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]

When dangerous fantasies come true

Famously, while Nigel Farage was debating Nick Clegg in April 2014, the latter said that the idea of an EU army was a “dangerous fantasy”. Ed Miliband repeated the line a year later.

Three days ago, the man who was the EU’s Brexit Guy – the EU Parliament’s former Brexit Coordinator, Guy Verhofstadt MEP – tweeted,

BREAKING — Conference on the Future of Europe approves radical overhaul of the EU: end of unanimity, abolishment of veto’s, launch of Joint Armed Forces of the Union, transnational lists and many other reforms…

Now, just because the Conference on the Future of Europe says a thing, that does not necessarily mean it will come to pass. Wikipedia describes the Conference thus:

The Conference on the Future of Europe is a proposal of the European Commission and the European Parliament, announced at the end of 2019, with the aim of looking at the medium to long term future of the EU and what reforms should be made to its policies and institutions. It is intended that the Conference should involve citizens, including a significant role for young people, civil society, and European institutions as equal partners and last for two years. It will be jointly organised by the European Parliament, the EU Council and the European Commission.

In other words, the usual cheerleaders duly led the cheers. Nonetheless the very fact that the “young people, civil society and European institutions” who took part in the Conference were pre-selected for their obedience means that when they say they want an army that means that the leaders of the EU now want an army.

Discussion point: Watching Clegg and Farage spar over Vladimir Putin’s 2014 aggression against Ukraine, does anyone feel a newfound sympathy with Clegg’s position? These are dangerous times. It is no longer a matter for us in the UK to decide, but maybe the EU does need an army.

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.

Samizdata quote of the day

“It says a great deal about the impotence of the European Union’s response to the Ukraine crisis that Poland should have emerged as the bloc’s most effective cheerleader in confronting the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. It was only a few months ago that Brussels was seeking to demonise Poland as a rogue state over accusations that it was violating the EU’s democratic agenda. This led the European Court of Justice to rule in favour of denying Warsaw access to more than 75 billion euros in funds. Today, with Poland taking the lead role in condemning Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, the EU’s attempts to humiliate the Poles appear ill-judged, to say the least.”

Con Coughlin, Daily Telegraph (£)

Samizdata quote of the day

It is important to be open minded, but not so open minded that one’s brain falls out. This is one of those rare moments in the affairs of states where the moral and geopolitical realities are as clear as night and day.

Perry de Havilland, seen lurking in the Daily Telegraph comment section (£)

Perun on the war in Ukraine

Perun is a gaming YouTuber who started making PowerPoint presentations on the war in Ukraine and they are so good that his channel has since become extremely successful.

The two most recent presentations are particularly good. In Who is winning? – Mythbusting the Ukraine-Russia war, Perun looks at claims of kills of each side vs. inventory (Russia’s overstatement is reaching its limits), the idea that attacking Kiev was a feint (a bad idea if so), various claims that Russia could do better if it wanted to (it is trying its hardest) and discussion of how well Russia is doing towards Russia’s own claimed goals (not well). All of this is done without sensationalism, with well-explained reasoning, with evidence where available and descriptions of the limitations of the evidence. There is no cheerleading here: claims that Ukraine has more tanks than before the war started are examined critically, as are Ukraine’s claimed successes.

However, as reasonable as it sounds to me, I am not very well placed to judge Perun’s military analysis. I think I understand some economics, though, and he makes a lot of sense in The Price of War – Can Russia afford a long conflict? Certainly the inverse of Gell-Mann amnesia applies. He points out that the price of the Ruble and the Russian stock market are at this point propped up by market interventions. “The Russian stock market is doing ok. But only because nobody’s bloody allowed to sell their shares.” (Did I mention Perun is Australian?)

He points out just how “hilariously” bigger the economies of all the Nato countries combined are compared to the Russian economy, and how that means that the West can continue to support Ukraine indefinitely while still growing, and Russia can only get poorer as the war goes on. He downplays the importance of Russian hydrocarbon exports to the West, because in the long term we can wean ourselves off them, and that leaves Russia selling them at a discount to India, and with a hefty bill to construct pipelines to China.

One aspect covered in both videos is the difficulty of Russia controlling the Donbass region in any useful way. Assuming Ukraine does not just give up and agree to hand it over, the Russians potentially have to defend it from attacks forever. That would make keeping it expensive and extracting any gas from beneath it difficult.

According to Perun, it does seem as if Western support for Ukraine and shunning of Russia, if kept up for long enough, will be very unpleasant for Russia. They would be better off giving up sooner rather than later, and even then Russia is in a bad way if the West pours aid and investment into Ukraine and does not return to investing in and trading with Russia. One possible problem with this is confidence:

The West needs to recognise its own strength. It’s always funny watching countries like Germany act really afraid of Russia, frankly, when economically Germany’s got about as much heft as the Russians do. Sure, Germany’s dependent on Russian gas but Russia is dependent on gas sales to Germany, too. The West seldom acts like it is the 40 trillion dollar gorilla that it is. It needs to acknowledge that is has muscle; it needs to be willing to use that economic muscle.

