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Thoughts on Spheres of Influence

Sean Gabb writes:

Sending money and weapons into the black hole of corruption that is the Ukraine is not a worthwhile cause. It is not worth defending in itself, and it is in the Russian sphere of influence. We have no business there.

There’s quite a lot in that paragraph but it’s this idea of “spheres of influence” – so beloved of Jonathan Mearsheimer – that I am going to concentrate on.

What is a “sphere of influence” I wonder? I suppose it is an agreement between powerful states that one of them gets to control a third state’s domestic and foreign policy. The key word here is “agreement”. Has the United States, or Nato or any Western institution ever accepted that Ukraine was part of Russia’s sphere of influence? I don’t think so, not least because I don’t think that the US has ever formally accepted the idea of “spheres of influence”. At least not for the rest of the world. It claims it for itself. In the 1980s, the Reagan administration used to refer to Nicaragua and El Salvador as being in “America’s back yard”. In other words those states were not going to be given a choice as to which path they took even if Cuba was for some reason. Of course, in that case there was no one able to seriously contest America’s contention. That does not apply in Ukraine.

But other than Central America, does the US have spheres of influence? Is Britain, for instance, inside America’s sphere? It doesn’t seem to be. If it was we’d still be members of the EU. And I’d have an SLR on my wall. And as for France and Germany they might as well be herding cats. So, no, the concept of spheres of influence does not appear to be one that the US recognises. What it recognises – however imperfectly – is self-determination, freedom, democracy, that sort of thing. If you are a democracy, and embrace freedom, the US will support you if it can. Or, as John F Kennedy put it – words that are carved in stone on his memorial in Runnymede, “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

So, if anything, the war in Ukraine is not a battle over spheres of influence but a conflict between two completely different concepts of international relations.

For what it is worth I think the American doctrine will win. The prospect of freedom means that the Ukrainians have sky-high morale. The fact that they are being aided by free(-ish) countries means they have – or will have – vastly superior equipment.

53 comments to Thoughts on Spheres of Influence

  • Alexander Tertius Harvey

    Alternatively, as Madame Nhu put it in late 1963: “Whoever has the Americans as allies does not need enemies.”

  • On December 5, 1994, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the United States of America and the Ukraine signed the Budapest memorandum – the deal that relieved the Ukraine of its nuclear weapons in exchange for security assurances. This makes absurd the idea that the Ukraine is in a Russian sphere of influence, any more than in a US and/or UK one, as regards its defence.

    There are analogies with Belgium at the start of WWI, but also the difference that (IIUC) Belgium had a guarantee from the five powers that signed her treaty of 1839, whereas the stronger international-law term ‘guarantee’ was explicitly withheld from the Ukraine, which instead received an ‘assurance’ from each other signatory that if the Ukraine were attacked they would ‘immediately’ seek to assist her under the UN security council.

    So we have business there: an actual treaty obligation to provide ‘immediate assistance’, with the get-out clause that we could restrict ourselves to acting only with or through the security council – which does not mean that we cannot act without that.

    – Sean can say, if he wishes, that we should not have signed the treaty, but that does not alter the fact that we did – and so did Russia.

    – Sean can remark, if he thinks it matters, that we are not restricting ourselves strictly to assistance voted for by the security council, but the treaty only said we would do at least that, not that we would do no more.

    But the ‘spheres of influence’ argument is an utter non-starter. Britain and the US have the Russian Federation’s signature on a document stating that, when it comes to the defence of the Ukraine, we have a role.

  • For what it is worth I think the American doctrine will win. The prospect of freedom means that the Ukrainians have sky-high morale. The fact that they are being aided by free(-ish) countries means they have – or will have – vastly superior equipment.

    The Ukrainians have been under Russian/Soviet tyranny before and have no desire to return to that unhappy state. I suspect the attribution of “sky-high morale” is wrong, more like a “fierce determination to resist”. The Ukrainians should win in the end, primarily because of the corruption and incompetence of the opposing forces, but mostly because for them it is an existential battle.

