Posted by Curt on 3 March, 2022 at 2:00 pm. 14 comments already!


thread via Abhijit Iyer-Mitra

Over the last few days I’ve obviously been talking to friends in Moscow, mostly upset & in shock. But what’s been revealing is talking to friends in Europe. There’s a clear attitudinal difference between politicians & bureaucrats. The politicians I’ve not been able to have a proper conversation with. It gets choked up with too much emotion and fury to the point that it’s just futile continuing the conversation. It becomes sterile after a point.
With bureaucrats there’s a pervasive sense of fear. Mind you there’s two kind of bureaucrats in Europe, the politically aligned ones & the career bureaucrats. Curiously despite some of their public posturing, they agree the sanctions have gone too far. Too far not in terms of self harm, but in terms of having little to no leverage to now elicit good behaviour from Russia.
The political ones tell me they’ve not opposed these sanctions with their political bosses because their job is to do what the boss wants. The career ones OTOH uniformly seem to be scared to voice any dissenting opinion, because there will be career consequences. For any policy to be made there needs to be a healthy exchange of opposing views. Policies made in an atmosphere of coercion & conformity are plain bad policies. Clearly Europe is going down a rabbit hole, and the ones who see it are feeling too unsafe to verbalise their objections.
But this brings me to America. Here my conversations have been much more interesting and a lot less uniform. There is an acknowledgment that Europe seems to be getting carried away. Specifically the only people thinking about the nuclear angle are the Americans. Equally curious here is that neither the US nor EU seem to have thought through what the end result will be. What exactly do they want to achieve? Is regime change in Russia realistic? What if Russia with nothing to lose starts acting like North Korea? What if they station nuclear missiles in Cuba?
What if they decide to torpedo any Iran deal or a host of other issues where Russian help is needed? How will the issue of CAATSA sanctions on india be dealt with? Literally no thought given to it. It mostly confirms my suspicion that nobody’s given much thought to knockdown political issues related to sanctions and have tunnel visioned into economic effects only. The underlying assumptions have been both dangerous & ahistorical “they’ll get rid of Putin”.
Really? In my understanding of Russian history they’ve only ever gotten rid of leaders who seemed pusillanimous & weak – for example Tsar Peter III (for the disastrous “miracle of the house of Brandenburg”), Tsar Paul (weak policies against napoleon), Tsar Nicholas II (disastrous WW1 showing), Khrushchev (Folding over the Cuban Missile Crisis), Gorbachev (Cold War) Medvedev (repeating Gorbachev’s mistake of trusting the west over Libya). I’m yet to see a Russian leader deposed for being too brutal or too strong even if murderous (Ivan IV, Stalin).

Therein lies the problem – even those in the west who disagree with these sanctions but are too scared to speak out about it, are basing their calculus on flawed, untested assumptions that the hawks also share. Nothing good can come from this. I’d suggest you all read some WW1 history
• Barbara Tuchman “Guns of August”
• Douglas Newton “Darkest Days: Britain’s
13/13 …. Rush to War”
• TG Otte “July Crisis: The World’s Descent to War”
• Lawrence Sondhaus “The Great War at Sea”
All these books acknowledged some level of “stumbling” but also a significant level of “premeditation”. I think you’ll find the parallels quite disturbing


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