That Was Fast: Russia Swallows Crimea and Discovers That Empire is Expensive

Vladimir PutinPublic DomainCrimea isn't exactly a massive conquest, nor did it take much in the way of resources to pull the peninsula back into the Russian orbit. But already, Russia is reporting the economic indigestion that tends to follow an imperialist meal. The expenses and uncertainties involved in biting off a piece of another country rattled investors and sent money elsewhere. That might not have mattered if Russia was a wealthy country that could afford the luxury of bullying its neigbors. But it's not, and so Putin and company are discovering very quickly that belligerence tends to come with sanctions more effective than the ones politicians prattle about.

According to Darya Korsunskaya at Reuters:

In February Russia's gross domestic product eked out growth of just 0.3 percent year-on-year, down from 0.7 percent in January, Russia's Deputy Economy Minister Andrei Klepach said.

Last year the economy grew by just 1.3 percent, far below initial forecasts, but there had been hopes that growth would rebound this year. Instead Russia's economic performance is deteriorating further as the international tensions around Ukraine lead capital to flee Russia. ...

While Russia's economic growth slows, inflation is shooting up. The Economy Ministry expects inflation to reach 6.9-7.0 percent in March, up from 6.2 percent in February.

The sharp rise illustrates how a slumping rouble is feeding into higher import prices, as both Russians and foreigners scramble to get out of rouble investments.

Note that this has little to do with formal sanctions, according to reports. Bureaucratic penalties, to the extent they work at all, don't function with the speed of scared investors getting their money the hell out.

Empire probably doesn't have to be universally ruinous to the conqueror. There may be a temporary upside if you're Roman or medieval Spanish about it and just suck the conquests dry while worrying little about economic ties with people who see peaceful, predictable environments as the best hosts for their business efforts. That might work, for a bit.

But that's not the modern world. In a piece for The Atlantic advocating for an American Empire, Robert D, Kaplan concedes, "the real problem with imperialism is not that it is evil, but rather that it is too expensive and therefore a problematic grand strategy for a country like the United States. Many an empire has collapsed because of the burden of conquest."

Russia won't collapse over Crimea. But it will gag over the tab for a while.

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  • Hugh Akston||

    Andrew Sullivan tells me that this is evidence that the Obama Doctrine has succeeded once again.

  • Doctor Whom||

    Something about 3D Vulcan chess?

  • kmc212||

    Putin's folly: Crimea is a money pit

    Absorbing all of those money-losing provinces would deliver a major financial blow to Russia, while lightening the load for Ukraine. Russia is already expected to post a $12 billion budget shortfall for the year before factoring in the cost of the Crimean annexation. With its economic growth rate stuck at around 2.5% for the next few years, that deficit will just grow larger and larger over time. Having to absorb millions of people, who are mostly poor, will just make things worse. As such, if Ukraine can't win this little skirmish with Russia along military grounds, it should do the next best thing and just bankrupt them.

    http://finance.fortune.cnn.com.....a-ukraine/

  • R C Dean||

    Wow. A whole $12BB deficit. For an entire year.

    Thats what, a week's deficit for the feds?

  • ||

    OUR feds, sure. I don't know how much that is to the Russian government, though.

  • kmc212||

    Russian economists aren't Keynesian enough to destroy their economy.

  • CampingInYourPark||

    The Crimean authorities intend to hand over Chernomornaftogaz to Russia's Gazprom (MOEX: GAZP) whose specialists have effectively taken the company under their control, Chernomornaftogaz Deputy CEO Vladimir Plechun said.

    "They instantly started studying documents and established control. According to Muscovites themselves, the addition of the shelf and Chernomornaftogaz will increase Gazprom's capital by $50 billion. They are appraising the Black Sea shelf around the Crimean peninsula at the Caspian level," the Chernomornaftogaz executive representative said.

    http://rbth.com/news/2014/03/1.....35182.html

  • kmc212||

    The Crimean people won't benefit from any of that.

  • CampingInYourPark||

    I doubt Putin really gives a crap about anyone but himself and by extension his allies in big business.

  • Drake||

    About 4 and a half days of borrowing for our federal government.

  • perlhaqr||

    Just goes to show: Crimea Doesn't Pay.

  • RannedPall||

    This can't be right, I don't recall having any issues on Empire: Total War when I ferried my American army over the Atlantic and conquered Paris and London...

  • Almanian!||

    Obama's playing "Empire: Total War", and Putin's playing chess real warfare!

    /Mike Rogers (R-MI)

  • Florida Man||

    I'm not an investor, but if this transition is rather peaceful, won't people return to investing in Russia?

  • UnCivilServant||

    It depends on how long it takes to reach a predictable equalibrium.

