I think the most moronic thing and the great tragedy about this conflict that with a high probability it was a purely emotional and badly thought out action from Kremlins in which they just lashed out at the world and Kremlins really wanted to put a Medvechuk-style figure after some small purges and it was the entire idea, but almost everyone else thinks that they are insane nationalist maniacs, greatly because they are just these incomprehensive retarded boomers who slide more and more into incoherent conspiratorial rants and there is just nothing outside of it.

Expand full comment

1) You overlook the fact that Putin's aggression against Russia's neighbors - whether NATO members or not - has been ongoing for years - obviously in aggravated forms for non-NATO members: disruptions in the electoral process, attacks against IT infrastructures, distributions of Russian passports to Russian-speaking minorities, support to secessionist movements, violations of airspace and maritime territory etc. The mere fact that 2 countries with well-entrenched neutrality traditions - Finland and Sweden - are desperate to join NATO as quickly as possible is a rebuttal to your view that Putin would stop his aggression with Ukraine.

2) It is precisely the West's past tolerance with Putin's aggressions, e.g. in Georgia, Moldova, Crimea, and Syria, that have encouraged him to decide a full-blown invasion of Ukraine. Still, you propose that the West should tolerate and facilitate further those aggressions? Regardless of indifference for the fate of the Ukrainian people, that would not bode well for Putin's other potential victims.

3) You argue in favor of a quick conventional military defeat of Ukraine and a shift to insurgency. That is by far the most destructive form of warfare for the civilian population, as already experienced precisely by Ukraine in World War 2. And with some exceptions in very specific terrains (e.g., Afghanistan), partisan warfare / insurgency generally does not work.

4) You argue in favor of economic sanctions, while they have been so far (unfortunately) much less effective at deterring Putin than military support for Ukraine.

5) You vastly exaggerate the difficulty for a modern country to obtain nuclear weapons. As reminder, North Korea succeeded in that enterprise. South Korea, Taiwan, Ukraine, Turkey, Vietnam - all potential targets for aggressive neighbors - have financial and technology capacities exceeding by (very) far North Korea's. They CHOOSE not to have nuclear weapons. But if there is no international order any longer, if anyone can invade their less powerful neighbors without fear of international retaliation, nuclear deterrence is the only rational choice for those countries.

6) One can argue that severely crippling the Russian army (about half of its military potential destroyed in one year) comes at a very modest cost for the West, through their military support for Ukraine. A similar result would have come at a much greater financial cost for the West if they had engaged directly in conflict with Russia, and obviously at a much greater risk.

7) There are many indirect benefits for the West in facilitating a Russian defeat in Ukraine. Besides the obvious benefits of deterring further aggressions by Putin or other would-be invaders, Russia's loss of credibility in the military domain is the best advertisement for technologically superior Western weapons. See for instance signs of an incipient shift in traditional Russian customers such as India and Algeria, which now seek to diversify their providers. Ultimately with positive long-term diplomatic consequences for the West.

Expand full comment

From a pure Realpolitik perspective, doing nothing to support Ukraine would actually strengthen the appeal of NATO. It would show that either you’re inside the alliance or the alliance will do absolutely nothing to help you. What’s the point of being inside the alliance if it’s happy to help those outside it?

And from the perspective of an ordinary Ukrainian citizen… wouldn’t a quick defeat with little infrastructure damage be the preferred outcome? Russia invested a lot of money into improving the quality of life in Crimea (the bridge alone was a huge investment) so wouldn’t the average Ukrainian be better off with a quick defeat? Right now even if Ukraine does end up with victory, it will likely be a Pyrrhic victory as most of the nation would be obliterated and the economy would have to be restarted from scratch. How does the average person benefit from this? Or do people seriously believe that Putin would start a new Holodomor after the occupation?

It seems like the only people benefitting from the war are NGOs, intellectuals who get to stroke their ego and entrepreneurs in the military industrial complex. Maybe also Ukrainian women who were able to relocate to the EU without a work visa? Everyone else is worse off from Ukraine not giving up quickly.

Expand full comment

1) the war could likely have been avoided if we stayed out of ukraine business

2) there is little to no chance that Putin would attack a nato country of ukraine fell, and if he did it would not have been a threat

3) there is no way to speculate how support for Ukraine affects other players like China. Hawks think it will scare them into not acting. It could just as easily convince them that the west is aggressive and expansionist and wants to support color revolution in China because it doesn’t find its government legitimate.

4) there is no evidence that live under Moscow will be any worse then life under Kiev. Ukraine was a pathetic failed state.

Life in war is defiantly worse then either outcome.

5) there is even less evidence that people in eastern ukraine care about being part of ukraine

6) Ukraine’s army is a conscript army and adult men are not allowed to leave. We have no clue how they would act if they were free to decide if they would fight (same goes for the Russians)

7) I can’t think of anything dumber then starting ww3 over this

Expand full comment

You make some good arguments, but you need to do a better job of editing for length. This could have been half as long and conveyed all of your points.

Expand full comment

The majority of the cost you identify is economic - i.e. from the sanctions. But that cost would be borne regardless of whether we provide military assistance. Sanctions plus insurgency support is also an indefinite commitment, almost as expensive, and would enrage Russia almost as much.

It seems that - sotto voce - you are actually arguing for an even more extreme position, where the West doesn't simply abandon Ukraine militarily, but also diplomatically and economically, by gradually going back to consuming Russian gas, normalising relations, etc, while perhaps maintaining some token objections to the occupation (as it did with Crimea in 2014).

Expand full comment

Lemonine writes: "Even if you don’t count the US, the EU and the UK still have a combined GDP almost 10 times larger than Russia’s GDP, a population more than 3 times larger and outspend it on defense by a factor of more than 3." If you add in the US, the correlation of forces is still greater.

