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Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
7 months ago

This was a great interview, exactly why I am a subscriber to Unherd.

I have to say that here, I am very sceptical about Varoufakis’ views. He might be on the money in understanding that going for a compromise now would be the best way of stopping the loss of lives ASAP, but there are two big fat flies in that pot of ointment:
1. You’d need the Ukrainians onside for that and I really doubt whether they are prepared to give what would persuade Putin to withdraw (ie Donbass, Luhansk, Crimea…). As we’ve seen, they are proud people, willing to die to defend their soil. It is not for the West to dictate to them from outside when they have to give up which bits of their land. Pressure will surely be applied, but I strongly suspect that their will to fight will mean the war continuing for some time.
2. Any negotiated settlement sends the message out to Putin that if he applies brute force and commits atrocities, he will get a bit of what he wants. Unless you find a way of eliminating the risk of future conflicts in the settlement, you are just kicking the most enormous and toxic can full of anthrax down the road. At some point there will (have to) be a zero-sum-game stand off.

Now that might make me a warmonger in YV’s eyes, but the reason normally quite cuddly and amenable Western liberals like yours truly have suddenly gone quite gung-ho is that this touches on the core values of a liberal, ie freedom and self-determination. The West collectively was having an identity crisis even before this all blew up, so that this conflict has become a proxy existential struggle on both a personal and wider ideological & political level.

polidori redux
polidori redux
7 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

I would find it very easy to agree with you, but sometimes our heads have to overrule our hearts. It sticks in our craw to give Putin anything, but if he goes home empty-handed then his career, and probably his life, is on the line. When people talk of putting Putin on trial for his war crimes, my blood runs cold. Men who control a nuclear arsenal don’t get put on trial, except by their own people. There is no super authority, no international police force that can enforce the “rule of law”. International law, except between consenting adults, is an utterly fake concept. Help Ukraine get as much as it can out of negotiations with Putin, but total victory for the good guys is a pipedream.

Peter B
Peter B
7 months ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Putin’s future career prospects and safety are of no interest to me. You appear to have some sympathy for this serial liar and criminal. Why ?

polidori redux
polidori redux
7 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

I have no sympathy. Read my post again! Consider what I said. Not what you imagined I said.

Henry Ganteaume
Henry Ganteaume
7 months ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Exactly.

Peter B
Peter B
7 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

It sticks in our craw to give Putin anything, but if he goes home empty-handed then his career, and probably his life, is on the line.”
That’s what you said.
I have to assume this is not quite what you meant. I think your wording is a little careless as it certainly implies that Putin’s welfar should be a consideration here. We’re well past that stage.
Also this:
“but total victory for the good guys is a pipedream”.
That is not a fact. It is only certain that Russia cannot “win”. All other outcomes remain possible.

Mike Wylde
Mike Wylde
7 months ago
Reply to  polidori redux

You’re very cavalier in giving away the right of Ukrainians to live their lives in the way they want to. Next you’ll be saying Poland, Lithuania, Estonia and others should give their lives and countries away so that Putin doesn’t get what he deserves. It’s not for you to decide what’s best for Ukraine or anywhere else.

polidori redux
polidori redux
7 months ago
Reply to  Mike Wylde

You appear to be critising me for holding opinions that I have not offered, and certainly do not hold. You are not entitled to “re-interpret” my statements to mean something other than what I said.
It is often held that the first casualty of war is the truth. I am beginning to think that this is not so: The first casualty of war is the ability to read simple sentences and understand them.
The great tragedy of mankind, Mike, is that people rarely “get what they deserve”. This is why we invented the concepts of heaven and hell: Places where we will get our just deserts.

Iris C
Iris C
7 months ago
Reply to  polidori redux

To my mind, there are always war crimes in war situations and it is hypocritical of Joe Biden to point the finger at Russia when there are documented incidents of the USA being involved in torture both within and without Iraq and Syria

Martin Logan
Martin Logan
7 months ago
Reply to  Iris C

So what you are really saying is that if someone else does it, it’s OK for Russia to do it.
Americans have been tried for war crimes in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Until I see Russians on the stand, you make no sense.

polidori redux
polidori redux
7 months ago
Reply to  Iris C

But Iris, this is “argument by whataboutery”. Judging by what we see and hear, the behaviour of the Russian forces in Ukraine is bestial. War is rarely “glorious”, but the deliberate targeting of unarmed women and children can never be excused.

Henry Ganteaume
Henry Ganteaume
7 months ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Bravo redux. Be practical. I have for the first time ever been guided in my opinions by VF. Yes, reality is harsh sometimes.

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
7 months ago
Reply to  polidori redux

I take your point but I don’t agree it. If the contention is Putin is a limited intellect(in the sense that he can’t even contemplate a different and more democratic way, running a gangster type state then getting quite a bit of what he wants through violence can only encourage him.
Whether he and his supporting cabal consider full on, old fashioned invading, or just other bullying methods.
For example does a *resolution* in which the Eastern regions, right to Crimea and the land bridge between the two are all conceded, along with neutrality, whatever that’s meant to mean and entail, mean that Norstream2 gets back on?
Or the oligarchs sail off all their ships to Dubai and exchange London trophy property assets for ones in the Middle east or wherever after two months of financial inconvenience?.

stephen archer
stephen archer
7 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

I have to agree with you, especially point 2. He cannot be allowed to win by keeping Donbas, Crimea and a slice of the Black Sea coast westwards towards Odessa. This will just embolden him to take the next steps, continual destabilisation of Europe (eg refugee mass movement), testing the Europe/US alliance, threatening the Baltic states then Finland/Sweden. He has to be weakened significantly now. The indiscriminate slaughter of civilian populations and destruction of Ukrainian towns and cities puts him on a par with Adolf. There can be no compromise. As you say, we’d just be delaying the real crunch issue. There will be no victory for Ukraine, it’s already past that, but any kind of victory for Putin must never be allowed to happen.

Last edited 7 months ago by stephen archer
Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
7 months ago
Reply to  stephen archer

Realistic negotiation is a must and I do believe that there is a point where Putin will need an off-ramp – not because he wants to give up, but because his people will start turning. Allowing a war to continue with a nuclear country is madness. Both parties going away dissatisfied is a good way to describe negotiation.
I also think Varoufakis goes a bit too easy on the US. The US is a warmonger. It is hugely corrupt and needs cleaning up – but that won’t begin to happen while it is unstable and being lead by a president who is corrupt himself, protected by the bulk of the press and doesn’t have control of his faculties.
I want to add that I have only managed to watch half of this interview so far so probably have missed some important parts not covered in the text.
Another stand out picked up from Unherd is that Ukraine means ‘periphery’ in Russian. This is an indication of how complex this conflict is.

stephen archer
stephen archer
7 months ago

Giving Russia an off-ramp is desirable but is giving Putin an off-ramp based on his actions over the last 2 months and then 8 years a feasable proposal? The thing is, he has to be severely undermined and subject to internal forces if Ukraine and the West is going to achieve a stable future, with the prospect of rebuilding most of what has been destroyed. What kind of off-ramp would Hitler have been worthy of in 1944?

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
7 months ago
Reply to  stephen archer

Great question ….

Rick Fraser
Rick Fraser
7 months ago

I don’t think it’s realistic to expect “his people will start turning.” Just the use of the phrase “his people” is indicative enough that such a turning is wildly improbable. The propaganda machine in Russia is now complete and utterly impenetrable. As such, “his people” will be fed, and most will ultimately believe, whatever he decides to tell them.

Last edited 7 months ago by Rick Fraser
Peter B
Peter B
7 months ago
Reply to  Rick Fraser

They will believe it … until they don’t. At some point, the Russians will stop writing and believing “fake history” as they have been for the past 100 years. The reality check will be quite something.

