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 – Росію необхідно перемогти edition

Putin’s insecurity might start with anxiety about his personal future, but he has extended this into a vision for Russia that involves a permanent struggle with the West and its liberalism. There is little NATO can do about this vision except to ensure Russia’s defeat in Ukraine. Trenin’s bleak logic works both ways. There is no turning back for either side. Putin’s future and that of his inner circle is a matter for the Russian elite. The fragmentation of the Russian Federation is not, despite allegations, desired by Western governments in that this would be a source of yet more upset and instability. By and large they would prefer that Russia held together – but again this is not up to them. Moscow’s decision to use outlying regions as a source of military recruits to pursue a catastrophic war means that it will have to cope with the consequences. Whether or not an alternative liberal and democratic vision for Russia can develop in the future, upon which any more stable European security order depends, will also be up to Russians. The West can help if there is something to work with for the consequences of continued chaos and anger will be dire, but the first requirement will be a different sort of leader in the Kremlin, with a strong enough political base to confront the harsh reality of Russia’s situation. In the end the biggest threats to Russian security do not lie outside its borders but inside its capital.

Lawrence Freedman

Thoughts on immigration

“What’s peculiar is that it is often those who have most faith the in ability of government to fix complex and deep-seated problems, like poverty, poor education or climate change, who seem most fatalistic when it comes to the most basic of state functions: policing our territory.”

Juliet Samuel, Daily Telegraph. (£)

Of course, the peculiarity of this is less peculiar when one reflects that a lot of those who wanted to allow the entire world to settle in the UK, no questions asked, do so because they subscribe to the “altruist” idea (in the Ayn Rand use of that word) that the most moral thing in the world is to give up a greater value in return for a lesser, or preferably, in return for nothing, not even a word of thanks. It is better to destroy our borders and undermine the notion that citizenship carries with it certain responsibilities, than to refuse it; it is better to trash industrial progress and comfort, in the name of combatting a supposed climate change menace, even if it means condemning billions to misery, because the Earth has some sort of intrinsic value, and so on. At the heart of the attitudes from those who want to stop policing the borders of nation states is a sort of anti-values forcefield that sucks all reason and logic into a hole.

Nations that cannot police their borders aren’t nations, and indeed, the very idea of a shared community, even the most libertarian one, where the State is vanishingly small, are gone if there is no border. Even if that border is just a line in the map, rather than a wall, or fence, or set of Customs posts, borders are like fences. They make for good neighbours. Neighbours try – or should – to get along with one another. Neighbours can look out for each other, share the news and gossip, rally around if there is a problem. Paradoxically, borders give rise to the notions of allegiance and loyalty, from which a sense of trust comes. Take that away, and it fosters all kinds of resentments and problems down the line that are in fact corrosive of a liberal order.

None of this means the usual fears about immigration, that those who arrive in a country are taking “our jobs” or so forth (the lump of labour fallacy). It is not even about the worry that those who come to a country might be a threat to “our” values. But surely, if a person is an illegal immigrant, even proudly so, that doesn’t exactly get that person off to a good start in terms of buying into their supposedly adopted country.

This is not satire. They believe that genocide and the collapse of human civilisation are imminent.

Samizdata quote of the day

You say the third-best time to negotiate would be now. I can see why you would want that, but you’re not a party to the negotiations. Russia and Ukraine are. And why would Ukraine negotiate now?

As I said from the outset, what Ukraine needs is long term security. Not words on a piece of paper. Actual security. If they don’t get it, the lives they “save” now will be lost double when Russia inevitably invades again. And, yes, I’m sorry, long term security for Ukraine means NATO membership which Putin would not agree to as things stand.

And so we are where we are.

Konstantin Kisin

Discussion point: the car bomb that killed Darya Dugina

On 20th August 2022 a car bomb near Moscow killed Darya Dugina, the daughter of the Russian ultra-nationalist Alexander Dugin, who was probably the intended target.

I am away from home at the moment and cannot easily link, but the story is everywhere.

Here are some of my reactions to the killing. I list them roughly in the order that I had them, rather than making any attempt to list them in order of importance.

My first thought was that this killing was ordered by the Ukrainians and was both a crime and a blunder. The rules of war exist for a reason. The fact that Mr Dugin has, and his daughter had, abhorrent views is not the point. Assassination of civilians is several steps along the way to making it a case of “they’re as bad as each other”. Along with many others I support Ukraine in this war because the two sides are not remotely equivalent: Russia is the aggressor, Ukraine the victim. Ukraine squanders that moral capital at its peril.

However, with their usual stunning incompetence at propaganda, an organ of the present Russian government reminded the world that they are quite happy to send assassins to other countries to murder their political enemies, and without the excuse of being at war. Margarita Simonyan, head of the RT television channel, formerly known as Russia Today, said that if the Ukrainians did not hand over the person allegedly responsible, a woman called Natalia Vovk, then Russia ought to send a hit squad to “admire the spires around Tallinn” – a clear, gloating reference to the 2018 Salisbury poisonings. If Putin’s methods are used against Putin’s supporters, why should anyone else in the world care?

