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

Samizdata quote of the day

Heaven forbid trying increase gas supplies in a time of gas shortage. Amazing how many greens seem to have a convergence of interests with nice Mr. Putin. Funny that.

– Perry de Havilland on the opposition to fracking in UK from the usual suspects.

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.

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.

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.

“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.

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.

How does Russian propaganda work

Interesting discussion about how Russia does propaganda