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]

How close are we to nuclear war?

Interesting exposition by Perun about the risk of nuclear war

36 comments to How close are we to nuclear war?

  • Patrick Crozier

    Oh bugger! I was about to post about this very thing. I watched this last night, Rob Fisher commented on my previous post this morning and you post it this afternoon. Great minds etc, etc.

  • Oh bugger! I was about to post about this very thing.

    That’s the thing about nuclear war: You have to strike first.

  • m rapp

    speaking of Doctrine…
    Russia = NUclear
    West = UNclear

  • Jacob

    I find myself in the very strange situation that for the first time ever I agree with the socialist ex-president of Brazil (and possibly future president) Lula da Silva.
    And also in the stranger position that I agree for the first time with this fan of Evita.

  • Really no different to saying Nazi Germany & Czechoslovakia were equally to blame for the German invasion.

  • Jacob

    I see it as two idiot Nationalist hotheads, Putin and Zelensky, going to war over a silly border dispute. (That’s what nationalists usually do). And the US egging them on to war. It could be seen as a brilliant and cynical move by the US, it gets all the benefits ( a weakened Russia, big benefit… ) and Ukrainians pay the whole price. The Russians pay too in a weakened economy and lower life standard.
    Only the US is far too dumb to be credited with such Machiavelli wisdom, or to be deemed to know what it is doing.
    You Perry, are stuck in your irrelevant analogy, but it’s ok. Yours is the majority opinion. People love a dramatic moral, sentimental plot.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Really no different to saying Nazi Germany & Czechoslovakia were equally to blame for the German invasion.

    Really no different to saying that Israel and its Arab neighbors were equally to blame for the Israeli war of independence?

    Really no different from saying that Spain and the Muslims were equally to blame for the Muslim conquest and the Reconquista?

    Really no different from saying that Greece and Persia were equally to blame for the Greco-Persian Wars?

    I would not know, because i did not look at Jacob’s links.

    –Added in proof: really no different from saying that Britain and Spain were equaly to blame for Gravelines?

    That Britain and France were equally to blame for Trafalgar and Waterloo?

    That Britain and Germany were equally to blame for Dunkirk, the Battle of Britain, and Alamein?

  • Kevin Jaeger

    “I see it as two idiot Nationalist hotheads, Putin and Zelensky, going to war over a silly border dispute.”

    Indeed. When Armenia and Azerbaijan fight over a disputed region because the Soviet-era border between those two republics didn’t align cleanly with the ethnic makeup most people don’t have any real difficulty recognizing it as a sordid local affair. Nobody needs to be called Hitler and it seems okay if diplomats try to de-escalate the. situation. Resolving the issue through some process of negotiation, local autonomy and maybe even revised borders seems appropriate. Thankfully, nobody seems eager to nuke anyone over the status of the Republic of Artsakh.

    But for the last eight year Ukraine has had a civil war with its predominantly Russian-speaking minority in cities like Kramatorsk, Slavyansk, Donetsk and Luhansk. It’s bad enough that Ukrainians are fighting each other over control of these unlovely places rather than resolving the disputes as civilized people, It’s worse that Russia has chosen to intervene recently. It is absolutely insane that so much of the west can see nothing but Hitler analogies in a conflict that is not even remotely similar.

  • bobby b

    “It is absolutely insane that so much of the west can see nothing but Hitler analogies in a conflict that is not even remotely similar.”

    Much of the West is handicapped by incomplete, or biased, or just wrong information. We don’t even know what we don’t know.

    And so we accept mythological overlays that make us feel like we know what’s going on. It’s Hitler, or it’s the American Revolution, or . . . Fill in your heroic story of choice. Most people seem to care more about feeling like they know what’s going on than actually knowing what’s going on. Choose your myth, and then you don’t need to investigate further.

    Plus, accepting one of the overlays will often strengthen your own political causes, and so naturally that overlay must be the right one. Supporters of Biden are eager to help educate me about Ukraine, but they mostly don’t even know where it is.