    At some point, the Russians will resolve this with a bullet in the head of Putin and he knows that full well, hence all the long tables and other theatrics, but the longer matters go on (and deteriorate) the more that bullet looms.

  • Going back to the point about “Spheres of Influence”, while that sort of talk may have been appropriate from the age of Gunboat Diplomacy to the Great Powers period, it has little legitimacy post-1918 and its simplistic and patronising viewpoint that 3rd countries (like the various Balkan states) were puppet regimes of the Great Powers that triggered WW1 in the first place.

    American NIMBYism aside, the most recent example of Western application of “Spheres of Influence” that I can recall was the post-WWII percentages agreement between Stalin and Churchill circa 1944.

    Percentages Agreement

    That was nonsense on stilts when it was agreed, because Stalin had no intention of honouring any limitation on Soviet territorial expansion and Churchill had no means of enforcing any such agreement.

    It was even more worthless than the Munich Agreement.

  • Ferox

    The Monroe Doctrine was an explicit statement of the US’s sphere of influence in the New World, made almost 200 years ago.

    Re: Ukraine, I think the reasonable question the various states around the world need to answer for themselves is “Are we more safe, or less safe, if Russia is allowed to conquer Ukraine?”

    That’s it, really. All the moralizing and black hat/white hat stuff doesn’t belong in the considerations of international relations, IMHO.

    By the way, I think we in the US would be decidedly “less safe” if we allowed Russia to start taking over her neighbors. We have been down that road before.

  • I regard Gabb’s views on foreign affairs or race as dependable, like a compass that always pointing south.

    I would have been alarmed had I discovered he grasped it’s absolutely in UK interests to prevent Russia moving its borders westward. Thankfully, I find I can still use him to navigate by 😛

  • Mr Ed

    Ferox

    The Monroe Doctrine was an explicit statement of the US’s sphere of influence in the New World, made almost 200 years ago.

    And it was baseless then and is baseless now.

    OP: ‘What is a “sphere of influence” I wonder?

    Again, as I think the OP is saying, any such concept is baseless, anyone with a modicum of knowledge would know that the Ukraine was a member of the UN long before Russia was admitted in 1992. Russia can be deemed to have accepted the right to exits and integrity of the borders of all UN members when it joined.

    Extrapolating from the political to the personal, would the writer of the piece in question agree that if his rectum were in someone else’s ‘sphere of influence‘ it would be permissible for the owner of that ‘sphere’ to insert anything into it, regardless of the writer of the piece in question’s wishes? If not, why not?

    Put simply, the proposition of the piece in question is that ‘might is right‘, which is a recipe for unending struggle and war.

  • The existence of ANY sphere of influence is a direct challenge to the sovereignty of other genuinely sovereign nations (so excluding places like Puerto Rico).

    The hubris of another country, regardless of how strong or well intentioned saying “Country X is in my sphere of influence and therefore cannot Y”.

    The US has explicitly shown this in its position against Cuba since the 1960’s and Cold War proxy interventions in Latin and Southern America (Nicaragua, Chile, etc.)

    There MAY have been a justification during the Cold War, to avoid another nuclear flashpoint, but that aside I find the idea of an American sphere of influence as distasteful as a Russian, Chinese or even a British one. For all his strength during WW2, Churchill was an old fashioned imperialist and behaved like it to the end.

    Chinese attempts to occupy the South China Sea in opposition to the prior territorial rights of other South East Asian members is equally offensive and rightfully resisted by those nations.

  • bobby b

    If I’m standing near a man with bad flatulence, I’m within his sphere of influence. Not a question about my outlook, but a question of his reasonable reach.

    I think y’all are overthinking this. Any country sharing a border with Putin is definitely within his sphere of influence. Maybe “within a grenade throw” would be clearer?

    If Putin was coveting Mexico, it would not be as serious of a thing. He can’t reach out and touch Mexico. Shall we all deny that Taiwan is within China’s sphere of influence because we wish it weren’t so?

