19 votes

One Putin move and behold: West’s unity tightens overnight

18 comments

  1. [2]
    NaraVara
    (edited )
    Link
    I wouldn't characterize it as one move so much as the accumulated grievances stoked by Putin's actions over the past decade eventually boiling over. He definitely took it too far this time, but...

    I wouldn't characterize it as one move so much as the accumulated grievances stoked by Putin's actions over the past decade eventually boiling over. He definitely took it too far this time, but let's not forget his bombings one Syria and Chechnya as well as his ongoing cyberwar against liberal democracies on behalf of would-be autocrats throughout the West.

    Biden warned during one of the debates that if Putin continued fucking around he would ensure there would be consequences and I expect there has been a lot of background work done both in terms of diplomacy and information warfare to lay the foundations for this response. Russia has not been able to flood the zone with nonsense claims this time like they did in Syria and Crimea. It also hasn't been able to deploy the useful idiots Russia has leaned on in the past, like Tucker Carlson or Glen Greenwald, to launder its misleading narratives and propaganda. They have (somehow) come out of this looking kinda clownish. This is possibly, in part, because of ongoing efforts by the social media sites to start taking serious action against bots and organized troll campaigns.

    11 votes
    1. cloud_loud
      Link Parent
      Sites like TheGrayZone, which I only found out about because of my time on left twitter, are currently losing funding as well. Which has been something I’m very happy to see.

      Sites like TheGrayZone, which I only found out about because of my time on left twitter, are currently losing funding as well. Which has been something I’m very happy to see.

      1 vote
  2. [4]
    just_a_salmon
    Link
    This should probably go in the megathread.

    This should probably go in the megathread.

    5 votes
    1. [3]
      Adys
      Link Parent
      I'm actively posting there. I think it's a good enough article to stand on its own.

      I'm actively posting there. I think it's a good enough article to stand on its own.

      11 votes
      1. [2]
        EgoEimi
        Link Parent
        Indeed. This is less about the invasion and more about the geopolitical realignment of the West.

        Indeed. This is less about the invasion and more about the geopolitical realignment of the West.

        9 votes
  3. [12]
    han2k
    Link
    I stand with Ukraine and I am so sad to see so many people suffer. But I also feel that a lot of people in power in the West wanted this exact outcome. Strategists have warned for years that this...

    I stand with Ukraine and I am so sad to see so many people suffer. But I also feel that a lot of people in power in the West wanted this exact outcome. Strategists have warned for years that this would happen. At the end of the day, to these people in power, what happens to Ukraine ultimately may not matter. The West finds itself unified once again. Putin is seen as a mentally unstable fool who now has to deal with troubles at home.

    4 votes
    1. [11]
      EgoEimi
      Link Parent
      I doubt that the powers that be in the West wanted this exact outcome. There's been a long trend of growing political skepticism toward Atlanticism and European Unionism. Some of the skepticism...

      I doubt that the powers that be in the West wanted this exact outcome. There's been a long trend of growing political skepticism toward Atlanticism and European Unionism. Some of the skepticism was stirred up by Russian information warfare, but I believe that much was because society gradually forgot the conditions that gave original impetus to Atlanticism and the European Union.

      Leading up to the invasion, many western countries covered their own ears and chose inaction, believing that Russia was only posturing and wouldn't actually invade. For example, prior to the invasion, Germany blocked other countries from exporting German-made weapons to Ukraine.

      7 votes
      1. [10]
        han2k
        Link Parent
        Hmm, I think these statements are in line with what I was thinking. Perhaps I'm missing something? My impression is, until late last year, major NATO powers were basically doing their own thing....

        There's been a long trend of growing political skepticism toward Atlanticism and European Unionism.
        because society gradually forgot the conditions that gave original impetus to Atlanticism and the European Union.

        Hmm, I think these statements are in line with what I was thinking. Perhaps I'm missing something? My impression is, until late last year, major NATO powers were basically doing their own thing. People were gradually losing interest in having a unified EU. More and more EU nations were forming stronger relationships and dependancies on China and Russia. Then Putin decides he's had enough and invades Ukraine. The West becomes united with a strong sense of purpose.

        It's not like nobody saw it coming. Prominent figures had been publicly warning about exactly what's unfolding in Eastern Europe.

        Maybe I'm reading too much into this. It's mostly just a knee jerk reaction from seeing how quickly and strongly the West became united.