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
7 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

Every dictator rules with a unbreakable rod of iron…until suddenly they don’t. I don’t believe the West will modulate responses on the basis Putin is impossible to shift, although I am sure they will avoid saying it (except for Joe Biden who seems to say anything these days but eveeryone knows he doesn’t really mean it).
Indeed the economic sanctions will need to be a 2nd cold war and not predicated only on being policy till the shooting stops and Zelensky is forced to sign something?

Michael K
Michael K
7 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

1. You seem to misunderstand the situation. There is nothing anybody can do to take the Donbas away from Putin. Russia has recognized it and others as independent regions and have sent their military to help. There has been a civil war going on for at least 8 years, and there was significant bombing the week before the invasion. Even if the Donbas was somehow “given” back to Ukraine, zero problems would be solved. Putin did not create this problem. Some claim the Russians in Eastern Ukraine were placed there by the USSR intentionally. This may be true, but it doesn’t change today’s situation.
2. I agree with that sentiment in general. However, in this case we have to look at the origins of the situation. Even if we suppose that Putin is evil and wants to reconstitute the Soviet Union at any cost, we (the West) should not have made justification of military intervention easier by NATO expansion, regime change in Ukraine, civil war in the Donbas and so on. A zero sum game is a fair perspective, but only if it is not based on any kind of provocation to begin with. One can use all kinds of verbal attacks like Putin lover, -troll, Westsplainer, it does not change the fact that this situation was – and is being – handled terribly by the West. Why do you think it is we even need these terms? Why are there so many people who seem to be understanding of Putin’s moves? Are they all deluded? No, of course not. They are simply taking an alternative, but equally fair, view of the situation. Both those who cry for war and those who cry for capitulation are essentially trying to solve the same problem, but with very black-and-white approaches.

Henry Ganteaume
Henry Ganteaume
7 months ago
Reply to  Michael K

Right on.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
7 months ago
Reply to  Michael K

The history of the Donbas region is most remarkable leading to an interesting mix in the population there. I do see Zelenskyy hedging on the area, moving it to the side along with Crimea to give Putin a way out. Neither of these leaders are stupid. Meanwhile the Azov army must be managed carefully because they are owned by the bosses that own some of Zelenskyy. He can’t afford offending them either but knows they must eventually be controlled.
The 8 year Donbas war is far from over but if Zelenskyy can buy time and Putin can be mollified and the sanctions reduced there are good chances to reduce the scope of violence. We shall ee.

Michael K
Michael K
7 months ago
Reply to  Hardee Hodges

I believe essentially both leaders know what is going on and how limited their capabilities really are, and both are just trying to better their standing for eventual negotiations. Of course in the process, a lot of innocent people die…

Last edited 7 months ago by Michael K
Rick Fraser
Rick Fraser
7 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Liberals with core values of freedom and self-determination seem to have gone out of fashion in the U.S. Many, if not most liberals today seem all too willing to dictate how people should be allowed to live their lives, or to dicate what information people can or cannot be trusted to be exposed to.

KM
KM
7 months ago

3000 words or so from my compatriot to basically say we need to appease Putin who started this war.
Not my place to tell Ukranians to surrender their arms, as this seems to be the only way out right now considering Putin’s intransigence backed up by indiscriminate military pressure on the people of Ukraine.
And surely, mistakes have been made by Ukraine, by EU, by NATO, by Russia but it was ultimately the latter that launched this – seemingly so far unsuccessful militarily – invasion.
And theory and hot air is good but ultimately I would ask Mr. Varoufakis what exactly this off-ramp is. I believe that Ukraine staying out of NATO (as if there ever was any serious consideration, everybody talks about joining NATO as if just paying a sub and off we go, the obligations of a NATO member are unknown to those who speak so offhandendly) is already on the table.
But Putin wants clearly regime change, the only way he could have achieved it was through sheer force but he miscalculated. Now, his aim is to bring this about by humiliating Zlelesky in a shameful deal.
Is that what Mr. Varoufakis’ off-ramp means? Peace yes, of course, but by all means and at any cost?
Not convinced at all

Kat Kazak
Kat Kazak
7 months ago
Reply to  KM

I feel like his idea can be summed up by “bad peace is better than a good war.”

Francis Turner
Francis Turner
7 months ago

That’s madness. There is no way that the Ukrainian army is going to defeat the panoply of the Russian army in Mariupol, in the areas between Crimea, and Donbas. All power to them if they can do it. I don’t believe that Zelenskyy believes it. I don’t believe that anybody actually believes it. Yes, it is wonderful that Putin did not walk into Kyiv unopposed. It’s wonderful that he’s been given a bloody nose. This is the time to sue for peace.

A couple of weeks ago I might have agreed with the argument that Ukraine cannot defeat Russia everywhere. I am considerably less convinced today. In the north the Russians have been defeated. Utterly. We may never know the accurate Russian death toll there but it could well be in the 20-30% range with the same again injured plus those taken prisoner. I.e. half the invasion force is dead, injured or captured. Based on the documented equipment losses (photos usually geolocated etc.) they certainly appear to have lost a third of the equipment they invaded with.
This level of defeat is morale crushing. The units that went into the North will not be combat capable for a year or more, claims of “redeployment to Dombas ” will need to be taken with several tsp of salt
So what about the South and East? Well the Ukrainian army in the Dombas is holding its own just fine and N of Kherson the Russians are also on the back foot if not actually retreating, so the issue is the coast to Crimea. Well again we’re looking at logistical issues and the Russians failure to achieve anything like air superiority.
And don’t forget all those lovely drones that blocked the 40 mile convoy etc. can now be redeployed. Russia has limited routes into and out of Crimea (basically two into Ukraine plus the Kerch bridge) and destroying those railways and roads – two of each plus a bridge combo – will essentially isolate Crimea. With Crimea isolated by land resupply for all those forces near it becomes tricky and the Ukrainians have already shown that naval resupply is vulnerable (see Berdansk).
So really the only places that Russia can hold is the coast from ~Mariupol to Russia. And that only works presuming Russian logistics in the Donbas work and are not disrupted.

Last edited 7 months ago by Francis Turner
Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
7 months ago
Reply to  Francis Turner

Much good analysis that I agree about. Actually a few anti-ship missiles would create even more havoc for the Russians. It seems Zelenskyy may allow the Donbas to be undecided for Russia with some withdrawals on both sides as Ukraine turns forces south. The northern troops are now more than capable fighters and the Azov types now less important except for their backers. As you note the upper reaches may be recovered soon. But Russia’s failures on great display must make western war planners excited.

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
7 months ago

Am I missing something? Zelensky is shouting out for more (military) support and ‘The West’ are being cautious. I don’t see any war mongers apart from Putin. And… Ukraine is nobody’s pawn.

Paul Smithson
Paul Smithson
7 months ago

On a superficial level you’re right, but scratch the surface and there is some pretty odious stuff underneath and much of this smell can be linked directly to the USA (Hunter Biden’s laptop, biolabs that were initially denied but turned out to be true, billions of dollars passing through, protests and elections that follow the American regime change playbook, etc). ‘The West’ might not be directly on the ground, but they are undoubtedly fighting a full on proxy war with Russia.

Andrew Walker
Andrew Walker
7 months ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

“biolabs…” Every normal country has biolabs – the question is the nature of the work they carry out. It has been categorically denied that the Ukrainian labs were engaged in work for biological weapons.

