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Matthew Powell
Matthew Powell
9 months ago

I’ve not see Western populations react like this since 9/11 and yes the actions of Putin are despicable and warrant a strong reaction but my belief is that much of what the media is feeding public right now is likely just not true and their response to it is creating a feedback loop, pushing governments to ever more drastic measures.

The Russian advance is probably not floundering. They’ve covered respectable amounts of ground, often the max capable for an armoured unit in a single day, particularly in the south and have done so using 2nd tier units, supported by some special forces, operating in sub optimal concentrations and without anywhere close to the level of artillery and air support they have available.

The Ukranian’s have fought bravely but the Russian’s have cynically used poorer quality troops with older equipment for this phase of the battle, probably because units are most susceptible to damage during the advance, once they feel they have fixed their enemy they’ll likely deploy their full force. Losses have been high by western standards but far from crippling and stories of tanks out of fuel and troops looting food, will mostly just be typical of the fog of war incidents that of occur in any major engagement.

As for the western sanctions. The Russian economy is not at the brink of collapse after one day as some headlines are claiming. As contributors to UnHerd have pointed out it’s very difficult to get the balance right with sanctions. Too loose and Russia will ride them out, too tight and Russia might respond by cutting commodity exports and crash the western economic in an act of retaliatory mutually assured destruction. The stakes are high and the economic pain western populations would have to take to actually harm the Russian economy, may be more severe than they realise.

My fear is that caught up in the wave of emotion the west gambles and loses. My sense is that too many governments never believed Putin would invade and now, caught off guard, they’re scrambling for some kind of response to redeem themselves. In doing this though, they could end up losing the ground war that wasn’t winnable in the first place, severally damaging their own own economies, at a time when they are as fragile as they’ve been in years and creating a formidable China/Russia axis, which need not have been.

Does this make me an appeaser? Maybe in some peoples eyes, I just think I’m a realist and the actions we needed to take to save the Ukraine should have been taken years ago. Now it maybe too late. Trying to fight a battle we did not prepare for from a position of weakness is never a good idea and could cost us dear. Better to learn from our mistakes and in future, draw our red lines where we can actually enforce them.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
9 months ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

Your analysis is exactly what I’m thinking. Totally agree.

J Bryant
J Bryant
9 months ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

This is one of the more balanced assessments of the conflict I’ve seen.
Russia is certainly losing the propaganda war in the West, but it’s not even clear Russia is engaging in that war. As the author of the current article suggests, it may be Putin realizes he will never win hearts and mind in the West so why bother trying.
Western commentators have become too shrill and they’re marching in lockstep with their governments. It reminds me of the covid propaganda we’ve been fed for two years by the MSM as they promote their preferred agenda. I even wonder if public hysteria around Ukraine is a symptom of the emotional imbalance inspired by the pandemic and that fuels social movements such as BLM. People desperately want a cause to believe in and support.
The one thing that’s clear is Russia hasn’t yet deployed the full force of its military. Putin could easily reduce Kiev to rubble but so far he hasn’t. It also appears he hasn’t deployed cyberattacks to shut off electricity and water in Ukraine’s cities, although I suspect he could do that. My guess is he wants Ukraine largely intact and under Russian control. He might then allow people to live a normal life except they’re now ruled by a puppet government beholden to the Kremlin. If he’s pushed far enough, though, or if the West deeply involves itself in this conflict, he might conclude destruction of the country’s cities and infrastructure is his best bet to ensure it never poses a threat to Russia.
Somehow Western pundits and politicians seem to think if they scream loud enough Putin will back down. That seems highly unlikely. He’s too deep into this invasion to turn around and go home. As Mathew Powell suggests, in future it may be best to recognize where we can draw our defensible red lines and not belatedly jump into lost causes at the risk of doing more harm than good.

Bruce Haycock
Bruce Haycock
9 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I understand from earlier Putin statements that his goal is not to smash Ukraine as in bombing its cities, nor occupy it in a conventional sense. But simply to go in and totally degrade its military as well as hopefully topple and replace the govt with a stooge govt.

And in doing so to teach a severe lesson to Ukraine to behave properly toward Russia and to teach the West that it is futile and dangerous to both arm and westernise Russia’s buffer states

Managing its border security via neighbouring buffer states is Russia’s overarching geopolitical challenge and endeavour that will continue forever after Putin. Losing these buffers after the Soviet collapse was Putin’s single biggest source of angst.

Of course the peoples of the buffer state countries might have entirely different views on their role in being Russia’s security blanket and prefer their own mix of western and eastern derived cultural and economic aspirations as well as preferring the intrusions of Western decadence over a domineering Russian hegemony .

Out of this derives the West’s geopolitical imperatives with respect to Russia in that part of the world
Not easy, but appeasement is definitely never a sound option over time

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
9 months ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

Why is the Ukrainian Air Force not blasting away those long, tightly packed Russian convoys, on the approaches to Kyiv, gleaming in the bright winter sunlight? In WW2, those types of convoys would have been sitting ducks. (The convoys as revealed by publicly available satellite imagery).

Last edited 9 months ago by Dustshoe Richinrut
Neil Cheshire
Neil Cheshire
9 months ago

Russia has air supremacy. Does the Ukrainian Air Force still exist after multiple attacks on its airfields?

