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Are you under the impression that Russia doesn't do the same thing?

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deletedMar 14, 2022·edited Mar 14, 2022
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Then surely Russia ought to expect the same back

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Are you under the impression that these peripheral countries aren't asking to join western organizations, but are instead coerced or brainwashed into doing so?

Or are you subscribing to the view point that national sovereignty should only exist for the Great Powers and everyone else should just get in line?

I've spent a lot of time in the former Soviet countries. I play sports over there so I talk with folks after games, meet families, etc.

They live in a world of fear. That fear is not of NATO.

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I agree with most of this, and I really want to highlight that the 'no-fly zone' concept is something that can only come from a great power fighting a smaller power. A no-fly zone is, 'we're at war with you but we're so much more powerful that we're going to do it at minimal risk and there's nothing you can do about it.' The US can do that with Iraq and Libya and Kosovo and any number of small countries. I would have thought Russia could do it with Ukraine until last week. But for two major powers there's no such thing as a no-fly zone...there's just war. The internationally accepted step down from war is proxy war or armament, which is what we're doing. Maybe Russia is so weak it would adhere to the polite fiction of a 'no-fly zone', but I doubt it.

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I think the phrase has rather morphed over the years. The original meaning (so far as my memory goes) stems for Bill Clinton's idea about how to prevent Serbia from assisting the Bosnian Serbs tear apart Bosnia and Herzegovnia in 1993 or so. It was his answer to the twin queries (1) What are you going to do about all this ethnic cleansing? and (2) Don't the Bosnians have the right to work out a civil war however they want, without interference?

Clinton was a born split-the-difference guy, of course, probably loved threesomes on Jeff's island paradise, so he came up with the idea that the justifiable thing to do was prevent Serbia from assisting the Bosnian Serbs through air power, and the deal he offered them was "You can keep your air force -- so long as you keep it within your borders, and don't fly it over Bosnia." A very different thing from just going in and blasting the hell out of Serbian air forces.

And this doesn't really seem relevant to Ukraine, except perhaps in the separatist regions, where you could argue there is a domestic civil war going on -- but even then, the separatists are *not* being assisted by the VVS anyway, so what's the point?

But yeah if you're just talking about suppressing somebody's aerial offensive and defensive assets, this is just 'establishing air superiority' and the phrase "no fly zone" seems weirdly inapt. Could be Zelensky's trying to suggest a form of Clintonian hair-splitting that would allow NATO to get directly involved while pretending to just be "allowing" Ukraine and Russia to work it out "fairly" using just ground assets. Or something like that, who knows? Why he thinks the lack of a solid *rationalization* is the big barrier to this happening is a mystery. Or maybe he's playing to a world audience, thinking the Europeans or Americans will be embarrassed at "not even" being willing to interdict Russian aerial bombardment. Although again who would be naive enough to uncritically accept that framing I dunno.

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The original No Fly Zone was over Iraq in 1991 immediately after the first Gulf War. The term was dusted off again in 1993 for Bosnia.

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Oh yeah I remember that now. I think I got my Gulf Wars mixed up, I was thinking the Iraq version came after the Yugoslav.

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I don't think Zelensky really thinks NATO is going to impose a No Fly zone, but it's his job to investigate every possible avenue of support for his country. And a large part of the value of his entreaties is not the (minuscule) chance of actually getting NATO to take a huge jump up the escalation ladder, but the propaganda / information-warfare value, casting Ukraine further in the light of noble victimhood, drumming up public support, etc.

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"maybe he's playing to a world audience, thinking the Europeans or Americans will be embarrassed at "not even" being willing to interdict Russian aerial bombardment. Although again who would be naive enough to uncritically accept that framing I dunno."

From this article https://nevalleynews.org/16269/news/polls-show-many-americans-in-favor-of-no-fly-zone-but-most-do-not-fully-understand-the-ramifications-of-imposing-this-order/:

"WASHINGTON, March 4 (Reuters) - A broad bipartisan majority of Americans think the United States should stop buying Russian oil and gas and work with NATO to set up "no-fly zones" to protect Ukraine from Russian air strikes, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll completed on Friday."

Later in the same article:

"It was not clear if respondents who supported a no-fly zone were fully aware of the risk of conflict, and majorities opposed the idea of sending American troops to Ukraine or conducting air strikes to support the Ukrainian army."

Having interacted with a number of civilians about this, it seems they genuinely do not understand that a no fly zone means shooting down planes and air-war. They seem to think of it as some kind of abstract international law instrument which somehow-magically- stops people from flying. I think the most charitable explanation is that they haven't thought that hard about it.

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Yes, it almost sounds like it's an ICAO policy that one could somehow invoke that would cause air travel, including hostile military aviation, to be suspended in a region, or to become clearly recognized as a war crime, or something something something.

Good branding for the 1990s ones, I guess!

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Quite right. One of the drawbacks of the professionalization of the military is that far fewer people than at any point in history have any direct experience informing their opinion about military operations.

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> Although again who would be naive enough to uncritically accept that framing I dunno.

Been avoiding Twitter this last month? ;)

I have seen far too many people, some of whom I used to respect the mental prowess of, speaking positively of the idea of a US NFZ over Ukraine. And who will. Just. Not. Listen.

"Imposing a No Fly Zone" is kinda like fighting a little kid by keeping your palm on their forehead and them at arms length while they flail at you. Harder to do with an adult bear.

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>Two persons close to the Russia-Ukraine negotiations (including back channel talks) tell me Russia proposed (1) Zelensky remains pro forma president but Russia appoints Boiko as PM, (2) Ukraine recognizes L/DNR and Crimea, (3) No NATO. Ze told them emphatically no.

Boyko was the Putin proxy candidate in the last election, getting 11% of the vote in 2019. Though I suspect that number would be vastly lower now.

(https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/the-real-russian-candidate-in-ukraine-s-presidential-race/)

https://twitter.com/christogrozev/status/1500812687009267712

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The latter two might work even if they're painful, but the former would never fly and Ukraine would be nuts to take that deal.

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founding

Yeap, I often see 2 and 3 mentioned as a reasonable compromise, but they also asked to change Ukraine's constitution to specifically nerf Zelensky.

Also to note that negotiations are complicated by a complete lack of trust in Russia - they broke both the recent Minsk accords, and also the treaty they signed when Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons, which says very clearly they'll respect Ukraine's borders at the time. Hard to get more untrustworthy than that.

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I saw a claim elsewhere that another part of the demands was that Ukraine reduce its military to 60k people max. Which would be extremely foolish to agree to since Russia is demonstrably untrustworthy and would doubtless attack again when the situation is more in his favor. If either of these secret side conditions is true, it would be stupid for Ukraine the deal since it amounts to surrender to conquest.

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That was a day one demand, that as far as I can tell, was taken off the table when it was clearly a non starter. I'm also 90% sure Putin wants the entirety of the Donbas region independent, not just the part that Putin had before the war.

I think Ukraine should only take the deal if they get back something that can be an assurance that this is unlikely to happen again. My first thought was the return of their nuclear weapons, which is probably unrealistic, but they should get something that helps guarantee the deal will be preserved.

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It's hard to see what kind of assurance Russia could give that would make a difference to Ukraine, given their history of lying and breaking past deals.

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DMZ inside Russian territory.

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You mean, inside Donbass? Presumably not inside actual Russia, because then Donetsk and Luhansk would be on the Ukraine side of the DMZ.

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Formal acquiescence to Ukraine joining NATO would work.

And, as Aristides said, handing over a hundred working nukes would work (nb: one of the big reasons Ukraine handed the nukes over in the first place was that they were locked with codes the Ukrainians didn't have).

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No that would end the world, silly boy.

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It was asked what kind of assurance Russia could give that Ukraine would accept. I'm pretty sure Ukraine would accept either of those as being genuine insofar as Russia would be putting a gun to its own head in case of betrayal.

It's not going to *happen*, but it satisfies the condition asked for.

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Put a UN force in along a demilitarised zone. Any invasion would then authorise fully sanctioned war against Russia. Then Ukraine agrees to not join NATO.

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Keep in mind that Ukraine had eight years to implement Minsk-2.

And we are ones to talk about being "demonstrably untrustworthy".

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Russia did not withdraw their heavy weapons, so Ukraine could not implement Minsk-2. We've all now seen what happens when Russia agrees to "humanitarian corridors" so I'm not inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt on anything.

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The text reads as follows (emphases mine):

Pull-out of all heavy weapons *by both sides* to equal distance with the aim of creation of a security zone on minimum 50 kilometres (31 mi) apart for artillery of 100mm calibre or more, and a security zone of 70 kilometres (43 mi) for multiple rocket launchers (MRLS) and 140 kilometres (87 mi) for MLRS Tornado-S, Uragan, Smerch, and Tochka U tactical missile systems:

*for Ukrainian troops*, from actual line of contact;

*for armed formations of particular districts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts of Ukraine*, from the contact line in accordance with the Minsk Memorandum as of 19 September 2014

The pullout of the above-mentioned heavy weapons must start no later than the second day after the start of the ceasefire and finish within 14 days.