  • Fraser Orr

    @bobby b
    Much of the West is handicapped by incomplete, or biased, or just wrong information. We don’t even know what we don’t know.

    But in a sense this is rational ignorance. Why should I spend massive amounts of time understanding this conflict (unless I do so for recreational purposes) since I have exactly zero influence on its outcome or its impact on my life? Better to expend my energy on things I can control. If I spend the time to watch the OP video and understand better the risks of nuclear war, can I do anything to prevent it? I mean I guess I could fill my basement with canned meats and bottled water, or move the rural Iowa. But probably not going to do that. So doing so offers me no payback for my efforts, short of, as I say, its recreational benefits. And for sure, there is a certain visceral pleasure in moral outrage, something that is ruined by nuanced analysis.

    As to the other culprits: the news media has several disfunctions here. First they want to paint the current administration in as positive a light as possible since journalistic integrity is now as irrelevant as hot lead type, second they love conflict and emotionally affective pictures, third they are headline oriented so “good guys and bad guys” works far better in their expository methodology. And of course for individual journalists who head out to the field they get the greatest adventure of their lives, and a huge opportunity to advance their careers.

    And of course, the government. They love war, small wars anyway. It gives them an excuse for things going bad, it lets them give massive amounts of tax payer money to their donors, it allows them to bury bad stories, it gives them the opportunity to preen and peacock with moral outrage, and usually they can find some way to pin it all on the other political party. If the moral calculus was even a little more nuanced than “Hitler verses the spunky, brave courageous and righteous little guy” then a lot of that would be very difficult to sell.

  • Yours is the majority opinion.

    Yes, because for once, it is screamingly obvious.

  • Snorri Godhi, your comment makes no sense whatsoever.

  • But for the last eight year Ukraine has had a civil war with its predominantly Russian-speaking minority in cities like Kramatorsk, Slavyansk, Donetsk and Luhansk.

    Now explain why almost entirely Russian speaking Kharkiv didn’t throw flowers when the Russians crossed the border. The presence of actual Russian troop in Donetsk and Luhansk are why this astroturf rebellion was not crushed by Ukraine even before they pulled their finger out after & reorganised their previously ramshackle army over last 8 years. oh, and most of the Ukrainian nationalists I know are Russian speakers. It.is.not.a.fight.about.that.

    It is absolutely insane that so much of the west can see nothing but Hitler analogies in a conflict that is not even remotely similar.

    It is actually very similar. This is an imperial war about Russia’s destiny to recreate the Русский мир: the ‘Russian World’… and killing anyone who objects.

  • bobby b

    “Why should I spend massive amounts of time understanding this conflict (unless I do so for recreational purposes) since I have exactly zero influence on its outcome or its impact on my life?”

    Completely agree. For me, in mid-USA, with no connection to the regions involved outside, I could probably understand it all quite well if I was willing to do the work, but the work isn’t worth it to me or my daily life. I have other work that is important to me.

    But, nature abhors thinking of yourself as ignorant, and so we borrow these overlays so that we can think we know the story, and our sources feed us simplistic romcoms because they know we hardly ever look behind them. Thus, “Hitler.” Everybody understands “Hitler!” Few get “oligarchs and thugs with competing needs and venalities.”

  • Snorri Godhi

    Snorri Godhi, your comment makes no sense whatsoever.

    Sorry about that: I was only trying to offer non-Godwin alternatives to your analogy to Czechoslovakia. Perhaps it makes sense now that you know this?

  • Mr Ed

    The Russian invasion of the Ukraine reminds me of the German invasion of Luxembourg in WW2, except that the Ukraine sheep is in a position to contest the coyote’s menu choices, occasionally acting like a donkey. In both, the aggressor has decided that the victim is sufficiently similar to it that incorporation into the respective Reich is to be carried through, but the scale and response of the Ukraine requires some modification to the proposal compared to the original example.

    Whereas in WW1, Kaiser Bill more or less left Luxembourg’s civil government intact after invading, unlike the murderous rampage in Leuven, Belgium.

