accepted this warrior ethos, he would think they were perfectly fine. Russia couldn't defend its interests, so it deserved whatever it got.

A neutral term for might makes right is kraterocracy. "Democracy" doesn't quite capture the alternative, but will do. Perhaps "egalitarianism" is better.


> Perhaps, but the way the last cold war ended was by economic collapse. The warrior cultists needed somebody feeding and arming them, so they needed an economy, and their economy wasn't up to the task. I'm pretty sure the folks pushing the sanctions understand this.

Except currently Europe desperately needs oil and gas from Russia.

> Also, you could choose more neutral labels. The point of the egalitarians isn't that people should be soft but that people have rights even if they can't defend them.

It was partly irony, partly an attempt to show how we (West) could be seen from their (Warrior) side. Because Warrior clan's people deeply despise the other ones.

> And really Putin believes this too, he just ignores this when convenient. He isn't okay with harms done to Russia when it was weak. If he really accepted this warrior ethos, he would think they were perfectly fine. Russia couldn't defend its interests, so it deserved whatever it got.

If your friend is badly beaten physically, you do not leave this friend behind to die because he is a weakling, you help him heal his wounds and make revenge later. If your friend has became weak emotionally, than it is time to dump or even kill him because of mercy. Because true strength of the Warrior lies in his spirit first and in its body second.

Russia in 90s was very weak economically, but spiritually was at its peak of Warrior (or bidlo/gopnik) ethos.

> A neutral term for might makes right is kraterocracy.

Kudos for the right terms!)


You might like to hear about John Mearsheimer's concept of "Liberal Hegemony" because it seems very similar to what you've been talking about.

Ten Minute Talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JDSK_Lb7xxI Long Lecture: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ESwIVY2oimI


Even broken clock is right twice a day.


What is the endgame here?

Russia is outclassed by NATO both economically and militarily.

If NATO intervenes economically, Russia will lose much.

If NATO intervenes militarily, Russia will lose much (but at great cost to NATO).

The risk of NATO intervention is high, right? Russia understood this before invading, right? So it seems Russia is accepting a high risk of loss.

But it doesn't make sense that a nation as sophisticated as Russia would accept such a high risk of loss. Which means that they might actually believe the risk of NATO intervention is low.

How could the risk be low without some kind of collusion or hidden knowledge (hidden from us common folk)? Are "they" ("the global elite", "the military industrial complex") all "in it" (profiting) together? Is Russia just suicidal? If (when?) Russia loses out, how do they react?


I think the risk of direct NATO military intervention is very low, due to Ukraine not being a member state. As the Nato secretary said, they will support Ukraine, but made it clear the security guarantees are only for allies.

"I think also that we need to realize that Ukraine is a highly valued partner. We support them with military support, with political support, with the cyber defences, with equipment. Different Allies provide different types of support. But when it comes to NATO Allies, we provide absolute security guarantees. Meaning that we make it absolutely clear that an attack on one Ally will trigger a response from the whole Alliance. One-for-all. All-for-one."

https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/opinions_192343.htm


Not only is Ukraine not a member state, but Russia is a military power and NATO countries have a very low appetite for war (which is good so long as there are other options for resolving conflict).


For sure Putin has thought most scenarios through and have guessed correctly that the West will not intervene.

The West however cannot be seen to do nothing, so sanctions are the logical next step.

A part of me thinks that Putin at 69 years old, senses that he have to create a great legacy for himself and invading Ukraine seems like a perfect opportunity.

I sincerely hope that the sanctions will include removing Russia from all sports and excluded from as much trade as possible.


I agree. I definitely think Putin wants to be the hero who re-established the Russian empire or something. I really hope we hit hard with sanctions and they aren't just for show like various European weapon contributions (never mind Canada sitting on its hands in that regard and Germany actively blocking Estonia's weapons and instead sending helmets ffs).

That said, I'm worried that the sanctions will be weak/ineffectual as I doubt NATO countries will want to risk economic harm, especially in Europe where they've allowed themselves to become so dependent on Russian natural gas. Personally I think Ukrainian lives are worth an increase in energy prices.


Same here, but in Denmark many house owners are already struggling with prices on electricity going from DKK 2.000/month to 5.000/month. And this is before Putin invaded Ukraine.

And now gas and oil prices seem to be rising, triggering Biden to state that these increases will be dealt with.

So no, I'm not optimistic about sanctions even though I also think Ukraine must come first.

https://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/ukraine-russ...


>I think the risk of direct NATO military intervention is very low

I agree the military intervention risk seems low, but what about economic intervention? Isn't this going to have some serious economic repercussions for Russia?


Russia has grown its gold reserves drastically over the last decade, has relatively little debt and is increasingly trading with China without using US dollars at all.

I'd say they've anticipated those serious economic repercussions to some extent. But I also suspect Russians may be more willing to tolerate things such as a weak economy if it helps achieve other goals. I kind of see it like a parallel with Russia shooting a bullet at its own economy, while the Soviet Union in the 20th century shot plenty of bullets at its own people...for various reasons.


I thought the last round of sanctions was so inpactful because they targeted russian oligarch investments rather than the russian state. Hurt the oligarchs and they get angry with putin.


It's proven to have an opposite effect. Cutting their ties with the west just consolidates their loyalty. It's painful for them once that happens, but long term effects are actually not serving the purpose.


Isn't something like 1/3 of their GDP energy exports though? Presumably most of the customers are European.


The flip side of that is that the Europeans are heavily dependent on those exports.


Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission said they have spent weeks prior to this getting assurances from other countries to increase their gas deliveries. They named Azerbaijan, Egypt, Nigeria and Norway.

She said, they are now in a state, where they can't be pressured trough gas deliveries from Russia. Whether this is true, I have no idea.


Weeks? JFL.

You can't build LNG transfer depots to replace half of your pipeline deliveries in years, let alone weeks.


Just passing on what was said, I don't have much knowledge on this topic. As I understood, they were implying importing more gas from other countries on existing infrastructure, not building entirely new one.

Looking at this, Russian LNG imports makes up 20%. Doesn't seem to be completly impossible for the other countries on that list to cover for it at maybe a higher price. https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=51358


True, ultimately it comes down to which country is more willing to let their population suffer. I know where my money is.


It’s not even about that.

It looks like Putin is making the correct calculation that the west would suffer more.

Look at the Chinese reaction, it is very unlikely he would be making this move without at least tacit Chinese support. He has an outlet for all of that energy and grain.

Where will Europe recover that supply from?


From wherever China is buying it now.


You mean like Iran?

Oil is fungible to a significant degree, but oil politics are not.


Are you sure? Now Iran suddenly seems more likeable partner for oil trade than Russia. And Europe always wanted the JCPOA deal.


Yes, except now the Iranians also suddenly have significantly more leverage in negotiating a new treaty. Coming to a timely agreement there is not a foregone conclusion.

The key balance here is with the Iranians and the saudis. In all likelihood the nato response hinges on how much support they can count in the Middle East.


We're relatively economically powerless here. We've spent the last thirty years deindustrializing on behalf of China, which runs a trade surplus of a trillion dollars a year with the United States and can afford to use to keep Russia afloat in spite of whatever sanctions we think we can push.


As an aside, I wonder why more people (especially on this forum) aren't discussing the likelihood of increased cyber attacks, not just on government and military institutions but on private businesses. If we sanction Russia, they might hit our hospitals, banks, etc. Seems like we should start ratcheting up our security.


I work at the big fintech with a large footprint in Eastern Europe. We have been ramping up our cyberdefence capabilities intensively for over a week now based on various public and non-public advisories. As far as I see from my extended network, we are definetly not alone doing that.


I guess I was thinking every NATO country and the whole of the EU should be boosting its security posture.


For a week? You should have been preparing for years. Seriously.


I posted a link about that earlier but it got flagged.


Agreed, this is a terrifying prospect. Governments, hospitals, transport links.. anything.


Dams, hydro, iron smelters, steel mills…

What worries me is the idea that some ex-soviet apparatchik (someone like Vladimir himself) might want to take eye-for-eye, and reduce western infrastructure to the same level of ruin of the Soviet’s, after ‘89.

Their industry and economy was struggling and fell apart overnight but the West wasn’t happy to just win, it wanted to Win Big. We rubbed the unproductivity of it in their face, kicked the market wide open to fire sales and mass demobilization… these humiliations create resentment, and you never know who’s the more spitefully determined.


> Their industry and economy was struggling and fell apart overnight but the West wasn’t happy to just win, it wanted to Win Big. We rubbed the unproductivity of it in their face, kicked the market wide open to fire sales and mass demobilization

I'm not familiar with this; can you elaborate or link me to something?


Post-communist states sold off their remaining assets after 1989. Many people think (correctly in many cases) that there was a lot of corruption during the process. That allowed people (usually foreign) to buy a lot of key infrastructure and other stuff for nothing.


The OP seemed to imply that the West actively orchestrated this? Is that what is meant by "there was a lot of corruption during the process"?


In reality: not "the west", but people from the west who saw an easy opportunity. Which makes people here think it was "The West".


They are actively doing it anyway.


> Isn't this going to have some serious economic repercussions for Russia?

Russia's been sanctioned for nearly a decade. They're probably the most resource-rich nation on earth and have a nearly fully self-sufficient economy. What little they need they can get from China.

Also, when people look at Russia's GDP, they need to look at REAL numbers (ie. Adjusted for PPP). Russia's real GDP is ~3x higher than their nominal GDP (because sanctions drive down currency trade and make the nominal number basically useless).


> Russia's been sanctioned for nearly a decade. They're probably the most resource-rich nation on earth and have a nearly fully self-sufficient economy. What little they need they can get from China.

It might look so like we have a self-sufficient economy, but it's not true. We have lots of resources, but to mine them and produce things you need technology. We're mostly importing needed technology and it's not something that can be changed fast. And things didn't change much for the last 10 years. China is a good partner, they can produce and export all needed tech things, but I doubt that in the current world is a good option to depend on one partner.

I'm Russian and I don't understand the reasons for the invasion of Ukraine. And I don't agree with our country leaders' decisions. It doesn't look the peace could be brought by war and aggression. And I'm feeling that we already lost. We lost opportunities to partner with Ukraine and other countries. We lost momentum to grow our own economy.


> I'm Russian and I don't understand the reasons for the invasion of Ukraine. And I don't agree with our country leaders' decisions. It doesn't look the peace could be brought by war and aggression. And I'm feeling that we already lost.

When you talk with people around you in Russia, does support for the invasion feel like a wedge issue? No pressure to respond if you feel like it's not easy to talk about.

For a bit of context, where I live there's some controversy of whether or not the federal government needed use certain reserve powers. [1] I personally felt the government's actions were pretty measured, but I understand (at least on a theoretical or emotional level) why other people might not have been comfortable with it. I sometimes wonder if support for Russia's invasion is very polarizing internally. That said, I don't speak Russian or know much about the public consciousness there.

[1] https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-federal-gover...


> I don't understand the reasons for the invasion of Ukraine.

I think I do.

It seems to be the same as the reason for invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. Ukraine also started a transformation, slipping away from Russia's influence and opening to West. Russia's rulers (whether that is Putin or whomever) understandably got pissed by this loss of influence "in their backyard" and they decided they have to do something.

It was clear to Russians for a long time now that NATO was fractured on Ukraine and that even the hawkish Western powers won't go into direct war with Russians because of Ukraine. It's not that important to anybody in the West.

Considering the fact West won't fight in Ukraine, and it did not provide any real concessions to Russia's demands, it is not surprising that Russia has taken initiative. It makes perfect sense, for Russians it is the only way to make sure NATO/EU won't happen and also win control and resources in Ukraine at the same time (which may be a substantial reason as well, despite the fact Putin does not talk about it).

Considering the disproportion in military powers, I think now it would be best for Ukrainians to capitulate, admit defeat and avoid unnecessary deaths. Also, the West bears some responsibility for this misery in Ukraine. Even from western point of view, West should have never started this overture process with false promises and predictable bad results. Unless the Russian invasion was actually a desired result in some secret mastermind plan made in the West... which does not seem likely.


Russia has been preparing for severe Western sanctions for the better part of a decade. Sanctions are obviously not a sufficient deterrent.


> Isn't this going to have some serious economic repercussions for Russia?

Russian economy is in decline since 2014. COVID-19 pandemic has increased its decline even further.

So it seems that the upcoming EU + US economic sanctions will be used by propaganda as the ultimate explanation of the decline. I mean Kremlin actually looks forward to more sanctions in order to have plausible explanation ("we are at war and our enemies made your life worse; we need to stay strong around our leader mr. Putin" shit).


> Russian economy is in decline since 2014.

The vast, vast majority of the growth in US and EU economies since 2014 (really, much earlier than that, though) has been in fundamentally non-productive sectors like finance, real estate, entertainment, social media, and hospitality.

This is all well and good in peacetime, but the GDP calculation changes dramatically when you're on a war footing and need to produce actual tangible things. Russia looks much, much, much better economically than GDP suggests in the context of its ability to produce theater materiel, power that materiel, and man that materiel.

It's going to be a fun day for us when our pathetic "service-based economy" workforce of ad spent optimizers, real estate agents, attorneys, starbucks baristas, ReactJS programmers, UI designers, Buffalo Wild Wings servers, twitch streamers, instagram influencers, and "hustlers" of all kinds get drafted to fight hardened alcoholic roughnecks who've spent the last 20 years actually building things, backed up by Chinese rangefinders, optics, and target acquisition systems.

Good luck to us.


You forgot to add some homophobia to your straw man depiction of the West.


You just depicted your world, not the West.


Russia does 5 times more trade with China than the US. Most of the west is reliant on Russian oil or Russian allies oil making it difficult to put down hard sanctions as Russia holds more power that the west would like to admit.

Military intervention is the best solution Russia has a large army but its old and would be unable to deal with western military, but there is no real path for that to happen.


Perhaps, but there are already significant economic sanctions in place since the previous invasion of Ukraine in 2014. Russia has survived those reasonably well. More sanctions will probably come but they can only be incremental. Several key NATO members are highly dependent on Russian energy supplies and can't afford to shut those off indefinitely.


We're talking about the 2 biggest nuclear powers here. A tiny mistake or misunderstanding is all that's needed. Google Vasily Arkhipov. After the EU sanctions overnight, it seems that Russia felt it had not much to lose, and they launched their attack.


This attack has been planned for months… EU sanctions have nothing to do with that.


I don't believe it was inevitable.


It was inevitable since 2014. The only thing that is surprising is that it took this long.


Whatever is inevitable for eight years is really not.


Well, if you were looking a bit more closely you would have noticed a lot of little steps all leading to that goal, so as far as I'm concerned it was inevitable, but you are of course entirely entitled to your own worldview.


Maybe not, if you're young enough to think eight years is a long time.


Then you did not listen to Putin's speech where he declares all territories which have once been part of the Russian empire as illegitimate states which should be forcibly reintegrated. He outright declared himself an Imperialist with dreams of empire. The only thing which would have dissuaded Putin was overwhelming force.


And what if Russia detonates a nuclear bomb over these incoming NATO troops?


Then there will be a hot nuclear war.

No something I welcome, but the calculations you are making don’t match up with reality.

How would you have it? Just let any nuclear armed state invade any country it wants? There has to be a place where the line is drawn.


I have trouble understanding your point of view. What are you suggesting? I hope not that US starts nuclear war with Russia over disagreement about Ukraine?


In the case that Russia drops a nuke on NATO troops, you believe that the US should just accept that with no response?

Russia has agency in this scenario. If they drop nukes first they are starting a nuclear war.


The only way it would have been avoidable is for the EU and NATO to withdraw their support (economic, political, military) from Ukraine, in order to enable the Kremlin to bring about a Russia-friendly regime by non-military means. Putin’s goal was always to turn Ukraine back into at least a vassal state of Russia. Given the western-oriented developments in Ukraine since 2014, the opportunity window was slowly closing, time was running out.


Official neutrality and a trade deal with both the EU and Russia?


You couldn’t prevent the Ukrainian people to predominantly prefer a western orientation, and to vote for a government with western values. The only conceivable way to really satisfy Putin would have been for the Ukraine to be controlled by Russia-aligned propaganda and media, probably with rigged elections, similar to Belarus.

Of course, Putin may have hoped that the Ukrainian public would "see the light" and realize that they are really Russian people (as Putin seems to think they ought to) and align themselves accordingly, but that would have been a pipe dream.


How, in your estimation, could it have been averted then?

The west doesn’t really hold the cards at the moment.


The West was ambivalent about eventual Ukraine membership in Nato for 8+ years. What has that achieved?

- If Nato had put a memorandum on Ukraine membership: Russia would have less of a reason to attack but Nato wouldn’t be able to help defend Ukraine in case of an attack

- Nato stays ambivalent about eventual membership: Russia is more likely to attack and, as stated by the Nato general secretary and the US president, Nato won’t help defend Ukraine in case of an attack


> memorandum

I assume you mean "moratorium"?


Yes :)


That's mostly because they have more to lose.


That doesn’t really answer the question.

You claimed that this wasn’t inevitable. From today’s vantage point, it seems pretty clear that this was Putin’s intent all along.


Ah, the good old “YOU made me do it” line. So, Putin had beed moving his 160,000 soldiers to the border for weeks because of the sanctions that were taken 2 days ago?


And NATO had been sending arms and advisors into Ukraine. And what good did that do for Ukrainians who by and large are sick of this conflict?


These arms are probably what will give them their country back in the end. Nobody is under any illusion that the Ukrainian army can defeat Russia in a conventional war. But Russia is signing up for possibly decades of guerilla and insurgencies and is going to bleed dry like the USSR did in Afghanistan.

You know of what Ukrainians are even sicker than this conflict? Russian imperialism. Each instance of sabre rattling brings them closer to the West.


Ukraine is not owned by Russia. If Ukraine invites NATO troops in, that is their right to do so. Ukraine does not want to be part of Russia, which is why Putin just had to launch an attack against the whole of the nation. Kharkiv is Russian-speaking majority and right next to the border, why didn't it voluntarily join Russia 5, 10, 20 years ago? It didn't want to is the correct answer.

Remember how the Russian government was recently talking about how what goes on inside of their borders is only their business? That they may move their troops anywhere they like inside of their borders (the obvious lie by Putin & Co that was obvious at the time)? Yeah, that's the same principle.


Imagine Mexico for any reason would invite Russian army. What answer do expect from US in such case?

And you don't have to imagine, just remember Cuban missile crisis (in response to US deploying missiles in Turkey, Italy)


> Imagine Mexico for any reason would invite Russian army.

I've heard this "analogy" brought up several times in the last couple days, but I just don't find it persuasive or similar, or really actually matter.

If Mexico decided to invite the Russian army in for whatever reason, that is their choice as a sovereign nation. I (as an American) would be super worried about that, but I would also think that the US should probably be asking itself why Mexico had chosen to do this instead of allying itself with the US.

