The Volokh Conspiracy

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Ukraine

Thoughts on the War in Ukraine: The turning of the tide?

The "sanctions" appear to be working, and we could be witnessing a very significant moment for this war, and for the history of warfare

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[NB: UPDATE at 02/28/22 330 PM at End of Post]

When Russian troops entered Ukraine last Thursday, it was hard not to feel an overwhelming sense of doom and gloom.  There were, it seemed to me, two possible outcomes, both terrible: Either the Russians would steamroll over the Ukrainian resistance, occupy Kyiv, install a puppet government, throw Zelensky and his associates in jail (or worse), and leave; or, the Ukrainian resistance would be more formidable than expected, and there would be a horrific, bloody carnage that would, inevitably, end in a Russian victory by virtue of their vastly superior force, at the cost of tens or hundreds of thousands of casualties.

But I hadn't foreseen the third possibility:  that the Allies could deploy a weapon powerful enough to force Putin to reconsider the wisdom of what he was doing and bring him to the negotiating table. But that is what seems to be happening.

As I write this, the two sides are meeting at the Belarus-Ukraine border to explore whether some kind of negotiated settlement is possible. What is noteworthy - remarkable, even, - is that it was the Russians who instigated the negotiations, inviting Zelensky to come to the table. On Day Four of the invasion.

That does not look, to me, like the move of someone who believes he is in a strong position, with the situation well in hand. It looks even less like that when, after Zelensky refuses to come to Belarus, Putin compromises, and agrees that the two sides can hold their meeting at the border.

If you saw that coming on Thursday morning, you're a lot smarter than I am.

Perhaps it will turn out to be all bluff and bother. But it feels, to me, like the tide has perhaps already started to turn. After four days. What happened?

Two things happened. The first, of course, is that the Ukrainian resistance appears to have been stronger, and the steamroll into Kyiv was going to take longer, than anticipated.

Not to minimize in any way the quite extraordinary bravery and valor that the Ukrainians are demonstrating,** my guess is that, standing alone, that didn't give Putin too much pause. He had only deployed a relatively small fraction of his troops, and the overwhelming superiority of their numbers surely meant that the steamroll-into-Kyiv strategy was still available, it would just have to come at the cost of immense bloodshed and suffering.  And I'm not at all sure that those consequences weigh much in Putin's calculus.

** I grew up in a household where, to be entirely candid, Ukrainians were not held in terribly high regard. My grand-parents fled from that part of the world; Jews had an especially tough time in the Ukrainian countryside, and the stories they brought with them of life in the Ukraine were not pleasant ones. But it's hard not to be stirred by the incredible courage that so many Ukrainians are now demonstrating to defend their country's independence.

The other thing that happened is that on Saturday - the day before Putin extended his offer to begin negotiations - the Allies rolled out their new "sanctions." It includes a weapon that appears capable of inflicting - indeed, one that has already begun inflicting - catastrophic damage on the Russian economy and the Russian people.

The sanctions package announced on Saturday not only included kicking several large Russian banks off of the SWIFT network - the main global network for bank-to-bank transactions - it also

"…prohibits United States persons from engaging in transactions with the Central Bank of the Russian Federation, the National Wealth Fund of the Russian Federation, and the Ministry of Finance of the Russian Federation. This action effectively immobilizes any assets of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation held in the United States or by U.S. persons, wherever located."

It is rather breath-taking in its simplicity.  The Fed, of course, is a "United States person." So it means that, henceforth, the Fed will not honor requests from the Russian Central Bank to "cash in" any portion of their dollar holdings.

So that stack of 600 billion or so dollars that Putin and his cohorts have gathered together to ride out the war?  It's now worth a good deal less than it was on Friday, because a substantial portion of that stack is "held"** in US financial institutions that are ultimately under the Fed's control, and the Fed is now prohibited from transferring control over those funds to the Russian Central Bank (or to anyone else designated as the recipient by the Russian Central Bank).

** The use of "hold" in its various forms in connection with these accounts is antiquated and, worse, confusing. Putin's stack - or, really, anybody's stack - isn't "held" anywhere, these days; at least, not in the sense that it consists of tangible things, like dollar bills, capable of a "holding." The stack isn't really a thing that can be held; it consists of ledger entries, inter-linked to various obligations of financial institutions within the global system requiring them to adjust their ledger entries as directed by the "holder" of the account.

And if the Germans, and the Swiss, and the British, and the others who "hold" these assets that "belong" to the Russian government also get on board, the stack gets smaller and smaller.

It starts a kind of death-spiral, because Putin will really need those dollars to prop up the ruble. That's almost certainly why he put the stack together in the first place - a rainy day fund for buying up rubles to keep the price stable.  It has already, as of today, fallen by one-third. It will continue to fall, because as the sanctions noose tightens a ruble can buy fewer and fewer things; and the drop accelerates as more people become increasingly desperate to unload the rubles that they have and convert them into something of value before they fall further.

The Russian Central Bank can stop all this from happening by promising to keep buying rubles, at a set and stable price, in exchange for good old American dollars.

Except now it can't.

This is the kind of thing that brings governments down - when the price of bread goes up 500% because your leaders have done something very stupid. Isolated from the global financial system - with nobody willing to take their rubles, or even their dollars and deutschemarks and euros in exchange for goods and services - the Russian economy will go into free fall.  And Putin surely knows that. His oligarch friends know it, too.  The suffering this will impose on the Russian people will be immense, and many of them may not take kindly to having had that imposed on them in order to satisfy Putin's imperial fantasies. If they're not worried about that, they should be.

It could all turn out differently, of course.  I could be wrong, and the war could take a completely different turn. The actual implementation of these sanctions, and the goal of isolating Russia from the global financial system, may prove too difficult to accomplish. As the saying goes, there's nothing harder to predict than the future.

But the sanctions do already seem to be working: the ruble is collapsing, the Russian stock market (closed today, by order of the government) has lost around 40% of its value, the Russian Central Bank has raised interest rates to 20%, and Putin has asked for a meeting with the Ukrainians.

My sense is that this is not only a turning-point moment in this war; I think it may well be a turning-point moment in the long history of war. On Thursday, it looked, terrifyingly, like we were about to re-live something out of the 1940s - an all-out ground war in Europe, with tanks and infantry and air cover and the rest of it.

But if the Allies have found a way to wreak havoc on the entire Russian economy without, as it were, firing a shot, this war will not be remembered as a throwback but for the first appearance of a new kind of warfare, played out not on the actual battlefield but on the global network. I don't know if it will work - but it sure looks to me like it can work, and - much more importantly - that the Russians are starting to act as if they know it can work, too.

[UPDATE 2/28/22 330 PM]:  On the noose-tightening front, the Swiss and the U.K. have joined in the prohibition on transactions with the Russian Central Bank, an especially important development given, as mentioned above, the large amount of Russian-owned dollar-denominated assets held by financial institutions in those countries.  And the ruble continues its steep drop, losing another 20% of its value against the dollar today; whereas 70-75 rubles could buy $1.00 before the invasion, it now takes 120 rubles. [See "The ruble crashes, the stock market closes and Russia's economy staggers under sanctions"]

And the results of the first meeting between the two sides are hopeful indeed.  Neither side is talking about what happened - a very good sign. I would not have been surprised if one side (probably the Ukrainians) had stormed out of the meeting, charging the Russians with negotiating in bad faith; nor would I have been terribly surprised if the Russians captured the Ukrainian negotiators to hold them hostage. But neither of those events occurred; both sides said they have to return to their respective capitals for further instructions, a strong implication that at least something substantive was put on the table.]

 

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  1. Putin wanted to take Ukraine intact, otherwise Kiev would be a bombed out ruin. I was thinking of Stalingrad this past week. Or he couldn't convince his troops to lay waste to the land. In the east some captured Russians reported they were moved to the Ukrainian border as "training" then told to start fighting for no obvious reason. They feared they would be shot for refusing. (The legend of the NKVD lives on?) But their heart wasn't in it.

    I am pleased to see some serious sanctions, even if not as strong as they should be. Leading up to the war there was a headline that the US had notified Russia of a change in policy, and very soon after Russia recognized the eastern region as independent . It sure looked like a repeat of 1938 (as a Guardian headline noted).

    1. I'm not sure where you are getting the "policy change" idea, but likely something like Gateway Pundit.

      I'm not worried that the sanctions aren't strong enough, since they have been masterfully deployed to increase the severity as Russia has continued their aggression. I'm more worried that we are running out of escalators short of direct military or overt cyber actions.