Martin Logan
Martin Logan
7 months ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

It’s the evidence that isn’t there that proves the West is guilty.
You cite no hard evidence for any of this. Hunter Biden’s laptop, if it is genuine, has much more to do with China than Ukraine.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
7 months ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

What was on Biden’s laptop that’s linked to Russias unprovoked invasion? Ukraine is a fairly financially corrupt country by western standards so I don’t doubt that Hunter was up to no good enriching himself through his fathers name, but what does that have to do with the current conflict?
There are biolabs all over the world, only a tiny percentage are anything to do with weapons. Do you have any proof that the ones in Ukraine are for arms rather than research?
It’s been well documented that the US, Britain and other nations have been sending money, weapons and military training to Ukraine ever since Russias first invasion with Crimea and their subsequent invasions of the eastern regions. Why is this supposedly a conspiracy?
As for the protests that removed the previous President, even if the Americans did help it along with some financial backing (of which I’ve seen no evidence) that’s vastly different from being a coup, as the protests enjoyed large scale public support and subsequent elections have been disastrous for pro Kremlin parties. Why is the Americans using their influence bad yet the Russians doing the same thing seemingly ok?

J Bryant
J Bryant
7 months ago

Great interview. I doubt, however, Biden will provide Putin with an off ramp unless the Ukraine war takes a much heavier toll on the US economy and the political cost to Biden becomes too great.
Biden has talked himself into a corner, imo. He’s doing everything possible short of direct military confrontation with Russia, and he uses the sharpest rhetoric against Putin such as calling him a war criminal. It would be a big political risk for Biden now to facilitate meaningful peace talks that would allow Putin to save face, especially in a mid term election year. Biden might ultimately be seen as a great peace maker but the republicans would inevitably portray him and his party as weak.
I suspect Biden wants to use this war to try to break the Putin regime and “off ramps” aren’t in his game plan.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
7 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Calling for Putin’s removal from power was possibly not a gaffe but a very public message sent to the Russians stating one of the conditions for a ceasefire.

Norm Haug
Norm Haug
7 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

If Biden’s plan is to break Putin, the result could become catastrophic. However, if Biden is seen to be responsible for finding a diplomatic solution to the war, it might help him to win the mid-term elections, a prospect that seems unlikely at this moment.

Caroline Murray
Caroline Murray
7 months ago

I find these arguments interesting, but not convincing. The stumbling block is that the eastern European nations should never be pawns in the stand-off between Russia and the West. It might be ‘useful’ to both those parties to have a ‘neutral’ area in eastern Europe, but the huge doubts (built from grim historical experience) that Russia will honour that neutrality are the reason why so many eastern countries joined NATO as soon as they were able to.

John Riordan
John Riordan
7 months ago

Varoufakis’s main point – that what matters most is the Ukrainians dying – is sound.

However, he seems to miss a few important things elsewhere: “Because what was a dying industry in the United States now suddenly has been given a huge lease of life.” – well why was American fracking a “dying” industry? Mainly because of f***-headed ideas like we-hate-fossil-fuels-so-we’re-going-to-stop-extracting-them-here-and-buy-from-Russia-instead.

One of the principle reasons why Putin felt able to gamble on a Ukraine campaign was that he believed, correctly as it turns out, that the West was too dependent upon Russian oil and gas to mount any serious non-military opposition. It is not war-mongering to support the USA’s revival of energy independence and exports, it is a geopolitical imperative that will be a guarantor of future peace. This applies even more strongly to the UK and Polish shale gas and coal deposits and to nuclear power.

And as for defence spending itself, the world was a more peaceful place when the West was in a position to talk softly and carry a big stick. Don’t pretend the need for this isn’t still true. It’s not warmongering, it’s peace-mongering.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
7 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Of that it would be on the cars for the US to become energy independent again, but unfortunately with sleepy Jo that doesn’t look to be on the cards. It took less than a year for Jo to decimate the US oil and gas production industry at home. Just insane.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
7 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Actually the demise of the industry in investment terms started with green placements on Exxon’s board some years ago. That decline in investment shows as fewer rigs opening. Biden simply ensured they would have difficulties by creating more obstacles. They don’t mind all those profits for buy backs and invest in Nigeria.

Igor Resch
Igor Resch
7 months ago

Varoufakis is one of those extremly smart people who, becuase of their lack of moral judgement, which is rooted in their atheistic leftism, is wrong about everything. He just is. All of his conclusions I’ve heard him talk about in the last decade since he’s on the world stage are the result that.
We can get into the weeds, as a lot of folks here in the forum have done, but thats beside the point. He’s wrong that Ukraine cannot win this war. You could well argue that they already have won it in the most central part, which is that Kiev is not gonna be taken over by Putin. And so on.
The most important point is, that there can be no moral duty to offer Putin an off-ramp because the only off-ramp for Putin is the one that runs right into his grave, where he will end up rather sooner than later. Even if Putin should survive this he will never play any part in any international political forum, as he has done for 22 years. He is done, and he is taking his country with him. Russia is done and will suffer terribly. The only moral duty here is on the side of Putin to either hang himself or stop this war, which both won’t happen.
Yannis Varoufakis – Intellectual Yet Idiot (credit to Nassim Taleb)

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
7 months ago
Reply to  Igor Resch

Surely the most important moral duty is to the lives of millions people?

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
7 months ago
Reply to  Igor Resch

I think your obituary of Putin is perhaps a touch premature and that you have simply fallen for Ukrainian propaganda hook line and sinker. Looking at the map, as well as the extent of destruction, I would say that the Russians are very far from having lost and the Ukrainians are equally far from repelling the Russian invaders completely. In 2-3 months the US public will have tired of this war as they do of all foreign affairs, and it will no longer be featured front and centre on the news. On the ground there will be a prolonged stalemate with death and destruction everywhere. Is that what you really want. Easy to want that when sitting comfortably in your armchair.

Peter B
Peter B
7 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

You are completely misreading the American and western mood on this one.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
7 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

I am absolutely not misreading the American mood. And FYI I live in the US.

Peter B
Peter B
7 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

We shall see.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
7 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

What I want as an armchair general as you call it is irrelevant, if the Ukrainians wish to continue fighting, and the population believe the costs they’re paying to be worth it to repel the Russians, then the west should give them as much assistance as they possibly can. Just because you believe that giving vast swathes of their country and citizens over to a tyrant without a fight is a desirable outcome doesn’t mean they believe the same, and until they find a compromise they’re happy to accept the transfer of arms and sanctions on Russia should continue

Igor Resch
Igor Resch
7 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

As a huge pro-american german who was born in the Soviet Union, I have no problem conceding your point about the US public being tired of this war, although you seem to forget that the US public is quite sensitive about war crimes, but whatever, time will tell. What you are missing is that this war has changed Europe, the EU and NATO forever. I was not a fan of the newly elected german left-of-center government but what has happend in the days after February 24th withing about 100 hours was a tectonic shift in public policy, and that is not an exaggeration. We have Ukrainian women having fled here all around us. Their presence alone will surely help not to forget about the war, not even speaking about the (in my view) quite likely possibility for the conflict to escalate.
To your point about me having fallen for ukranian propaganda: I don’t even know what point you are trying to make. It is very well established that russia has at the very least lost about 9.000 soldiers, which does count as “desaster”, I guess, not even talking about that this is the lower end of the estimates. The spokesperson of Putin has confessed yesterday that they are suffering enormous losses. And I also don’t know what maps you are looking at, but the most recent updates have a cleared north and no gaines by the russians for weeks in the south. I’m checking the ukrainian and russian press sources and youtube daily in the original russian and there is no getting around what I’ve said already.
A lot of people seem to forget that this war is not about ukraine having saved their cities from destruction of them getting the Krim back. It’s about dealing Putin a heavy blow and pushing the russians back, cerntainly not letting them get Kiev. Ukraine has way more to win in this war than Putin has, which is not a position you want to be in as the attacker.

Norm Haug
Norm Haug
7 months ago
Reply to  Igor Resch

If Putin is forced to leave the Ukraine without an agreement, he will gladly flatten every major Ukrainian city with shelling and missiles. Would that be a win for the Ukraine?