        1 vote
        1. [9]
          EgoEimi
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          It's primarily the Biden Administration that was issuing public warnings that got ignored. Macron and France have been pushing for an independent European security framework for a while now....
          • Exemplary

          It's not like nobody saw it coming. Prominent figures had been publicly warning about exactly what's unfolding in Eastern Europe.

          It's primarily the Biden Administration that was issuing public warnings that got ignored.

          Macron and France have been pushing for an independent European security framework for a while now. Germany long has been pursuing its Ostpolitik policies of normalizing relations with Eastern Europe.

          I think the realignment of the West isn't something that was necessarily planned for. Russia was seen by Europe as an authoritarian but rational state that makes calculated trouble but could be diplomatically engaged and reasoned with — but wasn't seen as an active military threat until Putin gave his radical speech that essentially declared that Russia has historical grievances to resolve and seeks to reintegrate what it perceived to be unfairly lost territory, with the implication that Ukraine isn't all that was unfairly lost.

          How I see it: the reclassification of Russia as an active military threat has intersected with long-known knowledge as well as recent revelations of European military unreadiness and impotence.

          To address short-term security concerns, European leaders quickly aligned with the US as the current security guarantor.

          To address longer-term security concerns, European leaders are accelerating the timeline for an independent European security framework to prepare for a future when US will no longer be that security guarantor (see Germany's recent €100bn military budget allocation). They've previously assessed that the phenomenon of a NATO-skeptical US president (Trump) may occur again, rendering the US no longer a reliable long-term guarantor of European security. (A correct assessment, I think.)

          Plus two additional factors:

          • Camera smartphones are ubiquitous in 2022 middle-income Ukraine. A lot of HD war footage is available online, and Ukrainians have a high degree of social interconnectedness with westerners, helping that footage spread rapidly. Afghanistan is poor, so camera smartphone penetration was low for a long time, and Afghans are virtually completely socially unlinked with westerners, so footage spreads poorly.
          • The will of Ukrainian soldiers and citizens alike to fight a larger, stronger enemy to preserve their democracy and nation has captivated and inspired a lot of people. The rapid surrender of the Afghan National Army was less inspiring.
          • Last but not least, I think Ukrainian President Zelensky has been a huge determinant. Former Afghan president Ashraf Ghani was a corrupt, arrogant coward who no one—not even his own people—believed in or cared enough to root for. But Zelensky, through his charisma and bravery, has become the man of the century and a world icon — and everyone in the west is cheering for him.

          Given the unprecedented groundswell of support for the Ukrainian cause in western democracies, western leaders have accordingly aligned themselves with their constituents. Right now, supporting Zelensky is politically hot hot hot; being neutral is not.

          12 votes
          1. [8]
            han2k
            Link Parent
            I think the timeframe of what we're talking about may be different. Many people were warning that the West's policies were forcing Russia's hands since before the Trump administration. Again, I'm...

            I think the timeframe of what we're talking about may be different.

            It's primarily the Biden Administration that was issuing public warnings that got ignored.

            Many people were warning that the West's policies were forcing Russia's hands since before the Trump administration.

            Russia was seen by Europe as an authoritarian but rational state that makes calculated trouble but could be diplomatically engaged and reasoned with — but wasn't seen as an active military threat until Putin gave his radical speech that essentially declared that Russia has historical grievances to resolve and seeks to reintegrate what it perceived to be unfairly lost territory, with the implication that Ukraine isn't all that was unfairly lost.

            Again, I'm not saying Putin was right in his decision or that we should have appeased him, but the West tend to paint authoritarian states as purely irrational when in reality fully established democracies can easily lean toward authoritarianism and facism in just a few years given the right pressures. I think the question not many people stop to ask is, what pressures did Putin face in the past decade that he chose to go all in to shake up the world order?

            Somewhat related, but I'm actually much more familiar with the history of geopolitics surrounding North Korea than Russia. I can't help but draw parallels. I believe that to actually achieve sustainable peace, we should aspire to stop vilifying "the other side" and actually think of a way to coexist. Yes, it might be mere idealism, but it's always innocent lives that end up getting sacrificed for these greater goods.

            1 vote
            1. EgoEimi
              Link Parent
              I understand that. I think my previous statement was unclear and may have come across as saying such. It's my intention to present this following model: The previous classification of Russia as an...

              Again, I'm not saying Putin was right in his decision or that we should have appeased him

              I understand that. I think my previous statement was unclear and may have come across as saying such. It's my intention to present this following model:

              The previous classification of Russia as an adversarial troublemaker was ambiguous, allowing for different interpretations and approaches: some, namely the US, chose confrontative stances, while others like France and Germany chose diplomatic engagement and economic entanglement. Some saw X, others saw Y.