      I'm also delighted that we are once again leading the world instead of having the rest of the West ignore us and do their own thing. I truly believe that America as the leader of the liberal democratic world is the most powerful alignment. Losing our moral authority and voice of leadership in the last administration was painful to watch.

      1. Why increase severity? That just invents Russia to improve its military position until the cost becomes too high and then trade a partial pullback for lifting sanctions.

        The right thing to do is set the level to 11 and trade lifting them for a total withdrawal of all Russian forces from Occupied Ukraine, release of all Ukrainian prisoners, hand over of war criminals to an international tribunal, and agreement to submit to the judgement of an international tribunal on appropriate reparations to be paid from Russia's frozen foreign assets.

        1. If you hit them with everything at once, they have nothing left to lose. Plus now they don't know what is coming next or how bad it will be, but they are sure it is going to make things worse for them. Look at the oligarchs who are scrambling to get their yachts out of reach of the sanctions. There hasn't been anything official about seizing them, but just the rumor has them panicked.

          The problem with doing everything is they know exactly what they are facing and can decide whether or not to just suck it up. So if they choose to do so, there is nothing left for us to do.

          It isn't just about what you are facing now, but what might come in the future, that will impact decisions.

    2. Putin wanted to take Ukraine intact, otherwise Kiev would be a bombed out ruin.

      Keep in mind he didn't want that out of the kindness of his heart. It's just kind of hard to claim you are going in there to save fellow ethnic Russians when their mangled bodies are in the same piles as everybody else's.

      1. In all fairness, Kiev is worth a lot more as an intact city. That may play into Putin's thinking as well.

  2. Back in the '80s I read a book called How to Make War. In there the author talked about a possible attack by the Red Army through the Fulda Gap into West Germany. His counter to that was two men in a bend of the road in a jeep firing an anti-tank missile like TOW and then scooting away to the next bend in the road. I was extremely skeptical that a modern mechanized army could be slowed down that way. In Ukraine, instead of a bend, it's tree lines and around the corners of buildings. The Russians appear to be gun-shy now. They have lost the strategic initiative and unless they are willing to fight street-by-street to take the major cities, which I haven't seen any sign of, they are done.

    1. The guys with a jeep would have been shredded by cluster bombs or other antipersonnel weapons fired from beyond line of sight.

      1. The Russians in the '80s didn't have that sort of on-call capability. Unless they planned on bombing every bend in the road in W. Germany. For that, they wouldn't have had enough cluster munitions.

      2. That's the advantage of the Jeep with a missile. By the time their location is fixed enough to call in an airstrike, artillery or any other weapon they aren't there anymore. The Javelin is "fire and forget". They fire it and by the time the missile hits they are back in the jeep and moving.

        1. Fire and move, baby; fire and move.

    2. What you describe is why tanks move with infantry. The infantry take care of the guys carrying the TOW missile. The tanks take care of anything the infantry can't.

      1. That's nice for, say, WWII bazookas or panzerschreks that had a range of a couple hundred meters, but Javelins can go well past 2000 meters. Unless it is very open terrain, having your infantry sanitize a 2000 meter bubble around each tank is a tall order.

        1. Javelin needs a line of sight to get the seeker on target.

          1. 2km is well within line of sight in open country.

  3. I have been thinking, less concretely, along the lines Prof. Post has described.

    I hope Pres. Putin has the strength (not to be confused with power, brittleness, or bluster; more resilience, effectiveness, or the like) to acknowledge, learn from, correct, and overcome error. And that those around him have the strength to dislodge him if he refuses to improve.

    1. What clingers going to regret their actions when the time comes?

      1. What no clingers... FFS>

      2. ...no clingers... FFS>

        1. Your eloquence speaks for itself, PeteRR.

          (If you insist, though, Putin is the clinger in this context -- pining for illusory "good old days," lashing out against his betters, disdaining modernity and progress, claiming to be on a Mission From God (and not the good kind).)

          (The background singer in stripes is Carolyn Franklin, who wrote Without Love (the good one).

          1. Carolyn Franklin was Aretha's sister. I meant that the song (Without Love) was the good one. There are several other songs of that title, but I have always been partial to Carolyn Franklin's Without Love.

            (Some people call this one Without Love, and it is a fine tune -- featuring especially strong work by bass guitarist Tiran Porter --but the Doobies gave it another name. A live version begins at about 6:15 of this Don Kirschner's Rock Concert, with the Tom Johnston Shuffle -- the recognizable, distinctive rhythm guitar from China Grove, Listen To The Music, etc. -- on quite enjoyable display.)

    2. "I have been thinking..."

      Objection! "Facts not in evidence".

      1. Got more marbles than you do dumbshit.

      2. Objection sustained.

  4. To quote the greatest general of all time, its a trap.

    If Putin were rational he would not have invaded Ukraine in the first place. Dont underestimate the lack of empathy for a ruler on its people. Its not like the people of Russia can vote. They might turn their anger to the west instead of Putin.

    1. dwb68 : "If Putin were rational he would not have invaded Ukraine in the first place"

      Yep. But consider it from his perspective: Putin's entire career has been about consolidating power and wealth for himself & his cronies. To do so, he destroyed his political opponents, crippled Russia's nascent democracy, shut down the country's free press, neutralized its judiciary, and hard-wired endemic corruption into the highest levels of the state.

      So after achieving power and wealth beyond description, Putin decides he needs a legacy. But what is left? Twenty-years of his corrupt rule crippled his own country.. The goal of a prosperous & free first-world nation had receded well out of reach. Foreign adventurism & tin-horn nationalism were the only options left.

      Few recent rulers have been so grotesque a failure as Putin. Who else has spent the last two decades systematically sabotaging his own nation out of unbridled selfishness & greed? Can we finally abandon the meme he is "savvy" or some kind of genius? Putin has been a disaster for Russia and its people.

      1. This

      2. doubt it. Putin just announced capital controls and barred debt service payments. Its basically debt default.

        If he had any sense he'd stage a hasty retreat or get himself poisoned with polonium.

        Instead hes going to double and triple down.

      3. Its not an either/or Putin can be both a genius and an idiot. He is very savvy about gaining and keeping control of Russia, he's probably also pretty smart about intimidating the West to make sure there is no military support for the Ukraine.

        He also maybe a complete dunce thinking he could cow the Ukrainian people and they'd just rollover for a takeover. Russians and Putin have never experienced a functioning democracy so they may not understand why people would care deeply about even an imperfect one like Ukraine. If a mostly Russian speaking city in Eastern Ukraine can't be easily subdued then it seems Putin badly miscalculated how much resistance he'd get. And Putin is not a financial genius either, and he probably didn't understand how much of a bite they would have, nor being a top down leader did he take into account pushback from oligarchs.

        But really right now its all speculation as to what's happening, hopefully Ukraine can hold out until the costs are just to high and Russia has to settle, or they could collapse in the next 48 hours and Putin would have been mostly right.

        Whatever happens any credit for forstalling Putin for a week, or forever should go 99.9% to Ukrainians and Zelensky.

      4. "Twenty-years of his corrupt rule crippled his own country.. "

        This...isn't really accurate. Since Putin took power in 2000, Russian GDP has gone up tremendously. GDP per capita has gone up roughly 5 fold. That's after nearly a decade of decline previously

        1. 1. Russia is a third-world nation with an exceptionally profitable gas station. If you have a piece of those petro-rubles, more power to you. If you don't, good luck.

          2. Italy, with half the people and fewer natural resources, has an economy that is twice the size of Russia's. Poland exports more goods to the European Union than Russia.

          3. Oil and gas provided 39% of the federal budget revenue and made up 60% of Russian exports in 2019. The share of all fossil fuel rents (the price of fossil fuels minus the cost of producing them) amounted to 14% of GDP that year.

          4. Russia is a tiny market for western nations' exports. The US exported only $6.4 billion in goods to Russia last year, according to Commerce Department data, which is actually less than one fifth of the exports going to tiny Belgium. By comparison, US goods exported to China last year came to $151 billion.

          5. Russia remains a leader in military technology and artificial intelligence, not to mention cryptocurrency. But it depends on imports for most other forms of a technology, rather than internal production. The nation which was the first to put both a satellite and a man in outer space has fallen far behind the rest of the world in technology.

          6. Amid stagnant growth, a collapse in investment and austerity spending measures deployed by Putin’s government, Russian real incomes have fallen for five of the past seven years, and fell 3.4 per cent last year. In 2020, the average Russian had 11 per cent less to spend than in 2013.