This process will be assisted by OSCE with the support of the Trilateral Contact Group.

It doesn't actually obligate Russia to do anything.

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Very funny? If we're playing the "Donetsk and Luhansk separatists aren't controlled by Russia" game then we have nothing to talk about.

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The Donetsk and Luhansk separatist forces are supported by Russia, directed by Russia, and to some extent _are_ Russia (they've had at least special ops forces In there for years)

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Mar 8, 2022·edited Mar 8, 2022

> It doesn't actually obligate Russia to do anything.

If you are claiming that Russia is not controlling/influencing/supporting "armed formations of" then you really should educate itself about situation.

(and that assumes that they should not be treated to be simply part of russian army)

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I lived eight years in Ukraine. I know personally plenty of people from Donbass. They never saw a Russian soldier.

That said, if Minsk-2 meant to say "Russia" or impose obligations on Russia then they should have said so.

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What was the problem with point 11 of Minsk-2? Why Ukraine couldn’t implement it?

Quoting from Wikipedia:

11. Constitutional reform in Ukraine, with a new constitution to come into effect by the end of 2015, the key element of which is decentralisation (taking into account peculiarities of particular districts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, agreed with representatives of these districts), and also approval of permanent legislation on the special status of particular districts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts in accordance with the measures spelt out in the attached footnote, by the end of 2015.

My understanding is that current Ukraine elites didn’t (and don’t) want any Russian influence, and so they sabotaged any political guarantees to separatists / Russian proxies, and Russia in turn was wary to withdraw heavy weapons - since without them, Donetsk / Luhansk (population 3.5m) would be very vulnerable to military action from Ukraine (population 40m, army trained and armed by NATO).

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They chose not to implement it because Russia refused to implement their side of the agreement. If Russia is not even going to honor the ceasefire, why the heck would they go forward with constitutional reform? How could they sell that to their electorate? "We got nothing, and in return we made huge constitutional changes". OK. They only agreed to it in return for a ceasefire that didn't happen. Traditionally when the other party is in breach of a contract, you are released from your obligation to perform your side of the agreement.

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Well, the contention is that Russia _did_ implement a ceasefire (and then got nothing in return).

Both Minsk-1 and Minsk-2 were signed after Ukraine military suffered major (some say - catastrophic) defeats, and there was a very real risk of Russian forces advancing to Kiev.

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"My understanding is that current Ukraine elites didn’t (and don’t) want any Russian influence"

Your understanding is weak.

NO Ukrainian wants any Russian influence in Ukraine.

Look up Holodomor if you don't understand why

Look at the current fighting if you're unclear on exactly how much Ukrainians don't want to be dominated by Putin, or Russia.

But my previous statement really wasn't strong enough:

No sane person wants to be under Russian influence. Russia is a land for whose entire existence it's been a cesspool of political and economic corruption. Until that changes, it needs to be kept locked up in the smallest possible place

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Exactly this kind of statements I cite when people ask me why Russia could be afraid of NATO/USA.

It is quite easy to portray someone as paranoid, when you first threaten him, and than only look at his reaction.

I do not know a single thing Russia has done in the last 30 years, NATO/USA has not done worse before in this period. This does not give Russia the right to do so, but this does take the right from any Westerner to point to Russia as a evil.

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"NO Ukrainian wants any Russian influence in Ukraine."

Do you mean that people who lived and still living in Crimea and Donbas are not Ukrainians then?

Also, if 'no influence' - why Ukraine didn't pay market prices for the natural gas starting 1991 or 2004 or 2010?

I've read on Holodomor, thank you.

You also seem to equate Russia with Putin, and call for the harshest possible collective punishment of entire population - am I getting it right?

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Weird. All those years living in Ukraine and I met so many people who don't fit your generalization regarding "all Ukrainian people."

No true Ukrainian, is it?

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You violated the 1994 agreement that caused Ukraine to give up their nukes when you invaded Crimea, Donbass, etc.

No one can ever be reasonable expected to honor ANY agreement with you, when you're currently in violation of an agreement you signed with them.

Sorry, but until Russia leaves every bit of 1994 Ukraine territory, there can be no "bad faith" on the Ukraine side, only on the Russian one

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*I* didn't violate anything, and the United States had long claimed that the Budapest Memorandum was not binding when it sought to sanction Byelorus in violation of that Memorandum.

Meanwhile, if you want bad faith, look to the promises that NATO would not expand to the East.

https://nsarchive.gwu.edu/briefing-book/russia-programs/2017-12-12/nato-expansion-what-gorbachev-heard-western-leaders-early

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Oh, well, that's easy.

"Misha there is in the Army on Monday, Dima is in the Army on Tuesday, Aleksi is in the Army on Wednesday, Zhenya is in the army on Thursday..."

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Amazing that Putin managed to offer that Ukraine almost completely capitulates, while spreading news that he'd offered to walk away with almost nothing. This seems typical of Russia's negotiation style (see also: repeatedly agreeing to temporary ceasefires so that civilians can evacuate, and then breaking the ceasefires when civilians attempt to evacuate every time). I'll be similarly skeptical next time Russia says anything about their war policy.

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I think "completely capitulates" would involve reinstalling Yanukovych or equivalent as president and disbanding their armed forces. These demands aren't anything close to that.

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They requested that Zelensky become a figurehead only and a Russian-selected person becomes the executive.

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That would indeed be a fairly complete capitulation.

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One possible compromise would be for Ukraine to agree to accept the results of a referendum, run by a neutral party, in Crimea and the secessionist areas. Russia wins in the Crimea, probably in the parts of eastern Ukraine they have long controlled, perhaps not if their claim is for all of Donbas. At the point when that agreement was made both sides could claim it as a victory for them, and they are just respecting democracy.

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founding

Ukraine yes, but I don't think Russia would accept elections where it doesn't count the votes.

I was talking with friends about this, and Germany would have been the best neutral party. We joked that if China is organizing, they'll also be winning the elections even if they're not on the ballot.

But yes, that would really be the just decision in this case. Unfortunately I doubt it's going to happen.

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What about the Ukraine being split in half? Basically Russia gaining the eastern half, and Ukraine keeping the Western half? I guess the Ukrainians would never agree to this, but still...

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If things had gone Russia's way, perhaps we'd be thinking about that. But they haven't.

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Yeah but Putin wants to escalate...so idk, maybe as a last resort before he goes completely nuclear...

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If you reward terrorism, you get more terrorism.

The response to "Putin wants to escalate" is "Dear Russia, if you want very single one of your cities nuked, let Putin escalate. If not, don't."

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Nobody would believe that for a second.

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Keep in mind Russia has practiced ethnic cleansing in the occupied areas of Luhansk/Donetsk. The people there now are not the same people who were there 8 years ago. Should Israel conduct a referendum in the settlements and then decide whether to annex the settlement areas based on that referendum?

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Actually, that sounds a bit unsubstantiated...maybe provide some reliable sources for this claim?

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Mar 9, 2022·edited Mar 9, 2022

Plenty of proof out there if you care to look at all:

https://www.dw.com/en/donetsk-and-luhansk-in-ukraine-a-creeping-process-of-occupation/a-60878068

"Since the conflict broke out, millions of people have left the separatist areas."

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I would argue that most of it was due to the ongoing conflict, and general lack of rule if law (and not ethnicity). A lot of people prefer not to live in a war zone, if they have an alternative...

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Care to bring any evidence, or its the common wisdom again?

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Another nice piece: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/2/22/what-are-donetsk-and-luhansk-ukraines-separatist-statelets

"In the statelets, secret police and “loyal” residents monitor every word, phone call and text message.

Dissidents or businessmen who refuse to “donate” their assets to the “needs of the People’s Republic” have been thrown in “cellars”, or dozens of makeshift concentration camps, without trial.

“It looks like the 1930s in the Soviet Union, a classic gulag,” Stanislav Aseyev, a publicist who was kidnapped in 2017 in Donetsk and was sentenced by a separatist “court” to 15 years in jail for “espionage”, told Al Jazeera.

For almost two years, he was incarcerated and tortured in these “cellars” until separatists swapped him and dozens of other prisoners in 2017.

Thousands of others were tortured and abused in the “cellars”, according to rights groups and witnesses.

“The cellars where prisoners are held in Donetsk, and the widespread use of torture, are among the most obvious human rights issues,” said Ivar Dale, a senior policy adviser with the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, a human rights watchdog group.

These tendencies have gone hand in hand with economic degradation.

The living standards are “many times, if not dozens of times worse than in pre-war 2013”

...

Thousands of Russian volunteers flocked to Donetsk and Luhansk to aid separatist militias.

“Putin will come and restore order here,” one of their supporters, a rotund minibus driver named Valerii, told this reporter in April 2014 in Donetsk.

But four months later, after the separatists tried to confiscate his minibus, he locked his apartment, loaded the bus with his most valuable belongings, and left for Kyiv."

