Given that I’ve made quite a few predictions about the war in Ukraine and how it would unfold, it’s a good time look back on them and draw some lessons. My record is mixed, having predicted that the war would happen but being, so far, mistaken about how strong Ukrainian resistance would be.
One thing you didn’t predict, understandably, is the “Twitterization” of the conflict.
Suppose that you set out in 2019 to predict how governments would respond to the next pandemic. How would you do this? Presumably you’d look at their responses to past pandemics, estimate the probable severity of a virus, follow the latest public health discussions and the latest vaccine technology, etc. Would that exercise lead you to predict what happened over the last two years? No, not even close.
What happened was that people in early 2020 scrolled and tweeted their way into a frenzy. This deeply affected those in leadership roles, partly because they were responding to their constituents and partly because they themselves spend a lot of time scrolling and tweeting. As a result, the pandemic response was far more extreme and far different than someone in 2019 would have predicted.
Just as COVID-19 is the first pandemic in the Age of Twitter, so the Ukraine invasion is, in some sense, the first war in the Age of Twitter. As it unfolds, we are seeing many disturbing parallels to the events of early 2020. People are rapidly normalizing once-fringe ideas like a NATO-enforced no-fly zone, direct US conflict with Russia, regime change in Moscow, and even, incredibly, the use of nuclear weapons. Just as with COVID, we’re seeing the rapid abandonment of longstanding Western policies. The overnight flips on German defense spending and SWIFT are like the overturning of conventional public health policies on masking, lockdowns, and so on.
The emotionalism and recklessness we see in the Western professional class right now are producing an extremely dangerous situation. Let’s hope that it can be de-escalated before we get into a world war. And in making future predictions, we should acknowledge that the hyperconnected world brings with it new tail risks produced by rapid online escalation.
NATO expansion is a pretext for the deranged emperor to extend the reach of his mafia state. Historically, Ukraine was not a country, but Putin forged it. If Russia were attractive as a partner, many Ukrainians would support getting closer and perhaps establishing a confederation. But this is over now. The hatred against Russia is at the level not seen since the war against Nazis. If you could understand the pull of freedom and the disgust with Russia among the Ukrainians before the invasion, you’d have made a much better prediction about how strong they’d resist the invaders. Ukraine has already won since the now have a leader who, dead or alive, is a powerful symbol of resistance against the ugly force and the catalyst of national unity and readiness to sacrifice to keep national freedom. And plz stop talking about NATO expansion as the reason for this invasion and stop pushing for appeasement of the mafia state.
It was never about the "security guarantees" or fear of the NATO expansion. I am not sure if you had seen the already prepared declaration of victory article that was sitting on the Russian propaganda news channels such as ria.ru and sputnik.ru (now deleted but available in archives) ready to be linked to from the main page once the easy victory over Ukraine is achieved. The victory was supposed to be pronounced on Feb 26th and the "historic mission" Putin took on was to recreate the unified state of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. This has been the mission all along. NATO expansion was just the pretext. I just can't believe why many republicans have so much difficulty falling out of love with Putin. Not sure why they fell for him to begin with. He is a deranged dictator who wanted to go down in history as equal to Peter the Great
here is the link to the article. It is in Russian. I am sure you will be able to find the English translation of it somewhere
I wonder if you or any of these surprised “experts” who describe or make predictions about Ukraine have ever actually been to Ukraine. Because if they had been, nothing would have been surprising.
Instead, these “experts” rely on Russian “knowledge” about Ukraine which is full of half-truths and desperate wishful thinking. Russian-speaking people are persecuted in Ukraine on a mass scale (you can now see videos of Russian-speaking Ukrainians cursing Russia in Russian). Ukraine’s government is not democratic and is hated by the people (Zelensky won in a landslide). Ukrainian people are under American-Nazi occupation and want liberation by Russia (lol). 80% of Ukrainian soldiers will desert as Crimean ones did (Crimeans are actually Russians, not just Russian-speaking Ukrainians). Banning Russian media was an example of repression (it was a populist move designed to get more support by picking on unpopular media sources) Etc.
Armed with their nonsensical “information” about a place they haven’t spent time in and clearly don’t know, these “experts” go on American talk shows where they try to trick understandably naive Americans to believe the nonsense.
I couldn’t believe that Russia would try to do more then annex Donbas (which unlike the rest of Ukraine has an actual Russian majority, albeit a slimmer one then in Crimea) because I figured it would have better intelligence about Ukraine. I figured wrong. And here we are.
I've been trying to figure out what is Putin's objective function, and from what I've read there are two (not necessarily exclusive) goals in Putin's mind: preempt NATO's expansion in Russia's neighborhood, and a bring-Russia-back-to-it's-former-glory desire.
You seem to put a lot of weight on the former and zero on the latter. Any particular reason for this?
"If you were going to cut Russia off from SWIFT, for example, why wouldn’t you announce it beforehand?"
Not sure if you've ever heard of a "coordination problem," but trying to coordinate a massive, basically unprecedented, sanctions regime in advance of some hypothetical action is typically really, really hard when it involves say Germany making sacrifices about its economy. Have you considered thinking about political considerations when it comes to international relations and the reasons behind the prevalence of being reactive vs. proactive out of necessity? Putin made things very easy once the actual invasion kicked off and no one could pretend a major land war of conquest in Europe wasn't happening for the first time in 50+ years.
"Russia has security concerns, and Ukraine and the United States need to take them seriously."
Yeah, those Ukrainian neo-Nazi leaders and their nuclear weapons program need to be stopped don't they?
Russia has, in fact, no legitimate security concerns regarding Ukraine. Putin may have some legitimate fears of what it looks like when countries Russia used to dominate outperform it economically, align with the West, and have a defensive pact so he can no longer bully them or convince his own population he's a competent leader, but you have to be careful when negotiating with a paranoid bully. If you simply validate his tactics he might just keep using them.