          1. 1. OK. And? Many countries make a living off exporting raw materials. Doing it well (Saudi Arabia) is better than doing it poorly (Venezuela)

            2. True, Russia isn't quite a first world country. If you compare Italy's GDP versus Russia's, it's 2.2 versus 1.7 Trillion (USD). If you do it in PPP however, Russia has a much larger economy than Italy. (2.6 versus 4.3 trillion USD).

            3. Once again...OK....and? Sure, it would be nice if the economy was more diversified. But revenue is still revenue.

            4. What does that really matter, if the US doesn't export tons to Russia? And the US isn't "Western" countries. Russia imports roughly a $100 billion from the EU + UK.

            5. "Russia remains a leader in military technology and artificial intelligence, not to mention cryptocurrency."
            ---Not really "crippled the economy"

            6. Now you're just cherry picking years. Using your own previously stated points "20 years", Russian GDP has gone up dramatically.

            1. So, to sum up - aside from oil:

              1. Russia's economy is pathetically small
              2.It exports next to nothing
              3. It imports next to nothing
              4. It's way behind the rest of the world in technology.
              5. It's oil revenues do not trickle down to the rest of the population 6. Average Russians have seen their economic standing steadily decay.

              However much your head swirls when you see your beloved Vladimir shirtless, that doesn't seem like a good basis for gushing over his leadership.

              1. Sigh. A simple look at the economics from any reasonable site demonstrates you're incorrect. For example, in 2019, Russia imported $238 Billion worth of goods. Hardly "nothing".

                For more, here's a good start.
                https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_Russia

                Accurately assessing a country, and its capabilities doesn't mean one approves or disapproves of it. Allowing your preconceptions to color an accurate view of a country however leads to failures in assessing its capabilities.

    2. Putin has gone from arguably mentally unstable to being a wounded, cornered animal. Those are always the most dangerous.

      1. How much do wounded, cornered animals accomplish . . . and for how long?

        1. Actually, they accomplish quite a lot in the short term.

          IIRC, Sun-Tzu, among others, advocated always giving the enemy a line of retreat.

    3. "If Putin were rational..."

      Well I think that's the question. Or rather the question is whether he is willing to go full Chechen war over the Ukraine. Putin ended up killing a 150,000 civilians going after 15000 militants, that was 10% of the whole autonomous region.

      If he decides 1% of the population is expendable and kills 400,000 civilians to cow the rest into submission either Ukraine will quickly call it quits, or the war will spread to other combatants, or there will be a coup in Moscow. What will end up happening is as unpredictable as Putin.

      1. "If Putin was rational"...

        He may have thought Ukraine would be a walk-over...not unlike Crimea was in 2014. There Russia took the entire peninsula of 2 Million people in less than a week, with only a single casualty.

        It's not an irrational assumption to believe that Ukraine would be an easy victory as well. It was incorrect in hindsight...

        1. You think it's a not irrational assumption for Putin to believe that the rest of the Ukraine learned nothing from what happened in Crimea in 2014?

          1. Not that they "learned nothing" but that they didn't have the capability, time, or willpower to do anything meaningful about it in 6 years.

            It's not just Putin. Many western intelligence agencies are "pleasantly surprised" Ukraine has done this well.

    4. "To quote the greatest general of all time, its a trap."

      To be fair, he was an admiral. As I understand it, the Navy would be pissed if their top guy was suddenly claimed by the Army.

  5. Conspirator who is consistently wrong is optimistic? Um?

    I guess its thermonuclear war then.

    1. Just remember that FEMA wants you to maintain social distancing and wear a mask!

      1. Darth Chocolate : "Just remember that FEMA ... (gibberish)"

        Just remember: Right-wing leaders created a whole anti-vaxx party from scratch for cheap political gain, leading to vaccination rates among their followers running 25-35% less than normal people.

        The result was tens of thousands of needless deaths. It takes shamelessness or plain pure STUPID for a right-type to bring that subject up here.

        Pretty soon, historians will begin tallying all of the Right's pro-covid propaganda, lies, distortions, hustles, and cons. They'll tally the cost and it will prove a damning indictment. We'll see how funny FEMA jibes sound then.....

        1. "Pretty soon, historians will begin...."

          You are 100% right about that, because covid is history.

          Nobody cares anymore.

          1. Better Americans will remember how our lesser elements conducted themselves during the pandemic.

            Clingers hardest hit.

    2. Hope you've gotten your high dose Iodine already. I picked up some when I heard the Russians had secured Chernobyl.

      1. The Russians didn't need Chernobyl to make weapons, they already have them. It seems they were worried about what Ukraine might do with Chernobyl.

        1. CE : It seems they were worried about what Ukraine might do with Chernobyl.

          Uh huh. The ability of people to make tin-foil hat gibberish out of whole cloth never ceases to amaze me. No one was ever going to "do" anything with Chernobyl. Mainly, it was just in the way. The only danger wasn't some nefarious scheme that would poison both nations equally, but that Chernobyl become the site of serious fighting. I imagine neither side wanted that.

          1. Personally, I never cease to be amazed by people who are certain that dying dictators who are invading neighboring countries will do the rational thing. Don't rule out the possibility that Putin is in a rule or ruin frame of mind.

            1. Guilt as charged. I predicted Putin wouldn't invade a few weeks back. Says I : It's not the rational thing to do. Now Vlady is flailing around and putting his nuclear forces on alert. (You always hope there's enough safeguards in the system to override outright lunacy, both their system & ours)

    3. Bob from Ohio - good to see you're back and giving us the benefit of your always-insightful comments!

      1. Beats the Worst...Post....Ever. 😛

        1. I see what you did there. And it made me laugh.

      2. More insightful than your posts.

        Low bar, I confess.

  6. I too applaud Putin having problems, whether from sanctions, Ukrainian resistance, domestic protests, or a rusty incompetent military.

    I don't mind central banks freezing Russian accounts; it's those central bank accounts, and Putin apparently was too stupid to recognize the danger. Ha HA!

    But governments should not have so much power over banking networks. What they use righteously now has been used before for more nefarious political reasons. Operation CHOKEPOINT comes to mind, and the inability of legal pot businesses to use banks. The rush to ban cash and good cryptocurrencies comes to mind.

    1. Overnment should 100% retain control over banking networks when they are tied to a central bank run by a despot.

    2. Á ÀSS ÄẞÇ ÃÞÇĐ ÂÞ¢ĐÆ ǍB€ÐËF ẢH: "I don't mind central banks freezing Russian accounts; it's those central bank accounts, and Putin apparently was too stupid to recognize the danger. Ha HA!

      But governments should not have so much power over banking networks. What they use righteously now has been used before for more nefarious political reasons."

      THIS is wisdom

  7. I wouldn't put it past Putin to offer negotiations as a way to fix Zelensky's position so that they can kill or capture him.

    1. That would be my expectation. Surely it must be Zelensky's expectation, too.

    2. When I saw the story about negotiators returning home, I hoped they didn't proceed directly to the hiding place of the government.

    3. Saw a pic of the Ukraine negotiators. Zelensky didn’t attend.

  8. I am shocked and amazed at the speed at which the Western nations have correctly acted against Russia.

    I am even more amazed at the broad base. Just today, Switzerland (SWITZERLAND!) went against their long-standing neutrality to join the EU's sanctions and refusal to allow Russian planes into their airspace.

    What's more is that, on all fronts, western nations continue to ratchet it up. And the usual Russian bluster is not only not effective, but counterproductive (after Russian threatened Finland and Sweden, they both responded by sending aid to Ukraine).

    This has been a tragic miscalculation in all ways by Putin. Militarily, economically, and diplomatically. He assumed a quick rollover and that the west would not have the stomach to do anything about it (or would care). He was wrong.

    Now, we must hope that he realizes this and doe not continue his failed tactics.

    Слава Україні!

    1. "I am shocked and amazed at the speed at which the Western nations have correctly acted against Russia."

      Agree. I've counted something like 10K modern man portable antitank missiles being sent by Sweden, Denmark, the US, and others. I was curious how effective they have gotten and found an account from the Gulf War where a US unit under attack fired 19 missiles for 17 kills. (17/19)*10k==a lot of dead Russian vehicles.

      "Just today, Switzerland (SWITZERLAND!) went against their long-standing neutrality to join the EU's sanctions and refusal to allow Russian planes into their airspace."

      I agree again, for the symbology, but it's pretty hard to get to Switzerland's airspace without going through EU airspace.

      1. 😉

        I thought the same thing about the airspace! But the sanctions are a very big deal. Switzerland has been known to have some banking ...

        1. But Swiss banking secrecy was cracked years ago, Cypress is supposedly a big haven for Russian money these days, and of course if China were complicit about helping hide Putin and other oligarchs money it would be hard to trace.

