The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

The Possible Dire Consequences of NATO & Ukrainian Escalation

So, UK foreign secretary Trus has said that the war in Ukraine must continue until Russia is forced out of Ukraine entirely, including Crimea.

Meanwhile, the UK is shipping weapons to Ukraine that are capable of striking Russian cities.

As a moral matter, of course, the Ukraine has the right to strike Russia, same as so many countries have the right to assassinate American leaders and bomb American weddings in which “high value targets” might be involved.

But let’s consider the state of the war. Putin calls it a special military operation. Reserves have not been called up, and a great deal of care is being taken in the use of force. Unlike in Iraq, Russia has not taken out power, sewage, water systems, most roads, or rail. It has not unleashed level bombers for massive bombing of Ukrainian cities.

Russia has also not called up its reserves. Putin appears to think that would be unpopular. Russia has millions of men in its reserves. It could call up two million men and not exhaust them. They’re not the best troops, but they would swamp Ukraine.

Now, if Ukraine hits Russian cities, however fair that is, what will happen to Russian public and elite opinion? Imagine Iraq somehow managed to hit New York and cause real damage in the 2000s (if you want a scenario: perhaps they could have smuggled bombs into the harbor on cargo ships).

How would Americans have reacted?

That’s how Russians will react. Add in some atrocity propaganda (and there are plenty of videos of Ukrainian soldiers doing horrible things, they aren’t saints) and Putin will easily have all the backing he needs to go to total non-nuclear war. In fact, even if he doesn’t want to escalate, it would be difficult to avoid.

This would mean, as a start, bombing every road and rail crossing leaving the Ukraine that Russia or Belarus doesn’t control, so more weapons can’t get into Ukraine. It would likely mean removing all power and water from western Ukrainian cities and forcing most of the remaining population in those areas to flee: 20+ million people. And it would mean taking major cities, which Russia will have the manpower to do.

Further, the idea that any Russian government would ever give up Crimea is insanity (that Russia would fight a war to keep Sevastopol is why I was able, in 2008, to predict the next war would be over Crimea).

This idea that NATO has that it can safely fight Russia to the last Ukrainian, without any chance of war-spillover is insane. Likewise, China CANNOT afford to let Russia be broken up. If it is, then China can almost trivially be blockaded and forced into subjugation. They need Russian oil, gas, coal, minerals, and food and without them they cannot survive a confrontation with the West. It is literally impossible.

What China sees is that the US wants to fight wars where they aren’t at risk. If there’s a war in Asia against China, without using nukes, China has little ability to hit the US mainland, while the US can hit China. Yes, Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan (if they’re stupid enough to join in) get devastated, but the US laughs as the damage is done overseas.

I strongly suspect the Chinese now see this as the US plan for them. The US has stated it wants to place hypersonic missiles in the first island chain off China, which includes Taiwan, the same sort of movement of weapons which contributed to Russia’s demands before the Ukraine war (the US is a year or two from hypersonic, but the placement of other missiles and ABM close to Russia has been protested by Russia for years), and recently there has even been talk of putting US troops in Taiwan as a trip wire similar to the one in South Korea.

This means China needs a conventional deterrent; they need missiles that can hit the continental US, and they need to increase their navy to the point where it can fight the US navy in international waters and win. Remember that China’s ship-building capacity is VASTLY larger than that of the US.

The US and UK, both of whom think that Russia and China can’t hurt them, are pushing this war in ways that are very dangerous. This is a bet, in fact, that Russia and Putin are entirely “rational”, despite the rhetoric and won’t risk escalation. But Putin is reputed to have spent hours watching the video of Gaddafi being sodomized by a bayonet before being killed, and the CCP knows that “regime change” is what the US wants for China.

Regime change in China will leave a lot of CCP members, and especially leaders, dead.

This is an existential issue for China and Russia. If they lose to America, their leaders are overthrown. Russia will be dismembered (this is what multiple NATO leaders have said they want), and China will be relegated to permanent 2nd tier status at best. Many of the leaders will die, and many of those will die ugly.

This is understandable for the US. They have a wasting asset: China, given enough time, will inevitably have a larger military, since it has the larger economy, and they are catching up in technology. The US Navy has been shrinking for decades and the US has lost the ability to build ships: they have had to cancel recent designs because on testing, they suck. The US’s ability to build planes is also in doubt: the F-35 was a massive mess and is far too expensive.

Since the US also judges that any escalation short of nuclear won’t hit them, except economically, and will hurt their enemies and their satrapies worse (making Europe weaker economically and stronger militarily is a win for the US), they have a great deal of incentive to escalate as much as possible, and just make sure it doesn’t go nuclear.

This isn’t in anyone else’s interest, but Europe is consumed with fear of Russia, and Western European leaders have accepted the narrative of Eastern Europe and the USA about Russia as a completely rogue power which must be destroyed, because it can never be trusted.

Meanwhile, the US’s ability to control foreign countries outside of Europe is dropping fast. Three of the four Gulf States (creations of the UK and kept in existence by the US) refused to side with NATO in the UN. Saudi Arabia has basically told the US to fuck itself. The Solomon Islands signed a military pact with China which spawned threats from Australia and the US of military action if a base is built because apparently the right to make military alliances and do what you want in your own territory is available only to would be American allies.

India has not gone along with sanctions and Malaysia is wavering.

