Ukraine Invasion Sending History in a New Direction?

The ferocity of the global reaction to Putin's invasion is stunning.

The News:

NYT (“China Asked Russia to Delay Ukraine War Until After Olympics, U.S. Officials Say“):

A Western intelligence report said senior Chinese officials told senior Russian officials in early February not to invade Ukraine before the end of the Winter Olympics in Beijing, according to senior Biden administration officials and a European official.

The report indicates that senior Chinese officials had some level of direct knowledge about Russia’s war plans or intentions before the invasion started last week. President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia met with President Xi Jinping of China in Beijing on Feb. 4 before the opening ceremony of the Olympics. Moscow and Beijing issued a 5,000-word statement at the time declaring that their partnership had “no limits,” denouncing NATO enlargement and asserting that they would establish a new global order with true “democracy.”

The intelligence on the exchange between the Chinese and Russian officials was classified. It was collected by a Western intelligence service and considered credible by officials. Senior officials in the United States and allied governments passed it around as they discussed when Mr. Putin might attack Ukraine.

However, different intelligence services had varying interpretations, and it is not clear how widely the information was shared.

One official familiar with the intelligence said the material did not necessarily indicate the conversations about an invasion took place between Mr. Xi and Mr. Putin. Other officials briefed on the intelligence declined to give further details. The officials spoke about the report on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the intelligence.

Given the close nature of the relationship between Mr. Xi and Mr. Putin, senior Chinese officials are likely to have briefed Mr. Xi on any important exchanges between officials of their nations in the period around the leadership summit, analysts say.

When asked by email on Wednesday whether Chinese officials had urged Russian officials to delay an invasion of Ukraine until after the Olympics, Liu Pengyu, the Chinese Embassy spokesman in Washington, said, “These claims are speculation without any basis, and are intended to blame-shift and smear China.”

WaPo (“Russia takes Kherson government building in siege on Ukraine’s port cities“):

Russian troops have seized a key government building in the Black Sea port of Kherson, a Ukrainian governor said Thursday, as Moscow tightened its grip on Ukraine’s southern coastline, slashing access to shipping hubs.

Russian state media said Russian forces have taken Kherson, a city of nearly 300,000 — a charge that Ukrainian defense officials deny. Despite heavy fighting underway, “the city is not under Russian control. They use it as a temporary base for units transfer,” defense officials told The Post.

Russian forces have occupied the Kherson Regional State Administration building, Governor Hennadiy Lahuta said, but the government was still operating. The mayor of Mariupol, another seaside hub, said hours-long shelling has blocked water, power and food supplies. Estimating casualties is difficult, another local official said: “We cannot collect all the bodies, and we cannot count.”

WaPo (“More than a million people have left Ukraine, foreshadowing a massive humanitarian crisis“):

More than 1 million refugees have left Ukraine, according to data from UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency. The exodus is set to become Europe’s worst humanitarian crisis in this century, already on par with the number of refugees who were displaced from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan in 2015.

If fighting continues, as many as 4 million — roughly 10 percent of the Ukrainian population — could be displaced in the coming weeks, Filippo Grandi, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, said Monday.

Photos and videos from the past week show packed train stations and traffic jams snaking through border towns. Crowds of refugees huddle in groups to fight the cold, sleep on cots in churches and gymnasiums and sort through boxes of donations from around the world. Many of them are women and children; Ukrainian authorities have forced men ages 18 to 60 to stay in the country to fight the invasion.

WaPo (“The gory online campaign Ukraine hopes will sow anti-Putin dissent probably violates the Geneva Conventions“):

A besieged Ukraine has adopted a gruesome tactic in hopes of stoking anti-government rage inside Russia: posting photos and videos of captured and killed Russian soldiers on the Web for anyone to see.

On Telegram, Twitter and YouTube, Ukraine’s Ministry of Internal Affairs since Sunday has posted a constant stream of extremely graphic images showcasing the horrors of war and inviting Russians to examine them to determine whether the images feature a missing loved one.

In many of the images, soldiers’ corpses can be seen burned, ripped apart, mangled in wreckage or abandoned in snow; in some, their faces are featured in bloody close-ups, frozen in pain.

In others, prisoners are interrogated by captors about the invasion as they shake with emotion. Some of the men sit crumpled, hands bound, eyes blindfolded with tape.

The images are viewable by anyone with a Web browser or a smartphone and have been shared widely across the Internet. The Telegram channel where they are displayed has more than 580,000 subscribers.

While not unprecedented — North Vietnam shared photos and film of imprisoned U.S. service members, including the late Sen. John McCain, in hopes of inflaming antiwar sentiment in the United States — the Ukrainian effort, thanks to the Internet, is playing to an audience rarely available in the annals of war.

NYT (“NATO Countries Pour Weapons Into Ukraine, Risking Conflict With Russia“):

The Dutch are sending rocket launchers for air defense. The Estonians are sending Javelin antitank missiles. The Poles and the Latvians are sending Stinger surface-to-air missiles. The Czechs are sending machine guns, sniper rifles, pistols and ammunition.

Even formerly neutral countries like Sweden and Finland are sending weapons. And Germany, long allergic to sending weapons into conflict zones, is sending Stingers as well as other shoulder-launched rockets.

In all, about 20 countries — most members of NATO and the European Union, but not all — are funneling arms into Ukraine to fight off Russian invaders and arm an insurgency, if the war comes to that.

At the same time, NATO is moving military equipment and as many as 22,000 more troops into member states bordering Russia and Belarus, to reassure them and enhance deterrence.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has brought European countries together, minds concentrated by the larger threat to European security presented by the Russia of President Vladimir V. Putin.

“European security and defense has evolved more in the last six days than in the last two decades,” Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Union’s executive arm, asserted in a speech to the European Parliament on Tuesday. Brussels has moved to “Europeanize” the efforts of member states to aid Ukraine with weapons and money and put down a marker for the bloc as a significant military actor.