          But its probably easier to stop commerce, if a boats coming from Russia with oil or wheat, then you know where its going and who took de!ivery, then you slap sanctions on them too, no need to trace all the money flows back to Russia.

      2. I wonder how many Russian airplanes are on the ground in Switzerland. A lot harder to take off without permission than to cross the short airspace to the Adriatic.

      3. And a good argument for extending the second amendment to all man-portable weapons of military usefulness, as intended by the founders. Talk about "being necessary for the security of a free state".

        1. Yep. You never know when someone might throw popcorn at you....

          1. Or ask you to wear a mask on private property . . . or walk through your neighborhood while Black . . .

          2. Well you know what they say: an armed society is a polite society.

            And: there's no need to disarm a whole country over one popcorn shooting. I said that.

            1. Kazinski : "Well you know what they say....."

              Hilariously on cue. After I heard the verdict, I decided to put on my hazmat suit and wade into the rancid id of the Right's hive mind. So I went to Fox News and reviewed the reaction. Comment after comment after comment said the victim was a jerk so it was OK to murder him. Without question, today's Right is morally rotten & corrupt. You see it in their rants, snits & posturing. You see it in their hypocrisy & the stature of their leaders. It's an ideology disconnected from any ethical standard or belief. Childish tantrums hold more sway than any sense of right or wrong.

              1. And yet the "Right" looks like it's going to have historic gains in the House and likely take back the Senate, although that's a little less certain, effectively ending any new initiatives by the Biden Administration.

                You've been going on for months about the "Right" killing people by being less enthused about pushing Trump's vaccines into unwilling arms, but it looks if any party is going to reap any political advantage from covid it's going to be the "Right" because of Democratic overreach unnecessarily keeping schools closed and pushing vaccine and mask mandates.

                I hope in November when you are watching election returns that you acknowledge your cheerleading of the policies that are leading to the likely debacle.

            2. After all, as Jefferson said:
              The roots of the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of public texters.

            3. I don't know what the popcorn business is all about, but the "an armed society is a polite society" slogan always struck me as insane.

              Do those who quote it really believe it's OK to shoot someone who behaves in what the consider a rude manner?

              I mean, WTF are you thinking?

              1. It's from a science fiction novel "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress", which even more than Atlas Shrugged is the Right's blueprint for a revolutionary movent to take control of government. It proposes bi-cameral legislative body where one house needs 2/3 majority to pass a law, and the other body only needs 1/3 to repeal existing laws.

                The plan is to start a revolution and implement Heinlein's vision as soon as we have a viable colony on the moon.

    2. I'll admit that, as astonished as I have been that Biden managed to get the Germans, Italians, and the douche Orban all pulling in the same direction, I never would have thought that he would get the Swiss to waive their historical neutrality. Especially considering it's about banking.

      American leadership in the world is back!

      1. ^

        Between this and getting us out of Afghanistan, I'm pretty happy with this aspect of the Biden admin.

        1. The getting out of Afghanistan was over a decade too late and an awesome decision.

          The execution was a disater. The only redeeming thing was that the complete clusterfuck didn't cause Biden to reconsider getting out. But it was across-the-board a terrible operation.

          1. It was chaotic, but in the end not a disaster.

            1. Unfortunately, it was.

      2. You are giving Biden credit for enlisting Orban in an anti-Russian invasion coalition?

        Hungarians have been the victims of bloody Russian invasions suppressing Democratic national independence movements in both 1848 and 1956.

        Next you'll be giving Biden credit for convincing the Czechs and Poles that Russian invasions are bad and should be resisted.

        1. Apparently you are ignorant of the mutual admiration society Orban and Putin have created. Getting Orban to agree to oppose Putin was a heavy lift.

          Italy and Germany had financial issues that took some effort to overcome, but Orban had financial as well as a political alliance with Putin.

          The politics of today is more important to Orban (and almost all politicians) than things that happened before he was born.

  9. "This is the kind of thing that brings governments down - when the price of bread goes up 500% because your leaders have done something very stupid."

    When the price of bread quickly goes up 500% because your leaders have done something very stupid.

    The price of bread gradually going up 500% because your leaders have done something very stupid = "the 20th century".

    1. What stupid thing has been done, Brett?

      According to your link food prices are 30 times what they were in 1913. OK.

      I couldn't find wages data that far back, but this tells us that nominal wages for production and non-supervisory personnel in manufacturing have gone up 50 times, since only 1939.

      That suggests that the real price of food has dropped considerably since then. Indeed, your link shows that while those wages went up 50 times, food prices went up 25 times from 1939 to today.

      1. Yes, we're a wealthier country today, so we don't starve just because food is more expensive. My point is that it's the abrupt nature of the change in prices that gets you, a government can get a way with a huge amount of inflation, every bit of which caused damage, so long as they do it gradually.

        1. Inflation is, literally, inevitable. There isn't any system I've ever heard of that claims to be able to keep inflation at zero.

          1. Sure there is. Just have a constant, unchanging supply of the given medium of exchange.

            1. And enjoy the depression.

              How exactly do you expect an economy to grow with a "constant, unchanging supply of the given medium of exchange?"

              You and Brett need to go take a class.

              1. "How exactly do you expect an economy to grow with a "constant, unchanging supply of the given medium of exchange?""

                Poorly. Such a situation would generally lead to deflation (which is problematic) as the economy grows, but the money supply remains stagnant. But to say it's "impossible" is incorrect.

                A very modest rate of growth in the supply of money (perhaps as limited supplies are mined from the ground), is preferable.

                1. And if there are no conveniently timed gold discoveries?

                  1. So, the US operated off a gold standard from the 1870s to the 1920s, and again from 1944 to 1971. The economy expanded quite nicely during that time. The gold supply during these times increased at a modest rate.

                    There are limitations with a gold standard, no doubt. But there are also advantages in limiting the capability for high inflation.

        2. Brett,

          Food is not more expensive in any but a nominal way. The real price of food is much less than it was in 1913, or 1939, or probably 1980.

          Why do you insist on posting idiotic comments about economics?

          a huge amount of inflation, every bit of which caused damage,

          No. Every bit of it didn't cause damage. That's ridiculous.

        3. Yes, we're a wealthier country today, so we don't starve just because food is more expensive.

          Sigh. No, food isn't more expensive.

          1. Yup. Nominal prices aren't the right measure. I'd argue that the best measure is percent of income spent on food:

            "Back in 1900, families spent about 40% of their income on food. By 1950, it was just under 30%. According to the most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2013, the average American household spent about 10% of its total budget on food."

            For another angle, obesity isn't on the decline. That's a pretty strong argument that the real price of food isn't increasing.

          2. As many comments have revealed, Brett has no grasp of the distinction between real and nominal quantities. Nor does he understand that economic quantities tend to be correlated, one way or another, and should not be treated as independent, unless you want to look like an idiot.

    2. Except it took ~70 years for it to take down the former USSR. Don't underestimate the willingness of a despot to let his people suffer - and perhaps convince them that they're patriotic to do so.

  10. Anyway, had the Ukrainians not stalled Putin's advance the way they did, by the time Western leaders had time to react he would have already decapitated the Ukrainian government, and the West would have thrown up their collective hands in reaction to a done deal.

    1. Brett Bellmore : "Anyway, had the Ukrainians not stalled Putin's advance the way they did...."

      The Germans wouldn't have signed off on SWIFT banking system measures, for one. Of course I was pleased they actually agreed to measures or Nord2 right from the start.

      1. Yes, that pleasantly surprised me. I was in a teleconference with somebody in Germany earlier today: She is very happy indeed this is going on in the spring, not the fall; If it had been the start of the heating season, rather than the end, Putin would have had much more leverage over Germany.

        1. It would have made for an interesting discussion if I was still married to the Ex. She was from a little village about thirty miles north of Berlin. After fourteen years of her gleeful befuddlement over U.S. politics, I might have gotten the chance to return the favor.

  11. On "The Fed, of course, is a 'United States person.'"

    The Fed is an instrumentality of the federal government. It may not be a "person".

    1. check you law books again. a corporation can be a "person". and the Fed is not a government agency.

      1. It is described as an "instrumentality" of the federal government, not a regular corporation (a "person") or a federal agency (not usually a "person").

  12. All right, I'll be the first to say it: Thank God Trump is no longer president. If he were, the war would have been over in 24 hours, the Ukrainian government would all be dead or on their way to Siberia, and the Russian flag would be flying over the Ukrainian Parliament building as we speak.

    Whatever faults Biden may have, being a toady for Putin isn't one of them.