The story about Natalia Vovk is odd in several respects. She is alleged to be an agent of the Ukrainian secret services. She is also alleged to have spied on Ms Dugina from a Mini Cooper. Surely a trained secret agent would not choose such a noticeable vehicle? Even more strangely, she is alleged to have taken her eleven or twelve year old daughter along on her deadly mission. While it is not unknown for terrorist groups to use children because children are less likely to be suspected, in these particular circumstances what would she have gained by bringing any child, let alone her own daughter?

If not Natalia Vovk, then who? Some say a Russian anti-government group called the National Resistance Army. Others say an internecine struggle between different factions of the FSB. Or the Russian mafia – not everything has to be political. Of course the Ukrainian government could be still be ultimately responsible even if the actual killing was carried out by any of these.

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.

Samizdata quote of the day

The consensus on Ukraine has only been held together because the country’s plight speaks to different traditions within the Left and Right. Yet on matters of peace, the hawks and the doves will not agree: the age-old mistakes of appeasement and compromise are already rearing their heads, and, in my view, are likely to win again.

The hawks will be outmanoeuvred by the looming economic catastrophe, caused partly by the financial burden of the West adopting China’s autocratic solutions to Covid. Steered by the kingpins of Germany and France, the EU will eventually ease sanctions against Russia. In so doing it will go against the collective wisdom of the peoples of Europe. But globalisation and appeasement will win untampered, and the liberal consensus will resume.

The concord between great powers carved at Vienna lasted 99 years. Versailles lasted less than 20 years, Potsdam just 18 months. If the new elites get their way with a future settlement over Ukraine, peace may be even more short-lived. In our democratic age, we should do better than rely on compromise, appeasement, and financial entanglement to try and preserve peace, which in reality may only delay a far worse confrontation.

Francis Dearnley (£)

How close are we to nuclear war?

Interesting exposition by Perun about the risk of nuclear war

Andrey Illarionov explains Putin

Over on Triggernomatry, Andrey Illarionov has very definite views about Vladimir Putin (no, he is not bonkers) and Russia. Illarionov was Putin’s leading economic policy advisor for several years.

Illarionov addresses many notions favoured by ‘realists’ in a very no-nonsense manner. Highly recommended.

Samizdata quote of the day

Well, I was in Brussels last week and, contra the mood on Twitter, Europe feels more buoyantly European than it has in a long time, and Britain is absolutely a part of it, sending weapons to Ukraine, beefing up Nato and generally putting some stick about. It is UK Remainers who now seem parochial, refusing to move on from yesterday’s hurt and even, in the case of that fake news flick Boris Does Brussels, reimagining contemporary events as a commentary on unrelated stuff that’s still grinding their gears six years later.

When President Biden said that meetings that bring America and the EU closer are a “victory for all of us,” Alastair Campbell added that they are also “a defeat for the UK. Which is why Brexit was a foreign policy goal for the Kremlin.” Bingo: a conspiracy theory and a contradiction all in one Tweet!

Tim Stanley

Samizdata quote of the day

Current national myth of Russia & the core of Putins ideology is the lie about Russia as liberator. All of us between Russia and Germany are watching Ukraine being liberated and hope that for once the West understands that this is how the Russian liberation has always looked like. This is what was done to us either in 1918-21 or 1939-45 or both. And it kept going until 1991. And it began again in 2008 and the West pretended, again, that it was not happening.

Germans have apologised for 80 years but I still felt a bit uneasy listening to Scholtz saying: wir werden uns remilitarisieren. Thankfully, for once, the Germans r on the right side of things because even there, after 80 years, the demons are not entirely dead under the surface.

So. No. It’s not about Putin. It is very much about the state of Russian society. It’s not Russians’ “fault”, there are too many factors, but to fix this means a process of national breakdown, regrouping, redemption and re-education for, well, 80 years.

It can only be done by the Russians themselves and the best thing we can do is not get in there to tell them how. Because we don’t know better. All that is needed is help Ukraine win, set strict cold war rules relating to Russia until the war crimes have been tried, by them, and a representative government is in office. Let them demilitarise. And then take it slow. Very slow

Eerik N Kross

Samizdata quote of the day

You can look at it the other way. Putin took the Crimea. Putin promoted the break-away republics. Without him, they would not have happened.

In all the similar cases, the common theme is Putin. He did the same to Georgia as he is to Ukraine. He did the same to Moldova, with Trans-Dniestr.

Were all those governments also reckless? Or were they just unfortunate enough to border Russia?

Putin has been consistently threatening to the Baltic states too. He even sponsored cyber attacks on Estonia. Now it is a long bow to draw that they have been reckless.

No. Putin is the common theme. Nothing Ukraine did, short of bowing to his every wish, would have stopped him. They have not been reckless. They have been desperately trying to deal with a homicidal maniac over the border.

Your argument reminds me of telling battered spouses that they should be more careful, rather than pointing the finger at the violent thug doing the violent things.

‘Chester Draws’ taking to task a commenter who accused the Ukrainian government of having brought this upon themselves with ‘reckless behaviour’.