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Russia realists are the new lockdown sceptics Moral absolutism plagues our response to Ukraine

Who's really on the wrong side of history? (ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP via Getty Images)

Who's really on the wrong side of history? (ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP via Getty Images)


October 10, 2022   5 mins

Less than a year after 9/11, Dick Cheney had a message for Americans: the “old doctrines of security do not apply
 Containment is not possible when dictators obtain weapons of mass destruction.”

Cheney was referring to Saddam Hussein, but it is not difficult to imagine the current President saying something similar about his Russian counterpart. Just last week, Joe Biden stated that Vladimir Putin was “not joking” about the use of nuclear weapons, warning that “we have not faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban missile crisis”. Cheney’s hawkish worldview has been reinvigorated by Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. This time, however, those advocating restraint — the “realists” — are no longer just opponents, they are now enemies too.

In the past fortnight, the realists have been described as “intellectually bankrupt”, “pro-fascist” and “Putin apologists” — and that’s just in one article. It is a continuation of a trend that became prominent during the Covid era, in which it was no longer enough to question the argument, but to question the morality and the motives of the person making them too. Rather than being just wrong, proponents of realism — like the lockdown sceptics before them — are viewed as dangerous and morally flawed.

A diffuse network of intellectuals, think tanks, commentators, and politicians (on both the Left and Right), realists do not form any kind of cohesive bloc. All hew to a vague notion that America should act with restraint abroad, but have little else in common. There is neither a value system they wish to impart, nor a broad, all-encompassing ideology that holds them all together. This makes realism a modest doctrine; it doesn’t lend itself to extremism and Manichaean world-views.

Unlike idealists, who emphasise the importance of spreading democracy and human rights abroad, realists believe that countries are guided by self-interest, not abstract values. They eschew the Disneyfied view of the world of the kind recently expressed by President Biden, in which he characterised the escalating Ukrainian conflict as “a battle between democracy and autocracy, between liberty and repression, between a rules-based order and one governed by brute force”.

Such enthusiastic support for Ukraine is a natural symptom of the moral absolutism he displayed during the pandemic. It forgoes rational debate in favour of a moral impulse to be seen to be doing something, even if the costs of those actions are not fully considered. However noble the intention may be, the results are often tragic, as Afghanistan (cost: $2.313 trillion), Iraq ($2.4 trillion), Syria ($1.2 trillion) and Libya ($567 billion) attest. Likewise, the cost of pandemic mitigation is still being calculated, but it is becoming increasingly clear that the economic and social consequences were seriously underestimated.

Yet for all their policy failures, America’s idealist wing appears to have suffered few professional setbacks. Joe Biden’s foreign policy team isn’t all that different from Obama’s; Thomas Friedman, who once boasted in 2003 that “we could have hit Saudi Arabia
We could have hit Pakistan. We hit Iraq, because we could”, still lunches with the President.

Compare this to the almost immediate backlash realists faced after the Ukraine invasion. Until 24 February 2022, John Mearsheimer was a relatively anonymous IR professor at the University of Chicago who gave scholarly lectures on the clash between liberalism and nationalism in America. As one of the country’s foremost realists, he had been interested in the Ukraine question for some time, arguing that Nato enlargement was to blame for Russia’s antagonistic relations with the West. In 2015, he gave a lecture on the subject, which subsequently went viral after the invasion.

Mearsheimer turned into an overnight pariah. Weeks after the lecture was dredged up, students at his university signed an open letter explaining that they were “deeply pained” to learn that Mearsheimer was “propagating Putinism” and asserting that his actions were “extremely detrimental for our country”. They even demanded to know if he was on the Russian payroll. Meanwhile, other prominent realists such as Henry Kissinger and Noam Chomsky were roundly condemned for suggesting that Ukraine may have to cede territory to Russia in order to prevent further bloodshed. In Chomsky’s framing, Ukraine had to make concessions because Russia was like an incoming hurricane. “You may not like it, you may not like the fact that there’s a hurricane coming tomorrow, but you can’t stop it by saying, ‘I don’t like hurricanes’ or ‘I don’t recognise hurricanes’,” he said.

In response, Chomsky and “other like-minded intellectuals” were subjected to an open letter which accused them of “adding further fuel to the Russian war machine by spreading views very much akin to Russian propaganda”. Kissinger, who proposed the handover of Luhansk and Donetsk to Russia, was even admonished by Suella Braverman, who argued that the former diplomat was “appeasing” Russia. “People like Henry Kissinger believe that if we give the Russian dictator some of what he wants,” she wrote in June. “He’ll stop the war and we can return to normal.”

Such efforts to discredit the opinions of these academics bear a striking resemblance to the freighted criticisms thrown around during the Covid era. Following the publication of the Great Barrington Declaration, questions about the group’s funding were swiftly raised. In the same way that students believed that Mearsheimer was funded by Russia, the implication was that these scientists, Sunetra Gupta, Martin Kulldorff and Jay Battacharya, did not hold their views sincerely — they were merely a trojan horse for a wealthy libertarian think tank (Gupta even felt the need to profess her Left-wing credentials afterwards).

Implicit in all these charges was a conviction that these people were not just wrong, but on the wrong side of history too. Just as Conservative politicians who entertained lockdown scepticism were denounced for their “dangerous” beliefs, those who now outline a plan for peace in Ukraine — be it Elon Musk, the Pope, or Roger Waters — face a similar reaction. The lockdown sceptics were willing to sacrifice at-risk humans to save the economy; the realists were willing to let a country perish in service of great-power politics.

None of this is to suggest that realists have always been right. Predicting that Kyiv would fall in 72 hours, for instance, many underestimated the strength of the Ukrainian army and the incompetence of Russia’s. More recently, the claim by some realists that the US was behind the Nord Stream pipeline attack seems to have been disproved. And for every lockdown sceptic that slips into Covid denialism, there are realists who start off by asking legitimate questions about American military aid to Ukraine, and end by having to delete tweets that teeter on Holocaust revisionism.

On the bigger questions, however, each passing day adds succour to the realist argument. The fear of an escalation continues to grow, with politicians such as John Bolton calling for Putin to go and Tobias Ellwood MP claiming that strategic ambiguity is “no longer a deterrent”. Add to that former US National Security Council official Fiona Hill’s assertion that we are already living through a Third World War, and it’s easy to see why realists are urging caution.