  • Mr Ed

    Any country sharing a border with Putin is definitely within his sphere of influence.

    Really? Red China, Norway and Poland too?

  • Paul Marks

    If 2019 I would not have voted for the person who won the Ukrainian Presidential election, but I am not Ukrainian and over 70% of the Ukrainian voted did vote for him – that was not corruption (the election was not rigged), they made a choice.

    Nor do I hate Russians – indeed a feel kinship and sympathy with the mixture of cynical despair and bursts of passionate defiance with which Russians tend to view the nature of human life. However, Mr Putin attacked – no one made him attack, he made a choice (the wrong choice).

    “But Paul this puts you on the same side as Mr Joseph Biden and other people you utterly despise”.

    If someone I despise says that 1+1=2, well I am not going to disagree with them.

    Russia will survive – it is not an “Empire” it is a nation, a great nation that stretches from the Baltic to the Pacific, from the Artic Ocean to the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. The People’s Republic of China will not make a colony of Russia – in spite of the terrible folly of Mr Putin (in many ways Mr Putin is a tool of the People’s Republic of China – just as some of his enemies in the West are ALSO tools of the People’s Republic of China). And both Russians and Ukrainians will know better days.

    I will never stand in Moscow or Saint Petersburg (although I would certainly like to, it will not happen) – but they will remain, and remain Russian (I am not so sure about Western cities), and they will see better days. As will Vladivostok and other Russian towns – long after Mr Putin has gone to the hot place where Ivan the Terrible and others wait for him.

    Where the Church bells ring, and the almost impossibly deep voices of the bearded men sing – there is Russia. Not even the Mongols or Stalin could destroy Russia.

  • Harry Haddock's Ghost

    Liberty and self determination for me, but not for thee, pesky Ukrainians.

    Sean Gabb yet again demonstrating that he is no Chris Tame.

  • Snorri Godhi

    I like the comments here. I’d like to add some comments of my own, but won’t do so tonight, because it will be easier to write comments after i buy a new keyboard, hopefully tomorrow.

  • lucklucky

    I suppose it is an agreement between powerful states that one of them gets to control a third state’s domestic and foreign policy. The key word here is “agreement”.

    I disagree, i think is enough that a country acts that way. There no need to be an agreement between “peers”
    For example the punishment that EU does against UK is based on that concept. Same for punishment that US, China, Russia etc do when don’t get what they want.

  • bobby b

    Mr Ed
    July 31, 2022 at 8:10 pm

    “Really? Red China, Norway and Poland too?”

    If they need to consider their behavior to take into account that Russia is right there next to them, yes. They are influenced by proximity to Russia.

    I don’t see any “allyship” factor within that term.

  • If they need to consider their behavior to take into account that Russia is right there next to them, yes. They are influenced by proximity to Russia.

    The issue here is entirely semantic (i.e. that isn’t really what “sphere of influence” means in geopolitical terms). Is Poland’s geopolitics ‘influenced’ by its proximity to Russia? Yes. Can Poland take geopolitical decision that Russia sees as against Russian interests? Also yes, such as joining NATO, allowing NATO troops to deploy in Poland, sending weapons to Ukraine etc.. Would a Russian military attack on Poland provoke an armed NATO response? Yes. In geopolitical terms, Poland is not in Russia’s sphere of influence.

    Is Belarus’ geopolitics ‘influenced’ by its proximity to Russia? Yes. Can Belarus take geopolitical decision that Russia sees as against Russian interests? Not really. If Belarusians overthrow Lukashenko and put Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya in power, and Russian forces already there occupy Minsk to either incorporate Belarus into Russia or impose a new puppet leader, will NATO intervene or send weapons to the democratic Belarusian Tsikhanouskaya govt? Unlikely for all sorts of reasons (unless Russia itself has more or less collapsed, in which case Belarus sort of turns into a ‘little Ukraine’ and all bets are off). Belarus is indeed in Russia’s sphere of influence.

