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If grandma had balls, she’d be grandpa

Dear Noah, thank you for your last contribution to this discussion. I particularly appreciate the title of your last piece given how neatly it maps onto a similar phrase about how “Real Communism hasn’t been tried”.

The thrust of your position, which is shared by a surprising number of people I respect and hold in high regard in Western heterodox circles, is that “if we could negotiate with Putin, wouldn’t that be better than war?” And I agree: if we could negotiate with Putin, that would be better than than war. But I’m afraid it brings to mind a rather “transphobic” saying we have in Russia:

“If grandma had balls, she’d be grandpa.”

Forgive me, but I’m afraid you’ve forgotten who we are talking about.

In 2008, shortly after Russia’s invasion of South Ossetia, Vladimir Putin explained that “Crimea is Ukrainian. It is not disputed territory. Russia has long recognised and accepted the borders of today’s Ukraine”. When pushed, he further explained that [the suggestion that Russia would invade Crimea] “reeks of provocation”.

Three months before the annexation of Crimea, in December 2013, Vladimir Putin told journalists that the idea of Russia sending troops into any part of Ukraine, including Crimea, was “complete nonsense that cannot and will not happen”.

Konstantin Kisin observing that anyone arguing for good faith negotiations with Putin is in the grips of delusional wishful thinking.

22 comments to If grandma had balls, she’d be grandpa

  • Steven R

    What was there to negotiate? Stay on your side of the line on the map.

    I’ve been saying for years, what every country needs to do is just start making national borders out of those bars we use on conveyor belts at the grocery store to separate orders. Just set those out and that’s it, no more war ever. It’s just the rule: you don’t go past that bar. It’s like stuff in the fridge. If it has a name on it, you don’t get to touch it. No name means it’s free game. We’re trying to live in a civilization, so let’s act like it.

    I’m sure the Nobel Peace Prize committee will be calling me any day now to let me know I’ve won.

  • KJP

    In reply to Steven R: Apparently the sandwich that I had at work today was called Michael Smith.

  • george m weinberg

    That’s a Russian saying? I had heard it was a Jewish saying. The version I heard in Texas is “if my grandmother had wheels she’d be a wagon”, which I think makes much more sense.

  • David Levi

    I had heard it was a Jewish saying.

    Jews think every saying is a Jewish saying 😀

  • Paul Marks

    Given his record, in regard to Russians as well as other people, I do not believe Mr Putin can be trusted – so an agreement with him would not be worth the paper it was written on.

    “Puppet of the Western regimes!” – NO, I utterly despise the regime in the United States and so on, but I do not trust Mr Putin either.

    In some ways they are similar – media and education system indoctrination, rigged elections, corrupt court system, Covid lockdowns (yes Mr Putin did that as well), no respect for private property rights.

  • Patrick Crozier

    Give war a chance!

  • bobby b

    Negotiation will need to await Putin’s successors – which indicates what the next step must be.

  • Fred Z

    I would like to see a list of national leaders who can be trusted to negotiate honestly and honour any agreement and commitment they make.

    It’ll be damn short.

  • Paul Marks

    Mr Putin is not well – but the real question is whether there will be a real break with the Soviet past.

    Russia has, for example, not had a sound monetary and financial system since at least 1914 – the defenders of Mr Putin keep saying that he is going to establish a gold Ruble – but he never does. If Russia is to be free of the “banksters” (and so on) then it needs to be established, indeed the system needs to be much stricter than it was before 1914 – not a “Gold Standard” (which allowed for much cheating) but one-for-one gold money – there can be electronic transfers of ownership of such money (Credit Cards and so on) – but the gold that the Ruble represents needs to physically exist in the possession of those people who claim to have it. And bank lending must be of Real Savings (the actual sacrifice of consumption) – not Credit Money expansion.

    Only in this way can such things as real democracy in Russia, a free press and so on, rest on solid foundations.

    “But Paul, Western nations do not have such a monetary and financial system”.

    I know that – the horrific state of affairs is well known to me. It is, for example, why I just woke up calling out in my despair – my apologies to the neighbours.