Igor Resch
Igor Resch
7 months ago
Reply to  Norm Haug

This is quite a materialistic way of seeing it. No matter how this war ends: Putin has already done more to strenghten the ukranian national identity with all that comes with it. In historic terms, this is of central significance.
I also doubt that he will gladly flatten every mayor Ukrainian city, as that will surely be his own death sentence, be it politically, economically or physically.

David Bell
David Bell
7 months ago
Reply to  Norm Haug

By that time Ukraine will possess longrange surface to surface missiles so they will be able to respond in kind on Russian cities.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
7 months ago
Reply to  Igor Resch

Quite right about Putin except he remains an exceedingly dangerous person. Given him some way to end this seems Zelenskyy’s goal whatever that might take. But Putin’s days are likely over given the scope of his misjudgment, but how?

David Bell
David Bell
7 months ago
Reply to  Igor Resch

I agree. Varoufakis is a perma-pessimist who completely underestimates Ukrainian resolve yet over-estimates Russia’s ability to continue waging the war. With the loss of its vassal states following the fall of the Soviet Union its population fell from 270 million in 1982 to just 146 million now. Even after losing 42 million in WW2 it stood at 170 million at the end of the war. To put it in geographical context, it has a population smaller than Bangladesh spread thinly and unevenly over a vast land mass that embraces 12 time zones and borders 14 nations. The borders exceed the entire length of the Equator. Add to that, the population and lifespan are both declining. It will be ripe for China to take back large areas that it considers its own (including Vladivostok, originally founded as Yongmingcheng but ceded to Russia in 1858). Putin has fatally damaged his country and it may never recover.

Last edited 7 months ago by David Bell
Andrew Walker
Andrew Walker
7 months ago

Once again we read the canard that NATO promised not to expand into Eastern Europe. Varufakis should be ashamed of himself for reiterating it. I quote from an article by Steven Pifer in 2014. “Gorbachev replied: “The topic of ‘NATO expansion’ was not discussed at all, and it wasn’t brought up in those years. … Another issue we brought up was discussed: making sure that NATO’s military structures would not advance and that additional armed forces would not be deployed on the territory of the then-GDR after German reunification. Baker’s statement was made in that context… Everything that could have been and needed to be done to solidify that political obligation was done. And fulfilled.”
The repeated lie about this non-existent promise is what Putin used, inter alia, to justify his war. He had no valid reason for the war, and it is naive to think he will sue for peace as long as he can continue bombing Ukraine with impunity.

Claire D
Claire D
7 months ago

Well said.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
7 months ago

Varoufakis is probably a very nice and decent man. He is also one of the most naive people to ever get into a position of political power. When Merkel and Schauble were playing good monetary cop – bad monetary cop with him in 2015, he thought Merkel was sympathetic to his cause. He also thought that Tsipras and the rest of Syriza were more interested in the good of the Greek people than in their own political careers and wealth. Now Varoufakis believes that that nice Mr Putin will take Donbas, Luhansk and the Crimea, order his troops home and he himself will put his feet up. I’m confident that if Varoufakis had been asked in January, he would have said ‘its mad to think Putin will invade Ukraine’. Varoufakis’ failure is to understand that Putin is demanding that Eastern Europe leaves itself permanently vulnerable to Russian invasion and therefore to Russian intimidation. Sovereign countries have a right to seek protection from invasion and attack and to adopt policies in their own interests and not those of Russia.
If Putin is able to claim victory, he will increase the domestic repression in Russia ahead of another military campaign once the Russian military has regrouped. It is the Russian military who should be offered a safe journey home and the price of that safe journey home is Putin’s removal. Whether that involves a bullet in the back of his head is up to the Russians.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
7 months ago

The West could promise to sell all sanctioned assets belonging to Putin’s cronies and promise to return the money to the next Russian government that is chosen in free and fair elections.

David Bell
David Bell
7 months ago

I think Ukraine should be first in the queue for the Russian dosh as compensation for Russia’s invasion and destruction.

Peter B
Peter B
7 months ago

Varoufakis. One of those people like Polly Toynbee. Can sometimes cound credible. But always wrong.
We have no “moral duty” to help Putin. Here’s a man who’s the world biggest thief and liar and a premier league killer. We’d stick him in Broadmoor.
In fact, if we have any moral duty here it is to help the Russian people get rid of Putin. The only way that will happen is if he is seen to lose and be humiliated in front of his own people. And that needs to be as harsh and brutal as possible in order to shock them into changing their ways for the better and not continuing to wallow in Russian victimhood. This approach actually worked with Germany and Japan in WWII. We’re not going to like it, but continuing to kick the can down the road is doing no one any favours.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
7 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

In WWII the allies totally defeated Germany and Japan. It is not possible to totally defeat Russian without mutually assured destruction. You know there’s the little issue of 6000 plus nukes the Russians have together with the appropriate delivery systems. So you can talk big as long as you’re sitting safely at home, but you won’t be talking big if this war engulfs the whole of Europe including the UK. Is that a very real possibility. I would say yes given the precedent of 1914 and WWI.
Ultimately some sort of compromise solution will have to be obtained if this war isn’t going to go on forever. That probably means partition of Ukraine into Western and Eastern blocks along the lines/borders at the time a ceasefire is negotiated. While not satisfactory for Ukraine it is probably what is going to happen if one is realistic.
As for talk about regime change in Russia that is foolhardy and the US’s track record with regard to regime change in foreign countries has not been successful anywhere but has led to chaos and destruction. Just look at Iraq or Libya, let alone the mess created in many south American countries. In the context of Russia, perhaps better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know.

Peter B
Peter B
7 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

There will be no nuclear war over Ukraine. Every time Putin escalates further or misses an opportunity to negotiate (he’s already missed several), the Americans will slowly ratchet up the pressure, one small notch at a time. There will be no dramatic “trigger point”. Ukraine is holding the Russians today with only a fraction of the western support that is possible.
Hard to predict here, but I think the economic and psychological pressure and domestic dissent (military and civilian) will eventually crack Putin and his cronies. As well as the brain drain as honest, smart, competent Russians leave.
I don’t know why everyone assumes the Americans are stupid here. Biden’s certainly not first rate. But the military side of things is.
No one is talking about imposing “regime change” on Russia. They need to sort this out for themselves if they’re ever going to be welcome in the international community again. I’m sure plenty of people in Russia understand that.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
7 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

Unfortunately the US military is no longer what it used to be. They are more interested in so-called “white rage” among their ranks, what nail polish the women recruits can wear, and what color socks people can wear. Sorry but the US military is lead by a bunch of know-nothings, as is clearly evident from the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, not to mention all the billions of dollars in military equipment they left behind, abandoned to the Taliban.
As for Putin, I would argue that every ratchet up of the economic pressure actually makes Putin stronger not weaker, and in conjunction hurts the west more. Supposedly the “rouble had turned to ruble” according to Jo Biden a few days ago, but now the Rouble has rebounded to its level before the invasion. Yet gas prices in the US have increased by 70% since the invasion – that hurts in the pocket of regular Americans, far more so than in say the UK, as the distances that people commute is so much greater. The US cuts off and confiscates dollars from Russia, and blocks SWIFT transactions – guess what Russia responds by insisting it be payed in roubles for gas. etc. etc. etc…. The Germans may not like that but recall 40% of their gas comes from Russia, and it’s not like they’re going to get anything from the US since the US is no longer elf-sufficient in energy thanks to Biden’s policies. Further, there are plenty of large and economically powerful countries who have not sided with the west including China and India.
And yes Jo Biden, the supposed leader of the free world, talked explicitly about regime change in his speech in Poland. While off script that was from the heart and that’s what he felt, although it was completely inappropriate to say that and very unhelpful to any negotiated settlement. Likewise calling Putin a war criminal to be tried at the Hague is equally unhelpful.