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
9 months ago
Reply to  Neil Cheshire

No attack helicopters, operating from makeshift bases?

Dennis Boylon
Dennis Boylon
9 months ago

Russia hit their concentrated forces and their defense ministry stated they have air superiority over all of Ukraine. Russia has helicopters, jets, and their radar and communication systems are functional. They targeted Ukraine’s as a first step. My understanding is some ukrainian jets made it to Poland and are out of harm’s way. Russia appears to be digging in permanently in the Donbas and trying to capture all the land on the Azov Sea. Mariupol is the Azov battalions command center but the local population is more than 50 percent of Russian heritage and sympathetic to Russia. So that could be an ugly battle. The Azov battalion are engaged on the Eastern front but are in danger of being surrounded. This is coming from a pro Russian webpage. So we will see in the future how well their claims compare to the Western press. https://thesaker.is/day-4-of-the-russian-offensive-in-the-ukraine/

Martin Logan
Martin Logan
9 months ago
Reply to  Dennis Boylon

Oh…My…God: The Vineyard of the SAKER!!!
Well, he did predict the overthrow of Kyiv in 2014. Maybe he’s just 8 years too late.

Dennis Boylon
Dennis Boylon
9 months ago
Reply to  Martin Logan

The US predicated another Afghanistan for Russia in Syria. Since that time Syria is holding and the US had to flee Afghanistan completely with Afghanis falling off planes! It made better theater than the fall of Saigon.

Raymond C
Raymond C
9 months ago

It would appear that the Ukranians are majoring on defence of life an limb.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
9 months ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

Great comment. Western governments and media pay way too much attention to Twitter, which is hardly a forum for rational strategic thinking.

Raymond C
Raymond C
9 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

The truth is a far more powerful thing that a doctored picture whatever colour your hair or toenails are. I would rather win the war than win the internet battle.

Last edited 9 months ago by Raymond C
Deborah B
Deborah B
9 months ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

Now is the time for Western leaders to consider how to offer Putin an escape route out of this conflict that allows him to save face and retain some sense of pride. That will be very difficult while emotions run high.

Jem Barnett
Jem Barnett
9 months ago
Reply to  Deborah B

I agree, we should be thinking how to offer him a ladder to climb down.

Igor Resch
Igor Resch
9 months ago
Reply to  Deborah B

That would be the biggest mistake, because it is exactly what Merkel has done with the Minst-Process afer 2014. She was celebrated for that, which was absolutely nonsensical, beacuse the only one who benefited from that was Putin, as it cemented the status quo and left Ukraine with nothing.
Although it is very dangerous to corner Putin, because he might do the utmost unthinkable (nukes), there is no way you can allow him to “save face”. For over a decade now, the west has made him stronger by exaclty doing that.

Rupert Steel
Rupert Steel
9 months ago
Reply to  Igor Resch

Precisely. Putin is an old man who genuinely believes that taking Ukraine is the culmination of his mission to restore the greatness of the USSR. He’ll retreat to his bunker and refuse to admit defeat. A lot of people will die as a consequence, including his invasion force.

Raymond C
Raymond C
9 months ago
Reply to  Igor Resch

He fooled me but now we see his true face. One who shoots missiles at residential blocks full of families and children.

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
9 months ago
Reply to  Raymond C

Come on. What invasion hasnt some that. Even recent drone attacks on Iraq by the US.

Alex Stonor
Alex Stonor
9 months ago
Reply to  Deborah B

There is very little creativity & innovation amongst western leaders; they are weak, as Aayan Hirsi Ali pointed out last week.

Raymond C
Raymond C
9 months ago
Reply to  Alex Stonor

Weak or Woke or both?

Bruce Kerr
Bruce Kerr
9 months ago
Reply to  Deborah B

Lets wait a few days before we chicken out and offer Putin an escape route which will undoubtedly cost the Ukraine dearly. The oligarchs will be losing billions, won’t be long before one of them decides to get rid of Putin, probably with extreme prejudice just to be certain – “nothing personal Vladimir, just business”

Last edited 9 months ago by Bruce Kerr
Andy Moore
Andy Moore
9 months ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

I’ve never heard anyone say that the sanctions would collapse the Russian economy overnight, in fact we’ve been told the total opposite.
As for the Russia crashing the western economy, that’s for the birds.

Igor Resch
Igor Resch
9 months ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

A good assessment, but the fact that Putin has not achieved a quick and decisive victory withing the first 100 hours makes everything way, way more complicated for him. Moral is sinking on the russian side, while ukrainians are overflowing in moral. Sanctions are getting tougher by the day, which is a bad development. We should not forget that the clock is not running against the west. It’s running against Putin. The most remarkable development of the last day was oligarchs coming out to criticize Putin. This never, ever happens, and is a terrible sign for Putin. So, all in all, its correct to be realistic about the prospects but part of it is that Putin, a 100 hours after starting the war, is not where he wanted to be.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
9 months ago
Reply to  Igor Resch

How do you know that. 100 hrs is a very short time. It took the US 3 weeks to take Baghdad in a shock and awe campaign.

Michael O'Donnell
Michael O'Donnell
9 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

I seem to recall that Baghdad was a lot further away from the border thanKyiv and Kharkiv are.