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I believe you haven't read the article yourself, because it contains nothing like "ethnic cleansing"

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Are you claiming you don't understand what "ethnic cleansing" is?

Because "making it miserable for people of a certain ethnicity until they leave" is pretty much the Platonic ideal of "ethnic cleansing"

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I read the entire article. Forcing 2-3 million ethnic Ukrainians (out of a population of 6-7 million) to flee by torturing them and confiscating their stuff is ethnic cleansing

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A good solution might be for Zelensky to go to "prison" as Risto Ryti did for Finnland. Putin gets to claim domestIcally that he removed the Jewish drugy nazi and Zelensky gets the full Pablo Escobar treatment, with plenty of furloughs, gets his chosen successor elected with a discrete hint or two, and no risk to fuck up in everyday politics.

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I think the peace agreement needs to be a formal, tripartite agreement between NATO, Ukraine, and Russia. Ukraine is formally declared as neutral and not eligible for NATO as well as being a nuclear weapons free zone, Russia agrees to allow the residents of the Donetsk/Luhansk to have an internationally supervised referendum on being independent/joining Russia/staying in Ukraine and to not send in any troops into Ukraine to back any government, etc.

And yeah, we really need to not do the idiotic No Fly Zone idea. Thankfully, Russia made it clear recently that they'd consider it an act of war by any country that did it. I'm not worried that Biden is going to cave on that - the guy held firm on Afghanistan withdrawal even with a big chunk of the national security press and "Blob" railing against him over it, and so far the US has done exactly what we threatened to do before Russia invaded (sanctions, arms to the Ukrainians, etc).

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Mar 8, 2022·edited Mar 8, 2022

I have a hard time seeing how the Ukrainians will ever trust Russia to abide to a promise not to invade again. I think any peace agreement would have to involve trustworthy allies, and be effectively something like NATO in all but name. (i.e. troop tripwires, like South Korea.)

I've been listening to residents in Odessa on Twitter spaces and telegrams. Even the political groups and factions that were built around being pro Russia are now building sandbags in the streets. They feel betrayed. Burning with anger at Russia.

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If it would be like NATO in all but name, then it would be recognized as such, and would mean that Russia lost the war (by definition - stated objective for the war was not achieved). But then the question of trust would be moot - there will be military guarantees instead.

The question of trust comes up only if Ukraine is losing - and then it is a balancing act between more fighting (and deaths) and giving up something…

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My worry is all this does is postpone the invasion for 5 years. Right now Ukraine has international support and is causing Russia to suffer major loses. If Russia ever sees am opening where one of those is not true, why wouldn't they just do it again. At a minimum, they will get more of Ukraine.

To take Scott's metaphor, Crimea was the Alusian Islands, now they are asking for Alaska, what will they ask for next? It is better to not surrender unless something changes that make it substantially less likely this will happen again. Transfer of Russian military assets? I'm not sure what, it will take, but Ukraine might be better off in an Afghanistan like 20 year conflict that they win instead of becoming puppet state slowly over repeated attacks with peace agreements in the middle.

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Give Ukraine part of Russia's nuclear arsenal. Ukraine gave its nukes to Russia back in the early 90's, in exchange for a pledge to respect its borders. Now Russia has violated that pledge, so Ukraine should get the nukes back in exchange.

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Though that is an obvious nonstarter for obvious reasons.

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Of course. Perhaps someone else, like the United States or France, could loan Ukraine some nukes in exchange for their right to compensation from the Russian arsenal...

... though that's also a nonstarter, for almost as obvious reasons.

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They could do it secretly...like Israel which is not "officially" an atomic power, but obviously "unofficially" it's a different reality...

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We didn't give the Israelis nukes. They're just smart and resourceful enough to build them on their own.

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Even setting up the parameters of a referendum like that is rather complicated in the wake of a war like this. Some towns in the Ukrainian-controlled parts of Donbas simply don't exist anymore; should the separatists win because of self-determination if everyone who would have opposed them is already dead?

The same concerns apply to Crimea in a way, although it's farther in the past -- Crimea is so very Russian because the Soviets deported the Crimean Tatars in 1944 and settled Russians in their place. We shouldn't want ethnic cleansing to be a way to weaponize self-determination.

I don't have any solutions here, just pointing out problems upon problems.

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No

"Ukraine is formally declared as neutral and not eligible for NATO as well as being a nuclear weapons free zone"

Ukraine pretty much did that in 1994, and the result was Russia invaded 20 years later.

NATO is absolutely no threat to Russia, UNLES Russia is planning on invading Ukraine.

So "joining NATO can not be allowed" is pretty much saying "Russia will eventually invade"

I've got a better deal:

Russia gets completely out of Ukraine, Ukraine gets to join NATO and EU, and the sanctions against Russia get ended

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> Ukraine ceding them does nothing except take away Russia’s casus belli for future wars.

During the big state address teh casus belli was 'we will strive for the demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine.'

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Why anyone thinks Vladimir Putin *needs* a casus belli is beyond me.

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I mean he, like any invader, obviously does, because he needs at least some people and factions onside. That's why he has provided multiple. That's why no country ever doesn't. Wars that are openly about conquest, wealth etc. simply do not happen any more.

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Mar 8, 2022·edited Mar 8, 2022

Right. And an important faction to have onside is the military itself, which will have morale problems very shortly if it doesn't believe in the cause.

I'm also trying to think, even when wars of conquest were common, how often they were ever presented purely as wars of conquest: "We want that land so we're going to take it." Maybe the Mongols did this?

As opposed to "I am the rightful ruler of this place, as is well-known according to all the best sources, not the imposter who currently holds sway here, and I'm merely reclaiming what has been robbed from me."

Or "[ENEMY NATION] has engaged in repeated abuses and injustices, and we have waged a war to rightfully punish them, and now to compensate us for our trouble (and perhaps to discourage it from ever happening again) we ask for nothing more than a few measly pieces of land. Or perhaps we'll subjugate them entirely, but purely as an act of self-defense."

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Maybe read the Iliad.

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Falls under my second casus belli: punitive expedition against a wife-stealing scoundrel and those harboring him.

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Mar 9, 2022·edited Mar 9, 2022

Yeah, but there's a lot more flavor to it than that. You don't really get the sense that Homer thinks Paris was a scoundrel; Philip of Makedon seems to have named his famous son after him.

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There was a (long) period of time when a successful war was very clearly an advantageous adventure. Take over some foreign land and tax them. You didn't need much to sell that.

Unfortunately (or I guess fortunately) that isn't true any more.

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The Romans did basically this in Europe (less so in Asia and Africa since there were peer opponents there). "Veni, Vidi, Vici", and all.

Colonialists did this in parts of what became their empires (not everywhere - there were provocations of a sort for a lot of the wars, and obviously the Aztecs provided all sorts of moral imperatives - but parts).

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I'm not that far into the history of Rome podcast, but thus far at least, most Roman conquest in Italy was rationalized as being in response to a threat posed to allied cities by the Etruscans or the Latins or Samnites, etc. I was surprised actually, given their reputation as ruthless conquerers, the pains Roman politicians took to convince themselves that they weren't the aggressors.

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Yes. The same is true in Caesar's conquest of Gaul. In practice it was a very aggressive war and we're left with little doubt as to his true intentions, but he nonetheless waited for a casus belli in order to present it as essentially a series of defensive actions on behalf of allied Gallic tribes.

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" We want that land so we're going to take it."

You don't have to go that far back: The Nazis in Germany did exactly that, they basically sayed: "We need more space to the east, to give to our settlers and feed our great homeland. The slavic hordes that live there now are anyway not using it properly."

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It's true that Hitler wrote Mein Kampf and that the pursuit of Lebensraum was both a popular idea in Nazi circles and official Nazi policy in the form of Generalplan Ost, but it wasn't given as a reason for the war, on the occasion of either Fall Weiss or Barbarossa. Those speeches of Hitler's are available and well worth reading.

When it came to public consumption, I think the Nazis normally referenced Lebensraum obliquely, and almost never as a primary motive for the war. Aside from Mein Kampf itself, I'm not aware of any Nazi propaganda where something like Generalplan Ost was laid out for broad popular consumption as a laudable goal.

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Even Hitler made one up: the Nazis were nominally "protecting ethnic Germans in Poland." Apparently literally no one thinks "because I feel like it" is an acceptable reason for war anymore.

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Super duper quick note on the university that banned Dostoevsky: 1) it was a lecture series, not a class, 2) the official notice said it was postponed, not outright banned, 3) they've since reversed the decision.

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"it was a lecture series, not a class"

so?

"the official notice said it was postponed, not outright banned"

we weren't killing the jews (yet), we're just checking public opinion by throwing them in ghettos

"they've since reversed the decision"

I hope the professor declines and holds it publicly instead.

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I'd seen a lot of stuff around the internet about a university supposedly banning the books, which I didn't think captured the situation properly once I looked into it. If there's reason to be angry at something, it should be based on accurate information.