And that's really the heart of this for me: despite Ukraine's history with Russia, they seem to feel that joining NATO is better for their security and safety. Russia should take a hard look at themselves and ask why that's the case, and maybe adjust their behavior so they'd be considered a more trustworthy partner.

But of course that would never happen; instead we have a dictator who believes Russia has some natural right to Ukraine's lands, and will take it by force if necessary. If the US were behaving that way toward Mexico, I absolutely wouldn't blame them for looking for outside help. It would be irresponsible for them not to.


Ukraine is not getting nuclear weapons on its territory. If that were really the issue, Putin would have invaded the Baltic states and Poland. You know, where the weapons actually are.


You are suggesting to attack NATO countries. Do you want WW3?


In which way does what I want matter? I merely point out Putin's hypocrisy, consisting in attacking a country that gave up voluntarily its nuclear weapons and that would not be getting American weapons at all if it weren't for its aggressive neighbour. If Putin were really frightened by NATO, he would not be destabilising Ukraine, he would be undermining Poland.


Ah, yes. It's a pity the Ukrainians did not pick the right side back in 2014 before they ousted Yanukovych.


Most certainly. This will end Russia's ability to continue to grow in any way.


I'm reasonably convinced that the only reason for anyone relevant to float around the idea of a NATO-Ukraine relationship was to drag an already economically fragile Russia into a conflict that they may "win" but at a high cost for Russia and for Ukraine. I say "win" because Russia will poison Ukraine for NATO, making it less (or not at all) desirable for NATO but will pay a heavy price. Overall that's a win for NATO as many (most?) members can breathe a lot easier around a weakened Russia.


Ukraine had been interested in joining NATO and the EU for 10 years now. The west has used this conflict very well but that is not the reason for the conflict. The reason for the conflict is entirely in Putin's head.


> Ukraine had been interested in joining NATO and the EU for 10 years now

When Ukraine was flirting with the idea of a relationship with the EU in 2013-2014 the Crimean invasion happened. It was absolutely predictable even at that time and in fact many EU officials I have spoken to (including high ranking ones) agreed as much since back then. The signs of a regime which doesn't stand any proximity of a threat to their rule was obvious.

> The reason for the conflict is entirely in Putin's head

I have never been in Putin's head, nor met or talked to him. But to my pride I do forget more history every day than most people will learn in their lifetime and can't think of similar example of a superpower happily accepting adversaries at their border.

In recent history look no further than when the US ordered a naval blockade on Cuba after Cuba's request for Russian missiles to be placed on the island to defend in the event of another US invasion attempt. Putin is literally taking a page from that book.

I don't need to be in Putin's head because he's not some brilliant tactician doing something unheard of, he's just playing an old song to a new audience. If it's the first time you hear it you just have to pay more attention to what came before today.


> But to my pride I do forget more history every day than most people will learn in their lifetime and can't think of similar example of a superpower happily accepting adversaries at their border.

Not to burst your bubble, but the USSR accepted Turkey with nukes on their border, and before them, Japan. China accepts being essentially surrounded by hostile powers, many of whom are part of NATO.


The Black Sea separates Russia and Turkey while an invasion staged from Ukraine could cut Russia off from the Black Sea in a few days. Very different security concerns.

(Of course “Turkiye” becoming a member of Nato in these times would have been a joke considering Erdoğan. But maybe I’m just showing my naivete.)


They said USSR and they did share a small land border.


Fair. I guess Georgia? Crossing the Caucasus Mountains is harder than crossing the European Plains.


I don't like bubbles anyway :). All those countries have consistently acted exactly with the same methods you see now. Trying to avoid direct war but with no issues interfering with each other's conflicts and "buffer countries".

Georgia, Syria, Libya, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan are all places Russia and Turkey banged heads one way or another. Just like Russia is taunting NATO to bang heads in Ukraine. China, US, India, Pakistan, Israel, Russia, Turkey are other powerful countries constantly putting out a fire and starting another one. The single larger difference being that the sphere of influence of most of those countries expands far less than US' so their conflicts are generally closer to their actual geographic border rather than on the other side of the world. Otherwise they're all fighting to maintain that buffer in all possible ways.

And at a completely different scale, people in rich neighborhoods rarely accept inconvenient buildings or neighbors right next to them as long as they can do something about it. It's not an indictment on either the people or the countries named above. Just the state of things.

Perhaps the only place with nukes and no sabre rattling today is Western Europe. Then again they have the US to do the rattling for them and pay for the service. The picture will be a lot clearer when this too becomes history.


China is in the midst of a decades long effort to not be surrounded by hostile powers. They went to war over Korea & would have over Vietnam if the US had invaded the north.


China started a war with Vietnam almost immediately after USA surrendered. (Not contradicting you; if anything supporting the point...)


As a sort of redux, I guess my feeling is that obviously, every state would prefer to be surrounded by allies, or better still, by seas.

However, the idea that all superpowers inevitably go to war to preserve this state is just wrong. If you consider superpowers starting from antiquity to today, the only state that has achieved this situation (at any point?) is the USA. Every other has had at least one significant land border with an adversary.

(PS: Probably the biggest one is, of course, between the USSR and China, which was a very hot border since the sino-soviet split).


In general, I think you are correct. Neighboring states will learn to coexist or at least one of them will cease to exist as a state. Some Americans imagine that "exceptionalism" exempts us from this dynamic, but most of us are wiser.

PS: it was nice while it lasted... https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/russia-and-chin...


Russia isn't a superpower, by most commonly accepted definitions only the US is and someone called "Vladimir Putin" has stated that too, for whatever that's worth. China, India and the EU have a better claim to that title though they're not superpowers either.


"In recent history look no further than when the US ordered a naval blockade on Cuba after Cuba's request for Russian missiles to be placed on the island to defend in the event of another US invasion attempt. Putin is literally taking a page from that book."

Well, except for the fact that the US never actually invaded Cuba.

It was a grave mistake for Ukraine to give up the nuclear weapons they inherited from the USSR.


then what was the bay of pig invasion?


That was an "invasion" by anti-Castro Cubans backed by the US government, but can't hardly be considered an US invasion.


Yes... US "only" financed, coordinated, and offered active military support for the invasion. Then imposed a blockade on Cuba for asking for nuclear help from the USSR.

And in 2014 forces which were definitely just pro-Russian militias as they clearly had no Russian insignia invaded Crimea the moment Ukraine started contemplating a relationship with the West/EU.

This kind of rationalization or nit-picking in order to reach the conclusion you had already settled on has no value, just because there are sides doesn't mean you have to blindly take one. Education and critical thinking help.


It only offered very limited military support. You entirely ignore that Castro came to power under a different pretext than communism but Cubans only learned this too late. Unfortunately Kennedy didn't give the air support needed. Cuba could have been in much better shape today.

Don't compare an authoritarian regime sending militias to conquer the territory of a democratic country to a democratic country training and supporting exiles to get rid of their tormentor. Intent matters.


Let's not kid ourselves with this kind of rationalization. Intent matters when you failed to achieve your claimed results. When you need to explain why the crap you pulled smells so much better than the same crap the other guy pulled. But it's still crap and rationalizing it from a safe place where you just get to send thoughts and prayers rather than taking it is not only completely worthless but also insulting to anyone who ever had to suffer from someone else's "good intentions", particularly a superpower's. You'd appreciate those intentions a lot less if you were at the wrong end of them.

When you do a good job you don't need to explain your intentions. It's a lesson you learn the very first time you do a good job.


Not if Russia takes Ukraine and controls the majority of wheat following into EU.

Near term impacts of climate change will very likely leads to crop failures in many of the EU's largest producing regions.

When you don't have enough food to feed your people, politics and economic sanctions become extremely flexible.

When resources run low controlling food and oil will be a very big deal.


This is delusional.


Curious what's delusional about this?

Russian and Ukraine combined account for 29% of global wheat exports, much of that to the EU.

Near term climate change will most certainly lead to massive crop failures, particularly in currently bountiful parts of the EU.

Countries like the UK (I know not EU) already cannot feed their people without imports, something like 50% of the UKs food supply is imported.

It is nearly certain that within a few decades, perhaps even sooner, we will be at a point where there is not enough food. We've already see notable crop failures in the EU.

Most of us have grown up in a time of plenty, but that time is running short.

All of this is fairly well established, so is my "delusion" in that Putin is aware of this and acting on it?


One obvious answer is that the US massively overproduces food on a scale that's hard to fathom, which is part of why we make extremely inefficient biofuels (corn ethanol) out of a big chunk of it and use it for inefficient meat production.

After some conversion through various bad units of measure (bushels->pounds->calories), and assuming ~2250 calories a day average), it looks to me like current US corn production could feed somewhere around 1.6 billion people their entire yearly caloric needs, if it was actually directed entirely at feeding people as efficiently as possible.

And that is rather obviously not the only crop or source of food originating in the US.

Math sources:

https://www.nass.usda.gov/Newsroom/2022/01-12-2022.php - corn output.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/in-defense-of-... - bushel/pound/calorie conversion

------

In short, I don't think it's very realistic to think that Europe is going to face a literal inability to get enough food even if the entirety of Ukraine never grew another plant again.


Most of the Russian and Ukraine wheat exports don't go to the EU but Egypt, Turkey, Indonesia, Bangladesh and regions there around.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/2/17/infographic-russia-...

France exports 15,228,664 tonnes of wheat, not far behind the Ukraine with 17,314,278.

Other significant wheat producers in the EU include Germany, Bulgaria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland and Lithuania.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_wheat_exp...

What climate change would let crops fail in all corners of the EU, but not Ukraine and Russia?


I agree with this assessment, and predicted this to be the year when consolidation around resources begins.


Yeah, I've already had my fill of hot takes from uninformed people on the internet, and this war isn't even 24 hours old.

Links to actual expert analyses, on the other hand, would be much appreciated.


Additionally, Russia has a significant nuclear arsenal. The word on the tweets is that NATO going head-to-head with Russia would mean two significant nuclear powers fighting directly, making a significant risk of escalation. (NATO contesting air superiority over Ukraine would mean launching attacks on Russian air defenses over the border, for example.)


Think for a moment about the signal this sends to all the other non-NATO members around the world.


What signal? That NATO is a defensive alliance and not the world's police?


No, that for instance China is free to take Taiwan and that we won't do a thing about it.

The world's police has abdicated a while ago. This is the kind of thing that happens in the vacuum left behind.


But, unlike Ukraine, the US has taken a stronger stance on Taiwan:

"Asked twice during CNN's town hall whether the US would protect Taiwan if China attacked, Biden said it would." [1]

Contrast that to the stance on Ukraine:

"We have no intention of fighting Russia."[2]

From other statements, it seems clear the administration thinks Taiwan is a critical national interest while Ukraine is not.

[1] https://www.cnn.com/2021/10/21/politics/taiwan-china-biden-t...

[2] https://www.politico.com/news/2022/02/23/biden-troops-russia...


> From other statements, it seems clear the administration thinks Taiwan is a critical national interest while Ukraine is not.

This is true. And it is the main driver behind the United States' renewed interest in domestic fab capability:

https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/7178

Taiwan isn't explicitly mentioned but it plays a large role in the reasoning behind this.


Your domestic fab capability can't run without thousands of consumables, and services only available in Asia. USA is not semiconductor self-sufficient since eighties, and cannot be any more, just like anybody else.

Semi is the most globalised industry spanning 28 countries, with USA, China, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, SK, Japan, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands being able to singlehandedly stop the whole of it.

It's a naive thinking "once TSMC will complete Arizona megafab, we can abandon Taiwan." There, are as I said, hundreds of critical single supplier globally pieces of equipment, services, and materials that most of the world had zero idea about. How about nanoneedle probes capable of testing M0 the entire industry depends on, for which there is 1 small company for the entire world.


The USA has a long, long history of being able to move when it has to. I'm pretty sure that if they want to re-create a particular level of expertise that they will be able to do so, given enough time.


Time is the crucial part, IMO.

The DoD has identified the loss of manufacturing capability as a national security risk. Maybe lower labor costs were the impetus of off-shoring manufacturing, but nearly 40 years since globalization took hold there's also a lot of manufacturing that has to go overseas simply because America is no longer able or willing to do it. Could the US bring back that capability? As you said, even if there was the will it wouldn't happen overnight.


I think you have no idea what entails what you are talking about. The world of semi has moved enormously since eighties, when the only country outside of USA with serious chip industry was Japan. Aside from "end of the pipe" fabs, and fab owners, everything else moved out, or never ever been a thing in USA.

US semiconductor equipment from LAM, and Applied Materials are more than half imported parts. US semi industry never used OSATs, until it had to ship their chips to Asia for that, and thus missed out on most of new packaging, and test tech which evolved outside of the US. Similarly for almost everything else.

Replacing Asian material suppliers for the US will be as hard as for China to develop a domestic photolithography stepper.


> I think you have no idea what entails what you are talking about.

Ok, then we'll stop talking.


I am not telling you to shut up, and I am telling you to take a deep breath, and think this over after reading up on topic a bit.

"We will betray our allies, and they will leave us alone" is a form of defeatism, and entertaining others into this way of thinking is not what a citizen of NATO country should do, let alone a public figure.


I don't think the argument should really be framed that the goal is for the US to become fully fab self-sufficient. Rather, this is about a very specific risk scenario. I think the distinction is that Taiwan is in a particularly precarious situation with a rising superpower openly wanting to reclaim it. And that rising superpower has some cultural distinction that make it a liability to US interests. The other single-point failures in the supply chain don't appear to be at that level of risk.


This was my thinking as well. Even the verbiage is similar to what China has said in the past about Taiwan, except now it is Russia saying it about Ukraine.


China is has a much weaker military and smaller nuke arsenal. Tangling directly with Russia is incredibly dangerous. China too, but less so.


China is estimated to have approximately 100 nuclear warheads and delivery systems that can reach the continental United States, anything over that would not make much sense anyway. Smaller is a relative term, in absolute terms this is a devastatingly powerful set of weapons.


China has a more powerful military than Russia at this point and vastly superior manufacturing and economic means to sustain it and push further. China's nuclear arsenal is merely smaller, but so what, nobody needs 10,000 nukes anyway. A thousand well-aimed nukes will do the job.


It makes sense. Helping the Ukrainian coup of 2014 doesn’t cost the US much but a direct war with Russia would be catastrophic.


You know how anti-vaxx trolls have certain key words and phrases they apparently can't stop themselves from using, which gives them away?

For their pro-Putler colleagues, one of those phrases is "Ukrainian coup of 2014".


>No, that for instance China is free to take Taiwan and that we won't do a thing about it.

This was already the case though this does make it clear to me that Taiwan will likely fall in short order.


I wouldn't be so sure. Taiwan is different in that they have TSMC which is definitely of extreme strategic interest to NATO.


And I once again asking the age-old question: Are you really sure that the people in power would choose a military conflict with China to stop the invasion, when simply destroying TSMC can be the alternative? Surely, if the fabs are destroyed, half of the world’s semiconductor market would evaporate, but the cost of a military conflict with a superpower like China is extremely high as well.

There have been unsubstantiated rumors for years that the Taiwanese military has outfitted TSMC fabs with explosives that can be rigged to go off in the event of a mainland invasion in order to deny China access to TSMC capabilities. Even physical destruction may be unnecessary. Due to the complexity of the semiconductor supply chain, many say that an embargo of materials and the removal of experts are enough to paralyze the fabs for many years.


What makes you think that's already the case? The administration has openly said it would defend Taiwan


Taiwan has never been a NATO member. Taiwan has semiconductors western industry depends on. And the primary reason for AUKUS and giving the Aussies nuclear sub tech is precisely so their subs will have the range to help counter China. China just "sanctioned" (largely performative) Lockheed and Boeing over a $100 million arms sale to Taiwan.

Never mind various economic measures from all parts of the West. The developed world is already doing things about China's Taiwan ambitions, and have motivations far stronger than altruism to continue doing so. Ukraine by contrast is not as well integrated as Taiwan, and it's their desire to be integrated that set Putin off in the first place. If said integration meant nothing, Putin wouldn't be invading.


Well, let's see what happens when Taiwan applies to NATO then.

> Taiwan has semiconductors western industry depends on.

For once it isn't about oil.

> And the primary reason for AUKUS and giving the Aussies nuclear sub tech is precisely so their subs will have the range to help counter China.

I'm sure the Chinese are most impressed. But Australia too will stand by when the Chinese invade Taiwan.

> China just "sanctioned" (largely performative) Lockheed and Boeing over a $100 million arms sale to Taiwan.

You need to separate out the economic incentives from the political ones there to get a clearer picture of what is happening.

> Never mind various economic measures from all parts of the West. The developed world is already doing things about China's Taiwan ambitions, and have motivations far stronger than altruism to continue doing so.

China doesn't care about any of that: they care about the United States and them alone because that is the only country that can credibly put up enough force projected into that region to put a stop to it if they decide to move.

> Ukraine by contrast is not as well integrated as Taiwan, and it's their desire to be integrated that set Putin off in the first place.

You could Swap Ukraine and Taiwan and substitute Xi and you have a winner at some point in the future, provided Taiwan would express a desire to join NATO.

> If said integration meant nothing, Putin wouldn't be invading.

Put would invade regardless, and this is the mistake that everybody is making: the NATO approach is a figleaf, that only happened after things had already started to slide inside Ukraine. But I'm pretty sure that only a very small fraction of HN is aware of that.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viktor_Yanukovych

Was placed to serve as a Russian puppet to keep Ukraine out of the influence of the West, which the country overwhelmingly wanted. After being tossed out (he's since moved to Russia) the whole separatism affair started fueled by Russia. Ukraine had every right to do so, and the occupation and subsequent invasion are proof positive that Ukraine was right about Russia's intentions, not the other way around.

You will find a lively corresponding sentiment in lots of other former USSR states.


I don't think Taiwan will apply for NATO membership. They'll run out strategic ambiguity as long as possible.

Regardless, when I say "western integration" I don't mean hard NATO membership. Taiwan is a greater economic player than Ukraine, and a very defensible island, with a very different set of political entanglements. The situations may look similar in the abstract, but it's comparing oranges to lemons.

I'm also not sure why you think the Aussies would stand by. They're already in their own economic war with China and by joining AUKUS have made their position abundantly clear. New Zealand would probably stand by, but honestly they don't matter that much militarily.

China is making enemy after enemy on the assumption that their enemies are fundamentally weak/corrupt and can be rolled over, while uniting under an ethno-nationalist/cult of personality leadership. They aren't the first in history to make that mistake. And if they continue down that road it ends in bloody defeat.


...was placed to serve as a Russian puppet to keep Ukraine out of the influence of the West, which the country overwhelmingly wanted. After being tossed out...

Could some trouble have been avoided if Yanukovych had left office via election rather than via coup? How many Ukrainians really considered his negotiation tactics with EU so unbecoming that he should have been summarily removed via "extralegal" means?


I refer the gentleman to my (amicus curiae) reply in the matter of Arkell vs Pressdr-- eh, avgcorrect vs mise_en_place: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=30539581


Someone else chooses to reply to a simple question with something other than an answer to that question... one wonders why? Who benefits?