  • Florida Man||

    I have a feeling this is going to be like the market in America. Some bad report in the morning, market goes down, people stop freaking out, market goes up. As long as Russia didn't have the cost of a long war I'm sure they can absorb a temporary down turn in investing.

  • ||

    Or, more contextually, if I look at Ukraine where the transition was violent and disordered vs. Crimea where the transition was nearly bloodless and much more orderly...

  • ||

    It's probably depend on if Putin stops at Crimea...apparently there are Russians being mistreated in Estonia now.

  • waffles||

    And Moldova too!

  • ||

    Which I find weird. To hear my Romanian friends tell it you'd think the Russians were in control there, but they're ~6% of the population of Moldova proper, and pushing 10% of the area with the separatist government.

  • wareagle||

    before long, we'll hear of their being mistreated on Brighton Beach.

  • Wasteland Wanderer||

    Estonia is a NATO country. If Russia tries to annex it, we will be required by treaty to defend them. I don't think Putin is stupid enough to get into a shooting war with us over it.

    My best guess is they're making rumblings about "mistreatment" to get us distracted by something else other than Crimea.

  • Malvolio||

    We were required by treaty to defend the Ukraine too. How did that work out?

  • jmomls||

    It didn't, because the US Senate never ratified that treaty, did they?

  • CampingInYourPark||

    I'm not an investor, but if this transition is rather peaceful, won't people return to investing in Russia?

    Might as well ask if Europe wants heated homes

  • Cdr Lytton||

  • Rasilio||

    I'm certain it happens in American Hospitals too. Exactly what else would you expect them to do with the remains? As a biohazard the safest thing to do is incinerate them along with other biohazard waste and if you're going to have an incinerator you may as well hook it up to the Hospital's heating system to save money.

  • Cdr Lytton||

    Wouldn't surprise if they did, but the EPA has pretty much regulated hospital incinerators out of existence.

  • ||

    If Putin is willing to take on international law and norms to do this Crimea land grab, why would he worry about Russian laws stopping him if he wants to nationalize foreign interests in Russia? As an investor, I would be very worried about that and I would look elsewhere for less risky investments.

  • Bardas Phocas||

    pour la gloire!

  • CampingInYourPark||

    "Chornomornaftogaz and Rosneft offshore oil fields in the Black Sea"

    http://rbth.com/multimedia/inf.....35205.html

  • The Late P Brooks||

    For some reason, an image jumped into my head of a Board of Directors meeting, where everybody looks goggle-eyed at an acquisitive CEO and asks, "You bought WHO? For HOW MUCH?"

  • Almanian!||

    "...and we're JUST the company to make it work, this time!"

    Every M&A, ever...

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    Can't remember the research and too lazy to Google it. But yes, the conclusion was that M&A's never result in profit.

    OK, maybe I'll Google it.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

  • ||

    Wait, I thought this was the Second Rise of the Soviet Empire? "An attack on one is an attack on all" and all that, right?

    Putin is doing a shitty job in Stalin's boots.

  • Almanian!||

    In Russia, Stalin's boots do YOU!

  • Kakistocrat||

    Is Yakov Smirnoff still alive? May be perfect timing for a comeback...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w1_-TlqdIvM

  • gimmeasammich||

    Who is ready for a trip to Branson, MO?

  • R C Dean||

    I think he may be emulating Hitler more, at this point. This entire episode is practically a shot-for-shot remake of Czechoslovakia, 1938.

  • John||

    Except that Putin doesn't plan to take over all of Europe to make living space for the Russian people.

    It is not Munich. I wish people would stop making that analogy. Putin sucks and Russia is a big, nasty aggressive country. But it is not Nazi Germany. In other words, it does have rational goals and rational interests that can be bargained with. Had Hitler been Putin, Munich would be looked at in a totally different light today.

  • R C Dean||

    Except that Putin doesn't plan to take over all of Europe to make living space for the Russian people.

    I'm sure not. He'll settle for recreating the Soviet Union. Probably without some of the more pointless -stans.

  • John||

    He won't even do that. He just wants the various Russian minorities back. The danger here is that he will go into the Baltic or Poland. That really could cause a war. Other than the danger of emboldening him to go somewhere that matters, I fail to see why I should care about Ukraine. They are even more corrupt and hopeless than Russia is. No one is going to go to war to save Ukraine. Poland and the Baltics in contrast are different.

  • jmomls||

    *He just wants the various Russian minorities back.*

    What, the planes don't fly both ways?
    Hey, if Ivan was worried about all the Rooshkies stuck in foreign lands, maybe he ought not to have placed them there for a century or more in an attempt to displace the indigenous populations?

  • prolefeed||

    Except that Putin doesn't plan to take over all of Europe to make living space for the Russian people.

    You gonna be saying this if Putin invades eastern Ukraine next?