              Now that all Western nations classify Russia as both adversarial and actively hostile. (Russia has made such a classification clear and easy.) Such a classification leaves little ambiguity and few interpretations and approaches, which is why I think the West was able to align so quickly and so uniformly. Everyone now sees Z.

              what pressures did Putin face in the past decade that he chose to go all in to shake up the world order?

              I guess that's the trillion dollar question everyone's trying to figure out. Russia stated NATO and western encroachment as part of its casus belli against Ukraine.

              On the one hand, Ukraine is rapidly westernizing and is on a trajectory away from the Russia sphere toward the EU sphere. The US was providing training and equipment and strengthening the Ukrainian Army. Give it 30, 40, 50 years, and Ukraine might become a firm western ally and reach defensive military parity with Russia. Furthermore, in the early 2000s, the US violated the international law-based order they themselves led — which introduces all kinds of uncertainties about the US and its coalition of allies.

              On the other hand, I think there's objectively little military threat to Russia in the short or long term.

              • Ukraine is far from meeting the Copenhagen criteria and is decades away from joining the EU.
              • It was unlikely that NATO would let Ukraine join, for reasons well known that I won't repeat.
              • NATO was very slowly losing potency despite several countries from Russia's former sphere of influence joining since 2000. There has been growing skepticism toward Atlanticism. An American president questioned US commitment to NATO and its European allies—once an inviolable pillar of US foreign policy—and still nearly won reelection. And the US was pivoting away from Europe toward Asia.
              • European leaders were acknowledging this new reality. Despite talks of an independent European security framework, the militaries of Europe are underprepared and impotent, and growing Euroskepticism makes an integrated European army unpalatable.
              • The West has engaged with Russia to buy its oil, gas, and the materials, enriching and strengthening Russia.

              Personally, I think the possibility that West would attempt a militarily aggressive action against Russia is nil. So a few other possibilities:

              • Maybe Russia really does just want to "reunite" the Slavic peoples. Putin claims this, but who knows if he really believes it. I think it's a stupid approach because bombarding civilians and razing cities will ensure extreme anti-Russian sentiments will last for generations. A soft power approach over generations would have been far more effective.
              • Russia wants a multipolar world. Perhaps Russia thought that the invasion would force fundamental misalignments of opinions and interests within the West to surface and finally fracture the West. But as we seen, the West has not fractured; instead, the invasion has reenergized NATO and the West and pushed them to no longer engage Russia diplomatically and economically but to begin engaging it militarily.

              I can't help but draw parallels. I believe that to actually achieve sustainable peace, we should aspire to stop vilifying "the other side" and actually think of a way to coexist. Yes, it might be mere idealism, but it's always innocent lives that end up getting sacrificed for these greater goods.

              I strongly agree. While many Russians oppose the invasion, it seems that there are also many nationalists from whom Putin draws support. But I observe that in light of the tragedy of the invasion and outsiders' individual inability to do anything about the situation, many people have transformed that helplessness into blind Russophobia. Throwing away bottles of Russian vodka, and so on.

              I think it is more important than ever to build cultural and social bridges with Russians. I believe that the very long arc of our history — beyond the next 100 years, beyond Russia and the US and NATO, beyond Russians and Ukrainians and Slavic brotherhood or whatever — is learning how to become one people.

              3 votes
            2. [6]
              streblo
              Link Parent
              How so? I'm familiar with FA Mearsheimer article which is often the lynch pin of such discussions (and is also oft-trotted out by Putin and the like). While in my opinion such a stance has been...

              Many people were warning that the West's policies were forcing Russia's hands since before the Trump administration.

              How so?

              I'm familiar with FA Mearsheimer article which is often the lynch pin of such discussions (and is also oft-trotted out by Putin and the like). While in my opinion such a stance has been thoroughly critiqued and is demonstrably flawed I understand reasonable people can disagree -- the thing is it doesn't even matter in this scenario, it's not 2014. There was no immediate path for Ukraine to be accepted into NATO during the previous buildup. It's a non-starter, NATO is not interested in admitting a country with contested borders/regions where a single flareup can article 5 the world into oblivion. There is no NATO policy here that pushed Putin into war other than his own ambitions and desires. His recent demands that NATO revert back to its 1997 position is insane -- it's diplomacy designed to be rejected specifically so that he can attract Westerners to carry water for the argument that the West did not do enough in negotiations.