    1. That's just the sort of fantasy I'd expect.

      1. Except he's completely right and you're a dumbass, per usual.

        1. Right, Trump being President would have gifted the Russian army with magical powers.

          Actually, Trump being President would have gifted Russia with a severe foreign exchange deficit, given his energy policies. It was Biden doing everything he could to render Europe (And America!) more dependent on Russian oil and gas.

          1. Trump being President would have had America as a spectator or a cheerleader, not leading the world response.

            The effective world response isn't magic; it's smart, effective foreign policy by a President who isn't laughed at by the world.

            And after the complete clusterfuck of our withdrawl from Afghanistan I didn't have a lot of confidence that Biden could make this happen. But somehow he did, from the moment we started telling the world what Putin was planning like we were reading over his shoulder to the present full-court (but non-military) press the world is putting on a delusional autocracy.

            1. Nah... There wouldn't have been an invasion under Trump.

              See Trump is crazy. Here's what he told Putin. "“If you move against Ukraine while I’m president,” Trump is said to have told the Russian leader, “I will hit Moscow.”"

              And what do you know... Putin didn't move against Ukraine.

              https://nypost.com/2022/02/22/trump-talks-threatening-putin-mocking-merkel-at-mar-a-lago/

              1. "Is said." Heh.

              2. Putin fought nonstop in the Donbass for the entirety of Trump's presidency. Like most people, Putin knew that Trump was a blowhard with no followthrough unless it impacted him personally.

                But, again, the point is that Russia moved against Ukraine nonstop while Trump was President.

    2. Putin did not invade while Trump was President. He did invade during the presidencies of Bush, Obama, and Biden. If Trump were President, this war would not have happened.

      1. You are conveniently ignoring the fact that Russia waged nonstop war in the Donbass for the entirety of Trump's presidency. Should we tell the Ukrainians that the people who were killed from January 20, 2017 through January 20, 2020 weren't killed by Russian invaders?

        Facts matter.

        1. Sorry, through January 20, 2021.

    3. If Trump were still president, the war would have never happened.

      1. With 4 years of evidence proving your point.
        Trump's unpredictability was enough deterrent.

      2. Are you talking about the same Trump who proposed leaving NATO? The same Trump who regularly took to his knees for Putin, but relentlessly trashed this country's allies? The same Trump who tried to blackmail President Zelensky for personal gain, using approved military arms as his cudgel?

        If you want to fantasize Trump's awesome power kept Putin at bay, please be my guest. I personally prefer to imagine improbably agreeable Hollywood starlets in my sordid daydreams, but maybe Trump floats your boat.

        But the idea he could have rallied our allies & the world as skillfully as Biden is just plain ludicrous.

        1. "skillfully as Biden"

          Talk about "ludicrous". US has been in the rear the entire way.

          He couldn't even be bothered to stay in DC this weekend.

          1. Bob from Ohio is not smart, which explains why he supports Trump.

            I can't say whether Biden could have done something before the invasion started — probably not, but it's way beyond the level of public knowledge — but he has handled this absolutely masterfully since.

            First, he blunted the force of Russian propaganda by releasing intelligence that told everyone what Russia was going to do before they did it. He could have hoarded the intelligence — that's the first instinct, always — but instead he decided to put it at all out there. (To criticism from the usual suspects, like Greenwald and Carlson, who accused him of making it up, right until it happened.)

            Second, by not being the most belligerent asshole in the room (unlike TFG, on whatever topic), he did not let the U.S. get too far ahead of our allies, which risked making them look foolish or leaving them behind. Did anyone anticipate almost the entire world rallying against Russia to this extent, this strongly and quickly and decisively? Of course, nobody thinks that Putin's puppet could have or would have done that, but I'm not sure anyone would've been expected to accomplish that. Again, we don't know what Biden was telling them in private, but in public he basically let it be their idea to do this stuff. And that worked.

            1. "but he has handled this absolutely masterfully since."

              Sure he did....he practically invited Putin to invade.

              "Here Mr Putin, I promise that no US troops will intervene in Ukraine no matter what you do. Also, let me move all our Embassy people first, just so you're sure you won't accidentally hit any of them"

              1. Those are certainly things he didn't say.

                But telling him that no US troops will intervene in Ukraine is kind of, you know, not wanting to start WWIII. Indeed, the fear of U.S. troops actually positioned in Ukraine was Putin's claimed reason for wanting to go to war.

                1. So...since Biden told Putin that no US troops will intervene...

                  Putin took that to mean "I can invade Ukraine, and no US troops will intervene"

                  And since Putin claimed to "fear" US troops actually positioned in Ukraine...when Biden promised that wouldn't happen....Putin then invaded.

                  I mean...Biden is being played like a fiddle here...

                  1. I would hope that you were perceptive enough to see that tgere is a lot that can be done against a country and a leader without using troops.

                    Biden saying he wouldn't send in US troops was about making a promise to Americans that we wouldn't get dragged into another foreign war. Which is absolutely the right call. Biden has played Putin, not the other way around.

                    The difference between Biden and Putin is that Biden has followed through on his threats. With excellent results. Trump just shot his mouth off trying to be Tommy Toughguy with no thought, intelligence, or possibility of following through. This is why when he said things in forums like the UN General Assembly, the entire world literally laughed in his face.

                    I'll take promises that are backed up over empty bluster every day and twice on Sunday.

        2. Biden has not done anything skillfully. Did you hear about what happened in Afghanistan?

          1. Roger S : Did you hear about what happened in Afghanistan?

            And what did happen there? I'll give you a hint: Trump gave away 95% of everything to the Taliban for nothing in return. After several times postponing the inevitable, Biden withdrew the last 5%. Now I get the fact that Biden owns the optics of following Trump's agreement; that's just the reality of politics. But you have to be delusional to ignore the facts, Roger S....

          2. Hmmm. Afghanistan -- Sounds familiar. Yeah something happened there but I can't quite place it.

          3. Afghanistan was an unmitogated disaster and completely Biden's fault.

            Ukraine has been brilliant at every step, which is also Biden's fault.

            One has nothing to do with the other. They don't share a region, agressor, or implications for the world. Anyone who mentions Afghanistan for any reason other than saying, "Huh, I didn't think he would do this well given how badly Afghanistan went" is just playing partisan politics.

            1. Ukraine has not been brilliant. Biden invited Putin to invade.

              1. Are you on drugs?

                1. It's pretty clear that Biden basically said "OK Putin, Ukraine is yours. We won't militarily intervene. We promise"

                  1. He said, "We won't send troops to Ukraine, but we will make you suffer if you choise to invade". Then he followed through on his threat. That's leadership and damned effective.

                    Apparently you don't have the ability to understand that there are many, many ways to be strong that don't involve sending American soldiers to fight someone else's war. Getting a bunch of Americans killed is stupid, not strong.

                    American military members sign up to protect and defend the US. Getting them killed in Ukraine would be a betrayal of them.

              2. You are a dim, disaffected bigot, Armchair Lawyer.

                That you are the target audience of this white, male, right-wing blog gives me great comfort concerning the continuing trajectory of the American culture war.

                1. Are you busy riding the Putin train there Rev?

          4. Biden, merely by getting out, proved himself the superior of Bush, Obama, and Trump.

            This may not be the bad news for Biden story you think it is.

        3. You mean the same Trump who threatened to leave NATO if the other members didn't start fulfilling their own treaty obligations? And got his way on that?

          The blackmail thing is just more fantasies, of course.

          1. Brett Bellmore : The blackmail thing is just more fantasies, of course.

            Brett's motto : See no evil & hear no evil, not even when there's a recording and a transcript. I bet if Trump did shoot a random stranger on Fifth Avenue and our Brett was the prime witness, this is what he'd say:

            "Yes, officer, I did see Trump raise the handgun and pull the trigger, and I did hear him scream "Die loser!" with the sound of the shot, and I did see the victim fall to the ground bleeding from a gunshot wound to the abdomen, but I didn't actually see the bullet go from the handgun to the victim, so have no way of knowing if Trump shot him"

            Brett Bellmore, making pretend obliviousness into an epic art form!

            1. Um, you realize you're talking about someone who can't be sure Obama was born in the U.S. because he wasn't in the delivery room when Obama was born, right?

          2. Sigh. You've been told this isn't true, but that doesn't stop you from repeating the Trumpkin talking point, even though you claim not to watch Fox News where its disseminated.

            There were no such "treaty obligations." Trump made up — actually, probably not maliciously; he's just dumb — this notion that NATO countries were supposed to pay dues and that the other ones weren't doing so and thus were "cheating" the U.S.

            To be clear: it's not true.

