We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

If Vladimir Putin invades Poland, I’ll eat my hat. It’s not going to happen.

Even so, American ground troops are being deployed there as a response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea. This is the West telling him STOP. He’s not going to invade a European Union or NATO state either way, but we’d end up sending a crazy-weak signal if all we did was collectively shrug.

Ukraine still isn’t in NATO, however, and probably never will be, so it’s still vulnerable. Putin can slice it and dice it all over again. The US won’t physically stop him for the same reason he won’t invade Poland. Nobody wants to blow up the world, especially not over this.

- Michael Totten

32 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Mr Ed

    The Ukraine has had almost 23 years to stop being a Soviet craphole and to recover, it has got almost nowhere, unlike Poland, Estonia, Latvia and even Romania which had one of the worst regimes to recover from, although it did fall to the Soviets in 1918. It is not worth fighting over and changing the thieves at the top is no change at all.

    So what exactly are we concerned about in the Ukraine? The guys in the east with the Lenin statues are obviously evil, but we could offer to build them their own GULAGs (by private donations) to send themselves to if they get too nostalgic. Otherwise, I cannot see what intervention would achieve.

    And if Mr Putin discredits the EU and NATO, he is doing us all here a favour.

  • Ukraine was a Russian client state so that goes some way to describe why it has remained a shithole backwater

  • Soviet rule over Ukraine did indeed last much longer than did Soviet or Soviet backed communist rule over Poland, Latvia, Romania, etc. At its worse, it was also vastly more brutal than that over any of these countries, including Romania. (Stalin deliberately starved something like 7 million Ukrainians to death in 1932 and 1933). Recovering from that is much more difficult than the situation in (say) Poland, where there was not even a collectivisation of agriculture. The boring things – freer trade, open markets, attempting to reduce corruption – are still worth doing in Ukraine and are worth western attention. Things can improve with the right incentives. Ukraine is not one monolithic country – the western sections of the country were ruled by Poland, Romania, and Czechoslovakia before WWII, are quite different and are possibly more amenable to western style reforms.

    But as Totten says, the US and NATO are not going to intervene in Ukraine, and for that reason. Ukraine is not worth blowing up the world for.

  • Nick (Blame the French!) Gray

    There’s a market going begging- edible hats! How many times have we heard people talking about eating their hats, but you never see them doing it? Quite a few times in my case! Edible headwear would allow such oaths to be fulfilled! Why isn’t some enterpreneur filling this market niche?

  • Vinegar Joe

    Goodbye porkpie hat?

  • bob sykes

    Frankly, if Putin reestablished the Tsarist boundaries and Poland, Lithuania and their ilk disappeared, I would not care. I wouldn’t even care if the German and Austro-Hungarian empires with their Kaisers and Emperors were reestablished and all the little countries in central and eastern europe disappeared.

    I think you can make a good argument that America’s participation in WW I was a mistake. It led us into WW II, and set free the communist menace (which apparently controls much of the US).

    And as to the current Ukrainian crisis, the US/EU created it by supporting an anti-democratic coup d’etat that removed the legitimate and democratically elected government of Yanukovych and his party. Was he a thief? Yes, but he was the legitimate President of the Ukraine. Actually, he still is since the rump Ukrainian parliament did not follow its constitution procedures for removing him.

    So, Putin is a bad guy. So are Obama, Camreron, Hollande and Merkel and the whole of the EU/NATO leadership.

    The correct choice after the fall of the Soviet Union would have been to dissolve NATO, too. Instead, freed of the constraints of the Cold War, the US/NATO has been on a rampage: Serbia, Iraq (twice), Afghanistan, Iran, Libya, Egypt, Syria and now Ukraine. It has probably not escaped Putin’s notice that this is a list of either former allies or border states. He, like all good paranoid Russians, must think that the US/NATO has a plan to eliminate Russia.