But whether European weaponry will continue to reach the Ukrainian battlefield in time to make a difference is far from certain. However proud Brussels is of its effort, it is a strategy that risks encouraging a wider war and possible retaliation from Mr. Putin. The rush of lethal military aid into Ukraine from Poland, a member of NATO, aims, after all, to kill Russian soldiers.

Mr. Putin already sees NATO as committed to threaten or even destroy Russia through its support for Ukraine, as he has repeated in his recent speeches, even as he has raised the nuclear alert of his own forces to warn Europe and the United States of the risks of interference.

World wars have started over smaller conflicts, and the proximity of the war to NATO allies carries the danger that it could draw in other parties in unexpected ways.

Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary-general, hit his constant themes again on Tuesday as he visited a Polish air base. “Putin’s war affects us all and NATO allies will always stand together to defend and protect each other,” he said. “Our commitment to Article 5, our collective defense clause, is ironclad.”

“There must be no space for miscalculation or misunderstanding,” Mr. Stoltenberg said last week. “We will do what it takes to defend every inch of NATO territory.”

Some Opinions:

Marc Fisher, WaPo (“In one week of war, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may have veered history in a new direction“):

In one week of war, life within the boundaries of Ukraine has been upended, but the brutal assault Russian President Vladimir Putin launched last Thursday has also reverberated around the globe, steering history in a new direction and switching up 75 years of relations among some of the world’s most powerful and wealthy countries.

In Germany, hundreds of thousands marched in support of the NATO alliance’s firm stance against Russia’s aggression. Berlin decided to send military aid to Ukraine — a dramatic about-face in a country that for more than seven decades has shied away from military involvements as a kind of penance for the Nazi genocide and World War II.

Throughout Europe — even in staunchly neutral Switzerland — countries that depend heavily on Russia to heat people’s homes and power their economies banded together to isolate and punish the Russians for their aggression. Countries that just a few years ago rose up in protest over the arrival of migrants fleeing wars and extremism in the Middle East and North Africa are suddenly welcoming hundreds of thousands of refugees.

In the United States, the invasion created a brief, almost disorienting moment of unity, as Democrats and Republicans alike — with the prominent exceptions of former president Donald Trump and some of his hardcore supporters in the media and politics — denounced Putin and embraced the Biden administration’s crippling sanctions against Russia.


In one week, the war in Ukraine has focused the world’s attention away from the coronavirus pandemic, away from inflation and supply chain problems, and away from more chronic problems such as climate change.

Regional wars often have a way of wreaking havoc well beyond the battlefields; Syria’s civil war, for example, similarly sucked in the United States, Western European powers and Russia. But the war in Ukraine has almost instantly restructured global power dynamics, in part because of Putin’s nuclear saber-rattling and in part because the world has become so much more interconnected in recent years — in trade, technology, media and politics.

“In less than one week, you’ve seen a fundamental shift as Europeans realize they have to take on more responsibility for their own defense,” said Steven Pifer, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who is now a fellow at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation. “In less than one week, you’ve seen five decades of German attitudes toward Russia turned on their head.”

One day before the Russian invasion, Pifer said, “no one would have predicted this much change: the unity around strong sanctions against Russia, the German about-face, the Swiss joining the European Union in its sanctions, the American people rallying around the Ukrainians,” even across party and ideological lines.

Stephen Fidler, WSJ (“How Might the War in Ukraine End? Five Factors Will Shape the Outcome“):


Although predictions are next to impossible, military strategists are focusing on several factors to provide clues, including the performance of the armies on the ground and the impact of sanctions.

One thing becoming clear is that the performance of Russia’s military thus far is delivering Mr. Putin a reality check and potentially scrambling the range of outcomes. “Every day the Ukrainians don’t lose, they win politically,” said Michael Clarke, former director of the Royal United Services Institute, a London think tank. “And the political cost for him is going up on a daily basis.”

Lawrence Freedman, a professor emeritus of war studies at King’s College, London, doesn’t think the Russians will succeed in installing a puppet government in Ukraine. “They can’t occupy the whole country,” he said. “A puppet government in Kyiv not backed by Russian arms wouldn’t have any legitimacy and wouldn’t survive.”

That will likely make it difficult for Mr. Putin to convincingly declare victory. James Sherr, senior fellow of the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute, predicted that Mr. Putin won’t take the rational step of seeking an off ramp, but will “double down.”

Alexey Kovalev, the investigations editor at Meduza, NYT (“Russia Has Suffered a Crushing Moral Defeat. And Russians Know It.”):

Shock and shame.

That’s the response of many Russians to the sight of rockets and artillery shells hitting Ukrainian tower blocks that in their concrete uniformity could easily be in Moscow. The towns through which Russian armored vehicles are rolling, captured in shaky videos and accompanied by howls of horror, could be Voronezh or Krasnodar or any Russian city. The invasion of Ukraine is a waking nightmare, horrible and absurd.

And it’s being done in our name. Feb. 24, when President Vladimir Putin announced the invasion, is the day Russia became an outcast, despised nation, not just economically isolated but actively shunned by the rest of the world — in sportsscience and most other kinds of international cooperation. Whatever military “victory” Mr. Putin might find acceptable in his twisted mind, Russia has already suffered a crushing moral defeat.

And to a certain extent, it seems like the Russian people know it. Though dissent has been effectively outlawed, thousands of people have taken the risk to express their opposition to the invasion. And it’s not just the usual suspects, the malcontents already known to the Kremlin. Major public figures, prominent journalists and artists have spoken out against the war.

We may be far from a large-scale antiwar movement, but the seeds have been sown. And once they flower into outright defiance, it could spell trouble for Mr. Putin.

My Two Cents:

Assessing these events as they unfold is the nature of the blogging enterprise but likely a mug’s game. The news that the war may have been delayed around the Beijing Olympics is the bit I chose to highlight first because it’s the most interesting new development and sheds light on the relationship between the United States’ foremost adversaries. The most pressing story, surely, is the sheer humanitarian nightmare that’s unfolding, both in terms of the death and destruction in Ukraine but in the migration crisis it’s sparking. The most important story, though, is the potential reordering of the global security arrangement.