Igor Resch
Igor Resch
9 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Geography, as Mr O’Donnell has mentioned is one factor. The second factor is that the russian army is has overwhelming capacities compared to the ukrainan. Third, and probably most important, is the fact that Putin did not prepare his people for war. There was no messaging campaign from his part to his people to absorb suffering for a greater purpose, which makes quick and decisive gains a lot more necessary. With every day passing without such gains, resistance within Russia will get louder, which raises the costs as you have to put it down. People forget that Russians do not and have never seen the Ukranian people as enemies. Putin tries to argue that the ukranian government is the enemy, but even if most russians would buy that, it makes it hard to swallaw as the destruction within Ukraine is getting worse.
I’m not arguing that Putin will not succeed in the end, but there is a way of succeeding with all costs being sunk. Putin is in great danger of succeeding in that way.

hayden eastwood
hayden eastwood
9 months ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

Putin has 400 billion in currency reserves. Sanctions of a few billion will be trifling. I suspect this war has been well thought out, and that Putin would not be doing this without a substantial piggy bank and, more importantly, without the knowledge that China will play a supporting role.

If Russia takes Ukraine, China will prepare to take Taiwan.

Andy Moore
Andy Moore
9 months ago

Ask yourself what currencies are those reserves in, dollars, sterling and Euros; is he able to spend them?

Last edited 9 months ago by Andy Moore
hayden eastwood
hayden eastwood
9 months ago
Reply to  Andy Moore

From what I gather, and I’m not sure if my sources are trustworthy, but a large chunk of it is in gold. Moreover, it may work against the west if it hastens Russia’s departure from USD to Renimbi.

Michael O'Donnell
Michael O'Donnell
9 months ago
Reply to  Andy Moore

And where are they kept?

Martin Logan
Martin Logan
9 months ago
Reply to  Andy Moore

All of the above.
And no.

Rupert Steel
Rupert Steel
9 months ago

At the last count Russia’s currency reserves were $685 billion, mostly in deposits that are now frozen, and may be confiscated. It seems Putin didn’t see this coming in his planning.

Martin Logan
Martin Logan
9 months ago

Half his sovereign wealth fund is in western banks.
That’s a quarter of a trillion sequestered just now. The other half is in China and elsewhere.
But half of Russia’s savings over 20 years are now down the drain.

Kevin Carroll
Kevin Carroll
9 months ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

I agree I hope the west doesn’t supply arms just to turn the Ukraine into another Syria.

Jem Barnett
Jem Barnett
9 months ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

Some great journalism to add:

Glenn Greenwald goes through some of the circulating narratives and info, and adds some historical context:

https://greenwald.substack.com/p/war-propaganda-about-ukraine-becoming?utm_source=url

And the Hill look at some of the key memes and statements (and respectably apologise and correct a prior statement on this topic):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98cXig0hOVw
Last edited 9 months ago by Jem Barnett
Jem Barnett
Jem Barnett
9 months ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

Some great journalism to add:
Glenn Greenwald goes through some of the circulating narratives and info, and adds some historical context:

https://greenwald.substack.com/p/war-propaganda-about-ukraine-becoming?utm_source=url

And the Hill look at some of the key memes and statements (and respectably apologise and correct a prior statement on this topic):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98cXig0hOVw
Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
9 months ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

Your analysis may be correct but my thinking is that the west has finally woken (!) up, a red line has been crossed. Hanging does concentrate the mind.

Antony Hirst
Antony Hirst
9 months ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

I disagree. I think “The West” goaded Putin into an invasion. I am almost certain all this talk of a military base on the Black Sea, Ukraine joining the EU, joining NATO must be intolerable to an independent, and deliberately non-aligned nation that would have its enemy control the Black Sea. Likewise, the near-monopoly on energy supply in Europe was intolerable to the US. This is the conflict the US desperately needed.
Just imagine what the US would do if Mexico became a Russian ally and granted permission for the base in the Gulf of Mexico? Oh hang, something like that happened before right?
Everything leading up to this conflict was intended to draw Putin in, everything since is to draw the public in. Those last remaining doubters have now been fully enveloped in fear of a nuclear war. My daughter called me in tears last night, she says all her friends are petrified. There will almost certainly be public support for intervention, should it be needed.
Russia will not be allowed to prevail, at any cost…that is my gut feeling.

Martin Logan
Martin Logan
9 months ago
Reply to  Antony Hirst

Beggars can’t be choosers.
Russia’s economy has stalled since 2014.
Embarking on a war with a nation fully a third its size was–and is–delusional.
It may not survive this.

Tony Price
Tony Price
9 months ago
Reply to  Antony Hirst

NATO already has a base on the Black Sea – Turkey

Bryan Dale
Bryan Dale
9 months ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

It’s been a while since the western news media has had any credibility. The most remarkable thing is that anyone still believes it.