              2 votes
              1. [5]
                han2k
                Link Parent
                I have to ask, why would that demand be insane from Russia's point of view? George Kennan warned in 1998 that NATO expansion would gradually lead to a bad reaction from Russia. Mearsheimer,...

                His recent demands that NATO revert back to its 1997 position is insane

                I have to ask, why would that demand be insane from Russia's point of view? George Kennan warned in 1998 that NATO expansion would gradually lead to a bad reaction from Russia. Mearsheimer, Kissinger, Chomsky. So many people had warned that this would be the outcome from literally decades ago. Even as their warnings become realized, should we find comfort in blaming this all on Putin's ambitions and desires and pretend his decision to invade Ukraine came out of his aging head only? This has been the West's attitude toward "terrorists" in the Middle East and "the rocket man" in North Korea. When can we accept that these events are highly complex in nature and often results of interactions, not individual entities?

                I wish I can say this without sounding like a Russian sympathizer. I feel like I need to stop talking.

                4 votes
                1. [4]
                  streblo
                  Link Parent
                  It's insane in the context of what they're asking A blanket ban on American bases and military cooperation in post-Soviet countries, including Germany and Poland Removal of any American nuclear...

                  It's insane in the context of what they're asking

                  • A blanket ban on American bases and military cooperation in post-Soviet countries, including Germany and Poland
                  • Removal of any American nuclear weapons from non-American countries
                  • No NATO troops in any post-1997 NATO country
                  • Ban on any further NATO enlargement

                  It's hard to view this as anything but a non-starter. NATO is not going to willingly degrade it's ability to defend it's signatories. We can argue back and forth about the history of NATO expansion and it's effect on rising tensions but you can't ask for a 20-year take-backsies on an article that purports to provide collective defense for its signatories. Yeltsin had the opportunity to make that a red line decades ago, and he did not.

                  When can we accept that these events are highly complex in nature and often results of interactions, not individual entities?

                  I sort of agree, but you're omitting the part where these highly complex historical narratives impact individuals involved in decision making. Putin is embarrassed and humiliated by Russia's actions in the 90s and where Gorbachev and Yeltsin saw a Russia moving into a European orbit Putin wants Russia to be a great power and carve out its own sphere of influence.

                  6 votes
                  1. [3]
                    han2k
                    Link Parent
                    Yes, I understand the West's perspective. What I'm trying to say is, I don't view that the war in Ukraine was inevitable. A quick search shows a near unending list of people from the 1990s to...

                    Yes, I understand the West's perspective. What I'm trying to say is, I don't view that the war in Ukraine was inevitable. A quick search shows a near unending list of people from the 1990s to 2020s who had warned us about what's happening in Ukraine right now. We had decades to find diplomatic solutions to avoid this crisis. We chose not to. Yes, in the end, Putin pulled the trigger. But blaming Putin won't prevent future wars.

                    1. [2]
                      streblo
                      Link Parent
                      It certainly was not inevitable, I agree. The question is if appeasement of Russia is worth trading off the rights of sovereign nations to align with whom they wish. The right for free peoples to...

                      What I'm trying to say is, I don't view that the war in Ukraine was inevitable.

                      It certainly was not inevitable, I agree. The question is if appeasement of Russia is worth trading off the rights of sovereign nations to align with whom they wish. The right for free peoples to self-determine is fundamental to the liberal world order. Imagine if NATO threatened Russia/China with escalation if they continued to grow their relationship, it would be a nonsensical line to draw in the sand because it's unenforceable. Which is exactly what this Russian red line is:

                      You can probably tell I'm a proponent of international liberalism but even from within a realist perspective, NATO actions make perfect sense. Russia has more than a decade of acting the belligerent to the Western world through espionage and promotion of dissent. (And of course, tit-for-tat back from the West). If Russia is 'forced' to defend itself as many IR realists claim, what of forces driving Western decisions? The people of Ukraine are so determined to write their own destiny that Russian occupation looks like a decades-long bloody affair. Combined with the self-destruction and isolation of the Russian economy and the results of Russia's red line over continued NATO expansion are abysmal. NATO has every reason to continue to accept countries like Ukraine and Georgia.

                      5 votes
                      1. han2k
                        Link Parent
                        I feel this is how we create the next nazi germany. I believe we don't achieve peace by forcing one side to concede.

                        I feel this is how we create the next nazi germany. I believe we don't achieve peace by forcing one side to concede.