    Hitler seized the Ruhr Valley, Austria, Western Czechoslovakia, then Eastern Czechoslovakia, all without going to war, while people wrung their hands and thought he'd stop somewhere.

    Not saying this is what Putin is up to, but it does feel late 1930-ish so far.

  • John||

    I am going to say it sucks to be Ukraine. If Putin wants to spend his time and wealth playing local bad boy, I wish him luck. But I don't think it is going to work out for him as well as he thinks it will.

    In the mean time, I would be arming the living hell out of the Baltics and Poland making sure that Putin is deterred from such adventures further west.

  • Malvolio||

    Why not arm the Ukraine?

    They gave up their nukes in return for assurance of Russian non-aggression. Obviously, we should give them their weapons back.

  • ||

    Lebensraum may not be the excuse this time, but Russia is signaling potential aggression against its other neighbors.

    "Language should not be used to segregate and isolate groups," the diplomat was reported as saying. Russia was "concerned by steps taken in this regard in Estonia as well as in Ukraine," the Moscow envoy was said to have added.

    Russia has previously grumbled about the treatment of Russian speakers in Latvia and Lithuania. Russia used the same excuse to get involved in Georgia, and is currently massing near Moldova.

    NATO's top military commander said on Sunday Russia had built up a "very sizeable" force on its border with Ukraine and Moscow may have a region in another ex-Soviet republic, Moldova, in its sights after annexing Crimea.
  • John||

    As I said, they want their Russian minorities back. They want population. That makes them dangerous. But it doesn't make them Nazi Germany.

  • wareagle||

    you know, there are alternatives between Nazi Germany and Switzerland.

  • ||

    Then give Russian minorities a plot of land and a Russian passport and invite them home.

    They're using mistreatment of Russians as a casus belli to solidify control over areas they think are historically theirs.

    Russia isn't Nazi Germany, but that doesn't mean that we should overlook some very clear historical parallels.

  • John||

    I don't think the parallels are there. Nazi Germany was never going to quit and could not be bargained with. The only way to deal with them was to invade the country and hang the little paper hanging son of a bitch.

    Putin's Russia in contrast can be bargained with and can be deterred. You just have to pick the right spots where and use the right forms of leverage. The Crimea is not the place to draw the line in the sand with Russia. The Baltics and Poland are.

    So the challenge is to keep Putin's moves into Crimea from escalating into a needless war while at the same time making it clear to the little bastard that he is not going into the Baltics or Poland.

    I seriously doubt President Chauncey Gardner is up to this task. And I seriously fear for the future because of this. Our only hope is that we can get the stupid bastard out of office before Putin finally goes to far and we end up in a war.

  • ||

    To provoke war with Poland in order to gain Lebensraum, Nazis used as a pretext a claim to Free City of Danzig and Polish territory that separated German exclave of East Prussia from the rest of the Reich. The so-called Polish Corridor constituted land long disputed by Poland and Germany, and inhabited by a Polish majority

    Sure John, no parallels at all.

    Putin's Russia in contrast can be bargained with and can be deterred. You just have to pick the right spots where and use the right forms of leverage.

    I seem to remember Neville Chamberlain saying something similar about Hitler.

    I seriously doubt President Chauncey Gardner is up to this task. And I seriously fear for the future because of this.

    This I agree with. We're into his second term and his foreign policy chops seem to consist of standing tough against Muammar Gaddafi, which hardly inspires confidence while Putin saber rattles at the former Soviet Union.

  • John||

    Jesse,

    Lots of countries have used false pretenses to break off pieces of other countries. Hell, the US lied about genocide in Kosovo as an excuse to break off the province from Serbia. Doing that doesn't make you Nazi Germany.

  • ||

    Again, nobody is saying that Putin is Hitler. RC was making the point that his motivations and tactics are more Hitler-esque than Stalin-esque. I don't think Hitler/Putin is a perfect match, but you're denying that there are parallels at all, which is a pretty weak claim. Also claiming a national right to incorporate other territories because you've got an ethnic minority there that needs protecting is a very narrow subset of "false pretenses" and is one that is bound to resonate in people's minds with one historical figure: Hitler.

  • ||

    And just because comparisons to Nazi Germany are overused and trite doesn't mean there aren't situations where those comparisons are legit.

  • kinnath||

    2015 will be an interesting year. After the Dems get whacked in the 2014 election and before the 2016 presidential campaign kicks into high gear. It would be an opportune time for Putin to make a big play.

  • Drake||

    While NATO isn't what it used to be, the numbers are massively against Russia in a big war.

    In a full-scale war with NATO, Russia doesn't just lose, they get crushed and humiliated Desert Storm style. Which is dangerous considering their nuclear arsenal.

  • wareagle||

    Putin's Russia in contrast can be bargained with and can be deterred.

    how and by whom? It won't be the Europeans. It won't be Obama. China's not going to say anything. Doesn't leave many options.