There is talk of removing Russia from its permanent membership in the Security Council, something I suggested at the outset of the crisis. It’s next to impossible for that to happen but the fact that it’s being seriously contemplated is interesting. Ditto the start of war crimes investigations, challenging though they are in the case of a great power.

That the world community has reacted so strongly, so quickly truly surprises me. I’ll keep mentioning the degree to which even unlikely European allies and partners have stepped up, at no small cost or risk to their own interests. Ditto the global business community. That the Russians, who have managed to escape all but token sanctions despite generations of flagrant cheating are being banned from international sporting events over this is perhaps the most shocking of developments.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Africa, Climate Change, Democracy, National Security, Science & Technology, United Nations, World Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. CSK says:

    Three days ago there was a rally to support Ukraine in Boston. The photographs are impressive.

  2. Sleeping Dog says:

    The world had become accustomed to relative peace. Nations and their citizens were able to pursue economic interests and all benefited. Small countries often live in fear of their larger and more powerful neighbors and the temperature on those potential conflicts had been turned down, with the expectation that conflicts be resolved peaceably. Russia upended all that and the world’s response is saying that the world doesn’t want a return to 19th/20th century power politics and colonialism.

    Prior to the Olympics, it was widely, if speculatively, reported that China had asked that an invasion, if any, be put off till after the Olympics. So it is not a surprise that intelligence to that effect has surfaced. Add to that Russia invaded within a day or so of the Olympics ending goes to lend credence that there was a quid quo pro.

  3. KM says:

    That the Russians, who have managed to escape all but token sanctions despite generations of flagrant cheating are being banned from international sporting events over this is perhaps the most shocking of developments.

    Twitter has Ukrainians posting conversations with Russian relatives that are refusing to believe firsthand reports of bombing and attacks over Russian propaganda. They’re so deep in the bubble of misinformation that their own blood showing them video evidence of carnage isn’t enough to break the hold and make them pay attention. You know what might? No sports – something the average person will pay a LOT more attention to then politics or world news. Anyone crying that we shouldn’t punish the Russian people for Putin’s mistakes needs to understand that in order to get through the thick webs of lies, it’s gonna have to hurt. Mess up the economy so the average guy’s wallet takes notice, mess up the TV so no diversions make them ask WTF, Why Now? like you have. No bread and no circus makes for an uncomfortable populace more likely to entertain the notion that maybe, just maybe they aren’t heroic liberators but bombers of kindergartens full of people like them.

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Countries that just a few years ago rose up in protest over the arrival of migrants fleeing wars and extremism in the Middle East and North Africa are suddenly welcoming hundreds of thousands of refugees.

    Gee, I wonder what brought about the change of heart?

  5. MarkedMan says:

    That the Russians, who have managed to escape all but token sanctions despite generations of flagrant cheating are being banned from international sporting events over this is perhaps the most shocking of developments.

    It reveals just how far down the hole Russia has gone under Putin. Sporting bodies have just about had it with them, essentially finding them not worth the bribes. After another Olympics dominated by Russia’s continued cheating, I suspect many sports authorities were happy to have an excuse to dump them. In the sports world Russia has become the racist, drunken uncle who shows up at every event and immediately makes it all about them in the most offensive ways possible.

    Same is true for business. It’s hard to believe that it was only 15 years ago Fortune 500 companies were judged on whether they “got” BRIC, and now there isn’t an executive that wants them in their portfolio in any significant way. Corrupt, and in the most obnoxious and useless ways.

    Most interesting to me were the decision by major oil companies to divest from Russian interests. A decision so complete didn’t arise overnight. It seems that even big petro were looking for an excuse to leave them behind.

  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @KM: Ukrainians posting conversations with Russian relatives that are refusing to believe firsthand reports of bombing and attacks over Russian propaganda. They’re so deep in the bubble of misinformation that their own blood showing them video evidence of carnage isn’t enough to break the hold and make them pay attention.

    That certainly sounds familiar.

  7. CSK says:

    It does, doesn’t it?

  8. Michael Reynolds says:

    I don’ think it’s as simple as Ukrainians being white and Christian although that doesn’t hurt. There’s an equally important factor: the Ukrainians will eventually go home, the Syrians wouldn’t.

  9. rachel says:

    A Western intelligence report said senior Chinese officials told senior Russian officials in early February not to invade Ukraine before the end of the Winter Olympics in Beijing

    So the Olympics ended Feb. 20 and the invasion began Feb. 24…

    Right into an unusually early spring thaw in and around Ukraine. If Putin was going to invade anyway, I’m glad he waited until the weather was crappy for it.

  10. rachel says:

    A Western intelligence report said senior Chinese officials told senior Russian officials in early February not to invade Ukraine before the end of the Winter Olympics in Beijing

    (BTW, the thaw started as the Olympics were ending)

    So the Olympics ended Feb. 20 and the invasion began Feb. 24…

    Right into an unusually early spring thaw in and around Ukraine. If Putin was going to invade anyway, I’m glad he waited until the weather was crappy for it.

  11. JohnSF says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    Religion may figure, race perhaps no so much.
    In southern and south eastern Europe you’d have to be uncannily observant to distinguish a Kurd from a Turk from a Greek from a Sicilian from a Moldovan from an Andalusian from a lot of Ukrainians.
    I know its not the case in America, but in continental Europe, Middle Eastern people are generally categorised as “white”.

  12. JohnSF says:

    Doesn’t mean there is no ethnic discrimination though: in France, Netherland and Germany Arabs and Turks are pretty distinct communities, and generally not in a good way, for them.

    And in the UK it’s a bit that Middle Easterners tend to get lumped with South Asians, and sometimes south-east Europeans with middle easterners.
    Not to mention the Brexit theme of anti-East European “racism” and general “anti migrant” agitation by the far right.