"The whole point of a punishment like that is supposed to be its deterrent effect, but if you don’t communicate that a specific action will happen, then it can’t influence behavior."
It would have been good to use the SWIFT as a deterrent, but punishment isn't just about deterrence. E.g. locking up murders in prison (or even executing them) isn't just to deter murder --- it's also to keep murders from committing more murders. In this case, if you wreck the Russian economy, it'll be less capable of mounting large military operations in the future. So, I disagree that deterrence is "the whole point"; it's only part of the point (albeit a large part). An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, but that doesn't mean the cure is worthless.
assuming that Putin was a rational actor, together these articles made a convincing case that he would go to war and he would go big. Quoting from your excellent analysis: I wanted to reiterate what you said... ASSUMING PUTIN was a rational actor: I do understand how you came to your predictions and outcomes; however, I think it is too early to start "talking about lessons learned" from the Russian penetration into the Sovreign Nation of Ukraine, regardless of how corrupt it has been in the past. I have a personal friend who is Ukrainian and served in the Carter administration yes.. he is that old and was formerly a diplomat representing the U.S to NATO.. he is there NOW, so that is how long I have studied this situation. I knew when Putin "annexed" Crimea, which is populated mostly my ethnic Russians that was the beginning of his march into Ukraine. This has been well talked about in Christian theologians and writers because of the b Biblical prophecies with regard to Crimea and Chernobyl. (Gog and Magog) I will keep it short: As dual German Citizen I am glad that NATO and GERMANY stepped up their response to Putin. I don't think American Troops should be deployed there and yes I do get that the CIA meddled big time in the Ukrainian elections around 2013 and 2014.. and Obama was part of that disaster; thirdly and lastly and most importantly: I am of the opinion that Putin may no longer be a "rational actor" based on some his recent strange comments. and actions. (Obviously, you are smart go and read what he has said. recently.. bizarre). meantime I remain in Prayer for Ukrainians and the Russians Orthodox Church and the people who are suffering over there. Thanks for the update. fascinating review and keenly perceptive on your part.
Yeah, you got a lot wrong post-start. I didn’t post anywhere but I predicted that Putin would attack and that if he was illogical enough to launch a big WWII-style multipronged invasion of a large democratic country in the heart of Europe, both the Ukrainian response would be extremely unfriendly and the West would be outraged.
I think you were misled by your silly mental framework of client states. That’s not why people fight. People really hate being invaded and have their nation be existentially threatened. Especially those who have a pretty strong sense of nationhood (and Ukrainians are essentially homogeneous bilinguals).
As for the Western response, there is the rational part that no European democracy would like to see a belligerent untrustworthy Russia attack a peaceful European democracy unprovoked. I would think you would know why simply from a self-interest perspective. Putin’s untrustworthy when he said beforehand that he wouldn’t invade. There is also the emotional part that the populace of the overwhelmingly white Western democracies are extremely shocked and outraged to see a large white European democracy be invaded unprovoked and existentially threatened. Guess what, the last time that happened, other Western powers jumped in the fight as well.
It’s a major blind spot of yours if you didn’t find that to be obvious. (And of course, a major blind spot of Putin’s too).
I agree with your critique of not threatening to cut off Russia from SWIFT beforehand being a mistake. I disagree with your assessment that it can't influence behavior. It seems like it throws another large tally in the 'Cons' column for Russia's calculations in how long they can carry on with the invasion. It doesn't have to be said that such things are reversible, and threatening and not implementing after the invasion has started would seem weak. So my take is: Big mistake not threatening more drastic sanctions beforehand, correct decision after invasion began. Also possible deterrent effect for China with Taiwan, now that they see the scale of sanctions the West is willing to bring. Curious about your thoughts on this.
You are a bunch of self-centered arrogant pseudo-intellectual idiots who know absolutely nothing about Russia or Russians, Ukraine or Ukrainians. But what's worse you have no heart
“ Now, we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves, as Russia is still making rapid progress.”
Absolutely. I don’t understand this narrative about the Russian advance underperforming. They’re making solid progress. If the Ukrainians aren’t able to launch effective counterattacks, Ukraine = Russia before the summer.
Wars don’t operate on social media timescales or adhere to a Twitter timelines.
Looks like John Mearsheimer overestimated Putin's IQ:
"what they're doing is not trying to conquer ukraine there are many people who say the russians are going to go on a rampage they're going to try and reestablish the soviet union or a greater
russia and so forth and so on uh that's not going to happen uh putin is much too smart for that you remember what happened when the russians invaded afghanistan you remember
what happened when we invaded afghanistan you remember what happened when we and reid invaded iraq you remember what happened when the israelis invaded southern lebanon
you want to stay out of these places
in fact if you really want to wreck russia what you should do is encourage it to try and conquer ukraine
putin again is much too smart to do that"
Here's to Russia getting wrecked!
Maybe reassess your "very intelligent" friend? I guess he's still probably intelligent. But the stuff he sputtered out indicates he's not reading very smart anymore, perhaps instead more satisfyingly honing his tribal instincts and immersing himself in the domestic shit pool, yelling HILLARY! EMAILS! SERVER! CROWDSTRIKE! Either that or he's embarrasingly ignorant about how a business like Crowdstrike operates.
I'm late to the party, but just adding that I think the analysis doesn't do itself any favors by not mentioning Zelensky. That's another big difference with Afghanistan. Leadership has become such a banal concept here, but it really does matter and his PR in the war has been unmatched.
Twitterization, made up word, Edwin Newman said in one of his language books "never ise or wise your words". Anyhow Richard Hanania sound like he scoring his proficiency on the children's board game of "RISK"?