It's not "a simple question", it's a simpleton question. Either in the sense that it's posed by a simpleton, or that it's posed by someone who hopes that the recipients are simpletons.

Either way, the reason it can't have a simple answer is that it's an invalid question, since it presupposes something which isn't true. (As further explained in https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=30539775 .)

And IMO it's a bit suspicious that so many of the "simple questions" on this subject just happen to be couched in Putlin propaganda terms.


He didn't leave via a coup, he was voted out 328 to 0.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revolution_of_Dignity


We can click through and read wikipedia just like you did. They held that vote after he had fled the nation due to the violent occupation of many government buildings. In fact they held that vote while the parliament building was so occupied.


The order isn't what mattered. What mattered is that he was a Russian stooge that fled rather than that he was prosecuted for selling out the country.

I'm not really sure what you are trying to argue here, this is pretty much settled history.


"Settled history" is for fools. I'm on the side of Ukrainians who want to live in peace and prosperity rather than suffering violence and privation. For that particular interest, it seems that holding elections could be superior to violently occupying government buildings. This "Revolution of Dignity" smelled even more CIA than January 6 did. Mrs. Robert Kagan was just one of the many spooks who left her bloody fingerprints on this supposedly sovereign nation. You call Yanukovych a stooge literally because he negotiated too firmly with EU. This seems similar to Trump being impeached because he delayed sending the same armaments to Ukraine that Obama had refused to send his entire time in office. (It seems maybe those armaments have not had the advertised effect?) Any molehill can be puffed up to a mountain, when the USA military-industrial complex might thereby grind more human lives into dollars...


> I'm on the side of Ukrainians who want to live in peace and prosperity rather than suffering violence and privation.

You mean 'under the Russian boot'. They already know what that is like, hence their resistance to a repeat performance.

The rest of the alternative reality stuff I'll not respond to, feel free to take that any way you want.


Goodness, it's enlightening to be told what I mean. Yes you've consistently avoided answering the question with which I started this thread: are elections better than violent coups?

One guess how I'm inclined to take that...

The vast majority of Ukrainians are not responsible for their misfortunes over the last decade. Certainly they have my sympathy. Violent coups usually harm the societies in which they occur, so the tiny minority of Ukrainians who took part in that coup have harmed their nation and their fellow Ukrainians. That harm has taken the form of a Russian invasion, but if it had happened somewhere else at some other time (e.g. Iran, in 1953) the harm would have come anyway.

Eventually, if we survive long enough, humans will learn to organize (and re-organize!) ourselves without large-scale violence. Some had imagined that democracy might be a part of that, but few today seem to agree.


In case anyone in the West wants to actually learn about this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LHH10jIRJmQ

Ukrainians (and Georgians, and elderly Hungarians) are already well aware...


This is a false equivalence, Ukraine and Taiwan are completely different geopolitical theaters. Different histories and different oceanic alliances.

USA has gone on record saying it will fall on the sword for Taiwan. [0]

USA never said any such thing for Ukraine. The closest commitment is Biden saying "we will defend every inch of NATO territory." [1]

[0] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-59005300

[1] https://news.yahoo.com/biden-warns-russia-us-defend-21054732...


The problem is that Taiwan is 20 miles from China and 5,500 to the U.S. (6,500 to the lower 48). It's easy to say that we will defend Taiwan now when the war would be a quick victory. Less so as China continues to close the military gap making it a difficult war. Even less so when victory becomes questionable or impossible.

The US made their commitments when their opponents were at their nadir neglecting that they'd be challenged when the opponents were at their strongest. Walking back those commitments to what the US is willing and able to defend will continue to be the challenge of the 21st century. There needs to be a strategic re-evaluation of what the US should defend and what they can defend.

IMHO, ultimately the either should not or can not defend Eastern Europe bordering Russia, The Caucasus, Saudi Arabia, and Taiwan. How to wiggle out of those commitments without giving Russia, China, & Iran ideas is the tough part.


A bigger concern to me is that Taiwan is probably more disposable to China than it is to the rest of the world. China would significantly benefit its internal semiconductor industry by destroying fabs in Taiwan while the rest of the world would be starved of critical semiconductors, and given the active US sanctions towards Huawei in China... The balance of invade vs don't invade for China regarding Taiwan is slowly shifting.

The possible what-if scenarios arising from unchecked expansion of superpowers is disturbing.


[0] clarified to be within TW relations act, i.e. help TW defend itself, aka, basically no boots on ground in Ukraine tier of promise. US has even less capability of defending TW within first island chain then it does Ukraine. The idea of course is there will be some sort of naval contest, but that will likely change once PRC expands nuclear arsenal to the point of "That’s a world war when Americans and China start shooting at one another".


> USA has gone on record saying it will fall on the sword for Taiwan.

I'll believe that when I see it, under Biden, maybe. But that may also just be posturing and probably won't last longer than the moment that the USA can become independent of Taiwanese manufacturing capabilities at which point it would actually be in the US' interest if Taiwan would no longer be able to produce.


I am very concerned about exactly this. I think it would be very well at this moment to visibly increase our support for Taiwan, and our preparations for a confrontation with China.


The US-led invasion of Iraq was an unprovoked, aggressive war built on lies. I.e. a war lead by the so-called constabulary.


Yes it was.


The US would definitely defend Taiwan.


i thought the same about Ukraine back in 2014 when Russia took the Crimean peninsula. after all we told them we would defend them if they handed over their nuclear missiles. I thought the west would do something about Hong Kong... I have thought a lot of things I was sadly wrong about.


That having nuclear weapons is literally the only way to prevent a neighbor from annexing your country.


Most countries outside the US and Western Europe has been mostly measured in their statements on today's events, see for eg Israel, Turkey etc.


>I think the risk of direct NATO military intervention is very low.

Because Joe Alzheimer is the weakest dictator in the US history.


> As the Nato secretary said, they will support Ukraine

With words.

EU has also supported Ukraine with words recently.

I've seen ads on the telly making an emotional statement that "Ukraine is Europe".

Europe as a continent does not exist: it is a small corner of Asia. Eurocentricism needs to stop. This us-vs-them game needs to stop.

This invasion is terrible for normal people, Ukrainian (bombs), Russian (sanctions) and everyone else (instability, high prices). It could have been prevented if the "west"/NATO was not "pulling on" (arming) Ukraine. The NATO already have plenty places to make bases on Russian border.

See what happened to Cuba. The US/NATO also do not like bases on their border. They should have understood Russia also does not like that.

But then I believe NATO is more into the business of war then the business of peace.


> With words.

According to Wikipedia, many NATO members are either Arms or non-lethal aid suppliers.

""" Arms suppliers: Canada, Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States

Non-lethal military aid: Germany, Italy, Slovakia, Sweden, European Union, Belarusian opposition """[1]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2022_Russian_invasion_of_Ukrai...


Yeah but it's symbolic. It won't stop Russians, just prolong the suffering of people.


> Yeah but it's symbolic.

The US alone provided $2.5 Billion of aid [2]. That doesn't include Biden's $200 Million military aid package in 2022 [2].

[1] https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/can-jaw-jaw-in-the-west-r...

[2] https://www.defensenews.com/congress/2022/01/25/200m-in-jave...


> But it doesn't make sense that a nation as sophisticated as Russia would accept such a high risk of loss. Which means that they might actually believe the risk of NATO intervention is low.

Or they see it like Poker as an "all in" move. Either lose now on their own terms in Ukraine or eventually they lose anyway as Ukraine joins NATO and Russia's nuclear advantages are "neutralized". Meanwhile there's the chance NATO may not intervene so take the risk...


And you still have the new Silk Road to bank on -- I can't help but feel that Taiwan is next.

Which is probably why the US doesn't want to split efforts across two theaters again.


US can't intervene in Ukraine since that would lead directly to WW3 (americans and russians firing at each other)

So far China didn't threaten nuclear war for anybody helping out Taiwan, the way Putin did just today.



> Or they see it like Poker as an "all in" move.

The “all in” move was when they suggested they NATO not meeting their demands to permanently commit to excluding Ukraine and withdraw allied forces from Eastern European members of NATO was an aggressive act pushing them to war in Ukraine. When NATO didn't fold, they either had to invade or show the Putin regime as a paper tiger, which is a mortal blow for an authoritarian regime.

They spent many years on efforts to weaken governments of the West and relations between them for the purpose of doing something like that and having Western unity collapse. Maybe they misjudged and thought that would pay off.


...mortal blow for an authoritarian regime.

Let's not pretend we can just torment Russia until a "good Russian leader" emerges to attend to our every desire. No politician who would ever receive 1% of the vote in Russia would support Ukraine joining NATO. NATO was formed to impoverish Russia and its allies, and that is still its obvious and declared purpose. Likewise, USA has relatively few politicians who would support China installing missile batteries along the Mexico border.


> Let's not pretend we can just torment Russia until a "good Russian leader" emerges to attend to our every desire

Let's not invent ridiculous strawmen to argue against. Pointing out that Putin was politically all-in long before the invasion began doesn't even remotely imply what you are arguing against.


[Apologies for the delay in replying; I am rate-limited on HN due to excessive pacifism.]

Perhaps I misunderstood because the idea that Russia has no options remaining is goofy. Putin wasn't "all-in" years ago, not least because he isn't "all-in" even now. He hasn't even turned off the existing pipeline yet, and it's still February.

You agree that tormenting Russia is unlikely to bring about the political changes many claim to desire. That being the case, why do we persist in tormenting Russia?


Because we saw what happened when a dictator took one country and we let him, thinking it would bring "peace in our time". We've learned that you can't just do nothing. If you do what is unacceptable, we have to push back. And Russia is doing what is unacceptable. We need to make it as painful as possible.


> [Apologies for the delay in replying; I am rate-limited on HN due to excessive pacifism.]

Snide comments insinuating that penalties on HN are based on particular views are always a dumb idea, but not nearly as bad as characterizing your apologia for Russian aggression as “excessive pacifism.”

> Perhaps I misunderstood because the idea that Russia has no options remaining is goofy.

I never said Russia has no options remaining. I said that Putin, having setup the propaganda position he did of framing NATO failure to accede to his withdrawal demands as a provocation of war I Ukraine, had no good option to avoid showing weakness from the standpoint of his domestic political position within Russia except invading Ukraine when the threat of force failed to get the West to capitulate.

> You agree that tormenting Russia is unlikely to bring about the political changes many claim to desire

I have neither agreed with that, nor agreed with your ridiculous characterization of Western actions as “tormenting Russia”.


Let's not pretend we can just torment Russia until a "good Russian leader" emerges...

. . . .

Let's not invent ridiculous strawmen to argue against.

. . . .

You agree that tormenting Russia is unlikely to bring about the political changes...

. . . .

I have neither agreed with that, nor...

Either you agree with it or you don't? Perhaps I should leave this argument, as you seem capable of continuing it all by yourself. Anyway, those who have a clue about sanctions agree that they harm innocents most of all. [0]

[0] https://sanctionskill.org/2021/10/06/sanctions-punish-childr...


>>> You agree that tormenting Russia is unlikely to bring about the political changes...

>> I have neither agreed with that, nor...

> Either you agree with it or you don't?

No, an invalid statement requires neither agreement nor disagreement. And statements of the form "You agree that [premise] is likely / unlikely to bring about [consequence]" are invalid if the premise is invalid. I can't answer either "yes" or "no" to "You agree that the Moon being made out of green cheese is likely to bring about an oversupply crisis in the dairy industry once it comes crashing down"; the only valid answer is "Mu".

Likewise nobody here knows whether "tormenting" Russia would be likely or unlikely to bring about political changes there, since nobody in this world is doing that. You'll have to pop back over to your alternate reality and check how it works out there.


If NATO had met the Russia's demands, wouldn't the invasion have been prevented?

I don't understand how the west didn't see that they should at least accept to exclude Ukraine from NATO. Why, giving in to Russia's demand (even partially) would be a loss for NATO?


> If NATO had met the Russia's demands, wouldn't the invasion have been prevented?

Probably not, in the long term, and the ability to prevent similar coercive efforts against other nations near Russia would be far less.


> I don't understand how the west didn't see that they should at least accept to exclude Ukraine from NATO.

What would the world have got in return from Russia? A solemn promise, a ratified agreement in writing and everything, that Russia would make no demands or incursions on Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity?

Yeah, something like that would be great.

Except that's what the world already got from Russia, in exchange for Ukraine giving up its nukes back in the 1990s. And look how much that piece of paper was worth.


because caving to totalitarian dictators has historically incited them to decided to take over Europe.


This is an important point


Maybe there was a chance for a solution without invasion. But it seems West did not believe/want this. Either this was because West not wanting to look weak or they have a secret plan and wanted Russia to invade... Either way, Western actions leading to this weren't in Ukraine's best interest.


This is pretty close to how I view all this. Putin knows the game is lost and so this is an all-in gambit in the hope of forestalling the inevitable.


From the little I know about history, it seems like Russia has no problem throwing human lives away for the sake of winning any conflict.


Unfortunately very true. And that has already begun, there are already Russian casualties.


What "game" is lost? Nobody is threatening to invade them. Why don't they create better future for their people the peaceful way - pursue math, education, science, even encourage tourism.


Because that's now how a kleptocracy works. Russia is essentially a failed state, a Mafia group with nuclear arms. They simply don't think in those terms, because in that world the people who are currently in power would have no role to play.


Russia recognized weakness and appears to be correct about that. The head of the German army just confirmed they are not prepared! Google translation and source below.

"In my 41st year of peacetime service, I would not have believed that I would have to experience another war.

And the Bundeswehr, the army that I am allowed to lead, is more or less blank. The policy options we can offer in support of the Alliance are extremely limited.

We all saw it coming and were unable to get our arguments through to draw and implement the conclusions of the Crimean annexation. That doesn't feel good! I'm eaten!

NATO territory is not yet under direct threat, even if our partners in the East feel the constantly growing pressure.

When, if not now, is the time to put the Afghanistan mission behind us structurally and materially and to reposition ourselves, otherwise we will not be able to implement our constitutional mandate and our alliance obligations with any prospect of success."

https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6902486...


> Russia recognized weakness and appears to be correct about that. The head of the German army just confirmed they are not prepared! Google translation and source below.

Yeah, the German military is in an abysmal state:

https://www.stripes.com/news/as-germany-prepares-for-nato-cr...:

> Among the failures: none of Germany’s submarines is operational, only four of its 128 Eurofighter jets are combat-ready and the army is short dozens of tanks and armored vehicles needed for NATO missions.

> In addition, troops are short on the basics: body armor, night vision gear and cold-weather clothing.

> The situation is so dire that 19 helicopter pilots from Germany’s Bundeswehr were forced to turn in their flight licenses because of a lack of training time.

> The reason: not enough helicopters for the pilots to fly.


The risk of US/UN intervention should be high, because that was the quid pro quo for Ukraine to abandon its nuclear weapons in the Budapest Memorandum.

No country with nuclear weapons is ever going to give them up again. No security assurances will be seen as sufficiently reliable.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Budapest_Memorandum_on_Securit...


DPRK claimed to have learned this particular lesson from events in Libya.


> The risk of NATO intervention is high, right?

The risk of NATO direct military intervention barring an attack on NATO is very close to zero. (Increased material support for Ukraine could happen, but that doesn’t have the same impact.)

Economic response by the Western powers (not through NATO, but independently and through the EU and other institutions) is already happening and certain to escalate.

> But it doesn't make sense that a nation as sophisticated as Russia would accept such a high risk of loss.

Anthropomorphizing nations can be misleading. The risks born by the nation are largely not born by the people committing the nation to a particular course. “Some of you may die, but it's a sacrifice I’m willing to make.”


From what I heard recently, Russia has two benefits:

1. Tactical - chokepoints are a major element of military tactics, and I guess there's a spot that leaves Russia completely defenseless with wide-open spaces if it doesn't own Poland and Ukraine.

2. Wheat - apparently, Russia owns quite a bit of the market, and Ukraine would carry another minority.

With that in mind, I see this entire thing as a coercive and brutal M&A, but with people's lives being destroyed instead of just their long-term career plans.


I'm sick of people crying for the "defenselessness" of nuke-filled Russia while they're the ones threatening and invading everyone.


True they have lots of nukes but simulations seem to favor US slightly in nuclear exchange. And definitely US by a large margin in a non-nuclear one.


Russia has thousands of nuclear missiles. This makes them immune to NATO invasion.


I had this mind as I wrote up my post but didn't mention it because I didn't consider the nuclear option as a serious option. Or maybe I'm just optimistic/delusional.

But how would the nuclear option play out?

Here I am, a Russian oligarch. I ordered the Ukrainian invasion because I bet that NATO wouldn't intervene because of my nukes. But it turns out I was wrong and NATO is pushing back my invasion.

So I fire some nukes.

But then they fire nukes back at me.

????

Did I profit?


> Here I am, a Russian oligarch. I ordered the Ukrainian invasion because I bet that NATO wouldn't intervene because of my nukes

I think the mistake here is to assume that the invasion is dictated by economic interests (be they oligarch interests). I don't think what's happening is driven by oligarchs, but by other geopolitical ideas (insane as they are).

As far as I can see it there's no bet. Russia pretty much knows the US will not react, and the US has no interest to start WW3 over Ukraine.


I dont understand how someone in the western world could read history and still believe that doing exactly what they did at the start of WW2 will bring a different result.


Germany invaded Austria and Czechoslovakia just before WW2, and the allies didn't do much. Only when Germany invaded Poland did they declare war on Germany.


I just don't think that Putin in 2022 is Hitler in 1939. Russia is a waning power clinging to significance, not an ascending one.


Germany in 1939 was also a waning power, following the fall of the Weimar republic and subsequently World War I.


> Russia is a waning power clinging to significance, not an ascending one.

I don't believe this, unless you define "significance" as nothing more than having your name in the world newspapers, even if it's for the wrong reasons.


That might not necessarily be the case.

Look at where they sit strategically. The amount of resources they supply to an increasingly resource hungry world. The amount of math and science talent. The possession of advanced nuclear weaponry.

Look at what they are doing militarily right now and how effectively they are doing it.

They are an extremely significant country. This is true no matter how you feel about their government.


Italy's GDP is $1.87T. Russia's GDP is $1.48T, down from around $2.3T in 2013.

Russia's economy is dependent on fossil fuels. While the decrease in Europe's use of nuclear power has been a gift to Russia, the future for fossil fuels is not bright and Russia's kleptocratic government has starved the nation of economic innovation.

I don't know what "extremely significant country" means here, but Russia is objectively a country in decline both in terms of economic and cultural power.


In terms of real GDP (PPP), Russia is at $4.3T while Italy is at $2.6T. Russia has the 6th largest GDP by this metric. However, I'm not sure how to think about real GDP vs. nominal GDP when it comes to war.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(PPP)


> amount of resources they supply to an increasingly resource hungry world

But that's the only thing they supply. At least in Europe (I hope) they'll start decoupling from Russian fossil resources asap.

