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]

Discussion point: what do you think of the apparent sabotage of Nord Stream 1 and 2?

On February 7th, Joe Biden said, “If Russia invades…then there will be no longer a Nord Stream 2. We will bring an end to it.”

Today the Guardian reports: “Fears of sabotage as gas pours into Baltic from Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines”

Was it sabotage? If so, who did it and was it a good thing to do?

Samizdata quote of the day

The alternative to the cornering and humiliation of Russia would be for the United States and its allies to halt or reduce their aid to Ukraine and impose a stalemate. But that would mean delivering a victory to Russia, because it would still hold more Ukrainian territory than it did in 2014 and would have gone unpunished for pervasive war crimes, including mass murder. In three or four years, a rearmed Russia, thirsting for revenge for the losses and defeats it has suffered, would do the same thing again, and against a dispirited Ukraine. If that were to happen, it would be an utter disaster for American policy and Western security. Such an imposed stalemate would be profoundly immoral, but equally to the point, it would be profoundly stupid.

So this is indeed a dangerous moment, because Putin will inevitably find himself humiliated and cornered and may very well look for a way to lash out. But as General James Wolfe said before storming the heights of Quebec in 1759, war is an option of difficulties. The error lies in thinking that one can titrate the application of violence to achieve exquisitely precise results. To the extent that the West continues to attempt to do so, it will merely ensure more mass graves like those of Bucha and Izyum, and more soldiers lying limbless or in the burn wards of Ukrainian military hospitals. So now, as ever, Churchill’s observation that courage is the virtue that makes all others possible holds, particularly for the leaders of the embattled West. Zelensky could not put it better himself.

Eliot Cohen

Pondering the ongoing Ukrainian counter-offensive

Here is an interesting thread about the ongoing Ukrainian counter-offensive by Mick Ryan.

Ukraine’s counter-offensives – “Seven months from Kyiv to Kharkiv”

Yet another outstanding dissertation from Perun looking at the big picture. It is long but jam packed with good analysis.

Recommended.

Well he does have a point…

The next version of the Stugna software is going to have a “share to social media” button on the screen

– ‘Disruptive Politics

The breakthrough continues

These maps become out of date by the time I post them (Izyum has actually fallen it seems).

The general directly presiding over this astonishing display of operational art is General Oleksandr Syrskyi, who along with his boss Valerii Zaluzhnyi is going to be much studied in the future.

See larger version of this excellent map by Martinn

A Russian military disaster unfolding

The news from Ukraine is so remarkable, I have spent three days oscillating between exuberance and sceptical incredulity of the claims of a huge penetration of Russian lines. But now there are images of Ukrainian infantry on the edge of Kupyansk, a crucial strategic rail junction, others showing units on the banks of the Oskil river. This suggests that in three days, the Ukrainians have come close to undoing what took Russia four bloody months to achieve.

This graphic is already out of date, with video evidence showing Ukrainian mechanised forces approaching Izyum from the north.

Having drawn Russian reserves and focus towards Kherson to face a much announced offensive, Valerii Zaluzhnyi appears to have totally played his opposite number: Ukraine has struck with a fast moving combined arms offensive on a completely different section of the front, achieving near complete tactical and operational surprise. Astonishing.

Update: Ukrainian infantry in Kupyansk, and next to the town hall. Last week it was 60km behind the frontline.

Update again: claims that Ukraine has taken Lyman, which if true suggests at least possibility of Russia retreat a considerable distance away from the Ukrainian axis of advance north of Izyum. However treat as RUMINT at this stage until we see OSINT pictures & videos.

Can you see the parallels between Saigon and Kabul now, Mr President?

Reporter #1: “Is the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan now inevitable?”

President Biden: “No. It is not. Because you have the Afghan troops have 300,000 – well-equipped- as well equipped as any army in the world – and an air force – against something like 75,000 Taliban. It is not inevitable”

Reporter #2: “Mr President, thank you very much. Your own intelligence community has assessed that the Afghan government will likely collapse.”

Pres. Biden: “That is not true.”

Reporter: “Is it – Can you please clarify what they have told you about whether that will happen or not.”

Pres. Biden: “That is not true. They did not reach that conclusion.”

Reporter: “So what is the level of confidence that they have that it will not collapse?”

Pres. Biden: “The Afghan government, the leadership, has to come together. They clearly have the capacity to sustain the government in place.”

Reporter: “Do you see any parallels with this withdrawal and what happened in Vietnam? With some people feeling…”

Pres. Biden: “None whatsoever. Zero. What you had is entire brigades breaking through the gates of our embassy. Six if I’m not mistaken.”

“The Taliban is not the South – the North Vietnamese army. They’re not remotely comparable in terms of capability. There’s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of a embassy of the United States from Afghanistan. It is not at all comparable.”

– President Joe Biden, press briefing, 8th July 2021. Kabul fell on 15th August.

From Guido Fawkes’ post of 16th August 2021, “Biden’s tragically optimistic Afghanistan press briefing shows lack of intelligence”

“All manpower, no metal” – Ukrainian mobilisation, equipment shortages, and training

Another excellent chat by Perun for folk interested in this kind of thing.

Interesting technical discussion about the ‘missile war’ in Ukraine

For those interested in such things…

From the always interesting Perun.

Lend-Lease 2.0 explained

An interesting demystification by the excellent Perun…

What happens if Putin uses a nuclear device?

In the course of the Ukraine War, Vladimir Putin, Russia’s dictator, has from time to time hinted that he is prepared to use nuclear weapons. There is a tendency to downplay this. Many believe these are idle threats. When I hear this sort of talk I am reminded of the words of the late Helen Szamuely, “They mean it!” she would say. Having been partially educated in Moscow Szamuely knew what she was talking about. Not that we need her wise words. Just before the war, Mark Steyn interviewed his old boss, Conrad Black, on GB News. Black opined that Putin’s sabre rattling was “Kabuki theatre” or some such. As we now know, it wasn’t. He meant it.

But whether he means it or not we should at least be prepared.

What would he do first? Would he, for instance, use a tactical nuclear weapon to eliminate Ukrainian forces in front of him? Or we he indulge in nuclear blackmail: surrender or Kiev gets it? And what does the West – by which I suppose I mean the United States – do? If it’s a tactical nuke I suppose it could offer to supply Ukraine with tactical nukes of its own. But how keen would Ukrainians be to nuke their own territory? If it’s the blackmail option, does the West really threaten a nuclear response? Would such a threat be credible?

In the Cold War I was never particularly worried. I knew that if the Russians dropped the bomb on us we would drop the bomb on them. And I knew that the Russians knew that, so they wouldn’t. Now, things are not so clear.

Update 2/5/22

It’s very difficult to argue with Niall when he says, “The logic of deterrence is as valid as ever it was. The more the west radiates a will to react, the less likely Putin is to act. And the best way to radiate a will to react is to have the will to react.”

Also, thank you to Subotai Bahadur for his lengthy comment in which he points out that the nuclear club – both official and unofficial – is likely to get quite a bit bigger.