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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

How Western experts got the Ukraine war so wrong

More recently, Western experts have talked back military reforms, stating that they have been less successful than previously claimed. As the war in Ukraine has shown, reforms have had limited if any influence on Russian military’s operational effectiveness. In many ways, the Russian army still resembles the former Soviet army in its mentality, hierarchical structure, poor quality officers, poor levels of training, ill-discipline, poor logistics, and corruption.

The war in Ukraine pits a vertically structured Russia with a subject population against a horizontally structured Ukraine composed of citizens. During Vladimir Putin’s 22 years ruling Russia as president and prime minister he has re-Sovietized the country, fanned militarism, promoted a quasi-religious cult of the Great Patriotic War and Joseph Stalin, and destroyed civil society and volunteer groups. In Ukraine the opposite has taken place in each of these areas. Ukraine has undergone de-Sovietization since the late 1980s and decommunization since the 2013-2014 Euromaidan Revolution, has denigrated Stalin as a tyrant, switched from military celebration of the Great Patriotic War to commemoration of World War II, and built a dynamic civil society and volunteer movement. Ukrainians have organized three popular revolutions since 1990 to demand their rights; Russia’s last revolution was over a hundred years ago.


Another important factor has been the widespread view of the Ukrainian state as weak and badly divided between a ‘pro-Russian’ eastern and ‘pro-Western’ western Ukraine. In the last three decades the greatest number of articles published in the media and by think tanks and academics on Ukraine has been on regional divisions and the country split between a pro-Russian east and nationalist, pro-Western west. In Moscow and among Western experts, Ukraine’s Russian speakers were deemed to be inherently unreliable and likely to swing to supporting Russia if Moscow invaded the country.

A shock-and-awe style Russian invasion of Ukraine would exert tremendous pressure on Ukraine’s regional divisions, leading to the state’s fragmentation and the collapse of the Ukrainian army (as in Afghanistan). This did not take place and the reason why it did not was because Ukraine was never a regionally fractured country; its Russian speakers were Ukrainian patriots, and there was never any possibility the Ukrainian army was going to disintegrate in the same manner as the Afghan army.

Taras Kuzio

Samizdata quote of the day… why Truss crashed and burned

They wanted Sunak; Tory members wouldn’t have it. The media, the political and civil service establishment, the City, were all out to get her. They acted against her (and Kwarteng). The Tory backbenches panicked; Sunak’s supporters saw the opportunity, and in effect we have now had a very British coup d’etat.

However, this does give me hope. Because the whole country can now see the UK government edifice for the rotten cesspit it truly is.
Truss will fall, one month or six, it makes no real difference. We will get ‘business as usual’ from the same morons who wrecked Brexit, inflicted net Zero, killed our economy and our civil liberties.

So where do we go from here? Well, it’s now obvious that a Tory vote is a wasted vote; it’s equally obvious that voting Labour Libdem or SNP is also pointless. So we may – finally- get the realignment in our politics that we have needed for so long.

I just hope people are paying attention.

Alan Melville, commenting on Sp!ked and describing the situation much as I see it now.

Samizdata quote of the day

Vigilantism is defined as “the act of preventing, investigating and punishing perceived offenses and crimes without legal authority” by the various dictionaries. I’d say that the critical part of that is the “…without legal authority” bit.

If you act without being formally “legal”, yet have the support of the community? You’ve essentially supplanted or replaced a dysfunctional existing system or mechanism. To me, that’s the essence of vigilantism, when you consider it as a social phenomenon: Members of the citizenry acting without duly constituted and conferred authority, yet still within the bounds of the community values and mores.

The existing system is in grave danger of convincing a significant fraction of the community that they are justified in not taking things through the duly constituted system of legalisms and legalities. After a certain inflection point, when a critical mass is reached, then the whole thing gets junked and we start over with a new paradigm, one that I suspect is going to be a lot less concerned with the welfare of the criminal, and far more concerned with putting an end to their activities.

Whereupon the usual bleeding hearts will whine and complain about the inhumanity of it all, completely oblivious to their own complicity with destroying the current system in the name of “criminal rights”.

It will be interesting to see what develops, that’s for sure. I doubt that anyone will like it, especially at first.

– Commenter Kirk

Samizdata quote of the day… hell, quote of the month

You’re going to pay over $12 for a six-rack of an IPA that barely tastes like an IPA in a market already over-saturated with IPAs, especially as craft breweries go. The flavor is negligible, and no part of it is enjoyable, even if you’re the sort of masochist who loves having their taste buds scorched by more hops than a rabbit farm. The beer doesn’t stand out in any positive way, especially in a place like Virginia that’s fertile ground for local breweries, all of them featuring their own particular IPA (or several).

Matt Sampson, who really know how to write a beer review

Samizdata quote of the day

“You couldn’t force lockdowns without laptops, Zoom, Amazon deliveries, cloud computing, Slack, QR codes or Netflix. Without them, lockdowns would have lasted two, maybe three weeks tops before the utter destruction of the economy forced everyone back to the workplace. Instead, we took the Faucian bargain of technology-enabled yearlong lockdowns because it was doable. Silicon Valley’s tools became shackles.”

Andy Kessler, WSJ ($). Tech is great, and these channels would be useful in any sense, but it is certainly true that for a segment of the population (such as those with media influence and in government), they made lockdowns far more “doable”. For a fan of tech such as me, that is an uncomfortable thought.

“Faucian bargain” – very droll.

Samizdata quote of the day

You say the third-best time to negotiate would be now. I can see why you would want that, but you’re not a party to the negotiations. Russia and Ukraine are. And why would Ukraine negotiate now?

As I said from the outset, what Ukraine needs is long term security. Not words on a piece of paper. Actual security. If they don’t get it, the lives they “save” now will be lost double when Russia inevitably invades again. And, yes, I’m sorry, long term security for Ukraine means NATO membership which Putin would not agree to as things stand.

And so we are where we are.

Konstantin Kisin

Samizdata quote of the day

The great strength of these [Iranian] protests – the sudden, overwhelming way in which they have spread, fuelled by social media – could also be their undoing. As we saw so tragically in the wake of the Arab Spring, this new generation of leaderless, internet-based movements can lack the coordination, durability and ideological focus to topple the despotic leaders they rage against.

Tom Slater

Samizdata quote of the day

Tory MPs didn’t even give Truss a chance. They cut her off at the knees before she could even begin. They don’t appear to want to be in power any more.

Philip Johnston

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

Samizdata quote of the day

“The unemployment rate was 3.5% in July, the same as in February 2020, but the U.S. has three million fewer workers. Where did everyone go? This in an economy with 11.2 million job openings. It’s mostly men 25 to 54 who haven’t come back to work. Now a McKinsey study suggests that 40% of workers are thinking of quitting their jobs. Does anyone want to work anymore?”

Andy Kessler, Wall Street Journal ($).

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

I know enough gay people – progs, conservatives, libertarians even – to know that most of them wanted to be accepted and unashamed and then ignored (as if they were just . . . normal!) and are now looking on in horror as “their” movement gets co-opted and taken over by people with huge latex breasts with protruding nipples claiming the right to teach in high schools while dressed that way. That’s not what they wanted, and we made it possible by forcing them to construct a movement when we wouldn’t accept them living quietly amongst us. It was the existence of that ready-built movement that the latex breast people could take over that made all of this fun possible.

I can almost feel Andrew Sullivan’s pain when he says we should remove the “G” and maybe the “L” from the new LGBT movement.

Bobby B