  • jmomls||

    China might say something. There are a lot of useful resources in the Russian Far East.

    Just because the Japanese Empire was too squeamish to go for that area, doesn't mean the PRC will be, too.

  • ||

    I don't think the parallels are there. Nazi Germany was never going to quit and could not be bargained with. The only way to deal with them was to invade the country and hang the little paper hanging son of a bitch.

    I agree. Regardless of the bargaining, where are the Gas Chambers? Where is Krystallnacht? Where are the labor camps and Gulags? So far, the show of inhumanly oppressive force that parallels the Nazi regime in Crimea has resulted in the death of one person.

    Poland no longer sits between Nazi Germany and the USSR. Instead, they sit leaning against the EU phone in hand watching Estonia with 'NATO' at the top of their contact list. Putin sneezes in the direction of the Black Sea and the Sixth Fleet says 'Gesundheit'. Hitler didn't give two shits about oppressed Germans in... anywhere. Didn't even use them as a premise for invasion.

    The parallels between Putin and Hitler are the parallels between any nation performing any annexation or land grab. Putin's annexation of Crimea was less lethal and, thus far, has been less disruptive than the 'Shock and Awe' with which the US ousted Saddam.

  • ||

    I agree jesse...the parallels are very strong here.

  • Rasilio||

    In the case of Crimea at least it was historically theirs. Crimea had been part of Russia since the 1780's and when it was independent was often an enemy of Ukraine. It has always had far more ties to Russia than Ukraine

  • Pro Libertate||

    While there's little question that the Nazis were worse than today's Russia and harder to reason with, there's a gigantic difference between the two: Russia is a major nuclear power.

  • ||

    While there's little question that the Nazis were worse than today's Russia and harder to reason with, there's a gigantic difference between the two: Russia is a major nuclear power.

    My understanding is that Kiev expressed interest in the ability to increase it's nuclear options while Russia shows no indications of discontinuing their reduction (they almost didn't even need bullets to take Crimea).

    The biggest danger I foresee WRT to nuclear power is some stupid President drawing a red line (just like with the Soviet Union) and Putin not being able or motivated enough to find an escape hatch for him.

  • entropy||

    It may be a PC hanging offense but dude, Hitler had rational goals and rational interests. Not nice ones, but rational ones. They almost worked.

  • entropy||

    And if it had worked, it'd be statues of Hitler in squares all over eastern europe, not Lenin.

  • jmomls||

    If Hitler had died in 1938, he'd be considered the greatest Germanic statesman ever.

  • Rasilio||

    Yeah if it hadn't been for those meddling kids and their dog he'd have gotten away with it

  • Fluffy||

    What everyone fails to take into account here is that Ukraine never left Russia's sphere of influence following the breakup of the Soviet Union.

    Until a month ago. (ish)

    Russia didn't really gain Crimea here. Russia suddenly and catastrophically lost the entire Ukraine (the new government is much more nationalist than any of its predecessors, including Yulia's) and in a panic they grabbed back the part that's most important to them (because of the naval ports).

    You really have to have just about no ability to take the long view to perceive this as some dangerous resurgent Russian advance.

    This is a two steps back, one step forward kind of situation.

    Russia continues to die. Grabbing the Crimea makes them die a little slower.

  • Cytotoxic||

    There was no indication that Ukraine was going to take Crimea away. None.

  • ||

    (because of the naval ports)

    I'm sure the *one* pipeline that's runs from Russia to Europe outside the what's left of the Ukraine was part of the equation as well.

  • John||

    Empires have always been expensive. The idea that western Europe got wealthy because they exploited their empires as opposed because they had hard working and productive populations is one the biggest pieces of Leninist bullshit ever put to paper. Yet, western journalists and politicians, many of whom should know better, constantly repeat it and act like gaining an empire is a way to wealth.

    Even conquering and looting countries is a dead end, since there is never enough free money and the loot is eventually spent leaving the looter nothing left to show for it. Spain looted more treasure out of the Americas than probably any empire in history. And it ended up a backward, poor shit hole. Money is not wealth or productive capability.

  • Spoonman.||

    Hell, I would rather live in Chile or the Dominican Republic today than Spain.

  • kinnath||

    The purpose of an acquisition is to buy a revenue stream such that the future revenue exceeds the future value of the money going into the acquisition.

    So conquest only makes sense if you are conquering productive lands that give you a flow of goods greater than the expense of conquest. You can only pull so much gold out of the ground before the conquered land becomes useless. What you really want is to conquer prime agricultural lands I suppose.

  • John||

    Kinneth,

    You don't need to conquer the country to get access to t he flow of goods. They are goods. The people producing them want to sell them to you. That is the whole point of making them.