  • Paul Marks

    Poland is a socially conservative nation that has little (if anything) in common with the rulers of the European Union and the rest of the (demented) “international community”. A wise Russian government could work to overcome historical hatreds and create a better relationship with Poland, but Russia does not have a wise government – it has the horribly misguided Mr Putin who has totally alienated the Polish people.

    Belarus – to (wealthy) Russians Belarus is “where we go to a casino – because they are banned in Russia”, for ordinary Russians, Belarus was “where we go to get away from lockdown” (oh yes – Mr Putin did have a Covid lockdown). Other than that Russians do not think about Belarus very much – it is mostly farmland, and there is plenty of farmland in Russia.

    Why does Belarus have a different government? Well Mr Putin can thank his hero Joseph “Stalin” for that – Stalin (like “Lenin” before him) pretended that Belarus was a different country – this gave him (for example) an extra seat in the United Nations.

    Both “Lenin” and “Stalin” also proclaimed that the UKRAINE was a different country – they said that from 1017 onwards, they did not MEAN it (they wanted the Ukraine under the control of Moscow), but it is what they SAID.

    So Mr Putin – you are hoisted on your own petard. Since 1917 your masters (including your hero “Stalin”) have proclaimed that the Ukraine is a different country – well the Ukrainians have decided to take Moscow at its word and are a different country.

    “We did not mean it – we were lying for 70 years” – sorry Mr Putin it is too late for that.

  • Paul Marks

    The language issue….

    Are Russian and Ukrainian really different languages? Yes they are – even the names of the months of the year are different, the Russian names for the months of the year derive from the names of Classical Civilisation (via Old Church Slavonic), the Ukrainian names of the months are traditional Slavic names (no not “Polish” names – traditional east Slavic names that Russians themselves once used).

    The two languages are quite different – someone who knows only Russian will get into a real mess if trying to communicate with someone who is speaking Ukrainian.

    Belarus? Belarusian is actually closer to Ukrainian than it is to Russian.

  • Paul Marks

    “Do not pull funny faces – because the wind may change and you will get stuck like that”.

    For 70 years Moscow said that the Ukraine (and Belarus) was a different country – well now it is a different country.

    Again it is too late to say “we were lying for 70 years – we did not mean it”, you twisted your face – and now you are stuck like it.

    Notice how careful that the People’s Republic of China, right from Mao onwards, has been to never to say that about an area under their control.

    Say, repeatedly, that somewhere is independent – and you are opening the door to one day it actually becoming independent.

  • Paul Marks

    “Lenin” proclaimed the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (notice that the word “Russia” was not even in the title – in theory Brazil or Australia could have joined the U.S.S.R), Mao proclaimed the “People’s Republic of CHINA” (my emphasis).

    The rulers of the Han have no problem at all in destroying ethnic groups (or making them a minority it what was once their own country) – once an area comes under China it has “always been part of China” (history is rewritten – and the existing ethnic population dealt with).

    “Stalin” (a Marxist Georgian) murdered millions of Ukrainians – but it did not occur to him to eliminate the Ukrainians totally.

    Under Mao, or his Chinese Communist Party successors, there would be no Ukraine – it would have “never existed”, and the population would be quite different.

  • Lord T

    I don’t think the Ukraine will win and I believe the US, and the West, have lost their way. The US interfere with everything, break their own laws and show the world what a farce the have made of their republic. They are now little different from a tin pot republic except in size. Their star is waning and we are just as bad.

    For the first time in my life I think I am on the wrong side of history.

  • Chester Draws

    The Monroe Doctrine was an explicit statement of the US’s sphere of influence in the New World, made almost 200 years ago.

    No.

    We owe it, therefore, to candor and to the amicable relations existing between the United States and those powers to declare that we should consider any attempt on their part to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and safety. With the existing colonies or dependencies of any European power, we have not interfered and shall not interfere. But with the Governments who have declared their independence and maintained it, and whose independence we have, on great consideration and on just principles, acknowledged, we could not view any interposition for the purpose of oppressing them, or controlling in any other manner their destiny, by any European power in any other light than as the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States.

