Discussion thread: War in Europe

February 24, 2022 • 7:00 am

I’m off to do trip preparations, and so am putting up a discussion thread—a thread about what’s going on on in Europe, as summarized in the terse NYT headline below (click on screenshot for details).

A short video of what’s happening:

Nobody knows what will happen; the only certainty is that thousands of Ukrainian refugees will flee to surrounding countries and thousands of civilians and Ukrainian soldiers will die. If you’re like me, you’re completely discombobulated now. Who thought that we’d have war in Europe in our lifetime? Will the war stop here? Will Putin seek other regions as well? Parts of eastern Poland have substantial populations of Ukrainian descent, and many people speak Ukrainian.

World leaders are uniformly condemning the invasion, with the exception of China, which is ambivalent. You can read here about the world reaction. The U.S. is poised to unleash a stiff package of sanctions. Will they be of any use?

There are many questions, and it would be foolish to try to answer them now. But feel free to give your questions and prognostications below, mourn if you wish, vent about Russia and Putin, and so on.  In other words, feel free to react however you want.


155 thoughts on “Discussion thread: War in Europe

  1. My daughter is spending a semester studying in Budapest. I just finished a text discussion with her. She says at present she feels perfectly safe and has just finished her classes for the day. Hungary is a member of the EU and NATO but Orban, the autocratic Hungarian PM is a Putin sympathizer. My daughter’s University has sent an email to her and her cohort saying they are monitoring the situation closely but feels that they are at low risk. I am not so sanguine. The situation is so fluid and fraught that it seems impossible to make any sort of prediction as to what may transpire.

    1. Please don’t worry about Budapest – at least not for the next semester. Hungary is deploying troops to their Ukrainian border. Europe holds the Danube sacrosanct as an International Waterway, guaranteeing independence of several landlocked nations. If Russia makes a move to take over cities on the Danube, much of Western/Central Europe will be up in arms.

    2. I live in Budapest, and there is everything calm. The chance that this war spills over the border is very low. I’d say almost zero for now. It is because nobody dares to interfere.

      BTW, the propagandists of the ruling fascist party firmly had the stand that Russia won’t actually attack. They literally said that anybody who believes otherwise is an idiot. Of course anybody who believes anything said by Orban’s lapdogs is really an idiot.

    3. My son-in-law and daughter are spending the semester traveling to several European countries to conduct archival research. I had the same uneasy feelings as you. While threats to other countries from Russian aggression may be unlikely in the short term, there are other, including non state actors who may see this as an opportunity to try to destabilize national governments. It’s reasonable for all in the West to be feeling a bit uneasy about this situation.

    4. Despite historically being a Putin sympathizer, I read Orban has condemned the war Russia started on Ukraine.

      1. “PM Orbán: “Together with Our EU and NATO Allies, We Condemn Russia’s Military Attack”
        MTI-Hungary Today 2022.02.24.”

    1. According to the BBC:

      The Ukrainian armed forces say they have shot down five Russian planes and a helicopter and inflicted casualties on invading troops.

      “Keep calm and believe in Ukraine defenders”, the statement from Ukraine’s forces says.

      However Russia’s defence ministry has denied that its aircraft were shot down.

    2. Yes they will. The Crimea is overwhelmingly Russian (after Stalin ‘deported’ the Tartars aka ‘ethnically cleansed’). I think Ukranians were not keen on opposing that, Crimea was ‘given to Ukraine in the fifties by Nikita Khrushchev, a Ukrainian. His successor Brezhnev was a Ukrainian too, btw. nothing to see there. When after Gorby, under Jeltsin, The USSR fell apart, things changed. ukraine became an independent state.
      Putin, an old KGB hand, clearly wants to restore Russia to it’s USSR, or evenTsarist glory.
      I think that at present he only wants the predominantly Russian areas of Ukraine (Donestk and like), but it stinks of ‘Sudetenland’. He at least wants the Baltic states too, which have significant Russian minorities.
      I do not have good feelings about it.
      And then we didn’t even mention Chinese expansionism. Is the ‘West’ able to fight on two fronts?

  2. I wonder when do they start placing sanctions on Fox or for that matter, members of the U.S. congress. Putin will not try for Poland or other NATO countries or it is all over. I wonder how they will handle the mass exit.

    Better yet, on that Fox request, how about a ticket on the last plane leaving for Russia.

      1. That was sarcasm considering all the praise for Putin coming from fox and from various republicans in congress. That is why I said, better yet send them over to Russia to be with their comrades. Coming out in favor of Putin is a bit strange don’t you agree?