            1. Not a formal treaty, but NATO members did agree to spend 2% of GDP on military spending, and then reneged. It's been a long standing complaint:

              "The president did not mince his words. “We cannot continue to pay for the military protection of Europe while the NATO states are not paying their fair share and living off the fat of the land. We have been very generous to Europe and it is now time for us to look out for ourselves.” A tweet from Donald Trump? In fact the words were John F. Kennedy’s, speaking to his National Security Council in 1963."

              1. It's a complaint, but we didn't complain too hard - the US until recently enjoyed the extra geopolitical pull of being the main sponsor country of NATO.

                1. Our memories of the 1980's are sometimes different.

                  1. Based on my age, I have not doubt they are.

                    I'm thinking more the late 90s on. That's when I took my first international relations course.

              2. Yes. They said they would spend more on defense than they had been, and then many of them did not follow through. But there was no "treaty obligation" to do so, and these aren't dues, which is how Trump kept framing it. They don't owe the money to us, or to NATO the organization. They simply said, "Yeah, we're going to increase our defense spending," and most did not.

                As your own quote notes, this is a longstanding U.S. complaint.
                But it was always halfhearted, because we didn't want NATO countries to get too independent of us. (France, of course, had pulled out of the NATO unified command in 1966.)

                1. "But it was always halfhearted, because we didn't want NATO countries to get too independent of us."

                  Can you expand on that? Both you and Sarcastro are saying that, but I'm not sure I agree. My sense of the times was that we would have been happy with Europe being able to defend itself without our assistance.

                  (I admit my sense may be colored by personal experience. My father was in the US Army during the cold war, in Germany. We were pretty acutely aware of our exposure. There were periodic alerts, routine or not routine (e.g. the Cuban crisis). Dad kept a duffle bag packed so he could be out the door in 5 minutes when the phone rang at 0200. They never said whether it was a test or the real thing. It seemed like pretty serious business - we always kept blankets and food in the trunk of the car, and at least a half tank of gas (the Army would inspect from time to time). The Army issued us poison pills to give to the family dog, because they wouldn't evacuate pets. The expectation was that if the Soviets attacked, Dad would go off to die as a speed bump, and we'd die in a Soviet strafing attack while gridlocked on the highway to the airport. The notion that we wanted the various NATO countries to be weak on defense so they would be dependent on the U.S. seems quite odd to me. Is that what you were thinking at the time stateside, and we had a different view closer to the sharp end? FWIW, we didn't get that sense from out stateside relatives at the time.)

                  1. As I mentioned, France pulled out of the unified command in 1966, because they felt they could go it alone for anything short of WWIII. We weren't fans of that. We did want our allies to be able to make contributions to mutual defense, but not to feel that they didn't really need us and could act unilaterally.

                    1. I guess I read that exactly the other way ... we wanted all the help we cold get, and France pulling out might mean we had a little less help. That was my sense of it anyway.

                      If the Brits or Germans or Belgians or Danes or Norwegians wanted to fund some extra divisions or squadrons, I think we would have been turning cartwheels of delight, not crying in our beer that they didn't need us as much.

                      I'd be grateful if you or Sarcastro could share your source for American sentiment at the time. My sense is the exact opposite of yours. My source is I was alive and intensely interested in the issue at the time.

      3. Fucking hilarious.

        The guy who was buddy buddy and trusted PUTIN of all people over his own intel agencies when they met in Helsinki.

        Fuck off dumbass.

        1. That disaffected, overmatched, obsolete losers and jerks -- Putin, Trump, most clingers -- stick together should not be surprising. They are rejected by, and disdain, the modern mainstream.

      4. Unprovable counterfactual. It's just as likely a second term Trump would have been in on it.

    4. (Rolls eyes.) Why the fuck do you have to bring Trump into this? Truth is, none of us have any idea what would have happened had Trump been president. To say that Trump was a Putin toady just isn’t objectivity true. And I could never stand Trump, but you Trump obsessed people are just ridiculous.

      And Biden is still fucking up plenty - ex, his absolute refusal to do anything to contribute to an even temporary increase in US oil production

      1. I see the Trump supporters still haven't developed the skill of seeing what's right in front of them. Did you guys all miss what Trump himself just said about Putin? Even Tom Cotton was embarrassed about it when George Stephanopolis asked him about it, and you know embarrassing Tom Cotton takes some doing.

        1. I've remarked on this before: Learn the difference between saying somebody has virtues, and saying they're virtuous, and you might understand why saying Putin is clever doesn't represent approval.

          1. OK, but if that's the standard, everybody has virtues if you look hard enough. But when there's a war underway, or at least looming on the horizon, you don't go looking for nice things to say about your opponent.

            Hitler had fantastic leadership skills but I can't imagine either Roosevelt or Churchill publicly praising him for them.

            1. Who said just last year that Putin was "bright" "tough" and a "worthy adversary"

              Ah yes... Biden.

          2. Brett Bellmore : "saying Putin is clever doesn't represent approval"

            True enough. But Putin was never "clever" and isn't now. His one skill has been consolidating personal power - in every other way he's been an epic blight on the Russian state. Other former SSRs remade their countries into free and prosperous European states. Putin was too concerned about his own political position & wealth to even try.

            So his country has been rotting-out from the core these past twenty years. And Putin's so-called "cleverness"? Petty mischief from a decaying state and its failed leader. Putin is like some small-town high-school drop-out who constantly engages in vandalism out of insecurity, frustration, and impotent rage.

            Sure, he may escape serious consequence until he graduates to real crime, but no one considers that "clever". No one except today's Right, that is. Putin is their very ideal of a leader....

            1. "But Putin was never "clever" and isn't now."

              This kind of rhetoric would have me tearing out my hair in frustration, if I weren't already bald.

              Look, the ultimate measure of "clever" is success. It's just mind boggling the way some people insist on looking at somebody who has been successful at what they've set themselves to do, in a highly competitive field, and declare that they're not smart.

              I'm convinced that this derives from a confusion of moral virtue and "virtues", that makes it psychologically impossible to admit somebody who is despised could be smart, or organized, or brave, or have any other trait with a positive connotation.

              But, of course, morally bad people are perfectly capable of being smart, well organized, brave, and so forth. It just makes them more dangerous.

              But what makes them still more dangerous yet is insisting on denying their virtues, so that you will perpetually be underestimating them. If there's anything stupider than trash talk about your opponents, it's believing your own trash talk!

              So, yes, of course Putin is clever. You'd never have heard of him if he weren't clever, he'd have died decades ago, given the literally cutthroat business he was in.

              1. Putin has looted and wrecked his country.

                There appears to be a strong chance he will be unable to enjoy the fruits of his labor, either because he will be deposed by his countrymen (unlikely to be a pleasant end) or shunned by the better elements of the modern, civilized world.

                He seems destined to fail; his memory will be mocked and disdained by all but a dwindling group of delusional, low-quality clingers.

                I'm rooting to see his head on a pike.

              2. Look, the ultimate measure of "clever" is success.

                No.

                1. By the "success = clever" standard, a guy who refrains from saving for retirement for 45 years (and quits high school, smokes for 50 years, and is not surprisingly a comprehensive loser as he approaches 65), then walks into a convenience store for a lottery ticket, a pint of cheap liquor, and some cigarettes, and hits the Powerball jackpot with a u-pick-'em is a clever financial planner and a success in life!

                  I do not understand the perspective of some people. I blame my education, experience, and character.

                  1. You just equated money to success, which isn't what he said. At all.

                    1. In the context of retirement planning, it largely is.

              3. Brett Bellmore : "....have me tearing out my hair in frustration...."

                What success, Brett? A couple of minor territory grabs after twenty years of running your country into the ground? Owning the western powers (it's like owning the libs on an international scale), while you damn your country to be a third-world-grade gas station with nuclear weapons ?!?

                Look we get it : Putin performs manly stunts, does a good alpha-male acting job, talks endless nationalistic drivel, is ruthless to his opposition, and proudly goes shirtless. He was everything you ever wanted in a dreamboat leader until Trump came along. But he has failed his country in every possible way. How the hell can you not see that ?!?

                He reminds me of Slobodan Milošević. While other former communist countries like the Czech Republic & Slovakia were building modern free societies, Milošević saw a path to personal power in enflaming old hatreds. He had lots of your "success" too, Brett, as he remade Serbia into hell on earth. Of course a Trumpian lickspittle like yourself will always focus exclusively on the small, petty, and superficial, but there's a big picture to consider.

                Putin has been a disaster for Russia. That's not "success"

                1. Milosevic died in a prison cell, which was too good for him.

                2. 20 years of increasing your country's GDP per capita by 5-fold you mean?