    Expect all sorts of violent reactions.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Frankly, if Putin reestablished the Tsarist boundaries and Poland, Lithuania and their ilk disappeared, I would not care. I wouldn’t even care if the German and Austro-Hungarian empires with their Kaisers and Emperors were reestablished and all the little countries in central and eastern europe disappeared.

    You may not give a damn, but those who are interested in protecting and advancing individual liberty (ie, the folk who write for this blog and who run it) are, and do care about it. Of course, that does not necessarily mean that war is right, but let’s not make the mistake of adopting a sort of fake nonchalance over such stuff. It is not as if Putin can even call upon national security concerns, as Bush did when the US tried to zap the Taliban and knocked off Saddam.

    The existence of several small, successful countries – such as the Baltics and central European states – free from Soviet control and the old empires is, in my view, a great thing. Harkening back to the days of empire is foolish, and a luxury to be indulged in by those who are fortunate enough not to live with the consequences of such dreams.

  • I wouldn’t even care if the German and Austro-Hungarian empires with their Kaisers and Emperors were reestablished and all the little countries in central and eastern europe disappeared.

    I love the smell of ethnic cleansing in the morning!

  • And as to the current Ukrainian crisis, the US/EU created it by supporting an anti-democratic coup d’etat that removed the legitimate and democratically elected government of Yanukovych and his party.

    And this is bollocks as well. Yes, the US and EU supported, in one sense of the word, the Ukrainian opposition but then again I was supporting the British Lions when they defeated Australia last year. So unless I am belatedly knighted for my efforts in securing the series, I think we can quite safely say that the US supporting Ukraine’s opposition is not the same as creating a revolution and the conditions which brought it about.

  • The communist menace was set free by Karl Marx.

  • And as to the current Ukrainian crisis, the US/EU created it by supporting an anti-democratic coup d’etat that removed the legitimate and democratically elected government of Yanukovych and his party.

    Much to their credit.

    Yanukovych was indeed the head of the legitimate and democratically elected government.

    So what?

    Just imagine if in 1936, the Wehrmacht, which had quite a few officers deeply leery of that Hitler bloke, had done what the Egyptian Army recently did in Egypt, and deposed the “legitimate and democratically elected government”. I think history would have turned out far, far better, all things considered.

    Democracy is vastly overrated.

  • Dom

    “Democracy is vastly overrated.” I don’t think you really mean that. The appropriate answer is usually credited to Churchill — something like, “overrated except for all the others”.

  • I don’t think you really mean that.

    Oh I really do mean that. I really do.

    I think democracy is a great thing, provided it is bound hand and foot as to what is actually up for being voted on. Which is to say I like the idea behind the US system of a constitutional republic with separated powers, even if the actually practice leaves a great deal to be desired.

  • Russ in TX

    I hope Totten’s right – but this is not an area in which he has any expertise, as illustrated by his facepalm of a statement regarding eastern Ukraine being “the poor part” of the country and his own self-admitted cluelessness last time he travelled to the country.

    The Ukrainians haven’t recovered like Poland has because for the most part they were directly under Moscow’s thumb and weren’t permitted to. Ukrainians are generally some pretty smart and sophisticated people – they won’t have any trouble charting a successful course forward if they’re given the opportunity to do so.

  • Democracy is useful in that (when it works) it allows governments and leaders to be removed peacefully when their time is up. I am not sure that it leads to better quality governments coming into power in the first place. On the other hand, if a leader is corrupt, steals from his country, or worse (ordering police and soldiers to fire upon unarmed demonstrators, say) does the fact that he was “democratically elected” mean that he should simply be allowed to continue in office? Of course not.

  • Tedd

    …does the fact that he was “democratically elected” mean that he should simply be allowed to continue in office? Of course not.

    I don’t want to sound too much like I’m defending democracy because I basically agree with Perry on this point. But, to be fair, many (most?) democratic systems include a mechanism for removing such a leader, which is itself democratic or quasi-democratic. Recall ballots and the non-confidence vote common in Westminster systems are examples.