        1. Trump suggested Putin has real grievances. Also, many Russians apparently buy the state propaganda machine messages about Ukrainian ‘genocides’ against Russian speakers! All this, while the Ukrainian president is a Jewish-Ukrainian whose first language is Russian!

          If I were China I would now attack Taiwan.

          Baltic states next then we are all toast. Jerry will be safe in Antarctica!!!

          1. Yeah, China invading Taiwan because the US stands by on Ukraine and they think we will stand by on Taiwan is a possibility.

            But hopefully not a strong one. AFAIK the US has sent very ‘different signals’ in the two cases. In the Ukraine case we signaled we would do basically nothing but sanctions. In the Taiwan case we have sent actual Naval vessels over there on multiple locations to patrol between them and the mainland. So hopefully China doesn’t see military inaction on Ukraine as meaning military inaction on Taiwan. But they certainly could.

            Very glad Trump didn’t win reelection. Among other reasons, Taiwan would probably be toast.

          2. “If I were China I would now attack Taiwan.”
            I really hope this doesn’t happen. If course, one wonders whether China can do that when they’ve been maintaining all along that Taiwan is already a part of China. An invasion would destroy that fiction.

            1. > An invasion would destroy that fiction.

              Nope, it doesn’t even shift the narrative. Even within the scope of their alternate reality, they could intervene and maintain that they were simply asserting control over local crime and dissent.

              Now you have me reading up on Chinese salami slicing. Thanks!

              Long story short: all politics/diplomacy is fiction. Governments do what they think they can get away with. The Iron Law of Bureaucracy still stands.

              1. “Long story short: all politics/diplomacy is fiction. Governments do what they think they can get away with.”

                Really? I don’t think the first sentence is true or that the second sentence is the logical opposite of the first. If a state backs away from some undesired course of action because diplomats have successfully persuaded it that it won’t get away with it then that is still a diplomatic solution isn’t it?

                Since the second world war, there have been other wars, of course, but different nation states across much of the world have successfully managed their relationships through diplomatic and political means even when interests have diverged – in many cases quite starkly. Evidently diplomacy cannot rely simply on chummy banquets and mutual flattery; the diplomats need to be able to credibly raise the idea that particular courses of action have consequences (positive e.g. enhanced trade or negative e.g. sanctions or worse).

          1. “You may be underestimating the tribalism of the America”

            I think that’s how it should read. I’m sure nearly if not as much or more people would stand behind AOC, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar if Israel was invaded (yet again) by all the countries surrounding them, and those three and all their political lackeys in Congress, academia, media, etc. were cheering for Israel to fall.

        1. Unfortunately I wouldn’t count on it. The hole he’s digging might go all the way to China(as we said when we were kids.) There seems too be no depth below which he will not sink😩

        2. I agree – the cultists, Trumplicans, will come to the senses eventually. This unapologetic praise and support of an adversary will hasten that significantly I suspect.

      1. “I went in yesterday and there was a television screen, and I said, ‘This is genius.’ Putin declares a big portion of the Ukraine, of Ukraine, Putin declares it as independent. Oh, that’s wonderful.”

        “So Putin is now saying, ‘It’s independent,’ a large section of Ukraine. I said, ‘How smart is that?’ And he’s going to go in and be a peacekeeper. That’s the strongest peace force,” Trump said. “We could use that on our southern border. That’s the strongest peace force I’ve ever seen. … Here’s a guy who’s very savvy. … I know him very well. Very, very well.”

        Donald J. Trump on “The Clay Travis & Buck Sexton Show”, 22-Feb-2022

          1. If you watch the video ( Putin interviews Spy Chief – YouTube )
            of Putin questioning his Spy Chief in front of the rest of his Cabinet as to whether he supports the decision of the Duma to recognise the Eastern enclaves of Ukraine as independent, you will see clearly where Trump is coming from. Trump is overcome with admiration ( and doubtless, some jealousy ) that the Russian President can treat his underlings like that and reduce them to subservient, nervous wrecks terrified of saying anything out of turn and even hinting at disagreement no matter how minor.

  3. This is truly awful and my heart goes out to Ukrainians. And as if more contrast were needed, it further reveals the depravity of Trump and his GOP enablers who cozied up to Putin when it served their political interests. Republicans have blood on their hands, and must be voted out of office at every opportunity.

    1. Surely, if Mr. Biden is the President that the left imagines, then any “enabling” of Putin (who strangely did not try this under his “buddy” Trump) would have ended immediately with his inauguration? The fact is that we have a President who seems to be in the early stages of dementia, and who has a Cabinet that is uniformly bad. Biden and his care-givers are more concerned about sending troops to DC to block an incipient protest than about preventing Russian revanchism.