Rupert Steel
Rupert Steel
9 months ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

There’s an alternative scenario, backed by facts on the ground and reflected in Johnson’s comments about the Groznyfication of Kyiv.
US and UK military assessments conflict with your own pessimism, and most importantly the conclusion is that the Russians are simply incompetent. The Ukrainian military suffered some ignominious defeats in 2014 and has been re-educated by the West. In addition, it seems the Ukrainians were quick to learn the lessons of the Armenian-Azerbaijani war in which Armenian armour was decimated by their opponents drones and loitering munitions. It is impossible to under-estimate the significance of that war, and its lessons seem to have been absorbed by the British general staff. Quite simple, the technology embodied in drones and loitering munitions completely invalidates the traditional air-land battle that evolved at the end of the Great War. A $25-50million jet fighter is useless against a loitering munition that can incapacitate a tank. If the Russians have air-superiority, why are their troops moving at night? The answer is that air-superiority doesn’t guarantee immunity from drone attack, but night does.
It follows that Putin has already given up on his plans to occupy Ukraine, and daren’t waste the rest of his army when China remains a real threat in the Russian Far East. Instead, Putin will simply destroy Ukraine using his rocket forces. But the result is clear, Russia faces defeat and a loss of self-confidence that will ensure peace in Europe for at least fifty years.

Fintan Power
Fintan Power
9 months ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

Well said. A touch of realism.

Martin Logan
Martin Logan
9 months ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

The problem for Russia is that it wildly miscalculated Ukrainian resistance–and the nature of modern war.
The very name of the operation “special military operation” shows Putin thought he could decapitate the Ukrainian leadership through clandestine means. The armour would then just roll in and occupy. Instead, he’s spent almost the entire first week bolstering Ukrainian morale.
No, sorry to disappoint, but this hasn’t been some ingenious plot to lull Kyiv into a false sense of security. Kyiv can bring in large amounts of anti-armour and anti-aircraft munitions. The Russian air force is largely absent (and incapable of interdicting) because of Stinger missiles. Tanks are largely useless because of Javelins. Long range missile strikes are the best thing imaginable to increase hatred between Russians and Ukrainians: they kill a few and enrage the rest.
Russia is fighting yesterday’s war–and it will be a long one.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
9 months ago

There is no question that Ukraine is winning the on-line and TV war in the West. But that’s feel good make belief. The real war is what is actually happening on the ground, as opposed to the utterings of “Baghdad Bob”. The real war and the real deaths and the real destruction are the true reality. And I suspect the true reality is that it won’t be long before the major cities of Ukraine are taken. Recall it took 3 weeks for the US to take Baghdad in 2003. So far we are at what, day 5.
Now it seems to me that much of what is being put out in the western MSM and by western governments and intelligence services, while certainly feel good and virtuous may end up doing far more harm than good, and is potentially way more dangerous than anybody wishes to acknowledge. That’s especially so as these things can readily spiral out of control into a full scale conflagration involving many countries where everybody is a loser in the end. Just think back to 1914 and the assassination of the Grand Duke Ferdinand that sparked the beginning of WWI.
So no, wars are not fought on-line. Anybody who says that or writes that is so clueless that they are simply living in never never land. On-line is harmless, other than for the woke who get triggered at the slightest offense or insult. The reality of war is not. It is ugly, it is cruel, it is filled with suffering, death and despair. Putting out fake videos of some imagined fighter pilot downing god knows how many Russian plans is not fighting a war.
And I might add that putting out too much propaganda that is proven false in short order for all the world to see is very counter-productive. Again just like Baghdad Bob; those broadcasts may have cheered Saddam Hussein up, but the reality on the ground was that Iraq was being overwhelmed.

Last edited 9 months ago by Johann Strauss
David Bell
David Bell
9 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

The propaganda war is vital for internal morale and for galvanising international support. The Ukraine is doing a brilliant job at it, just as Churchill’s speeches rallied the British in WW2.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
9 months ago
Reply to  David Bell

Yes but I think the situation with Ukraine is not quite comparable. The appropriate analogy would be with Belgium or France. We were able to fight another day after Dunkirk because of geography – i.e. the channel.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
9 months ago
Reply to  David Bell

Churchill was fortunate that he had the channel between us and the continent so that we could fight another day after Dunkirk. The situation that Ukraine finds itself in is perhaps more akin to that of Belgium or France in WWII where both countries were run over by the Germans in short order.
Now i realize that some on Unherd believe Putin to be the incarnation of pure evil and the second coming of Hitler. But he is very very far from that. He has stated that any attempt by Ukraine to join NATO or the EU represents a red line in the sand. He has stated this for 15 years. Ukraine called his bluff, but Putin is not Obama where red lines meant nothing. And so we are in the current situation.
Ukraine is unfortunate in that it is a border country between NATO and Russia. But the Ukraine and Russia have been intertwined at the hip for centuries. When one is a border state and on top of that rater small, and one’s neighbor is a superpower, it is best not to poke the bear but play cool. Finland succeeded by being neutral and Russia has never threatened Finland, and Finland has never attempted to join either NATO or the EU. Perhaps Ukraine should have emulated Finland.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
9 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

But Ukraine hasn’t joined NATO, and wasn’t going to in the near future. Also why should Russia get to decide which defensive alliances other sovereign nations join?
All this boils down to is that Putins lacky was deposed in a popular protest, and Putin is now doing his best to put another one in his place. The fact the animal is prepared to sacrifice thousands of Ukrainian and Russian lives to me makes him evil

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
9 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

There was plenty of talk that Ukraine should join NATO for years. NATO should have removed this option as it was always going to be dangerous.
I read yesterday that Ukraine has approached the EU for membership. Is that true I wonder?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
9 months ago

If they have then it’s Putin that’s pushed them there

Terry Needham
Terry Needham
9 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

??