Putin and Covid are both malevolent forces, but how we respond to them is — and should be — a contested subject. In the same way that our response to Covid benefitted from having lockdown sceptics in the tent rather than out, the same must apply to realists. They are, after all, raising important questions about Ukraine’s interests versus our own, and the degree to which it is escalating beyond our control. Absent that, America is almost certain to repeat the same foreign-policy errors as before. And when a nuclear power is in play, that adds an entirely new — and potentially catastrophic — dimension.


is UnHerd’s Newsroom editor.

james_billot

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Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago

To frame the argument as one between idealists and realists is merely a rhetorical trick. Of course most of us prefer realism.
The problem is judging what realism is. Does Putin wish to expand Russian territory and if so to what extent should western governments assist those countries invaded by his forces? There may be legitimate arguments about this question which necessarily involves predictions about future events. But assisting Ukraine to resist his invasion is no less realistic than encouraging Ukraine to throw in the towel and concede further territory to Russia.
Was Chamberlain a hard-headed realist or a foolish appeaser? Both points of view may be legitimately entertained even though we have the advantage of knowing precisely what subsequently happened.
It would seem the Ukrainian government takes the view that having seized Crimea Putin will not be satisfied by further conceding the Donbas to him and that at great sacrifice they must resist his incursions. Is this idealistic or merely realistic? War is costly in lives and money as the article points out but not engaging in war may in the long term be more costly if not putting up a fight leads to mass murder, rape and transportation to the gulag. The Estonian Prime Minister understands this from family experience, something academics living comfortable lives in the west do not.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

This is a remarkably disingenuous article – trying to frame those who support the defence of Ukraine as a type of ‘deplorable’ with the smear of being idealist.

I can think of no other better example of realism in action as the defence of Ukraine. Not to support some ideological expansion of democracy as this writer stupidly suggests, but to practically destroy for the very long term a serious threat to western countries; and, to boot, to deprive the most serious threat, China, of an extremely useful ally.

Putin’s megalomania, which many people (including on this forum) viewed as geopolitical genius, has resulted in the long term destruction of Russia. That’s realism!

Adam Bacon
Adam Bacon
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Perhaps the use of the term ‘realist’ by the author was unfortunate.
However, the analogy with the bile and intolerance shown towards lockdown sceptics is an excellent one.

Zero Putin as a stance is lauded in all forms of media, as was Zero Covid, despite being almost as unachievable (after all, nuclear war or not, what would come once he was gone?). Any suggestion that our response might be disproportionate, or that the West might have played an inflammatory part in the lead up to this war are regarded as heretical however.

Marshall Auerback
Marshall Auerback
1 year ago
Reply to  Adam Bacon

Realists is a term used generally to describe the people to whom the author refers. John Meersheimer regularly uses the term. It’s not a smear or a mischacterisation. Agree that the parallel with the lockdown skeptics is an excellent one.

Bruce Crichton
Bruce Crichton
1 year ago
Reply to  Adam Bacon

On the contrary, Zero Covid is a fantasy, as is restraint in dealing with Putin.

These supposed realists are presenting their imagination as fact.

harry storm
harry storm
1 year ago
Reply to  Bruce Crichton

100% correct. The lessons of WWII appear to be entirely lost among the so-called “realists.” And none of this has anything to do with Covid, however enticing the analogy may be.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 year ago
Reply to  harry storm

Yes – conflating 2 un-connected issues. Weak article

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
1 year ago
Reply to  Adam Bacon

The argument that the West needs to force Ukraine to lose the war ignores the lessons of Munich. Putin took a bite out of Georgia, & we did nothing. So Putin took the Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, & we did nothing. So Putin tried to take a bigger bite out of Ukraine in 2022. This has to be stopped militarily, or Putin will try to take the Baltic states, who are members of NATO.

With the weapons the West has given Ukraine, it has a very good chance of retaking the south of the country, including the Crimea. The combination of extremely accurate long range missile artillery (HIMARS) & HARM anti-radar missiles fired from Ukrainian MiGs is destroying Russian air defenses. The rocket artillery is also destroying numerous Russian ammo dumps & command centers.

This is a rational argument. I’m not trying to censor you at all. In fact, I voted for Trump twice, and objected to lockdowns and mask mandates.

harry storm
harry storm
1 year ago

Agreed, except for your remark about censorship, which I didn’t understand at all. The “realists” are hardly being censored, as this article and dozens like it clearly demonstrate.

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
1 year ago
Reply to  Adam Bacon

Part of any Russian decision to use tactical nuclear weapons has to be an evaluation of how likely it is that the weapons will actually work as designed. The reliability of Russian military equipment and ammunition in Ukraine has been spotty at best. At least 10% of Russan conventional Russian missiles misfire or fall short. Firing the nuclear versions of these weapons is not an attractive option. They could detonate in Russia or on Russian held Ukrainian territory.

The dud rate is also a problem. If Putin uses a nuke, and it fails to detonate, Putin gets huge embarrassment. The corruption rampant in the Russian military makes this outcome possible, even probable. Nuclear weapons require careful component storage and maintenance. They’re fragile. The overall Russian record on Russian military storage and maintenance is really poor. The weapons have to be assembled and readied by technical people who know what they’re doing.

My guess is that beyond the usual risk considerations of nuclear retaliation, Putin has to worry, a lot, about the reliability of his nuclear weapons. Combining all these risks, in my opinion, increases the uncertainty to the point that no rational Russian Commander in Chief would order a nuclear attack on Ukraine. Even if Putin isn’t completely rational, his subordinates definitely are.

harry storm
harry storm
1 year ago
Reply to  Adam Bacon

If by “the West might have played an inflammatory part in the lead up to this war” you mean supporting the democratic wishes of countries like Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Romania and Bulgaria to seek protection from the mightily armed dictatorship that used to control them, then yes, I suppose that’s true. And should be supported because the alternative is throwing millions upon millions of people who seek nothing more than to live in peace, free from the diktats of a superpower dictatorship, under the bus. How’s that for “realism.”

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

“Putin’s megalomania, which many people (including on this forum) viewed as geopolitical genius,”
Mmm. Don’t know where you saw that.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

Maybe from the people so lacking a moral compass they’ll defend a dictator who fires missiles into residential tower blocks full of women and children, which have no strategic value and are hundreds of miles from the front lines?

Michael Webb
Michael Webb
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

The problem, when all is said and done is that Russia (Putin’s Russia), China, N Vietnam and all their nuclear weapons are not going away and sooner or later any one of them, or even the US, Britain or France will do the unthinkable and do something stupid. All the hot air about idealist/realist, anti this or pro that will count for nothing as we, the people pay for our ‘leaders’ vain glorious arrogance.

harry storm
harry storm
1 year ago
Reply to  Michael Webb

I worry about Putin’s (and Xi’s) obvious vainglorious arrogance much more than that of our leaders, whomever they may be.

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

I agree. Applying this kind of thinking backwards to – say WW2 – who would the “realists” have been? Chamberlain and those who backed out of their treaty obligations in order to try to prevent escalation into the kind of war that embroiled everybody? It seems to come down to what are the motives driving Putin. Is he Hitler-like (a megalomaniac bachelor with a lifelong fascination with suicide), and so narcissistic that he can’t distinguish the difference between his own outcome and that of “his people”? Or is he genuinely acting to prevent his country and “his people” from being overwhelmed by the West – culturally and morally if not militarily? If the former, the whole threat about nuclear weapons takes on a different kind of urgency than if the latter. Both seem like “realist” positions to me that only differ on underlying facts.