> The amount of math and science talent

Pales in comparison to the US, China or the EU (taken as a block) and possibly even in comparison to the UK or Japan.

> The possession of advanced nuclear weaponry

This insures that MAD still works, but not much more I think.


>But that's the only thing they supply. At least in Europe (I hope) they'll start decoupling from Russian fossil resources asap.

Which is the last thing anyone should want because it will simply deepen ties between Russia and China.


The propaganda, both in the west and in the east have made this matter very hard to understand for the average citizen.


I don't know why they can't just be happy with all those blessings


Their economy is a little bit larger than the NY state economy.


Right. In terms of dollars. But what makes up the respective economies?

Overpriced healthcare, insurance and banking services might not be as valuable as oil, minerals and manufacturing going forward.

I just feel it's a huge conceptual mistake to underestimate the relative weights of forces.


Hitler in 1939 had economic/industrial parity with at least one, if not two of his primary combatants (France and UK). He then had good reason to believe that other countries either would not engage (USA) or were highly overrated (USSR). He also had allies of significant weight. (1)

Russia in 2022 has a GDP of $1.5T, and NATO has a combined GDP of $42T (2). Even if you make the case that Russia's current economic activity translates more effectively into wartime industry, I don't believe you can possibly make the case that it is 28x more effective.

Germany also had military technology and strategy advantages (see France in 1940) over its (early war) opponents. As good as Russia's "math and science talent" is, I would be shocked if it was even a quarter of the capability that the US alone has.

So no, Putin in 2022 is not comparable to Hitler in 1939.

(1) - http://www.zuljan.info/articles/0302wwiigdp.html. (2) - https://countryeconomy.com/countries/groups/nato


In 1939 there were no atomic weapons.


35% dependant on Europe for energy in GDP.

China is taking Russian engineers and cheap resources. In the meantime, Putin complained that they didn't invest enough back.

Total GDP ain't big either. Military is 6% of their gdp with a lot of older material too ( = maintenance cost)

Very low vaccination rates, means very low trust in the governement.

Russia is doing this because of a weak position. Not from a strong one.

China is giving something to give Russia confidence, but really not much.


The next question becomes, does US want to start a war over Estonia? Formally yes, of course, but I don't know.


I think yes. Estonia is part of NATO. Failing to defend them would lead to the collapse of NATO and the end of US hegemony.


The problem is that it won't likely be a direct invasion. Estonia has a significant Russian minority and we've seen this play book before:

Does NATO intervene when Russia starts (or really continues) courting pro-Russian politicians?

Does it intervene if that minority starts protesting?

Does it when that minority starts resisting?

Does it when Russia smuggles them arms?

Does it when little green men show up?

Does it when the rebels (now mostly little green men) advance West?

This go around the West tried sanctions and it obviously didn't work. Estonia is far more Western and fewer historic ties to Russia than Ukraine did. So it might not progress past step 1 in the playbook. Almost certain that Putin is going to try and likely will try for at least a couple decades to come.


> The problem is that it won't likely be a direct invasion. Estonia has a significant Russian minority and we've seen this play book before:

For instance, we've seen it dramatised in season 3 of Berlin Station: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5191110/episodes?season=3


They absolutely will, I have zero doubt. Because otherwise NATO would be completely pointless and this would strengthen Putin even more, making him an even bigger treat for western countries.


I think it's in NATO's interest to believe in this steadfastly, but my imagination says that there are other scenarios. It's a gamble, but the best way to damage NATO is to make an ambiguous or small attack that makes it not invoke article 5 or to not respond properly.

My imagination says: as soon as new facts are established (let's say blitz invation of a city), you are tempted to not respond because you don't want to start a world war. Of course this fails the overarching theory (MAD, tit for tat etc), but I wouldn't think it's impossible. Maybe for example USA would say it wants to respond with sanctions to avoid a larger war.


This book pretty much lays out those other scenarios:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foundations_of_Geopolitics

* Use subversive tactics to destabilize countries

* Use natural resource control to pressure countries

* Use military as a last resort when influence fails

Basically, make energy deals with Germany, ignore the US and UK and install puppet governments in Eastern Europe through bribery and propaganda until they can be annexed or granted “special status”.


Ignore US? Well that didn't happen. Former president appears to have some connection and dependence on Russian interests.


* Ignore the threat of US / UK conventional military intervention through threats of mutual assured destruction


> My imagination says: as soon as new facts are established (let's say blitz invation of a city), you are tempted to not respond because you don't want to start a world war.

But how can you establish facts, when you have to kill hundreds or thousands of US soldiers in NATO country first? Do you think that the US will say "shit happens" lets do some financial sanctions? Biden already said that as soon as russians shoot US troops we have WW3. And I think no other conclusion could be drawn here.


The US has troops in the eastern NATO states (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania ...), more than ever and likely more to come. Biden made it very clear, if russians open fire on US troops (NATO), we have WW3.


Does kind of depend on who is the president of the US.


If that Russian oligarch is deluded into believing MAD is now obsolete due to some top secret technology or military maneuver or whatever than all bets are off


That's what has been causing more tension than the actual nukes for a while now - effective countermeasures, or ICBM countermeasures. If one party has an effective countermeasure against ICBMs, it takes away MAD and the one holding the countermeasure gets to claim military superiority.

Of course, I don't believe there is such a system, or if there is it's very local; if it comes to nukes, they will come from anywhere (e.g. nuclear submarines) and can end up anywhere. If there was an effective anti-nuke system, we'd see launchers pop up everywhere, or if it's a space based one, see many launches of those to get enough coverage (like starlink).


I think fear of countermeasures unbalancing MAD is also what’s driving development of Russia’s non-ballistic missile based warhead delivery systems, like status-6 [1].

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Status-6_Oceanic_Multipurpos...


I doubt it. I really don't think he would choose a nuclear option, but rather an option in which his Russian troops fight NATO to the very end, something like Japan in the end of WWII. Except that this time, we can't use nukes.


> Here I am, a Russian oligarch. I ordered the Ukrainian invasion because I bet that NATO wouldn't intervene because of my nukes. But it turns out I was wrong and NATO is pushing back my invasion.

This is just a slightly different version of a Cuban Missile Crisis. It has nothing to do with economy.


> But it turns out I was wrong and NATO is pushing back my invasion.

I am a NATO Commander, I order the attack on Russian Troops in Ukraine. Russia retaliates with Nukes and I fire mine back and they fire theirs back on my Home Nation.

Did I profit?


Isn't it some kind of game theory problem? If you don't strike and they strike, you are guaranteed to lose. If you strike first, there is, however slim, chance of neutralizing enemy forces and surviving. Opposite side thinks the same.


There is no chance of survival. As soon as your missiles leave the earth or the sea, the enemy launches their entire salvo before your strike has time to hit its targets, and the world ends.


Yes, it's called MAD. I think it's been settled fact for decades that any country launching a nuclear strike against another nuclear armed country will be in turn annihilated. There is no survival.


War is complicated, confusing, and messy. An all out conflict greatly increases the odds of a situation where Putin thinks a nuclear attack is imminent and decides to strike first.

Or the war could turn into a route against Russia and defeat would mean the end of Putin's life. Why would he not draw a red line of threatening nukes, and mean it, in that situation?


If people were rational we wouldn't have had two world wars, Putin himself mentioned nuclear war a few times recently


> The risk of NATO intervention is high, right?

This is a classic game of "chicken", and NATO has basically told everyone they wouldn't get directly involved.

All your arguments happen to apply to NATO commanders too.

Here I am, head of a NATO member. I see Russia invade a country that we don't really care that much about. If we intervene there's a chance the world might end (and I will die). If we don't do anything except say some stern words online we'll lose some face but our money and lives are safe.

Do I intervene?

In a game of "chicken" the side with the most to lose and the side that believes they are most "rational" will lose. That losing side seems to be NATO now. Putin's image of being an irrational dictator willing to win at all costs is why he's winning this "chicken" game easily.


I feel like people always forget this is an option.


It doesn't, it just gives them a "if we don't win, nobody does" option.


It's an horrific idea, but what if Russia does not stop after invading Ukraine? What if they aim to "liberate" Moldavia, Bulgaria, Serbia and encircling Romania?

After all, Putin told 2 days ago he wants NATO out of Romania and Bulgaria:

https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2022/01/21/get-out-of-romania...


Russia is most likely incapable of carrying any sustained conflict as far as Serbia, Bulgaria, or Romania, particularly when the last 2 are NATO members. They can cause disruption in other ways but no effective open conflict.

But Russia doesn't need to fight those countries. They are hundreds of kilometers away from the Russian border. Ukraine on the other hand is hundreds of meters away. Having Ukraine in NATO or in the EU is a threat to Russia and its leadership today. So Russia will look to poison Ukraine for these 2 organizations and make it an unattractive member.

When EU got too close in 2013-2014 Russia responded in exactly the same way. Both the US and Russia have reacted in the same manner when the enemy tried to reach their borders in any way (via Cuba or via Ukraine). So in 2022 pursuing any relationship particularly between NATO and Ukraine could not have had any other result. It is absolutely inconceivable that this was unexpected given the obviousness, so it's a safe assumption that the goal is to keep Russia fighting and draining the little they have left, with Ukraine paying the (biggest) price. "Buffer" countries always do.


Ukraine was already 'poisoned' for NATO, due to the Crimea annexation and the Donetsk and Lugansk separatists. No need for an invasion to poison anything further.

My view is that this is about maintaining a fading colonial empire. Ukraine has been drifting away from Russian influence at least since 2014 and since Russia does not have the economy to re-assert its influence through trade it has to do so by military means.

I have no facts to base it on other than news propaganda, but I think they are too late to re-capture Ukraine and this rather desperate move will only bolster the Ukrainian nationalism. The Russian forces also will not be able to hold the Ukraine well enough to extract any sort of economic benefit from it. 45 million is a lot of people.


It's unlikely that they want to hold on to Ukraine. They have recognized Donetsk and Lugansk and will protect their borders but their stated intent with Ukraine is to "demilitarize" them. If they have any sense they will demolish every military asset they can find and then get out. They will unfortunately probably kill a large number of soldiers and people relevant to their political interests as well. I just hope they can avoid mass civilian casualties.

Putin has stated that he views Ukrainian membership in NATO and the presence of NATO forces on their border as an existential threat to Russia so that is at least the public reason that they are doing this. If we take that at face value then the objective is to destabilize Ukraine to the point where they are ineligible to join NATO for a long time. That doesn't bode well for the Ukrainian people.


Why would they get out and let Ukrainians to recover and then continue active military opposition? It takes so much effort and money to even get in. Invasion shows commitment, Russians are going to stay just like Warsaw pact did in Czechoslovakia after 1968. They will attempt to install new puppet government and start draining out Ukraine's economic output.


> They have recognized Donetsk and Lugansk and will protect their borders but their stated intent with Ukraine

Any intent with Donetsk and Lugansk -- such as "protecting their borders"; which "borders", the ones with Ukraine? -- is an intent with Ukraine. Donetsk and Lugansk are "countries" only in the eyes of Russia and Belarus; in the world the rest of us live in, they're parts of Ukraine. (Like Crimea.)

> Putin has stated that he views Ukrainian membership in NATO and the presence of NATO forces on their border as an existential threat to Russia so that is at least the public reason that they are doing this. If we take that at face value...

Here's a better idea: Let's not.


This is Putin‘s excuse but it’s so damned tragic. NATO and the EU have precisely zero interest in preemptively invading Russia and haven’t since 1991, as he well knows—in fact he’s counting on it. All of Russia’s “security” issues are of his own making. This is about fulfilling a dream of reclaiming lost greatness.


> have precisely zero interest in preemptively invading

And yet no single (super)power in the world would accept this assurance and allow adversaries to take positions at their borders. The US didn't allow Russian missiles in Cuba, and most definitely wouldn't allow China to set up base there today despite any assurances that China would never preemptively invade the US.

There may be many reasons behind this war that we'll never know but the one you don't have to guess. It's been tested and proven accurate over our entire history.


Small countries fear invasion. Superpowers know that they're too large to be outright invaded, but are much more concerned that somebody's nukes (or whatever missiles) can reach their capital before their anti-missiles gadgets can intercept them. It's like having a gun to your head. When you attempt to point a gun to a mafia boss' head, they will remove the gun and neutralize you.


How does that play out for the Balkan states on the border and in NATO?


This is a setup to keep Russia fighting indefinitely in a war of attrition?

This seems a leap, or am I misunderstanding your comment?


This seemed far fetched to me, but I am starting to think this is the only rational strategy behind Western actions... poor Ukrainians, they did not deserve this.


> What if they aim to "liberate" Moldavia, Bulgaria, Serbia and encircling Romania?

An attack on Moldova is not beyond conceivable. Bulgaria and Romania however are NATO members with US troops stationed there - Russia will not risk WW3 over those countries.

Serbia is a bit far to be invaded without a lot of other things happening before that.


I see this a lot, why is it assumed that Russia invading a NATO member state and NATO responding with force => WW3? NATO would repel the attack, but it would be completely unwilling to attempt significant aggressive action due to MAD. NATO states have absolutely nothing to gain by invading Russia.


I don't trust the assumption that there aren't still a large number of hawks in the various governments of NATO that would still love an excuse to try to destroy Russia once and for all. There's probably a >50% chance that once shooting starts between NATO and Russia it doesn't stop until one or the other is incapacitated.


What would make Russian leaders desperate enough to launch a Nuclear strike against the West? Comprehensive embarrassment by NATO and the US flag towering over Red Square seems to be just about the only one that I can think of.

No way do the hawks win that argument.


It's more likely that a nuclear exchange would start with limited use of tactical nuclear weapons. Let's imagine that Russia does invade a NATO country and is beaten back by NATO forces after significant fighting within NATO territory. Maybe some of those hawks higher up the chain of command want to make sure Russia can't regroup and try again so they pursue Russian forces into Russia itself in an attempt to encircle them and force a surrender of a significant number of their troops. Russian higher ups misinterpret this as a push to capture Russian territory or the start of a larger invasion and decide to use a small number of low yield nuclear weapons to destroy the invading forces. Now you have thousands of dead NATO soldiers and a mess of confusion with multiple nuclear detonations on the Russian border. NATO counterattacks by targeting airbases and missile assets using cruise missiles and aircraft with conventional warheads in an attempt to prevent any further strikes. At that point things can heat up quickly.

In a hot war where multiple countries are involved you can't expect the fighting to just stop once you hit a border. Even when you have the upper hand, the temptation to carry through once you are already engaged in a conflict is real.


You're assuming both sides remain rational and calm when dead bodies get piling up and the safety protocols for mobilizing nukes get lifted.

Imagine you're the engineer involved with launching a nuke. In times of peace even if you get a phishing call to launch a nuke, you'd have second thoughts and probably take a couple more steps to confirm. In war time, you're already primed for the possibility of the nuke being used and it takes far less for a malicious actor to end the world as we know it.

Same for all levels of decision makers. It really just takes one trigger-happy maniac to make a wrong decision somewhere.


I was specifically responding to throwaway4aday that I do not believe that hawks in NATO that desire the full destruction of Russia will win the argument to pursue an offensive war against Russia.

One reason I think this to be true is exactly the risks that you mentioned - the more hot the war gets, the more bodies, the more likely mistakes are made.


I'd expect lots of Russian targets outside of Russia proper to receive some ballistically-delivered nastygrams if Russia attacked a NATO member. They'd all have to be treated as hostile. Forces in Syria, in Belarus, ships outside Russian waters, et c., would all be at grave risk. Not a great move if they've got a large percentage of their forces outside their own borders (i.e. in Ukraine) when that goes down.

I agree that NATO would be very reluctant to so much as fire an artillery shell over the Russian border, but Russia might well forfeit a great deal of personnel and equipment in such a move, anyway. Having troops & equipment abroad is a major liability if you pick a fight with a country (or coalition) that badly outclasses you.


> NATO would repel the attack

Let's say afterwards Russia nukes Western Europe/the US. What then? That's the thing with MAD, you have to be mad to toy with the possibility.


Any nuclear attack by Russia on a NATO state guarantees the utter destruction of Russia. As much as we like to think Putin is unhinged or desperate, as much as Putin says a nuclear response could happen, he knows this.

What would make him desperate enough to sacrifice the entire current and future of Russia? Losing an invasion of Estonia?


You clearly have no imagination.

When you are 70 years old, spending half your life revered as a great leader of a nation, you would be desperate not have your historical legacy ruined by losing a war and possibly your status and pride in your final years.

I'm definitely of the opinion that this would be an unlikely scenario, but then, are you willing to bet the future of the planet on a hunch that a single person that you don't know personally is actually not unhinged and desperate?

I don't know about you, but I'm personally going to avoid betting on anything that has a mere 1% chance of resulting in nuclear winter.


I don't think you can clearly state anything about my imagination based on a handful of comments on the internet.

The scenario that we have been discussing is NATO's response to a Russian invasion of a NATO member such as Estonia. What are NATO's options?

1. Full scale (offensive) war. They attacked us, we will end this in Moscow 2. Repel the attack, take no aggressive action beyond what is required to come to a stalemate 3. Do nothing

I have argued elsewhere with you that I don't see 1. as being at all likely due to NATO's goals, defensive posture, and military superiority.

Doing nothing would only embolden Russia and destroy any pretense of an alliance at all. If not in Estonia, when would NATO intervene? Poland? Germany?

Thus, repel the attack and take no aggressive action. De-escalate and give options for Russia to save face.

We don't have to bet that a single person is not unhinged enough to press the button. There are command and control limitations purpose-built into even Russia's nuclear arsenal. Putin also wouldn't want his historical legacy ruined by the thorough destruction of the present and future of Russia. I'd go further to say that he knows all this, and wouldn't invade a NATO member in the first place.


> Any nuclear attack by Russia on a NATO state guarantees the utter destruction of Russia.

I hope this is not how nuclear strategy and tactics is prepared. If sane people are in charge, retaliations will be proportional and exchange will be limited.


OK, tell me how it does work.

Russia obliterates Katowice, one of several countries obliterates Volgograd. What is the next move? You just ended the lives of a million of your citizens. You just stop there?


It all depends on the situation. Why did they obliterate Katowice in the first place? Was is it an error, was is a retaliation, was it nonsensical move of a madman? Hopefully at some point both sides will realize that neither the other side wants to continue and they would all stop at some point. Like in the movie By dawn's early light.


This is widely debated, both in Russia and the West.


Also Serbia possibly no need to invade since they are a loyal Russian ally anyway since quite a long time.


Serbia is not Russian ally. It strives to join the EU and is neutral in military sense. They declared armed neutrality in 2007 and there was no change since then. They regularly hold exercises with both NATO and Russian Federation.


> It's an horrific idea, but what if Russia does not stop after invading Ukraine?

This is a very good question.

My guess is there will be a period of consolidation (one year, maybe two) and then the next target will be set, either Belarus will be pulled back in or Kaliningrad will be re-connected to the mothership. The fact that it isn't is a serious issue for Russia, they have to cross NATO controlled territory to get to one of their more important bases.


