Friday 1 April 2022

Talking about the war in Ukraine


"Quit smoking. Otherwise you die and will not witness Putin's death" - an anti-tobacco warning in Ukraine.

'U.S. ushers in 35 Russians seeking asylum at Mexico border who were opposed to Putin's war'. Daily Mail. Germany finds that a third of 'Ukrainian refugees' are not Ukrainian but have bought fake passports.

His [Joe Biden's] embarrassingly downgraded role became obvious last week when he suddenly veered off-script during his keynote address in Poland, ad-libbing of Vladimir Putin that “for God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power”. It was a dramatic escalation, a clear and simple message that no reasonable person could possibly misinterpret, and yet the White House appeared not even to ask him for permission before “clarifying” his statement. Biden’s people – who are supposed to work for him, rather than the other way around – immediately denied that he was calling for regime change. They claimed, within seconds of his speech, that the words he uttered didn’t actually mean what he obviously intended them to signify.
Allister Heath yesterday.

There is a danger that Macron, in his bid to be seen as a statesman on the world stage, will revive his attempt to strike a bargain with Putin. ..Europe should recognise the stakes at play here. Putin has presented an example of the reality of authoritarianism that, as Francis Fukuyama has recently argued, should reinvigorate our belief in our own liberal values. If liberal standards are to win in the West, we will need to tighten our belts and accept that values come at a price. This battle is not being fought in Ukraine, but in the hearts and minds of our Western populations. Only if we are prepared psychologically to step up to this challenge will the West win against Putin.
This article by Major General Jonathan Shaw, who was director of special forces in the British Army, appalled me. I dislike Macron but he is the one Nato leader (apart from Erdogan) who tried to prevent the war in Ukraine and is trying to stop it. What does the General mean by 'liberal standards'? If it means freedom and democracy then fine, but it could mean any number of more tendentious things. Macron thinks a right to an abortion should be added to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

'Here’s the bottom line. We want to tell ourselves that Putin is on the defensive in Ukraine. Maybe so. But in the wider world, going forward, however united the West may be at NATO, or within the EU, or with Visa and Mastercard, the West is also on the defensive. “Containment” of the autocrats, from Moscow to Beijing, is the new watchword in Washington DC, a Cold war thought if ever there was, and the “long fight ahead….between liberty and repression,” as Biden put it in Warsaw. No secret that Biden fears China much more than Russia.' 
David Smith, in an annoying article in The Critic. Containing Communist Russia was a very good policy, as George  Kennan first advocated, but like him I cannot see how the Cold War or the arms race was. 

The West must now wage total economic war against Vladimir Putin

Sanctions are losing their potency and have failed to crush the Russian economy

An inane headline in the Telegraph - I did not read further. Sanctions do not win wars. If they have useful effects, which is highly debatable, they are (very) long-term.

Take away all the dissembling and the make-believe and one can see the policy dilemma that has been present from 2014 which the invasion was intended to solve. The starting point then may well have been Putin’s belief that Russia had some responsibility to protect the population of the Donbas after the unfortunate turn of events in Kyiv and the flight of Yanukovych. The main concern, however, was that this would lead to Ukraine drifting away even more from Russia despite the historic connections between the two countries. Although Putin’s actions in 2014 accelerated the detachment he hoped, somehow, to use the Minsk agreements to pull it back. This effort has proved to be futile which is why he really did want to achieve regime change in Kyiv as the only way to reconstitute this lost unity.

This partly explains why he held back from taking the Donbas in 2014 when he had the chance to do so. But it was not the only reason. There were three others. First, he was aware that there was no real clamour in this territory to join Russia. It would be challenging and costly to govern them. Second, there would be far more severe Western sanctions imposed on Russia than those following the annexation of Crimea. And third, a new border would be created between Russia and Ukraine that would then have to be defended against an angry Ukraine that would get increased backing from the West.

All those considerations still apply except more so. So long as Putin stays in power the alienation of Ukraine from Russia is complete and it will integrate more with the West. So long as Ukrainian territory is occupied severe sanctions will stay in place and the Ukrainians will keep up the pressure on any new cease-fire line that leaves their territory under Russian control. Their army is no longer one that Russia dare underestimate. The problems of governing and controlling this territory will be immense. They have destroyed those they were going to save. Their prize from the war will be shattered and depopulated town and cities, with those still in residence sullen and hostile, ready to resist and support insurgencies. This is why taking Donbas is not a satisfactory consolation prize for Putin, let alone for those hardliners demanding that he stick to his maximalist objectives. It is simply a recipe for continued instability, turning Putin’s folly of 2014 into an even greater catastrophe, serving as a continuing drain on Russia’s dwindling economic and military resources.

In all the searches for a peace settlement it is hard to avoid the conclusion that there are no good outcomes for Russia from this war. It has inflicted massive human, political, and economic costs on itself, as well as on Ukraine. Nothing that Moscow can now achieve can outweigh those costs. If he is unable to muster a final offensive to achieve his original aims there is no formula that will enable Putin to pretend that this has all been worthwhile and he has achieved exactly what was intended. As Igor Girkin has observed, he will have lost as completely as he once hoped to win.

Sir Lawrence Freedman, a very good analyst. Those who think Russia never wanted Kiev disagree. Russia has been snookered. Was this what the American defence establishment (aka the deep state) wanted? Quite a few Romanians tell me they think so. They are a religious people with a very strong awareness of original sin and little faith in human nature.

Julia Davis@JuliaDavisNews·Feb 27
Back in January, #Russia's state TV experts estimated it would take "approximately 11 minutes" to completely overtake #Ukraine, with minimal losses on their part. So much for that. #StandWithUkraine

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