Matt Poling
Matt Poling
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

This is Disneylandism. Putin is Hitler? Right on the heels of Trump being Hitler? What are the odds? History is full of examples of nation-states taking small bites out of their neighbors territory, signing some sort of treaty and taking up future conflicts at the World Cup. The only thing truly dangerous to world peace is the notion that Putin is going to just give up with nothing to show for it.

Bruce Crichton
Bruce Crichton
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt Poling

Putin is a National Socialist

harry storm
harry storm
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt Poling

Putin is not Hitler but he shares 2 out of 3 of Hitler’s most significant traits. 1-He is a ruthless political operator; 2-he has territorial ambitions — and not only in Ukraine, as he wants to re-establish the borders of the former Russian Empire. What he isn’t is a genocidal bigot. But as they say, 2 out of 3 isn’t bad, or rather, is quite bad, and certainly so in the opinion of the Ukrainian — and other — people whose lives he has shattered.

Bruce Crichton
Bruce Crichton
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Indeed, the supposed realism of the writer is utter fantasy, pretending Putin is not the thug he is.

Larry Stevens
Larry Stevens
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

We have had agreements with Putin before. Putin did not stick to them. We have no (realistic) reason to believe something has changed. Putin wants to reassemble a Russian empire. What reason could he give us to think that he is willing to abide by whatever agreement he makes? He has been after UKR for 8+ years and his team denies that UKR is even a country. This seems much more like a “stop him now or stop him later” situation.
Putin is desperate to split UKR from NATO. What else does UKR have to offer him? They cede back territory they have already reclaimed if only Putin allows the few remaining residents to escape and do so without fear of retaliation against those who remain?
And all this assumes that UKR would agree. At this point, I’m not sure that even a NATO threat of abandonment would get them to agree. Every RU missile that hits civilians – and there are many – only hardens their resolve.

Michael Mills
Michael Mills
1 year ago
Reply to  Larry Stevens

Talking about agreements not being stuck to, the USA has not stuck to its assurances (given to Russia at the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union) that NATO would not expand onto Russia’s borders. In addition, the Minsk Accords of 2014, which gave the Donbas region a degree of autonomy, including continued use of Russian as an official language, has been reneged on by Ukraine – in addition to which the people living in the Donbas have been persecuted by the Ukraine government and various factions. In other words, Putin was massively provoked into the invasion, very possibly deliberately so.

Bruce Crichton
Bruce Crichton
1 year ago
Reply to  Michael Mills

Putin was provoked by Western appeasement, drawing the conclusion he could invade with impunity

Micael Gustavsson
Micael Gustavsson
1 year ago
Reply to  Michael Mills

There was never any treaty signed that NATO wouldn’t expand (if there was, tell me when it was signed?). There was however a written agreement called the Budapest memorandum signed in 1994 where both Russia and the US recognized the borders of the Ukraine (including Crimea).

harry storm
harry storm
1 year ago
Reply to  Michael Mills

Another “it’s OK to throw the populations of former Soviet republics and Soviet bloc countries under the bus” argument. NATO doesn’t threaten Russia, and has never done so. Russia, on the other hand, blatantly threatens all the countries formerly under its control. And poor old Putin was provoked — gimme a break! To your “point,” Putin reneged on the big treaty, the one in which Ukraine gave up its nukes in exchange for security guarantees.

pessimist extremus
pessimist extremus
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Absolutely true. An attempt was made to avoid bloodshed in the 40s, as the Soviet army was overwhelming, and peaceful existence was promised. Impossible to say if the presidents were naive, like the Western voices demanding agreements with Putin now, or they thought they had no choice. The result? Almost 100 000 people (about 10% of adult population) from the Baltics deported ‘out’ to Siberia, (industrial) workers from Russia deported ‘in’ to form a considerable % of the population to make sure there’s a ‘Russian minority’ to defend in case a pretext is needed for tough actions. My granny was taken in a freight train, with her 3 children, being guilty of having a nice farm and working hard. And, of course, her husband had been taken to the German army (and killed within weeks). Depending on the year of birth, it was either the Soviet or German troops for men. She got back to homeland at the end of the 50s, with 2 children (one buried in Siberia like so many others), but not back home – they had to find somewhere else to live, not the home village. One never asked, why, knowing better by then.
So, that’s the ‘buffer’ Russkii Mir needs. As for provoking – Finland and Sweden have been super careful to be neutral and nice, and even they decided it’s safer in NATO now. So, has Russian security got a blow? Did they join NATO to attack Russia? Does Russia actually think it’s a threat to them?

harry storm
harry storm
1 year ago

Thanks for bringing up Sweden and Finland. The “realists” who are so keen to throw former Soviet and Soviet-bloc Republics under the bus never seem to notice or care that these studiously neutral countries have scurried into NATO for protection, with the Finnish president clearly stating: “You did this,” and he wasn’t talking about Biden, or Trump, or Johnson, or anyone else in the West. He was talking about Putin. But of course the “realists,” being realists, know better than the leaders of these neighbouring countries.

Paul MacDonnell
Paul MacDonnell
1 year ago

I think a good case can be made that the response of the West to the invasion has been very restrained and measured. At every step the West has been conerned with escalation. More powerful weapons have been held back and slowly delivered. Limits have been placed on what can be provided to Ukraine. The West has refused to get directly involved.
There is a reductio ad absurdum problem with the “let’s do a deal with Russia” argument and it’s this: By advocating a deal with Putin you are placing into Russia’s hands an autonomy over how it defines itself and granting it unlimited authority within that space. Where will that end? Doesn’t it amount to a doctrine that if a nuclear-armed state attacks its neighbours then the “grown up” thing to do is to do as it says and shut up?
And if, say Putin or Kim launch a nuclear attack on a neighbour isn’t it an argument that, even then, immediate de-escalation must be the priority. Perhaps apologize to them and call for a cease fire? But do not retaliate in kind. Afterall, no one wins a nuclear war, right?
So if you are right that a deal must be sought with a nuclear armed aggressor in these circumstances then it must be sought in all circumstances. Dead is dead, right? This is a reductio ad absurdum argument. If you are never prepared to use nuclear weapons it means that those who are will make you their prisoner.
One could just as easily pen an article that those who advocate a deal with Russia are just like politicians who agree that gender self-identification should be an automatic, unconditional, and unlimited right. That the “do-a-deal” argument is the insidious seeping of subjectivist political wokedom into geo-politics. Putin says Ukraine is Russia’s? Who are we to say it isn’t?
Now don’t get me wrong. A sense of “justice” should never be the dominant factor in deciding to go to war or if it is it should absolutely never be the dominant factor in how one fights that war. And, of course, smearing those who make the very cogent arguments for negotiating with Russia is wrong.
But if we’re being realistic, and grown-up, and savvy (this is what you want, right?) can’t we argue that stopping Russia now is a bargain compared to what will happen if it gets away with taking over large parts of Ukraine? Wouldn’t that encourage like-minded authoritarians elsewhere?