  • Jacob

    Perry
    “Yes, because for once, it is screamingly obvious.” [the majority opinion]

    When I found myself agreeing with the Pope and Lula da Silva I did a deep soul search. I could not easily accept that I would agree with such people.
    You should do the same when you find yourself agreeing with the “majority opinion”.

  • Jacob

    “When Armenia and Azerbaijan fight over a disputed region because the Soviet-era border between those two republics didn’t align cleanly with the ethnic makeup most people don’t have any real difficulty recognizing it as a sordid local affair.”

    Exactly.
    The only difference with the current Russia-Ukraine conflict is the fact that the contenders are big countries.

  • Jacob

    “It is actually very similar. This is an imperial war about Russia’s destiny to recreate the Русский мир: the ‘Russian World’… and killing anyone who objects.”

    It is actually very similar. This is an imperial war about US (and NATO) wishing to enlarge it’s empire to new far away areas and kill anyone who objects. The wish to impose the “American peace”. As if they have such great success in accomplishing this in America itself.

    This is to show that you could view the issue from many angles.

    I myself am much more pro American than pro Russian, but you should not go to extremes of idolizing one side and demonizing the other.

  • Jacob

    If you wish to contemplate some historical parallels – here is one:
    Think of the outbreak of WW1. A silly and unimportant incident (in Sarajevo) was amplified by idiot nationalist diplomats and monarchs. The biggest catastrophe in Human history was triggered unintentionally by idiots.
    I hope this conflict won’t escalate to catastrophic dimensions, but it could. You might know how to start a war but you never know how it ends.

  • Jacob

    bobby_b
    “And so we accept mythological overlays that make us feel like we know what’s going on. It’s Hitler, or it’s the American Revolution, or . . . Fill in your heroic story of choice. Most people seem to care more about feeling like they know what’s going on than actually knowing what’s going on. Choose your myth, and then you don’t need to investigate further.”

    Well said.

  • Jacob

    “The only difference with the current Russia-Ukraine conflict is the fact that the contenders are big countries.”
    And the other big difference is that foreigners (i.e. NATO) feel the need to intervene.

  • You should do the same when you find yourself agreeing with the “majority opinion”.

    As a British person, I would liked to think if forced to pick a side in 1939 or 1941, I would not require a great deal of soul searching. Your moral calculus does not make me want to emulate your views in any way, shape, or form. If even habitually neutral Sweden has picked sides and sent arms (lots of them), I think you need to re-examine the results of your soul searching. But clearly you think Germany has got it right (as they clearly want Ukraine to just fold and end the economic inconvenience their tiresome resistance has caused).

    The only difference with the current Russia-Ukraine conflict is the fact that the contenders are big countries.

    Nope, there are several important differences.

    Firstly, the status of Nagorno-Karabakh was genuinely questionable, whatever you think about the relative merits of the two sides, it was not an astroturf issue. Donbas on the other hand would never have reached the status of armed conflict involving both sides having antiaircraft missiles, tanks and artillery without Russia providing the gear and a large number of actual Russian soldiers ‘on holiday’.

    Yes, it was the Armenian army moving into Nagorno-Karabakh that enabled its succession from Azerbaijan, but Armenia did not engineer the situation, because they didn’t need to. Picking sides is not quite as clear cut. Also, frankly if both sides had tried harder, there were various potential political settlements, meaning ‘the west’ was not presented with a particular stark moral choice driving its (in)actions.

    But in Donbas, you would need to be breathtakingly naive to think Russia wanted anything less than the entire oblasts of Donbas and Luhansk (to start with), not just the bit their proxies and ‘vacationing’ Russian soldier were already holding. Even if Kyiv cut those entire areas adrift, given what they subsequently did are you really going to argue Russia would have stopped there? So, what was there to negotiate? And of the wave of refugees who left Donbas/Luhansk when the ‘proxy-war’ (it really wasnt) started, where did they do? Overwhelmingly they went to Kyiv, which should tell you something.