Last edited 9 months ago by Terry Needham
Terry Needham
Terry Needham
9 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I don’t buy that. The inclusion of The Ukraine into the EU has been an EU dream for a long time.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
9 months ago
Reply to  Terry Needham

Yet it has never happened, and they hadn’t even begun the process of joining, exactly the same as NATO. Putin has invaded because he wants another stooge like Belarus, which he had until he was ousted by a popular protest

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
9 months ago
Reply to  Terry Needham

Agree.

Tony Price
Tony Price
9 months ago
Reply to  Terry Needham

Hardly a dream for the EU, nightmare more like! What possible benefit could the EU gain? That doesn’t mean that it can resist applications if they conform to the parameters.

Claire D
Claire D
9 months ago

The NATO website gives a useful and clear outline of it’s relations with Ukraine: https://nato.int/cps/en/natohq/topics_37750.htm

Claire D
Claire D
9 months ago

There’s a useful and clear outline of Ukraine’s relations with NATO on the NATO website, all open and above board but the link I provided to it has caused my comment to be removed.
It began in 1992, long before Putin was in charge, has been on and off since then. NATO seemed to think it was wiser for Ukraine to remain neutral at times, but Zelensky has been pursuing it in earnest and with strong encouragement in recent years.
Now why has NATO abandoned it’s earlier more cautious approach to the situation ?

Martin Logan
Martin Logan
9 months ago

Yes, he just did it.

Malvin Marombedza
Malvin Marombedza
9 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

That is your problem Bob. Putting in the moral side of things. You are right that the Russians should not get to decide which defensive alliances nations must join. But they have nukes, bombs and a malevolent leader who says so. That makes it difficult to stick to morality completely without bending a little and factoring logical realism. Had it been Iraq or some other country without much of a military, we would have put it into its place citing the morality card, losing a few soldiers or none in the process. With Russia we can’t. To attempt to do so would probably be the end of the world as we know it.

Andrew F
Andrew F
9 months ago

So in your view, Putin can take what he wants because of nukes?
So what is your price of not annoying Putin?
Giving him Estonia, or all Baltic States, or Poland or all of former Soviet Block countries?

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
9 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

What channel was that? That Churchill had?

R Wright
R Wright
9 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

“He has stated that any attempt by Ukraine to join NATO or the EU represents a red line in the sand. He has stated this for 15 years. Ukraine called his bluff” – how? How did Ukraine call his bluff?

Andy Moore
Andy Moore
9 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

What gives a country a right to dictate what another one does, this is the question that the people of Ukraine are asking.
Could it be that you’ve be swayed by the Russian propaganda about NATO.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
9 months ago
Reply to  Andy Moore

I’m certainly not swayed by Russian propaganda. What many seem to fail to realize is that the West has continually interfered in things where they have no business to interfere. Yes big countries shouldn’t bully small countries, and yes small countries should be able to conduct the foreign policy that they wish to pursue. But since when has that occurred in the real world. It doesn’t even occur in the context of the EU where Germany and France dictate what the small countries are going to have to do or suffer (e.g. look what happened to Greece). And likewise, the U.K. and EU countries are beholden to the US.

Andrew F
Andrew F
9 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Your claim of not being swayed by Russian propaganda is just laughable.
You are main Putin appeaser on this forum.
No one invaded Greece, they were addicted to cheap money not justified by productivity of their economy.
Your claim of various countries being beholden to USA is another sick joke.
Without USA most of Soviet stooges on this forum would speak German or Russian.
USA implemented Marshal Plan to rebuild Europe, including Germany.
They did allow rebuilding of another former enemy, Japan.
What is Russian contribution to postwar Europe apart from enslavement, poverty and violence in Eastern and Central Europe.
Never mind Russia starting ww2 with Hitler.
Apart from that they are much nicer than USA.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
9 months ago
Reply to  Andy Moore

Well my initial reply was somehow deleted. No I’m not swayed by any propaganda. Rather I’m more of a realist. In general, unless completely neutral like Switzerland, small countries foreign policy and even domestic policy is very much controlled by their stronger neighbors. For example, in the EU, Germany especially, followed by France, largely dictate policy – one only needs to look how the EU imposed economic pain on Greece. This may not be just or right but this is the way of the world since time immemorial.

Andy Moore
Andy Moore
9 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

I think you’ll agree, that most of us would claim to be realists.
Your first comment came across that Putin is in the right because of actions taken by the west. Personally I don’t buy that, Ukraine is not in the EU or NATO and was unlikely to have joined either of them in the next decade or so. Putin is on record, as saying that he wants the old Russian empire back and it’s clear he’ll use any excuse to achieve it. What we are witnessing is bullying on a large scale and we all know that the best way to deal with bullies, is to stand up to them. Yes the Russian outer military core is nuclear weapons, but prod a bit deeper and you will see it’s a lot weaker.

Gordon Welford
Gordon Welford
9 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

But they didnt invade Greece !!!