US hegemony is breaking. Western hegemony is breaking. As alarmed and scared as Chinese and Russian elites are, American and Western elites are furious: absolutely livid that anyone dare challenge them, or that the days of their hegemony may soon be over. Right now, calculating that the costs of wars to stay in charge will not primarily be born by them, they are willing to escalate recklessly.

Since passions are up, I note that this is not a moral analysis about who is good or bad. There was certainly moral justification for going to war against the USSR at various points, but we didn’t and we avoided escalating beyond certain levels because we knew that war with them was unthinkable.

War with Russia is still unthinkable. War with China is abominable.

Our time is done. We sold our patrimony to the Chinese from the 90s thru the 10s, so that our elites could break our working class and get richer than if they had to pay 1st world wages and costs. That’s the truth. Our elites thought they were international elites, not national elites, and they were wrong. The Chinese knew they were a national elite, and, in effect, bribed our elites to give away the most important sources of their real power: having the largest industry, and having a huge tech lead.

Our elites gave it all away, for a few trillion dollars, and China paid happily. Our elites now see that their only chance to retain power is to use the waning asset of military supremacy. First they need to take out Russia, then they can choke China out.

This is an incredibly dangerous thing to do. Even if it doesn’t blow into nuclear war, it can easily blow into hot war. American allies in Asia, I would suggest, would be well advised to decouple militarily. This especially goes for Japan: build your own nukes and conventional deterrent and sit this one out. China can’t reach the US mainland yet, but it can reach you.

On top of all of this extraordinarily dangerous nonsense is the opportunity cost: we should be spending trillions on preparing for climate change and ecological collapse, not playing war games. NATO and Russia, over the last 10 years should have been disarming near mutual borders, not rushing troops, missiles and planes to the borders.

We are acting insane, chimpanzees trying to maintain dominance, locally or globally. And we are going to pay for it, even if we avoid nuclear war, with hundreds of millions, probably billions, of unnecessary deaths.




Poland Refuses To Pay For Russian Gas In Rubles, Russia Cuts Them Off


Open Thread


  1. GrimJim

    No need to be insulting chimpanzees.

    They are not the apes with delusions of grandeur.

    The mind boggles at the rapidly growing use of doublespeak; how in one sentence Biden says we are not fighting a proxy war with Russia, and in the next he says he wants$33 billion for arms for Ukraine.

    But then, Americans are the most thoroughly propagandized people in history, so one can expect no less.

    Oh, and interesting developments in Transdnistria…

  2. Jeff Wegerson

    Typo: “Reserves haven not been called up”

    Maybe you meant here “nuclear” weapons as my understanding is that the U.S. still does not have “hypersonic” weapons:

    “The US has stated it wants to place hypersonic missiles in the first island chain off China, which includes Taiwan,”

  3. Ian Welsh

    Thanks for the typo correction. No, I did mean hypersonic. As I understand it, the plan is to place them once the US has them, which is a year or two out. Edited to clarify, thanks for bring the issue up.

    One reason why Russia attacked now is probably that they wanted to take advantage of the window in which they have hypersonic missiles and the West doesn’t.

  4. Blueberry Hill

    We should probably say our goodbyes now because in short order it will be too late. Hope you’re as close to ground zero as possible. It will be quick and painless. The further away you are from it, the worse it will be. Lots of painful suffering with no payoff.

  5. different clue

    So . . . . the UK Foreign Secretary has said all that. Does she speak for the unified entirety of Her Majesty’s Government? Is she speaking without unified UK government agreement? Hoping to convert them all to her position? Is she laying down a marker in preparation for the internecine battles to come within Her Majesty’s Government as to what Great Britain’s final official War Aims will be finally and officially announced to be?

    And if this either already is, or soon enough becomes, the unanimous War Aim of the entirety of Her Majesty’s Government, is it or will it become the War Aim of France? Of Germany? Of Italy? etc. etc?

    Will it become the War Aim of all Nato Eufukustan as a unitary bloc of governments?

  6. someofparts

    If they would promise to leave the rest of us alone, I don’t think many Americans would mind if Russia/China obliterated Wall Street, D.C and the Hamptons with some targeted strikes.

  7. bruce wilder

    I wonder who is in charge — is it all really being driven forward by a loosely internetwork of self-interested interest groups operating on auto-pilot, with only marginalized critical voices and a brain-dead gerontocracy atop it all?

  8. Bill

    With the economic situation in Sri Lanka, I would expect the Chinese to be prepared to step in and help. This would be similar to the old British naval policy and provide a military base for Chinese forces to protect their oil supplies from the Middle East.

  9. Z

    It’s difficult for me to believe that the U.S. wants to fight China militarily or wants to risk regime change in China. They want to weaken China, keep Taiwan quasi-independent from China, and most importantly keep the world handcuffed to the dollar but to defeat China militarily would necessitate reshoring and relocating manufacturing facilities and I don’t see our rulers getting enough support amongst themselves on that because the benefits of kicking around U.S. labor and financializing the US economy has worked out so well for so many of them.

    But they do want to get rid of Putin and are willing to risk all life on planet earth in a mad attempt to do so. If Russia is weakened it will also weaken China of course and that’s a bonus to them. Even if they didn’t see China as a problem though they’d be just as aggressive towards Russia. They didn’t loot Russia in the 90s to weaken China. The Maidan revolution wasn’t ginned up by the CIA with the ultimate goal of weakening China.