  13. JohnSF says:

    In my first comment “Religion may figure…” should be “Religion does figure..”.
    (Edit button being fickle)

    And this is so especially in south eastern Europe; anti-Muslim attitudes have are very marked, in part due to the fact that the wars of liberation from the Ottoman Empire only ended just over a century ago.
    Which in the European way of things, is not that distant.

  14. Michael Reynolds says:

    Ukraine Invasion Sending History in a New Direction?

    To be pedantic, of course it does, any significant effect causes the flow of history to shift a bit. But setting that aside, yes, this is a very important moment in modern history.

    1) It has knocked the Republican Party and their idiot cult leader Trump back on their heels.
    2) It’s forcing at least some people to remove their ageist blinders and face the fact that Biden is playing this whole thing masterfully.
    3) I suspect it will bump Biden’s poll numbers up a bit.
    4) It’s pushed the Squad to the sidelines to go on bitching about student loans.

    1) It’s reminded the world of what they foolishly forgot: there is only one superpower and it ain’t Russia and it ain’t China. What country can rally the world? The US of A, and only the US of A.
    2) There is literally no good outcome possible for Putin. Mr. Cunning, Mr. Genius, has dug himself a deep hole.
    3) Russia will be set back significantly. While the rest of the world will march forward, Russia will slide back – unless and until Putin is gone. Even then it will take them years to get back to square one and the rest of the world will be far ahead.
    4) The vaunted Russian military? Not looking so tough. They tried fighting a modern war and in less than a week they were back to indiscriminate slaughter of innocents. The Russian army may beat Ukraine, but they’re living in a dream world if they think they can take on NATO and the US.
    5) We may be witnessing the slow birth of a new military/economic superpower called the EU. Has the sleeping German giant really awakened? France is ready.
    6) The British Tories, long in bed with Russian oligarchs, may be even more discredited than they already are.
    7) Xi Jin Ping must be recalculating the odds of a Taiwan invasion. Surprise is no longer even a faint possibility. We’ll see the ships, we’ll see the troops, and we will inform the world ahead of them so that they cannot shape the narrative.
    8) India’s Modi is behaving like the piece of shit he is, pretending that he’s playing Big Power games. What a fool to imagine that Russia is of any use in balancing the US and China.
    9) And the worst news for Tsar Vlad the Shirtless is that Ukraine may not have been quite a united nation, but they sure as hell are now.

  15. Mikey says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    we will inform the world ahead of them so that they cannot shape the narrative

    This was a genius move by the Biden administration leading up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Putting that intel out to the world made it impossible for Putin’s pretexts to gain any traction, and that set the stage for the strong and incredibly unified response the invasion has gotten from the rest of the world.

  16. CSK says:

    After a 90-minute phone call from Putin, Macron says “the worst is to come” in Ukraine.

  17. JohnSF says:

    A speech by President Macron.
    Certainly interesting, possibly historic.
    Worth quoting extensively, I think:

    Since President Putin’s brutal attack on Ukraine on February 24, Russian forces have been shelling Kyiv and besieging major cities. Hundreds of Ukrainian civilians have been killed. Women and children were killed today. The days to come will most likely be increasingly difficult. Hundreds of thousands of refugees are fleeing to Moldova, Poland, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, and gradually to the rest of Europe.

    Neither France nor Europe nor Ukraine nor the Atlantic Alliance wanted this war.
    It was therefore deliberately and alone that President Putin opted for war, rejecting the commitments he had made to the international community one after another.
    This war is not a conflict between NATO and the West, on one hand, and Russia on the other, as some have written. NATO has no troops or bases in Ukraine. These are lies. Russia has not been attacked. It is the aggressor.
    Still less is this war a fight against “Nazism,” as a baseless propaganda campaign would have people believe. That is a lie. It is an insult to Russian and Ukrainian history and to the memory of our forefathers who fought side by side against Nazism. Russian leaders are attacking the memory of the Holocaust in Ukraine, just as in Russia they are attacking the memory of Stalinist crimes.
    This war is the result of a revenge mentality fueled by a revisionist interpretation of European history that would have us return to the darkest days of empires, invasions and exterminations.

    Hikes in the price of oil, gas and raw materials are impacting our purchasing power and this will continue to be the case. In the days to come, the cost of filling the tank, paying our heating bills and purchasing certain products will likely grow even steeper.
    But make no mistake. The consequences of these events will be felt not only in the near term over the course of the coming weeks. They also signal the start of a new era.

    War in Europe is no longer limited to our history books and our textbooks. It is here now, right before our eyes.
    Democracy is no longer viewed as an undisputed system. It has been called into question right before our eyes.
    Our freedom and the freedom of our children are no longer a given. Now more than ever, they require courage and the willingness to fight for them at all times.

    We must meet history’s sudden return to tragedy with historic decisions.
    Therefore, our country will increase investments in our defense that were decided upon in 2017 and will pursue its strategy founded on independence and investments in our economy, research and innovation, which have already been strengthened in light of the pandemic.

    During these trying times, our Europe is demonstrating remarkable unity, just as it has done over these last few months. Now Europe must agree to pay the price of peace, freedom and democracy. Europe must invest more in order to decrease its dependence on other continents and to be able to decide for itself. In other words, it must become a power that is both more independent and more sovereign.

    First and foremost, it must become an economic power. We can no longer depend on others to feed us, take care of us, inform us or fund us. That is why, in keeping with the decisions made during the darkest days of the pandemic with the Recovery Plan for Europe, we must promote a new economic model founded on independence and progress.

    Next, it must become an energy power. When it comes to our mobility, heating and the powering of our plants, we can no longer depend on others and, in particular, on Russian gas. That is why, after deciding to develop renewable energy and build new nuclear reactors for France, I will champion an independent European energy strategy.

    Lastly, it must become a power for peace. We can no longer depend on others to defend us, be it on land, at sea, under the sea, in the air, in space or in cyberspace. To this end, our European defense must step up.

    On March 10 and 11, I will bring together the European heads of state and government in Versailles for a summit where decisions will be made on these matters.

    Our Europe has already proven its unity and determination. It has entered a new era. We must keep moving ahead.