Dear Troll Factory…

All you chaps with impeccably British names like Stephen Brown, John Smith (seriously?), Jane Austin (lol), Jim Williams, Paul Strong, Sarah Evans… explaining why the Bucha atrocity is dubious/faked/black ops… pro-tip… I can see your Russian IP addresses and you ain’t getting past the moderation page 😀

Hey “Mike Jackson”, are you guys still based at 55 Savushkina Street, St. Petersburg or has your employer moved to bigger premises to accommodate all the new hires? I suppose its a safer job than getting burned alive in your BMP in Ukraine, right?

Йдіть в пизду, йобані рашисти!

Samizdata quote of the day

For the international community there is a danger that Bucha is seen as an isolated atrocity deserving of a unique response. It certainly deserves investigation and, if possible, criminal accountability. But treating Bucha as unique risks much effort being put into fundamentally performative responses. Bucha is not special. It is indicative of how Russia intended to occupy and repress Ukraine. If there are to be as few other towns as possible to suffer the same fate, then the priority is to maintain the consistent armament of the Ukrainian military to drive the invading Russian army from their communities and to prevent more civilians falling under Russian occupation.

Jack Watling (£), senior research fellow for land warfare at RUSI

This was never about NATO or Russia’s ‘legitimate security concerns’

Translation via Tadeusz Giczan.

Yesterday, RIA Novosti published a lengthy piece titled “What Russia should do with Ukraine”, which explains in detail what Russia understands by ‘denazification’.

The special operation revealed that not only the political leadership in Ukraine is Nazi, but also the majority of the population. All Ukrainians who have taken up arms must be eliminated – because they are responsible for the genocide of the Russian people.

Ukrainians disguise their Nazism by calling it a “desire for independence” and a “European way of development”. Ukraine doesn’t have a Nazi party, a Führer or racial laws, but because of its flexibility, Ukrainian Nazism is far more dangerous to the world than Hitler’s Nazism.

Denazification means de-Ukrainianisation. Ukrainians are an artificial anti-Russian construct. They should no longer have a national identity. Denazification of Ukraine also means its inevitable de-Europeanisation.

Ukraine’s political elite must be eliminated as it cannot be re-educated. Ordinary Ukrainians must experience all the horrors of war and absorb the experience as a historical lesson and atonement for their guilt.

The liberated and denazified territory of the Ukrainian state should no longer be called Ukraine. Denazification should last at least one generation – 25 years.

Samizdata quote of the day

Russian culture on show for all to see in Kyiv’s suburbs. Maybe [some people] thinks Putin drove from Moscow & tied these people’s hands behind back before shooting in street like dogs. Guarantee this was done by common Russian soldiers pissed off becaus of massive casualties they took over last month. If you want to understand true beating red heart of Russia, just look at these pictures closely, but I maybe you have to be like me, part Polish, part Ukrainian, part Russian, and working in all those places for most of life to understand that. People wonder why Ukrainians fight like wild wolves against the invader, this is why. Anyone from this part of world knows what waits for loser when you face Russian soldiers, there is a reason Ukrainian social media calls them orcs. We remember Katyn forest, ordered from above, but also remember the thousands of small atrocities, the ones without sombre memorials where they happened.

Petr Borysko, who is apparently doing his part keeping the famous Ukrainian tractors rolling.

Bonus: some local humour for these grim days.

“Phew, they didn’t notice me…”

Why a better Tsar is not the solution to the underlying problem

I’ll clarify: the problem is not in Putin. Neither it is in Navalny. The problem is in imperial structure of Russia and in its imperialist mindset. Any ideology be it Orthodoxy, Communism, Liberalism will be weaponised by the metropoly to dominate and discipline its colonies. We don’t need a Good Tsar who’ll replace a Bad Tsar. Good Tsar can become a Bad Tsar overnight. He can give whatever guarantees now, but nothing will stop him from breaking them later. Even if he doesn’t break them, his successor will. There will be no checks on his power anyway.

Omnis determinatio est negatio. Whatever [is] determined by a statute, can and will be abolished by a statute. Whatever Moscow gave it can take back later. Whatever it created, it can later destroy. Thus freedom can’t be given by Moscow. Even the best Tsar ever can’t grant you freedom. Russia doesn’t need an Imperial Reboot. It needs a National Divorce. Moscow has absolute right on self determination, but I don’t see why colonies should bound to its will, fund its imperial ambitions and shed their blood for the Russian World as they’re doing it now.

Kamil Galeev dispensing some political theory gold.

Samizdata quote of the day

At this rate, they will need to open an officer’s club in hell.

– Yuriy Mysiahin, noting the remarkable number of senior Russian officers K.I.A. in Ukraine, specifically Anatoly Shterliz, the C/O of the 503rd Motorised Rifle Regiment of the 19th Motorised Rifle Division getting smoked yesterday.

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.