Last edited 1 year ago by Paul MacDonnell
Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago

Wow well put!

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago

Do you really think someone is going to “win” this war?

Paul MacDonnell
Paul MacDonnell
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

Depends upon how resolved the West is to help Ukraine. I think the West should now supply better missiles to Ukraine so that Ukraine can strike Russian missile sites, including ships in the Black Sea.
Putin is out of options and his 50-years out-of-date military is easily beatable.
It is hard to think of a better use for Western military hardware.
The pay off will be considerable. We can bring Ukraine into the central European family of EU and NATO members. If it grows as an economy it will be a great contributor to our world – it’s got agriculture, it’s got or will get back Crimea – which could be a holiday resort for rich Western Europeans. It’s all upside.
Putin may well be a criminal psychopath and the author of this piece is correct to say a sense of justice should not guide our response to him. I agree with this. But that doesn’t mean he should not be taken down. Our attitude should be guided not by the idea that “Ukraine needs to remain free”. Rather it should be guided by “We want Ukraine in our sphere of influence and part of our political and economic system”. That’s a big win.
Personally I’d like to spend a week in Odessa. That’ s a better reason to support Ukraine than moralizing about their freedom.
In other words the only way to deal with a greedy psychopath is to be greedier – but smarter.

Last edited 1 year ago by Paul MacDonnell
Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago

“it’s got or will get back Crimea – which could be a holiday resort for rich Western Europeans. â€œ
Well that’s convinced me.

Kat L
Kat L
1 year ago

Ukraine is well known as a cesspool of corruption. All the money and weapons sent will never be accounted for. Bunter Hiden was on payroll of Burisma for doing absolutely nothing. This whole thing stinks to high heaven.

Eamonn Von Holt
Eamonn Von Holt
1 year ago
Reply to  Kat L

Well said!
The MSM and political ruling class narrative that Ukraine are the “Good Guys” and Russia the “Bad Guys” is intentionally simplistic and misleading.
Zelensky and his mob are just as corrupt as anything that came before him, never mind eliminating any mayor considered to be pro-Russian by the likes of the Azov Battalion, a pack of nazis incorporated into the Ukrainian army.

harry storm
harry storm
1 year ago

One could easily have said — and in fact many at the time did say — that the Polish junta was just as wicked (and anti-semitic) as Hitler; after all, they ripped Teschen from the rump Czechoslovakia after the Western capitulation at Munich. Thank goodness they didn’t and saw sense at last.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
1 year ago

“Putin is out of options and his 50-years out-of-date military is easily beatable.”
And here we thought Putin is going to invade Poland

“It is hard to think of a better use for Western military hardware.”
And I am sure with all that free advertising, the West can sell a lot more to help countries like Turkey or Saudi to beat up their minorities or neighboring countries to pulp.
Amazing

harry storm
harry storm
1 year ago

RE: Personally I’d like to spend a week in Odessa. That’ s a better reason to support Ukraine than moralizing about their freedom.
Not only is it not a better reason, but it mars an otherwise intelligent response to the “realists.”

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago

The “realistic” argument in the days of the Soviet Union was “Better Red than Dead”. Of course, we managed to avoid both the alternatives.

Suzie Halewood
Suzie Halewood
1 year ago

‘you are placing into Russia’s hands an autonomy over how it defines itself and granting it unlimited authority within that space. Where will that end?’
Firstly it isn’t up to anyone else to ‘hand’ this to Russia or any other country for that matter. How Russia defines itself is up to Russia. How Ukraine defines itself is up to Ukraine. Ditto the Donbass. The trouble with the Western mentality is we think it is up to us what others are granted. As the slave says ‘you can’t give me back my freedom when it was never yours to take’.
There are no winners in this war. Only losers – mainly the soldiers of the AFU and RF who are fighting for an outcome from which they will never personally benefit (arms sales, strategic victories, energy price increases).
The non ethnic Russian Ukrainians have made it quite clear how they feel about the ethnic-Russians in their midst. This isn’t about land, winning or losing. It’s about respecting that the rights of the Ukrainian people to enjoy their own language and culture (no longer as a SSR) is equal to the rights of the ethnic-Russians of the Donbass to have theirs. This right has never been respected.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
1 year ago

“good case can be made that the response of the West to the invasion has been very restrained and measured. ”
Expand NATO all the way to Russian borders
Massively fund a “popular” rebellion against a democratically elected government in a Russian neighbor and ally
Look the other way while thousands of Russian civilians are butchered in Donbass
Provide enormous amounts of arms and ammunition to Ukraine for use against Russia, directly resulting in many thousands of Russian casualties
Provide intelligence to help Ukraine target Russian command posts and ammo dumps
Impose unbelievable levels of sanctions against Russia and Russian citizens.

“restrained and measured”

If the Russians had provided Iraqis or Afghans with massive amounts of ATGMs, missiles, rocket launchers tanks…plus military advisors as well as intelligence support targeted at US commanders or bases, would that be considered”restrained” you think? Really?

William Adams
William Adams
1 year ago

Nowhere in his article does the author consider the viewpoint of the Ukrainians. It is for them to decide the future of their country.

Aaron James
Aaron James
1 year ago
Reply to  William Adams

Yes he did – he used the hurricane analogy. But by us pumping in $80 Billion and counting it went from Tropical Storm Boris, to blow a few roofs off, flood a few neighborhoods – to Cat 5 Hurricane Joe. Now their lands flattened and all destroyed.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  Aaron James

Is that not the kind of thing they said to rape victims once? “If rape is inevitable anyway, just lie back and enjoy it. That way at least you will not get beaten up too much.

Aaron James
Aaron James
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

I suppose you say Vichy France would have been better fighting till France was a smoking ruin.

But your equivalent is the most hyperbolic nonsense – good for you, you win Straw-man five Stars *****

The question is should Biden and his mini-me Boris have pumped $80 Billion, imposed sanctions which threaten the whole world order, and basically will lead to the starvation of many Millions and impoverishment of Billions? This was from Biden-Boris pouring gas on the fire – and it was NOT in their National Interests!
Maybe ask if the Powers that be should have detonated a 10,000 pound bomb on the neighborhood your rape was happening in – for the principal of it all, to stop it – although it kills everyone within half a mile, destroys the town, and kills both?

To which you would reply YES! I suppose. Safe in your armchair with your delivered pizza….

Micael Gustavsson
Micael Gustavsson
1 year ago
Reply to  Aaron James

You are the kind of person who argues that the UK should have made peace with Nazi Germany in 1940 in order to save the empire. Despicable. (And yes, it would have been better for the world if the French had fought on).