  18. Jay L Gischer says:


    Twitter has Ukrainians posting conversations with Russian relatives that are refusing to believe firsthand reports of bombing and attacks over Russian propaganda. They’re so deep in the bubble of misinformation that their own blood showing them video evidence of carnage isn’t enough to break the hold and make them pay attention.

    I’d like to note that this pretty normal behavior for a human being. The task that breakthrough news has isn’t just realigning one belief, it engages with an entire network of beliefs that have a physical reality in a person’s nervous system. Undoing all that is a very challenging task, and does not happen quickly. I say this because I want people to know what they are up against. It’s also the fact that debate of the “factual logical” kind doesn’t really work. Dogged presence and relationship works better. (And it’s how the alt-right recruits people, by the way.)

    We need to shame people less and invite them more.

  19. Sleeping Dog says:


    Strong words indeed. Marcon is stepping forward and taking leadership. We’ll see if Scholz follows and then there is Boris, sigh. Why, have the 2 heads of state that have been clowns, both been named Boris?

    Marcon, makes DeSantis look like the fool that he is.

  20. Michael Reynolds says:

    Entire world to Russia: We are sick of your shit:

    When Japan in recent days announced an aggressive set of sanctions to punish Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, it wasn’t just Moscow it wished to signal, according to U.S. and Asian officials.

    It was also China.

    Japan, not typically a sanctions hawk, wanted to ensure that Beijing drew the right lesson from Russia’s invasion of a weaker neighbor. Moscow would pay a high price.

    Some key countries in East Asia are joining with the West to take what is for them the exceptional step of imposing significant financial sanctions, officials and analysts say, brought together by outrage at Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and concern over China’s growing aggression in the region.

    “We want to demonstrate what happens when a country invades another country,” said one Japanese official, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity.

    Not only did Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, freeze Moscow’s access to tens of billions of dollars worth of its currency reserves held in the central bank in Tokyo. It joined with other Group of Seven nations and Australia to cut some Russian banks off from a global interbank messaging system known as SWIFT and freeze the assets of Russian officials and elites. It is also targeting individuals and organizations from Belarus.

    In Japan and across Asia, an outpouring of support for Ukraine

    Other East Asian countries followed suit. South Korea on Monday announced it would tighten export controls against Russia and also join the SWIFT cutoff of some banks. Singapore, which studiously seeks to avoid crossing the world’s major powers, also proclaimed it would impose export controls on items that can be used as weapons against Ukrainians and block certain Russian banks and financial transactions.

    Taiwan, a self-governing island democracy that Beijing claims as its own, said its world-leading chip companies will stop exports to Russia and align with the West on the SWIFT sanction. It’s an important moment for Taiwan, which wants to show it can join the democratic alliance of countries, analysts said.

    “At the core of the Indo-Pacific’s response is the fact that they know very well that China will be watching what happens in Europe very closely for signals on what might occur were it to make a similarly aggressive move on Taiwan, or elsewhere,” said former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd, now president of the Asia Society.

  21. Just nutha says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: sorry to say, I suspect the melanin level of the skin of the current group helps a bunch.

  22. Just nutha says:

    @JohnSF: didn’t know this. Thx.

  23. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Michael Reynolds: If a Ukrainian stays the full 3 years? S/He is not going back. They’ve built a life, one they have grown accustomed to. Put down roots. Maybe married a local guy/gal.

  24. Just nutha says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I’ve been ambivalent about student loan forgiveness for a long time. Your constant harping on it is causing me to reconsider–if only to annoy you. You might want to apply those amazing character-building skilz to the question of audience reaction.

  25. Just nutha says:

    @Jay L Gischer: good point. After 9/11, my mom was on the phone with her family in Northern Ireland and was startled to hear her sister -in-law tell her that the US had been deserving the attack for at least 20 years.

  26. HarvardLaw92 says:

    What if we didn’t sanction – in fact went out of our way not to sanction – Russian oil, but nobody will buy it anyway … 😀

  27. JohnSF says:

    Pretty certainly won’t move back if Ukraine is under Russian rule.

    But EU labour movement patterns from E & S Europe indicate quite a lot do move back either after building up a savings pot in their thirties or forties, or upon retirement.
    Due to savings going a lot further, especially on property, in home countries.

    (A bit similar to pre-Brexit pattern of sizable numbers of British taking early retirement, selling up and moving to Spain)

  28. Sleeping Dog says:


    In as much as the given reason for avoiding ruskie oil, is running afoul of sanctions, the agitation in Congress to ban Russo oil won’t soon calm it. Alaskan congressional delegation is out front on this.

  29. JohnSF says:

    Speaking of Russian troubles; in addition to having airspace closed, they aren’t safe from them pesky lawyers and bailiffs in the places they can fly to:

    Russian airlines now having their jets seized at international airports by the leasing companies, according to Meduza. S7 has canceled its international flights after having a jet seized in Armenia. Could end most Russian international flights if correct.

  30. Mike in Arlington says:

    What I hope for is that this will create enough of an incentive to move from oil to other energy for transportation (even nuclear if alternative/sustainable energy isn’t enough). It doesn’t even need to be a complete change either, just a significant reduction in our demand would cause the value of oil to drop which would undercut Russia’s ability to project force.

    But it can’t be limited to Russian oil, it has to be oil across the board b/c of its fungible nature.

  31. JohnSF says:

    @Mike in Arlington:
    As I mentioned in a previous thread, according to some estimates the price of natural gas in Europe is likely above break-even for synthetic methane.

  32. Kathy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    4) The vaunted Russian military? Not looking so tough. They tried fighting a modern war and in less than a week they were back to indiscriminate slaughter of innocents. The Russian army may beat Ukraine, but they’re living in a dream world if they think they can take on NATO and the US.

    My memories of the cold war were that the main threat of a Soviet/Warsaw Pact invasion of Europe, was the sheer size and numbers they could bring to bear.

    Things have changed. the numbers aren’t as great, and there is no Warsaw Pact force any longer.

    But in both eras, the nukes say they don’t have to fight NATO.