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
7 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Donald Brennan’s 1962* acronym no longer applies, in fact is doubtful if it ever did.
Russia has no answer to the USN’s Ohio class, ballistic submarines, nor is its ICBM arsenal likely or perhaps even capable of striking the US. However as you hint Europe, would be literally vaporised in any such conflict to such an extent that even Pyrrhus would be impressed!

(*Dr Strangelove anyone?)

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
7 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

That partition is unlikely IMHO. But the Donbas itself might create mutual withdrawals as Zelenskyy bids his time.

David Bell
David Bell
7 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

No need to attack Russia. They are destroying themselves.

Norm Haug
Norm Haug
7 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

Kicking the can down the road serves two purposes. First, it might save hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian lives. Secondly, it provides some time for Putin supporters, who have been subject to a blanket of propaganda, to find out the truth about, Russia’s “Special Military Action”.

Peter B
Peter B
7 months ago
Reply to  Norm Haug

It might save some Ukrainian lives in 2022. But not in the conflicts that will come later. Better to get this all sorted now.

Martin Logan
Martin Logan
7 months ago

It’s rather comical that the Greek Varoufakis, of all people, maintains that Greece came about because the West “sat down with the Turks.”
Sorry, the Turks “sat down” because they lost much of their fleet at Navarino–courtesy of the West.
Putin does not believe in “dialogue.” He only believes in strength.
Putin is in far too deep. He will push until he either takes Ukraine, or loses everything.
Don’t kid yourselves.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
7 months ago
Reply to  Martin Logan

The Ottoman and Soviet Russia’s ideas on negotiation and treaties were very similar; the sole purpose of negotiation or treaty was to obtain an advantage not otherwise obtainable.

Andrew F
Andrew F
7 months ago
Reply to  Martin Logan

Exactly.
I am amazed that YV was not challenged on that during interview.
Let say Turkey decides that fall of Ottoman empire was “great geopolitical tragedy” and wants restoration of pre 1827 borders.
Should the West agree to it and ignore wishes of Greek, Bulgarian etc citizens?
That is the essence of Russia claims about Ukraine….

David Bell
David Bell
7 months ago
Reply to  Andrew F

Excellent point. V appears to have a weak grasp of his own country’s history.

Peter B
Peter B
7 months ago
Reply to  David Bell

He seems to have a weak grasp of reality in general.

David Bell
David Bell
7 months ago
Reply to  Martin Logan

I think Varoufakis is drawing a false parallel with the German invasion of Greece in WW2 and the current war in Ukraine. He ignores the fact that the German army was highly efficient and experienced, unlike the shambolic horde of looters and cutthroats that seem to comprise Russia’s army.

Stephen Wood
Stephen Wood
7 months ago

Thank God for UnHerd. Too few sane voices right now.

David Nebeský
David Nebeský
7 months ago

“…there was an agreement between Gorbachev and George Bush Senior that Gorbachev would let Eastern Europe go its own way, on the condition that Nato would not expand eastward. We know that; this is well established.”
The author is a liar and spreads Russian war propaganda. Nothing of the sort was ever promised to the Russians (the Warsaw Pact existed at the time and no one would have thought of expanding NATO to include the Warsaw Pact countries), the Russians didn’t invent it until about a decade later. There is no proof of this, nothing like this was ever signed.
I couldn’t read the rest of the article. I’m very sad to see how many pro-Russian articles and comments have been appearing on UnHerd since Russia invaded Ukraine.

Toby Webster
Toby Webster
7 months ago

I really don’t get YV’s disconnect as regards the EU. I have always suspected that the EU trying to fold Ukraine into its ‘sphere of influence’ (aka technocratic imperium) was a direct poke in Putin’s eye in 2014, and I cannot now see how Ukraine’s membership of the EU would be remotely acceptable to Putin, any more than membership of NATO. He sees Ukrainians as members of greater Russia’s family.

Am I off the mark with this?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
7 months ago
Reply to  Toby Webster

However the Ukrainians clearly don’t feel the same way so whose opinion takes priority, Putins or the citizens of Ukraine?

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

You only mention 2 – there is a 3rd. Surrounding countries and the rest of the world.

Andrew F
Andrew F
7 months ago
Reply to  Toby Webster

No, you are perfectly correct.
Putin apologist forget that Putin was against 2014 association agreement between Ukraine and EU and soon after invaded Crimea.
Anyone even vaguely familiar with Russia history would see invasion of Ukraine as another expression of Russian imperialist mindset.
That is why removing Putin does not solve anything long term.
Majority of Russians think like Putin (i would say at least 70%).
That is why all this talk of “allowing Russia to join NATO in 90s, membership of EU, Marshall Plan for Russia, etc” is just nonsense.

Mike Hind
Mike Hind
7 months ago

Having observed in my own newsletter that the idea of a negotiated peace in Ukraine is weirdly unfashionable, this interview is a breath of fresh air.

Yan Chernyak
Yan Chernyak
7 months ago

Lost interest early, here:
>> The International Monetary Fund, forcing Russia into an awful default in 1998 that caused the life expectancy of men in Russia to drop from 75 to 58.

When someone is so wrong in preposition, there’s no point in following the argument, really

Last edited 7 months ago by Yan Chernyak
Martin Logan
Martin Logan
7 months ago

It might be well to actually listen to people who know something about war, and who actually predicted this particular war. People like Bob Lee and Michael Kofman.
Most of Russia’s manoeuvre elements have already been committed, and suffered huge losses, producing zero morale. Moreover, there are no “vast military reserves” in the East, as in 1941. Putin chose to create a relatively small professional army because Russia’s economy was far smaller than the Soviet.
Kofman thinks Putin’s political goals are now unattainable, whatever he does on the battlefield, and that regime change is just around the corner.
But Kofman has been proven right in his assessments, while Varoufakis’ actions in the real world have been rather…suboptimal.
So naturally, we go with Varoufakis!

R S Foster
R S Foster
7 months ago

…convincing IF, but only IF anyone believes that Putin would settle for a Non-Aligned Ukraine, and a continued grip on the Donbas and Crimea. But he won’t, and anyone with any sense can see it…he will simply take his gains, lick his wounds…and start getting organised to seize Moldova from his new bases along the Black Sea Coast. As well as massing troops on the Finnish Border, and telling us that Finland applying to join NATO would be “a provocation”…

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
7 months ago
Reply to  R S Foster

Exactly. He’s actually spelled out what he plans, and when the Ukrainians say that if he succeeds, it won’t stop with Ukraine, they are only saying what Putin has already made clear; it’s back to 1997.

R Wright
R Wright
7 months ago

I’m no fan of Varoufakis, but he is eminently sensible here. Without giving the Russians a way to withdraw with their pride intact this will end in the dismemberment of Ukraine.

John Callender
John Callender
7 months ago

Excellent account of events in the Ukraine by Yanis Varoufakis. The great soldier-historian Major JFC Fuller made the point that the purpose of war is not victory, but peace. 
No military action should be initiated unless there is a realistic prospect of a peaceful solution that will hold in the long term. There is no point in Russia winning its war if the outcome is an embittered, hostile Ukrainian population and long-term antagonism with the West. There is no point in defeating Russia if the outcome is an embittered, hostile and humiliated Russia that will lick its wounds until the opportunity arises for revenge and the restoration of national prestige.
Putin has been clear and consistent over many years that Russia will not tolerate the Ukraine becoming part of NATO. Despite this, Anthony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, stated in January of this year that the US will ‘uphold the principle of NATO’s open door’ for the Ukraine. In June of last year the British destroyer, HMS Defender, sailed up the coast of Crimea, entering its 12 mile territorial limit. Western politicians should consider how such events can be interpreted as provocations by the Russians. Putin may be evil, but he means what he says.
Yanis Varoufakis is quite correct that the only option is ceasefire, negotiation and compromise on both sides. The longer this is delayed the harder it will be to achieve.

