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]

Ukraine’s Planned Counteroffensive – force readiness, leaks, politics & expectations

Yet another very interesting presentation from Perun…

Discussion point: Jack Teixeira

I don’t know where to start. How much will the leaked information help the Russians and harm the Ukrainians? How much of it was not already common knowledge? How did Teixeira come to have access to information that neither his relatively low rank nor his role as an IT person justified him seeing? What about the role of the media? The New York Times tracked the leaker down then told the US government. Very 1950s.

If this were happening in the UK, I would not dare to ask the following for fear of prosecution, but since it is happening in the US and my tiny rivulet of speculation cannot possibly make any difference to the tsunami already crossing the world: which was he, or which was he more, a leaker, a whistleblower, a patsy for someone higher up, a braggart wanting to impress people online, a hero exposing US government lies, a traitor sending Ukrainians and fellow US servicemen to their deaths?

Defence, Ireland and the “free rider” issue

“When was the last time an American president included Ireland in their vocal – and justified – criticism of Europe for slacking on its commitments? The fact is, with so many American voters claiming Irish heritage, Ireland gets a free pass, something it shamelessly exploits.”

Richard Kemp, Daily Telegraph (£).

I wonder if Ireland’s fairly low-key approach is a hangover from when, during WW2, it was neutral, presumably out of a reflexive hatred for the UK rather than some deep love of the other side. In the case of another country that gets praise here occasionally – Switzerland – it was also neutral, although the Swiss probably, for military reasons, feared with some justification that if it sided with the UK, it would have been rapidly invaded by its German neighbour. These days, the Swiss have imposed sanctions on Russia, along with the UK, EU and the US, so its own neutrality is fading. And Ireland, as an EU member state, has of course imposed the same sanctions, for what that’s worth. It is not a NATO member – something that might come as a surprise to some people.

There’s a wider issue for those of a free market and economics point of view here. Ireland could be accused, perhaps rightly, of being a “free rider” on other countries that are able and willing to spend serious money on defence. This “free rider problem” is a subject that comes up in economics and public policy, and used to justify, for example, compulsory public spending on things such as highways, education and defence because it is uneconomic and inefficient to charge individuals for the benefits of said, and yet there will always be those who benefit but have no incentive for pay up. Is this behaviour by Ireland a “free rider” issue, and if so, what if anything can be done about it?

Separately, Ireland has for a long time had one of the lowest rates of corporate taxation in the world. President Joe Biden, who likes to flaunt his Irish roots (as many US presidents, in their rather tiresome way, do) has been an advocate of a global pact through which major countries adhere to a minimum tax rate of 15 per cent, and who knows, that might go higher. This counts as a tax cartel, and a country such as Ireland (an EU member state, remember) loses out from that, as do other small EU states such as Malta and Luxembourg. Ireland boomed in the late 80s, and through the 90s, in part because of its low-tax charms. These angered the policymakers of Brussels, who perhaps rightly saw this as a challenge to their desire to create a more high-tax/high-spend regime across the EU. So Ireland can at times be annoying for the right reasons.

What this all comes down to is that Ireland has, in different ways, chosen to stand apart. For all that it might be annoying that Ireland doesn’t supposedly do more on defence (it has a big coastline and requires safe shipping lanes), there’s been a sort of independence of mindset about Ireland that I quite like. (And as a coda to all this, lots of Irishmen, during WW2, defied their country and fought during WW2 against the Nazis, to their everlasting honour.)

US Grand Strategy: NATO, Alliances, & Ukraine – how alliances underpin American influence

Another excellent presentation by Perun…

Samizdata quote of the day – anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine version

“The U.S. and NATO, in their innermost sanctum, should be asking themselves a question and probably are: Would this war already be over if they had sent a couple dozen F-35s to assert mastery over the skies of at least Western Ukraine on or about day 14?”

Holman W. Jenkins, jnr (Wall Street Journal $).

Samizdata quote of the day – Royal Air Force recruitment disaster version

Why might an organisation such as the Air Force be tempted to pursue compliance with such zeal that it ends up unlawfully non-compliant? The simple, if cynical, reason is that for any bureaucracy, targets related to process are much easier to hit reliably than targets related to outcomes. What’s more, outcomes-based targets which can be brute-forced through process – ensuring that 40% of recruits are female by 2030, for example – are easier to manage than end-use targets, such as having an operationally effective Air Force.

Henry Hill, CapX.

Challenger tanks are no panacea

Like many Brits the fact that we were the first to promise to supply Ukraine with modern main battle tanks was a source of tremendous pride. And Jingoism. Let Putin eat British lead, depleted uranium, HESH etc,. Rule Britannia, Britannia rule the steppes etc,.

Luckily, the YouTuber Matsimus has come along to pour a bucket of cold water – mixed in with a few unpleasant substances that one wouldn’t want to mention on a family blog – over any triumphalism that might be in the air. Sure, the Challenger 2 can be a very capable tank, but it is not invulnerable – especially in the configuration that the Ukrainians will receive – and keeping it in the field will be no cakewalk.

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

A soldier returns Part I

Lindybeige (1.2m YouTube subscribers) hardly needs our endorsement but this interview with a British member of the Ukrainian Foreign Legion is excellent. Organisation, disorganisation, treachery, office politics, death, Walter Mittys, mess tins, big bangy things, tea; it’s got it all, apart from Part II.

Samizdata quote of the day

Russia has always been a colonial power in denial. While conquering and ruling multitudes, it insisted that—in contrast with violent Western conquests—the indigenous peoples themselves sought Russian protection and that Russian rule was benign. This gap between rhetoric and reality is evident in the country’s current designation as a “Russian Federation”.

Michael Khodarkovsky.

Samizdata quote of the day

I don’t want to take anything away from the Ukrainians, who have basically been a banner case of military transformation, but it also helps that the Russians are really, really bad at the whole “war that involves more than bombing hospitals” thing.

Adot Crawley

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?