  10. different clue

    @Bruce Wilder,

    Here is a William S. Burroughs animated “take” on an answer to your question.

    Maybe a better quality video-digicast of it still exists somewhere, but the search obstruction engines make it hard to find.

  11. Raad

    Z, I thought similarly to you when I first saw the stuff about missiles on the first island chain but if you hung around the posts and threads on Twitter as presented by Ian, it seems we are being too optimistic.

    I would love to be wrong but I think Ian’s on the money here as usual.

  12. GrimJim

    Historically, the vast majority of politicians in the US resembled their constituents in that they were mostly in it for the money. They got paid by delivering the pork back to their home district/state, and it was just business as usual.

    Then things started to really chance with Nixon, more so with Reagan, then further with Bush II and, finally, with Obama and Trump. Nixon started the ball rolling with the Southern Strategy and the Right Whinger “Grassroots” backed by plenty of corporate fertilizer took the ball and ran with it,

    Politicians thereafter went from working mostly together in order to get the green to having to prove their Political Orthodoxy, whether on the Right or, more rarely, on the Left (the Left being politically, philosophically eviscerated by Clinton and the DLC). Thus only True Believers can run and win in modern elections.

    The problem there is that previously, politicians had left all the actual running of government, and the generation of the advice they needed to keep things running smoothly, to the professional bureaucrats, whatever branch of government or military they night be in. This left the actual running of the country to a solid base, so that the politicians could concentrate on their graft.

    Now, with the True Believers in charge, they want to see their political philosophical changes made to governance. We see that a lot in the Red States, where the Right Whingers rule virtually unopposed, and have done everything they can to drown the government in a bathtub, unless it deals with their Moral Laws, and then they use their power to crush anyone on the Five-Minute Hate List.

    We will see this writ truly large when Trump wins in 2024.

    However, the result for dealing with the issues at hand — Russia, China, and etc. — is that no one truly competent is in power anymore, either politically or bureaucratically, and the politicians are all getting their advice from “Think Tanks” (an Orwellian phrase if ever there was one, “Propaganda Machines” being a better turn of a phrase), none of which are equipped for dealing with true, global, political issues such as The Matter of Russia or The Matter of China or even for that matter, The Matter of Europe. Hell, they can’t even handle The Matter of the USA, and they live there!

    Political orthodoxy rules, rather than any sort of realpolitik or even basic common sense. And the orthodoxy of the current administration is such that “If It Is Good For Billionaires, It Must Be Good For Everyone.” And the status quo is good, so keep on keeping on… the future be damned (we know that’s their position from their complete lack of concern about Global Climate Change).

    When Trump comes back into power, the orthodoxy will return to “Whatever Is Good For The Trump Crime Family Is What We Do, All Else Be Damned.” So we will see how things go then… Rather than everything handled with a modest semi-professional polish and a smile, as before, it will be handled with snake oil and a sneer…

  13. Trinity

    “we should be spending trillions on preparing for climate change and ecological collapse, not playing war games”

    We should be, but taking over Russia seems to be their climate adaptation plan. Canada and Greenland, too. The maps of surface temperatures, sea level rise, “new” floodplains (the lowest land within a catchment basin) from increased rates of rainfall, and wildfires (drought), grow increasingly dire. Even Florida is burning (again). Fires are burning from northern Arizona to Florida, the North Carolina mountains, and Nebraska, with high winds expected in the west for all the existing fires there. Southern California is moving to severe water restrictions, and drought is ramping up in Oregon as well, probably where they added all those new server farms that need water as a coolant.

  14. Blueberry Hill

    I do not approve of what Russia is doing in Ukraine and neither do I approve of what the West is doing in Ukraine and what NATO has done since the end of the Cold War and even before if you consider Gladio and all the other nefarious anti-democratic sh*t it was up to.

    The Western news coverage of this so-called “war” in Ukraine is like an infomercial, is it not? It’s likened to the commercials you see for aid organizations “serving” Africa and Latin America — the emaciated starving children with the giant sad imploring eyes with flies crawling all over them as though they are nearly dead and the flies know it. I’m reminded of a doc I saw a couple of years ago about young Ukrainian girls and women advertising themselves to loser Western men, men like Gonzalo Lira, in an effort to escape the hopelessness of their bleak landscape. Their Meal Tickets. The entire charade was so absurdly disingenuous. It was and is, because it’s still happening to this day, tragic yes, but pathetic revolting deplorable tragedy. Ukraine as a whole in its incessant pleading for Western aid is analogous to its young girls and women effectively pleading with Western men of means to rescue them from hopeless misery. It’s revolting. Disgusting.

    That being said, I do feel for the poor Ukrainians stuck in the middle who ultimately are represented by no one in this tragedy. They are truly f*cked as most of us one way or another. I have to say to them though, the Western aid will not help them and in fact will only make things worse for them when it is all said and done. It will only serve to make the wealthy wealthier and poor poorer but also it will mean this conflict continues endlessly for years on end with many innocent civilian casualties along the way.

    Therefore, as an American citizen, I do not support the aid that is being given to Ukraine. If NATO and the West want Putin gone, there are other less costly ways to accomplish that. If the West truly wants that as they claim, they could easily dispose of Putin, but hey, there is no profit in that. Putin is their perfect foil right now for endless war profits.

