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

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’.

Net Zero is “in Nigel Farage’s sights”

I have considerable respect for the Guardian‘s John Harris. Though a Remainer himself, he was one of the first left-wing journalists to see that the campaign to leave the European Union had popular support, particularly among the working class, and the reason he could see that while others could not was because he and his colleague John Domokos did what others did not and put in the legwork to report from “Anywhere But Westminster”.

But respect does not mean agreement. Mr Harris writes that “Nigel Farage’s hard-right faction won Brexit. Now net zero is in its sights” like that’s a bad thing.

Samizdata quote of the day

Conflict with Russia seems suboptimal. But avoiding necessary conflicts is not avoiding but just delaying. Why would you do that? Putin’s miscalculation makes regime super fragile *for now*. Which means that’s the best time for escalation ever. Next time they’ll be more robust.

That’s important, because “deescalation” and defeating Putin are two different goals that require two different strategies. Deescalation means don’t threaten him in any way and give him as much as possible in a hope he won’t ask for more. Unfortunately that’s all wishful thinking

Kamil Galeev

Samizdata quote of the day

The West’s Green delusions empowered Putin. While we banned plastic straws, Russia drilled and doubled nuclear energy production.

Michael Shellenberger

The Guardian finds a few, a very few, Christians it likes

Christians in MP Steve Baker’s seat pray for him to quit role on climate thinktank

Protesters gathered in High Wycombe on Friday to implore their MP, Steve Baker, to quit as a trustee of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a thinktank that has been accused of being one of the UK’s leading sources of climate scepticism.

When it says “protesters gathered”, we are not talking about the First Crusade. The gathering process probably took less than three seconds.

Those assembled, including local children and members of the local Lib Dem, Labour and Green parties,

I see something missing there.

said they hoped the MP would be voted out at the next election if he did not change his mind on net zero. Baker currently has a majority of 4,000, which means his seat could be marginal.

The MP, who is a member of the Net Zero Scrutiny Group and has called for the government to rethink its policy of decarbonising the economy using renewable energy, came out to

Smite the idolaters?

join the gathered protesters in prayer and answer their questions.

All very civilised, and these doubtless well-meaning folk, all fifteen of them, have every right to make their protest, and I am glad that Mr Baker smote them not.

But if we’re gonna be doing political prayers, here’s mine. Oh Lord, open their eyes: we need fracking and nuclear power for the sake of the poor and the peace of the world.

As Andrew Neil writes in the Mail,

While Putin was making these painful preparations to withstand sanctions, what was Europe doing? Why, increasing its exposure to Russian energy, of course.

In 2013 the European Union bought 135 billion cubic metres of Russian natural gas. Six years later, despite indisputable evidence that a revanchist Russia was on the march, annexing Crimea — a 21st-century Anschluss — and occupying parts of Georgia and eastern Ukraine, the EU had managed to increase its purchase of Russian gas to 166 billion cubic metres.

Despite pouring billions of euros into wind and solar energy, the EU has also managed to import a lot more coal from Russia.

And, of course, it just can’t get enough Russian gas, hence the German enthusiasm for a new gas pipeline, Nord Stream 2, from Siberia through the Baltic Sea to Germany (currently suspended — but not abandoned — in the wake of the invasion).

In a very real sense, the EU has paid for Putin’s Fortress Russia defences. With oil prices spiking at over $100 a barrel, $700 million a day in oil revenues is pouring into Kremlin coffers. Germany’s dependence on Russian energy is close to complete: 50 per cent of its coal imports, 55 per cent of its gas, 35 per cent of its oil — all from Russia.

Added later: From Tipp Insights, “Anti-Fossil Madness Funds Putin’s Ukraine Aggression”

The Americocentric delusion

I am seeing a phenomenon being floridly expressed today, but it is something I have observed for many years: nothing happens in the world, at least nothing good, unless the malign USA is driving it.

Yes, the United States is the richest and most powerful nation on earth and it has been since World War II. And yes, it has interfered under presidents of all stripes for good or ill in a great many places, in pursuit of its perceived geopolitical interests, sometimes benignly, other times with a breathtaking lack of judgement.

But just as the leaders of that great nation have often overestimated the USA’s ability to impose its will in far away lands, many people in many places similarly overestimate America’s involvement everywhere. They largely deny that locals have agency, oblivious to the fact people everywhere are capable of organising politically in ways not directed and driven from an agency in Langley, Virginia. As a friend of mine who was deeply involved in the 2014 Maidan revolt in Kyiv said to me once:

“Woah! I’ve just heard we’re all CIA puppets on Washington’s payroll. There must have been an oversight as me and my friends never got a penny. You know people in America, so can you get me an address to apply for that lovely CIA money I’m apparently due?”