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  Aaron James

The destruction of Russia long term as a geopolitical force is worth trillions.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Very good point. Cold War in action.

Aaron James
Aaron James
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

China is the enemy of the world. Crushing Russia stops them being held by the huge border threat of a Russia right there – This Biden/Boris obscene war has driven the two into each others arms, with Iran, Pakistan, The Oil and mineral producers in MENA and Africa, and South America.

harry storm
harry storm
1 year ago
Reply to  Aaron James

Western aid to the Ukrainian resistance has given Xi much to think about before he decides to invade Taiwan. Another positive byproduct of helping Ukraine, as if stopping a brutal dictator with territorial ambitions that go far beyond Ukraine wasn’t enough.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

It might not be a wise goal to aim for though.

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

But that seems to be Putin’s long term, albeit inadvertent, goal.

Lori Darroch
Lori Darroch
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

And there you have it….it’s always been about money.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  William Adams

Of course it’s up to them. But should we be involved?

Kat L
Kat L
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

Absolutely not. The west is about to implode. North Korea is shooting rockets over our actual allie Japan. Our economy is circling the drain. Meanwhile the Biden admin believes they are acting in an episode ‘the west wing’

Micael Gustavsson
Micael Gustavsson
1 year ago
Reply to  Kat L

I guess you think nobody should have meddled in the conflict between Germany and Poland in 1939 to? There are things worth dying for.

Michael McDonald
Michael McDonald
1 year ago
Reply to  William Adams

Then let them do it without western involvement that has escalated war.

Micael Gustavsson
Micael Gustavsson
1 year ago

Like in 1939.

harry storm
harry storm
1 year ago

pathetic. you know what escalated war? Starting it in the first place. With an invasion. Of a sovereign country. That threatened no-one.

Bryan Dale
Bryan Dale
1 year ago
Reply to  William Adams

Fine, then don’t involve the rest of us.

Andrew Vigar
Andrew Vigar
1 year ago
Reply to  William Adams

Mr Musk went so far as to say the same; he was being very very unrealistic 😉

Suzie Halewood
Suzie Halewood
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Vigar

Suggesting peace is ultimately realistic.

harry storm
harry storm
1 year ago
Reply to  Suzie Halewood

Yes Mr. Chamberlain.

Michael Askew
Michael Askew
1 year ago

If the author of this article had read Vladimir Putin’s essays on the Ukraine question, he would realise that Putin is in love with the Soviet concept of a Greater Russia. He believes that Ukrainians are Russians by another name. Emboldened by Western acquiescence over the annexing of Crimea, he can invade and return Ukraine to be a province of the Motherland. He wants the whole of Ukraine, and will only desist if militarily defeated or fought to a stalemate.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Michael Askew

He carved off parts of Georgia, eastern Ukraine and Crimea with no pushback. It seems others have finally had enough of his land grabs

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

“It seems others have finally had enough of his land grabs”
Is that so? Who? Or is it just another proxy war for NATO and the USA.

Last edited 1 year ago by Brett H
Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

The NATO nations never paid much attention before, however this time they’ve delivered billions of dollars of arms to Ukraine and tried to divert almost all their energy needs to more friendly nations, so something has clearly changed with this latest provocation

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I thought when you said “others” you meant someone besides NATO who could have done something long ago but didn’t and merely prodded Russia with a stick.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

How has Russia been prodded? Unless you believe those nations it once occupied shouldn’t be free to join a voluntary defensive alliance to prevent history repeating itself

Kat L
Kat L
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Professor Mearsheimer Youtube 2015. Nigel Farage Russia statement 2014 YouTube. Joe Rogan and Dave Smith interview YouTube 2022

Diane Merriam
Diane Merriam
1 year ago
Reply to  Kat L

Doesn’t mean they’re right …

Suzie Halewood
Suzie Halewood
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Sure. And if the US was faced with Russian/Chinese military sites and bio-labs in Canada and Mexico – they wouldn’t do anything about it. Cos we’re the Good Guys.

B Emery
B Emery
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Whoever just blew up the bridge in crimea gave russia a massive poke and has caused an enormous escalation overnight, add to that nord stream and now the Russians are forced retaliate in kind.

harry storm
harry storm
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Exactly.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

Could have done what?

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Found a way to understand Russia’s position and it’s position in regard to NATO being right on their doorstep. Constant games about who’s in NATO and who isn’t doesn’t help. Nor does American influence in Ukraine help.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

That would have been worth doing – if at the same time Russia had found a way to understand the position of its neighbours, who do not want to be Russian vassals. Failing some reciprocal understanding from Russia, all you are saying is that the west ‘forced’ Russia to go to war because we refused to give them what they wanted without it.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

I don’t know the real feelings of Donetsk or Luhansk towards being Russian vassals. I bet you don’t either. Nor am I saying that the west forced Russia to do this. I’m suggesting it might not have been necessary. It’s not like this is recent history, or that we were caught by surprise.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

You were saying before that NATO could easily have avoided this war. Since you clearly have something specific in mind, could you share with us what the west should have done, and how the world would have looked once we had done it?

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

No, This is a comments section. What you’re talking about requires another article. But there’s been plenty written about it.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

A link, then?

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

Does nothing to answer my question.

I will give you mine, then:
In order to feel safe (and suitably great, of course), Putin demands a belt of buffer states that are guaranteed never to act militarily against Russia. This requires them to be defenceless against a Russian attack, and to varying degrees politically detached form the west and attached to Russia, so that Russia can prevent them from doing anything Russia does not like. For Sweden and Finland he seems to accept some freedom of movement, for Ukraine nothing but full control will do. This is a deal he cannot make with the nations involved – since once they are under Russian control they have no recourse against anything Russia might decide to do. Basically he is asking the US to accept Russian overlordship over Eastern Europe, as one great power to another.

If you can propose some arrangement that would satisfy Russia *without* giving Russia dominion over Eastern Europe and/or encourage further wars for Russia to extend its dominion, I would like to hear it. So far I have seen nothing that might work.

Last edited 1 year ago by Rasmus Fogh
Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

I can’t help how you interpret things. You have a perspective that can’t be changed.

Diane Merriam
Diane Merriam
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

Almost everyone who was able to choose which direction to flee the war chose to go West. It’s called voting with your feet. And those votes should count just as much as those who fled East or were unable to flee at all.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Diane Merriam

In fairness a lot of Russian men of fighting age who were fleeing the war also went south to Georgia and Kazakhstan

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

And you also need to learn some history. If an equivalent situation were occurring in the Western Hemisphere on the US’ doorstep, the US reaction, as per the Monroe doctrine, would be identical to the current reaction by the Russians.
Further, Ukraine was part of the Russian Federation since the 18th century. Sort of like Scotland and England, don’t you think. Or perhaps like the southern and northern states prior to the American Civil War. and as you recall, when the Southern states decided to secede a very violent civil war, costing more than half a million lives, broke out.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

And you also need to learn some manners.