Completely agree with that. Belarus has already joined its armed forces with Russia and they are de facto part of Russia today, even if it is not in a formal way (yet), and exactly the same will happen to Ukraine after the consolidation you mention. I'm pretty sure also that there will be some consolidation in NATO too. My bet would be on Finland joining formally NATO in the near future. Finland was already invaded by Russia in WW2 during which they managed to seize the Karelia territory of Finland, which is still in Russia today. But there are other countries which are probably wondering what will happen to them in the next few years: Georgia, Azerbaidjan, Armenia... So maybe the best asnwer to Russia would be to expand NATO quickly to the ones wanting to join in.


Finland hasn't joined nato exactly cause, they want to keep the heat low and can defend themselves.


Opinion here has swung significantly pro-NATO in the last week since the above was written.

For instance, I think it's not one but two separate Citizen's Initiatives for joining that have each gathered enough signatures to qualify for debate in Eduskunta, the Finnish Parliament. (Not that it was all that far below that before this either.)


My assumption is that they will continue the propaganda campaign they've been doing for at least ten years now; they fuel right-wing political parties that have an insular approach, "eurosceptics", an "own people / own country first" mindset.

look at the US: Trump is Putin's buddy, and he pushed the 'America First' tagline.

Look at the UK, they broke away from the EU.

Look at the eastern countries, Poland and Hungary; they have right-leaning governments that broke the rule of law and the separation of legislative branches, which caused them to get sanctioned by the EU, which fuels anti-EU sentiments. And in eastern Europe, anti-EU is pretty much equivalent to pro-Russia.

I haven't heard about it myself, but I'm sure anti-NATO sentiments will increase as well. It's only a matter of time before they get people to leave NATO. Especially if NATO does not come to the defense of a NATO country, they will lose their trustworthiness then.


While I agree that in Eastern Europe anti-EU often means pro-Russia, Poland is a more of an exception here. Poland still has a very negative aftertaste of Russia after WWII.

But if anything, Eastern European countries will cling to NATO more than ever, they most certainly won't leave it.

Just look at the most recent speech of the Czech president, who is generally pro-Russian (the president, not the whole country). In the speech he absolutely condemned Russia's aggression and expressed support to Ukraine. Moreover, he urged to kick Russian Federation out of the SWIFT system as soon as possible.


NATO is entirely unable to invade anything. This is by design.


Tell that to the serbians who were blown up by NATO bombs.


Bombing someone is not invading a country, so I am not sure what your point is.


NATO can easily deny Russia using first strike nuclear attack.

Without centralised command issuing computerised targeting info, it will be for missile officers own initiative to launch them, fully knowing from what they learned in the military academy that an uncoordinated launch will likely be futile.

USA missile defences in Arctic, and North Pacific can guarantee intercept a dozen uncoordinated launches, if what Raytheon says is true.


> NATO can easily deny Russia using first strike nuclear attack.

This is very dangerous nonsense.


Raytheon has never guaranteed anything. GMD tests have been very limited with many failures. And I don't mean that as a criticism of Raytheon or the other defense contractors involved; ballistic missile defense is extremely hard and getting it working at all was an amazing technical accomplishment.


>USA missile defences in Arctic, and North Pacific can guarantee intercept a dozen uncoordinated launches, if what Raytheon says is true.

Russia has >6000 Nukes. If most were launched and missile defense systems have a 99% success rate that is still 10s of Nuclear strikes on the US Mainland. This would be the end of the US and likely irradiates large parts of North America...


Do all 6000 nukes have capability to be delivered to the US mainland?


About 25% of that, so 1500 give or take. This is subject to signed treaties, what those are still worth I don't know.


80 R29 of which half of on subs at port call

32 Bulavas on 2 Yasens in Pacific

46 R36, 6 with 20MT warheads, 40 with 10 1MT MIRV. 406 warheads total.

36 UR100

162 Topols

The Russian airforce doesn't have serious nukes, the land force don't have megaton scale weapons either.

R36, and UR100 in silos are the only genuine first strike option, everything else is a retaliation weapon. Only a coordinated first strike gives Russia a chance on victory, it's impossible with military C3 beheaded. The surviving military officers in bunkers in far reaches of the country would know that each of them don't have enough forces under their command to continue the war.


Warheads != delivery vehicles, and hasn't been for a long time (MIRV).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiple_independently_targeta...

> Only a coordinated first strike gives Russia a chance on victory

The idea that a nuclear war can be won died a while ago too.


This all seems a rather pointless argument. I don't want to live in a country that is hit by 5, 10 or 50 Nuclear Strikes. Period.


Which is the only sensible stance to take. Unfortunately that requires rational actors.


This book lays out one endgame: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foundations_of_Geopolitics

The “Finlandization of Europe”.

The idea is to use bribery and propaganda to destabilize Eastern Europe countries until puppet governments rise to power or can be installed, while holding Central Europe at bay through leverage on natural resources. Make deals with Germany and ignore the US and UK.

Basically, take over Europe and break up NATO. Military action is the backup plan when the above coercion fails.


Well, all of this has gone down the drain now, hasn't it? Because this tactic requires enough elements within the targets to go along with it and call for appeasement and understanding. The Russian government has shown its true colours today. People who were on the fence have switched sides now against Russia. No excuses anymore.


> The “Finlandization of Europe”.

Even Finland itself came out of Finlandization beginning thirty-plus years ago, so it's doubly ironic that Putler at least partly succededed in bending much of the rest of Europe to something similar since. The main culprit in falling for this is, AFAICS, Germany; from about the Schröder administration and onwards.


Economically I'd say the oligarchy is so wealthy and diversified in Russia that it doesn't hurt them that much. Russia does have much to gain in this and yeah it could lose some money. It's a shot across the bow for western political alliances. Let's hope it stays that way.


World War II was suicidal for Germany too, that was part of how it happened, sane observers knew it was idiotic for them to start a war and assumed it wouldn't happen as a result.


> What is the endgame here?

I think that it's a mistake to assume there must be an endgame.


There is always an endgame. I think the mistake is to use the democratic logic (lets say) to guess the end game in this situation.


There is always a reason but there isn't always an endgame. Political leaders are often just trying to keep their head above the water and they assume things will work to their advantage until they don't at which point they aren't in charge anymore.

What was Andropov endgame in invading Afghanistan. If you read the planning strategy sessions that lead to Afghanistan, it is clear there was no endgame. First it was Afghanistan is not strategically important let it fall. Then it was Afghanistan appears to be important to the US so we should involved. Then finally Afghanistan is strategically critical the Soviet union must invade and do anything it takes to ensure they remain pro-Soviet.

What was the US endgame in Afghanistan after Al Qaeda was defeated? What was Bernie Madoff's or Pol Pot's endgame?


Now we are going into the realm of psychology (maybe) where I am merely a simple internet reader:

I think in case of someone who attacks there is always an endgame (something they want to gain/achieve/posses ...) and reasons are post action justifications.

I could actually say this in general: everybody is doing something (or choose not to) to gain something. What is true is that sometimes the final stage is not consciously expressed. But in my view se are an organism that is spending energy to gain something at the final of the exchange. In this inaction is also a form of exchange.


> I think in case of someone who attacks there is always an endgame (something they want to gain/achieve/posses ...) and reasons are post action justifications.

I do think we are using the term endgame to mean different things. I'm thinking about it not as a mere end they wish to achieve them like a chess endgame.

I agree people have reasons for the things that they do, but endgame implies that they have a longer term plan that wraps up the follow on consequences of that decision. For instance someone might rob a bank for the reason that they want lots of money, but they might not have fully considered how they are going spend that money without getting caught or how they will evade capture by law enforcement over the next twenty years if they are exposed.

Or consider the American Civil War, the South did not have an endgame. They had a bad plan to break away from the US by aggressively attacking the US, but they didn't have a good strategy for winning the war and even if they did, the what would their post-war state look like? Given their internal factions and divisions the CSA would almost immediately have had another civil war within themselves. The north could then play the warring factions against each other. It was remarked at the time by people in the know that the Confederations didn't really have a workable long term plan and their short term one was bad. They had reasons but no real endgame.

What was Bernie Madoff's endgame? Die of old age before the house of cards came down?


Agreed.

Putin is Slobodan Milošević with less hair and a nuclear arsenal. Milošević was clearly a clever man but what was Milošević's end game? Did Milošević expect to die in a cell in the Hague?


Much can be said about the causes and effect (invasion of Ukraine) and Russias motivation. If you look at this with Russian eyes there is much history to give cause. From the promises of no NATO expansion in the 90s, to Russias (perceived) bad treatment by the west. To the Wests unwillingness to accept Russia's need for security (from the russian perspective).

In essence Russia has chosen a Ukrainian hill to fight on, and that hill is no more eastward expansion of western powers/alliances or unions.

The more direct initiation of this conflict was the EU which was to enter into an Association agreement with Ukraine in 2013. When the signing of this agreement didn't go through you had the Euro Maidan protest in Ukraine and the Russian puppet government where thrown out as a result. In response to this Russia backed 2 break out regions in the east of Ukraine and annexed/claimed Crimea with sevastopol(navy base).

So the endgame here, no matter the cost it seems is that Russia defines Ukraine to be in its sphere of influence and will not accept any encroachment by western powers - so Putin is basically saying back off.

Georgia also tried to align itself more towards the west and agreed to become a NATO member and the Russian response was resolute back in 2008 as well.

Obviously there might be a number of other reasons, this is just what I have gathered over the years and I am by no means a expert.


I find the rationale for Russia's aggression fuzzy at best, but I think to view this as a Russia versus NATO or Russia versus Ukraine is, perhaps, less helpful than it first appears.

In short, I suspect this may be Putin's way of applying pressure to Russian elites. The actions proceeding from him appear desperate (i.e. the brazen assassination attempt of Nalvany) and suggest that Putin feels much less secure than his strongman portrayal suggests.

This war achieves something Putin lacks hegemony over, restricting the lifestyles and wealth of Russia's nomadic elite (and especially their assets). Elite members of Russian society will almost surely be targets of Western sanctions. This may secure Putin and his cronies and ensure a desirable transition of power by kneecapping potential contenders of the Russian throne (for lack of a better word). No doubt western sanctions will be leaky and allow some elites through relatively unscathed, but it may restrict their latitude of choice sufficiently.

I think this is Putin versus the elites. Elites who may be feeling comfortable usurping Putin and installing someone pliant to their interests. Putin may be simply reminding them of what he is capable of.

I suspect Ukraine was selected due to the presence of a large minority of citizens neutral or proponents of Russian rule. Other former Soviet states seem much more reluctant to be Russian subjects. I think Russia is simply conquering territory of peoples who will not oppose its rule.

Perhaps Putin is insane, or delusional, but evaluating public actions without knowing what went on behind closed doors feels too rash.


First I've read of this line of thinking. The rational makes sense and nothing seems glaringly wrong with this scenario. To your last point I believe it's also that it secures his corridor to Crimea and will secure the three pipelines that run through Ukraine. Supply of gas is a point of leverage Putin has on Europe. Securing the channels for it and also of the second largest source of reserves (Ukraine's) furthers to solidify that point for him.


>" Elite members of Russian society will almost surely be targets of Western sanctions. This may secure Putin and his cronies and ensure a desirable transition of power ..."

I don't understand this. Putin and his cronies are the elite. And by extension the children and other extended family of those cronies are the elite. That's what the oligarchy system is.


> Putin and his cronies are the elite. And by extension the children and other extended family of those cronies are the elite. That's what the oligarchy system is.

Yes, but within that elite, he may have felt that his cronies and minions had too much freedom: They have homes, bank accounts, and yachts abroad to retreat to whenever they need a break from him, and worst case -- if any one of them starts to to fear he's made Putler too angry with him, or suspicious of his loyalties -- they could just stay abroad indefinitely. Sure, at some risk from FSB assassins, if they've really annoyed him, but they can afford high walls around their mansions, CCTV to monitor those walls, and security services / mercenaries of their own to patrol them.

The GP's thesis (as I understood it) was that by more or less deliberately provoking the West into targeting the oligarchs, he'd weaken that option for them and thereby at least partly confining them to Russia, where he has more direct power over them.

(Dunno if I buy that this was his main goal with the whole thing, but certainly not claiming that it can't have occurred -- and counted as a plus -- to him.)


There is 0% chance that NATO intervenes military, even without the fact that Putin basically told the world that any country that intervenes will be nuked.

Regarding economic sanctions: yes Russia will suffer from them, but the thing is that it is impossible to know how high Putin values the prospect of dissolving Ukraine into Russia, so it's pointless to try to reason about it (not that I'm saying you shouldn't).

Putin is 70 years old. He might just feel like he hasn't done enough with his life and decides to go all in, who knows?


Why would he not respond with military force towards economical sanctions? I'm a bit worried about this.


I'm worried too, and I don't have a good answer to that. Let's just hope that there are some trace of proportion inside that mad mans brain.


I don't think Russia is going to lose this one.

People on HN tend to be in denial about the current state of the world, but I don't think Putin is.

We're already starting to see some food shortages across the globe due to climate change, this will only intensify. Together Russia and Ukraine produce 29% of the worlds wheat exports. As climate change worsens food will become as big of a concern as oil.

We are also running out of oil, and not for the naively optimistic reasons most people hope. We're not getting "greener" we're depleting resources and oil still runs economies.

If Russia secures Ukraine they will also secure a place in the end game of civilization, radically altering the power dynamics of the EU.

The point of all this is there is a lot more at stake here than people realize (or are willing to admit). Russia has a lot to gain by control of Ukraine, and therefore can also justify tremendous risk. They have a powerful nuclear arsenal, and are likely more willing to use it than ever before.

MAD only works if you have a future that nuclear war risks throwing away. People that understand energy and climate understand that these things are going to very rapidly change the world stage. All of our futures are at risk, and the time to secure a spot is now. People on HN might be deluded in to thinking "this is fine" but I very much doubt Putin shares this naivete.

On the other end of all this, NATO countries have lived in relative security for a long time. They are still largely terrified of nuclear threat and I believe many of them don't fully realize the situation we're in. Liberal democracies likely have plenty of people in power that really believe Germany is near a truly green future.

I absolutely believe Putin is willing to go nuclear if necessary and I do not believe NATO is really ready to go nuclear in return. I don't believe the US would immediately attack Russia even if Russia wiped Paris off the map, because doing so would guarantee we are all wiped off the map. There is a risk asymmetry here which weakens MAD and give Putin a lot of power, especially if his immediate goal is simply to take Ukraine.


> I don't believe the US would immediately attack Russia even if Russia wiped Paris off the map, because doing so would guarantee we are all wiped off the map.

France also has nuclear weapons, estimated as the fourth largest stockpile in the world. Even if the rest of NATO were to hesitate Moscow would already have been hit unilaterally by the french in retaliation. No one is going to fold here.


You seem to be delusional.


Methinks mental illness is a prerequisite for playing realpolitik on the global stage.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madman_theory


How is that? I can follow his thoughts 100% and it's very plausible.

Also his reference to the german green party hits home because I'm from there. And I can see my electricity prices right now go to 90 Cent/kWh _before_ the war.


> I don't believe the US would immediately attack Russia even if Russia wiped Paris off the map, because doing so would guarantee we are all wiped off the map.

I think it is obvious that FRANCE would retaliate with nukes.


Putin would pick another target, if he did start launching nukes. France has nuclear weapons.


> The risk of NATO intervention is high, right? Russia understood this before invading, right? So it seems Russia is accepting a high risk of loss.

I don't think they saw the risk as high. Crimea was their 'soft-launch' to test the waters and find out what would happen. Answer - not very much. Effectively they invaded and took over a country and everyone tut-tutted and did nothing about it. Given that, I'm assuming that they didn't think the international reaction would be as strong as it is.

Obviously they miscalculated, but if the whole thing had been over in 48 hours with little resistance would it have been as strong as it is now or would there have been an effective shoulder shrug like there was about Crimea? I don't think it would be the same, but I believe the conflict being dragged out has made the reaction worse (well done Ukraine).


Putin, as a dictator, doesn’t necessarily respond to the same voices and lobbies that an American administration would. Sure he’d like Russia to be economically stronger, but his own situation will always be fine so it’s hard to care about a few sanctions. Territory and USSR’s old glory though, that talks to a dictator.

You also have to think that this plan was started in 2014 with the annexation of Crimea. There was no going back from that point on. Ukraine was only growing stronger and angrier at Russia. You either assimilate them, or withdraw. The latter is not very Russian. So it is possible that the Russian gov also saw this move as inevitable not to lose face after what they started 8 years ago, and they will now suffer the consequence of western sanctions.

What is sad really, is that China doesn’t give a fuck.


> What is sad really, is that China doesn’t give a fuck.

They give loads. They are watching from the sidelines, committing to nothing but learning a lot, and thinking about how they will proceed with Taiwan and the bits they like in South-East Asia.


> Sure he’d like Russia to be economically stronger, but his own situation will always be fine so it’s hard to care about a few sanctions.

Mussolini certainly didn't expect to be hanging by his toes either. Stalin didn't expect someone close to him to dose him with warfarin. Hitler didn't expect to be cowering in his bunker, ending with blowing his brains out. Gaddafi didn't expect the rebels to capture and shoot him. Saddam didn't think he'd end up hiding in a rat infested spider hole and then hung by his adversaries. And so on.


One can hope.


> What is sad really, is that China doesn’t give a fuck

It is better this way, instead of China openly supporting Putin and following suit with its own territorial expansions.


> The risk of NATO intervention is high, right?

I don’t know where you’re drawing such an assumption from.

Russia has repeatedly invaded its non nato neighbors for years (including Ukraine!) with zero military response from NATO.

Would NATO have the upper hand militarily? Yes, sure. Does NATO have the political will to incur that level of cost? No.

This isn’t “globalist” conspiracy, there is just no appetite for it at any level of society in nato countries. Not in France, not in Germany, not in the US.


There's no country like Russia that is accepting such high risk. Russia is a dictatorship. It's Putin taking risks to settle old scores that he feels weren't addressed when the Soviet union collapsed as a way to distract from Russia's severe internal problems.

Putin sees the west as weak. Germany has a new leader. France is about to have elections. The UK is still dealing with Brexit. The EU is fractured with Poland and Hungary and has no out. The US is so divided that a previous president is encouraging Putin to invade and the current president is likely to lose the House and the Senate very shortly.

This is the perfect time if you believe the west is weak. The problem is that what's next on the menu (maybe after Moldova? But that's not very tasty, sorry friends!) Are all NATO members.

And.. Putin lives in the echo chamber you create when you're a dictator who regularly throws people out of windows to their death. He might decide it's time to test NATO. And that's world war territory.

But you'll always be lost if you assume there is a them. There's no them. There's Putin. Read his speech from last night, this thinking and desires are very clear.