    The Monroe Doctrine is that no-one is to attempt to extend a sphere of influence in the Americas. It does not say, and does not mean, that the Americas is inside the USA’s “sphere of influence”.

    Mostly the USA has kept itself clear of direct interference in other American countries, except to:

    1) defend the Monroe Doctrine.

    2) attempt to defeat Communism.

    3) faff about with the Panama Canal.

    It has never attempted to control the Americas as such, except the Panama Canal. Sometimes it has attempted to protect US commercial interests, but not extended it much past that.

  • Freddo

    “Sphere of influence” may be a somewhat nebulous concept, what springs to mind is the quote “I know it when I see it” (used by US Supreme Court justice Steward Potter in a case about obscenity, so using it in relation to international diplomacy seems sufficiently appropriate).

    But in these more modern times nations no longer use spheres of influence for a casus-belli, you can simply reference to human rights, allowing for almost unlimited opportunities for special military operations. No doubt the people in Libya or Syria are very grateful for the liberty that the US has bestowed on them.

  • Jacob

    Everybody would like (for example) Tibet or Hong Kong to be free countries. The problem is – capability is lacking.
    So – “sphere of influence” is a function of capability… not of agreements..

  • The Wobbly Guy

    Agree with bobby.

    This is overthinking the issue.

    At the end of the day, Russia isn’t going to be pushed back all the way to its pre-war borders. The only questions that remain are:
    1. How much longer until both sides decide they have had enough?
    2. Where will be the new borders?

    All the righteousness in the world isn’t going to matter unless significant numbers of the people in the Free World (say… hundreds of thousands) are willing to up stakes and go to Ukraine to fight. That isn’t happening. In fact, quite a number actually prohibit their citizens from going over to fight, my country Singapore being one of them.

    I’ve read Kherson is the key. The Ukrainians are gearing up to try to take it, the Russians obviously want to hold it and secure the water supply for the Crimea.

    The answers to the two questions will, IMHO, be decided after the Ukrainians have shot their bolt at taking Kherson.

    A lot of interesting info here.
    https://www.unz.com/isteve/kherson/#comments

    But a lot of noise too. Believe at your own risk.

  • Jacob

    Like most wars, this war will end when one or both sides get tired. Or beaten – which seems not to be the case here. Chances are that after some more attrition and life loss and destruction the war will end more or less where it began.

  • Martin

    Is Britain, for instance, inside America’s sphere? It doesn’t seem to be. If it was we’d still be members of the EU. And I’d have an SLR on my wall. And as for France and Germany they might as well be herding cats

    And yet despite Brexit, it’s curious how British foreign policy still largely aligned with Washington and Brussels outside a few issues.

    And despite its pretensions, I don’t think anyone outside the EU, bar deluded extreme remainers in the UK, considers the EU a rival superpower to Washington. Seems unlikely the Eurozone will usurp the dollar. Outside a few dissenters, like Hungary, EU foreign policy largely seems to be dependent on Washington for its lead. The Ukraine War has only reinforced how dependent militarily, and diplomatically the EU relies on American support. Macron’s EU army idea appears a joke and most European states have hugged closer to NATO rather than trust EU security arrangements.The US accounts for 70pc of NATO funding, and the alliance would likely fall to pieces if the US left it. American cultural liberalism has been adopted almost wholesale by many European elites and intellectuals.

    So perhaps the US hasn’t pressured Europe (including the UK) into a sphere of influence, but it looks like the latter have opted for subservience to the United States.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Niall writes: On December 5, 1994, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the United States of America and the Ukraine signed the Budapest memorandum – the deal that relieved the Ukraine of its nuclear weapons in exchange for security assurances. This makes absurd the idea that the Ukraine is in a Russian sphere of influence, any more than in a US and/or UK one, as regards its defence.

    Spot on.