      1. I do not know it you are attempting to be serious or obnoxious but you should probably just get on the Trump train and travel.

        1. You know I am serious, Randall. Everyone seems to assume that to be anti-Biden is to be pro-Trump; I oppose both.

          1. I really do not care that you are anti-Biden. You referred to an incipient protest in DC. That sounds extremely republican/cult. What you mostly are is a troll on the web that looks for trouble and incites arguments.

            1. He’s been commenting here for years. And you’ve been explicitly misrepresenting people’s views here (in this case, right after they stated them!) for years. Maybe don’t do that, and maybe don’t regularly insult people for disagreeing with you?

          2. No, your comments are not that serious. We had a two-person general election and now you’re complaining about the result with no thought given to what the realistic alternatives were. What was your third option, that some heretofore unknown superior candidate pull a sword from a stone and win the Presidency? Honestly, what other result are proposing the US should have taken?

            As for our Ukraine policy, Biden is IMO representing the wishes of the VAST majority of American citizens in not militarily intervening in Ukraine. That stinks for Ukraine, it stinks for the democratization and stabilization of eastern Europe, but it’s the truth: our President is, in this case, largely doing what we want him to do. Setting out a policy most of the nation probably considers “the least worst option.” And instead of admitting that, you’re calling him demented for doing so.

            What you’re doing is the worst sort of armchair quarterbacking: not only are you complaining about a reasonable play, but you’re calling the quarterback insane for that reasonable play while not offering any sort of better alternative.

            1. “No, your comments are not that serious. We had a two-person general election and now you’re complaining about the result with no thought given to what the realistic alternatives were. What was your third option, that some heretofore unknown superior candidate pull a sword from a stone and win the Presidency? Honestly, what other result are proposing the US should have taken?”

              I’m “anti-Biden,” (though not to even 10% of the level that I’m “anti-Trump”) and I still voted for him. I was extremely anti-Hillary, and I still voted for her. In a two-party system, you often end up forced to vote for people you don’t entirely support.

              1. And to be fair, Biden did not do such a bad job. If you’re interested, I can spell it out.

      2. … we have a President who seems to be in the early stages of dementia …

        You mean as opposed to the guy who said windmills cause cancer and that there were airports during the American Revolution?

        “Person. Man. Woman. Camera. TV.”

        1. When that series is mentioned I always go ‘Eustenopteron , Panderichtis, Tiktaalik, Ichtiostega, Acantostega’ in my head. A personal trope I can’t get rid of.
          It is like the ‘Rappel des Oiseaux’ by Rameau, that spooks through my mind whether I want it or not, every day. I can’t really control it.

        2. Glad you can name all five, Ken🤓
          Pooty Poot and Drump would make great roommies at the loony bin, though I’d rather see them in orange jumpsuits.

      3. Please, Dr Brydon, could you please enlighten us on how Biden should have handled it better?I’m eager to hear from your superior wisdom.

      4. It’s not strange at all that Putin didn’t invade when his stooge was POTUS. He wanted Trump to be a success and (desperately?) wanted him to win the 2020 election. Invading during Trump’s presidency would have weakened Trump’s chances of winning reelection as it would have hurt our economy and caused oil prices to shoot through the roof (what’s happening now wasn’t hard to predict). Also, if Trump won in 2020, it’s been reported (in the Independent) that Trump said he’d withdraw the US from NATO.- another boon for Putin. Lastly, since Trump was/is Putin’s asset/useful idiot why would he want to damage that relationship before reelection? Now, if Trump had won in 2020, I’m sure Putin wouldn’t expect Trump to impose harsh sanctions, he would probably persuade Trump to sympathize with Putin’s “genius” actions (as Trump’s doing now) and it wouldn’t matter if the US economy tanked since Trump couldn’t get reelected anyway. Trump, I’m sure, would hate the fact that our economy suffered, but Putin certainly wouldn’t.

        1. Why would Putin get in the way of the most destructive president in US history? Putin doesn’t like NATO and neither did Trump. Putin wants Western allies to be weak, so does Trump. No way would Putin have done anything to stop Trump from getting re-elected. Perhaps with a few more years of Trump, Ukraine would have begged Putin to take them in.

        2. … if Trump won in 2020, it’s been reported (in the Independent) that Trump said he’d withdraw the US from NATO.

          For Putin, that right there is Big Casino.