    Nobody has mentioned this yet, but if we look at the timing and the haste of the Afghanistan withdrawal now in retrospect considering this “war” in Ukraine, we can see this was all planned. America and the West wanted this conflict with Putin and Russia and withdrawing from Afghanistan was a requisite part of the plan for all the obvious reasons.

    Also, it was mentioned that the $33 billion in aid will last only four months. If this war lasts for ten years, thats a trillion dollars. That’s revenue for the vested interests with a profit margin of 50% so 500 billion in profit.

  15. GlassHammer

    Since so many politicians enter politics to become celebrities it’s very hard to tell what is motivated by “true belief” vs. showmanship”.

  16. Tallifer

    Russia could have chosen to the route to prosperity through peace and cooperation like other former Soviet republics and Warsaw pact members such as the Baltic states and Poland. The Russian government now reminds me of Spain in the Eighty Years War (Netherlands) and the Thirty Years War: causing death and destruction abroad while rotting within. Unfortunately, I do not think the Ukraine is capable of pulling off the Battle of Rocroi, but the Netherlands likewise never won big battles; they simply wore down the Spanish.
    The best thing for Russia would be a catastrophe as big as that which turned France around from a dreamy, glory-seeking Third Empire to a republic that could win WWI and survive WWII.

  17. StewartM


    The problem there is that previously, politicians had left all the actual running of government, and the generation of the advice they needed to keep things running smoothly, to the professional bureaucrats, whatever branch of government or military they night be in. This left the actual running of the country to a solid base…

    A weekend or two ago, I watched Noam Chomsky answering questions on the War in Ukraine. He re-iterated the the observation that the US’s goal appeared to be to “fight to the last Ukrainian” in a drawn-out war to weaken Russia (which of course, is the absolutely WORST outcome if you’re genuinely concerned about Ukraine). But he also went into the history of the US’s record of aggression—how Gorbachev, Yeltsin, and even Putin wanted to have a “Europe stretching from the Atlantic to Vladivostok” with Russia a eager parttern–and how we spurned them.

    Chomsky then went on what Russia did get was a promise that NATO would not be expanded “one inch” further east. It was Clinton who started to renege on that promise, before the 1996 election, possibly to win Polish-American votes in the US (Polish immigrants are right up there with Cuban immigrants in screwing up US foreign policy). This prompted a deluge of protest among US foreign policy and military veterans—including Cold Warriors not particularly friendly to Russia such as George Kennan, Robert Gates, Strobe Talbott, Thomas Friedman, William Perry, and even *Henry-fucking-Kissinger* all said, after a fashion, “DON’T DO IT”. But we did it anyways.

    Later, of course, Obama piled on with his intervention in the Maiden uprising in 2014.

    So much of this is all due to what you said–political leadership in this country throwing red meat to their ill-informed base and not listening to the experts. While no, experts, aren’t always right, in this case–especially since all these were not in the slightest inclined to be friendly to Russia–they should have been heeded. The fact that Clinton decided the winning option for his 1996 campaign was cajoling the Eastern European vote instead of, say, fighting the cruel and stupid TATNF replacement of AFDC, is especially noteworthy.

  18. marku52

    SOP–Yes, please vaporize DC, and the Hamptons too as a bonus. The world would thank you. I dream of the day that 2 platoons of Chinese row up the Potomac and take DC, and the rest of the country cheers.

  19. Dan Lynch

    Ian said “they [China] need to increase their navy to the point where it can fight the US navy in international waters and win. “

    Surface navies are largely obsolete. If WWIII breaks out, most of the U.S. navy will quickly be on the bottom of the ocean, sunk by missiles. The missiles can be launched from planes, ships, subs, or from land. So if I were China, I would focus on missiles, and missile defenses.

    Even non-hypersonic missiles like the Kalibr are quite capable of taking out American ships and largely evading American air defenses (note the Sauds have been hit repeatedly by Houthi drones & missiles despite the Sauds having the best American air defenses money can buy).

    Missile warfare is partly quality and partly quantity. It’s nice to have a hypersonic missile that can evade defenses 100% of the time, but if you have a subsonic missile that can evade defenses 1 time out of 10, then all you have to do is fire a salvo of 20 of those missiles and 2 of them will strike the target.

    WWIII will be decided by missiles, and missile defenses. If WWIII happened today, Russia could sink all our ships, vaporize all our military bases, shoot down all our planes, and hit all our major cities and critical infrastructure, all the while intercepting the majority of U.S. missiles. The U.S. would lose, badly.

    Tanks and infantry are necessary if you want to establish control on the ground, as Russia is doing in Ukraine. But they are not necessary to bring a country to its knees.

    Agree with Ian’s main point that there is a real danger of the Ukraine war escalating. Poland is threatening to invade Western Ukraine and Romania is threatening to invade Transnistria. It’s like WWI all over again.

  20. Z


    Hey, you and Ian could be right. I didn’t think the US would be this reckless about the Ukraine-Russia situation either by basically playing a game of dare with a nuclear power. Red-rover red-rover I dare Putin to launch an inter-ballistic missile over …

    One of the primary reasons the production team of Weekend at Biden’s gave to vote for their lead stiff over another four years of Donald T’s clown show was the supposed wisdom of his team over Donald T and his squad of grifters. They called it “putting the adults back in charge”. I’d say that Trump had more sense in foreign policy matters though than Biden and his handlers and ultimately kept the country and the world safer. In fact, I don’t think there’s any doubt about it.

