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2022/24 Russian-Ukrainian War

The regime has cast a very wide net of patronage for both elites and the people (predominantly rural) incentivising their success and wellbeing to regime status quo.

I don't know how anybody can say this and claim to understand Russia. Something like 99.8% of the wealth in the country is in the hands of 500 people.


If you're going to get into a deep discussion about how we deal with Russia, it's really important that you at least understand the situation on the ground. There is no wide and deep well of economic ties to the regime. It's 500 oligarchs who work for Putin. And why does Putin need that much wealth? To fund the security state. Something like 1 in 25 Russians is employed by security and defence apparatus in Russia. I'm not talking defence contractors. I'm taking actual agencies like the FSB, police forces, military, etc. He substantially relies on repression and on poverty to provide the manpower for his repressive regime to stay in power. This should help explain the situation more:


I would like to see a more peaceful and amenable leadership in the Kremlin too. But who is to say any successor regime will be better?

It doesn't have to be. We really don't care if another thug comes along to rob the Russians. All we care about is that they stay on their side of the line. That is the message being passed on.

Where I fear we seem to be drifting is a situation where if direct combat between NATO/US and Russia should occur,

Policy isn't being determined by what people say on Twitter. NATO and Russia aren't going to war. Not in the least of which is because the current rate of Russian losses puts Russia on track to be demilitarized (conventionally) by Labour Day.

 
Anybody who thinks there's some deep thought and ideology behind Putin's invasion should look at their laundry list of casus belli:


Also, we now have reports of possible chemical weapons attacks by the Russians:

 
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I don't know how anybody can say this and claim to understand Russia. Something like 99.8% of the wealth in the country is in the hands of 500 people.
Yes, absolutely. Which is why I find talking to both Russians and those from former Soviet states quite interesting, much more interactive than even Urban Toronto! Purely anecdotal opinions, but very enlightening at highlighting stuff overlooked in the West. They are self aware that they are pro-Western (and mortified by Putin) in contrast to their own perception of the majority of their countrymen.

Most are hugely pessimistic about change, let alone positive change. Cited by more than a few are the bulk of the poor, non-Western, rural or small town population dependent on patronage in one form or another. And Russia very much bears an uncanny resemblance to a developing world petro-state with a significant proportion of the population reliant on state aid, patronage, pensions, jobs, etc. The information sphere is totally dominated by state media and after the 2012 (?) elections, the security apparatus is ubiquitous.

As for oligarchs, the most salient description of the contemporary Russian state (Ben Judah, excellent journalist) is "they are not oligarchs, they just work as oligarchs". It all comes back to Putin and his ruthless consolidation of power. A coup could occur, but I suspect any reasonably stable government would require the buy in of siloviki, those running state enterprises and the people. Not impossible, not easy.

It doesn't have to be. We really don't care if another thug comes along to rob the Russians. All we care about is that they stay on their side of the line. That is the message being passed on.
If the system is still hugely deformed, it will eventually give rise to unstable regimes with risk that they will continue or pursue adventures abroad. Kazakhstan, Moldova, Armenia, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, etc. If we don't want the Ukrainian War to have more sequels than Rocky, then a stable government engaged with international norms will provide best long term prospects for all.

Policy isn't being determined by what people say on Twitter. NATO and Russia aren't going to war. Not in the least of which is because the current rate of Russian losses puts Russia on track to be demilitarized (conventionally) by Labour Day.
You are correct, NATO and Russia aren't going to war. Until they do. It all boils down to risk. Many think Putin is bluffing on his nuclear threat and the West should intervene directly. However, many more thought he was bluffing over invading Ukraine. Risk is likelihood vs consequence, and the consequence for missteps would be catastrophic and destruction Ukraine would pale in comparison.

The main question is, can Russia sustain war effort longer than Ukraine. We don't know. Nor do we know appetite of Russian leadership to continue at any cost, versus our perceived logical assessment of gain/loss. The latest is that VE Day, May 9, will be declared victory. But currently little appetite with the Ukrainian public to settle for compromise.

Phillips ok at synthesising information, but not terribly original.
 