    1. Re-usable ones, obviously. Just enough to get from the battlefield (or field hospital) to the bull-dozed pit.

  4. We need to go all in on sanctions now, and keep them in place until Russia withdraws from the two regions as well as Crimea (thanks, Obama). We should bring it up in the UN. NATO should guarantee the independence of Ukraine. Ukraine, along with the Baltics, Taiwan, and South Korea should get the Bomb as soon as they can.

            1. Not with the toothless “nuclear deal” Uncle Joe is reviving. We might as well just give them the cash to put directly to building their nukes and funding terrorism, considering that the “inspections” are complete theater and wouldn’t uncover a nuclear weapons program being conducted in a public park across the street from Mehrabad International Airport.

      1. It worked for decades. They are an ideal weapon for a small country that does not have the money or manpower to combat a Great Power. An invasion of Taiwan would look very different if Taiwan could attack a Chinese fleet with tactical nukes, and China would know it. Don’t forget that Clinton screwed Ukraine by convincing them to give up their nukes, and gave vague promises of protection.

        1. There hasn’t been a war in Europe for decades! As the saying on your 401k summary says, “Past Performance Is No Guarantee of Future Results”.

        2. Nukes are not a good option for an invasion into your own territory. Also nothing here is summarizable by a sound bite. From Wikipedia:
          “The deterrent value of the nuclear weapons in Ukraine was also questionable, as Ukraine would have had to spend 12 to 18 months to establish full operational control over the nuclear arsenal left by the Russians.[9] The ICBMs also had a range of 5,000–10,000 km (initially targeting the United States), which meant that they could only have been re-targeted to hit Russia’s far east.[9] The air-launched cruise missiles (ALCMs) left by the Russians had been disabled by the Russians during the collapse of the Soviet Union, but even if they had been reconfigured and made to work by the Ukrainians, it is unlikely that they would have had a deterrent effect.[9] Had Ukraine decided to establish full operational control of the nuclear weapons, it would have faced sanctions by the West and perhaps even a withdrawal of diplomatic recognition by the United States and other NATO allies.[9] Ukraine would also likely have faced retaliatory action by Russia.[9] Ukraine would also have struggled with replacing the nuclear weapons once their service life expired, as Ukraine did not have a nuclear weapons program.[9] In exchange for giving up its nuclear weapons, Ukraine received financial compensation, as well as the security assurances of the Budapest Memorandum.[9]”

    1. Remember that when Putin moved into the Crimea there were mass protests, thousands screaming as one that the West had no right to act or critise until they ‘fixed there own problems’…

    2. You may be busy here defending your position. But I don’t see how we can realistically do much more than various sanctions that are being rolled out. Current sanctions are evidently not a deterrent, and there ain’t no more sanctions in reach that I am aware of. Obama could not have prevented Crimea any more than a Republican could have. The UN can’t do anything, as it is a complete joke. And going to war over this is not an option.

    3. NATO should guarantee the independence of Ukraine.

      Russia has always said that they would take Ukraine joining NATO as a cause for war. So your solution for preventing the local hot war in the Ukraine now amounts to suggesting we should’ve started a nuclear-armed pan-European war 20-30 years ago instead.

    4. “Thanks, Obama”
      Oh, please, what a ridiculous and lazy statement. It seems like you think foreign policy is easy-peasey, black and white decision making. No nuance, no context, no history, just a simple blame game to score some kind of anti-liberal, ideological points. At least Obama did indeed place sanctions on Russia after the annexation. When Russia annexed Georgia, guess what W. did? Nada, not a single sanction.

      1. Just like Trump. Reporter: “How would you have done it better?” Trump #1: “It just wouldn’t have happened on my watch.” Trump #2: “I’ll tell you later. I don’t want to give away my strategy right now.”

  5. I was wrong to believe Russia would not actually invade. Now they did. However, a bit of caution, about 13,000+ died already since 2014 in the Donbas region. By comparison, the current situation is still fairly early.

    It’s dicey, just how much should NATO oppose. If the threat is to be of any use, it must be credible. But Putin is the kind of person who might test the limits, which can get dangerous. I don’t believe escalation can go out of hand just as quickly as feared by some commentators, but the risk exists. It looks to me that NATO must sit by and watch for now, while other means, indirect support of Ukraine, severe sanctions on Russia, and diplomacy can work.

    Russia originally wanted to prevent expansion of NATO, but this invasion looks totally counterproductive. Since NATO expanded against all prior agreements, Russia may not have believed in restraint of expanding NATO anyway. I’m not sure if NATO membership can be negotiated at all at this point, but I still assume that this is Putin’s goal, and maybe snatching up a land-bridge to Crimea.