    All conquering the nation does is stick you with the bill of governing the place.

  • kinnath||

    I wasn't exactly saying conquest was a good idea. I was just saying that if you happen to be an egotistical tyrant with ambitions for grabbing new lands, you should prioritize your efforts towards long term rewards instead of short term goals unlike many modern American CEOs ;-)

  • John||

    Mostly what drives conquest in the modern age is money. From Revolutionary France to Nazi Germany, the pattern is a tyrant takes over and loots various parts of society to pay off his supporters. Then when he runs out of other people's money he moves on to invading other countries and taking their money.

  • prolefeed||

    Not quite. The whole point of a government is to steal from the subjects via taxation to benefit the political leaders. Sometimes the government disguises this by building schools or roads to gain better PR.

    So a conquest is worth it to the political leaders if the new taxes exceed the cost of conquest plus the cost of administering the land afterwards.

  • John||

    Except that with collecting the taxes comes the headache and expense of governing the place. And if you take too much in taxes, you kill the golden goose.

    Empire is and has always been a money loser.

  • prolefeed||

    That's nonsense. The entire world is ruled by governments. If government was a money loser, there wouldn't be any governments.

    Collecting taxes and giving little or nothing in return is profitable for rulers, sometimes, if they can keep the populace submissive and handing over the taxes without too much fuss.

  • John||

    If government was a money loser, there wouldn't be any governments.

    Government is a break even proposition at best. And a lot of governments are dead money losers. If you don't believe me, I have a $14 trillion dollar US debt that says otherwise.

    The plan is always "we can take over and skim some profit off the top in taxes", but it never works out that way. The locals either don't want to be ruled and cost you a fortune to keep in line or you really are able to skim the money but end up overcome by the lure for free money and just end up looting the place and killing off its economy.

  • prolefeed||

    Government isn't a break even proposition for the rulers and their minions. Obama is living large compared to what he'd make if he had an honest job. All those rich suburbs around DC are full of people who likely would be much poorer if they weren't living off the government teat.

    And the deficit isn't considered a real problem to these folks so long as they continue to get paid. They don't CARE if they run a deficit if, in the short term, they get to live large.

    You're looking at it as if government officials weren't thieves looting us and living off the proceeds, which is hardly merely a break even deal -- for them.

    Now, if building an empire and invading foreign lands means a net suck on their income stream, then the rulers would be concerned.

  • John||

    yes they can loot prole feed. But that doesn't make their nation any more powerful. From a national perspective, empires are a money loser.

  • entropy||

    What you really want is to conquer prime agricultural lands I suppose.

    If you're stuck in the 19th century. Who the hell needs prime agricultural lands? There are free agroponics youtube tutorials. For the amount of effort you put into conquering prime agricultural lands you could grow bananas at the south pole with modern tech.

  • ChrisO||

    Yep. It would undoubtedly have been cheaper for Britain to buy the cotton from India rather than conquer it.

    The British Empire was largely a wealth transfer scheme--the lower sorts paid all the taxes to fund the army and navy, so that the lesser sons of Lord Such-and-Such go off and have a grand time making a personal fortune in the colonies.

  • R C Dean||

    may be a temporary upside if you're Roman

    The "temporary" upside for the Romans lasted, what, 1,000 years if you regard the center of gravity of the Roman empire as being Constantinople, post-Constantine.

    Just sayin'.

  • John||

    The Roman Empire wasn't quite and empire in the modern sense. As much as anything it was a protection racket. The Romans were always smart enough to leave native governments in place and just demand tribute. Second, it was an empire created by circumstance and necessity more than ambition. Rome's enemies were never going to make peace. So Rome just kept defeating them and taking over territory only to run into the next enemy and so forth.

  • ChrisO||

    It also ethnically cleansed the native populations (at least the adult males) and replaced them with Roman colonists. Ultimately, most of the Roman colonies became provinces with full citizenship. In that sense, it's more like the USA and the policy of manifest destiny.

  • John||

    That too. It is pretty easy to rule if you come in and kill everyone and move in your own people. That is thankfully not really an option these days.

  • Drake||

    Kill them? What a waste.
    Julius Caesar sold every Gaul he caught into slavery. Made himself the richest man in the world (at least after Crassus got himself killed).

  • DJF||

    Since the US and EU are already stepping up to pay Ukraine's gas and oil bill that will help Russia out. Especially now that Ukraine is paying full price.

    Putin says thanks

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Andrew Sullivan tells me that this is evidence that the Obama Doctrine has succeeded once again.

    "I'm an EXCELLENT President."

  • Ron||

    forget Americas imperialism in other countries her imperialism over her own people will make it collapse soon enough.