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If the system is still hugely deformed, it will eventually give rise to unstable regimes with risk that they will continue
Or it could well fall apart. There's really nothing all that natural about a country that stretches across 11 time zones. And there isn't a lot holding it together. Worse, the centralization necessary to facilitate Putin's kleptocracy has substantially weakened the regions and increased resentment there, especially among those local officials always taking crap from their citizens, while Putin's boys steal their wealth.

or pursue adventures abroad. Kazakhstan, Moldova, Armenia, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, etc. If we don't want the Ukrainian War to have more sequels than Rocky, then a stable government engaged with international norms will provide best long term prospects for all.

First, we don't care if they have more adventures. As long as it is not on the doorstep of Europe.

Next, just like Ukraine, any such war can be turned into absolute hell for them as Western supplies pour in.

You are correct, NATO and Russia aren't going to war. Until they do. It all boils down to risk.

It's pretty apparent that you think that everybody who works in government, in the military or at NATO HQ are clueless morons and that you know better. I assure you, they know what they are doing. And they are doing it with better information than you will ever have.

Escalation dynamics and contingency plans are routinely mapped and gamed out. Yes, it's a fast changing situation. But nobody here is just flying by the seat of their pants. And nobody who is in a position to make such decisions is really eager to get into a war with Russia. Most are dovish on Russia to a fault.

The main question is, can Russia sustain war effort longer than Ukraine. We don't know.

One side is sanctioned to the point that they are begging the Chinese for packaged meals for their troops. The other side has the combined defence industrial complex of the EU and the US supplying them, the complete information might of NATO and Five Eyes intelligence, and has hundreds of thousands of troops volunteering, along with tens of thousands who have had combat experience from all the past rotations through Crimea and Donbas. I said in the beginning there's a good chance that Ukrainians might win this. I think that prediction is more likely now that than a month ago. The Russian desperation is why they are using chemical weapons. Their troops are too scared to fight or their units are incapable of taking more losses in urban areas.

This is all aside from the deteriorating Russian domestic economic situation, or watching Sweden and Finland move towards NATO membership, NATO members increasing defence spending while plotting to substantially reduce dependence on Russian fossil fuels.

The concern trolling is an interesting angle. You should spend more time worrying about Russia though. To paraphrase Trump, "Putin is going to go through some things."
 
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Which is why I find talking to both Russians and those from former Soviet states quite interesting, much more interactive than even Urban Toronto!

I'm going to suggest you seek out some more objective sources. You seem to be repeating a lot of softer Russian talking points. I've gotten those from Russian acquaintances too. They can't quite get over their affection for their motherland. And if they're older, the anti-Western instinct is hard to ditch. And that's particularly relevant given the sharp generational divide on this war in Russia. It's easy for the babushkas to support a war they will never have to fight in. And Russia has a lot of babushkas.
 
I'm going to suggest you seek out some more objective sources. You seem to be repeating a lot of softer Russian talking points. I've gotten those from Russian acquaintances too. They can't quite get over their affection for their motherland. And if they're older, the anti-Western instinct is hard to ditch. And that's particularly relevant given the sharp generational divide on this war in Russia. It's easy for the babushkas to support a war they will never have to fight in. And Russia has a lot of babushkas.
That's a very good idea, thanks very much. Although to be fair, they are all very Western orientated and to say they are mortified by Putin's actions doesn't do justice to their feelings. But to press beyond headlines and talking points is very important. We all come with cultural assumptions, etc that may not match those of other societies. So to press my associates on why many people could/would support Putin's actions was an interesting and self-reflective conversation. Certainly the big city vs small city/town/rural divide was something I was aware of but didn't know how deep. Plus the popular perception of 90s bad/2000s good - that Putin has inculcated is well known. Anecdotes stories that embellish some of the headlines.

In the spirit of good faith exchange of ideas I certainly recommend you learning a bit about red teaming or wargaming in operational planning. We have generally, if unevenly, developed a culture in Western militaries of what some call 'fair challenge.' That is to test, challenge and put to test assumptions and plans. This is to avoid group think and allow a military commander to develop a range of military scenarios that encompasses an array of courses of action: best case/worst case/most likely. Test the integrity of a plan or planning and in Ukrainian case, I have no doubt that what if the Russians are not bluffing about nukes is being tested. Probably is, how replicable is Putin's thinking?