    And to think we’re only a year and a third into the Biden regime …


  21. Ché Pasa

    Ian, I don’t disagree with your analysis of the current extremely dangerous situation.

    I’d go a little farther, though, and suggest that given what’s happening globally, not simply in the Ukraine, the rulership in the West is practically begging for a nuclear first strike from the Rus/Chi alliance, and I’m suspecting that if they don’t get it, they’ll launch their own first strike or have one of their nuclear armed satrapies do it just to get it over with.

    The crises are compounding quickly; underlying most of them is the climate crisis which isn’t being addressed at all any more perhaps because our rulers believe it’s too late, the tipping point has passed and the only thing left is to move, get out of the way. Have we heard from Greta lately? Nah. And you know that a Buddhist activist set himself on fire at the Supreme Court Plaza the other day, name of Wynn Bruce, from Boulder, CO, in the hope of drawing attention to the now completely neglected climate crisis. He died and was disappeared.

    It’s no longer just that they are fighting To The Last Ukrainian (what a meme), they’ve decided to fight to the last of all of us.

    Sick fucks, all of them, with a special nod to the British FM.

  22. anonone

    “But let’s consider the state of the war. Putin calls it a special military operation. Reserves have not been called up, and a great deal of care in the use of force is being taken. Unlike in Iraq, Russia has not taken out power, sewage, water systems, most roads or rail. It has not unleashed level bombers for massive bombing of Ukrainian cities.”

    Blinks eyes and reads again:

    “a great deal of care in the use of force is being taken”

    Seriously, Ian? What war are you watching?

  23. Willy

    Escalation is the preferred method for those who think they’ll have nothing to lose. Did the PTB ever imagine that supporting a few dusty mujahedeen could morph into something costing their nation trillions? Possibly. They just didn’t care enough to think that far ahead. This is evidenced by observing all the really bad decision makers who get to make good money on the lecture circuits. So who are these lecture circuit groupies? Why doesn’t anybody bring rotten fruit to these lectures? I have many questions.

    Are the Russians evil? If no, then are the Ukrainians? Is it really those Americans behind it all?

    Why not target the dysfunctional PTB wherever they are? Aren’t they the ones making all the bad decisions? Aren’t they the ones gaming the system so they get to be the ones making all the bad decisions?

    I never understood the thinking behind random shootings or terrorism that targeted innocents. As if the PTB will reach for the fainting couch. Everybody knows it’s a handful of masters who get to dance around all the powerless puppets. So why not make their random shootings or terrorisms count? There has to be a social psychology behind all this. If so, then why hasn’t it become common wisdom yet?

  24. Ian Welsh

    Again, if Russia wanted to, if it fought the war like the Gulf or Iraq wars, it would have hit sewage, power, water, etc, etc… and be dropping TONS more bombs.

    This is simply a fact and I know it because I watched all 3 wars.

    That a commenter doesn’t know this suggests the great success of western propaganda at suggesting this is a particularly horrific war. It isn’t.

    It’s still a war and horrible things, including war crimes, happen ever day, but it is a fact that Putin has not used anything close to the maximal conventional force available to him (though they are using more force than during the first couple weeks now.)

    A bit old, but still basically true:

  25. different clue


    Here is how the Pink Pussy Hat Democrats can make Trump’s 2024 victory into a Landslide of Nixon-in-’72 proportions. They can run their God-Empress Hillary yet again for President Preciousssss.

    That should do it.

    Is there any way to slow it down or even stop it just long enough to kick it over sideways and stomp on it? I can think of only one desperate slender thread-of-hope way.

    And that would be for Tulsi Gabbard to gather all her forces and supporters and figure out which states to run in and win in . . . . in order to deny an Electoral College Victory to either Trump or Clinton. If she can do that, and succeed, then she can sit back and watch and let the shit fling where it may.

  26. Willy

    After denouncing uncontrolled illegal immigration as being a tool of the PTB, I was accused of being a racist. “Like Cesar Chavez?” I politely asked. Sadly, I received no reply.

    After denouncing Putin as being a psychopathic PTB, I was accused of being brainwashed, and received many replies.

    “Putin’s like Mike Tyson sitting quietly just minding his business and that drunk Nazi behind him wouldn’t quit with the harassment until Mike finally threw himself over the seat and had to repeatedly punch the drunk guy in the head. Just be glad Mike didn’t pull out the big guns and kick open the emergency exit depressurizing the cabin, so the drunk guy could get sucked out the plane.”

    I realized they had a point and quit arguing for a while.

  27. Soredemos

    The only place there’s any room or need for escalation is from the NATO side.

    I cannot stress enough the incredible disconnect between the western media’s portrayal of events and the actual events on the battlefield. Ukraine isn’t just not winning, they’re getting absolutely curb stomped. Russia is now hitting the Donbass front with a thousand air, missile, and artillery strikes a day. Ukraine is suffering completely unsustainable losses to whatever is left of its vehicle pool daily, and their troops are disintegrating, either literally under a relentless bombardment they have no ability to respond to (a couple of weeks ago they still had some artillery to fire back with, but now they have almost nothing left, hence all the publicity for NATO donated pieces, including a whopping dozen from France. Surely that will turn the tide!) or figuratively as scores of them surrender every day, and those numbers are only going to increase. And this is all in the context of Russia still not having unlseashed its main offensive. Everything now is still prepatory artillery and probing attacks.