  • Sevo||

    During WWII, the Nazis captured most all of Europe, and those economies added to the Vaterland should have made the German empire invincible.
    Instead, the GDPs of the occupied countries collapsed, and Germany ended up with only the assets she could steal.
    It seems you can coerce people into working, but you can't coerce them into making wealth. Might have something to do with the fact that free transactions add to humanity's wealth.

  • John||

    It might Sevo. And Napoleon did basically the same thing. And he also went broke.

    The other problem is that nothing is more addictive and destructive as free money. The conqueror comes in and gets the initial high of all of that free money, but the money eventually runs out and he is right back to where he started. No amount of looting is ever enough.

  • Tony||

    You don't find it ironic that you're saying these things from the wealthiest country in the world, one that wouldn't exist without near-total conquering of its native peoples and their land?

  • wareagle||

    this country wasn't built by looting other countries, it was built from within. I realize that gets in the way of romanticizing a bunch of warlord nomads but so be it.

  • ChrisO||

    Different situations. The USA replaced the natives with European immigrants. Napoleon didn't attempt to replace the populations of Germany and Italy with Frenchmen.

  • Sevo||

    Tony|3.25.14 @ 11:41AM|#
    "You don't find it ironic that you're saying these things from the wealthiest country in the world"...

    Thank you, you stinking pile of shit, for proving my point.

  • John||

    Wow, you are just amazingly ignorant Tony. We are not wealthy because we looted the Indians. We are wealthy because we are a fabulously productive society who took over the land and turned it to productive purposes. We basically forcibly removed the Indians and moved in ourselves like the Romans did. So our wealth, while in some ways the result of taking and buying the Indians' lands, is not the result of us looting the wealth of the Indians. They didn't have any wealth to speak of or certainly nothing comparing to our wealth or the wealth we later created from the lands.

    You really are amazing Tony. There isn't a single subject that you are not profoundly ignorant about.

  • Fluffy||

    You don't find it ironic that you're saying these things from the wealthiest country in the world, one that wouldn't exist without near-total conquering of its native peoples and their land?

    If the land makes you wealthy and powerful, why weren't the Indians wealthy and powerful?

  • Sevo||

    John|3.25.14 @ 11:39AM|#
    "The other problem is that nothing is more addictive and destructive as free money. The conqueror comes in and gets the initial high of all of that free money."

    The Spaniards tried to empty the new world of gold. They got inflation and poverty.
    MONEY IS *NOT* WEALTH!

  • John||

    Exactly. Contrast Spain with England. North America was a trackless wilderness that really only a nut would try and colonize. Yet, the English, Canadians and Americans ended up a hundred times more wealthy than Spain or Latin America.

  • ChrisO||

    Putin and his cronies don't give a damn about the Russian economy, at least not to the extent that it would be harmed by this little adventure. They care about staying in power, and stoking Russian nationalism is a good way to do that. Invading Georgia over the breakaway provinces and retaking Crimea were both very cheap and easy ways of rallying the nationalistic yahoos. That's why I don't think a major play for the entire Russian "near abroad" is imminent. That would be very risky for Putin domestically.

  • Kakistocrat||

    Russia swallows?

    Hot.

  • mr lizard||

    Gansta!

  • Fluffy||

    I seem to remember Neville Chamberlain saying something similar about Hitler.

    OK, it's time for me to deal with this Munich nonsense again.

    The people who talk the most about Munich understand it the least.

    First of all, the lesson of Munich cannot be "Never bargain with dictators," because Churchill's desired policy, the one Chamberlain rejected, was an accommodation with Stalin to gain his support against Hitler. Churchill was prepared to offer Stalin territorial concessions to make sure Hitler didn't get any.

    Second of all, the problem with using 1938 as a model is that you can't be sure you're living in 1938. In the winter of 1939-40, Churchill was not yet Prime Minister. During that winter, he demanded that Chamberlain a) invade Eire; b) invade Norway; c) bomb the Soviets in support of the Finns. Had Churchill been Prime Minister and put any of these plans into effect, it's virtually certain that the Allies would have lost the Second World War. So all of this "The lesson of Munich is that you have to be like Churchill and be tough with dictators!" stuff is nonsense, because if the day you try it you discover that it's not 1938 but 1939 - you're totally boned.

  • John||

    The other problem with the Munich parallel is that the Czech Republic really was the red line. The Sudeatenland is a mountainous region and full of fortifications. The Germany Army would have played hell getting through it. It was the key to Eastern Europe.

    It wasn't so much that they bargained with Hitler. It was that they bargained with him over the wrong thing. Hitler couldn't believe that Britain and France would give up so easily. As a result, he was shocked when they did finally go to war over Poland. Everyone hated Poland and unlike the Czechoslovakia, a large part of it really was historically part of Germany. And it was an easy mark and no way for the allies to defend it. Hitler figured there was no way Britain was going to war over Poland when it wouldn't over Czechoslovakia.