I think your lecture series/class criticism is fair. They are pretty similar. In my defense, I was pretty tired when I wrote this comment. :p

However, I think comparing me saying the series was postponed to rounding up Jewish people inflates the issue. There's a big difference what the Nazis did and not teaching a class on a writer because he was Russian. On the other hand, I can understand your line of thought that this could be a test before they move to larger things.

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Obviously I'm being *massively* hyperbolic in order to show a point.

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Corrections for factual accuracy should not be attacked. Helping everyone operate from the same facts is a public good.

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Apr 12, 2022·edited Apr 12, 2022

Agreed but I think the comment should also take into account that a sort of 'testing of the waters' exists.

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Saying a University "banned the study of Author X" implies that a decision was made with the *purpose* of *prohibiting* *all* study of X. If, in reality, a class about X was temporarily postponed, that does not require, nor even imply, any intent to limit the study of X- I had classes canceled/rescheduled simply because of scheduling conflicts, classes I was *required* to take to graduate- a postponment of a lecture series, class, whatever, does not imply that anyone in the University find the *content* of the class objectionable. So it's a huge difference between what happened and the claim that "studying Dostoevsky was banned"

Do you understand the difference?

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Absolutely unnecessary comparison to the holocaust. You otherwise make reasonable points, but making a slippery slope argument does not require equating the holocaust to removing a single book from a single lecture series.

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Yeah I'm being *massively* hyperbolic.

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Related to the jingoism section: lots of western businesses have taken action against Russia beyond what government sanctions called for. So western unity against Russia has gone beyond "being very pro-Ukraine on Reddit"!

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A lot of business transactions are based on mutual trust. Someone needs to either ship the goods or pay first. And when Russia starts doing the whole invasion thing, its far less likely that you'll be able to count on the Russian government guaranteeing contract provisions. So at the very least you need to account for the additional risk. And that's before you have to worry about the human cost of having business assets in Russia who might be harmed.

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Also when your bank and the computer network it uses for wire transfers are placing economic sanctions against Russia and Russian companies in a way that changes day by day.

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A lot of western military veterans have also traveled to Ukraine to fight in their International Legion.

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Got to note that any company trying to fully exit Russia right now will have their properties seized through fast-track bankruptcy procedure; that's why many companies close their business venues but still pay salaries of their workers which avoids this particular outcome.

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"Is it imprudent? It’s a risk, but at least it was taken in the defense of real principles, which is better than most of the imprudent things we do."

1. Sure the argument that this is in defence of real principles is better than normal, but on the other side of the ledger the risk of blowing up the world is much higher than normal. As has been pointed out now, when critics as diverse as Kissinger, Chomsky & Mearsheimer are all saying "this might blow up the world", it's probably genuinely dangerous. Prior to all this happening, there appeared to be something of an intellectual consensus around the idea that NATO expansion eastwards is dangerous -by intellectuals left, right and centre- *among everyone except the people who actually got to make the decision*.

To turn the rhetoric around, we had the option to say "too bad, too sad, but great power politics mean that Ukraine is Putin's toy". We've done much, much more ruthless things than that, and this one would have been for a brilliant cause- in the service of not blowing up the world, as opposed to many of the ruthless things we do, which are in the service of enriching very wealthy people.

2. Also, to mutilate a phrase from law "one who appeals to principles must have clean hands". The argument the west is justified in some kind of deontic sense is limited by the fact that, as best I can tell, the west funded and encouraged literal Nazis knowingly at several points during this process, including during the "Revolution of Dignity".

On the topic of the culture war elements in this new cold war, I really think we need to clamp down on this frame [Based Russia versus Woke West]- it's both ridiculous and dangerous. I discussed it a little here:

https://philosophybear.substack.com/p/dont-be-deceived-this-is-not-world?s=w

Mostly just to plant my flag in the ground as someone who really hates this framing.

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Apparently even Trump now makes jokes at Russia's expense. You can't be based if you're too weak, and wokeism evidently hasn't yet caused the West to collapse. Would be interesting to see which anti-woke symbol would be adopted next.

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> wokeism evidently hasn't yet caused the West to collapse

Yet.

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https://acoup.blog/2020/01/17/collections-the-fremen-mirage-part-i-war-at-the-dawn-of-civilization/ gives a scathing rebuke-in-four-and-a-half-parts to the notion of decadence (which I think “wokeness” can be correctly read as) being the cause of economic and military collapse.

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I don't think that "decadence" is a good model for the concern about "wokeness".

The historical model for "wokeness" is one in which a multi-ethnic society living at peace is gradually riven apart by hate-mongers from the less privileged group. That's a pattern which has been repeated quite a few times in history.

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I think at least part of wokeness can be considered emotional decadence.

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I would agree with that. In harder times we worry about getting enough food, or invading foreign armies, and don't have time to worry about even major systemic discrimination, let alone "microaggressions."

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This is semantics.

I agree that if you look at it from the right angle wokeness is a kind of decadence. Why should that be relevant to the question "what effects will wokeness have on our economy and political institutions"?

What properties of decadence cause it to never precipitate societal collapse? Does wokeness have those properties? Does calling it "emotional decadence" interact with any of those properties?

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Mar 9, 2022·edited Mar 9, 2022

I think a better model is the Cultural Revolution, in which the currently dominant faction of the elites weaponizes the masses with hate against other factions, thus consolidating their power by eliminating threats to it, but also resulting in atrocities by one faction of the masses against other factions.

Of course, at that level of abstraction, it merely sounds like warfare, and in the later stages the Cultural Revolution often was merely warfare; but there are other crucial similarities, like the demonization of privilege (converting envy from a mortal sin into a moral virtue and senseless suffering into the virtue of martyrs), the demonization of knowledge, symbolic mob violence (for example against statues), preference falsification spirals, mass censorship, and paranoia about treason taken to absurd heights.

This pattern is somewhat similar to underprivileged hatemongers exploiting ethnic fault lines, but not the same. I agree that it is completely unlike the martial decadence discussed in the Fremen Mirage.

https://www.gwern.net/reviews/Cultural-Revolution

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Bret Devereaux is useful to read, but you must keep in mind the fact that he has an agenda, because he never forgets it for an instant (https://acoup.blog/2022/01/21/fireside-friday-january-21-2022-on-public-scholarship/).

I can, in fact, quote him *back at you* on this one. He never joins the dots *because that is not in his interest*, but try this on for size (italics replaced with asterisks):

>And we should note that nearly all of the blows which brought this system down were self-inflicted *by the Romans* who for their part never seem to have understood the marvelous thing they had created. The Crisis of the Third Century shattered the political unity of that market and disrupted the limited degree of public peace that created it. Rival emperors both before the crisis but increasingly in it also devalued the currency and extracted supplies directly in kind rather than in cash, leading to weakness in the currency system and a progressive *demonitization*(sic) of the economy. This free-fall was to a degree arrested in the fourth century by Diocletian and Constantine, but the top-heavy, bureaucratic administration they created was probably itself a drag on the economy; Diocletian’s currency meddling and price fixing were disasters and Constantine’s efforts to *actively reduce* labor mobility to aid in collecting taxes couldn’t have helped. That leads to the lower-but-still-elevated fourth century plateau: elevated by the continued existence of semi-unified market and the fact that at least the wars of rival emperors tended to be geographically limited and less destructive than the pre-Roman (or post-Roman) norm of endemic warfare. Finally, there is something to the notion that the state-run systems of extraction and redistribution – taxing the farmers in grain to be shipped to the soldiers – may have continued to encourage a degree of specialization and trade; the “crude but vigorous pump” *worked* to a degree to elevate living standards over the pre-modern agricultural norm.

>But that very cycle of usurpers and civil wars – and the decision of those rival emperors to (in Peter Brown’s phrasing, which I love), “bus in” ‘barbarian’ armies to fight each other – led to the slow but steady disintegration of that united political order, the shift to more and more endemic violence and the final collapse both of that semi-unified market and the “crude but vigorous pump” that had in part replaced it. Living standards thus declined back down to the pre-Roman Iron Age norm while at the same time the carrying capacity of the empire also declined down to that norm, leading to what must have been decades of brutal misery as food ran short, malnourished infants died before their time, cities shrank and the world grew poor.

[...]

>Instead, I think the stronger point here (and one Peter Brown – lest anyone think I think his work is without merit, which is far from the truth – and also many others make well) is that the collapse of the Roman Empire in the West – while it *was* a catastrophe for those people living at the time – was less a product of ‘hordes of barbarians’ coming over the frontier (who again, were mostly invited in by Roman leaders looking for advantage in their endless struggles with each other) and instead a product of actors *within* the political system, *within* the empire, tearing it apart out of the pursuit of their own interests, deceived by the assumption that something so old could never simply vanish…until it did. The consequences of their decisions and of their failure to recognize the fragility of the clockwork machine that suspended them above the poverty to come (and that it was already damaged) were great and terrible.