Malvin Marombedza
Malvin Marombedza
9 months ago
Reply to  Andy Moore

The problem with most people in our region (the West) is to always think that morality works all the time. It doesn’t. We can rail all we want about how bad they are. But all our railing won’t change the way they see things or even their courses of action. We have two options when it comes to Ukraine:

  1. Intervene on the Ukrainian side and accept the potential horrors which come with that (which I doubt most people are keen on accepting).
  2. Or negotiate with them and find some sort of middle ground which allows us and them to save face and get some of the things we want. It won’t be the perfect solution we would like to see or what they would want but it would be better than nothing.

The Russians and Chinese also face the same problem. They would much prefer it if they could have the whole world adhere to the way they see things. They can decide to fight and accept the consequences that come with a war with the West. Or they could use a mix of diplomacy, proxy wars, media wars, cyber wars etc. to try and further their agenda without resorting to a hot war. Railing and shaking their fists at the West’s hypocrisy, hegemony etc. wont help. That’s how I see it.

Last edited 9 months ago by Malvin Marombedza
Andy Moore
Andy Moore
9 months ago

I think your confusing the moralities of peoples of the world and their leaders. So let’s say we settle for the middle ground, whatever that is. Then Putin does it again, do we settle for a new middle ground. Sooner or later your a thousand miles behind where you started from and your way of life is that under threat. That’s how the bullies in playgrounds do their business.
I’m not saying we should declare war, but we should be providing support to Ukraine and see what happens. Appeasement hasn’t worked out well in the past.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
9 months ago
Reply to  Andy Moore

You do realise Cuba has been under sanctions for aboit 60 years.
And they are a small island 500 miles away from the US

Andrew F
Andrew F
9 months ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

For a start it is not a small Island and it is not 500 miles from Florida.
I am not quite sure why USA should trade with Communist dictatorship?
I am always puzzled how people living in democracies (or pretending to) are happy for other people to be slaves of some disgusting dictatorship.
Cuban in this case.

Fran Martinez
Fran Martinez
9 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Finland is in the EU and their currency us the Euro.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
9 months ago
Reply to  Fran Martinez

But not in NATO

Andrew F
Andrew F
9 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Russia never threatened Finland?
What about 1940 war?
Poor Russia, always misunderstood, always peaceful, goes a battle cry of appeasers on here and elsewhere.
It was the same with Hitler in 1938.
Two years later France had fallen and German bombs were landing on London.
Appeasing dictators never works long term.
Just price of appeasement goes much higher.

Last edited 9 months ago by Andrew F
Dan Croitoru
Dan Croitoru
9 months ago
Reply to  David Bell

The propaganda war is vital for you to accept 40% inflation followed by a cashless society while you meltdown emoting on Ukraine. The pro West elites have already left Ukraine

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
9 months ago
Reply to  David Bell

I also don’t agree with people minimising the online war, and do agree that the Russians, who by repute have been good at it, suddenly seem useless. To suggest being useless is perhaps because they can’t be bothered isn’t a convincing line.
Maybe they have just got useless at it.
The dancing comedian is certainly running rings around them and if Ukraine doesn’t fold and it doesn’t look like it will, any Russian post invasion plan already seems doomed to fall apart, however slowly, with further debilitating effects on Russia itself.

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
9 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Fact is Kyiv, Kharkiv and other big cities have not fallen to the Russians yet. From the retracted celebratory Russian press release, we know that Putin expected Ukrainian resistance to collapse by last Saturday. Logistics is the key to any war, and it seems that the Russian Army is not managing its supplies very well.

In short, the Ruskies ain’t Super Duper Supermen. They are taking unexpectedly high casualties, and they haven’t even started the difficult urban combat that inflicts high casualties on untrained infantry, like the Russians will be using. The typical response to heavy casualties in urban combat is to flatten the city with bombers and artillery, but that won’t look good for Putin on social media.

Saddam Hussein was fighting the US military. Ukraine is fighting the Russians. There’s a huge difference in terms of logistics, training, equipment and air support. Saddam didn’t have the modern Western anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons the Ukrainians have in very large numbers. The analogy just ain’t there.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
9 months ago

Yes the US military displayed exemplary performance and efficiency during the withdrawal from Afghanistan. And how well did they do in Iraq or Afghanistan long run. And how well did they do in Vietnam.
Seems to me that the Russians are at the gates of Kiev right now and have only used a minimal amount of their true firepower. Don’t believe everything you read, especially when the headlines contradict themselves from one headline to the next.

Martin Logan
Martin Logan
9 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

But putting out videos of real destroyed Russian armour–as we’ve seen in numerous instances–IS fighting a war.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
9 months ago

It sounds simplistic, but I’ve come to learn that if government and media are pushing a thing, it’s going to be the opposite of what is true and will be very, very bad for us.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
9 months ago

Absolutely. Personally I see an awful lot of jingoism going around, rather reminiscent of 1914, and we all know where that got us.

Andrew F
Andrew F
9 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

So allowing Kaiser Germany to dominate Europe by defeating France and Russia was in Britain’s interest?

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
9 months ago

Given that social media and internet access is highly regulated in Russia (and other rival countries such as China) – isn’t this article a moot point? The internet is largely a Western echo chamber.
Whilst not wholly irrelevant – it’s only opinion and thought – which is not an equivalent of the real world, real actions, lives, land.
Unlike our flaccid excuses for leaders, Putin doesn’t go to bed at night fretting over what was said on Twitter or Reddit.
That’s not a tacit approval of the man – but perhaps something our leaders could learn from him.

