Sunday 11 September 2022

Professor Sam Greene of King's College, London


This is a very interesting thread on Twitter from a professor who wrote a book about Vladimir Putin. I quote a small part:

...As recently as yesterday, the consensus in Western policy circles – among US, UK & EU experts & officials – was that while Russia was not winning this war, neither was Ukraine. It was hard to find anyone who believed that Ukraine could make significant territorial advances.

For two months or more, everyone has assumed this to be a war of attrition, rather than of position – and for good reason. The counter-offensive in the south was a slog, and reports were coming in of heavy casualties. Meanwhile, signs of fatigue in the West were mounting.

...In war – as in politics – what people believe will happen next can be more important than what has actually occurred, and those beliefs can turn on a dime. What's more, in violent conflict those beliefs are imbued with powerful emotions, which can submerge rational thought. 

It's tempting to say that yesterday's 'attrition' story was wrong and that this war will now be decided by Russia's ability to resist Ukraine's advances. But the attrition story was not wrong yesterday: it only became wrong today.


  1. Paul you have been at the wrong end of history and feel from the beginning of this war, had you been out here and talking to the Ukrainians you would have realized long ago that Putin was doomed to fail . This is not a proxy West/Russia war, it is a people fighting for self determination against a belligerent neighbour to the East.

    1. I hope he is doomed to fail. It was not clear in the first week to most people. We do not know yet if he will fail and we do not know what fail means. I have never doubted that this is a people fighting for self determination. Boris Johnson got into trouble for comparing their struggle with Brexit and how lucky we are that we gained independence at only an economic cost. It has also become a proxy war, obviously, between America and Russia, as some American politicians have said.

    2. Actually it is not self determination that matters to a Metternichian conservative like me, but the right of sovereign states to be sovereign and not be invaded. That's a much more important thing.

  2. Another of Boris’s fatuous and self-serving comparisons. Here’s hoping he never assumes a leadership position again.

  3. "I voted for the principle of national sovereignty and I expect to suffer for this choice. You do know there have been actual *wars* of independence, don't you? It will not be easily won. A lot of Remainers seem to be saying that they are *not* prepared to suffer for the principle of national sovereignty and that if we suffer just one jot of inconvenience or anxiety, we should have remained." My clever friend, Bunny Sheffield