    Ukraine is a sovereign nation. I remembered, about more than three decades ago, that Sean Gabb used to be very exercised by the idea of the UK leaving the European Union, and how he waxed lyrical about the need for sovereign independence and the UK’s standing as a nation state. It now appears that he thinks some nation states are less equal than others, and that he subscribes to the idea that it should bow to Moscow, because whatever.

    On a slightly separate note, here is Dr Yaron Brook eviscerating Jordan Peterson, who in my opinion is becoming increasingly potty. JP has sounded like he is making excuses about Russia and Putin’s conduct. No doubt his defenders will deny it, but I think he is making excuses, and deserves to be kicked for it. (From my understanding, Dr Peterson underwent treatment for his addiction to medication in Russia, and his sojourn in Russia may have affected his views.)

  • And yet despite Brexit, it’s curious how British foreign policy still largely aligned with Washington and Brussels outside a few issues.

    Not curious at all. UK & much of Europe have similar interests on most but not all foreign policy issues.

  • Pat

    It seems to me that the West’s failing WRT Ukraine has been indecisiveness.
    We could have accepted Ukraine into the EU and NATO, thus making it clear to Russia that an invasion would meet serious resistance.
    We could have made it plain that Ukraine would be kept out of these organisations, effectively putting Ukraine within the Russian sphere of influence in the same way that Belarus is.
    But we sent mixed messages, tempting Putin to try it on.

  • Jacob

    “It seems to me that the West’s failing WRT Ukraine has been indecisiveness.”
    As I said above – it’s a matter of capabilities. The self delusion that the “West” can do anything it wishes but suffers from “indecisiveness” is false. It suffers from incapability.
    Neither should the “West” risk to sacrifice it’s people for distant and unrelated conflicts and go to war for dubious causes.

  • Jacob

    I happened to speak to a German some weeks ago. He said: “we have 6 submarines, none of which is seaworthy”. Same for 75% of the “Luftwaffe”.
    The US is much better. Perhaps 50% of their war vessels and military aircraft are operational.

  • Jacob

    Jordan Peterson:
    “And it‘s wishful thinking to imagine that this war will end with the ignominious departure of a Putin in disgrace. Not only is he popular, but he is arguably much less terrible than almost any leader that has preceded him for a century in Russia. That may be damning with faint praise.”
    Correct.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Pat: But we sent mixed messages, tempting Putin to try it on.

    I agree. I also add that Germany’s and other countries’ importation of Russian gas, and the willingness of many nations to take Russian cash (and turn a blind eye to money laundering) has created a climate of opinion favourable to letting Putin “try it on”. The same applies to the often weak and uncertain reactions to the other various incursions and problems that Putin and his former KGB goons have caused to the West since Putin’s rise 20 years ago.

    Part of the issue (and this is not an excuse, but I am trying to explain it) is that a lot of people were so pleased that the Cold War, as they saw it, was over, that they wanted to believe the idea that, given sufficient prosperity and exposure to Western ideas, that Russia/China etc would adapt. The West forgot the example of how China, for example, increasingly shut itself off from the rest of the world in the late Middle Ages, because it preferred to do things its way than interact with the anarchic West. And I see something similar going on with Putin; he exploits Western gullibility and perceived weakness, but is ultimately repelled by the West, and wants to put a fence between what he thinks are the right borders of the Russian imperium and the rest of the world.

    One paradox is that Russia is so enormous, and borders so many other nations (many of which it has attacked, and which have hit back, and so on) that its paranoia gets ever greater. The more “buffer zones” it craves, the more hated it is, and the more hated, the more it tries to control space, and so the dance goes on. Until it is confronted, bloodily.

    My thinking is that in the long term, the world will be a better place if Russia breaks up.

  • Paul Marks

    The British government did NOT send mixed messages – it was very clear that Mr Putin must NOT invade the Ukraine.

    It is true that Mr Biden got confused at one point and started to qualify what had been a clear message – but I do not believe this was some sort of Western conspiracy, Mr Biden is hopelessly SENILE – he does not know what he is saying.

    I am about the least “Woke” person on the planet – if I had my way physical gold would be money and all “Diversity” Officers would be sacked, but I am tired of people making excused for Mr Putin.