    The ball is entirely in NATOs court in terms of if they want to escalate. Because this war is over. All that’s left is a lot of unneeded dying. There is no saving Ukraine. We can pump in as many weapons as we like, but they’ll all get blown up before they ever reach the Dnieper (which they have no means of crossing even if they get there). The only thing left is for NATO to escalate to direct involvement, which means WW3 and all of us dead.

  28. Ian Welsh

    Well Sore, that’s the most negative thing I’ve heard all war. I tend to suspect it’s more right than wrong, though.

    However, weapons can be given which allow Ukraine to hit Russian cities and that’s definitely escalation on the part of NATO. It’s stupid escalation, though, because it won’t win the war.

    And this is why I always wanted a peace deal, preferably without a war, because at the end of the day Russia was always going to win the war if it mattered enough to them, and it did.

  29. NR

    For everyone here who is absolutely convinced that the West is going to start a nuclear war, I would just point out that so far only one side of this conflict has threatened nuclear war, and it ain’t the West.

  30. NR

    It’s also pretty funny that there are people who think that in the event of World War III, only one side would lose badly.

    Not funny “ha-ha,” though.

  31. GrimJim

    What fascinates me regarding modern warfare is how direct EMP bombs, grenades, and even “ray guns” (aka “Ion Gun” in Star Wars parlance) have not been developed.

    The basic technology has been known for decades. One little grenade, delivered by drone or even thrown by a partisan, could take out a whole group of tanks. A rifle-sized gun could be used again and again.

    Very effective, even against US infantry, due to how much they depend on satellite and other communications.

    Yet nothing like this has been developed, except at the ICBM level, and even then it is little better than just a calibrated nuke.

    Is there some science block I am unaware of (power/miniaturization issues)? Or is lack of development of such weapons mostly due to the lack of dollars/rubles going to the Military-Industrial Complex for these “less sexy/less destructive” types of weapons?

  32. Soredemos


    Military electonics are frequently EMP shielded.

  33. Ché Pasa

    The nuclear threat is implicit any time you have nuclear armed militaries in confrontation. The nuclear threat is implicit whenever a nuclear power confronts a non-nuclear armed nation or people.

    The only nation that’s ever used nuclear weapons in combat is the United States, and it’s possession of a nuclear arsenal is a threat to the rest of the world — at least from the rest of the world’s point of view.

    Russia has pointed out that the continued conflict in Ukraine has the potential to spread beyond Ukraine’s borders (it already has), and that in turn risks triggering nuclear war — which is self-evident.

    I would welcome the kind of wisdom on the part of leaders which would eliminate the possibility of nuclear war, but I’m not seeing it on any side of this conflict. Instead, I’m seeing greater and greater provocation by Ukraine, the USandNato, and Russia toward an inevitable nuclear exchange.

    Sadly, we don’t have a choice in the matter.

  34. bruce wilder

    For everyone here who is absolutely convinced that the West is going to start a nuclear war, I would just point out that so far only one side of this conflict has threatened nuclear war, and it ain’t the West.

    I am afraid the West is going to provoke a nuclear war. Perhaps the subtle significance of the difference between “provoke” and “threaten” will help you better understand the issue. I will venture that Russia has threatened nuclear war explicitly in order to draw attention to the actions of a West that has ignored the clear implications of its own policy of aggression.

  35. StewartM


    For everyone here who is absolutely convinced that the West is going to start a nuclear war,

    Why is that mockable? We never swore off a first-strike nuclear attack during the Cold War against the USSR. In fact, we *practiced doing just that!!* (Example: Able Archer, 1983).

    Peace activists I recall at the time begged the US and the West to say “we won’t be the first to hurl nukes” to which our governments refused to make that commitment. Well, if you were the Soviets observing all this, what would you conclude?

    All my boyhood I grew up hearing that we in the US and West were the good guys while the Russkies were the expansionists and the aggressors. A less partisan review of the Cold War, and the 30 years since it ended, calls me to question that ‘truth’. The average Russian regards their spies who helped steal US atomic secrets to help the USSR catch up in nuclear weaponry as heroes, heroes that saved the world from a one-sided nuclear war, and now I see their point.

    I see their point especially now given the behavior of the US since the Cold War; without having the USSR to oppose us we’ve been invading countries ’round the world, all for the greater glory not of ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’ but for our Exxon-Mobils and United Fruits. The Ukraine is no different, given now that we’ve handed the reins of our economy over to a capitalist class that cannot create, but can only loot and steal, and they want expand eastward to loot Ukraine (and no doubt, past that too). I recall also in my boyhood seeing all the Cecil B. DeMille Roman Empire movie-fare, and now I think, like Rome, the West is turning into a plunder economy.

    Might I add a plunder economy has no future? Eventually you can’t expand to plunder more, and that is one of the things that happened with Rome.

  36. bruce wilder

    Biden establishes the Disinformation Governance Board in the Department of Homeland Security and puts Nina Jankowicz in charge. Below is her bio from the Wilson Center, Kennan Institute.

    Nina Jankowicz studies the intersection of democracy and technology in Central and Eastern Europe. She is the author of How To Lose the Information War: Russia, Fake News, and the Future of Conflict (Bloomsbury/IBTauris). Ms. Jankowicz has advised the Ukrainian government on strategic communications under the auspices of a Fulbright-Clinton Public Policy Fellowship. Her writing has been published by The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, and others. She is a frequent television and radio commentator on disinformation and Russian and Eastern European affairs. Prior to her Fulbright grant in Ukraine, Ms. Jankowicz managed democracy assistance programs to Russia and Belarus at the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs. She received her MA in Russian, Eurasian, and East European Studies from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, and her BA from Bryn Mawr College.