Source: https://acoup.blog/2022/02/11/collections-rome-decline-and-fall-part-iii-things/

"Getting so comfortable with the harvest you've reaped that you piss it away and burn the societal commons in labyrinthine internal power struggles" is not a completely-absurd notion of "decadence", and in many respects fits the objections to the "woke" paradigm much better. Using Scott posts as a handy example: https://slatestarcodex.com/2013/03/03/reactionary-philosophy-in-an-enormous-planet-sized-nutshell/ (particularly the sections "The Other Chinese Room Experiment", "On Second Thought, Keep Your Tired And Poor To Yourself", and "Plays Well In Groups"), and https://slatestarcodex.com/2013/03/04/a-thrivesurvive-theory-of-the-political-spectrum/.

I'm not saying "don't read ACOUP". ACOUP covers a lot of ground interestingly and as far as I can tell Bret doesn't lie. But I read him with a careful eye and a critical mind, because he doesn't just write ACOUP to show off or to make money; he is - by his own admission - trying to manipulate public opinion.

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Re your last para, that applies to everyone ever, doesn't it?

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Everyone does manipulation occasionally, but usually subconsciously and/or in limited/predictable domains (nobody's especially trustworthy when taking the stand at his own murder trial, etc.). "I write my blog in a way explicitly calculated to be enjoyable and maximise public respect for me so I can more effectively promote my politics" is a step beyond "everyone does it"; most politicians and cult leaders go that far, but people read them with heightened scrutiny too.

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It hasn't caused military collapse because non-woke straight white men have technologically advanced our military so far. If America's defense depended on something akin to Ukraine and only liberals were available, things would be very different.

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I was annoyed at everyone interpreting Trump's saying that Putin is smart as implying that he approved of the invasion. Now I'm waiting for Trump to announce that actually he was wrong — on the evidence of how the invasion is going, Putin was not smart.

But I'm not holding my breath.

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founding

...the problem with this is that Trump uses "smart" as an equivalent term for "is doing something I agree with" and "dumb" for "doing something I disagree with."

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Except he literally says that the invasion is bad almost immediately after calling putin smart, the ACTUAL problem is that this is either all that got reported, or it got reported correctly but trump critics only saw the headlines and reacted to it.

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Mar 10, 2022·edited Mar 10, 2022

The “smart” part was clearly intended to be “got the better of Sleepy Joe Biden” not “the invasion was a good thing I approve of”.

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"Apparently even Trump now makes jokes at Russia's expense. ". Apparent to whom? Trump made some comments which could be read as snark about Putin, but equally as snark about the weakness of the people he doesn't like in the West.

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Mar 10, 2022·edited Mar 10, 2022

Applebaum, Frum, and others have long argued that the "blame it on NATO" idea is silly. NATO expansion eastward has been driven, from the start, by these countries asking for it in response to Russian bellicosity. I reject the notion that there was some kind of intellectual consensus here.

In any case, there is a very big difference between agreeing not to expand NATO eastward and agreeing that "Ukraine is Putin's toy." In fact, attempts to appease Putin have gone much the same way as attempts to appease Hitler: telling strongmen they can do as they like makes them feel empowered to do more. I would argue that what provoked Putin most was not NATO's eastward expansion, but rather the West's failure to punish Putin sufficiently in response to his actions in Georgia and Syria.

NATO expansion didn't actually pose much threat to Russia. NATO can launch nukes from subs in the ocean with or without countries in NATO, unlike during the cuban missile crisis (edit: sorry, they were invented in 1959, but I'm assuming — and open to being corrected — that they were not yet a major nuke carrier), and NATO had, at one time, 0 tanks in Europe. In Poland, they had a few hundred troops. It was not a major army amassing at Russia's borders. What Putin didn't like was Ukraine turning West economically and politically. The idea that it might theoretically one day join NATO is little more than a pretext.

Edit: epistemic status: political science PhD candidate, but really I am largely giving voice to Applebaum's objections here.

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It's both, of course. Russia's neighbors (except Lukashenkostan) want to be in NATO, and the US wants to let them join. They're good as NATO members since they actually exceed the 2% GDP defense spending target: Ukraine is said to have spent over 4% of GDP on defense[1], Latvia 2.3%[2], Estonia 2.3%[3] and Lithuania 2.12%[4]. Gee I wonder why....

[1] https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/MS.MIL.XPND.GD.ZS?locations=UA

[2] https://tradingeconomics.com/latvia/military-expenditure-percent-of-gdp-wb-data.html

[3] https://finabel.org/a-historical-record-estonias-2022-defence-budget-increases-to-2-3-of-the-gdp/

[4] https://www.statista.com/statistics/810481/ratio-of-military-expenditure-to-gross-domestic-product-gdp-lithuania/

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Georgia was basically the same case as Ukraine: First a massive influx of money from the US and EU promoting 'democracy', than a 'revolution' backed by the US/EU than the wish to join NATO almost put in their mouth.

Have a look at the Documentary 'Ukraine on Fire' from Oliver Stone. If you look from this angle, I can fully understand that Putin is afraid of NATO and of being next. The West did nothing to counter this concerns apart of saying Putin would be paranoid and crazy and NATO is only for defense. This last claim would be much easier to believe if someone could wipe my memory of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria. Who tells that NATO doesn't suddenly have to protect the Russians from Putin?

For me looking from outside seeing the US and NATO very selectively policing the World is very unsettling or even disgusting.

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Err... US operations are not the same as NATO operations. Afghanistan and Iraq were invaded by the US and "partners", not NATO. I think Russia had more military operations in Syria than the US did. Not familiar with Libya.

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A nice, safe, status-quo point of view, very sensible. Reminds me of any number of thoughtful "detente" essays I read in the 70s arguing a policy of indefinite accommodation.

But I personally find it a a little too Neville Chamberlain for my tastes, and I prefer Reagan's reformulation of the problem, id est, no we don't *have* to accept paying the Danegeld indefinitely. We can win, and they can lose, and that should be our priority goal.

The US and Europe combined easily have the economic might to drive Russia into ruin -- I'll note in passing that Germany alone has twice the GDP of Russia, and even Poland has 25% of it. And the Ukrainians want a lot more than mere honor at this point -- not with dead children lying on the road. They want to kick Putin's teeth in and see blood. I'm perfectly comfortable with helping them do that, and I think it can be done -- just as it was done in the 80s to the USSR -- without resorting to an exchange of ICBMs. But you do need to keep your eye on the ball, and you need to not start rationalizing horrible things as just some kind of existential tax bill that it's prudent to fork out indefinitely. It's OK as a temporary strategy, but as an end goal in itself -- nah.

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Reagan's approach only worked because the USSR was on the brink of collapse at the time and couldn't call his bluff. Even then, it nearly led to a full-blown nuclear war on a number of occasions, as the Soviets struggled to tell "normal" levels of US bellicosity from pretexts for invasion/attach. Reagan basically Alzheimered his way into gambling with the entire planet, and only lucked out thanks to the prudence and carefulness of his enemy (as well as the bravery and stoicism of a few lower-downs like Petrov). That is not a model to emulate when the fate of millions of people is on the line.

Additionally; the approach that the US took to Russia after the collapse of the USSR (ie: treating it like a conquered enemy) was a huge part of why Putin got into power in the first place, and a big reason why there's a revanchist movement to "restore" a national pride that got bruised.

A strategy which treats another country as an eternal enemy creates an eternal enemy, which then creates the pretext for treating them as impossible to reason or compromise with. Your approach is a guarantee that, at some point, someone will push the button and end civilization.

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Yeah none of that matches my memory at all, and (1) I lived through it as an adult, and (2) I paid very close attention, since the Cold War and the threat of nuclear fire dominated my childhood. Inasmuch as you have not adduced any specific detail to illustrate your assertions, I think a simple statement of 180 degree disagreement is sufficient response.

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Your memory as a person who has lived in the US all your life? Or in a country in the West? Or in a third-world (in the original sense) country? As some sort of globe trotting ubermensch? Or as someone who spend part of their childhood in the USSR?

Because from your response I'm guessing the former, and that makes me think you're a goldfish disagreeing on life outside the bowl (full disclosure: we're all goldfish, our bowls are just different).

There are many more recent takes on the history of the Cold War and the Soviet Union that you could refer to if you wanted to try to get some of that perspective, almost none of which support a rah-rah version of Reagan singlehandedly winning it by being more aggressive and daring than the weak-kneed leaders who came before him.

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In fact I have lived both in the United States and in my youth in a Warsaw Pact nation[1], which I mention just to confound your assumptions, even though I think it is entirely irrelevant to the point. I don't need to have personally been to the Moon to thoroughly understand the Apollo program.

--------------

[1] Too long ago to remember more than curse word or two in Russian, however.

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That's fair enough - my assumptions are now confounded. In the spirit of reciprocation: I'm an ex-third-worlder, so my governing mode of analysis is "a pox on both your houses".

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Ha ha fair enough, I don't blame you one bit.

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But your memory isn’t exactly all of what happened. There were close calls, rarely advertised.

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You'll note I said I paid close attention. I'm well aware of the close calls. That happens when you play for high stakes and for keeps. Nothing is without risk, but winning is winning.