    Secondly, the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict was located somewhere it was very hard for ‘the west’ to do much about. Turkey was all in for Azerbaijan, Russia for Armenia, neither really wanted ‘the west’ sticking their nose in, so geography made getting involved difficult unless you are Russia or Turkey. Ukraine on the other hand borders on several European NATO nations, so not only is it vastly more concerning to ‘the west’ geopolitically (do Romania and Slovakia really want to yet again find themselves sharing a border with an expansionist Russia? Hell no), the geography means doing something about Russian actions in Ukraine just requires driving trucks full or weapons or fuel across the shared border. US money and material can help Ukraine defeat Russia, but it was UK and (most of) Europe that actually stopped Russia just running over them in the first month by sending supplies once it was clear a critical mass of Ukrainians were willing to fight and were rather good at it (Operation Orbital has done its job better that most people realised).

    So no, these were two very different conflicts in substance, location and geopolitical importance to ‘the west’.

  • Jacob

    Going back to the WW1 analogy – both sides had very “strong” and valid arguments on their side:
    -Serbian extreme nationalists should not get away with murder, they need to be punished.
    -We Russians cannot allow our brother Serb-Ortodox to be humiliated by foreigners.
    -We Germans cannot risk being overrun by Slavic hordes, therefore we need to activate the (idiotic) Schlieffen plan…

    “do Romania and Slovakia really want to yet again find themselves sharing a border with an expansionist Russia? Hell no”

    Can Russia tolerate the expansion of an aggressive and expansionist NATO to bases near Russia’s core areas?
    All sides to the conflict have their valid arguments…

  • Can Russia tolerate the expansion of an aggressive and expansionist NATO to bases near Russia’s core areas?

    If you think that is what this is about, you really need to read the vast body of ‘Russkiy mir’ literature out there (the most recent ones that you handwave away are really eyeopeners…I’d like to think you haven’t bothered to read or watch them because if you have and yet still think Ukraine should roll over ‘to save lives’, then your moral calculus is unfathomable to me).

    Seriously, many of my contentions are maters of opinion, but if you think anything less than the violent extermination of Ukrainian nationhood and identity was not always Russia’s objective, you are not bothering to seriously analyse this subject.

    This was only about what NATO did as a second-order concern, which is to say, Russian was not anti-Ukraine because it wanted to join NATO and thus NATO would pose a threat to Russian security. No, it was anti-Ukraine joining NATO because NATO would be an impediment to its eventually bringing Ukraine back into the ‘Russian World’: NATO was only a threat to Russia’s imperial ambitions, not its actual territorial security. This is entirely about ending the existence of Ukraine as a state and identity. Everything else is either supporting artifice or propaganda.

  • Think of the outbreak of WW1. A silly and unimportant incident (in Sarajevo) was amplified by idiot nationalist diplomats and monarchs. The biggest catastrophe in Human history was triggered unintentionally by idiots. Jacob (May 7, 2022 at 10:11 am)

    1) Intellectuals like to think wars start by accident. The historical record indicates that the German government was ready for war in 1914, saw the assassination as ideal, and worked carefully and hard in July 1914 to translate it into a war. You can of course argue that they were very unwise indeed to do so – but they were unwise only as Putin now proves to have been unwise to have invaded the Ukraine. No more than he did they blunder unthinkingly, let alone “unintentionally” into war.

    2) “The biggest catastrophe in Human history”, you say. Most people would argue that WWII eclipsed WWI. A historian suggested that if WWI was ‘The Great War’ then WWII should be called ‘The Greatest War”. Other claimants include The Black Death.

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    The future expansion of NATO will be caused by Putin’s War. Ukraine had not been about to join NATO, but will probably apply for membership now. All of this is certainly an own goal. The only way for the war to end is if Putin has a stroke (He is 69!) and the next leader negotiates a peace.

  • Jacob

    Niall,
    WW2 was a direct continuation and result of WW1, so I bundle them together into the biggest catastrophe in Human history. And the Bolshevik Revolution too – it is arguably also a result of WW1. All three together surely qualify.