Andrew Walker
Andrew Walker
7 months ago
Reply to  John Callender

Putin has no right to dictate to a sovereign nation, Ukraine, what its foreign policy should be. The idea that Ukraine in NATO might suddenly decide to launch a war against the Russian Federation is laughable.

John Callender
John Callender
7 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Walker

Thanks Andrew. The idea of the Ukraine invading Russia is indeed laughable but this is not the point. What message is being given by a NATO warship visiting Odessa and then entering the territorial waters of the Crimea? Why would Russia not interpret this as saying that NATO would be willing to intervene militarily to reverse the annexation of the Crimea? The presence of NATO forces on the borders of a powerful, paranoid, nervous nation like Russia creates the risk of dangerous flashpoints.  
There is also history to consider. Russian national identity still embraces the Great Patriotic War in which 20 million Russians died following invasion by Nazi Germany and its allies. There is an earnest desire never to be exposed to the risk that this will be repeated. To keep the Ukraine as a neutral buffer zone makes considerable sense and would be in the interest of both Russia and the rest of Europe
It’s quite correct to say that Putin has no right to interfere in a sovereign state but people in glass houses should not be throwing stones. What right does America (sometimes with Britain in tow) have to interfere in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Iran, Yemen, Cuba, Vietnam, Cambodia, the Lebanon, most of Latin America, and many other unfortunate lands? Since the article is by Yanis Varoufakis, we might also ask what right the EU/Germany has to over-rule the democratically-elected governments of Greece and Italy? The sad reality is that powerful nations serve their own interests even if this is at the expense of weaker ones. The task is to limit such depredations without provoking a destructive war.

Andrew F
Andrew F
7 months ago
Reply to  John Callender

Unfortunately your history of ww2 is exactly like Russian propaganda.
Yes Russia was invaded by Germany in 1941.
But Russia started ww2 with Germany by invading Poland.
Then Russia attacked Finland and invaded Baltic States.
While supplying German War machine with oil and grain during invasion of Western Europe in 1940.
You are right about Russian identity though.
Russians think that invading and terrorizing smaller nations is best expression of Russia “greatness”.
Many other countries like UK and France had colonies till 1960s.
But they let go.
Time for Russia to do the same.

David Bell
David Bell
7 months ago
Reply to  Andrew F

You could have added that Stalin invaded Poland in league with Hitler under the terms of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
7 months ago
Reply to  John Callender

The NATO stuff is just fluff to justify action. Putin was losing in the Donbas so decided to take on the whole country. He will maybe do best to get some stalemate back where it started.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
7 months ago

Pity we didn’t have Varoufakis around in WW2 – with his pragmatic approach he’d have convinced the Brits to let Hitler takeover Europe in order to save more lives across Europe and keep the economy going. Who needs moral arguments?
And how would he feel if this was happening in his beloved Greece (which was on the border of the Soviet Union once)? Would he be happy to give up a major chunk of Greece, say Athens, and have Greece remain in a ‘neutral zone’ forevermore?

Mike Fraser
Mike Fraser
7 months ago

As usual Freddy’s interviews are excellent. In this case, however, Varoufakis has it, I believe, completely wrong.
1                    The examples he gives the former Yugoslavia, Ireland and the Good Friday Agreement and Macedonian release from the Ottoman Empire simply do not compare for examination and negotiation purposes to Russia invading a foreign, much smaller but large country and in the annihilating manner it is being done.
2                    That America should lead the negotiations is a nonstarter for Putin and could only ever come about if Russia lost this war and here I agree with Varoufakis; Ukraine, on its own, cannot win a war against Russia. Putin would rather fight on than be humiliated to have to negotiate with his arch-enemy America. It would also give rise to conspiracy theories, some no doubt real, of vested interests such as the arms, oil, and gas Industries and the wheat suppliers of America profiting from whatever agreement may or may not be reached
3                    My Third Point, is that Varoufakis fails to mention probably the only body that has any possibility of negotiating with Putin. That body is the UNITED NATIONS. It is the body that is mandated to bring about the cessation of aggression and sustain the peace. It is the only body that has the qualifications to do this.
 Under resolution 377 known as the “Uniting for Peace” resolution, it allowed the United Nations General Assembly to circumvent Russia’s veto recently and voted overwhelmingly to deplore Russia’s actions and demand its immediate withdrawal from Ukraine. The resolution also allows on a further vote a mandate for “…the use of armed force when necessary, to maintain or restore international peace and security.” the fact that the UN has failed to act over previous breaches of the Charter (not least the invasion of Iraq) is no reason to continue that failure now.
Now the force used may well turn out to be made up of NATO troops and others but it would be acting on behalf of the United Nations.
 A NATO force without the UN would be an act of war.
An Emergency Force mandated by the United Nations to restore the peace? That is its righteous – and legal – function, after all.
 The United nations is the only group in the world that in my view could possibly allow Putin to come out of this with agreement of some sort of settlement.
Having said all that there is a major problem here that Putin has made for himself. He has to answer for alleged war crimes. From what we have seen they are more than just alleged.

Last edited 7 months ago by Mike Fraser
Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
7 months ago
Reply to  Mike Fraser

it doesn’t matter whether you have United Nations troops or NATO troops, that effectively means US troops. But even if it didn’t, it would be entering into a full blown war with Russia and WWIII. Doesn’t matter whether the United Nations has righteousness on it side. The crusaders also thought they had righteousness on their side.
As for war crimes, best not to pre-judge the issue and not to overreact. The carpet bombing of Dresden and Tokyo could also be considered a war crime given that civilians were being targeted. And while the pictures are horrific, one might want to ask oneself whether those “civilians” shot were civilians or “enemy non-combatants” in which case they are not afforded the protections of the Geneva convention. i.e. if those so-called civilians were armed, and recall the Ukrainian government was dolling out AK47s and Kalishnikovs like smarties, and shooting at the Russians or throwing Molotov cocktail at the Russians, then they are enemy non-combatants, which is not a good position to be in. That doesn’t excuse the alleged horror and brutality of the Russian response, but war itself is horrific, and consists a lot more than little darlings sitting in a basement in front of a screen launching precision missile attacks and drone strikes. And incidentally, these guided remote missile attacks are not all that precise and always have a good deal of collateral damage, including targeting, as it turned out later, completely innocent civilians (as was the case with the US response following the suicide bombing at Kabul airport that resulted in the deaths or 13 servicemen).

Mike Fraser
Mike Fraser
7 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

It most certainly does matter in both instances.
It is a full-blown war if NATO steps in as in a sense NATO’s so-called expansion is ONE of several reasons Putin is using for going to war.
He is also “calling out” the west as he believes that we will in the end stop short, give way, and appease.
The United Nations emergency force made up, yes of NATO troops, but also the troops of several, probably many other nations with their blue helmets using their righteous and legal mandate, to provide the necessary cessation for discussion is the best way forward to a satisfactory conclusion. It’s really the only way forward.
It will be difficult but apart from Suez in 1956, this would be the first time the United Nations would eschew the hypocrisy and catastrophe of appeasement and insist that the cheque in the name of international justice already issued in our name should finally be cashed. (thanks Simon Prentis)
The “Crusades” is a lightweight argument for every bully always believes that it has right, as well as might, on its side.

Ess Arr
Ess Arr
7 months ago

What a beautiful voice mr Varoufakis has, and spouting such gasbaggery!

Ooh let’s have a Dayton Accords and kiss and make up with Putin. Doesn’t he know that NATO still has a massive amount of troops in Bosnia. And one of the conditions was that Milosevic was shipped off to The Hague.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
7 months ago
Reply to  Ess Arr

Yes but Milosevec is not Putin, and the former Yugoslavia and Serbia are not Russia. A little difference in scale don’t you think, not to mention 6000 nuclear warheads armed and ready to go. Time for some cooler heads to prevail and for the application of a little RealPolitik, unless you are interested in prolonging the suffering of the Ukrainian people.