  33. Mister Bluster says:

    On Russian soldiers in the region asking local Ukrainians to supply them with food
    “Yes, we have seen that. And there are also videos of that where when [Russian soldiers] see the resistance, they very often put down their weapons because they are not ready to die for Putin and his ideas. So now, when they see what is happening and they’ve been captured on camera, they say that they had resources only for three days, meaning the resources of the food and supplies and the fuel supplies. And Russia was planning to end all operation [on] the 6th of March. That’s what the Ukrainian military intelligence says. So now, when [Russian soldiers] are staying in the Ukrainian cities and towns, which they control at the moment, they do not have any supplies from Russian sides. It makes it difficult for them to be here. That gives much more chances for Ukraine.”


    I suspect that if this is true that Putin will have these Russian soldiers executed for treason.

  34. JohnSF says:

    Yes, but the NATO nukes would say we would never have had to fight the Soviets.

    The size of conventional force both sides fielded implies neither side was completely confident in trusting to that.
    The Soviets didn’t sustain half a million troops in East Germany alone just for fun; or even to keep the Germans down.

    Likewise on NATO side BAOR, FFA, the massive Bundeswehr of the 1970’s, etc etc.

  35. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    I’d have thought that this reaction was pretty predictable, tbh. Nobody is going to risk running afoul of sanctions in a game with this many moving parts. The only sane move until you absolutely know the lie of all of those pieces is not to play – which is precisely what they’re doing.

  36. JohnSF says:

    @Just nutha:
    A question which may (or may not) be relevant: Out of curiosity, do you happen to know if said sister-in-law was Nationalist/Republican/Catholic?

  37. dazedandconfused says:

    Russian’s indeed at a historic moment: Either renounce Putin or become international pariahs once again, recreating the Cold War dichotomy.

  38. Kathy says:


    The idea of nukes is to deter conventional war as well.

  39. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Mike in Arlington:

    But it can’t be limited to Russian oil, it has to be oil across the board b/c of its fungible nature.

    Normally, I would agree, but the market seems to be giving a pretty clear signal that oil isn’t as fungible as we presumed it to be. It’s selectively shunning Russian oil (and only Russian oil).

  40. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @JohnSF: Born and raised in NI, Presbyterian by religious background (and active in social work at her congregation) two sons retired from RUC before PSNI established. One works as an EMT driver currently. (If my mom’s understanding was correct, both sons retired involving health issues.) He should be retiring completely soon. He’s about 10 or 12 years younger than I am.

  41. Sleeping Dog says:


    Oil is fungible, but markets need time to adjust. The west stops buying Rus oil, so logically the Chinese should seek a killer deal, but with the shipping boycott… I’ve no idea how many oil tankers the Rus and Chinese own, but I suspect that it is damn few for the Rus and the Chinese are committed to buying from the Gulf and Iran.

  42. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    Oh sure, it’ll eventually adjust. I just found it interesting for the market to demonstrate that it’s perfectly capable of selectively shunning a fungible asset.

  43. JohnSF says:

    Yes that’s often said.
    But to judge from the massive armies maintained, neither side entirely believed it.

  44. JohnSF says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    Now that surprises me a little bit.
    The Nationalist/Republican side was known for tending to being align with Palestinian and Arab left in politics; Protestants/Unionists to tending pro-Israel and often a aligned with US religious
    Just goes to show, my guesses are often wrong.
    (Though those were just tendencies, not universals)

  45. JohnSF says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    Also, the main Russian oil ports are on the Black Sea.
    Insurance rates there are a tad high right now, I should think.

  46. HarvardLaw92 says:


    I’m hearing anecdotally that they are largely just refusing to write coverage altogether. For the moment anyway, the stuff is radioactive. Nobody wants to get anywhere near it.

  47. Kathy says:


    The doctrine developed or evolved into using nukes only for existential threats (real ones), like a massive nuclear strike by the other side.

    Conventional wisdom was the if the Soviets were to invade Germany to conquer Europe and establish global communism one and for all, a conventional war would follow for a few weeks, and then escalate to nukes either due to prolonged stalemate or when one side gained the upper hand.

    Aside from that, there were gray areas of sorts. Like maybe the Soviets wouldn’t go to war with NATO if the latter intervened in internal matters of a Warsaw Pact country. I don’t think anyone in the West seriously contemplated invading Hungary in the 50s or Czechoslovakia in the 60s, as that would mean fighting the Red Army directly.

    But the USSR did not go to war with the US over Korea or Vietnam, nor the reverse over Afghanistan in the 70s and 80s.

  48. JohnSF says:

    Belt and braces: never hurts to be sure.
    The fear at the time, among military I talked to, was a quick “smash and grab”.
    Soviets take Berlin, smash along the north coast into Denmark, hit the Fulda Gap, then halt and demand “peace talks”.
    Leaving them masters of the Baltic, and with options for air/naval power in Jutland.

    Some also thought a possible “avoid NATO” and grab Austria (and/or Yugoslavia, which was often at daggers with Sovs despite being Communist) was possible.

    Thankfully, never arose.
    Plausibility outside the fertile (but teensy bit paranoid) minds of military planners?

  49. EddieInCA says:

    I became a millionaire today….in rubles.

    On a lark, I purchased 1,000,000 rubles today in my IRA. $9200 buys you a million rubles.
    Never thought I’d write that sentence. If it drops further, I’ll buy more. Given how this is going, it’s not sustainable for the Russians.

  50. Michael Cain says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    …the Chinese are committed to buying from the Gulf and Iran.

    Oil exporters are notorious for selling FOB their loading ports, and after that it’s the purchaser’s problem. Tankers will happily load oil paid for by China and unload it somewhere else if ordered to. Also happily load Russian oil if they know they can unload it in China. A bigger problem is Russia will have difficulty diverting oil that normally fills pipeline to Europe to their loading ports. Not usually a lot of slack in the pipeline networks to suddenly say, “Don’t pump this oil to Germany, pump it to some Black Sea port.”