    The point is that Munich doesn't mean you should never negotiate with dictators. It means, among other things, that when you do, you better negotiate over the right thing and pick the right lines to draw.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    How exactly would the allies have defended Czechoslovakia? Italy and Austria would not have let them move troops there from the south, and while they didn't know it at the time, thanks to the Molotov-Ribbentropp pact, Russia would not have let them move troops through Poland to get there from the north.

  • John||

    By invading Germany from the West. Germany didn't have a big enough army at that point to fight a two front war. And France had a huge army sitting on the German border.

  • John||

    Dragon,

    It is pretty much agreed by military historians that if France had had a plan and invaded Germany when the war opened while Germany was occupied in Poland, Germany would have most likely lost the war. The Germans took the tactical risk of leaving 3rd rate divisions on the French border so that they could invade Poland.

    Hitler's genius in the beginning was that he was audacious and seemed to be an expert at sizing up his opponents. Hitler bet that the French were still too scared by the failures of their offensive strategy in 1914 and wouldn't attack. He won that bet. Had he lost it, he would have lost the war in 1939.

  • Fluffy||

    The Molotov-Ribbentrop pact did not exist yet, and it was believed that Stalin had an excellent personal relationship with the Czech President.

    Italy was also not yet in Hitler's pocket. Mussolini still regarded himself as (laughably in retrospect) Hitler's mentor.

    The Wehrmacht was also the 1938 Wehrmacht, which was qualitatively much less capable than the late 1939 Wehrmacht.

    If it had come to war in 1938, Hitler was in a difficult situation.

  • John||

    There is a great description in the Rise and Fall of the Third Reich of the huge lines of broken down German vehicles moving into Czechoslovakia. The German Army used that as a rehearsal for Poland and Poland as a rehearsal for France.

    If you are a real military history geek like I am, you probably have read the descriptions of the German crossing of the Muse and breakout at Sedan in 1940. What is striking about battle is how well the Germans had their shit together using combined arms, that is using air, artillery, armor and infantry as a team in a coordinated effort. The French and British had more of each but had no idea how to use them effectively together. The Germans did. And they did largely because they had had two invasions, first a dry run in Czechoslovakia and then a real one in Poland, to get their act together.

    The German Army in 1938 had not yet been able to do that. And it would not have fared nearly as well.

  • ||

    What was the US Libertarian position about getting involved in Europe in 1938-39? What was Joe Kennedy's?

  • Stormy Dragon||

    It's also not clear how the armies that were incapable of defending France in 1940 would have been able to defend Czechoslovakia in 1938. Starting the war two years earlier wouldn't have brought the US and Russia in earlier. It just would have meant the UK and France fighting Germany alone for two more years.

    The whole arc of the war was the Allies retreating on all fronts to buy time for the US and Russia to spin up enough industrial capacity to overwhelm Germany economically. That being the case, delaying the start of the war as long as possible was key to the Allies winning. If not for Munich delaying things, Germany very likely would have won the war.

  • John||

    They would have been Stormy. The German Army was a paper tiger in 1938. The Germans were not ready for war. Moreover, had they had the support of the Allies, the Czechs, who had a decent army, could have defended themselves, since the Germans would have had to have defended their western border not just attack the Czechs and the Czechs would still have been in control of the Sudatenland.

    But had war started at Munich, the Germans would have gotten their asses kicked. France and Britain both had big Armies. The reason why the Germans were able to win in May 1940 was because the Germans were way ahead in combined arms and had a very good attack plan. They didn't have that in 1938 and the quality of their Army wasn't nearly as good. The Germany army got better by leaps and bounds between 1939 and 1940 and from the lessons they learned in Poland.

    Really though, the allies should have stood up when Hitler militarized the Rhineland. Then Germany had virtually no army to stop it and such a humiliation would have probably resulted in Hitler losing power.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    The French were also a paper tiger that was not ready for war. And the Germans were further along the path to non paper tiger status by 1938 then the French were. The German army had already completed most of it's build up by 1938 and already had a bigger army than France.

    And yes, Germany could have been stopped when the militarized the rhineland. But your really going to argue that we ought to go to war everytime someone moves troops around inside their own country in a way we don't like?

  • John||

    The French were not a paper tiger. That is a myth. The problem the French had was that they didn't understand the changes in warfare between the wars. They didn't understand combined arms and mobility the way the Germans did in 1940. Also, the German plan in 1940 was really audacious. It very easily could have failed. It success wasn't the result of the French or the British at a tactical level being paper tigers. It succeeded because at the operational level the English and French failed to understand the threat created by the breakout at Sedan and allowed the Germans to dived the French Army and the BEF and defeat each in detail. The French in spots kicked the hell out of the Germans and put up a very good fight. But it didn't matter since the Germans so thoroughly out maneuvered them.