Later on in the piece he writes “The real problem is that military assistance to Ukraine is emptying US inventories very quickly and that the industry can’t keep up.“ Now which is it, the West is so strong it is unthinkable to engage with it, or so weak that a medium-sized war, where the Ukrainians are doing all the fighting, is too much for the West to handle?

Lemonine proposes that “The Russian elites are convinced that, unless Ukraine is subordinated to Moscow in some fashion, Russia can’t be a great power.” If he is right, then it says we are dealing with an irrational actor. If Russia is irrational, why not do a blitzkrieg against Estonia and Eastern Latvia, annex the territory and announce an attack on Russia territory will incur a nuclear response? That’s a crazy-bold move, but it might be possible with a larger initial force operating along a much shorter front.

So we are left with an irrational actor fighting a war in Ukraine. Lemonine says we should stop aiding the Ukrainians, allowing the government to collapse and the war continue as an insurgency, which will soon collapse, as the Russians, long past winning hearts and minds, will simply drive the Ukrainian civilian population out of the country and slaughter those civilians that remain behind. Ukraine produces little the Russians don’t already have enough of, so it does not need the population of Ukraine. Its value is symbolic according to Lemonine. I prefer supporting the government of Ukraine over this scenario. Of course, what I’d really like if we had rational actors in Washington, in which case this war would have ended already with a win for Ukraine AND Russia. But as Iraq showed, this is not the case, “blobs” are brainless.

Expand full comment

- military effort is a protection racket (https://polsci.substack.com/p/politics-of-contention-and-war-as), it is not driven by the general interest. Hanania was writing that US foreign policy belicosity stems in large part of this special interest capture

- if you loved sleepwalkers and guns of august, you'll enjoy the "proud tower"... my reading from the chapter on Mahan is that the US is most responsible for WWI: https://polsci.substack.com/p/the-strategic-importance-of-maritime, with WWII being just a side-note.

- the Russian Gov has consistently told the US Gov for over 20 years that Ukraine was a red line. We need to get back to what people said before 2022 and before 2014. Western media since is hysterical and delusional.

- the cost of war on Russia is uncertain. The military cost of one to three hundred billion, there is maybe 1 trillion a year due to energy costs for Europe. There is the possible cost of sidelining China, which could cost another trillion per year, and the long term cost of being sanction happy, destroying the rule of law in the west, and the value of the dollar and eur, which would cost around 100 trillion, but as a one off.

- Philippe is addressing the weakest and most hysterical arguments for war, like those about dissuasion. Those arguments were never heard before the war, and were suddenly put forward to justify the new stance of the west. Is there a way to steelman the case instead?

Expand full comment

"The Russian elites are convinced that, unless Ukraine is subordinated to Moscow in some fashion, Russia can’t be a great power..." Incorrect. Russian elites are convinced, quite correctly, that the US has been working to transform Ukraine into a hotbed of vehemently anti-Russian sentiment and into a NATO outpost with a 1200 kilometer border with Russia that Neocons can use as a staging ground for attacks of all kinds aimed at destroying the Russian state. They're also convinced that the US will use Ukraine as a host for medium range ballistic missiles and eventually hypersonic missiles that will be capable of striking Moscow and other major Russian cities within minutes, which would be an incredibly dangerous situation if only because of how much it would escalate the risk of a nuclear exchange triggered by accident.

Why would Russian elites think any of this? Because Neocons have been talking and writing openly about doing exactly this for many years and Russian elites have been watching Neocons turn their words into actions for well over a decade.

Expand full comment

Also, it appears Russia is following a policy of genocide, https://twitter.com/IKoshiw/status/1631217524070121475?s=20 something which has been apparent since Bucha. How does that fit into your decision making schema?

Expand full comment

As every lying Democrat knows, Russia put Trump into office. Therefore, the stupid, pointless, war in Ukraine.

Expand full comment

This is an excellent analysis.

The superior move for the US was truly not to deliver weapons. Russia could still be tied up by funding insurgency at a far lower cost. Economic sanctions would have still turned Europe to US`s shale gas. And Europe could still be easily rallied under US leadership and maybe even made to pay more money into NATO. There`d still be options for diplomacy to drive a wedge between Russia & China.

This scenario gains everything US gained from weapon deliveries with extra perks and at much lower price.

Expand full comment

It might have been true that if the West didn't help Ukraine in February 2022, and Ukraine fell to Russia, Russia would not invade a NATO member. But it's not so true anymore.

The main Russian evening shows (particularly Solovyov's one, 60 minutes led by Skabyeva, the one run by Simonian) nearly every other day discuss annexation of Poland ("the hyena of Europe") in one way or another. Even the former president/prime minister, Medvedev, regularly discusses "the Polish question" on his Telegram channel - last time was literally last week.

You have to consider what the propaganda is telling Russians for a year now. Russia is at war with all of NATO, and is basically winning. Even though the US, UK, Poland and other countries support Ukraine with weapons (and, according to the Russian propaganda, also send their soldiers to Ukraine), Russia still holds strong in there. The propaganda talks about Russian victories and heroism all day long, every day.

Now imagine that Russia wins the war in Ukraine. A war that they said (for years now) was a war with all of NATO. How will they persuade 140 million Russians that it's time to stop now, instead of attacking a NATO country like Poland? After all, NATO was just beaten down -- Russia is winning. And if they attack Poland, they'll no longer have an issue with Kaliningrad being blocked off from the rest of Russia.

Expand full comment

They're kidnapping children Philippe. Maybe moral outrage isn't blinding, maybe you're the one who cannot see.

Expand full comment