  51. DK says:

    @Just nutha: There are also pragmatic reasons to reconsider opposition to a potential Biden executive order partially cancelling student debt cancellation.

    One, it can function as a legitimate stimulus, direct to generations struggling with the outcomes of two major recessions.

    Two, cynically and maybe more importantly, democracy itself is on the line. We really do need youth voters energized to show up this November and in 2024. Republicans winning with big margins will be disastrous.

  52. JohnSF says:

    Also the big reason UK and France maintained independent nuclear forces from 1953 and 1955 respectively, at considerable expense (to put it mildly).

    “Yes, we trust the Americans to have our backs; but do we really, really trust the Americans to have our backs?”

  53. JohnSF says:

    Specify option for paper currency.
    Make an interesting talking point wallpaper.

  54. Mike in Arlington says:

    @HarvardLaw92: with the caveat that my prediction game is absolute trash, I think a boycott of Russia’s oil is only going to last for so long. There will come a point where people will have to choose between buying Russian oil and their people being unable to put food on their plates. The only way around this is to find and transition to alternatives asap. The problem, of course, is that we have our own mini-Russia/Saudi Arabia (to put a finer point on it, I mean Texas) that will do anything it can to keep us from transitioning to another fuel.

    The other problem is that transitioning to other fuels is a long process. But the good news is that we’ve already started and can accelerate it.

  55. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Mike in Arlington:

    Oh absolutely. Like we discussed above, this isn’t really a boycott, per se. It’s a We are terrified of inadvertently running afoul of sanctions, and the safest move here is to just avoid the commodity altogether for the time being. They’ll figure it how to safely navigate these waters eventually and adjust, but in the meantime, until they do, the stuff will be radioactive.

  56. JohnSF says:

    @Mike in Arlington:
    There are options for transition in sight now, in Europe:

    Short term:
    Avoid new fossils infrastructure (ie fracking) where possible, bridge by re-opening mothballed coal generators (eg Drax B) and mines, possibly in situ gasification at mines to unstable to, umm, mine.
    Also increase all current field output where possible.
    Set up terminals for imported LNG. Secure the LNG supplies.

    Medium term:
    Syn-methane from new nukes and expanded wind power; increase the electric vehicle fleet (already happening at a surprising pace) and electrified public transport (mass transit).

    Long term:
    Maybe the Rubbia Plan for massive solar power generation in Spain, Sicily, Morocco, with molten salt storage and “super grid” to the north.
    Fusion? If not, thorium reactors.

    If Macron isn’t thinking along these line (at least the short/medium) re. the speech I quoted earlier. I’ll eat my hat.

  57. Stormy Dragon says:


    My memories of the cold war were that the main threat of a Soviet/Warsaw Pact invasion of Europe, was the sheer size and numbers they could bring to bear.

    Part of it is a lot of people still think Russia is the Soviet Union, when the entire Russian economy is about the size of the state of Florida

  58. mattbernius says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    The world had become accustomed to relative peace. Nations and their citizens were able to pursue economic interests and all benefited.

    If by “the world” you mean “white Europeans” then this is pretty accurate. For the majority of the rest of the world, not so much.

  59. Michael Cain says:

    The price tag on new nukes is going to be staggering. Macron’s recent announcement comes in at about $8B per GW. I believe that’s for the same model being built at Flamanville, which has crept across $10B per GW now. There’s also been news that France may not be able to extend the licenses for some of their current fleet, because of defects in the steel used in the pressure vessels.

    It may well be cheaper (and faster) to overbuild wind and solar and storage and added transmission. For some of it, might even be cheaper to bribe the Icelanders and build Icelink.

  60. Michael Cain says:


    Like maybe the Soviets wouldn’t go to war with NATO if the latter intervened in internal matters of a Warsaw Pact country.

    NATO has always been an explicitly defensive treaty. If a NATO member openly intervened in a WP country, and the Soviet Union attacked that NATO member, Article 5 wouldn’t apply.

  61. Kathy says:

    @Michael Cain:

    My bad.

  62. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @JohnSF: Aunt Sylvia married into a family full of Plymouth Bretheren/Elim Baptist/Salvationist religionists, so she’s the family black-sheep liberal. Additionally, some significant portion of the social work she did with her church congregation involved prison visitation/social justice work. She is very much an outlier. (I’ve been hard pressed to understand why her kids BOTH joined the RUC–and worked anti-terrorism units if my mom was telling the truth.)

  63. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @EddieInCA: I used to make 3 million won a month at my university in Daejeon, but it’s not the same at all because the won has been trading at 800-1200 won per dollar for decades. Every so often, people would talk about revaluing the won, but nobody’s pulled the trigger on it so far.

  64. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @DK: I’ve never been opposed to student debt cancellation to any degree; it’s just that my inner Marxist and inner RWNJ are strangely unanimous about any proposal needing to be means tested but haven’t been able to agree on the details. A world where families that are making $200k and more a year but still can’t afford to send their kids to school is a big “what’s wrong with this picture” puzzle to me. (And I still have classmates that live in Seattle–where the home I grew up in is currently appraised at a little under a million.)

  65. JohnSF says:

    @Michael Cain:
    Bulk build will reduce the costs, and iterate out design issues.
    If you are committing the bulk of syn-methane output to replacing current natural gas, which is vital, due to hundreds of millions of households (and virtually every other building in Europe) using gas for heat.
    Then you must have something else to provide baseload.
    Until syn-meth output starts to exceed heating and industrial requirements.
    That will take decades of steady build.

    For some 25 years (rough estimate) there is nothing that can do the job except nuclear.
    Though it may start to be taperable after, what, 15? Just guessing now
    French are going that route for a reason.

    Germans tried to dodge that reality, and look where it ended for them.
    (And for different reasons, the UK. We should hve gone with AGR-2, built by the state and no messing around with private enterprise or financing nonsense)

    Anything ese, in medium term, is just wishful thinking.

    Long term may be a different matter.

    We need realism now, not German green dreams.

  66. JohnSF says:

    re peace and the benefits thereof:

    For the majority of the rest of the world, not so much.