              4. Look, the ultimate measure of "clever" is success. It's just mind boggling the way some people insist on looking at somebody who has been successful at what they've set themselves to do, in a highly competitive field, and declare that they're not smart.

                Weirdly, when people on your side call Biden "senile," I don't see you reacting by explaining that he must really be clever because he trounced Trump in the election.

                1. Holy crap, that was hilarious. I almost spit out my drink when I read it.

        2. “Trump supporter”. You didn’t even read what I just wrote immediately above, did you? “I could never stand Trump” = Trump supporter. Dumbass.

          Trump sanctioned Russian, Biden removed them. Trump stopped the pipeline to Germany, Biden approved it. Who exactly is the Putin toady? Dislike Trump all you want, but fucking facts are facts.

          1. I did read what you wrote and please don't assume that everything I write is about you.

          2. Trump stopped the pipeline? What are you smoking?

              1. So the pipeline got completed and ready to go during Trump's presidency by fairies? Or maybe dwarves and gnomes, given the region? Because it absolutely was completed on his watch.

                So which one is it? Did he try to stop it and fail or did he not try? One of them shows his incompetence, one shows his cluelessness. So which is it?

                1. Ummm. You know Nordstream 2 isn't complete, right?

      2. Yeah, we don't know what Trump would have done, but I do know what he couldn't have done - he didn't have the geopolitical cache to set up what's going on now.

        1. We do know that Trump approved lethal arms transfers to Ukraine...those same lethal arms that are helping Ukraine defend themselves.

          The same lethal arms that the Obama-Biden administration wouldn't approve sending.

          1. If I'm not mistaken, he required a corrupt politically-motivated investigation for them to get those arms.

            And, if I'm not mistaken, they have recieved more (and more deadly) aid from the US since Biden took office.

    5. Yes, thank god indeed.

      These jackasses here won't buy it but the fact that Trump said he trusted Putin over his own intel agencies AND withheld military aid to Ukraine because Zelensky wouldn't make up some bullshit investigation for him on Biden is all you need to know.

      That fuckstick has been in Russia's pocket for years.

      If anyone here had principles and could think they'd wonder what Trump did or promised to always get those loans from the Russians all those years when Western banks cut off the tap.

  13. Wars for territory and resources are outdated now (hopefully). National success comes from an educated and talented citizenry, and from stable and effective legal, financial and market systems. If would-be invaders have more to lose by being ostracized from the world economy than they gain in resources, invasions become too costly to engage in.

    I hope China is taking notes. "Nice stack of US Treasuries you got there. Be a shame if someone stopped paying interest on them."

    1. I've always wondered about wars for territory. Unless you are actually robbing the current inhabitants, and maybe killing them, it's hard to see the gain.

      Suppose Russia had just rolled into Ukraine and taken over. How would the average Russian benefit?

      1. The average citizen doesn't benefit, but the ruler does. He who rules a population of 2X has more power than he who rules 1X.

      2. You are looking at it too materialistically. National glory, pride, etc.

  14. I have to wonder if some of Putin's inner circle are starting to get nervous about their future and wondering if Putin has screwed the pooch this time.

  15. I think you missed a different 3rd possibility at the start. Putin's goal wasn't just to install a puppet dictator, it was to annex large parts of Ukraine in the process.

  16. Putin is not so stupid as to not understand that the sanctions were coming or that Ukraine would resist. He is doing what he said that he would do, for the reasons he explained publicly. Yes, of course he is negotiating, because he would rather meet his goals through negotiation.

    1. Well he is a little stupid since he apparently thought the war would already be over with Ukrainians welcoming their new Russia-appointed leader and the rest of the world responding with dirty looks and some mild sanctions.

      Now that Ukraine is putting up a fight the question is what's his new plan. Is he willing to level Ukrainian cities and undertake a Chechnya style pacification policy, or is he looking for a face-saving out?

      I still think the world made a grave error in their response to the invasion and subsequent annexation in Crimea. If he paid a heavier price for that this might have been avoided.

    2. Roger S : "for the reasons he explained publicly"

      Bloody Hell! Nothing in the "reasons he explained publicly" was remotely true or factual. Putin had no fear Ukraine would be allowed into NATO; he had no fear of Ukraine's military threat, and that country's leaders include (brace for the shocking truth!) absolutely no nazis whatsoever.

      How in the world can today's Right still pretend this grotesque failure is some genius statesman ?!? Here's why Putin invaded: After trashing his own country for twenty years, Putin saw foreign conquest as the only way to make a legacy. That's the reason. That's the only reason.

      1. Ukraine and Georgia were invited to join NATO at the 2008 Bucharest Summit. To this day, the Biden admin. position is that Ukraine has the choice to join NATO.
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2008_Bucharest_summit
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ukraine%E2%80%93NATO_relations

        1. It takes a special level of dishonesty to link to a source that says that Ukraine and Georgia were not invited to join NATO and claim that this proves they were invited to join NATO.

          And, of course, this is not 2008; this is 2022. Did they join NATO? No.

          Ukraine, of course, does not "have the choice;" nor does Biden. It takes unanimous consent of all NATO members.

          1. Please stop using facts. It confuses the far right and makes them sad.

  17. I'm also thankful that, with very few exceptions, there has been unanimous and bipartisan support in the United States for opposing Putin's aggression and helping the brave people of Ukraine maintain their freedom and sovereignty.

    1. Yeah, me too. We're Americans first. Ukraine is a mess and POTUS Biden and his team could use all the prayers we can make on their behalf. They need them. The military side of the NatSec team is probably living on coffee right now.

      loki13, I don't think anyone has a clue what is happening in Ukraine. I am waiting for the satellite imagery to tell the true story. The media is horrendous. I don't think for a nanosecond that Putin somehow has a screw loose. Wishful thinking. Anyone saying that doesn't know WTF they are talking about. Putin knows exactly what he is doing, and you can bet he has contingency plans.

      If there is still fighting in Ukraine by St. Patrick's Day, and there is no cease fire agreement....then I will know the communists have a problem on their hands and it will be time to think in terms of a hard slog where we can make it much more painful.

      Short term (30 days) we need to:

      Contain the conflict to Ukraine; and
      Reinforce Taiwan in a real hurry....like push the panic button hurry.

      1. While I don't think Putin as a screw loose (and think the armchair psychology is bizarre and unwarranted at this point), I do think that Putin has not been listening to a full range of advice, and that the invasion has not gone as planned.

        Moreover, because it hasn't, and because the West has reacted much more quickly than expected, it's become a huge problem for him.

        I suspect that he assumed it would be over before any punishing sanctions took effect.

        None of this means it's over; there is a massive disparity in military forces, and if they go "full Chechnya" (bombing urban areas) then things will take a dramatic turn for the worse.

        But what has been most shocking is just how unprepared and disorganized the Russians have been to date. I still find it unbelievable that they didn't achieve air superiority or have their logistics set up to begin with; it's inconceivable that they thought they could waltz in and take over Kiev (THREE MILLION PEOPLE THAT DON'T LIKE THEM) with paratroopers and light forces ... right?

        1. You have to wonder just how good their equipment actually is = Russia. The fact that Ukrainian planes are still flying after 4 days tells me a lot about Russian delivery systems, and their operators.

          In a stand-up fight with NATO, Russia will get fucking creamed.

          For now, we need to keep reinforcing the Baltics, Poland and Romania. The Russians need to know that there is a brick wall at the Ukrainian border and they run the risk of a very severe ass-kicking if they fuck with a NATO ally.

          If I am DefSec Austin, I am breathing a little easier right now. OTOH, if I am SecDef Austin, I am 'balls to the wall' getting wartime supplies to Guam and Diego Garcia right now. The logistics guys are living on caffeine and maalox right now. I guarantee that.

          1. There have been a number of good articles and thought w/r/t the state of the Russian military. I think this twitter bit is particularly good, and also has links at the end to others-

            https://twitter.com/BA_Friedman/status/1498097876970450946?s=20&t=Z_3p-Wjx7zjW1LdGnLO1kg

            Unfortunately, if recent reports are accurate, it looks like Russia is escalating in terms of use of munitions on urban targets.

        2. It's almost like he thought: "We have only to kick in the door and the whole rotten structure will come crashing down."

    2. I agree. Further, the people who constitute those "exceptions" (specifically the Steve Bannon types, and the AOC/Squad types) are demonstrating why nobody should take them seriously about ANYTHING, and that they should be consigned to the sidelines of American politics henceforth. The sooner the better.