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Which would be a good reason not to play for high stages and for keeps. The fact that you accept the risk of mutual destruction as 'just what happens' as a consequence of your approach immediately disqualifies it from consideration.

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author

Russia is already having a really bad time. I understand that with a bit more pushing the envelope, we could change that to "horrendously bad time".

What percent risk of nuclear war do you think that would be worth?

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0.0067% per year, compounded semiannually.

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Allowing a return to the status quo ante could reduce the chance of the most imminent nuclear war without being the path that maximally reduces the risk of all future nuclear wars.

If we can perpetually make that arbitrage, then that is actually fine, just run from one crisis to the next. I can see the intuitive appeal of wanting to escape the local minimum though.

EDIT: I should have first stressed that I agree with you we should prioritize immediate paths to peace. It's a view that is both powerfully true and yet gets insufficient real estate.

Moscow seems to be iterating a similar strategy though, and I'm mostly exasperated at how we might best disrupt these cycles. If you see that exasperation and conclude that I am just not very nuclear risk avoidant, then I just want to very gently suggest that there might be a better way to model my views. (Also some people may just be highly nuclear risk tolerant, ok, probably so, maybe I'm protesting too much on that group's behalf.)

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What happens if I *want* nuclear war?

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Then I stare in shock and ask you why?

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long on gold perhaps

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Mar 8, 2022·edited Mar 8, 2022

I'm gonna say something that's turbo heretical as a liberal. What percent nuclear risk is worth to you, to push Russia so far that it *completely* collapses and we can just take their nukes away?

I would have previously said that leaving Russia with nukes was net safer, but Putin has done a lot to change this decision, and, I mean, Russia allowed Putin, so. That time that my country allowed a mass murderer, our country got split in two for forty years and we permanently gave up any right to build nuclear weapons. Putin is not Hitler, but with a finite chance of nuclear war times the population of the world, it is not difficult to beat the deaths of WW2.

I think a lot of the unity of the EU against Putin is that we were pretty comfortable for thirty years not having to worry about being nuked, and if we can fuck Putin up enough that he really really remembers to not try this again, we can hopefully go back to that. I think that's why I'm less worried about being nuked - not having to worry about being nuked is itself my red line.

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Come. Military people are not stupid, even if they have a mindset that is foreign to you. They have generally and genuinely worked very hard to ensure that one head injury or one case of dementia -- or one mechanical failure -- can't cause disaster. As far as stewardship goes, all the militaries of the nuclear powers -- and I include the Russians as well as the Americans, French, and British -- have done a really superb job these past 75 years making sure there have been and can be no horrible accidents.

Given the major screw-ups we see elsewhere in our technological society -- everything from Bhopal to the lastest zero-day hack on Windows -- they really deserve major honor for this achievement, especially considering it stands in inherent tension with their mandate to be able to use nuclear weapons at a moment's notice, and the fact that civilians only pay intermiitent attention to the problem at all.

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My apologies for assuming otherwise. And yes, individuals are fallible. That's why you build in checks and balances, right? You can build a very, very reliable system out of individual parts that have much lower levels of reliability.

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Carl: I normally love what you write in the comments. I haven't super liked the Reaganite stuff in this thread. But this comment... hear hear! The militaries of the world deserve credit beyond credit for holding the reigns on nuclear war and doing a great job making it unlikely.

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Mar 9, 2022·edited Mar 9, 2022

The problem is "it only takes one head injury or one case of dementia to change the whole game" is fully general. No matter how you structure the nuclear weapons policy, or the nuclear weapons considerations, or the nuclear weapons relationships, or the nuclear weapons control, at the extreme *it might only take one defector* to use the nuclear weapons.

Per what Carl said, given this fact, it's extremely laudable that someone has ensured no such defector for 75 years.

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That seems very unlikely. The USSR collapsed in 91, and the structures of the military didn't completely collapse along with it; their strategic nuclear weapons didn't go away or become US possessions. Is there a good reason to think things would be different now?

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The reality of the 1991 Russian military situation was that only a direct invasion by a powerful enemy (US or NATO or both) would be cause to use nuclear weapons. Because none of these countries wanted to invade Russia, it was a complete non-issue. Adding to that the inability of Russia to offensively use their military (and thereby hold nukes in reserve to deter other nuclear powers from interfering) and it made very little to no difference whether they had nukes or not.

With Putin being willing to use his military offensively, there is now reason to be concerned that they have nukes, which did not exist then.

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Through various treaties and attrition, the Russian nuclear stockpile has come down considerably since 1991, from ~30,000 to ~4000 warheads. It's still quite a lot of megatonnage, of course.

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Would it be possible to hack the codes and thus prevent a nuclear launch? I mean, the systems for launching the nukes have to be connected to the net somehow, right?...

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Mar 8, 2022·edited Mar 8, 2022

In case that you are serious: no. (probably it is joke, but I encountered really weird takes on nukes...)

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Almost certainly not. "The nuclear codes" are confirmation codes given to people so they know the orders are coming from someone authorized to give them, they aren't something that has to be input on the physical missiles/bombs before they can be used. (Think about it this way, if they had to be input on a piece of electronics, that safeguard could be bypassed by a sufficiently technically sophisticated attacker with plenty of time).

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PALs are a thing actually. You don't just need plenty of time, you need plenty of warheads before you successfully disarm one. You also need plenty of technically sophisticated soldiers, because the ones who make the unsuccessful attempts all die in the process.

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PALs? Not sure what you mean by that...?

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Do we have any idea of what the current generation Russian PALS like? Or are they still using the old Soviet manually keyed systems?

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Do you mean "successfully *arm* one"?

*Disarming* a nuke that you have in your possession is easy with or without the PAL; PALs are designed so they can't be removed without breaking the weapon, but if you want to disarm it then that's a success.

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Systems like this are airgapped - that is, they're not connected to anything. This means that hacking them requires a physical connection.

Stuxnet, for instance (the US's cyberattack on Iranian enrichment centrifuges, which broke them by spinning them too fast) wasn't an Internet-based attack; a CIA agent physically went into their enrichment plants and stuck a USB key with the malware into the computers running the centrifuges.

If you have agents inside all enemy nuclear silos and all enemy ballistic-missile submarines, then certainly you can prevent your enemy from launching nuclear missiles (you barely even need the cyberattack at that point). However, "nuclear silo operator" and "nuclear submarine crew" are subject to the strictest background checks known - both because a hostile agent could degrade nuclear deterrence, but also because a couple of lunatics could start WWIII on their own (I say "a couple" because most nuclear launch systems require two people to operate).

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From what I remember Stuxnet was smarter: it infected devices which were carried/used by people who were not CIA agents.

(that may be an outdated info - and maybe that was smokescreen to hide outright agents)

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founding

Yeah, Stuxnet infected every USB flash drive it could find that looked like it was going anywhere near Iran, in hopes that eventually someone would use the same flash drive to store his music playlist and the software patch for the microcontrollers that he had to download off his home internet because the boss was paranoid about airgapping everything.

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It is emphatically not liberal to think your country is the one with the right to allow or disallow nuclear weapons. It is illiberal to the point that you should consider whether you have in general been a liberal *in principle* or just in service of some issues.

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If that is illiberal than it is profoundly stupid to be a liberal. Let's risk annihilation for the sake of equality or something.

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The point is not equality at all. The point is believing that that kind of superiority has blowback far in excess of whatever problems you think you're solving.

See also: classical liberals' problem with woke stuff. At a certain point it's throwing around so much out of touch power that it causes a generation of backlash.

We're in this mess in great part *because* the west acted like it had the right to control post Soviet Eastern Europe instead of inviting anything like equal partnership and genuinely beneficial support for Russia to become a healthy post Communist state.

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Mar 9, 2022·edited Mar 9, 2022

> west acted like it had the right to control post Soviet Eastern Europe

It didn't. No Western nation pressured any former Soviet vassal to join the EU or NATO – quite the opposite, they all came of their own volition. Also, I must have missed the part where NATO urged Ukraine to join them, and Ukraine had to push back against their unwanted advances.

> instead of inviting anything like equal partnership and genuinely beneficial support for Russia to become a healthy post Communist state

But we did. Russia is/was an important trading partner to the EU, and to Germany in particular. The hope was always that this partnership would be so beneficial and dear to Russia that it would suppress its imperalistic ambitions, and look at where it got us.

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>The point is not equality at all. The point is believing that that kind of superiority has blowback far in excess of whatever problems you think you're solving.

What blowback could possibly be worse than nuclear war, exactly?

>See also: classical liberals' problem with woke stuff. At a certain point it's throwing around so much out of touch power that it causes a generation of backlash.

Who are these non-nuclear powers making us deal with blowback that we can't handle it? None of what's happening in Russia is an example because Russia has nukes. Same with China. The two countries with pose us with the greatest problems are nuclear powers and have been for 60 years or more. Iran? Well, Iran with nukes is a hell of a lot scarier than Iran now. Countries are either managable now and would be unmanageable if/when they got nukes, or they're causing problems but already have nukes.

Again, what on earth is this blowback that's worse than a nuclear attack?