    The present deplorable state of the political system in such nations as the United Kingdom and the United States is the result of the deplorable state of the monetary and financial system – which has reduced “the markets” to various corporations which are backed by the credit money of the Central Banks.

    That is not a good alternative for Russia – indeed that monetary and banking insanity in the Russia of the 1990s (on the advice of the Clinton Administration) is what led people to turn to Mr Putin in the first place. The Russian people were wiped out economically in the 1990s – just as ordinary people in the West are now being wiped out economically.

    And, after 22 years, I think we can assume that Mr Putin is not going to establish gold money (not a “gold standard” – gold money, although the ownership of that gold may be transferred electronically) and banking that is about Real Savings (the actual sacrifice of consumption) rather than fiat money and credit bubbles.

  • Negotiation will need to await Putin’s successors

    Putin’s successor is just as likely to be someone promising to fight the war in Ukraine more effectively rather than end it.

  • Paul Marks

    Sadly, there is already a sign that Perry may be correct – I watched (via the wonders of modern technology) a video conference of various Russian ministers and officials setting up a procurement and supply system for the Russian army in Ukraine – “our President” (Mr Putin) “has given the armed forces an objective – now we must give them the means to achieve the objective”.

    The obvious subtext being “because Mr Putin has not provided a modern procurement and supply system – because he is ignorant of such things”.

    Mr Putin did not even take part in the meeting – although the Russian Prime Minister did, so Russia may already be moving into the “post Putin” period.

    Russians do not like to lose, they really do not like to lose (they do not shout and scream and then get over it – as Americans do, or make a joke and then go back to declining – as the British do), Russians do what is necessary to win.

    Of course, Ukrainians are the same as Russians in this respect – although neither side may like that point, it is the truth.

    Both Russians and Ukrainians do what is necessary to win – even if it means death, includ9ing their own death.

    “No one lives for ever – including me” is very Slav.

    In the latter stages of the Winter War the Finns found that some Russians had changed tactics – they had abandoned their rigid formations and started to fight the Finns on their own terms.

    “Who ordered you to do this?” – “No one – in fact we are breaking orders and will be executed or sent to the camps”.

    “Then why are you doing this – if your own side will kill you for doing it?”

    “Because Russia is a great nation – Russia must not lose”.

    Note “Russia” not “the Soviet Union”.

    To win this war, to really win this war, the Ukrainian side must turn Russians against the regime in Moscow – turn Russian ferocity against the regime itself. Russian patriotism must become associated with OPPOSING the regime.

    Russia is a great nation – a great people and culture, make no mistake about that. Russian patriotism must not be insulted – it must be praised, and turned AGAINST the regime.

  • Russians do what is necessary to win.

    Oh I don’t know, Russian has convincingly lost quite a few wars over the years.

    Russia is a great nation – a great people and culture, make no mistake about that

    It certainly is a very big nation (and empire). But I have much less flattering views regarding Russian culture & not just recent Russian culture. As did Kipling as it happens.

  • bobby b

    “The obvious subtext being “because Mr Putin has not provided a modern procurement and supply system – because he is ignorant of such things”.”

    Putin thought he was going after a rabbit, and brought his .22 rifle. Oops. Turns out to be a wolf. He really needs his .30-06. So now his generals are reorganizing his material requirements.

    But to re-org the outfitting of the (now) full-fledged war, they also need to bring along the Russian people, who may not be all that enthused about it. They were pumped for a quick police action to put the Ukr’s in their place. But will they stay pumped for war? Real war? Many people who know better than I seem to doubt it.

    Problem is, Ukraine’s supporting nations also brought .22’s, and now realize they need missiles. Missiles are much more expensive than the rifles they thought they could get away with, and so support seems to be flagging.

    In short, it seems like most everyone wants this to be over except Putin and a few hard-liner nationalists with little popular support.

  • Steven R

    In short, it seems like most everyone wants this to be over except Putin and a few hard-liner nationalists with little popular support.

    Change Putin to George III and Lord North and you have the American Revolution in a nutshell. I don’t know why, but that amuses me for some reason.

  • Rich Rostrom

    Yiddish: “If mine bubby was a mensch, she’d be mine zaidie.”