          1. And Russia missed the chance to be a functioning democracy (as opposed to the autocratic kleptocracy it’s become).

      1. AFAIK, there was no actual agreement about NATO not expanding. When you ask for citations about this “agreement”, there is some mumbling about something being whispered in the ear to Gorbechev at some meeting, or something.

        Now, there are arguments to be had about the role of NATO, and which countries should be members, but the argument about NATO, is usually thrown around by apologists for Russian state terror, warmongering, and imperialism. It is pure deflection and whataboutery. It fools some useful idiots and ignorant people, tho.

    1. The NATO complaint by Putin is just a game. His intent all along has been to get Ukraine. He started in 2014 after Ukraine threw his puppet out. It has been all about Ukraine and his great soviet empire.

      1. Bingo. If Putin can figure out a way to annex the Baltic states without triggering a full-out response from NATO he will go there, too. He’s re-building the Russian Empire, at least in his mind.

        1. I agree. Estonia and Latvia are obvious next targets, with Lithuania not too far behind. Like Ukraine, they were part of the USSR, and like Ukraine, they have been trying to get out of Russia’s ‘sphere of influence’ ever since.

          But if western Europe won’t help them militarily, I’m not sure how any US administration (conservative or democrat) sells the US public that we should. We may be the west’s military ‘big gun,’ but when it comes to European stabilization and treaties, we haven’t been the political leaders of that effort for a couple decades.

          1. If I’m not mistaken, the Baltic states are, contrary to the Ukraine, NATO members. Invasion of these states spells war with all NATO states.
            I’m not sure Putin realises that, or whether he will call it bluff, but NATO will go to war if he invades those states,
            With the Donbass invasion I have this’Sudetenland’ reflex, not a great prospect for Putin’s next moves.

            1. I doubt Putin will take the enormous step of invading Poland or the Baltic States. However, if the International Community through sanctions don’t manage to deter Russia from taking over Ukraine, Putin may continue his aggression in other non NATO States such as Georgia and Moldova. Belarus currently has a Russia aligned President but he is something of a maverick. When the time is ripe he will probably be bumped off and a more docile puppet installed.

              1. If he’s being honest, I suspect Putin would answer, “Well, it depends on how things go in Ukraine.” This is why the best strategy at this point is to make his experience with Ukraine as bad as possible.

      2. Yes, lies, lies, lies. NPR interviewed some kind of Putin mouthpiece this morning and the stream of lies was truly impressive. He claimed the Ukrainians were strewing flowers in front of the invading Russian forces!

  6. According to Andrew Roth on <i The Guardian‘s website:

    In a rare act of public dissent against the war, the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta has announced that its next edition will come out in Russian and Ukrainian languages.

    Dmitry Muratov, the Nobel prize-winning editor of the paper, said that “together with our grief we feel shame” about a war that he directly blamed on Vladimir Putin.

    “What’s the next step?” he said. “A nuclear salvo?

    “We’re going to release this next edition of Novaya Gazeta in two languages because we will never see Ukraine as an enemy or Ukrainian as the language of the enemy.”

    He added a call for protests against the war.

    “Only an anti-war movement of Russians in my opinion can save life on this planet.”

      1. If he dies from Novichok, we’ll know it’s natural causes — natural to any Russian criticizing Vladimir Putin in public.

  7. Did anyone else have a video about bears attacking a California town showing up where the AP video now resides? Was it a slip of the keys, or, as I had assumed, a clever metaphor?

  8. What I wonder about Putin is the same question I’ve wanted to ask a lot in recent years, about Trump and most Republican leaders: why are people such jerks?

    The only answer I can think of happens to be relevant here: that there was some evolutionary advantage to this behavior in the ancestral environment. Those who were obnoxious bullies in the past presumably got more wealth and power and ultimately left more descendants.

    The thing is, Putin already has as much money and power as any person could possibly need. So why not just sit back, relax, and enjoy life at this point? It’s truly baffling to me, but the only explanation seems to be that it’s a runaway effect of an evolutionary incentive to be a jerk, giving these people the urge to get more and more at the expense of others, regardless of the fact that they obviously already have more than they need.

    1. Maybe. Its a generally accepted view that human evolution was driven thru selection for certain types of social behavior, and among those is the ability to form coalitions within your group to procure resources by expansion of territory. A creature like Putin or Hitler, in the Paleolithic, could have been beneficial for your group and hell for neighboring groups.