Rick Fraser
Rick Fraser
7 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

That’s right Johann. To further that point, if Russia is reduced to less than a third-world country as some commenters here predict and prefer, and if Putin feels his power is being completely eroded, he may feel compelled to take everyone else down with him (“6000 nuclear warheads armed and ready to go.”)

Andrew F
Andrew F
7 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

It is for Ukrainian people to decide whether to carry on fighting.
Till then West should carry on arming Ukrainians.
This idiotic distinction between defensive and offensive weapons needs to go.

Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
7 months ago

If a cease fire can be achieved by promising Russia that Ukraine will never be allowed to join NATO, then it could have been agreed to prevent the war.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
7 months ago
Reply to  Alan Thorpe

Yes indeed, but as you recall Blinken advocated for NATO accepted anybody and especially Ukraine only weeks before the invasion.

Iris C
Iris C
7 months ago
Reply to  Alan Thorpe

Exactly!
The part of my taxes that are assigned to defend me and mine are always spent on weapons and military hardware to fight in foreign wars to the detriment of the economic welfare and wellbeing of UK citizens.
We are making an enemy of Russia but we were not on those terms less than two months ago.

John Urwin
John Urwin
7 months ago

It is to the credit of YF and FS that the interview has produced so many comments. I worked in the defence industry and they don’t talk about the fog of war for nothing. Wars end in defeat, victory or stalemate. Stalemate moves to negotiations when both sides get fed up with killing each other as in N Ireland.
Then there are the many unknowns such as Russian mothers or the Russian people finding out they have been lied to or just that both sides run out of ammunition. IMO all we can do is wait…

Sam McGowan
Sam McGowan
7 months ago

Since when is Ukraine “a small country?” It’s larger than any country in Europe second to Russia, of which it was a part. By the way, oil and gas come from North Dakota, not Minnesota. I tend to agree with him for the most part except I think the US and NATO should have stayed out of it. War is part of the history of the world and is going to continue to be long after the US has gone into history, if the world lasts that long.

Stephen Wright
Stephen Wright
7 months ago

Great comments all. My contribution is that I believe the ‘moral duty’ Yannis may be talking about is not for the benefit of Putin, but to save the lives of Ukranians. In this, I think he has a point. However the more robust back-boned commenters here have said that it’s not up to Yannis at what point the Ukranian people should capitulate – I agree.
This is a complex situation and I am not convinced that Russians withdrew from Kyiv because of solely a loss. I don’t believe Putin wants to destroy the beautiful cities of Ukraine – which we all know he has the arsenal to do if he wanted. Despite the noises made, we have to recognise that in some ways Putin has shown restraint. The reality is that some sort of settlement HAS to be made, and the nature of that settlement should be in the hands of the Ukranians. How much do they want to fight for those occupied areas. The West and we say ‘Putin cannot be allowed to win or appear to benefit from aggression’. Yes that’s nice and I agree in theory, but it’s the Ukranians who are the ones on the battlefield. It’s up to them, and we must support them whatever they see fit.

Last edited 7 months ago by Stephen Wright
Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
7 months ago
Reply to  Stephen Wright

On the whole, I agree, but you’re quite wrong to say ‘Putin has shown restraint’. OK, maybe he could have been more destructive, but parts of Ukraine are already looking like Germany in 1945, and Russian soldiers have been behaving extraordinarily badly, especially for a country which apparently looks for more respect from the rest of the world. Perhaps they are showing that they respect the wrong things, despite the outstanding quality of culture of which we know Russians are capable.
And why say you don’t think Putin wants to destroy beautiful Ukrainian cities, when he’s doing that very thing at this moment? I cannot imagine what it would feel like to be an Ukrainian, right now.

Last edited 7 months ago by Colin Elliott
Jim R
Jim R
7 months ago

Nobody wants to hear this, but Russia’s trade surplus is set to increase considerably this year (by as much as a third) on the basis of the increased price of oil and gas. The sanctions are designed to impress the clueless western media, but at the end of the day we are only weakening our own economies, triggering a global famine and enriching Russia. But much like with Covid theatre, we get to tell ourselves that we are ‘doing something’, even if we are making things far worse by all objective measures. Another road to hell paved by our foolish ‘good intentions’.

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
7 months ago

It’s like Spartacus. Zelensky is Spartacus. As played by Kirk Douglas (whom I think came from a Russian Jewish family). Crassus, as played by Olivier, is played by Putin, who wants to establish the glory of Rus. After the imperial armoured columns early on get bogged down and are finished off by the enemy, Crassus takes charge, in a bid to use blunt firepower to smash the stubborn, disobedient freedom fighters. Those who would be slaves are determined to either fight or die. In the movie, a way out for them is mooted by the possibility of a fleet of pirate ships spiriting them away. But that plan falls apart down to double-dealing and double crossing. This is slightly akin to the failure to really help the Ukrainians militarily. So fight or die they must. Nobody wants to be carted off to the gulags, where slavery awaits. That would be the feeling.

Brooke Walford
Brooke Walford
7 months ago

Totally agree. Have been saying this from the start and was surprised by the extent of the resistance but no matter how vile the atrocities Putin does need a face saver. The opportunity to Marshal Plan a collapsed Soviet Union was squibbed in favour of trumpeting the the superiority of free markets. The entire wealth created by state owned utilities was gobbled up by those few individuals in Russia and Bill Browder who understood the value of all those ‘scripts’ distributed to all in Russia. The rest is history ably manipulated by Putin.

Zorro Tomorrow
Zorro Tomorrow
7 months ago

Too late I think, two weeks ago maybe. It’s a grudge match now. Best Putin takes his army out of Ukraine with an agreement the retreat will not be harried and attacked on the way out. I dare say the truth is percolating into Moscow, the fleeing middle class will be seeing western news and reporting back home where the sanctions are beginning to bite. Far too many young sons and husbands won’t be coming home and if Putin’s days aren’t numbered I’d be very surprised.
The Azov soldiers if not the whole Army will not let many Chechens leave alive after the atrocities.

Lloyd Byler
Lloyd Byler
7 months ago

What the author is really doing is making a clear cut case of what action to take from this quip: “>>The International Monetary Fund, forcing Russia into an awful default in 1998 that caused the life expectancy of men in Russia to drop from 75 to 58.<<"

There, that explains EVERYthing else "look here, see who is benefitting from this war, big oil, the war machine"

Now we are getting somewhere.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
7 months ago

The development of anti armour and plane missiles has greatly changed the nature of warfare. Drones with the ranges of tens of miles which can destroy heavy artillery, tanks, command posts, fuel and ammunition dumps means Russia cannot just pound an urban area to dust. The shells from an artillery piece have to be stored close to it which means if they are destroyed then so is the gun. Combining use of drones and modern missiles could result in rapid destruction of Russian equipment in SE Ukraine a. A £20K drone or missile destroying £5M of tank or heavy gun( 150 or 200mm) is value for money. The vehicles supplied by Britain can carry many missiles and drones, enought to wipe out a battery or maybe more, plus tanks.
Ukraine news: Lethal ‘kamikaze’ drones to hunt in pairs to take out Russian artillery | World | News | Express.co.uk
What are Kamikaze drones? All about ‘Suicide Drones’ which US might transfer to Ukraine (republicworld.com)

Rusia could be facing a modern day Crecy, Poitiers or Agincourt when a an archer firing a single arrow brought down a heavily and very expensively armoured knight. The cost of armour for a knight ( similar to a tank ) by the 15th century was about £1M in modern money, yet was destroyed by a war bow and an arrow worth a few shillings, if that.

Terence Fitch
Terence Fitch
7 months ago

Varufakis: all things to all men. The Vicar of Bray would definitely approve.

Gwen Vilen
Gwen Vilen
5 months ago

Thank you Yanis. You reinforced many of the things I have been thinking myself. If there ever was a time when we need people to ‘not follow the herd’ – it is now.