    USMC: “And if his aunt had balls, she’d be his uncle.”

  • Paul Marks

    Perry – I never said that Russia always wins wars. But Russians do take their country seriously.

    They do not just make jokes whilst their country declines – which is, too often, the British approach. The key is to take Russian patriotism away from the regime – and help Russians to see that the regime in Moscow is not patriotic, that is actually a threat to Russia.

    In the end only Russians themselves can destroy this regime.

    Russia needs more private property in land – most land is still owned by the government.

    Russia also needs honest money (commodity money, something that people value before-and-apart-from its use as money – historically that has been such things as silver and gold, in the future it may be Bitcoin – which I do not understand, I admit that).

    And Russia needs to end Credit Bubble banking and go over to lending from Real Savings, the actual sacrifice of consumption, for productive investment (not consumption – government or private),

    But then all this is true of all countries.

    In some ways Russia is, at least potentially, in a better position than the United Kingdom – it has more farmland and raw materials, and it is not saturated in debt.

    On the United Kingdom – well, to cite the old Irish saying, “I would not start from here”, but here is where we have to start from.

    We sneer at Russian corruption (which is indeed terrible), but sadly we have plenty of corruption of our own (for example, billions upon billions of Pounds of Covid money going to certain corporations -) – and our top rate of tax is 45% rather than 13%.

    As for London being a safe haven for money depositing and property buying – the action against various Russians in Britian and other Western countries has been noted by non-Russians.

    London is not a “safe haven” – it follows the same political agenda as New York.

    Even Switzerland fell in line with political sanctions against businesspeople with the “wrong” nationality.

    Keep your money in something physical (not lights on Western computer screens – lights that can be turned off at any time), and keep it under your personal control – do not trust your gold (or whatever) to Western banks, Western financial institutions follow a political line.

    Again – this is not just a lesson that Russians have learned, everyone knows this now. The West is not a “safe haven” for money, or for property buying. Especially NOT the United States – places such as New York City are a nightmare.

    “But money keeps flowing into the United States” – the money of fools, who deserve to lose it.

  • Jacob

    Perry – I never said that Russia always wins wars.
    Which war have they lost? Maybe Afghanistan in 1980?
    Sure, East Europe cut free in 1990 but without war – Russia just gave up it’s rule there.
    Russia wins more wars than the US, lately. It’s because they are brutal and unsensitive to losses. And unwavering over the long run.
    Don’t underestimate Russia. Surely not vs. the Ukraine – which is wholly dependent on US support. And US support is known to be fickle and fast tiring.

  • Paul Marks

    Jacob – oh Russia has lost wars.

    Moscow was sacked – several times.

    But Russians keep a certain level of hate in their hearts – and that is important, it means they come back.

    I mean that – I think of a certain Star Trek episode in the 1960s.

    Captain Kirk is divided into two people – one good the other evil. A freak accident has done this – and the two men are running around on the same ship at the same time (it is not a “Mirror Universe” episode – they-are-the-same-man).

    The evil Kirk is a would-be murderer, and a would-be rapist – and a COWARD, the idea that he might be killed (or even suffer much) terrifies him.

    The good Kirk has logic (reason) and morality – he is also brave, prepared to lay down his life for what is right.

    But he cannot function as Captain – he cannot risk pain and death on other people, especially innocent people, “the power of command begins to allude you” as Mr Spock puts it, the good Kirk finds it harder and harder to make decisions – decisions that involve lying, or inflicting pain on the innocent, or risking their lives.

    A population that is entirely like that cannot survive – not in the long run. They are people who will not even stop their own cities being taken over by other groups – because they would have to be nasty to stop this happening.

    Of course, neither can a population made up of the evil version of Kirk – which is what Putin and co are more like now.

    People who will run away rather than risk their own lives.

    There must be a balance of good and evil in a leader, and in a population.

    A population that is too nice will not survive – and a population that is too nasty does not deserve to survive.

  • Paul Marks

    When some of the young, and not so young, discover that Winston Churchil was not entirely nice (for example that he favoured the interests of his people over others) they assume he was like Adolf Hitler, but this is not so.