    Mr Putin did not have to invade Ukraine – it was no threat to him (none). He made a choice – and it was the wrong choice.

    “But Ukraine can not win” – defeatist messages become self fulfilling prophecies if military aid is cut off.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Paul, 100%.

  • Jacob

    ““But Ukraine can not win” – defeatist messages become self fulfilling prophecies if military aid is cut off.”
    Wishful thinking and romantic nonsense beliefs caused 10 million Ukrainians to lose their homes and living and flee to the “west”. And a good portion of Ukrainian cities to be reduced to rubble. And it’s not finished yet…
    Defeatist messages or not – this is the reality in Ukraine.

  • Snorri Godhi

    People spouting about “spheres of influence” should look at a physical map of Europe and try to draw a line at the boundary between the Russian and EU/US/Western “spheres of influence”.

    It seems to me that, if the Russian “sphere of influence” extends beyond the Russian and Belorussian borders, then it extends all the way to the Channel and the Pyrenees.

  • bobby b

    Snorri Godhi
    August 2, 2022 at 6:41 pm

    People spouting about “spheres of influence” should look at a physical map of Europe and try to draw a line at the boundary between the Russian and EU/US/Western “spheres of influence”.

    Perhaps the Venn diagram of the “spheres of influence” of the top five nations of the world looks like this:

    O

    (I think it’s an outmoded concept.)

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Jacob: your mindset is why a cunt like Putin thinks he can get away with this sort of thing. Because you are saying that the correct response to naked aggression is to run.

  • Wishful thinking and romantic nonsense beliefs caused 10 million Ukrainians to lose their homes and living and flee to the “west”. And a good portion of Ukrainian cities to be reduced to rubble. And it’s not finished yet…
    Defeatist messages or not – this is the reality in Ukraine.

    That’s the level of defeatism AND cowardice I’ve come to expect from the demoralised. Maybe quit reading The Guardian, The BBC (or possibly Pravda). Not sure which one is worse nowadays.

    The Ukrainians have every likelihood of turning the Russian tide, even without the Russians putting a bullet through Putin’s head (or indeed doing it himself, if he’s still physically capable), because the soldiers have no dog in this fight, they literally don’t give a shit about it. Whereas the Ukrainians are fighting against a foe who they know full well will reduce them to slavery under despotism. It is the definition of an existential fight.

    What is certain is that if those supporting Ukrainian resistance waver and give way to defeatist attitudes then the Ukrainians will certainly lose to some degree or other.

    Слава Україні!

  • Snorri Godhi

    It’s not just the Ukrainians who are determined to resist: the Poles and Baltics (and Rumanians?) are determined, too.

    And let’s not be too harsh on the Germans. The fact that Putin is sending less gas to Germany than the Germans desire, suggests that Putin does not need German money. The German mistake seems to be to become dependent on Russia, rather than to finance Russia. (A mistake in which Orban and Hungary persist.)

    It is “Biden” who finances Russia by inflating oil+gas prices. This cannot be repeated too often.

    See also this essay by a German in the Baltics.

    NB: “let’s not be too harsh to the Germans” does not mean “let’s never utter criticism of the Germans”.

  • Jacob

    Johnathan:
    “correct response to naked aggression is to run.”
    Depends on your capabilities.

  • Paul Marks

    Jacob you are choosing the wrong side here.

    Mr Putin invaded Ukraine – I am no fan of the Ukrainian government, and I am NOT an enemy of the Russian people. Mr Putin invaded – and he must be resisted.

    Blaming the resistance for the suffering of Ukrainians on their resisting invasion, or on the British government for sending them military aid, is wrong – it is Mr Putin who is responsible for these things.

    What would you say if Mr Putin invaded Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania – after all they were under the rule of Moscow when he was young, as was Poland and Romania, and Bulgaria, and Hungary, and eastern Germany.

    Would you say something about “depends on your capabilities”?

    Would you say the same thing if the Communist Party bandits who control China invaded Taiwan?