Last edited 9 months ago by A Spetzari
Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
9 months ago

One thing I can appreciate about this conflict, it offers a excellent view into information warfare, signals blocking, and military propaganda campaigns for the 21st Century. Gone are the days of propaganda radio broadcasts and short movies in homefront theaters. Now, almost everything is digital and much of the actual information that comes out is not from governments or news agencies but private citizens. Some things will never change though. Preening, “state sponsored” war reporters are still in business but there are fewer journalists who seem to be willing to report near the front lines these days.

Last edited 9 months ago by Matt Hindman
rodney foy
rodney foy
9 months ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

The Kyiv Independent is apparently keeping some reporters in the city, but is crowd sourcing funds for itself, and for other media organisations, to move the rest of their operations to nearby countries. I gave them a contribution

Andrew Roman
Andrew Roman
9 months ago

The online discussions and images create sympathy but not military action. The invasion continues. Why?
You may want to read this article:
https://www.politico.eu/article/europe-eu-oil-gas-trade-russia-budget-military-spending-ukraine-war-crisis/
The obsessive shutdown of Germany’s nuclear capacity for electricity generation, the US and Canadian abolishing of new pipelines and fracking, plus policies of disinvestment in hydrocarbons resulted in massive European and US addiction to Russian oil and gas. Those payments made Russia much wealthier and thus able to build its huge military. That also gave Putin the confidence to invade, by his assuming (we shall see if correctly) that the inevitable economic sanctions would be weak and short-lived because global oil and gas supply shortages would cause rapid energy price inflation in Western countries, hurting the electoral outcomes of the governing parties in the US, the UK and elsewhere. Overcoming the West’s addiction to Russian oil and gas by building up our own capacities will take political will to admit error, and at least a decade.  
The excessive pursuit of the net zero illusion, with national leaders competing at COP conferences to out-green each other, was a necessary cause (but not a sole or sufficient cause) of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. But for the manner and rate at which net zero has been pursued by the OECD countries in the West, the Russian invasion of Ukraine would not have been possible. There were other causes, of course, such as Putin’s mind set and supposed hatred of democracies but those were not of our making in Western democracies. The wishful thinking behind the net zero fantasies were things we did to ourselves, for which we are responsible. Labelling Putin as an evil megalomaniac and the Western countries as the good guys doesn’t change the facts, it just helps to avoid accepting our collective responsibility.
The US treating Ukraine, a buffer state for Russia, as a de facto future member of NATO to encircle Russia was also a cause of Putin’s perceived need to attack when his red line in the sand was crossed.
Energy is not just about keeping warm in winter when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow, it is also about geopolitics. Decarbonizing by relying on and lavishly financing corrupt authoritarian regimes for our energy supply, when we have those supplies ourselves, but insist on keeping them in the ground, is killing soldiers and civilians in Ukraine. Although it would be an oversimplification to say net zero = war, net zero is a necessary cause, and dead Ukrainians are an already evident effect. And there may be more deaths in future if we fail to recognize that energy security and self-sufficiency, not reliance on invasive totalitarian regimes like Russia and China, are essential to a sustainable world peace.
It may have been Lenin who once said “When we hang the capitalists, one of them will sell us the rope.” Putin could now update that to “When we invade the net zeros, they will pay us to do so.” We need to prove him wrong.

Bernard Hill
Bernard Hill
9 months ago

…so they’re winning the “online war”. OMG.

Dennis Boylon
Dennis Boylon
9 months ago
Reply to  Bernard Hill

The US won the “online war” on Afghanistan for 20 some years. LOL.

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
9 months ago

The ill-judged American offer to spirit President Zelensky out of Ukraine seemed so ignorant of 20th century history and, in spite of the instant visual age the world is now, ignorant of basic realities on the ground. Who’s running the show in America? People born after the Bee Gees were in their prime?

Were the Americans inviting the Ukrainians to form a government in exile?
The Churchillian spirit pervades the being of President Zelensky. It’s quite clear, is it not? If Ukraine is the last European country prepared to fight, to hold out against totalitarianism, then President Zelensky is going to fight them on the beaches. The barricades now.

It’s a sign of how far Western civilisation has crashed that the farming out to protect it physically is left to the people in Ukraine, actually a big country, far, far away, of which so many even in the West know so little. Even in the instant, visual age!

I suppose some in the West imagine a leader who has retreated to his bunker.
That’s a Blofeld for you, rather.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
9 months ago

The only problem with this comment is that Ukraine was not exactly a model of democracy. Ukraine is every bit as autocratic and corrupt as Russia. While everybody can agree that Russia’s actions are egregious, one cannot say they weren’t provoked by the West, including the CIA sponsored overthrow of the previous government in 2014.