    Winston Churchill was a mixed person, and had to be. He could not be purely nice – a purely nice person cannot function as a real leader.

    A purely nice person becomes a doormat.

    As for anger and hate – even Aristotle understood that in the correct circumstances, and moderated by the opposite feelings, they have their role.

  • Kirk

    @Paul Marks,

    I would suggest, strongly, that taking ones beliefs from a second-rate (charitably…) science fiction television series might be an exercise fraught with trivialities and trite takes on things.

    Gene Roddenberry was a nutter. He had great artistic instincts, but the man was a nutter, period. Like most artists. I could reel off thousands of other examples, and I also have to point out that the idea of using fiction as an example of anything is a desperately unserious thought process in the first place.

    Quote me Sun Tzu, Confucius, Marcus Aurelius… Anyone with a depth of thought, pray tell. Pop culture? Nope. Your arguments are dead before they even leave the gate, particularly from that source.

    In direct opposition to your “mix of good and evil being necessary”, I would like to propose the real-world observation that most nations actually tend to go on as they begin, and it’s only rarely that you find cases where they overcome those initial rootstock ideas and cultural inputs. The Romans were what we have come to believe (do note the emphasis there: Believe.) in as exemplars of high culture. Do not, I pray, ask the Gauls or the Dacians for their opinions, should you wish to maintain that set of illusions. The Romans were assholes, pure and simple; they plundered and raped allies and enemies alike, taking whatever they could wherever they could by strength of arm and brute force. If you had Rome as a neighbor today, you’d be feel about them the way the Poles and others feel about Russia: Threatened. Because that’s what they are. Threats.

    There’s an argument to be made that both the United States and the United Kingdom are both delusionally prone to thinking of others as being “just like themselves”. They’re not; there is a qualitative difference between those things done by the US and the UK. Yes, the UK has historically been a bit prone to taking things that don’t properly belong to it, but at the same time, they’ve also been awfully prone to doing things like wiping out the external African slave trade.

    Granted, they did profit from it mightily, there at the beginning.

    Russia would not have ever, ever acted to stop the slave trade. That’s altruism that they’re just not capable of.

    Not everyone is like that, however. While there’s been both good and bad with the the two most recent global hegemons, the US and the UK, the raw fact is that I rather doubt you can say the same about many other wannabe global despots. Russia has a certain historical set of facts to overcome, not the least of which is that they’ve behaved as assholes to all of their neighbors. Nobody in Russia who isn’t an ethnic Russian actually likes Russia or Russians. With good and sufficient historical reasons; look at any Russian conquest. Are the people there any better off than they were before the Russians showed up to rape, pillage, and burn? Nope; all of them universally decry what Russia has done to them.

    The Russian legacy in its former satrapies will not be good. I think there’s a really solid chance that you’re going to see what happened to the ethnic Germans happen to ethnic Russians across the length and breadth of former Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union. Surviving Russians are going to be lucky if they get out with much more than the clothes on their backs, TBH. The rest of them are going to be filling shallow graves all around the former conquests. They’re not well-liked, the Russians. With good damn reason; look at what they’re doing in Ukraine. If you think a lot of ethnicities in Russian territory aren’t looking at what is going on there and thinking “Y’know… The Ukrainians used to be “almost as good” as another Russian, to the Russians; now look at them… What the hell are they going to do to us?”

    The answer to that question is going to cause a lot of heartache and lead to a bunch of dead ethnic Russians. I suspect that “Russia” may well consist only of that which was the Duchy of Muscovy, before the end of this century. Unless their victims decide to end them permanently and forever.

    Sorta the way the “German Problem” was solved after ’45, across much of Central and Eastern Europe…

  • Steven R

    Kirk wrote: “Russia would not have ever, ever acted to stop the slave trade. That’s altruism that they’re just not capable of.”

    Maybe not on the international level, but they did emancipate both household- and state-owned serfs in Russia in 1861 and 1866 respectively, although I suspect it was more because Alex II wanted to avoid a serf rebellion that ended with he and his twisting on the end of a rope.

  • Jussi

    Surely that’s a Finnish saying, just use aunt and uncle.