He was of course joking, but Maidan was a golden example of how something overwhelmingly driven and executed by Ukrainians, in Ukraine, in response to Ukrainian political and social pressures becoming intolerable, was nevertheless written off as CIA mischief-making.

And that notion was pushed hard by Russia when their pet oligarch was deposed, and it is entirely possible Putin even believes it himself. It is actually more supportive of his worldview than the notion it really happened because millions of Ukrainians loathed Putin, his Ukrainian’s puppet in Kyiv, and the malign influence of Russia generally.

But so many people seek a simpler world, a bipolar one in which everything is down to the Big Actors (with America still the biggest at the moment). Understanding that and feeding into it grants profound insight into Russian (and to some extent Chinese) propaganda. Add to that the rightly shattered confidence in Western institutions the last two years has wrought, and it is not surprising otherwise discerning folk fall for it.

Many seek to explain the world through the distorting prism of the Americocentric delusion, rather than face the complex frequently fracturing mosaic that explains the world more accurately. People do things locally for local reason; not everything is about some current iteration of the Great Game.

If the USA (and UK) have a share of blame for what is happening in Ukraine right now, it is not because they ‘provoked’ Russia: Putin has made it clear the very existence of a politically and culturally independent Ukraine is intolerable to him. No, their mistake, their toxic involvement, was when they pressed Ukraine into surrendering the nuclear weapons Kyiv inherited from the defunct USSR in return for meaningless guarantees.

Russia is not attacking Ukraine because of the actions of the USA since then, that is an Americocentric delusion. Putin is attacking Ukraine because Ukrainians do not wish to be ruled by the Russian government even indirectly, and so they overthrew Russia’s favoured oligarch and sought to chart their own course in the world. That is what this war is about.

Come to think of it, comrades, I do want Jones back

George Orwell, Animal Farm:

“Surely, comrades, you do not want Jones back?”

Once again this argument was unanswerable. Certainly the animals did not want Jones back; if the holding of debates on Sunday mornings was liable to bring him back, then the debates must stop. Boxer, who had now had time to think things over, voiced the general feeling by saying: “If Comrade Napoleon says it, it must be right.” And from then on he adopted the maxim, “Napoleon is always right,” in addition to his private motto of “I will work harder.”

(Credit to, um, www.marxists.org actually, for providing the link.)

The Times yesterday, “Donald Trump praises Vladimir Putin’s ‘genius’ move on Ukraine”. The headline worked; there are more than a thousand outraged comments about how Trump is “supporting Putin”. I knew before I read the first line that the point he was actually making would be something along the lines of this:

He claimed that Putin, 69, would not have dared invade had he still been in the White House, rather than Biden. “This never would have happened with us,” he said, dismissing Biden as a “man that has no concept of what he’s doing”.

He told the radio show: “Had I been in office — not even thinkable. This would never have happened. But you know what the response was from Biden? There was no response. They didn’t have one for that. No, it’s very sad.”

The BBC, this morning:

BBC LIVE: Russia launches invasion of Ukraine

Does aid to evil regimes cement them in power? Should we do it anyway?

When I was young I read many earnest articles saying that international aid should be directed towards eradicating the long term causes of famine and poverty rather than short term fixes for specific disasters. Back then I was convinced by such arguments, but later I reversed my opinion. Give generously in emergencies, yes, but most government-to-government foreign aid was well described by development economist Peter Bauer: “Aid is a phenomenon whereby poor people in rich countries are taxed to support the lifestyles of rich people in poor countries”. The money from the sky is not merely wasted but counterproductive:

Governments embarked on fanciful schemes. Private investors, lacking confidence in public policies or in the steadfastness of leaders, held back. Powerful rulers acted arbitrarily. Corruption became endemic. Development faltered, and poverty endured.

Yet it remains true that when catastrophe strikes it is often only governments who have the power – the credit, the personnel, the ships and aircraft – to render aid quickly. In most such cases I unhesitatingly say, do it. Yeah, it might be nicer if we were not forced to pay taxes for any cause at all but when people are dying by the thousands don’t wait for Libertopia to evolve before helping them.

However it is at least arguable that one situation where even emergency aid can end up doing net harm is when the regime in charge of the country stricken by famine or disaster is so bad that perpetuating it (as the aid will undoubtedly do) is an even worse catastrophe.

Is Afghanistan such a case? This Guardian article does a fair job of presenting both sides of the dilemma, albeit from a starting point far more in favour of international aid than mine.