  18. Well if anything the good outcome of this war is that China will see that the world can come together and cripple another nation through sanctions and banking restrictions which should give them yet another reason to leave Taiwan be.

    The real danger is that Putin does decide that countries which shipped arms to Ukraine are now also part of the war and valid targets for whatever weapons he chooses... and then it just all goes down hill from there.

    A better option is an actual coup in Russia deposing him

    1. A better option is an actual coup in Russia deposing him

      This is what has to happen, or Russia turns very quickly into Venezuela. All other doors have closed.

      1. It could be Navalny's Mandela moment. That would be sweet.

        1. Agreed! That guy has no fear and has been awesome about giving Putin the middle finger.

    2. I hope the Biden administration is doing a lot of work in secret, like delivering intelligence to Ukraine and maybe working with anti-Putin forces for regime change. And I hope the latter works out better than the dialogue with Iranian "moderates" in the mid 1980s.

      1. The Ukrainians are incredibly brave, but there is no way their intelligence is good enough to make this happen. We are definitely giving them intelligence, and a lot of it.

        I would take the opposite position about regime change. We don't want to be seen to be meddling in their internal politics, especially since it is already happening without us. When someone (Putin) is shooting himself in the foot, don't get in the way.

    3. The real danger is that Putin does decide that countries which shipped arms to Ukraine are now also part of the war and valid targets for whatever weapons he chooses

      That would be calamitous, of course, but especially so for Russia, and likely fatal - literally - for Putin.

  19. I think the economic weapons are working in this situation because of two factors that haven't been present in a major war in the past:
    1. The inter-connectedness of the modern economy
    2. The near-universal application of economic pressure
    Together, those two things are putting the squeeze on the Russian economy in an unprecedented manner.

    1. Both of which enable #3, which is the breathtaking speed and scope of actions taken. It's all happened in a week-- BEFORE Russian troops could even get to Kyiv.

  20. It certainly a clear illustration that the "global financial system" is actually the US empire's financial system. Hopefully the remaining independent countries in the world are taking note and considering alternatives.

    1. That's a stupid and wrong point.

      The whole issue with, inter alia, the SWIFT sanctions was that it required not just the U.S. and U.K., but buy-in from the entire EU. Which meant that countries from Germany (with their energy needs) to Hungary (with the Orban/Putin relationship) had to buy-in.

      The lesson, here, is actually that, for a variety of factors and reasons, Putin took it way too far. The primary one is that Ukraine is now viewed as part of Europe, and Ukrainians themselves think in those terms. So when the invasion started, and those images came through, people in Germany and other countries didn't view this as some far-off place with people they didn't know. They saw people just like them, and places that many of them had visited, getting attacked.

      Putin turned this into a danger to all of Europe, and they reacted accordingly.

      (What that says about human empathy ... well, that's a different issue.)

  21. One of the down sides to being a dictator is there is no real good retirement plan. Putin seems to have gotten to the stage where he realizes this. He pretty much just waiting for the person who will take his power directly or poison him quietly. He seems to have set the path for this to happen in taking on Ukraine. It may not happen immediately, but this seems likely to set a path for those that would seek to have his power.

    1. That is why the Spanish never should have prosecuted Pinochet. We should be encouraging dictators to agree to peaceful transitions of power, rather than desperately holding on til their last breath.

      1. The problem is overlooking all the carnage and suffering dictators cause. It would be nice if Putin had a place he could go in exile, but there are not a lot of places willing to take people like him.

        1. Black Dolphin is where he should go.

  22. Probably the craziest take on the war is from a prominent historian:

    What if I told you Europe is not a continent by definition, but a geopolitical fiction to separate it from Asia and so the alarm about a European, or civilized, or First World nation being invaded is a dog whistle to tell us we should care because they are like us,"
    --Nicole Hannah-Jones

    What if someone told her that 72% of Ukrainians were slaves until the Russian Czar freed them in 1861, contemporaneously with the end of slavery in the US.

    Although I don't think that's anymore relevant to what's going on than her fictional "geopolitical fiction".

    1. To be fair I believe that, geologically, Europe isn't a continent.

      1. I believe the continent is really Eurasia and that Europe is just a geopolitical term to separate it from the remaining parts. People have a tendency to like boundaries and make them up all the time, even when they don't exist in reality.

        1. The point is she has no point, to claim that the concept of Europe, and Ukrainians being Europeans is a "dog whistle" is just ridiculous. And I guess "dog whistle" is a clue that only white supremacists should care.

          Kyiv to Berlin is a shorter drive than Atlanta to NY, and about the same as Seattle to San Francisco. Trying to claim there is no reason to think it can effect "real" Europeans is incoherent and ignorant.

          1. It seems like you are taking a relatively innocuous position and trying to make it some sort of radical opinion. She is right that calling Europe a geopolitical separation, not a geological one. As are most national boundaries. They are largely arbitrary boundaries, especially in the areas that were colonized by the European powers.

            But I'm at a loss as to why this parricular quote upsets you.

  23. I don't believe the sanctions - as they are now - are having much immediate effect. I also don't think they would long term. Sanctions of this type rarely have much impact on authoritarian regimes: despots are more than happy to let their populations suffer.

    The lack of military progress by Russia is by far the largest factor. They can't afford to bleed military equipment for weeks only to get bogged down in the quagmire of an insurgency afterward. They need a quick and decisive military victory from which to negotiate what they're after - control of the east and a puppet regime in the rest of the country.

    What *might* make a difference is stopping all oil and natural gas trade with Russia, but don't think Europe is in a position to absorb it.

    1. If you think the sanctions aren't having an immediate impact, you aren't paying attention. Just the fact that their stock exchange hasn't opened in two days and the ruble is now worth roughly a penny shows you are wrong. And there are other, slower-moving sanctions like import/export controls that will have more of a slow-burn effect. The sanctions regime that Biden has led the world to has been devastatingly effective and will continue to build as time passes.

      Leaving oil and gas alone has been brilliant. It limits the pain the good guys feel and, with access to SWIFT, dollars, and imports limited or cut off completely, there is nothing useful the bad guys can buy.

      Even China is leery of being seen to work with Putin. And it is an excellent demonstration to Xi that the world has the ability to hurt any country, any time, if they do something that galvanizes public sentiment and if America has a moral and determined President to harness that outrage. For example, if giant China were to attack tiny Taiwan.

      Putin being a vicious, brutal, strongman lunatic is doing more to set the cause of autocrats back than anything in recent history.

  24. I suggest comments here have been tracking the trajectory of war journalism in Ukraine. And I think the war journalism has been mostly incompetent. It has been a few days, folks—a small fraction of the time consumed by Hitler's blitz of Poland.

    I would love to believe the Russian military has run into tough sledding, and has been meaningfully checked. I would love to believe Putin is perplexed, and having second thoughts.

    I think it more likely that most of what is happening in Ukraine is happening because Putin is fine with it. I think it more likely that most of the Russian military activity undertaken so far has been reconnaissance.

    I would be delighted to be proved wrong by events. Problem is, none of what is getting reported looks like an account of an all-out attack by a military which enjoys overwhelming air superiority. And Russia enjoys overwhelming air superiority.

    1. "And Russia enjoys overwhelming air superiority."

      Citation needed.

      (what limited information as has been leaking out of the fog of war doesn't seem to corroborate that)

    2. No. Russia should have overwhelming air superiority. But it does not. It has not employed most of its air power, and has not done anything to suppress Ukraine's air defense systems.

      1. "has not done anything to suppress Ukraine's air defense systems."- that in a word, is nonsense. There is quite a bit of footage showing Ukrainian radar arays burning after being hit - e.g https://www.wfmz.com/news/world/radar-arrays-and-vehicles-seen-burning-after-russia-attacks-ukraine-military-site/video_d00eb966-5687-5490-ad50-cef633d5410b.html. and there are multiple reports of Russian attacks on Ukrainian S300 SAM sites

  25. Given that energy-related transactions are exempt from the SWIFT sanctions, it is highly unlikely that these sanctions have had any immediate effect that would be the cause of the current talks.

    1. That's been one of the most brilliant parts of the sanctions. Something like energy, which would hurt us, is exempted. So they can get paid for their oil, but they have nowhere to spend it and can't buy anything they don't produce themselves. And oil is the majority of what Russia produces.

  26. This is naive in the extreme. Do you think Russia will have a problem using those payments to buy stuff from China?

    1. I think Russia is a pariah right now and most companies and countries are very leery of getting into bed with (as of about a week ago) the worst person in the world.

      1. So you think Chinese companies are not doing business with Russia right now? How old are you?

  27. That's why I said "most". But it's not like people are lining up to trade with Russia, are they?

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