But that aside:
1) ‘Sort of like England and Ireland’ would be a better comparison.
2) A lot of people hark back to the Cuban missile crisis. They forget that the crisis happened when the USSR put actual missiles on Cuba, not when Cuba started making friends with the USSR. And that the US make a reciprocal concession in return for getting those missiles removed and promoting peace. Russia might do well to emulate that example.
And before you invoke the Bay of Pigs: Russia has annexed Crimea and supported more or less fake ‘independent’ regions in both Ukraine and the Caucasus – all with really quite muted reactions from the West.

Suzie Halewood
Suzie Halewood
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

The US only acts when it can a) make money from it, b) gain a strategic advantage. They are thieves.

Robyn Nadler
Robyn Nadler
1 year ago
Reply to  Suzie Halewood

And saved the bacon of the UK, Western Europe as well as the whole of Asia. That was 70 years ago. Today US taxpayers bankroll NATO. The money flows the other way.

Diane Merriam
Diane Merriam
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

At least 50 countries have sent support of one sort or another to Ukraine and they haven’t all been NATO ones. NATO is just the biggest “opponent” in the area. If Russia wanted Mongolia, do you think the Chinese would have sat back and done nothing? Xi has already directly told Putin to leave Khazakstan alone, as it is moving into the Chinese sphere of influence. Although it did offer to sell Europe gas and oil itself, so maybe there’s a bit of independence in the air there as well.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

And I’d say their response is based on realism, to save their own skins, not idealism.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Perhaps it would be wise to at least get your history right. Crimea was part of Russia until Krushchev gifted it to Ukraine in 1955. Odessa is a Russian city founded by Cathrine the Great in the 18th century. Bottom line: one can decry Putin’s aggression but at least get your historical facts straight, and at lest understand the relationship between Eastern Ukraine and Russia.

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

The problem is: literally every nation has territorial claims with as much justification. Either you say no future use of force to change them, or you condemn the world to endless war.

At least try to understand what you’re really saying.

Even here, Russia will probably suffer at least a million casualties before Putin stops.

That’s always been the Price of Russian Glory.

Slava!

Diane Merriam
Diane Merriam
1 year ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

But Crimea had spent a very long time not a part of Russia too, as has Ukraine. If, in peacetime, people were allowed to vote, that would be different. But they weren’t and “votes” under the threat of arms are meaningless.

Aaron James
Aaron James
1 year ago
Reply to  Michael Askew

whatever – you using psychoanalyses to see into his mind? Or a crystal Ball? Or maybe he did not want Nato and EU Expansion, and the other factors like Donbass …Maybe Joe and Boris did not have to be playing – poke the bear.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Michael Askew

“he can invade and return Ukraine â€œ
Not Ukraine, but a small part of it on the eastern border. Where do you get “the whole of Ukraine” from?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

He tried to take the whole of Ukraine, but his assault on Kyiv was repelled

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Even if he tried to take Kyiv I don’t see that as proof he was after the whole of Ukraine. But if you have something I’d be interested to read it.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

So what was his plan then? It’s generally accepted that he would try and topple Kyiv and install a puppet government, unless you have a different theory as to what Putins plans were?

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

“So what was his plan then? â€œ
I don’t know. But you seem to have some idea.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

See my comment above, which is my personal opinion and that of many others

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

True. But it’s not reliable and not necessarily factual. It’s virtually impossible to get reliable, objective information in war and Ukraine has been like that from the beginning. I doubt that you take everything you read at face value. Why would you? So reports about Putin’s intentions I take with a grain of salt. Maybe his attack on Kyiv was a way to draw Ukraine troops away from the east, to split the army in two. I don’t know. But there are always other possibilities to stories we receive.

Last edited 1 year ago by Brett H
martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

Indeed, he used his best troops to divert attention from his real goals–therby destroying the best part of the Russian Army.

Clever Vova!

Kat L
Kat L
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

Douglas MacGregor seems to be an accurate source.

B Emery
B Emery
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

You have not gone far back enough, and so your view is far to simplistic. In 2014 crimea and the donbas regions voted to join Russia, this was due to the far right elements installed in the Ukraine government probably by the US when Ukraine government was literally overthrown in 2014, I suggest watching Ukraine on fire and looking up Patrick Lancaster on you tube, he is the only western journalist in donbas and has interviewed hundreds of civilians in the area since 2014. The overwhelming opinion of the people of donbas in these interviews is that they detested the far right elements (asov etc.) of ukraine new government (bbc news night even did a piece about it YOU TUBE bbc news night asov or bbc news night on patrol with far right national militia it’s absolutely shocking) – so they voted to join Russia, Ukraine (us) would not allow it and so started shelling the region, there has been a war on this front for 8 Years, the donetsk peoples republic army are the people driving the tanks you see with a Z on, they are from the donbas and have done much of the fighting over the last 8 years. They feel russia is helping them save their land from a Ukrainian government that was illegally installed and has been shelling civilian areas of the donbas for 8 years. Even bbc newsnight covered the Asov/ nazi elements in Ukraine years ago seems the west has a short memory, putin does not want this kind of dangerous extremism on his border.

Last edited 1 year ago by B Emery
Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  B Emery

I’ve seen this nonsense from a few different posters on this site now, almost written word for word.
If I was more cynical I’d be inclined to think it’s one person with multiple accounts or a stock reply that’s copy and pasted from a pro Kremlin source

B Emery
B Emery
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I have literally given you real stuff from real people to look up, have you even watched the piece from the BBC?????? This is why realism is dead and we will sleep walk into catastrophe because people like you are not prepared to investigate for yourself an alternative view point.

And I’d like to add the UK or US government would not have been allowed to have been overthrown in the way that the Ukrainian government was, the closest the US came was the capitol riots and the Canadian truckers protests, look what happened to them. In ignoring the far right factions and their influence in Ukraine you are ignoring the legitimate concerns of the people in the donbas region and of surrounding governments. I’m not saying putin is good but he no different to our own leaders, they all act in the interest of their elite. I implore you to watch the BBC newsnight clip.
Here is the link, would you live in kiev like this?? https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=hE6b4ao8gAQ

Also try this guy seems genuine cover of the front line from the donbas side opinions of soldiers on the ground https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=UlyDVOglC1c

Last edited 1 year ago by B Emery
Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  B Emery

And yet in that time the puppets in charge of the self proclaimed republics in eastern Ukraine put the death toll from Ukrainian shelling in those areas in single figures. The Russians killed more than that in missile strikes yesterday in cities that were within the areas they supposedly annexed last week

B Emery
B Emery
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Can you tell me your sources for these numbers? Are you aware ukraine is using cluster bombs in the donbas and even amnesty international raised concerns about this? I can find the news article about it if you like.