Andrew Langridge
Andrew Langridge
7 months ago

I agree with the view that Russia won’t be defeated in this war. They will just regroup, re-arm, and keep coming back financed by massive oil/ gas revenues. Russians show no signs of rising up against Putin. The reality of Ukraine’s geographic position, surrounded by a nuclear Russia, and the fact that it was part of the Soviet Union no more than 30 years ago, dictates that Ukraine will ultimately have to come to terms. Idealistic talk about Ukrainian self-determination and Russian regime change is shear fantasy on the part of Western liberals. Putin won’t contemplate invading any NATO country, and the view that conceding anything is appeasement is bankrupt. Many countries in Asia, Africa and South America think that Putin has some legitimate grievances against the West. As YV suggests, Putin should be given what he wants regarding Ukraine’s status in return for full withdrawal. Let’s stop the bloodshed.

Last edited 7 months ago by Andrew Langridge
Jon Hawksley
Jon Hawksley
7 months ago

The problem with this interview is it is theoretical when there are so many new factors that the past is not a guide.  We have seen:

  • The West has united on its high moral ground.
  • The West has confirmed that it really is scared of nuclear weapons.
  • Europe has accepted US dominance of NATO, despite the US’s insularity.
  • Biden has shown a complete lack of guile with an upfront admission he will not defend Ukraine until they are members of NATO, giving Putin a limited window of opportunity.
  • Biden has stated Putin should go – without any intention of doing anything about it.
  • Zelensky has, so far, saved the West’s face by being very well organised.
  • The West has helped Zelensky but not in any sense pushed the boundaries on what could be done.
  • Biden has not followed Bush’s approach in his statement on 13 Aug 2008 saying the US military would start delivering humanitarian aid to Georgia, which seems to have deterred Putin at the time.
  • Putin appears to be a street fighter without boundaries, he will do things because he can do them.
  • Putin has an obsession with not being disrespected. No one has a clue how to handle that diplomatically.
  • Putin has pulled back in the past and probably will do so again provided he leaves it messy enough to have a future foothold.
  • Putin’s grand plan is for personal acclaim, restoring Russia is part of that but not building a “new” Russia.
  • Putin does not speak for Russia. He is a one off, not part of a political movement.
  • Putin is offended by the West but does not want to occupy it.
  • Putin did ask to join NATO.
  • Russians want economic prosperity.
  • There is no parallel to the cold war because there is no ideology to fight.
  • Putin is distant from detail, more interested in power moves.
  • Medvedev was hands on in sorting out the Russian economy. The military hands on in all the invasions.
  • Putin will never forget – the West will need well engineered protection from cyberwarfare and assassinations for as long as he has power.
  • Since Afghanistan the Russian military has little experience of coming under attack.
  • Putin does not take responsibility for what the military does, they are something he turns on and off so what has actually happened was not intended, foreseen or controlled. The actual horrific mess is essentially an accident.
  • In retrospect there was an opportunity for military assistance that could have decisively beaten Russian troops on the ground. There still is if you accept that a nuclear strike is only a threat, the Ukraine is not important enough for the Generals to risk the destruction of Russia.
  • There is still an opportunity for a humanitarian, enforced, ceasefire.

There is always a solution – but in this instance it needs to be unexpected, dramatic and capable of great subtlety in its implementation.  There is a mutual dislike but not in fact a conflict of interest between Russia and the West, neither wants to invade the other, both benefit from trade with the other. Get off the high horse, it is killing people. Invite Putin to join NATO.  Use sanctions to return stolen assets to the Russian state in a welfare fund under Putin’s control. Build relationships with the Russian Generals. Better that Russia is an ally of the West than an ally of China.

N T
N T
7 months ago
Reply to  Jon Hawksley

You had me up until the last paragraph, especially with this reminder:
“Biden has not followed Bush’s approach in his statement on 13 Aug 2008 saying the US military would start delivering humanitarian aid to Georgia”
I love this idea.

Peter B
Peter B
7 months ago
Reply to  Jon Hawksley

You want Russia in NATO ??? You would then:
a) want to start sharing NATO technology and secrets with a KGB-led foreign state
b) add a chaotic, dysfunctional military to NATO
How does that help NATO ? I can only see huge downsides.
There is surely both some “quality threshold” that needs to be met for a country’s military to be compatible with NATO. As well as basic alignment on world outlook. And then a baseline level of trust. Russian does not qualify on any of these criteria and is not even close to doing so.
NATO is an alliance of “rule of law” Western freedom-loving countries which respect free speech. We will not maintain and raise our standards by lowering them.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
7 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

Not all NATO countries are so freedom loving are they? They are not all little copies of the UK and US. Frankly NATO is an alliance that should have dissolved after the end of the cold war.

Peter B
Peter B
7 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Garbage. Poland and the Baltic States certainly don’t think so. They’ve been invaded and suppressed by Russia before. And we’re quite right to keep them under NATO protection.
NATO is clearly serving a useful function right now. Be honest. You just don’t like it !

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
7 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

Far from it. What I’m saying is that I doubt that NATO would come to the rescue of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, especially since few people, at least in the US, could even point to these countries on a map. All it does by having the baltic states in NATO is reduce the power of NATO.
Further, don’t equate the baltic states with Ukraine. Ukraine together with Belarus and Russia constitute Russia. The baltic states and Poland do not.
Also worth injecting a bit of reality into what exactly NATO constitutes. It might constitute a bunch of countries but there is only one country in NATO that can project military power, and that’s the US. (And yes the UK projected power in the Falklands war but look at what they were up against; not quite the same as Russia).

Peter B
Peter B
7 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Ukraine together with Belarus and Russia constitute Russia.”
Please. Just stop lying.

Michael Davis
Michael Davis
7 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

When it happens

Kevin Carroll
Kevin Carroll
7 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

Then way have we been dealing with China after Tiananmen square massacre?

Peter B
Peter B
7 months ago
Reply to  Kevin Carroll

How is that relevant to what I said ? Does China want to join NATO ???

Kevin Carroll
Kevin Carroll
7 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

Because every time you buy Chinese goods. You are complicit in genocide. That’s what makes relevant.

Peter B
Peter B
7 months ago
Reply to  Kevin Carroll

Noise.

Rick Fraser
Rick Fraser
7 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

If Russia joined NATO, which country would then be the new “bad guy” to justify the existence of NATO?

Jon Hawksley
Jon Hawksley
7 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

a) What is shared is a matter of choice – How much is shared with Turkey?
b) NATO is an alliance – what does Turkey add?
What does a quality threshhold do? What is important is that NATO can call on high quality resources – that would not change.
I do hope that NATO is not dependent on trust because any member can go rogue at any time.
If NATO is an exclusive club it creates enemies out of those denied membership – does that really help. NATO perpetuating the cold war and is creating the problem.
When faced with a problem for which you can find no solution you need to stand back and see the problem from a different stance. NATO was started to protect Europe from a rogue state threatening its security. The biggest risk was from an ideology that is no longer a threat. To day’s problem is Putin, not the Russian people, not an ideology, not even a political movement. However NATO is too frightened to curb Putin. Russia in NATO adds two things:

  1. It demonstrates that NATO is not aggresive to Russia.
  2. I allows a dialogue with the Russian generals.

Leaving NATO outside guarantees massive Russian investment to train and equip its army to a far higher standard, guarantees that mistrust continues and fails to create the dialogue that is needed to prevent the button being pressed because someone has nothing to lose.

Ess Arr
Ess Arr
7 months ago
Reply to  Jon Hawksley

Russia in NATO? Then what about the Stans? And the other former Soviet Republics? Let’s let them all in!!

Jon Hawksley
Jon Hawksley
7 months ago
Reply to  Ess Arr

What is achieved by keeping them out?