>We're in this mess in great part *because* the west acted like it had the right to control post Soviet Eastern Europe

What on EARTH are you talking about? We don't control anything. Eastern Europeans are in NATO....because they WANT to be in NATO, because they never want to live under oppressive Russian rule ever again.

We're in this mess because Putin is an irredentist, and he knew that NATO membership for neighboring states means he doesn't get to invade them or otherwise bully and intimidate them.

Like, how the HELL are you trying to defend liberalism while claiming that it is rightful to launch of bloody war of aggression to claim territory based on the idea that these countries....wanted to become liberal and be integrated with liberal Europe?

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Hence, "heretical as a liberal".

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Ja. I'm emphasizing how far away from liberalism that that feels to me. Less "heretical christian" and more "you might be a Satanist"

(Clarification: I do not mean your position is as bad as Christianity paints Satanism to be. Far from it. Just that it's much further down the line from orthodoxy than mere heresy)

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Mar 9, 2022·edited Mar 9, 2022

It's possibly defensible? I think if I go full liberal, then the fact that Russia converted from a democracy to an illiberal autocracy with a captive media implies that this is the wish of (some fraction of) the Russian people, and if we are to hold that wish as valid, destroying Russia and taking its nukes may be a necessary part of the implementation of this wish. Something like "okay, Germany, you can have fascism and all the Hitler you want, we're just gonna make sure you don't build concentration camps and start invading Poland." It's, like all political debates, GPL vs BSD - do we behave liberally or do we maximize liberalism, even with illiberal means? To behave liberally is to say "well, Russia is invading Ukraine. That sucks. Nothing we can do about it though." To attempt to maximize liberalism is to invade Iraq to bring democracy - or, in this case, destroy Russia because Putin has WMDs. (Being nuked tends to be against people's values.) It certainly seems antithetical to liberalism-as-practiced, at least, but even a country-scale liberalism, like what Scott proposed here, has to deal with the fact that if the Russians can choose Putin, the Ukrainians ought to be able to choose Zelensky. One of them will inevitably have their preferences violated, and inaction is not obviously preferable.

My actual take is that the measures taken so far, supporting and arming Ukraine and cutting off all trade with Russia and isolating it, are far short of the line that Russia itself has crossed, and if in implementing these means we can get Russia to collapse, or at least destroy its ability to make war entirely - so much the better? Red lines are based on actions, not outcomes.

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The Russians are no more acting offensively as a nuclear power than the US in Iraq. The US didn’t use nukes there. If Putin was cornered however, if armies marched on Russia then he would be happy to blow the world up.

Like a lot of Europeans (including in my country which is supposedly neutral) there’s a lot of gung ho people who won’t fight and who will never fight but want a world war. All you Germans can do is what exactly? No militarisation for decades and now “we” are going to take out Russia.

Putin iaht going anywhere. He would win a free election in Russia now.

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Are you implying that the answer is "zero" ? How is that different from saying "Russia can have anything it wants (except maybe for New York and such)" ?

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founding

If we're talking about relative to the current situation, we might have a much higher risk budget than expected.

People keep talking about nuclear war as if it's Total War. US had _atomic artillery_ at some point. Very low yield, very small. Nukes can be used in tactical contexts, and right now that's by far the most likely scenario.

Putin's utility function is not to cause the greatest harm possible. That's a cartoon villain. The real function is pretty complex, but definitely correlated with "getting out of Ukraine a winner". If things go badly for him in a conventional war, one option he always has is using tactical nukes to flatten UA military in half a day, then come out and say that he did it to end the war fast and save civilian lives. After all, that's exactly what Americans used nukes for.

All done very civilized, calling the NATO counterparts a few hours before to warn them that it's going to be a very local use of nuclear weapons.

He may risk being a pariah, but he'll be a winning pariah. Again, complex utility function.

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Having underestimated the Ukrainian resistance and the Western response, he might not want to go for the trifecta in assuming that a limited breaking of the 76 year nuclear taboo definitely won't escalate.

We already have people generally considered sober and responsible calling for NATO shooting at Russian planes. I'm guessing that's nothing to the breadth of both voters and leaders demanding to do *something* in response to Putin nuking Ukraine, both out of moral outrage and to deter that becoming the norm.

And then we have the question of whether whatever NATO decides is a proportionate response is seen by Putin as a new offense, rinse and repeat, till everyone climbs down or we do World War III.

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I don't know that the Ukrainian forces present any good targets for tactical nukes. Generally you use those against massed armor, an airbase, missile installation, et cetera. Something big and slow moving. My impression is that the Ukrainians are using small-unit and ambush tactics, so not presenting very useful targets for battlefield nukes.

Strategic nuclear weapons are another story, of course. He could always nuke Kiev as sort of a "we really mean it" kind of thing. I don't actually think the US would open a general nuclear war in response, but on the other hand, it's hard to see Russia not being World Enemy #1 from that point on, for decades. Even the Chinese would back away, I think.

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founding

Yeah, that's exactly my point. Strategic weapons, no matter the target, are a cartoon villain reaction. And so far everything is consistent with the Russians really caring about collateral damage.

My point was just to avoid making the mistake of nuclear weapons = strategic weapons = very unlikely. This gives a 0.1% chance of them being used.

There is also tactical weapons, which are used in a very different scenario, which is also low probability but probably over 1%. That's what I mean by the risk being actually significantly higher than expected.

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I think the argument misses a bigger picture.

If Russia will be allowed to conquer Ukraine on the basis that is too risky to escalate (due to nukes), the next step will be for every country that feels threatened by nuclear power (start with South Korea and Taiwan) and.... every country being governed by a potential or actual dictator (start with Turkey, Mjanma), will put a lot of effort into acquiring nuclear weapons. That will lead to proliferation, opening a Pandora Box that will increase the risk of nuclear war immensely. That is the crucial risk here.

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My take on Iran has always been that of course they're trying to acquire nuclear weapons, as they'd have to be stupid not to. As things are going, that impression will only be reinforced.

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I mean, yes, but that's been in motion for a long time already - see North Korea, Iran. The US's response to the first attack on Ukraine in 2014, the treatment of Gaddafi (who notably surrendered his WMDs some years prior - would the US have risked attacking him if he hadn't?), and various other events have shown promises to be worth very little, and threat of mass destruction to be a sure-fire defence.

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So long as Putin's in power he's always going to be saying to the west "do what I want or nukes", which is the sort of thing that starts a nuclear exchange. It's also the sort of thing that would make mid-tier states decide they want nukes for their own security (countries such as Poland, Iran, Taiwan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, etc), and more nuclear-armed states means nuclear war is more likely.

So if we want to reduce the risk of nuclear war we also ought to want to remove Putin from power. This can best be done by economic and military pressure on Russia and making it known that anyone who removes him thereby gets automatic immunity to any war crimes trials that may happen.

Putin, if he stays in power, is likely to turn Russia into a larger version of North Korea, a regime that has survived 2 changes of leader. Thus, a Putinist Russia could easily survive Putin by decades, and all that time it will be making nuclear war more likely.

So I don't think that economic pressure on the Russian economy necessarily makes nuclear war more likely; if it gets rid of Putin (as it well might), it does the opposite.

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We Putin is even more popular with Russians, so it doesn’t look like he’s going anywhere. Nor is Russia going to surrender its bombs. Nor will there ever be another pro western leader like Yeltsin. Last time that happened the place was looted.

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Maybe there won't be another pro-Western leader in Russia. I think there probably will, you disagree.

But so long as Russia is run by Putin (or someone like him) the West is very likely to be united, determined and vigilant against him, with high defence spending, and serious economic sanctions against Russia.

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Have You listened to any of his speeches? I heard quite some and before 2022 there was no hint in this direction. Can you show me any example prior to 2022?

Putin was even thinking about joining NATO in the beginning.

The main thing he clear about from the beginning is, that he is not ready to surrender and subordinate Russia to the USA. This i totally can understand. If this is an offense to you, you are the classical villain who is obsessed with ruling the world.

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Well, it seems like a guy who doesn't even let his closest advisors get within 10 meters of him, because he's afraid of COVID and/or he's afraid for his physical safety, isn't someone who's likely to pull the nuclear trigger. Putin said he has put his nuclear forces on highest alert, but US Intelligence hasn't seen any sign of this. We're only at Defcon 4 right now. So, yes, I'd be in favor of pushing the envelop a little further.

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founding
Mar 8, 2022·edited Mar 8, 2022

This is somewhat my point of view as well.

I think Scott's formulation about lines in the sand is pretty much exactly right. And *given that*, the West should be able to unambiguously "win" this conflict, without crossing such lines. For example, even if Ukraine's government falls, setting up a government in exile and a persistent insurgency seems likely to result in a Russian retreat in some number of years, followed by a big PR victory. If, in the meantime, a bunch of nearby countries join NATO, and Russia's economy is in shambles, and they remain an international pariah... That'd count as a win, in my book. I.e., it would firmly establish to the world that the age of territorial expansion wars is over.