    There is nothing polite to say about such things an attitude – so I will stop here.

  • Depends on your capabilities

    Nope. Depends on the logistic capabilities of your backers and your own willingness to fight. That is why Russia will eventually lose.

    Israel survived because it has the willingness to fight and has a backer willing to support them sufficiently. Same for Ukraine.

  • bobby b

    “Israel survived because it has the willingness to fight and has a backer willing to support them sufficiently.”

    I’d hate to have to depend on Joe Biden’s resolve and steadfastness. Israel isn’t surviving based on him. I fear that Ukraine is, and that’s a shaky base.

  • You really think Joe Biden is making strategic US policy decisions?

    Presidents come and go, Israel (and indeed Ukraine) are supported over the long term not because of transient politicians but because of enduring geostrategic interests.

  • Jacob

    It was a border dispute from the beginning, Ukraine could have accepted the (lesser) occupied territories by Russia in 2014 and avoided war. Nobody comments on the 10-12 million Ukraine refugees, almost a third of the population…
    You all maintain your heads in a righteous moral cloud bewailing the vileness of Putin and forgetting the hardheadedness of Ukrainian nationalists. And the practical shortcomings of the Americans (Europe is irrelevant).
    All this doesn’t make Putin’s aggression right, but painting this war as a moral crusade by righteous Ukrainians is one sided and false.

  • “It was a border dispute from the beginning (Jacob, August 4, 2022 at 2:46 pm)

    How inept then of Putin to give the impression in February that he was aiming to occupy the whole country, causing Biden to ask (beg) him to take just the border areas instead. It makes it look like Putin failed in his real aim and now just wants a consolation prize to avoid looking like a total loser. 🙂

    painting this war as a moral crusade by righteous Ukrainians is one sided and false.

    We can’t paint it as a crusade, moral or otherwise!! Crusaders are people who travel from their home country to somewhere else and fight there. Ukrainians can’t be crusaders while staying on their own soil resisting people who have travelled into their own country from somewhere else to fight them. 🙂

  • bobby b

    “Presidents come and go, Israel (and indeed Ukraine) are supported over the long term not because of transient politicians but because of enduring geostrategic interests.”

    Israel has been supported by the US because of a story of heroic survival and by a commonality of interests and values, spanning almost a century. We all grew up on stories of Ben-Gurion and Begin and Dayan and Irgun over here. It was like witnessing the beginnings of America all over again in our mythology. They were truly our Good Guys, the small plucky warriors standing against the murderous muslim hordes.

    We have no such tradition involving Ukraine. We know that The Big Guy was getting his 10%, but that’s about all we know. Right or wrong in our common ignorance, we’re not overly motivated to view Ukraine as Israel II. Putin sucks, but there’s no countering merit to Ukraine that we see such as Israel holds in our minds.

    And I can’t help but view some recent occurrences and statements over here as implying that Biden et al – no, not just Joe, but the organization fronted by Joe – might be feeling some disillusionment.

    Let’s just say that the thoroughly unprincipled Joe Biden fairly represents the resoluteness and staunchness of this admin’s support for Ukraine. I would be nervous were I in Ukraine.

  • bobby b

    Oops, sorry, the Big Guy’s 10% was a Chinese deal, but it’s clear he was in for a part of the Ukraine deals also.

  • bobby b (August 4, 2022 at 8:22 pm), it might just be that Biden is in some way honestly (whether or not mistakenly) concerned about Zelensky, but given the extreme rarity of honesty (even an honest mistake) where Biden is concerned, could it be they need to send a message to Ukrainian officials not to be too forthcoming about this.

  • bobby b

    ” . . . could it be they need to send a message to Ukrainian officials not to be too forthcoming about this.”

    I see the same, with a slightly different emphasis. I see Zelensky sending a message to FJB recently that, should US support wane, there’s more info and e-mails to come. FJB really doesn’t want a lot of scrutiny over his past few years vis-a-vis Ukraine. Neither do his pals for whom he fronts.

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