    If we are looking at the pos-Cold War period, the vast majority of the world has been free from inter state warfare. Even civil was have been relatively rare.
    Consider the areas where hundreds of millions to billions live, and are not, last I checked, populated by “white Europeans”.
    China, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, South East Asia, South Africa, etc. Plus most of South America, where the degree of “white European-ness” varies.

    Many of these regions have seen, largely due to the global expansion of trade and investment, and major improvements in local agricultural productivity, and relative international and social peace, the greatest sustained improvements in living standards on mass scale in human history.
    And sustained freedom from general war that is also relatively unusual.
    They have not become paradise, but compared to the grinding poverty and malnutrition of the mid-20th century, they have made massive gains.

    The main exceptions, with prolonged warfare and related economic stagnation, have been parts of the Middle East, South Central Asia, and the Sahel/Central regions of Africa.
    But terrible as they have been, they do not represent the bulk of human experience post-1990

  67. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Just in: Russian forces have managed to set a nuclear power plant on fire in Ukraine.

  68. EddieInCA says:


    That changes everything.

    That could be 10x worse than Chernobyl.

  69. Michael Cain says:


    Bulk build will reduce the costs, and iterate out design issues.

    Everyone says that. No reactor built in the last 30 years has been cheaper than the reactor design that preceded it. In practice, no reactor has been built in the last 30 years where the construction wasn’t f*cked up in some fashion. And not f*cked up because it’s nuclear. F*cked up because the steel was substandard, the concrete was poured wrong, critical electrical wiring didn’t conform to the design or engineering specs.

    I am so glad I live in a region that will have no-carbon electricity in 15 years or so, and nuclear will be at most a tiny part of that.

  70. HarvardLaw92 says:


    I didn’t catch all of the details (how serious / close to the reactors, etc) but I’m I’m agreement – I’m pretty sure any fire at one is a level one crisis. I did see that it’s apparently the largest nuclear plant in Europe.

  71. Sleeping Dog says:


    Matt, I’d disagree with that. Excepting the middle east, select countries in Africa and Afghanistan, large parts of the developing world are doing OK. Southern and Southeast Asia, Africa south of the equator. South America is getting along. The illiberal states of Central America are a mess, but the others are moving along.

  72. Michael Cain says:


    Just in: Russian forces have managed to set a nuclear power plant on fire in Ukraine.

    If they’ve shelled a containment structure, or a spent-fuel facility, then they’re a pariah state. That’s WMD, and we have to find some way to crush Russia. Crush badly enough that we can take their nuclear toys away from them. Unfortunately, I don’t see how we do that w/o a serious risk of global thermonuclear war and the end of civilization. I’ve got three granddaughters now that I’m not willing to consign to a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

  73. CSK says:

    @Michael Cain:
    The first power unit was hit.

  74. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Michael Cain:

    Details are very thin from all I can gather. Just that the plant is on fire, they’re supposedly still shelling it, and firefighters are unable to get to the facility due to the fighting. It indeed has the potential to spiral very badly out of control I’d think. I can’t imagine what would be more of a justification for troops on the ground to deal with this increasingly insane threat than the threat of covering most of Europe in fallout. We’re very nervous here about where it could lead.

  75. HarvardLaw92 says:


    Details are starting to filter out. Apparently the burning facility is a reactor building but one that wasn’t operating. Given that there is nuclear fuel inside, I’m not sure the shutdown status means very much. This shit will get out of control and we may be lucky to live thorough it.

  76. CSK says:

    I assume the plant was deliberately targeted.

  77. Gustopher says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Seattle–where the home I grew up in is currently appraised at a little under a million.

    Either you grew up in the poor part of town, or you should check the prices again. I have no idea how people afford to live here now.

    Re: Student Debt, colleges were heavily directly subsidized, plus there were grants. All of that cost has been put onto the backs of students, starting in the 80s, and then more and more. Student debt relief would just be partially restoring the pre-mid-80s status quo, with some retroactive harm reduction for those who went to school recently.

    I’m ok with that.

    (Plus it irritates a few people who should be irritated)

  78. HarvardLaw92 says:


    Seems that way. The coverage referenced security camera footage of Russian vehicles pulling into the parking lot, shining lights, then firing. I haven’t seen it though.

  79. Ken_L says:

    Within a decade of committing some of the most atrocious war crimes in history, Japan and (West) Germany were members again of the Respectable Nations Club. Speculating about the long-term implications of the Ukraine war is an entertaining intellectual exercise, but that’s all it is.

  80. JohnSF says:

    @Michael Cain:

    …I live in a region that will have no-carbon electricity in 15 years or so…

    You may have far less problems in doing so in America than we will in Europe.
    Europe is far higher latitudes, generally.
    The simple fact is that N Europe lacks the insolation for solar power to work in winter.
    With only 8hours of daylight at a maximum of 46.56° elevation, that is a December average insolation in London of around 0.75 kWh per square metre per day. (Can’t remember if that figure allows average cloud or assumes clear sky)
    By comparison Albany, NY gets about 3kWh/m2/day in winter.
    Southern California coastal in summer around 6kWh/m2/day.

    Given that our winters often see prolonged periods of cold but still air (hence our being prone to mist and fog) wind and solar can’t get it done.
    Storage systems may resolve the problem the longer term, but we need to act now.

  81. mattbernius says:

    @JohnSF & @Sleeping Dog:
    Thanks for spelling out your thinking. I disagree with some of the framing, but I also want to acknowledge that much of my disagreement (a focus on inter-nation conflict and hot civil wars) can also be read as goalpost shifting on my part from the original point.

    I don’t have the time right now to make my broader case (or sadly contribute to the front page) due to a number of deadlines, so I’ll leave the final word to the two of you. I think the point that in both cases there were a number of not insignificant carve-outs of geographic regions (not to mention an underplay of both ongoing intra-state conflicts and internal colonization and control efforts) in both your responses. AND I’ll also fully acknowledge that I may be thinking about precarity in different ways than both of you.