> "The US is so divided that a previous president is encouraging Putin to invade"

I've started hearing this a lot this morning and I don't see where Trump actually said this. From what I can tell he's blaming the current administration for allowing this to happen and saying that Putin is brilliant for taking advantage of Biden and outsmarting him. Seems like he's primarily calling Biden inept rather than encouraging Putin to go further.


He's not - and never has - condemned or opposed it either though; I think the US may have dodged a bullet with not re-electing Trump, because if he used his position as supreme commander to not act on Russia's aggression (which he would be required to due to NATO etc), it would destabilize NATO and make it a toothless tiger. He's always been a fan of Putin, and especially early on during his presidency there were accusations and rumors of him being in Putin's pocket (via extortion, 'kompromat', but given the quotes over the years I don't think that would have been necessary).

A selection of quotes: https://edition.cnn.com/2016/07/28/politics/donald-trump-vla...


Those accusations and rumors were paid for by the DNC [1] and ultimately found to be false [2].

Crimea was invaded under Obama. Russia made no expansionist moves under Trump. The current conflict was started under Biden. Hate Trump all you want, but to say that he would have been worse under these circumstances is a hard argument to swallow.

[1: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/clint...] [2: https://www.cnn.com/2021/11/18/politics/steele-dossier-recko...]


Reading though the quotes I don't sense a particular affinity for Putin. I just see these quotes as extensions of how Trump likes to talk. He likes to dole out praise, probably thinking it helps his negotiating position by trying to endear the subject to him.


Yes and:

> would destabilize NATO

Trump is also hostile to NATO. For him, win/win.


Here is what Trump said. He very clearly praised Putin's invasion.

> “Putin declares a big portion of the Ukraine — of Ukraine — Putin declares it as independent. Oh, that’s wonderful. ‘I said, ‘How smart is that?’ And he’s gonna go in and be a peacekeeper. ... We could use that on our southern border. That’s the strongest peace force I’ve ever seen. There were more army tanks than I’ve ever seen. They’re gonna keep peace all right. No, but think of it. Here’s a guy who’s very savvy.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/02/23/trump-pra...


Trump said this on a podcast, and I wonder how the quotes are interpreted differently when you hear his tone of voice: https://youtu.be/ebHVsWQThMU?t=41

I suspect "Oh that's wonderful" is not meant to be literally interpreted as him thinking it's wonderful. I also don't think he actually sees those military forces as true peacekeepers either. "That’s the strongest peace force I’ve ever seen. There were more army tanks than I’ve ever seen. They’re gonna keep peace all right." To me that sounds like he's mocking the idea that the force is actually for peacekeeping because it is the size and composition of an army.


> I suspect "Oh that's wonderful" is not meant to be literally interpreted as him thinking it's wonderful.

Yes he abso-fucking-lutely means it's "wonderful", only not in the way you apparently misinterpreted it.

> I also don't think he actually sees those military forces as true peacekeepers either.

No, of course not. Where on Earth do you even get such an idea from? You're literally the first person I've seen even entertaining that hypothesis.

> To me that sounds like he's mocking the idea that the force is actually for peacekeeping because it is the size and composition of an army.

Yes, of course he's mocking that -- in admiration of the sheer audacity of using such a transparent lie. That is what's so "wonderful" about it, in his world -- it's exactly his own MO, but on a scale he has never got close to himself. He's (possibly literally) pissing his pants with glee over Putler's chutzpah.

And that's why you can clearly hear from his voice that "We should do that on the Mexican border" was not sarcasm: It's a 100% serious recommendation that the USA should do the same, unilaterally declare some piece of Mexico "independent" and then go in and "peacekeep" it for themselves.


Please, no. That's how we got Texas, and we certainly don't need more of that.


> What is the endgame here?

Exactly what Putin's always maintained: that Ukraine joining NATO is a red line, so they're preventing Ukraine joining NATO.

> The risk of NATO intervention is high, right? Russia understood this before invading, right? So it seems Russia is accepting a high risk of loss.

The risk of NATO intervention is exactly zero. NATO hasn't done shit except attack random non-NATO countries (Serbia, Libya, Syria, etc...). What did they do when Turkey invaded Cyprus? Nothing.

US-led NATO is sacrificing Ukraine in order to get at Russia, the real question is why getting at Russia is so important? Ukraine could have joined NATO in the 1990's, or 2008, or NATO could have given them a guarantee of security. But no, instead the EU and NATO rolled out some long road-map and antagonized Russia along the way.

Hell, why didn't the west try to integrate Russia when Gorbachev and Yeltsin were amenable to the idea? Or when Putin was trying to increase cooperation with GWB's US government before the Color Revolutions?

Edit - for those downvoting me, it's obvious the west sold-out Ukraine. They forced Ukraine to leave an economic cooperation union with Russia in order to have more European integration (Yanukovych wanted both FYI) but didn't provide a road-map to join the EU, they sold them on NATO membership but without any actual guarantees, etc... Why isn't the west defending Ukraine?

Edit2 - also Joe Biden is useless. What was the point of all his warnings? What was the point of every western country pledging to "support" Ukraine? Now the news is talking about Biden announcing "sanctions". No real support. What's the point?


> so they're preventing Ukraine joining NATO.

It already was the case since 2014, NATO wouldn't accept a country which isn't at peace because they'd be forced to intervene and that would mean a war between Russia and NATO, Russia didn't need further intervention for that


So what about prior to 2014? NATO first pitched the idea in 1997, but hadn't actually given Ukraine any guarantees... It feels a lot like the west has been using Ukraine to poke at Russia versus simply integrating Ukraine.


Ukraine didn't want to join NATO until 2014.


Ah yes, when the EU forced Ukraine to choose between Europe and Russia for economic cooperation (Yanukovych wanted both, FYI) which led to protests that put a literal CIA asset (Poroshenko was, it's not a secret) into power...

Ukraine got played by the West... Even Zelenskiy realised it... Where did any of this lead? The West didn't give any actual guarantees but kept forcing Ukraine to choose between the two...


The West is determined to fight to the last Ukrainian!


I thought this part of Putin's address on the 21st was surprising and interesting if true

> "Moreover, I will say something I have never said publicly, I will say it now for the first time. When then outgoing US President Bill Clinton visited Moscow in 2000, I asked him how America would feel about admitting Russia to NATO.

> I will not reveal all the details of that conversation, but the reaction to my question was, let us say, quite restrained, and the Americans’ true attitude to that possibility can actually be seen from their subsequent steps with regard to our country. I am referring to the overt support for terrorists in the North Caucasus, the disregard for our security demands and concerns, NATO’s continued expansion, withdrawal from the ABM Treaty, and so on. It raises the question: why? What is all this about, what is the purpose? All right, you do not want to see us as friends or allies, but why make us an enemy?"

https://web.archive.org/web/20220224100924/http://en.kremlin...


It is true. Anyone who followed Russian politics from the mid-late 90's to ~2004 remembers Russia trying to "join" the west. Geroge Bush famously talked about looking into Putin's eyes...

But the west was more concerned with encircling them and "winning" the Cold War than actually having good relations...

Being of Ukrainian descent and interested in where I come from, I've followed the politics there (Russia and Ukraine) since the late 90's... I remember when Putin and Bush cooperated after 9/11 too. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2021/09/08/t...

Getting to where we are today was a long road where the US chose to antagonize Russia many times...


Don't you need to be a democracy to really integrate with the west and they are scored squarely as authoritarian in the democracy index: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy_Index


Considering that Putin came to power in Russia's first (and possibly only) democratic election, I'd say a lot hinged on his view of how the West would treat them. Sentiment at the time was that he enjoyed an unfair media and power advantage due to his former position within the government as Prime Minister and then acting President but it was still a remarkably open election for a formerly autocratic state. From reading his rationalization of his actions in Ukraine, it seems to me that he is motivated by his perception of the US and NATO as an ever encroaching threat to Russia. He likely believes he is effectively a war time president and sees it as his duty to remain in office until he has secured his country against her enemies.

These are the sections of the address that back up this view:

"they are trying to convince us over and over again that NATO is a peace-loving and purely defensive alliance that poses no threat to Russia. Again, they want us to take their word for it. But we are well aware of the real value of these words. In 1990, when German unification was discussed, the United States promised the Soviet leadership that NATO jurisdiction or military presence will not expand one inch to the east and that the unification of Germany will not lead to the spread of NATO's military organisation to the east. This is a quote."

The quote referenced is by U.S. Secretary of State James Baker speaking to Mikhail Gorbachev on February 9, 1990

https://nsarchive.gwu.edu/briefing-book/russia-programs/2017...

"There can be only one answer – this is not about our political regime or anything like that. They just do not need a big and independent country like Russia around."

"its military infrastructure has reached Russia’s borders."

"positioning areas for interceptor missiles are being established in Romania and Poland as part of the US project to create a global missile defence system. It is common knowledge that the launchers deployed there can be used for Tomahawk cruise missiles – offensive strike systems."

He is referring to the Aegis system https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aegis_Ballistic_Missile_Defens... He is correct that Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles can be part of that system https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aegis_Combat_System

"It is like a knife to the throat."

No one can know if history would have played out differently after that meeting in 2000 if he had been assured that Russia could join NATO if it worked towards meeting the requirements. We also cannot know his true motivations, perhaps all of this talk of the West as a threat to Russia is simply a ploy to justify their actions. His statements are consistent with reality though and so this could actually be the way he feels about the relationship between Russia and NATO. If that is true, then his actions in Ukraine would be motivated by a now or never viewpoint. If he does nothing and Ukraine eventually joins NATO, they will have two fronts placed very close to Moscow and Belarus will be held in a pincer rendering it next to useless. His gambit seems to be to secure the breakaway republics as a buffer and perhaps extend them to the Dnieper or even further creating a more advantageous position when Crimea, Moldova, and Belarus are considered.


Putin probably views it as a price tag. The cost of invading is lower than the benefits of invading.

One benefit is that China (supposedly) approves of this invasion. So it's possible that the sanctions won't have as much of an impact as they otherwise might've.

As others have pointed out, there is no risk of NATO retaliation due to Russia's nuclear arsenal. If China also reduced the risk of sanctions, then the net result is that there's very little downside for Russia to invade.

If we want to make a difference, we need to think of ways to make it a net loss for Putin to invade. Right now it's a net benefit.


Hm. I'm not sure it's as rational of that. Do the benefits of invading really pay off? Sure, the slow escalation over the last two months have made it possible for Russia to get a preview and understanding of what the sanction cost etc is.

Maybe he views it as a price tag but in a different way - it has a cost, but what use is resources/money if you can't use it to do what you want? I.e it has a big cost but it's how we wants to use the resources he has at hand, no matter the bottom line.


What Russia is doing is a defensive move. Russia wants to ensure the safety of its people, not to expand its land. Sadly the majority of all this disturbance is because of USA manipulations... It's not their first time (Vietnam, Iraq, Korea, ...) and I doubt it's the last time.


I think the only thing that makes sense is Putin's unchecked power (inside Russia) has essentially made him not give a damn anymore. He's rich and powerful and reaching end of his life. He might be physically ill - we don't know. And this is his chance to try to rebuild the USSR consequences be damned.


I think this is the case.

We're talking about a guy who thought that Lenin and Stalin were too soft.

His speech a couple days ago was unhinged and offering justification to invade almost all of Eastern Europe.

https://www.c-span.org/video/?518097-2/russian-president-put...


Did you actually listen to the speech? There was none of it. He stated that Soviet National republics were created by taking historical Russian territory and giving them to newly formed states. All true.


Who gets to rebuild their empire next? Austrian-Hungarian empire? Ottoman Empire? British empire? Etc etc


You mean "historical Russian territory" that the Russian Empire took with conquest? Maybe France should retake historical French territory from the Napoleonic era too?


His power outside Russia seems largely unchecked as well. He still has Crimea and he's probably only a few years away from having another powerful political ally in the US White House (which I'd argue is worse than having an ineffective opponent).


Russia has predicted that the wests sanctions will be mild because they depend on Russia for oil and wheat. Everyone is more afraid of a recession than of future wars. Are they right? Would you be willing to risk your retirement investments from your faang jobs to sanction Russia? Or do you think it’s worth the cost to help discourage future military actions? Honestly curious what individuals think here


>If NATO intervenes militarily, Russia will lose much (but at great cost to NATO).

This is extraordinarily unlikely. Nuclear Weapons are in the mix which in my opinion closes the possibility of any actual confrontations between Nuclear Armed nations. I don't think any of the involved partied are actually suicidal so this doesn't seem a possible endgame.


The risk of a NATO military intervention is non-existent. Biden said it explicitly.

Wrt economic reprisals, Putin probably did the math and found it acceptable. They might be kicked out of SWIFT, they will probably get closer to China.


> Putin probably did the math and found it acceptable

I assume military belligerence, aggression is about domestic political power moves. Meaning, in this case, Putin's calculus gives more weight to tightening his grip on Russia than any economic impacts.

--

IIRC, studies have shown that economic sanctions empowers the hardliners. The hardships impacting the citizens drives them to embrace the hardliners more. Also, the sanctions expand their internal domestic inequity.

So while I totally understand the European and US response to Russia -- what else are they gonna do? -- the cynic in me knows it'll prove counter productive long term.

Nor do I support military involvement. That option is even worse.

There really are no good options.


> There really are no good options.

You can in fact strangle these regimes and it's very effective. We did it to the USSR, we did it to Cuba, we did it to Venezuela, we did it to North Korea. The outcomes were excellent in fact: those regimes were largely held in check and their ability to maneuver was made far more difficult. Crippling regimes like Putin's and making it difficult for them to function at max power, is a very reasonable outcome. Putin isn't going away whether we make it hard or easy on Russia most likely, so the rational choice is very obvious. Containment and strangulation is just fine.

The best options are what should have occurred over the prior eight years, for which it is now too late.

The good options going forward are to topple Lukashenko in Belarus (civil war, flood the nation with weapons, arm the resistance at any cost), aggressively move on Moldova and Russia's interest there (immmediately; as in eight years ago), and generally take Russia's few proxies away from them to weaken Putin's dreams of a new empire, that includes declaring a proxy war on Russia's off the books military activities in Africa and elsewhere. We have drastically more resources and reach than they do, we should kill their proxies anywhere we find them by funding it appropriately.

Very aggressively target Russia's currency and any international use of it. Attempt to destroy their economy. That includes by working with Western Europe to build nuclear energy and move away from Russian energy. This isn't solved in a day, but it can be solved over 10 and 20 years.

Cyber attack Russia's interest anywhere and everywhere they can be reached. They do the same to us, stop pretending we can be their friends. Russia isn't interested in being a liberal democracy or a pal to the civilized world, Putin's Russia is interested in power and conquest.

Blockade Russia off from the global Internet, which would be relatively easy for the US to accomplish. Enhancing their isolation that much more.

Remove them from Swift and make them a global pariah economically ex China and select few others.

Return the people of Russia to the conditions they enjoyed under the Soviet Union economically by strangling the nation, until or unless they get rid of Putin and return to the civilized fold and give up their ambitions to conquer more of Europe. It's probable that only the people of Russia can stop Putin, that includes people nearest to him (which is always an outsized threat to dictators; I assume Putin will do some purges if the pressure gets too great). Russia is well acquained with revolutions, our task now is to squeeze Russia until another one occurs. We outlasted the USSR trivially, the next task is to end the Russia that exists today (prompt revolution and see it broken into numerous smaller nations).


Russia sold gas to the EU way below spot prices. Nordstream 2 was in focus because of this.

Now that the project is suspended, the EU is importing very expensive Gas from the US.

So basically: the USA gets money for gas, and Russia gets the eastern Ukraine. They both get what they want.

Enjoy the show.


"The stability of the EU’s energy supply may be threatened if a high proportion of imports are concentrated among relatively few external partners. In 2019, almost two thirds of the extra-EU's crude oil imports came from Russia (27 %), Iraq (9 %), Nigeria and Saudi Arabia (both 8 %) and Kazakhstan and Norway (both 7 %). A similar analysis shows that almost three quarters of the EU's imports of natural gas came from Russia (41 %), Norway (16 %), Algeria (8 %) and Qatar (5 %), while over three quarters of solid fuel (mostly coal) imports originated from Russia (47 %), the United States (18 %) and Australia (14 %)."

https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/cache/infographs/energy/bloc-2...

Doesn't look like US is a significant supplier of natural gas to Europe. Not sure how much capacity the US has at its LNG export terminals either.


The risk of NATO intervening by art 5 are zero.

Putin is delusional about history and his place in it.

But he's not about to literally destroy everything he owns and then some by triggering art 5.


> But he's not about to literally destroy everything he owns and then some by triggering art 5.

Assuming Putin is rational is a dangerous thing.


Who knows. Maybe Putin is losing support in Russia and sees all-out war with Europe as a way to stay in power.


Exactly. Things have not gone very well in Russia in recent years. Average people getting poorer. Many casualties in Covid after population has been going down already for longer time. Russia's economy being pretty small internationally if you take the size of the country into account.

Putin just wants to move domestic attention away from all the misery that people will hold him reponsible for. Now war will dominate the agenda. And if someone complains about life getting worse, it's the war, not the incapable president.


I think this is merely an attempt to regain territories that Putin and Russian leadership see as "theirs". These are territories that were previously part of the Soviet Union or Warsaw pact and before that were part of the Russian empire. This is an old and deeply seated belief about what they consider their traditional sphere of influence. This likely includes nations like Poland and Finland which were under the thumb of Russian hegemony until recently in historical terms.

However not all of these nations are within their grasp because many have joined NATO since the fall of the iron curtain. The ones that haven't have mostly been for the most part brought back within Russian influence through political manipulation. Belarus is a good example. The leadership there a little more than proxies for the Kremlin. Ukraine was like that until 2014 when its people chose self determination and overthrew their Russian puppet. This invasion is the result. If Russia can't have its puppet states through non-violent means then it will take them by force.


I think you underestimate how weak the west really is. We need to wake up to the reality behind all the consumable media.


most likely Putin and his cronies are too isolated from reality, i.e. the information they receive is filtered/doctored to fit whatever they expect. Not dissimilar to the kings of old, or Dictators like Hitler, or Fidel


Having Nuclear weapons let’s you hold a gun to the planet’s head. That’s the factor you haven’t taken into account.


Sociologist Greg Yudin explained what the leadership might think in an article[1] (he wrote the same on Facebook in Russian on January 19).

TL/DR: Putin and the exKGB elites are dissentful of the cold war lost to the US, see NATO as a direct threat (even though military generals don't think it is), and the internal dissent with Putin seems to them inspired from abroad. They were shocked by Libyan rebel and by the Ukrainian in 2014. Of course, the only thing they do is brute force, and every step they make only makes the conflict more real.

Regarding the common folk, here's a survey[2] from December or January. TL/DR: they accepted the propaganda's POV that it's all the West's fault. When shown evidence of earlier military build-up, they'd suggest it was fake news.

[1] https://www.thebigq.org/2022/02/23/what-are-the-reasons-behi...