Anyhow, the UK's Joint Doctrine Publication 5-00 Second Edition is particularly good at explaining.

Good exchange, thanks.
 
This is interesting analysis, perhaps not backed by looking at a map of those states sanctioning Russia. Looks suspiciously and overwhelmingly European, N American and Australasian. No developing world. Why?


(Map: Wikipedia)

1920px-Sanctions_2014_Russia2.svg.png
 
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This is interesting analysis, perhaps not backed by looking at a map of those states sanctioning Russia. Looks suspiciously and overwhelmingly European, N American and Australasian. No developing world. Why?


1920px-Sanctions_2014_Russia2.svg.png
Why?

Because the developing world has far more to lose than gain by sanctioning.

As the West has sought to end its negative colonial legacy, and scale down its influence in other countries affairs especially following their failures in the middle east, we've more or less abandoned a lot of developing countries. I understand the underlying logic behind it of course, but it failed to realise that other nations would inevitably come to fill the gap. Two major players in this are Russia and China, which are becoming increasingly heavily invested in the Middle East, Africa and South America. The investment also came without strings attached to human rights, democracy etc. making the deals much more lucrative to a lot of developing countries with troubling records to say the least.

Most countries are not true democracies, so why would they align themselves ideologically with Western nations over a distant war, its simply illogical for them to do so.
 
Another note as well, I havent seen much talk about this but I've noticed a shift in Kremlin rhetoric in the last few days and I find it particularly alarming.

Putin has explained this war as neccessary and justified, Peskov said it was to end US hegemony, and today Lukashenko said it was a preemptive strike against the West. The rhetoric has now shifted from this being about Ukraine to being a war against the West. In my mind that's truthfully what it was always about, but I worry if Russia continues to reframe this as a conflict not against Ukraine but the West that there is a much higher risk of this spiralling out of control. If the Austrian leaders meeting with Putin yesterday is anything to go by, Putin is living in a dream world divorced from reality. His decisions make sense in the context of what he believes, but what he believes is so far removed from truth I think it's very dangerous.
 
Almost inevitable, but according to media 150 FSB officers arrested or purged, including its Head, Col Gen Sergei Beseda, according to a Bellingcat journalist.

Large numbers of officers in Russia's secret service have been "purged" in the wake of the country's military failures in Ukraine, a top investigative journalist said.

 
Another note as well, I havent seen much talk about this but I've noticed a shift in Kremlin rhetoric in the last few days and I find it particularly alarming.

Putin has explained this war as neccessary and justified, Peskov said it was to end US hegemony, and today Lukashenko said it was a preemptive strike against the West. The rhetoric has now shifted from this being about Ukraine to being a war against the West. In my mind that's truthfully what it was always about, but I worry if Russia continues to reframe this as a conflict not against Ukraine but the West that there is a much higher risk of this spiralling out of control. If the Austrian leaders meeting with Putin yesterday is anything to go by, Putin is living in a dream world divorced from reality. His decisions make sense in the context of what he believes, but what he believes is so far removed from truth I think it's very dangerous.

Indeed, the Austrian chancellor's review of his face to face meeting with Putin yesterday was pessimistic at best and ominous at worst.
 
Another note as well, I havent seen much talk about this but I've noticed a shift in Kremlin rhetoric in the last few days and I find it particularly alarming.

Putin has explained this war as neccessary and justified, Peskov said it was to end US hegemony, and today Lukashenko said it was a preemptive strike against the West. The rhetoric has now shifted from this being about Ukraine to being a war against the West. In my mind that's truthfully what it was always about, but I worry if Russia continues to reframe this as a conflict not against Ukraine but the West that there is a much higher risk of this spiralling out of control. If the Austrian leaders meeting with Putin yesterday is anything to go by, Putin is living in a dream world divorced from reality. His decisions make sense in the context of what he believes, but what he believes is so far removed from truth I think it's very dangerous.
Point well made. The bat sh!t crazy pronouncements of DPRK levels emanating out of Russia is very concerning.
 

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