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

Lend-Lease 2.0 explained

An interesting demystification by the excellent Perun…

Understanding the Ukrainian psyche

There is a Russian literary classic called “Mumu” by Turgenev, the story of a mute serf who bonded with a dog called Mumu, because that was all the serf could pronounce. But when his master ordered him to drown Mumu, despite this love for the dog, he obeyed…

If Mumu was Ukrainian
If Mumu was Ukrainian

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.

St. George’s Day

On this particular day, I will commemorate St. George with a picture I took in Kyiv a few years ago, the symbolism of which is even more apt.

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…”

Will a dictator always shoot his bolt?

We don’t know what exactly was in Putin’s mind when he decided to invade Ukraine but despite some initial scepticism on my part it looks awfully like he did want some sort of swift victory in which he either conquered the whole country or perhaps just the eastern half plus Kiev. If that indeed was the aim, he’s failed. In doing so he has underestimated the West.

This week marks 40 years since something similar happened in the South Atlantic. When Argentina’s Junta decided to invade the Falklands they thought it would be a cakewalk. It had never occurred to them that Britain might fight. Ten weeks later the Falklands were back in British hands and the Junta were out of office. They too had underestimated the West. They’d also got the timing horribly wrong. If they had been a bit more patient, Britain would have gifted them the islands.

Any other examples? Hitler? Ach, let’s not do Hitler. Saddam Hussein certainly got it all wrong when he invaded Kuwait. Milosevic? From what I can work out he did nothing but underestimate his opponents.

Does it work historically? Off the top of my head, Cromwell would seem to be the first modern dictator. He had the good sense not to go to war against another state (or did he? What about the Dutch? We were always fighting the Dutch in those days weren’t we?) Whatever, probably not a disaster. And let’s face it, they didn’t have bolts to shoot in Cromwell’s day.

Napoleon famously got it wrong when he invaded Russia. But did he have a choice?

It occurs to me, while proposing this grand theory, that Putin may have done the precise opposite of shooting his bolt. Far from having too little patience he may have had too much. Would anyone have stopped him if he’d tried this in the wake of Maidan?

Update Turns out that Cromwell did indeed go to war with the Dutch.

Update 2/4/22 Lots of good comments mostly telling me how wrong I am which is a Good Thing, even if I have to say it through gritted teeth. I particularly liked this from Chester Draws, “In the west individuals have shorter attentions, because fortunately they stay in power less long, but parties can keep it up far longer than individuals. The Democrats in the US are playing a very long game, quite independent of who their leader is.”


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.