[2] https://www.ridl.io/ru/nas-vtjagivajut-v-vojnu/


IMHO the only logical explanation is either that Putin is truly delusional (which doesn't seem very far fetched if you saw his 1h speech/theater) or he wants to reinstate a soviet union'ish government (just consider how he dealt with oligarchs that didn't comply with him)


It is the right timing for Putin as he is betting NATO, Europe and the US will not intervene due to their recovery from the pandemic, as their (and global) weak economic situation can worsen.

War means higher oil prices due to decreased supply, lifting the Russian economy (60% of its exports), while if the US intervenes it will mean further supply chain disruptions and higher inflation - as seen in 1980s: oil price spike, gov. overspending.

Putin is testing the new administration, while China is watching on the sidelines over Taiwan.



It's not that easy... take a read of this for example https://www.economist.com/by-invitation/2022/02/23/dmitri-al...

bypass paywall https://archive.is/xDqsY


Sanctions (by US, Europe, Japan etc rather than NATO) are going to mean Putin supporters can't spend their money in Paris, London, or New York, their companies (and Russia) can't sell bonds on the international money markets, and (possibly in the future) sell oil and gas to the west. If things got nastier then Russia could be possibly be cut off from SWIFT and the rest of the global financial system too.


You think he'd just roll over and surrender if they cut them off from Swift? I doubt it...



Aside from providing arms I doubt we're going to see much else from NATO. That of course assumes Russia won't do anything truly diabolical.

Putin's playing a long game here and on an economic front he's likely betting most of the sanctions won't stick. With 2024 looming large I wouldn't be surprised to a gradual reset in US-Russia relations depending on the election result.


It's really not about Russia, it's about Putin desire to be a famous dictator like Stalin and Hitler.

He already got high-score as a billionaire dictator of Russia with gigantic palaces and whatnot. He already did some 'small' wars and expanded Russia's territory.

Now he wants to play big and defeat a major country and be considered a major player like USSR was.

There's no profit in it.


Your opinion is very biased and without a strong foundation. Here on hackernews we expect to have in depth detailed discussions where we try to unravel certain actions. In this why Russia invaded Ukraine.


Facts:

1. Putin is a dictator. He is able to change Russian constitution to stay in power, etc. 2. He murders people in a very cynical way. Polonium tea, novichok, etc. 3. He is filthy rich, owns billions of dollars worth of assets, possibly hundreds of billions.

Do you have doubts that a dictator can have an ambition to get more fame after he got all the money he wanted? Or that dictator can send troops?

Look, I know about game theory, microeconomics and such. I was a co-author of a paper submitted to NetEcon conference, for example.

But in this case, you need to understand that money, or prosperity, or safety, is not the only metric people optimize for. Many people optimize for fame. This is what a lot of people on hackernews are missing.


All hypothesis are acceptable.


The risk of NATO intervention is extremely low considering Ukraine is not in NATO. The whole NATO narrative was just Russian propaganda to try and justify Putins land grab. Russia wants Ukraine back and are willing to take it by force thats all that is happening here, there is no big complicated global politics here just more cold war fallout.


What Putin is doing to Ukraine right now is absolutely horrific.. but quite frankly, NATO intervention is unlikely and the Ukraine is going to be taking the L here.

This isn't a 1-dimensional scale (NATO > Russia). China can always weigh in. Europe can have mixed reactions. etc. That's how world wars start, which would be catastrophic for everyone. Nukes are also on the table if Putin really feels cornered.

Economic sanctions won't deter Putin. Europe still has to deal with them for energy, and a pro-west Ukraine is an existential threat to Russia. (Imagine if Mexico were to join the Russian Federation.) This is Russia's sphere of influence, which has historical precedent. Stalin's post WWII foreign policy was to maintain a buffer zone in eastern Europe.

Further, Ukraine has little real geopolitical value to the west. They're not a major trade partner, they don't have strategic resources, or control strategic ports. The west only wants Ukraine in order to gain leverage against Russia.

If you're wondering what the catalyst was, this is basically retaliation for 2014. [0] Russia believes the west is responsible for the revolution that ousted their puppet.

February 22nd, 2014 - protesters control Kyiv and Yanukovych has fled to Russia. [1]

Almost exactly 8 years later (Feb 23rd) this happens.

We have to assume Russia has been unable to "counter coup" Ukraine and regain a foothold, thus leading to this drastic action.

Putin has threatened severe consequences if any other nation meddles in the war, but he's not out for conquest. His mentality is simply: "I'd rather wreck Ukraine before letting it fall into the hands of the west." [2]

Putin will likely stop once the message is received.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revolution_of_Dignity

[1] https://web.archive.org/web/20140228013838/http://www.boston...

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JrMiSQAGOS4


I buy every one of your arguments except "A pro-west Ukraine is an existential threat to Russia," and I think this one deserves significant pushback:

How is this not the case for Latvia and Lithuania (not to mention Estonia), which are both NATO members directly bordering Russia, and in fact separating them from their Kaliningrad exclave? On the other hand, if those countries _are_ an existential threat to Russia, then why is Russia "starting" with Ukraine?

More to the point, who gets to decide what makes for an existential threat? Doesn't "existential" mean "at risk of destruction from"? Does anybody really suppose that a Ukraine that is pro-west, or even belongs to NATO, poses a direct threat of invading/destroying Russia? This sort of language frustrates me, because it seems to carry more heat than light. To your specific hypothetical, I would not welcome a pro-Russia Mexico, but I would not consider it to be an existential threat to the US for precisely the reasons I suggest here - a pro-Russia Mexico does not mean a Mexico that is even somewhat likely to invade the US.


> How is this not the case for Latvia and Lithuania (not to mention Estonia), which are both NATO members directly bordering Russia, and in fact separating them from their Kaliningrad exclave?

Latvia et al are not slavic. They don't share the language, they don't share the culture, and never were "Russia proper". Their success is easy to write off the same way americans argue that socialized healthcare would never work in the US due to cultural differences.

Belarus and Ukraine, in contrast, are very similar. Their threat to Putin's power is not physical, but cultural - if they became successful as free countries, they would set a blueprint for Russia (without Putin) to follow.

The discussion about NATO and nuclear weapons is a distraction. Putin is not playing a grand game, that's intellectualizing him too much. He is a paranoid thug who is afraid of getting overthrown and executed like Gaddafi. It's a very real possibility and almost happened to Lukashenko during the recent wave of protests.


The pro-Russia Mexico argument is a bit off, I agree. But please don't compare the Baltic countries to a 44 million population country. We'd barely fill half of Kiev.


That's fair push back. I stated it affirmatively, but I meant it in the sense that Putin / Russia sees it as an existential threat. Whether or not it truly is I do not know.

Maybe it has to do with pipelines or ports.

Maybe it has to do with a critical mass of bordering NATO states.

Maybe Putin is just short bald and angry and wants to flex on the west.

Foreign policy often seems more art than science. More poker than chess.

W.R.T Mexico, consider the Cuban missile crisis. It's not always about invasion.

W.R.T destruction, consider that the Axis lost WWII but Germany and Japan still "exist". It might be more correct to say "a pro-west Ukraine is an existential threat to the Russian Empire and their ability to project power beyond their borders, but Russia itself will always exist."


Russia (Putin) is doing this now because Nato members are experiencing internal political discord, and the alliance itself is not presenting a unified front. The past US president threatened to stop aid to Ukraine unless they produced evidence to be used against his political opponent. Germany is tied to Russian gas. Internally, member state politics are reflecting and fomenting social division. Russia chairs the UN Security Council. The world is grappling with Covid.

This move by Russia is intentionally timed because countries themselves struggle to act with a unified voice, much less transnational alliances.


And because the US has a weak president, weakest in decades. Biden also started with a political gaffe, in his first week he lifted the Trump-era ban on the NS2 project for no apparent gain.

Trump might admire Putin as a leader, but he actually shored up the eastern flank of NATO and banned the NS2 pipeline, which Biden rushed to open back up.


China?


Somehow a dupe got posted. Sorry.


> Poland (they'll join NATO by the end of the year if not sooner),

Poland is in NATO since 1999.


Yes thank you. I wrote something and then added Poland and didn't move that comment but I meant it for Finland. Sorry for the dupe post.


Russia is in a lose-lose situation. I think the potential consequences for it are greater than it would appear here. The greater risk (to Russia) is that this will have a long-term effect similar to Napoleon's Grand Armée, which had the effect of coalescing nation-states and national identities across Europe. This invasion will have the effect of bringing France and Germany closer together. There were already grumblings from both PMs that they weren't so sure about having their foreign policy on the matter dictated by the U.S. And that points to a real kicker. Germany doesn't lose wars when it fights on one front, but always loses wars when it fights on two fronts.

You contrast this with the knowledge and memory of 1931 (when Germany was in no shape to fight a war) and 1941 (we all know), Russia does indeed have much to fear from NATO, even though NATO doesn't seem capable of threatening it today.

So on one hand, Russia does not want to coalesce a threat to it in Western Europe. On the other hand, Western Europe has already come to its doorstep. I think there's a lot of people who are legitimately asking, why are they doing this, and why now? I think you should listen to what Putin says (without reading the media commentary on it), and read between the lines. It should also be considered that Macron forced Biden to offer direct talks with Putin. That seemed rather telling. Consider the domestic situation in the U.S. Put two and two together, and also that Obama mis-stepped when he said that chemical weapons were a red line in Syria. There isn't really so much a "global elite" or just "military industrial complex" as there are heads of state, their diplomacy and spy corps, diplomatic backchannels, and then the human element. Something happened, we don't know what, but from the effect, it seems obvious enough.

Ultimately, Putin knows that the nuclear card is time-limited. Originally, they were the U.S./NATO's bulwark against the USSR. Now they are Russia's card vs the West.

Nukes are only useful if they can be delivered to their target. We've been living in a world where they have made major wars too dangerous to be waged, and the state of technology has been like that for the entirety of our lifetimes, and we don't remember it any other way. But history shows that the balance between offensive weapons and defensive weapons swings back and forth. Indeed in Israel they are steadily gaining credible (and cheaper) ABM. When that nuclear card is undone, I think we will see some terrible wars recurring through the world because a whole lot of geopolitical tension will be released.

Putin is calculating for that. Russia's only reliable defense is strategic depth. Something has pushed him to err on the side of possibly uniting Western Europe. There again, he may be ironically counting on the U.S./U.K., which have historically not been too favorable to a solid Franco/German-led EU. But the influence of the U.S./U.K. may further wane in this matter, and we are seeing a real gambit. Putin cannot possibly know. He is making a decision based on imperfect knowledge.

Maybe the interesting bits are the other players here. What will be the ultimate effect on France/Germany/EU? And what about China? This puts them in a tough spot and they seem to be caught a tad flat-footed. I bet that underneath all the official rhetoric and alliances talk, the rest of the world is pretty "annoyed" at the dynamic between the U.S. and Russia, both of them troubled/declining empires whose "traditional" power structures are stirring for legitimacy. It's been some interesting times.


Long story short, Putin's plan is, depending on how Ukraine goes, to further attack Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, maybe Finland (they'll join NATO by the end of the year if not sooner as will Sweden), maybe Poland , and push the United States and UK out of Europe. If Ukraine goes very well, this will be sooner. If Ukraine goes poorly but he still wins and installs a puppet government, it'll be on a longer time frame once he consolidates forces and adds the remnants of the Ukrainian and Moldovan militaries to the Russian and Belarusian ones.

The reasoning here is pretty sound, and the more I think about it the more I come to believe that NATO should be fighting Russia right now - at least deny them air superiority. Russia wants a war, whether NATO wants one or not, so you might as well give it to em' with the other consideration being letting the Russian military get ground down in Ukraine and seeing how that plays out.

What will happen is that if Putin wins Ukraine and invades, say, Latvia, he'll invade and then when NATO responds he will use one or more tactical nuclear weapons on the military bases that forces are responding from. So if NATO is launching air assets from a Polish airbase, he'll nuke that. And then he'll say - let me have what I want or I'll use more. Now what? Will NATO nuke a Russian base in exchange? Will it be a base in Belarus? Ukraine? Russia itself? It's easy to see this spiraling out of control. But if you believe Putin will use nuclear weapons (and I do) the endgame is that he destroys NATO and pushes "western" influence out of continental Europe.

Putin believes there are 3 pillars: US, China, Russia. He does respect the US, but thinks he can win. His goal is to create an ethnostate, similar to China, centered around Russian culture. Taking Kiev is super important to that because despite his rhetoric that Ukraine isn't a state or whatever, it is the historical cultural home of the Russian people. So he's going to want that to create a new shared ideology around the glory of the Russian people. He'll then look to cut out the US, UK, and any "liberal" sympathies.

> What about sanctions?

He doesn't care. He doesn't want to integrate with the US or the west. Russia has plenty of natural resources. Ukraine gives them plenty of farmland. Why would he need western money?

Currently we're playing along just like he planned. We tried negotiating, he went through the motions. We enacted sanctions, which he knew would happen. They shut down Nordstream 2, which he knew would happen (and leave Europeans with higher energy prices). And now he's just executing his plan and NATO is saber rattling about defending NATO territory, which... goes back to the Baltic question. Will NATO go to nuclear war over those countries? I think conventional war absolutely. But when Putin nukes a Polish air base or a Romanian one. Now what?

So we need(ed) to do something unsuspected. And I think the only option was to immediately go to war and force the issue on NATO's term. Unfortunately I think NATO is in a bad position.

Oh... and that's without literal traitors like Tucker Carlson, Donald Trump, Tulsi Gabbard, and others who are "pro-russia" while we're about to be in a war with Russia. So now we have to figure out how to deal with those people too.

MAD is dead.


The Russian Army is not the powerhouse the Soviet Army once was, relative to NATO. If the Russians go after Estonia/Lithuania/Latvia/Poland/etc conventional NATO forces can stop said invasions, no need to launch nukes.

Hell the German military might do some actual fighting for once if their Polish buffer state is threatened.


Of course, NATO's conventional forces can demolish Russia's conventional forces if they go toe to toe. But what do you do when once NATO war planes or a carrier strike group engage and shoot down Russian planes or bomb Russian tanks when Putin literally nukes an airbase with a small yield tactical nuclear weapon? Keep going at it? Try to stop? I mean that's the crux of the issue. Putin knows that he can't beat NATO toe to toe right? So why is he doing anything? It's because he thinks he can use nuclear weapons to get NATO to back down. IMO. Just taking these two eastern regions isn't enough, because he could have gotten those via diplomacy.

My take is basically he has gigantic ambitions, because otherwise everything he is doing makes no sense whatsoever and I can't help but think he's a rational actor.


If Putin is a rational actor, then what's he following up his tactical nuclear strike with? His conventionally defeated Army?

If he's willing to risk that level of escalation then we're beyond rationality. The world is not going to let Putin dictate international politics of entire continents at the point of a nuclear gun. Even the Chinese wouldn't be on board with that. I'm not sure what the best course would be in such an event, but if Russian forces can be otherwise conventionally defeated nuclear retaliation may not even be necessary.

If nuclear retaliation is deemed necessary, it would likely be of similar magnitude (targeting invading Russian military formations or something). To turn the question around, is Putin willing to launch ICBMs because NATO won't let him take Estonia?


So I'd say it's a little bit of timing right? Putin builds up forces yet again, says he won't do anything, "NATO at the border of Belarus this is for security", etc. and then he just goes right in and starts fighting. When the fighting starts and he starts attacking NATO forces and they start responding, he launches a tactical nuclear weapon on an airbase somewhere nearby in Central or Eastern Europe and now what? I mean if nothing else what worries me is the prospect of this spiraling way out of control. To your point about Putin being a rational actor... I mean this is rational for him if your world view is that these countries should be united under Russian leadership. If he were rational, then why would he even invade Ukraine? Why is he so paranoid about NATO? All we want to do is respect human rights (and we have tolerances even) and just have open market economies and democracies. If he were rational why not just integrate Russia with Europe and help Russians become fantastically wealthy?

I'm also not sure about the Chinese. I don't think they care. I think they love this.

> To turn the question around, is Putin willing to launch ICBMs because NATO won't let him take Estonia?

My take is yes. I don't think he's nuking New York and London... but military bases in central and Eastern Europe? I mean will NATO nuke Moscow and then actually trigger MAD over that? If we're being honest what are our actual red lines? For America probably US, UK, France, Spain, Italy, Germany. I honestly don't know about any other country in Europe.

What do you think?

-edit- (really sad to see people have downvoted you for having an interesting discussion and different point of view. I'm sorry to see that has occured at this point.


No worries, I don't structure my opinions for HN Karma :)

If he opened an attack on NATO with a tactical nuke he's just escalating things faster. After the shock wore off that would probably increase the odds of a tactical nuclear response in kind, at which point the Russian forces remain defeated. Or perhaps if the West remains restrained and no further nukes are launched, a conventional defeat in spite of Russian tactical nukes.

If his goal is to restore the Soviet Union's influence there are reasons to conquer Ukraine (food supply, gas line, black sea access, etc). Starting a war with NATO would be a quick end to those dreams, tactical nukes or not. The West has already proven less complacent than I think he anticipated. He was probably hoping for us to just collectively shrug our shoulders "oh well it's just Ukraine, something something human rights" and just let him have it. Instead we sent Javelins and canceled Nordstream 2, among other measures. On the spectrum of possible responses from "loud noises" to "all-out military intervention", we're closer to the latter than the former. Over a non-NATO country.

The West's institutions may be diminished, but they only diminished in the absence of a common adversary. If Putin wants to restore that adversary, the best he'll accomplish in the medium term is restoring our institutions.


Under article 5 of NATO our red line is an attack on any member of NATO. This has to be enforced for the alliance to mean anything.

Putin is attacking before Ukraine has this protection, I think no one wants hot conflict with NATO including NATO members.


> If he were rational, then why would he even invade Ukraine? Why is he so paranoid about NATO?

Because Russia in general has always seen Europe as posing a threat of invasion, and with reason. In WWII, Germany invaded Russia. In the Crimean War a bunch of European countries invaded Russia. In the early 1800s Napoleon invaded Russia. Putin is taking advantage of this general Russian attitude towards Europe to improve his own political position.


Which is all irrelevant now because Russia has an estimated 6,000 nuclear weapons and if the rest of Europe started moving all the required troops to invade Russia to the West Russia would be ready and could actually have a credible nuclear strike justification. And considering everyone in the West is cool just making money and dealing with internal problems I just do not have sympathy for the point of view anymore. If nuclear weapons can’t protect Russia then that’s just their problem.


> Which is all irrelevant now

I'm not the one you need to convince of all this (especially the "everyone in the West is cool just making money" part). Putin and the Russian people are. From where I sit, they aren't convinced.

> I just do not have sympathy for the point of view anymore

Considering that Russia's history for many centuries has been one of having to deal with external invasions (it took them three hundred years to learn how to deal with the Mongols, for example), and that Europe's history up until World War II has been filled with wars, I have a hard time having sympathy for a point of view that thinks that half a century of so of Europe apparently behaving itself must be sufficient to outweigh all that and convince Russia that they can chill because everyone else is ready to play nice.