    2. Well, if Canada or Mexico were to join a Chinese-led military alliance, I doubt that any US President would just sit back, and that president would be cheered on by a majority of Americans to “do something” on top of it.

      1. Well, if the US had kept Canada and Mexico behind an iron curtain for a half century after a US-China alliance had liberated them from the Nazis, most Americans would understand why they (Canada & Mexico) might want to join such an alliance, especially if China and the other members were democracies and the US wasn’t.

        Which is to say, I don’t think your analogy holds up all that well.

    3. Ann Applebaum describes Putin’s behaviour quite convincingly in a Podcast with Andrew Sullivan & in an article in The Atlantic that I linked to further down. Basically Putin doesn’t like Ukraine wanting to be a democratic nation & it really scared him to see them overthrow their autocratic ruler. He has a deep down fear of that happening to him (being dragged out of the Kremlin by a mob) because he knows his leadership is not legit. So, he wants to crush any democracy he can.

      1. In the late 90’s George (“X”) Kennan wrote a NY Times op-ed to the effect that the continued eastward expansion of NATO would be the greatest U.S. foreign policy disaster since WW II. (Andrew Bacevich, in another podcast, said to the effect that he didn’t know that it was the biggest, but that it certainly was big, and to that extent concurs with Kennan.)

        In his podcast Sullivan mentioned this op-ed to Ms. Applebaum who dismissed it, saying that Kennan was wrong, and also saying for good measure that Kennan was wrong about many things. Well, it must be so since Ms. Applebaum – especially – said it. Who is George Kennan to differ with Ms. Applebaum?

        1. Kennan sees things mostly from the perspective of Russia. I tend to think that perhaps Russia had a point but NATO did disarm quite a bit as I recall from that time in the 90s. I think basing an invasion into a sovereign nation because you don’t like countries joining an alliance against your aggression when you had many years to actually stop being aggressive and even join those nations seems rather a weak justification and entirely post hoc.

    4. Putin can’t just retire to his dacha and cruise around on his yacht, enjoying his wealth. Like any absolute ruler, he has to keep happy (or terrified) those who have the means to depose him. Kings, even weak ones, were protected by the idea that they had divine hereditary authority, supported by the Church as Defenders of the Faith. Would-be usurpers without any ecclesiastical claim at all would surely go to Hell after being tortured to death. The dictator has no such protection. He knows that the oligarchs and the military, and their heirs are always asking, “So what are you going to do for us tomorrow?” In the absence of any mechanism for the peaceful transfer of power that gives him legal protection when he no longer is the law, he has no choice but to seek more power and wealth.

      He really has to die in office, or at least last until he is so old and feeble that whoever takes over sees no need for him to suffer a 9-mm brain haemorrhage. Otherwise he ends up like Mussolini, Ghaddafi, Hussein, and Ceaușescu, killed by his own people. Enjoy the run while it lasts.

    5. I’ve read that a significant part of the DNA of peoples across Asia and beyond originated with one family – that of Genghis Khan. He and his descendants are said to have produced thousands of offspring during several centuries of almost continuous war making. Make love AND war! 😜

  9. GBJames mentioned world peace, and that got me thinking on a meta-level about how we murderous apes can transcend our terrible love of war, as James Hillman put it. It seems to me that we cannot have peace on earth while we have religion and nation-states. Dismantling nation-states and moving to a world order of humanity will surely take centuries. I’m more hopeful that we can leave religion behind sooner than later, and so I choose to put the bulk of my peace-making efforts towards demonstrating to others the attractiveness of the irreligious life. Still, I don’t want to leave off the efforts to move beyond the nation-state, but I’m not sure where to put those efforts nowadays. In my younger, naive, and idealistic days, I was active in the animal rights, antiwar, and environmental groups, but those activities have achieved naught. Now, as a wizened elder, I feel I can have the most positive effect by teaching interested individuals one at a time. Passo a passo si va lontano.

    1. Mr. B., Your comment eerily encapsulates the ‘argument’ of the ‘Terra Ignota’ tetralogy by Ada Palmer, just this very year made complete by ‘Perhaps the Stars’!

    2. “In my younger, naive, and idealistic days, I was active in the animal rights, antiwar, and environmental groups, but those activities have achieved naught.”

      Not sure if you mean your personal efforts or more generally, but let me play the optimist here! I think we have made significant progress on all of those issues in my life time. There are of course still enough “old school” attitudes about these issues to be found in society to remind that failure is still an option, but there has been a big change in the positive direction in the general societal zeitgeist during my lifetime.