Maybe this increases the chance of nuclear war slightly, despite the lack of line-crossing. And maybe I'm being a bad rationalist by not multiplying that increased chance by the resulting human suffering and saying "nope, too high a price, let Russia keep their pride". But at an emotional level, it feels really important to send the message: territorial expansion wars are not tolerated in the modern age. If you try it, your country will suffer, and you will not get to keep your pride.

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You can love Reagan or hate him, that's a separate issue; but we have several historical examples when "peace in our time" spectacularly failed to work. So, yes, appeasement is unlikely to work on Putin, either (although admittedly it can delay him a little).

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From many quarters, there's such a strong assumption that he's going to make unlimited territory grabs. That's the old WW2 hangover talking, and hasn't proved demonstrably true of basically anyone since Hitler. In particular, Putin has a very open and well defined series of ideal territory objectives (basically the USSR minus the stans, and maybe small chunks of the Warsaw Pact), we have a very open and well defined Don't Fuck With It line (literally NATO), the intersection is the Baltics, probably off Putin's list in his own lifetime, or last priority, and there isn't *evidence* to think his goals will cross our line, or reason to think we gain anything by taking forward steps before it happens.

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Chamberlain was right (delayed a war he couldn't win and that had no public support anyway, while rearming and preparing to win the actual war when it did come). Reagan was mostly wrong (USSR fell apart due to internal reasons that pretty much nothing to do with him).

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I somewhat agree with the first, and completely disagree with the second.

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Why would you care though? Why not see this as a conflict on the other side of the world of little relevance to the US. The USSR was a peer threat, Russia is - by your own argument - not. It’s not a military threat to Europe. It proves that everyday it can’t take Kyiv or fly it’s planes.

China will be a threat in the future. So even if you believe in American supremacy why would this regional conflict the US is not involved in, be something that you want not just to end but to outright win?. The Ukraine isn’t in NATO, and thus for someone in Texas this isn’t some kind of existential crisis at all, no more than 19C Russian imperialism was. I doubt if it was even noticed (although of course the British got very Jingoistic about it - literally - but they were an Empire).

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I don't care about it THAT much -- I'm not planning on enlisting in the Ukrainian Foreign Legion -- and to some extent yes I do regard it as somebody else's problem. I'm deeply unimpressed that the Russians started a war they couldn't quickly win, and are resorting to huffing and puffing about their strategic nuclear weapons -- although the laughable performance of the VVS so far is making me wonder if any of those weapons actually still work right, and whether if Putin pushes The Big Red Button they wouldn't just go splort in the silos -- and I doubt I'm the only one wondering that, I bet the Chinese are wondering it also.

I'm also unimpressed that the Ukrainians managed to convey by their actions up to this point to the Russians that a war might work. It's not like they don't have a very long history with Russia, and the nature of Russia is some big mystery to them. Why they couldn't figure out some combination of accommodation and making themselves obviously militarily indigestible, and are now reduced to begging for rescue from strangers, I cannot fathom. Both countries strike me as suffering from incompetent leadership in the recent past.

That's why I would not favor outright war, or anything approaching it. A no-fly zone is a no-go option for me. But am I OK with using some economic power to beat the hell out of Putin for being an asshole and making the price of gas rise 20% on me, not to mention hurting a bunch of perfectly innocent little girls in Ukraine? Absolutely. I'm sorry that this will hurt Russian people, who are smart and reasonable folks so far as I can tell, but at some time or other they (the Russians) *do* need to get their shit together and realize they *can* be held responsible for what crazy Uncle Vlad does on the world stage, and is this the guy they really want leading them? Stop shrugging your shoulders and saying Shit Happens, go change things. Use the present Ukrainians as an inspiring example.

I'm not necessarily impressed with the future Chinese threat. They have some serious problems turning potential into actual, mostly that they're run by communists, who are kleptocratic morons and destroy everything they touch. I'm not sure even the ingenuity and workaholic habits of the Chinese everyman can compensate for that. My impression is that if the US is to fall to second behind the Chinese, it will only be because we (the US) cut our own throats by losing those aspects of liberty, clear-sightedness, and entrepreneurship that made us #1 in the first place. It could happen. When you look at all this bullshit about people's feelings and saddling the competent with the costs of making the incompetent more comfortable, one worries. But we'll see. Heretofore, as Churchill (I think) said, the Americans have always ended up doing the right thing, if only after trying every possible alternative first.

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Three quick replies here. You gas has gone up because of sanctions. Food will also go up.

The Chinese communists are not your grand father’s communists. China is basically resurrecting Confucius.

American capitalists are not your grandfather’s capitalists either. Talking about Kleptocracy..

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Mar 9, 2022·edited Mar 9, 2022

Sure, but Putin is the reason for the sanctions, so I blame him as the first mover here. I will definitely concede that the Biden Administration is praising God for Vladimir Putin, as providing the Democrats with a first-class squirrel on which to blame inflation this November, and that I also hold against Putin.

I am unconvinced by any argument that Socialism With A Human Face, or even a Confucian Face, works better than a straight-up dictatorship of the proletariat. The core of the problem isn't ideology, or wickedness, or power corrupting, but just insufficient information for *any* centralized authority to run an economy efficiently. You have to be an intellectual, or a Marxist ideologue, to not understand that by the year AD 2022.

Yes, I agree we (Americans) have a problem with our capitalists. I take this quite seriously, and if I have to vote for Trump 2024 to do something about it, I will grit my teeth and do so. I'm hopeful that greed and disgust with the aims of the currently dominant intellectual aristocracy might take that chalice away from me, but we'll see.

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Mar 11, 2022·edited Mar 11, 2022

>Why [Ukraine] couldn't figure out some combination of accommodation and making themselves obviously militarily indigestible, and are now reduced to begging for rescue from strangers, I cannot fathom.

This costs money that Ukraine didn’t have and the West wouldn’t have provided.

Also Putin’s yes-men would still have not communicated the indigestibility to him. The state of the Russian army _on paper_ exceeded anything Ukraine could ever amass, and nobody wanted to be the one to admit most of the military budget had in fact been embezzled.

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Mar 10, 2022·edited Mar 10, 2022

The USSR was a threat to the US, Russia is not besides their nuclear weapons. Why should we care nearly as much?

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I've answered that here: https://pontifex.substack.com/p/contra-hanania-on-russiaukraine

In short, because a west that includes Ukraine is bigger (and therefore stronger) than one that doesn't, and the West needs to be strong because otherwise China might end up ruling the world (and turning it into a big concentration camp).

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I'm too sleepy to write out better thoughts. I just want to say I find it utterly unbelievable that if Ukraine had announced "We promise not join NATO" Russia would have done anything different here, beyond tweaking language. And I'm surprised that this seems to be a semi consensus.

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I'm wondering why the NATO excuse has any traction at all for Russia. It's my understanding (and if I'm wrong, fill me in), that the Soviet Union was one of the main reasons for NATO existing. Since the Soviet Union no longer exists, why should Putin be afraid of NATO, unless he has designs on NATO territory? Have any NATO members done or said anything that could remotely be interpreted as aggressive intentions towards post-Soviet Russia?

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To be honest, I think it's an excuse by Russia. It's almost commendable how deceptive it is, that's how well the agitprop is done.

You see, that assurance, "NATO will not move one inch to the east" revolved around Germany before their reunification and when the Soviet Union actually existed. Western powers coaxed a cash strapped Soviet Union that East Germany would not have any US military bases (or any for that matter) on it when they pulled their military out of there. To this very day, you can look at a map and see that former East Germany still has no military bases on it.

Russia lied. It's not true the United States and NATO stabbed them in the back.

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Ah, I see what you're saying. At the time the USSR and Warsaw Pact existed. They were already bordering NATO. There literally was no 'east' the quote can refer to except East Germany.

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Pretty much everybody agrees that the verbal agreements were for NATO to not move east. And Germany is one country now, entirely in NATO.

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Mar 12, 2022·edited Mar 12, 2022

That's not what I heard. (paywalled)

https://nebula.app/videos/tldrnewseu-is-putin-right-about-natos-eastward-expansion

But yeah, there was never a formal agreement against NATO expansion, and the idea that NATO must honor a verbal backroom "understanding" from 30 years ago is ... just a way to distract everyone from the fact that Ukraine wasn't about to join NATO anyway.

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I do want to apologize, I didn't mean to misinform. After rereading in greater detail the New Yorker article on Russia's NATO assurance, it's a lot more nuanced than the way I depicted it. Apparently the assurances went beyond just Germany.

Still, I think the United States' actions contributed a VERY miniscule part towards the Ukraine invasion in contrast to Russia's hurt national pride, stoaked by their leaders, that played a much larger role. In my interpretation of the assurances offered, there was an implict understanding that it was dependent on the Soviet Union as an entity existing. Because it does not, the United States has no moral obligation (with the exception of realpoltik considerations) to abide by their assurances.

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In the universe where the USSR falls, and the new Russia wasn't invading or Belarus-ify-ing neighboring countries, NATO would probably be considered obsolete, without a real purpose, yeah.

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