    The French had a very large and effective army in 1940. Had they taken the offensive in 1940, they would have overrun the Rufr, which was the heart of Germany's industrial base and Germany would have lost the war.

    And the Rhineland was supposed to remain demilitarized under the Treaty of Versailles. The Germans were not just moving around troops in their own country. They were renouncing the peace treaty that ended World War I and was supposed to keep the peace. The idea was Germany was no longer allowed to put troops on the French border so they couldn't invade again so easily. Letting them do that was a huge defeat for the allies and helped solidify Hitler's power in Germany.

  • John||

    Dragon,

    Read Sir Alister Horne's classic history of France in 1940, To Lose a Battle: France 1940 sometime. It is a very good book. And it puts to rest the myths that France didn't have a good army or lost in 1940 because the Germans had better equipment. Neither of those things are true.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    I'm basing my opinion on my recollections of Shirer's Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. I sadly don't have it available at the momment to get the specific numbers, but there is an extended discussion at several points during the lead up to the war on the number of divisions availble to various sides and as I remember, while the gap was not as big as it would grow to be in 1940, Germany already had mobilized more divisions than France had by 1938.

    Now yes, maybe with sufficient preperation the UK and France COULD have fielded a larger army than Germany, but based on what was actually available at the time Munich occured, I think Germany already had the larger force by then.

  • John||

    They didn't have a large enough force to both invade to the East and defend against a French invasion. And the British and French had a combined larger army in the 1940 than the Germans did. Look it up if you don't believe me.

  • ||

    I don't think my takeaway there was that we should be strong-arming Putin into playing nice with his neighbors, and I don't think that we should obsess over the run up to WWII to make decisions about the current situation. I brought up Chamberlain only poke a stick at John's assertion that Russian bellicosity has a neatly defined limit and we should just let him tucker himself out on his eastern and southern neighbors.

  • Tötmacher||

    "OK, it's time for me to deal with this Munich nonsense again."

    Hooray. How exciting.

    OR you could choose to not miss the point and admit that things can be LIKE things without being IDENTICAL to things.

  • Almanian!||

    You know who else prompted comparisons to Hitler...

  • ||

    Nicole?

  • Almanian!||

    excellent

  • Juice||

    I'd just like to know what the fuck Russia was supposed to do in their situation. Let the EU and NATO just economically fuck them in the ass? Let Ukraine join NATO? They were kind of put into a bind when their man fled his post. At least they weren't shut out of Crimea, which they need militarily.

  • John||

    You make a good point Juice. We have for going on 15 years now constantly fucked with the Russians. If you want peace, you have to give your opponent a peaceful option that they can live with. The Russians are not going to take peace at the price of being under our thumb and becoming a second rate power. So unless we want to go to war, we need to figure out a peaceful option that we can live with that avoids that.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Let the EU and NATO just economically fuck them in the ass?

    I'd like to know what the hell you are talking about.

    They were kind of put into a bind when their man fled his post

    No they weren't. They were supposed to mind their place and keep their hands to themselves.

    We have for going on 15 years now constantly fucked with the Russians.

    Oh give me a break. No defeated nation has been treated as nicely as post-Cold War Russia. They are bunch of belligerent chauvinistic assholes that need to be put in their place.

  • John||

    They are bunch of belligerent chauvinistic assholes that need to be put in their place.

    They have enough ballistic missiles to destroy the world. Are you stupid or just nuts? We won the cold war by containing them not by conquering them or putting them in your place you fucking half wit

  • waffles||

  • Drake||

    Why exactly do they need Crimea "militarily"?

  • Stormy Dragon||

    It's their only warm water (e.g. not frozen in ice part of the year) naval base.

  • Drake||

    So vacations?

    I know little of the geography in that part of the world, but there sure seems to be a lot of Russian shore line elsewhere on the Black Sea.

    Given how little fight the Ukrainians have offered up, why would Putin think he was going to lose his base?

  • Sigivald||

    There may be a temporary upside if you're Roman or medieval Spanish about it and just suck the conquests dry while worrying little about economic ties with people who see peaceful, predictable environments as the best hosts for their business efforts.

    While the points about Russia and the Crimea are spot on ... this doesn't seem to actually describe the Roman experience of empire.

    Rome conquered places and then damn near let them self-govern at the low level, and didn't bleed them dry (that causes revolts and poverty, and you can't tax that!).

    Hell, Rome's big problem was keeping people out...

  • John||

    Yes. And when Rome went broke and tried to bleed its empire dry, that is when things went south.

  • frankania||

    This is PRECISELY why the USA, NATO nor EU should not provide any $$$ to anyone there. Let Putin worry about it

  • ConstitutionFirst||

    Ever play the game of Risk?
    Did you win often?
    Yeah, it's like that.

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