      Could more progress have been made? Yes. Have we made enough progress to avoid a dystopic future? I don’t know. But even given the grim events of the past several years, and today, I think we have a real chance. Lots of progress has been made and on several fronts it has been accelerating.

      1. Thanks for your optimism. Not disagreeing with it—yes, despite what some might say, we’ve made progress in women’s rights, LGBT rights, and anti-racism, among others—it’s just that I was so despondent after Trump was elected president…

    3. Nation states are modern iterations of the Tribe. Until humans shed tribalism, nation states will exist. I will echo the other comments on Pinker’s Better Angels of Our Nature.

    1. Ah, that would be piracy on the high seas. You might get more emotional satisfaction from that than the seafarers who have dealt with that on a disorganised, non-state level for decades.
      Enjoy your increased goods prices and delivery times.

    1. Yes, I prefer they stay with your first suggestion. If it stays in Ukraine I think the Putin shelf life could be shortened. The alternative choice would be the end of all of us. I was part of NATO a long time ago in the cold war days. MAD has been the one fact of life that keeps us from going to WWIII. I wonder if Ukraine regrets giving up its nuclear weapons when Russia blew up 30 years ago.

    2. Much more likely to be another Afghanistan for Biden, although Biden and US energy interests were successful in getting Germany to stop buying Russian gas [just like they were earlier able to block Russia from piping gas through Ukraine], which seems to have been one main motive for provoking Russia.

      1. ” . . . Biden and US energy interests were successful in getting Germany to stop buying Russian gas [just like they were earlier able to block Russia from piping gas through Ukraine],”

        Surely this could not possibly be provoking to Russia.

  10. Does anyone have a coherent argument now for why countries like Iran, and DPRK – and, for that matter, Israel – should slow down or stop their nuclear armament programmes?
    The government and people of the Ukraine must be deeply regretting giving the weapons in their territory back.

  11. The Stop The War Coalition (founded by Jeremy Corbyn, among others) has issued a wonderfully predictable statement: “We call on Russian troops to be withdrawn, but we are also demanding our government stops sending troops and arms to the region, talking down diplomacy and whipping up tension. We are demanding an end to the Nato expansion that has done so much to stoke this crisis and a lowering of tension through nuclear arms reduction, other arms control measures, a return to the Minsk accords and a withdrawal of British troops and arms from the region.” So, if the UK just stops whipping up tension, everything should return to normal.

    Of course, from the point of view of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, “normal” means Ukraine will again be Novorossiya, as it was in the days of Russian empress Catherine. I wonder if the imposition of the Russian Peace on the region will include re-naming cities? It would certainly be appropriate for Russian Donetsk to revert to the name it had in Soviet times: it was then known as Stalino.

    1. And please, like NATO is “expanding”. Sending defensive weapons is one way we stop this. See how the Russian public feels about images of burning tanks.

    1. Yes, agree; I read it in the middle of the night:


      This paragraph is especially moving:

      “Ukraine’s determination to become a democracy is a genuine challenge to Putin’s nostalgic, imperial political project: the creation of an autocratic kleptocracy, in which he is all-powerful, within something approximating the old Soviet empire. Ukraine undermines this project just by existing as an independent state. By striving for something better, for freedom and prosperity, Ukraine becomes a dangerous rival. For if Ukraine were to succeed in its decades-long push for democracy, the rule of law and European integration, then Russians might ask: Why not us?”

      Michael Shermer has a good piece too:


      “Putin’s problem is that he’s a tyrant out of time, a 19th-century potentate in a 21st-century world that—hopefully—will not tolerate his revanchist aspirations. Let us heed the words of the historian John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, better known as Lord Acton, who penned this observation in an 1887 letter: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” Putin is a bad man whose absolute power over Russia has corrupted him absolutely. We must not let it corrupt us.”

  12. Note that at least two bloggers (Mano Singham and Marcus Ranum) over at FreeThoughtBlogs, wrote up the usual pro-Russian apologia articles blaming everybody but Russia, insisting there was going to be no invasion, and of course, blamed it “escalation” all on NATO. They also parroted the Kremlin-approved rhetoric about “neo-Nazis” in Ukraine. This is a familiar ploy used by all defenders of Russian warmongering and imperialism – blame and slur their victims. While there are some neo-Nazis in Ukraine, there are neo-Nazis in all eastern European countries, and more so in Russia, where the Kremlin also funds and supports far right and neo-Nazi groups and parties in Europe and beyond. So, if you see any useful idiots parroting this nonsense, it is worth asking them why aren’t concerned with the much larger problem of neo-Nazis in Russia, which is the country actually doing the warmongering and imperialism.

