Nov 23, 2022·edited Nov 23, 2022

Great article.

I agree that the Russian aim is to dictate a peace now. To be fair though, the west has shown itself to be agreement incapable and even to boast of this. The whole Minsk Agreements debacle underlines that. They have been left without a choice. Not the position that Putin (at least) wanted to be in.

Not sure either that Russia wants to be a military superpower. It may just be choice of words. My interpretation is that the government seeks security, for its culture to survive and not to repeat the 90s disaster. Anglo-America is seen as threatening those aims.

Economic dependency of Europe on Russia is also interesting: the other side of that is that Russia buys German manufactures. Trade is two way. Mutual interdependency is probably a better way to conceive of Russia-Europe trade than one way dependency. Of course, ultimately Russia can turn east and ignore Europe, as long as the perceived security threat is eliminated. That will be our loss. I for one do not wish for Europe to be in any way dependent on the U.S. Our elites are operating precisely against our interests. I have a feeling that this whole debacle might ultimately cause a major realignment of foreign policy.

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How long until NATO realizes that expansion along Russia's borders makes the original alliance less safe not more? We saw the hair trigger reaction of the Baltics and Poland to the so called missile attack by Russia on Poland. As a Canadian, do I really want to sign up to protect all these Russophobic states (soon to include Finland and Sweden) when some of their crazies can easily provoke WW3?

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Curious if you are familiar with "The Origins of the Second World War" by AJP Taylor. Not a book without controversy (among others, it's not exactly about the "Origins" of the war as much as how Britain came to be invved in a war over a boundary dispute between Germany and it's eastern neighbors--which is itself a controversial enough framing.). Taylor has gotten quite a bit of flak by downplaying the evils of Hitler in bringing about the conflict--but that was exactly one of his major points, that Germany's disputes with Czechoslovakia and Poland, or indeed, other disputes in the area (between Czechs and Slovaks, Slovaks and Hungarians, and Czechs and Poles) had nothing to do Hitler's evil and had been causing friction regardless. His argument that the British leadership, by waffling between (inconsistent) moralizing and realpolitik, combined with short term irredentism by the locals (especially Poland) allowed the conflict to balloon out of control seems as applicable today as it was back then.

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Thanks for this. With respect to the last sentence, I have the impression that the war is being directed in Washington by State, not the Pentagon, where I imagine the most competent war scholars are found.

And the bureaucrats we see on TV boosting war seem, well, as you put it, intellectually unprepared.

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Just before reading this I had the misfortune of going through a twitter thread featuring well known western military analysts discussing the Russian destruction of the Ukrainian electricity network. They seemed absolutely at a loss as to why Russia would do this, given that when the west has done it to other countries, it hasn't worked. They seemed to conclude that its a simple act of desperation by Russia.

I really have no idea if most western analysts or stupid, or that self censorship has developed to the extent that nobody can speak the truth even if deep down everyone understands it, but the results are pretty much the same - a West that simply has no understanding of Russias strategic objectives, and as such is fated to lose, and lose badly in this conflict. I am beginning to think that our leaders are so stupid that they won't even realise they've lost when Russia does its faith accompli. They may even portray it as a victory ('Russia stopped at the gates of Kiev!').

Anyway, I wish this excellent essay was required reading in European and US halls of power, but no doubt it won't be. It seems that anyone in power who does read it, will quietly forget it, as clearly understanding these things is bad for ones career.

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I am surprised by generally informed Americans inability to look at the world from the point of view of Russia. I sent a friend a twitter feed that included many, many noted people, going all the way back to George Kennan. He published a 1997 article published in the NYT. "The view, bluntly stated, is that expanding NATO would be the most fateful error of American policy in the entire post-cold-war era."

The good vs evil frame is so strong that people can't understand that US and NATO's stated objectives of dismantling Russia was what the world needed, but are surprised that Russia doesn't agree.

Thank you for this excellent article joining war and politics with the current conflict in Ukraine.


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I cannot agree more that it's worth the effort to read through Clausewitz, having recently done so myself. It helps a great deal to understand why it is that Kiev's approach cannot succeed, notwithstanding all the talking heads.

What happens after Ukrainian resistance becomes impossible? Assuming the triggering event is whenever the US decides to exit the game, we don't (and, indeed, can't) know the details, but I suspect it'll look a lot like the end of the Third Reich, with all kinds of internecine strife prior to the final collapse -uglier by far than the already appalling regime, I'd bet.

The proximate question is how many Ukrainians will flee to Europe? If the power's not on and the trains aren't running, I think it's a safe bet that most of those poor sods can't afford to get out, dollars to donuts the bulk of the wealthier Ukrainians already fled, and it's not like the Ukrainian state will have the capacity to move them, nor the EU the inclination to pay to absorb a few million more. I think a lot of these poor souls will be stuck freezing in place, while the leaders make ineffective noises about evacuation.

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Excellent. I tend to think that the original operation is not the conflict going on now. The original campaign was quite limited and with the hope that it would be a regional conflict that ended in a negotiated settlement that wouldn’t be too harsh on Ukraine but would secure at least some of Russian goals. Now it is a much more significant campaign against the west as you’ve described.

You’re likely correct on what Russia will want, with the current trajectory of the total conflict suggesting that Russia might well be in the position to demand it. Whether the US can bring itself to acquiesce to those demands is a big ask though.

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Brilliant, as usual. Thanks! The other giant problem is that the western governments seem at all levels to be inhabited by brainless incompetents. Who would have possibly thought that adding sanctions to what is almost a perfect autarky, would collapse the regime? Instead, it drove out the very Russians who might have objected to the war, and strengthened the resolve of those that remained.

Likewise, the belief that winning the Twitter war was in any way important. Likewise, the refusal to consider intelligence (which must have been offered--if not, then a monumental failure!) that "Hey, the Russians have been running their arms factories 24/7 for about 8 years now--Ya think they are up to something?"

Assuming we survive this encounter, historians will be writing about this Hand-Made-in-the-West own goal for a hundred years.

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The "Look Inside" preview on Amazon of the Howard & Paret translation of On War includes all of Chapters 1 and 2 from Book 1. https://www.amazon.com/dp/0691018545/

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Possibly the best article about Ukraine I've read... and I've read a lot

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I write extensively on Russian military strategy. Clausewitz is useful, but it is easy to misintepret him or misapply his concepts. The Russian military has come a long way from Soviet strategies. You may want to read my articles on this. There are quite a few of them. Such as :



So far, Russian strategy has been masterful. And its military command structure is far leaner and more efficient than that in the West.

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Great article and overdue contribution to the debate. Having said that, however, looking at the western intelligencia I should say non-debate. How extraordinary when we are clearly caught in the jaws of history. Mark

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Has anyone told the Poles they are unable to resist the Russians?

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> while taking and holding the enemy capital could have done so

...not sure why this should be called as "strong defense"

Moscow was Russia's capital after 1917 and before 17th century Smuta (murky times). The latter culminated with Poland occupying Moscow and holding it for several months. Romanov's dynasty enthroned after it never saw Moscow a safe place and the capital was, until their dynasty was cancelled by White Guards, set in Saint Petersburg.

Napoleon tried to have a part of his army moved to SPb but this nothern route was blocked by Russian Army, maybe by their best or most corps.

Moscow, while famous a city, was not the capital, which could be a fact or why RuArmy did not do a better deed of defending it. It was disposable.

These Russian history details are nothing but pecularities for modern westerners, yet Klausewitz, and especially when writing on 1812 war, should had known better.

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I liked the comparison between Carl von and Harry. That is a good description.

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