Perry de Havilland
Perry de Havilland
9 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

The last election in Ukraine was free and fair (does anyone really claim otherwise?).
The notion the CIA was the driver of the 2014 outser of Putin’s puppet is how ‘Russia Today’ wants people to see it, but the reality is it was caused by internal political pressures (i.e. the brutal way the government was acting). Not only do people vastly overestimate the CIA, they tend to badly underestimate the local drivers of political action.
https://www.samizdata.net/2022/02/the-americocentric-delusion/

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
9 months ago

How was the Yanukovich government brutal? No journalists got cut into four. A genuine protest about the failure to sign the AA ( and what prompted the EU to tell Ukraine that they would have to leave their existing Eurasian trade agreement if they fid god on,y knows) was suddenly armed, 50 trade unionists were burnt alive in Odessa, armed conflict erupted in the Maidan, the US flew in and started selecting members of a new government, Yanukovich fled ,thus avoiding the prison habitual for past Presidents, and his power base, the Donbass , declared independence. The new President was so corrupt he had been sacked even from Ukrainian governments three times. However, he knew his role, sent tanks into the rebel areas, and cut off pensions and medical supplies to the east.Ukraine is currently the poorest country in Europe, with huge resources. So one has to ask, where is the money going? Why has the west never tried to control those oligarchs?

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
9 months ago

That’s what you’d like to think. Perhaps talk to some Ukrainians and see what they think. They will tell you that everybody knows the 2014 ouster was a coup organized by the CIA. It’s not some secret.

Andy Moore
Andy Moore
9 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

CIA sponsored overthrow, that’s an interesting comment on an article about propaganda.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
9 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

You have the most wonderfully benign view of Putin’s Russia. Not least of the differences are that Ukraine has not threatened Russia, not massed its troops on her borders, not knocked off internal opposition with poison, and not rewritten history to suit an imperial narrative. And as for the CIA sponsoring the Maidan Revolution, that is untrue and demeaning to Ukrainian democrats.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
9 months ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

No it’s no insulting. I was just talking this morning to my Ukrainian postdoc and she said that everybody knows that the 2014 coup was CIA sponsored. So who to believe. Western intelligence or actual Ukrainians. (And she isn’t from East Ukraine or Crimea).

Dennis Boylon
Dennis Boylon
9 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss
Dennis Boylon
Dennis Boylon
9 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

I don’t know. Have Russian actions been egregious. I’m not so sure. They could have leveled cities and they haven’t. I’m willing to wait and see. Are they even going to attempt to invade the far West? They struck some military facilities there but I really doubt they are going there. As of right now it looks like they are going to take over the Donbas and the land along the Azov sea.

Andrew F
Andrew F
9 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

There were free election in Ukraine, unlike Russia.
In view of Russian actions in Ukraine and further charges against Navalny your comments are just plain lies.
You are nothing more then Putin stooge and appeaser of murderous dictator.
I hope you sleep well at night when Russian bombs are destroying Kiev.

Dennis Boylon
Dennis Boylon
9 months ago
Reply to  Andrew F

No there wasn’t. There literally was a Coup in Ukraine. It was a 50/50 split largely before Russia took Crimea back into Russia. After that the other side had the election advantage. Russia breaking off the Donbas will make that even more so.

James Chater
James Chater
9 months ago

Yes, the Russian military probably will brutalise their way to some sort of ‘victory’ but the resources & methods used to make people (pilots, soldiers,sailors) into dumb units of killing will be stretched in this case.
This isn’t a civil war, but as we know because of the familial connections it must feel like one in so many cases. For pursuing this alone Putin should be in prison for life.
Please for goodness sake, it does not happen but if they do kill thousands of people indiscrimately, then yes, at the very least another perpetual cold war will be here, officially.

Last edited 9 months ago by James Chater
Antony Hirst
Antony Hirst
9 months ago

From my perspective, I am struggling to think of any news items showing footage that actually turned out to be true or not utterly misleading.
I have also been watching Russia Today, the other side of the clearly overt propaganda war. But they seem to be focusing on the attacks on ethnic Russian civilians by the Ukrainian army/militia/whatever. Either it is not true or our media simply does not want the nuance (it is usually the latter).

Richard Kuslan
Richard Kuslan
9 months ago

“…suceeded in reordering reality.” I stopped reading at the sub-title. Unherd has been herding a lot lately.

Fintan Power
Fintan Power
9 months ago

The first casualty of war is the truth. And we do not know the full truth of what is going on. As regards the notion that Ukraine is doing better on the internet: this brings to mind the first ever television debates between two American presidential candidates, Richard Milhouse Nixon and John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Kennedy won because he embraced the new form with gusto whereas Nixon was seen to be ill at ease. And Kennedy was a young and handsome candidate whereas Nixon looked old and stale. So perhaps there is something in what is being said. But it will be a long time before the full truth of what is happening on the ground emerges.

Bryan Dale
Bryan Dale
9 months ago

No one serious uses Twitter any more. It’s an echo chamber for leftist fascists who want to control everyone. Intelligent people can see through the propaganda and understand Ukraine is on the same side as the fascists who are destroying freedom and democracy in the west. The more support Ukraine gets from the likes of Trudeau and Biden, the more people understand that it’s Russia that’s fighting for freedom.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
9 months ago
Reply to  Bryan Dale

Thank you Mr Putin for your contribution

Raymond C
Raymond C
9 months ago

Report from a man in western Ukraine. “Missiles are coming over but we don’t know where they are going. Russian army asking directions from Ukrainians. Many Russian army personnel didn’t know that it was a real war and thought they were on an exercise.” The Ukranian man is a friend of my friend in the UK who has experience in Ukraine. David Hathaway, a man who does missions in the Ukraine, has said that Putin has consulted a Shaman which is a kind of occultic priest.