Kat L
Kat L
1 year ago
Reply to  B Emery

Truckers and most of the Jan 6 rioters may not have been far right.

R P
R P
1 year ago
Reply to  Kat L

Not saying they were, saying they attempted to remove/ dramatically alter government/ government policy, the Canadian truckers were rounded up, had their bank accounts suspended, trucks impounded stopped from working etc. Despite a mass protest movement nothing changed and the Canadian government called them all kinds of things. Ukraine was the opposite. The government was changed due to violent protest which involved factions of the far right. This is precisely the reason the Canadian government gave for not dealing with the truckers, yet in Ukraine it was fine and supported by the west.

mark schonfrucht
mark schonfrucht
1 year ago
Reply to  B Emery

Your appeal is heartfelt, but by trying to guide this benighted soul in the direction of the BBC you will only make matters worse. The Beeb? Really?

B Emery
B Emery
1 year ago

Yeah I get your point I guessed he was the sort that listened to his own mainstream media and hoped that if it came from the BBC it might be more palettable for him and harder to dispute than say if it came from Russia today or info wars. I fear I am wasting my time.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

“If I was more cynical I’d be inclined to think it’s one person with multiple accounts or a stock reply that’s copy and pasted from a pro Kremlin source”
Well, someone had to say it. If you don’t agree with us then you’re a Kremlin stooge.

Last edited 1 year ago by Brett H
B Emery
B Emery
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

Indeed, I think he is flattering himself in thinking the kremlin would be interested in replying to his post. In fact I’m just a lowly citizen from the Midlands trying to inject some facts into the debate, and I don’t really understand what point I made he takes issue with, it is a fact that the Ukrainian government was overthrown in 2014, it is a fact even confirmed by the BBC itself that asov are operating in Ukraine and it is a fact that the war has been going on for 8 years and fought by the donetsk people’s republic army. What about that is kremlin propaganda?

Last edited 1 year ago by B Emery
Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

Not at all, I was merely commenting that I’d seen that particular speech numerous times written on this forum alone from a few different posters, and it is almost identically written word for word. It’s also from posters that only reply on articles involving Russia, and only in a pro Putin capacity which is what makes me suspicious of its origins

B Emery
B Emery
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Wow. Still sat here in my living room in the Midlands, I rarely reply on here the last post I commented on was in defence of millenials as I am one, and never commented on anything to do with russia before. The only reason I commented on your opinion is that I find your ignorance genuinely terrifying and felt people had forgotten how all this started.
How about something from our own tabloid by Peter Hitchens? His closing comment is if we interfere in somewhere as complex as ukraine we should at least be honest with each other about it https://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-10530885/PETER-HITCHENS-Granny-gets-gun-bunch-shameless-neo-Nazis.html
Also will add this excellent article from unherd in case you missed it makes point far more eloquently than I can https://unherd.com/?p=374995?tl_inbound=1&tl_groups%5B0%5D=18743&tl_period_type=3&mc_cid=03efafa652&mc_eid=705bd79106

Last edited 1 year ago by B Emery
martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago
Reply to  B Emery

And looks like they’re going to be under those far right elements again.

Talk about shooting one’s self in the foot!

Diane Merriam
Diane Merriam
1 year ago
Reply to  B Emery

Votes under guns don’t count.

B Emery
B Emery
1 year ago
Reply to  Diane Merriam

Please watch https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=DLrn5GvxC7E if you go to his channel there are at least 4 videos covering the referendums on the ground, from 29 mins in that link there is a German gentleman who says some very interesting things.
Also the far right militia taking control of a council chamber and threatening the mayor in kiev until he passes their legislation https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=hE6b4ao8gAQ also counts as votes under guns.

Last edited 1 year ago by B Emery
Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

“Install a puppet government”. Isn’t that what the current government in Kiev is? A puppet of the US brought to being by a US engineered coup in 2014 orchestrated by none other than the US state department. And it’s not like the US has been secretive about this. Victoria Nuland never stopped boasting about it.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

The current government is the result of a perfectly valid democratic election – whatever you may think of events in 2014

B Emery
B Emery
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

ARE YOU FOR REAL Rasmus please watch https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=hE6b4ao8gAQ

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago
Reply to  B Emery

Oh right! Ignore a wide range of reporting in favor of a single Kremlin a approved video.

B Emery
B Emery
1 year ago
Reply to  martin logan

Is bbc newsnight kremlin approved now? It terrifies me that people are so ill informed and will not even research for themselves. That’s all I ask. Do your own research. All you have to do is look up Asov it’s really not hard, or even click the link, if you think it’s not genuine reporting look at more reports, from all sides. That’s how you create a realistic view of what’s happening. I know the BBC doesn’t have the best rep anymore but that was the closest thing I could think of to a genuine report broadcast in the UK to demonstrate my point that the far right have a huge amount of influence in Ukraine now.

Last edited 1 year ago by B Emery
Claire D
Claire D
1 year ago
Reply to  B Emery

I have learnt that when it comes to war people believe what they want to believe, it does’nt matter what facts you present them with, it’s too emotional with some people for facts to make any difference. What I can’t stand is being all for war from the comfort and safety of an armchair in Britain or elsewhere in the West. There’s been conscription in Ukraine since Feb 24th. No man between the ages of 18 and 60 is allowed to leave Ukraine (Gov.uk, the war in Ukraine)
There’s so much we don’t know or understand about what is going on, at least there should be a little more caution here about the best way forward and less eagerness for others to die for something we don’t fully understand.

Last edited 1 year ago by Claire D
martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago
Reply to  Claire D

Simply tell me which side launched a war on 24 Feb. That’s all that matters.

B Emery
B Emery
1 year ago
Reply to  martin logan

Excellent article explaining that it is not as simple as who started the war on the 24th Feb, and the war has been going on since 2014 not February. Very balanced and informative https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.vox.com/platform/amp/2014/9/3/18088560/ukraine-everything-you-need-to-know

Last edited 1 year ago by B Emery
B Emery
B Emery
1 year ago
Reply to  Claire D

I completely agree, and people should understand that when we arm ukraine as well as arming perfectly normal moderate civilians we are also arming these powerful far right contingents, I think we are playing a very dangerous game.

mark schonfrucht
mark schonfrucht
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Billy Bob. You really need to do your homework, and the Western MSM is not the place to research. Any serious military analysis, plus a bit of common sense, makes it clear that the intention was never to take Kiev – this was a diversionary tactic, costly for the Russian forces maybe, but very effective. May I suggest you look-up General Douglas McGreggor and Scott Ritter as useful sources of unbiased military opinion.

Diane Merriam
Diane Merriam
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

From what Putin has explicitly said. He claims there is no such nation as Ukraine at all. It is, was, and will always be, a part of Russia. He is simply taking back what has always been theirs.
Therefore, modern Ukraine is entirely the product of the Soviet era.”