    You really cannot make this stuff up fast enough. Talk about immune to satire!

  37. bruce wilder

    NL and NR represent opposite ends of some spectrum. Best not to confuse them in your mind.

  38. GrimJim


    “Military electonics are frequently EMP shielded.”

    But surely, that’s just a matter of finding a way around that shielding. They build missiles, we build a missile defense; they build faster missiles, we build a faster missile defense. Military technological escalation is usually inevitable, but apparently not with EMPs.

    I wonder why? Again, is it some sort of hard scientific brick wall, or the lack of desire/graft?

  39. NR

    Bruce wilder:

    I understand the issue just fine, thanks. Multiple people in these comments have talked about the West starting a nuclear war with a first strike, which is why I pointed out the fact that so far, Russia is the only one who has threatened to do that, not the West.

  40. StewartM

    NL, and NR, sorry for my temporary confusion.


    Multiple people in these comments have talked about the West starting a nuclear war with a first strike, which is why I pointed out the fact that so far, Russia is the only one who has threatened to do that, not the West.

    But as I said, the West has actually *practiced it* in wargames and refused to take it off the table as an option (and before anyone mentions, back in the old Cold War days “Fulda Gap!” we could have always throw in a caveat ‘no nuclear first strike absent an already ongoing conventional war’ which would have still served as a deterrent to a Soviet conventional strike). The result of wargames like Able Archer was that, instead of readying up a first strike of its own, the Soviet military hunkered down into a defensive stance. This astounded even the hawkish Cold Warrior Reagan:

    “Three years had taught me something surprising about the Russians: Many people at the top of the Soviet hierarchy were genuinely afraid of America and Americans. Perhaps this shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did … During my first years in Washington, I think many of us in the administration took it for granted that the Russians, like ourselves, considered it unthinkable that the United States would launch a first strike against them. But the more experience I had with Soviet leaders and other heads of state who knew them, the more I began to realize that many Soviet officials feared us not only as adversaries but as potential aggressors who might hurl nuclear weapons at them in a first strike …”

    Idly saying it is one thing. Practicing it routinely is quite another, and more serious.

    The other thing is the parallels for Russia/Ukraine to Cuba, 1962. Here the US rattled sabers and actually engaged in a confrontation with the Russians over nuclear missiles on an island 90 miles from its shore, an island that had (unlike Ukraine) been a part of the US, and moreover the Cuban nuclear missiles were not the military game-changer for Washington to the same degree that similar missiles in Ukraine would be for Russia (6 minutes away from Moscow, to be precise). Yet I’m sure that nearly all the people who say that Russia (and not just Putin, who I think is both an evil man and a bad ruler for Russia, both Gorbachev and Yeltsin would say the same) should just accept what the West is doing with Ukraine would also applaud JFK’s stand on Cuba in 1962.

    And that does not compute.

  41. StewartM

    “An island which had never been part of the US”. My bad.

  42. Soredemos

    On the topic of war crimes, those have an actual legal definition. You have to demonstrate that either 1. a conflict as a whole was launched based on false premises and is unjustified, or 2. that specific acts taken during a conflict were a violation of the laws of war, eg knowingly and intentionally targeting non-combatants (‘civilian’ is not a concept under the laws of war; there are combatants and non-combatants, and someone can move back and forth between the categories based on their actions).

    From what I’ve seen Russia has consistently gone out of its way to avoid killing non-combatants, even at the expense of its own troops and war effort (and no, they didn’t bomb an innocent hospital in Mariupol, or randomly kill civilians in Bucha, or bomb a train station in Kramatorsk with a flechette warhead. Those were all Kievan fictions, as is quite obvious by now. I’ll be happy to go into depth on all three if anyone wants. The last one is especially a howler of a lie, since we know definitely what direction the missile came from, and Russia has never had troops in that direction, not even ones well outside the range of the missile. So you can’t even make the argument that some Russian troops snuck close, fired, and fell back to their lines, because they *have no lines* southwest of Kramatorsk).

    The latest example is that when confronted with the issue of western weapons moving east on the rail lines, Russia chose not to just start bombing the trains because they knew that Ukraine (the supposed good guys in this conflict) were intentionally storing gear in passenger trains and intermixing them with cars filled with civilians. So instead Russia took out part of the electricity system and shut down the entire train grid.

  43. Blueberry Hill

    It’s also pretty funny that there are people who think that in the event of World War III, only one side would lose badly.

    It’s duly noted this was completely ignored by the commentariat taking NR to task for his comments. I too have noted what NR has noted, and that is the Putin Apologia on the far right and far left has approached the nuclear question as though a nuclear war could be won by either side, but in their case that Russia could actually win a nuclear war.

    I’m not defending the West and NeoLiberlism here, but who again has been revamping their nuclear arsenal the past decade or longer? That’s right, not America but Russia instead. If America is hellbent on a nuclear conflict then surely it would have restructured its nuclear arsenal making it state of the art with hypersonic missiles carrying tens of nuclear warheads that can strike multiple targets.