    The German government didn’t really understand what it was doing, and the Kaiser himself hesitated and had second thoughts, seems he was the most sober mind among all diplomats and Generals. It was the Generals that pushed for war (after Russia mobilized), despite Moltke being pessimistic and anticipating a German defeat.
    It turned out as if the French fought to protect the right of hothead nationalist Serbs to murder Austrian Archdukes.
    And the Russians forgot their humiliating defeat at the hands of the Japanese in 1905 (that is – the limited capabilities of their army), and the 1905 attempt at revolution. They went and risked their empire for Serbia.
    etc. etc.

  • Jacob

    “the violent extermination of Ukrainian nationhood and identity”… that sure is what many Russians (and Putin) dream about.
    Still, if we take the Finns as an example, or more recently, Georgia, I think they would have compromised for less.
    As you say – it’s a matter of opinion. It is something unknowable – an alternate history.

  • Jacob

    I hope the war in Ukraine won’t escalate into a nuclear war – which might easily happen, Gd forbid.
    I see the Ukrainian conflict as no less trifling incident than the ones that caused WW1 – “the greatest catastrophe in Human history” (so far).
    As to “NATO” – same process as the one who resulted in WW1 – I’m not sure NATO wants to risk a nuclear war with Russia over Ukraine, and don’t think they should. But you can easily get caught in the events and land where didn’t dream you could.

  • I see it as two idiot Nationalist hotheads, Putin and Zelensky, going to war over a silly border dispute. (Jacob, May 5, 2022 at 5:17 pm)

    Jacob’s “Putin and Zelensky, going to war” reminds me of the PC demand that we speak of native American tribes and the Mayflower pilgrims ‘encountering’ each other. Politically-correct heaven forfend we use terms that imply the ‘encounter’ required one of them to sail across the Atlantic ocean and the other merely to exist on its further shore.

    It was Putin who went to war. Zelensky was gone to war with. As I’ve reminded people before now,

    “The aggressor is always peace-loving; he would prefer to take over our country unopposed.” (Clausewitz)

    In that (and only that) sense, the defender always makes the final decision for war, just as “Your money or your life” forces the victim to make the final choice whether the crime will be theft or violence. They do not thereby cease to be the victim, nor acquire any of the guilt that belongs to the robber.

  • While many use the Hitler analogy as bobby b suggests (a substitute for thinking, explaining and/or justifying – that habit is too common all over the Godwin’s-law world), there is an obvious more literal late 1930s analogy. A ruler is invading one after another of the border countries his nation once ruled and the world is gradually waking up to the fact. The Ukraine – which has Russian-speaking areas on its borders but is mainly Ukrainian – looked set to play the role of western Czechoslovakia (numerous border-living Germans but the majority Czechs) – and the western smart set looked set to be even more effete than in 1938 and early 1939. However the Ukrainians wisely decided to channel the Finns, not the Czechs.

    Obviously the analogy breaks down in (several ways, one being that) we now know Hitler’s long term goal but – fortunately for the point of this post – have not at all the same certainty that Putin’s determination to recreate Imperial Russia contains the same immediate and unwavering intent to use that regained power to go far beyond or die trying.

    As regards another analogy – that satisfying the dictator’s demands for ‘security’ increases his neighbours’ insecurity – the question seems one of degree rather than kind.

    BTW, after he started this, did Putin ever promise that he had “no more territorial demands”. If he did not, the analogy breaks down there too, but I’ll let readers decide what they think that means. 🙂

  • Rob Fisher

    btw, I don’t know if anyone in the comments has noticed, but the video makes a strong case that there won’t be a nuclear war as a result of this conflict.

  • James Hargrave

    Czecho-Slovakia, the state that failed twice. Nation state of the mythical Czechoslovaks – in fact, a miniature version of the Hapsburg empire in its mixture of peoples and misaligned borders.

    Jugoslavia… The rulers of Serbia getting what they wanted and then, in the 1990s and 2000s, getting what they deserved in 1914?

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>