  • Tedd

    Before somebody finishes my thought for me…

    Yes, I’m aware that such mechanisms depend on enough voters being willing to put partisan considerations aside to support removing someone they helped elect.

  • Yes, I’m aware that such mechanisms depend on enough voters being willing to put partisan considerations aside to support removing someone they helped elect.

    They also depend on having reasonably functional institutions. This requires a parliament containing MPs who are not themselves corrupt or intimidated. Similarly, you need relatively impartial judges and a functioning legal system. If you don’t have these things, well you surely reduce the legitimacy a person has gained by being democratically elected in the first place. Or possibly you don’t have democracy, despite having democratic looking institutions.

  • ” ‘I wouldn’t even care if the German and Austro-Hungarian empires with their Kaisers and Emperors were reestablished and all the little countries in central and eastern europe disappeared.’

    I love the smell of ethnic cleansing in the morning!”

    Actually it’s the people who come after Kaisers and Emperors and Tsars that you have to worry about…

    …but it does seem a fact that Europe just doesn’t “do” multi-ethnic states.

  • …but it does seem a fact that Europe just doesn’t “do” multi-ethnic states.

    Really? Suggest you go get yourself a map of Europe and look a bit more closely, or were you under the impression places like Switzerland or Italy or France or Britain or Spain were all made up of people of the same ethnic backgrounds?

  • Nico

    They also depend on having reasonably functional institutions. This requires a parliament containing MPs who are not themselves corrupt or intimidated. Similarly, you need relatively impartial judges and a functioning legal system. If you don’t have these things, well you surely reduce the legitimacy a person has gained by being democratically elected in the first place. Or possibly you don’t have democracy, despite having democratic looking institutions.

    What the American system is badly missing is an institution that can exercise Commonweatlh-style reserve powers: dismiss the government and call early elections. Also, the POTUS should be able to call early elections, and primaries should not be permitted to be held more than three or four months before an election.

    That would make it easier for voters to kick the vilest of the major parties in the groin when they deserve it, without fear that the other party will pull a stunt like Obamacare.

    (Not that the Queen or her GGs exercise those reserve powers all that often…)

  • Nico

    …but it does seem a fact that Europe just doesn’t “do” multi-ethnic states.

    Really? Suggest you go get yourself a map of Europe and look a bit more closely, or were you under the impression places like Switzerland or Italy or France or Britain or Spain were all made up of people of the same ethnic backgrounds?

    Not surprisingly the most multi-ethnic countries in Europe are the ones that didn’t succumb to Wilsonianism.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Fine, Nico. So if the present Incumbent, or — just f’rinstance — William Jefferson Clinton doesn’t care for the present political makeup of the Congress, he can throw the bums out and tell the people they have to elect someone more to Its, or his, liking. Especially in the case of Slick Willy, who had to put up with a *gasp* Republican Congress! ;>)

  • “Really? Suggest you go get yourself a map of Europe and look a bit more closely, or were you under the impression places like Switzerland or Italy or France or Britain or Spain were all made up of people of the same ethnic backgrounds?”

    Is that the Spain where Catalonia talks constantly of independence, or the Italy where Veneto had its recent online referendum? I noticed you didn’t use Belgium as an example (which if memory serves me right used to be part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands).
    However I was thinking more of Czechoslovakia, which doesn’t exist any more. Or perhaps Yugoslavia, which also doesn’t exist any more. Or the large Poland of the Second Republic. Or pre-1905 Sweden. Or Pre-1866 Denmark. The Soviet Union. Federal Republic of Serbia. United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
    Ukraine?
    Or we could discuss Greece driving out its Turks. Or Turkey driving out its Greeks. Or Bulgaria its Turks(only relatively recent historically).
    Shall we discuss Germany?

    Switzerland has existed for most of its history under a confederated government so loose as to be more an alliance than anything else.
    So France. I give you France.
    Just don’t tell the Corsicans.