I think in that case we will just wind up in nuclear war. There doesn't appear to be an alternative. Get ready.


> I think in that case we will just wind up in nuclear war.

I don't think so. I emphasize Russia's history in order to explain why it is entirely credible that Putin does not intend to continue invading country after country after the Ukraine. He is not trying to conquer countries just for the sake of conquering. He is trying to establish a buffer around Russia. And, in doing so, to consolidate his domestic political power.

In other words, your belief that Putin must be bent on invading country after country was based on your inability to see any other rational reason why he would be invading the Ukraine. I am giving you such a rational reason. The fact that the beliefs on which it is based appear to you to be out of sync with current reality in Europe is irrelevant because your beliefs about current reality in Europe are not driving Russia's actions; Russia's beliefs are. Rationality does not require that all of one's beliefs be correct, only that one's actions make sense in the light of one's beliefs.


We can set aside this discussion about rationality, because I'm not suggesting that Putin doesn't have rational reasoning for doing what he's doing, what I'm suggesting is that Ukraine would not suffice for any rationale I've so far been exposed to. I'm also suggesting that he is objectively wrong about his beliefs, even if he follows them. It doesn't actually provide any buffer that makes sense from a geographic standpoint - it does have a lot of resources though. NATO is much closer to Moscow from the Baltic states. He's also going to have to occupy a country, on his border, with 44 million people. If even 1% of them are violent anti-Russians because of collateral Russian damage caused by the invasion then how does he expect to protect Russia from terrorist attacks? How does he protect a potential puppet government from such attacks? Not to mention now he's galvanized NATO, Finland and Sweden are going to join (in my view) by the end of the year, and people aren't going to associate with his country anymore.

If Putin wants to I guess further expand his buffer, then we'll have a nuclear war because there is no doubt that the United States will absolutely go to war with full force against Russia over any NATO country. There is no reconciliation to be had here. If Russia believes NATO is out to get it, despite a world of evidence to the contrary, then they can stop at Ukraine or keep going, but if they keep going, which is likely (because Ukraine isn't worth the devastation being caused to Russia) then we will just have nuclear war. If Russia believes this then we might as well just go ahead and have it out. I mean there isn't anything else to that. I'm not sure why you're suggesting that I'm "out of sync with the current reality in Europe". The reality is that the United States will go to war and fight Russia to defend NATO. That's why I'm concerned (OP) - it can easily spiral out of control.


> It doesn't actually provide any buffer that makes sense from a geographic standpoint

Huh? It's right in between Russia and Europe. Right on the route by which previous invasions of Russia from Europe have come.

> He's also going to have to occupy a country

He doesn't have to permanently occupy it. He just has to prevent it from joining NATO.

> he's galvanized NATO

I think "galvanized" is a little strong. No NATO country is going to actually try to help Ukraine resist the invasion. The worst consequence is economic sanctions, and the historical track record of economic sanctions is not good. I expect Putin believes that his country can manage no matter what economic sanctions NATO nations throw at it.

> Finland and Sweden are going to join (in my view) by the end of the year

I think that's highly likely, yes. And it doesn't change Russia's threat environment in the least because no invasion of Russia is going to come via Sweden and Finland. If Russia intended to invade Finland and Sweden, them joining NATO would be a negative consequence, but I doubt Putin intends that.

> and people aren't going to associate with his country anymore.

I don't think Putin cares about that either.

> the devastation being caused to Russia

What devastation? If you mean economic sanctions, I think you are drastically overestimating their effects on Russia.

> The reality is that the United States will go to war and fight Russia to defend NATO.

So all Putin has to do to avoid that is to not attack a NATO member country. Which Ukraine is not. In fact, your argument here is an argument for the view I've been taking, that Putin does not intend to keep on invading country after country--because he knows invading a NATO country would bring consequences he doesn't want.


> Huh? It's right in between Russia and Europe. Right on the route by which previous invasions of Russia from Europe have come.

Well it's in Europe. But yea you can just keep on invading that same route. Not that an invasion is going to happen anyway.

> He doesn't have to permanently occupy it. He just has to prevent it from joining NATO.

???? What? Yes he does? If Russians leave than Ukraine goes back to what it was. Unless he tries and installs a puppet government, and then he might be facing some insurgency. Not fun.

> pdonis 1 hour ago | parent | context | flag | on: Russian forces invade Ukraine after Putin orders a...

> It doesn't actually provide any buffer that makes sense from a geographic standpoint Huh? It's right in between Russia and Europe. Right on the route by which previous invasions of Russia from Europe have come. > He's also going to have to occupy a country He doesn't have to permanently occupy it. He just has to prevent it from joining NATO.

> I think "galvanized" is a little strong. No NATO country is going to actually try to help Ukraine resist the invasion. The worst consequence is economic sanctions, and the historical track record of economic sanctions is not good. I expect Putin believes that his country can manage no matter what economic sanctions NATO nations throw at it.

I mean now all of a sudden we're about to add Finland and Sweden to NATO. NATO allies just got woken up to the fact that war can still break out in Europe, which means militaries that have been languishing are going to get beefed up. Etc. The sanctions may not "work" but it also doesn't matter. No reason to deal with Russia if they're going to be a bad actor.

> I think that's highly likely, yes. And it doesn't change Russia's threat environment in the least because no invasion of Russia is going to come via Sweden and Finland. If Russia intended to invade Finland and Sweden, them joining NATO would be a negative consequence, but I doubt Putin intends that.

Gotland

> I don't think Putin cares about that either.

I agree - this was in my OP.

> What devastation? If you mean economic sanctions, I think you are drastically overestimating their effects on Russia.

Why?

> So all Putin has to do to avoid that is to not attack a NATO member country. Which Ukraine is not. In fact, your argument here is an argument for the view I've been taking, that Putin does not intend to keep on invading country after country--because he knows invading a NATO country would bring consequences he doesn't want.

But then his invasion of Ukraine doesn't make sense. All he did was cost himself a bunch of money to invade a country that definitely doesn't want him there and is now pissed off, he lost the Russian people a lot of money, and he's no more "safe" than he was before because the Baltics are still on his doorstep. What was gained?? If he believes that he gained security by attacking Ukraine than I do believe he's not a rational actor.


> If Russians leave than Ukraine goes back to what it was.

I'm not sure that's true. But that may be because I have a different view of Ukranian internal politics than you do. See below.

> Why?

Because, first, I don't think Russia's economy is all that dependent on the products that Western sanctions would cut off, and second, I don't think the sanctions are going to be all that well enforced long term, since that is the way sanctions usually are. (And I expect Putin thinks that too.) For one thing, Europe is dependent on some key products from Russia, such as the natural gas that is now not flowing. Past experience suggests that European countries will find ways to route around the sanctions while publicly giving them lip service.

> a country that definitely doesn't want him there and is now pissed off

Some Ukranians are. I'm not so sure a majority of them are, at least not in any sense that matters for Russia. Eastern Ukraine, in particular, I think is generally sympathetic to Russia.


I mean I'm not sure either. I don't think anybody is really sure. Now, NATO has deployed thousands of troops to the Baltic states, the US has deployed elements of the 82nd Airborne to Europe. Estonia is tweeting that it will do more to supply munitions to Ukrainian forces. Sweden said they're escalating military intervention. So now instead of having very few troops on his border, Putin has more than he's had in decades. The security angle is complete bullshit.

I agree that Russia isn't "dependent" on the west. Again going back to my OP I assert that this is a non-factor for Putin as he seeks to create a Russian-lead Slavic ethnostate in Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Baltics, and more. Ukraine is a key piece not for security reasons - again Russia has 6,000 nuclear weapons and if you feel insecure than you are actually irrational - but because of the extensive amounts of resources which he'll need to feed the Russian people and create industry. Russia has all the resources it needs, they won't have iPhones but they'll build rockets and cars and stuff like that.


> he seeks to create a Russian-lead Slavic ethnostate in Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Baltics, and more.

Since, as you point out, the consequence of invading the Ukraine has been to cause a lot more troops to be deployed in the Baltics and other places you say Putin wants to eventually conquer, I don't see how this "Slavic ethnostate" is a rational goal.

I agree that the resources in the Ukraine are a rational goal, but if that is Putin's goal, we would not expect him to invade other countries. The resources in the Ukraine might be worth what it will cost Russia to get them (or at least that might be how Putin has calculated it); the resources in other countries, particularly NATO countries, would not.


Right - the question just comes down to what his goals are. I'm worried that he's looking to roll up Ukraine and Belarus and start conscripting people and sending them to die fighting NATO forces. And when NATO forces resist he'll say something like "I'm here to free the people of Lativa and if NATO intervenes further I'll nuke NATO bases wherever they are in central and eastern Europe". It's completely rational and it'll cause NATO to dissolve if he follows through and NATO backs down.

I just have such a hard time thinking he invaded Ukraine just to get resources. Or just for security.


There's another way to look at this: Putin is a rational, risk-averse actor who only engages in territory acquisition when he can encircle the target and guarantee a win in days during winter (because spring and fall are too muddy for vehicles). Crimea follows this pattern: Russia has a navy in the Black Sea and Sea of Azoz.

The New York Times map [1] of the build up prior to invasion is enlightening and encouraging for Finland and Poland, less so for the Baltic states.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2022/world/europe/ukrain...


> less so for the Baltic states

And... the US and allies and also Russia because if Russia attacks them we're 100% going to war with Russia to defend those allies. There's 0 question of that. It goes back to my OP which is what happens after that starts. Putin knows he can't take on NATO 1-1, so why would he attack those countries? Well he has nuclear weapons and can launch tactical nuclear strikes on NATO airbases and dare the west to risk nuclear war over these countries.


> It's because he thinks he can use nuclear weapons to get NATO to back down.

When Putin intends to use nuclear weapons against NATO members, then the one and only answer that NATO will come up with is nuclear. This brings us either back to a cold war scenario or doomsday.


>>>Hell the German military might do some actual fighting for once

Fight with what? The Bundeswehr has almost no tanks. https://www.dw.com/en/german-military-short-on-tanks-for-nat... https://ukdefencejournal.org.uk/german-military-short-tanks-...


I disagree. These plays have been available since the establishment of the nuclear deterrent. The soft-peddling from the US and NATO is indicative of their respect for the deterrent. People calling for NATO to counterattack are delusional. NATO and Russia still benefit from minimizing shared borders, so I don't think Russia will annex Ukraine and instead will leave it demilitarized.


Look I hope you're right. I want to agree with you 100%. But just neutralizing Ukraine I'm not sure what that actually gets him. He could have gotten diplomatic agreements of some fashion to not have Ukraine NATO (and it wasn't seriously on track to join either). Idk. I hope you're right.


Kiev is 529 mi (~10h) from Moscow. If Ukraine were to join NATO, there would be a NATO base inside that range in days. Lockheed Martin claims its Precision Strike Missile has a 310 mile range [1]. I can understand why Putin would want Ukraine to be a friendly puppet or be demilitarized.

Diplomatically, it wouldn't be advisable to give an adversarial foreign power control over the membership of your alliance, so NATO can never give those guarantees. My belief is that Putin only sought those guarantees to fabricate a casus belli.

[1] https://www.lockheedmartin.com/en-us/products/precision-stri...


Latvia is ~420 miles from Moscow and is already part of NATO. What is so special about Kiev?


Ukraine is not part of NATO. There are many fronts, some are better to push than others.


I think you forgot your own argument. Let me remind you: "If Ukraine were to join NATO, there would be a NATO base inside that range [529 mi] in days."

You are trying to justify Putin's actions by inventing a hypothetical while ignoring the fact that the NATO borders within 500 miles of Moscow is a reality for years.


NATO encircling Russia is as much of a problem as Russia encircling NATO. There's no contradiction in my argument here.


Sure but the US and NATO had no interest in doing anything like that. Nobody gives a crap about Russia as an enemy except to the extent that they make themselves an enemy.


NATO alliance members have NATO military bases, but you're right that US and NATO have no interest in adding Ukraine as a member. As we are seeing, the country is in a weak geographic position: Russia was able to stage forces to encircle >80% of the country prior to the invasion. Who would want that kind of ally?


Ukraine has warm water ports in the Black sea, huge oil pipeline capacity from Russia, and farmland, all of which are valuable to Russia. I won't claim to understand the reasoning but I believe Russia intends to control all three of those either directly or through a puppet state.


This whole Trump being pro-russia needs to die. It's so dumb. If repeated enough times it'll become truth unfortunately.

Trump looked to increase NATO defenses and aggressively pump oil and gas to crash the global price of Russia's chief source of foreign exchange. That's hardly pro russian. Ironically, Biden comes in and kills oil production in the US, forcing us to then rely on external oil markets for our resources which gives Putin money to pull shit like this.

Trump also unilaterally left the assymetrical US-Russia missile accord. Hardly pro russian.

Trump ordered lethal force to be used against large numbers of Russian mercenaries who attacked a U.S. installation in Syria. He also sold offensive weapons to Ukraine.

Where is this pro russian Trump you speak of?


Trump has consistently parroted Russian propaganda over his own intelligence while in office, and has not stopped since leaving office:

https://theweek.com/russo-ukrainian-war/1010547/fox-news-hos...

https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/putin-eyes-ukraine-invasion-...

The oil and gas pumping you mention started under Obama, and responding to an attack on American forces with lethal force is an incredibly low bar. The other state department actions don't change that his administration was vocally pro-Russia.


I really want to believe that you're wrong, but idk anymore.


Me too friend. Me too. I think that as described is the worst-case scenario, but also the only one IMO that explains his actions. Hopefully someone else can come in and demolish everything I wrote so I can feel better.


That’s just paranoia.


You would have said the same thing if someone had written that Putin was going to invade Ukraine two weeks ago.

What is paranoia and what isn't has just materially changed, the question now is not whether or not the poster is paranoid, but whether they are too paranoid or not paranoid enough.


> They shut down Nordstream 2, which he knew would happen

I heard that the German president's speech mentioned Nordstream being done. He didn't specify Nordstream 2 as expected. I read somewhere that referring to both Nordstream 1 & 2 caught Putin by surprise.


>Russia is outclassed by NATO both economically and militarily.

Especially now, after NATO's quick and easy victory in Afghanistan it's clearly seen that Russia is far behind NATO militarily. Putin is just stupid and suicidal.


In most traditional contexts, risk is defined as severity x probability.

You outlined the severity of NATO intervention. That is to say, you only described half of the equation. It could very well be that Russia assumes the probability of NATO intervention is disproportionately low, meaning the risk calculation is also low. Maybe they think that balance outweighs the economic risk.


> Is Russia just suicidal?

Russia has no other choice. When USSR in 1962 [0] did something similar to USA, USA was not happy and it could end up really bad. How is this situation is different? National security is paramount.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuban_Missile_Crisis


I keep hearing this comparison. Tell me, when has NATO threatened to place nuclear missiles in Ukraine? Because that's the only way this comparison holds water.

No NATO country has ever invaded Russian soil and never will due to their massive nuclear arsenal.

I'm willing to admit Putin may have convinced himself and some Russians that there's a national security concern, but the evidence is severely lacking.


>>>Tell me, when has NATO threatened to place nuclear missiles in Ukraine? Because that's the only way this comparison holds water.

The comparison is that missiles in Cuba = "disturbs the Mutually Assured Destruction equation". Anti-Ballistic Missiles in Russia's near abroad....disturbs the MAD equation. That is the national security concern. It's the same thing Russia has been saying since....2007? http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6599647.stm

Do you think Putin wants to until US ABMs are already deployed in a NATO Ukraine to then voice his concerns? That would be too late. Consider this a very drastic preemptive action, but it's entirely in keeping with Russia's approach to security in their near abroad for the past ~15 years, for anyone who has been paying attention.


No one is going to risk a nuclear war under the stupid assumption that their ABM systems will be 100% effective. Also Biden mentioned missile deployments in Eastern Europe were a potential bargaining point, although I'm not sure exactly how those talks went.

Regardless, the only thing Putin has to fear from NATO ABM systems, and NATO membership for Ukraine in general, is an end to their ability to conquer Eastern Europe militarily.

I'm sorry if that explanation doesn't suit Russian paranoia, but I see no upside to tolerating said paranoia either. And neither, apparently, does Ukraine, despite standing to lose the most in this situation.


>>>the only thing Putin has to fear from NATO ABM systems, and NATO membership for Ukraine in general, is an end to their ability to conquer Eastern Europe militarily.

Around 9/11, the Russians were focused on Chechen insurgents and terrorists, and our relations with them thawed significantly: https://carnegieendowment.org/2001/10/24/u.s.-russia-relatio...

Later in the 2000s, Russia discussed NATO and EU membership but had generally been rebuffed. Still, they tried to maintain dialogue with NATO, even after slapping down Georgia: https://euobserver.com/news/27890. I think they considered their point made about keeping NATO in check, but we didn't get the message.

For about 15 years, Putin ran Russia without even possessing the capability for a major nation-state offensive in Europe. That changed with the reformation of the 1st Guards Tank Army, stationed west of Moscow, in 2014. The question so few people are investigating is "What are the things WE ("the West", generally speaking) have done to trigger the changes in Russian foreign policy? This is the introspection that I find deeply lacking. Everyone just chalks it up to "clearly he's a megalomaniacal madman! Nothing else needs be said!"


>>> What are the things WE ("the West", generally speaking) have done to trigger the changes in Russian foreign policy?

Exactly this. The western world has this infallible belief that what they are doing if right and everyone else is wrong. They don't even stop to think the consequences. They are doing things which if reciprocated they won't accept and they say .. Oh we just want to spread democracy everywhere"


> Tell me, when has NATO threatened to place nuclear missiles in Ukraine?

I never said it has to be nuclear missiles. Tomahawks will do for 800km range. And that's a threat for national security.

>I'm willing to admit Putin may have convinced himself and some Russians that there's a national security concern, but the evidence is severely lacking.

If your neighbor says your dog is a concern, you better listen to your neighbor and do not adopt 10 more.


The Cuban missile crisis was over nuclear missiles, not conventional. NATO put nukes in Turkey and Italy, Russia tried to match with Cuba. The crises ended when both sides agreed to withdraw nuclear missiles from said countries.

If my irrational neighbor says my quiet, well-behaved dog is actually barking all day and night, growling at him as he walks by (even when the dog is inside), and if I don't stop it he'll break into my house and kill my dog: I keep my dog inside, put up some cameras, clean my gun and file a police report.


Well, that's the point. Ukraine never behave well, and its master seems to ignore numerous warnings and refuses to listen. Go file a report now.

ps: the good thing the master is safe and fine. he will adopt another one just to annoy the neighbor again.


Yeah, Ukraine is downright angelic compared to Putin's Russia. They actually had the potential to become a thriving democracy and regional economic power, something Putin can't have on his border. Makes him look bad and destabilizes his legitimacy, same reason the Soviets put up the Berlin wall.


It takes a brave tankie to post this on HN. Godspeed comrade.


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