    Also, there are quite a few of the regular commentators at FreeThoughtBlogs, who came up with the usual “Russia will not invade Ukraine” rhetoric, and/or are parroting the above Kremlin propaganda about “the 2014 coup” and “neo-Nazis”. Seems FTB has quite a large nest of pro-Russian warmongers and imperialism apologists.

  13. As I follow this I’m also keeping my eyes on the SE corner of Poland, Bieszczady National Park in the Carpathian Mtns, adjoining Slovakia and Ukraine. It’s a nature preserve filled even with bison, that resembles parts of the Smokies/Shenandoah Mtns and was unknown to me until yesterday. Depopulated in past wars, it has been returning to nature. I very much hope it survives, too.

  14. I see Mitch McConnell has called for Biden to impose the toughest sanctions possible, so not all of the GOP are following Trump’s lead – interesting in terms of which way the Republicans will jump.

    It’s hard to believe that not long ago it would have been impossible to think that there would be any Americans backing Russia in a conflict like this. And it does make one wonder what Kompromat Putin has on the orange one…

    1. I remember seeing Republicans wearing shirts that said “Better red then Democrat” or something to that effect. I never thought I’d see that either.

  15. I see the current situation as yet another instance of how much character matters in politics.

    It seems this catastrophe is being driven largely by Putin’s character – his “small man who wants to be seen as tough” syndrome, his craven desire for personal power, for not countenancing dissent, his own feelings of embarrassment that Russia is not seen as the Great Threatening Power it once was. etc. Having crushed dissent, we are seeing Putin’s character unleashed to drive a war in Europe.

    When Trump was elected and most sane people were aghast, many Trump defenders said “what’s the problem? Sure he’s a little brash, but he’s enacting policies we like.”

    The problem wasn’t just the policies, it was Trump, the human being. The damaged, not wholly formed, morally hollow human being.

    What happens when you give Ultimate Executive Power to someone who is amoral, a pathological liar, deluded, an inveterate bully whose constant underlying motivation is seeking power and punishing transgressions? Who can not countenance being wrong or ever “losing”?

    You get someone who, once installed, refused to say he’d recognize the results of a democratic election if he weren’t re-elected, who refused the result of a fair election, who has continued to wage war against US democracy. And who would likely have been happy to be permanently elected if he could manage that. A guy that sees himself in Putin. That’s what you get.

    And yet many followers still can’t recognize the Devil they made a deal with…and want that devil back in power.

    It’s been a tough 5 years for people who have tried to keep positive about humanity.

    1. I think it’s much worse than “they can’t recognize the Devil they made a deal with.” The problem is that lots of people think characters like Putin, Trump, etc., are “strong leaders capable of making the tough decisions.” Even though on a personal level, going about their day to day life, most of these same people wouldn’t dream of behaving like a Putin or a Trump and would be very offended if someone behaved like that towards them, when it comes time to choose a leader they see those same negative behavioral traits as big positives. You see this same phenomenon in any kind of leadership context. Another clear example is big business.

      I’ve no doubt this has been common among humans since forever. For all my life it has been a common point of view among conservatives to excuse asshole and even criminal leaders because, “Yeah, but he’s just the kind of guy you need to make the tough decisions.”

  16. The war started with a slow fuse in 2014 and recent counts were ~ 15,000 deaths before the increased war front.

    And Ukraine has a population of 44 million, so if Syria is a model we would see 2/3 or ~30 million internal refugees and ~ 15 million in the rest of non-Belarus Europe assuming the whole population is in jeopardy. (Attacks have come from Belarus territory as well, so that nation is set to become another slave state to Russia.)

    1. A question for Torbjörn: is this Russian invasion of Ukraine likely to lead Sweden to join NATO officially? And maybe even Finland?

  17. It’s no wonder he’s asking if you are serious.

    In just a few lines there is snark, sarcasm, conspiracy, supposition, an attempted slur on ‘the left’, and a needless, cruel jibe at Biden’s health. It’s all based on premises of which you alone are aware, and if there are any facts involved, you’ve kept them to yourself. You wrap it all up with a rhetorical question of which Tucker Carlson would be proud.

    Also, if I were given the choice of of two cognitively deteriorating presidents, I’d choose the steady, decent, well-meaning man over a nasty, impulsive and delusional narcissist. Wouldn’t you?

    Moral of the story:

    If you write a comment which is indistinguishable from a Tucker Carlson monologue, don’t be surprised if someone questions your sincerity.

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