  • In fact it’s interesting that France and Switzerland are also the two countries with the longest modern history of Republicanism.

  • veryretired

    Sure is a lot of high talk about all sorts of big ideas.

    Funny how none of those big ideas is how to stop Putin and friends from dismembering and absorbing what has been considered a sovereign state.

    Say, maybe the English PM, or the EU President, or whoever is the big cheese this week, could go to Moscow and get old Putz to sign a paper pledging not to invade any more countries.

    Yeah, that would work. Sure it would.

  • Julie near Chicago

    VR, this is very O.t., but that reminds me that in Auntie Mame (the book) there was some woman who was the well-recompensed mistress of some high-mucky-muck Nazi official. Her pet name for him was “Putzi.” LOL!

  • Say, maybe the English PM, or the EU President, or whoever is the big cheese this week, could go to Moscow and get old Putz to sign a paper pledging not to invade any more countries.

    I wish I had a dollar, or better yet, a bitcoin, for every time someone likened this to Munich circa 1938.

    But sure, keep hanging on to the verities of the past. Indeed I am all for rebuilding the Martello towers. Just because the French don’t look like much, just as the sclerotic Russians and their corrupt rust covered army sure don’t look like much, you never know when those Frogs will start to channel their inner Napoleon. And lets rebuild Hadrian’s Wall while we are at it, you can’t be too careful when it comes to those bloody Picts!

  • veryretired

    I’m not looking to the past, but the very present impotency of a Europe, and some Europeans, who dearly love to talk big about how sophisticated and mature they are about everything, but don’t much like to discuss how totally powerless they are to do anything to prevent dictators like Putin, or Assad, or the Iranian mullahs, or the Sultan of Brunei, for that matter, from doing anything they want anytime they want.

    But, please, go ahead and bluster about how uninformed the rest of the world is about the truly awesome latent powers for good and right hidden deeply underneath the morbidity of Europe, like the oceans on Europa.

    Your baseless pretensions are laughable.

  • I’m not looking to the past, but the very present impotency of a Europe…

    So let me get this straight. Europe is weak and Russia is strong? Really? In what way? How many divisions can Russia feed, let alone keep in artillery shells, inside Poland? How much of its airforce can it actually keep flying in the event of high intensity operations? How much of its fleet can make it out into blue water, at least the bits that can still make it out of port that is? What exactly is it that you think Europe needs to be afraid of?

    Sorry but until recently, the Ukraine, the entire thing, was a Russian client state. So if the Russia eat the Crimea and the Eastern Ukraine, incorporating those (ethnic Russian) areas into Russia proper but leaving the Western Ukraine as a state now implacably hostile to Russia… this is a net win for the bad guys? Really? How so? Surely that is actually a net decline in Russian influence.

    Hell even if they swallow the ENTIRE Ukraine (and thereby end up with an intractable insurgency to deal with for the next decade or so), I fail to see how Europe is actually worse off than when the entire Ukraine was ‘just’ a pliant Russian client state.

  • Nico

    @Julie: I meant that the entire schedule of federal elections would be brought forward in such a case, not that the POTUS could dismiss Congress but stick around himself to govern alone or with a new Congress! And I don’t see how what I wrote could be mistaken as meaning that…

    So let’s say the POTUS and/or Congress pulled something like ACA with not easy recourse (no impeachment) to remedy this, but an institution held and used reserve powers to dismiss a government that tried to pull off a stunt like ACA. The result would be a shortened term for both, the then current Congress and Administration. If that election were general then one might get a new POTUS, else just a new Congress. If the same bunch were reelected then the reserve powers would be for naught (and the institution exercising them punished, but not destoryed). Really, very much like the british concept of reserve powers.

  • McPhail, you are actually making my point for me.

    Europe and the UK is a multi-ethnic hodgepodge and always has been. What happened in 1648 was not just the greatest mistake in human history, it was actually an aberration.

    France is also multi-ethnic btw.