    Newscasters on Russia Today have claimed the Russian people are now squarely behind a nuclear war if that’s what is needed. Who knows if that is true or not. What we do know is that it is insane and preposterous and it means the Russians believe they can win a nuclear war.

    Since Russia seized Crimea in 2014, the Russians have begun to build up basing sites for their advanced systems there too, including the Iskanders. If Russia brings nuclear weapons into Crimea, it will spark complex political, legal, and moral problems. The world community has largely held firm in condemning Russia’s seizure of Crimea and considers Crimea to be Ukrainian territory. Should Russia bring nuclear weapons to Crimea, it will be violating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in a fundamental manner, for Ukraine is a non-nuclear weapon state under the NPT. Russia in this case would be behaving in a manner no better than North Korea.

    I want to ask the peeps laying all the blame for the Ukraine “war” at the feet of the West, what will you say if or when Putin puts nukes in Crimea? Will that be the West’s fault too? If that’s the case, your logic is disgustingly unsound and not logic at all. Your illogic dictates that Putin has a permanent get-out-of-jail card because no matter what he does, it will always be the West’s fault. He could nuke Western Europe and you would still blame it on the West and roll out the irradiated red carpet for him. Get some objectivity and put your grinding axe down. It’s clouding your better judgment.

  44. bruce wilder

    . . . who again has been revamping their nuclear arsenal the past decade or longer? That’s right, not America . . .

    Disinform much!??

    What’s the excuse for this? Tell us, please. I genuinely want to know.

    Two seconds on Google would yield budget numbers on “modernization” programs that span decades, as well as the disingenuous excuse that to not-modernize would be to disarm and of course futile complaints from critics that the “modernization” conceals “improvements” that make use of nuclear weapons more likely.

    It would be more difficult these days to uncover the diplomatic history where the U.S. has been terminating treaty constraints on nuclear armaments that had been negotiated with the Soviet Union.

    We are all too facile with narrative, we story-telling animals. And, not nearly skeptical enough in asking, “is it verifiably and factually true?”

  45. Blueberry Hill

    You’re entitled to your opinion but not facts. Facts speak for themselves.

    Every U.S. administration since the end of the Cold War has affirmed the need to sustain a credible triad of ICBMs, long-range bombers, and nuclear ballistic missile submarines. Yet until recently, these same administrations have also chosen to truncate, delay, or cancel needed triad modernization initiatives, including programs to replace 35-year-old air-launched cruise missiles carried by B-52s and the nearly 50-year-old Minuteman III ICBMs. This is reflected in funding allocated to the Defense Department’s “Strategic Forces” investment portfolio, which includes triad weapon system life extension and modernization programs.

    From 1964 until the end of the Cold War, this portfolio accounted for about 9.6 percent of the department’s annual Total Obligation Authority on average. This share has decreased to an average of about 2.4 percent since FY 1992, a level that was barely sufficient to upgrade and extend the operational lives of the aging triad.

    While many in Congress and the Defense Department considered this acceptable given the absence of a hostile power capable of challenging America’s military supremacy, it is increasingly clear that these systems will not meet future requirements in an era of renewed great power competition. While the United States essentially deferred nuclear modernization, Russia and China took the opposite tack by aggressively pursuing modernization of their nuclear forces across the board. China has fielded ballistic missile submarines and the world’s largest and most capable inventory of ballistic and cruise missiles, including variants that may be dual-capable. Both Russia and China continue to fund multiple programs to develop new capabilities. They have also invested in conventional systems to deter, degrade, or prevent the United States from intervening in crises in their respective regions.

  46. Carborundum

    Calling up two million men is easy. Keeping them in supply and maneuvering them effectively is a vastly different matter.

    Regarding Iraq and restraint in targeting, I remember it a bit differently. Desert Shield / Desert Storm was a full-on implementation of Douhet, followed by a decade of grinding sanctions that rendered infrastructure of all sorts increasingly non-functional. In ’03 anti-infrastructure targeting was actually avoided because of the implications for post-conflict stability – concerns that proved entirely correct given the extent to which it then became a centre of gravity for sectarians of all sorts. I suspect Russian targeting behaviour is a combination of having learned a bit from that and actually not being capable of operationalizing at scale and tempo – building the apparatus of the Western way of air war took generations and comes from a different intellectual history.

    Tangentially, given the number of command posts that have been successfully hit, this is more than provision of supplies and intelligence. I’d bet a significant fraction of my net worth that there’s a small cell of people from the EW side of JSOC / UKSF lending expertise. This is not an art practiced so proficiently without a lot of real world experience (supplemented by expensive free play exercise).

  47. bruce wilder

    A war monger’s press release, lightly edited?!

    Thank you.

  48. Feral Finster

    @Buleberry Hill:

    Crimea is part of Russia. So what’s your point?

  49. Ken Cox

    “The latest example is that when confronted with the issue of western weapons moving east on the rail lines, Russia chose not to just start bombing the trains because they knew that Ukraine (the supposed good guys in this conflict) were intentionally storing gear in passenger trains and intermixing them with cars filled with civilians. So instead Russia took out part of the electricity system and shut down the entire train grid.”

    Ha ha good one! I’ll bet they had a hard time filling rail cars with civilians wanting to go east.

  50. Soredemos

    @Ken Cox

    If you would ever bother to look at a map, you might notice that, for instance, Kiev is quite a bit east of Lvov. And, as our leaders insist on showing us, Kiev is apparently safe enough for heads of state to enter and exit all day everyday.

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