Last edited 1 year ago by Diane Merriam
Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  Michael Askew

I think you are exaggerating slightly. Best guess would be that he would be perfectly happy to have Ukraine as a separate (not ‘independent’) nation under permanent control of a friendly pro-Russian government. Like Belarus or East Germany. Or, if we want to be very generous, like Canada to the US.

Bryan Dale
Bryan Dale
1 year ago
Reply to  Michael Askew

Crimea has always been Russian.

Micael Gustavsson
Micael Gustavsson
1 year ago
Reply to  Bryan Dale

Always? I guess you have never heard about the Khanate of Crimea and the Crimean Tartars. Also, always is a bizarrely long time. Was Crimea Russian in the time of Constantine the Great?

Mustard Clementine
Mustard Clementine
1 year ago

So-called realism seems little more than an excuse for cowardice. Putin said scary things, so we better give him what he wants! Surely, he won’t demand more once we show him how weak we are and how quickly we capitulate to threats… right?

This is being framed as the skeptical view, when it is really just an uncritical acquiescence to Russian propaganda. I feel this is embraced not only out of an ignorance as to the reality of how Russia operates – but also because it allows for the justification of a lack of bravery. Much preferable to pretend you have some special, superior insight, than to just admit the real reason you want to give the bully what he wants is that you are scared.

I actually think this response is more akin to those who embraced lockdown. They were never really worried about other people, they just adopted whatever felt safest for themselves. “Realists” similarly frame themselves as being pragmatic – when really they are just terrified.

It’s absolutely understandable to be so frightened, it’s not like I’m not, too – nuclear threats are scary! But just like I didn’t think shutting everything down in response to Covid could ever be without cost – I understand that failing to stand up to Putin now will not keep us safe in the long term. He needs to be stopped. That should have been clear after the first time we let him invade a part of Ukraine, without strong enough consequences (to say nothing of the time we let him invade Georgia without any real consequences – there is clearly a reason former Soviet states wanted to join NATO). He obviously came back for more – because he felt he could get away with it. The only way he will stop is if he is made to understand he absolutely will not get away with any more.

Not everything mainstream is bad; not everything fringe should be given more credence then it deserves.

N T
N T
1 year ago

And you just proved the point.

Aaron James
Aaron James
1 year ago

”So-called realism seems little more than an excuse for cowardice. Putin said scary things, so we better give him what he wants!”

That stupid line was all I could read – although I assume you wrote this wile clutching your AK-47 in some shell hole in Ukraine, and not on your sofa in Croyden..

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago
Reply to  Aaron James

This “realism” has zero relationship with Real Politik here on planet earth.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago

“So-called realism seems little more than an excuse for cowardice.”
Based on what? If you have not done so already, read up on Kissinger, try to understand how many conflicts have been wound down to an agreement between two sides that ended the killing. And just remember, my brave hero, you’re not doing the dying,

Last edited 1 year ago by Brett H
martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

So far, most of that dying has been Russian soldiers, sadly.

Claire D
Claire D
1 year ago
Reply to  martin logan

We will have no idea of the actual number of military deaths until this war is history. Casualty numbers of the enemy are always inflated by either side for propaganda purposes.

Paul MacDonnell
Paul MacDonnell
1 year ago

First-rate comment.
There is something tautological in other comments to your post. “you’re not doing the dying” is simply a non sequitur. The argument is “OK, You’re not scared but that’s only because you lack empathy”.
There is a very good argument that the West got involved in all sorts of conflicts, especially in the Middle East, that it really should have avoided. But actually this is one conflict that NATO is perfectly designed to fight and to win, very quickly.
Also people are conflating the use of tactical nuclear weapons with the use of ICBMs. Tactical nukes will give Putin no military advantage. He will not use ICBMs. And even if he wants to his generals will not follow his order to launch them.
Why? Because they will all be dead a few hours later.
The Russians won’t do gotterdammerung. Not for Ukraine.
And while we are talking about their ineffable history – let us remind ourselves that they have lost wars before.

Last edited 1 year ago by Paul MacDonnell
Igor Resch
Igor Resch
1 year ago

A lot of people, including all of the “realists” here in the forum, will only understand Putin when he personally holds a gun to their had and tells them that he is fighting “the west”, something that he is saying for a long time and especially in his last speeches, but as almost nobody here speaks Russian, very few seem to pay attention. This war is a once in a century opportunity to take Russia down, de-militarize and federalize is in a real and not a fake way including the independence of the Caucasus republics and some other regions. This has to happen, or it will be a huge missed opportunity.

Rob N
Rob N
1 year ago

Don’t think much of the statement that the US being behind the “Nord Stream pipeline attack seems to have been disproved.”
No proof at all, just a guess based on very little new evidence.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago

Russia has published its strategic demands before this war. They demanded to see NATO disbanded and that the US retire to the American continent and stop interfering in Europe. We would then have the local countries facing of one on one, Guess who would win all those conflicts and end up ruling Europe? You do not need psychology to work out where Putin’s Russia is trying to get to.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

I’d be interested to see a link to those demands.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

OK, I may have exaggerated slightly. To be sure we *have* heard Russian voices urging that NATO should have been disbanded, and that the US should stop interfering far from its borders – leaving Russia free to dominate the geographically close Europe. But I admit I cannot find the reference. We definitely have the 2021 Russian declaration. Which demands that NATO withdraw militarily to pre-1989 borders and leave Eastern Europe defenceless against any potential Russian aggression – as the leaders of Poland and the Baltic states were quick to point out.

There is a good, neutral overview of the situation on the site of the Doha Institute. Their version is that Putin/Russia demand full respect and equality as a great power on par with the US or China, with control of their own sphere of influence along their borders. That he sees democracy and the general idea of human rights as basically tools of subversion used by western powers (though he is willing to tolerate them superficially, as long as the countries he cares about are solidly controlled by a pro-Russian elite). And that it does make a difference that the west not only, humiliatingly, refuses to accept him and his nation as a equal power, but considers the Russian autocratic system with multiple minorities under control by Russians to be inherently illegitimate.

The problem form the other side is 1) that Russia is simply not strong enough to claim so much power. 2) Giving in to Russian demands would eventually give Russia back the control over Eastern Europe that the USSR had (to the great loss of the people living there), and again put an aggressive, miltaristic country that believes in naked power politics and in gaining new territory by force of arms in a position to threaten countries further west. Seen from the west, any deal would have to care for not only Russia’s fear of attacks from the outside, but also for it’s neighbours’ independence and fear of attacks from Russia. And that has never been on offer.

Last edited 1 year ago by Rasmus Fogh
Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

And why exactly do the Europeans and the EU need to rely on the US, a completely unreliable and fickle ally? The EU is more than rich enough and more than technologically advanced enough to be able to afford and cater for its own defense.
And quite frankly NATO should be disbanded. It should have been disbanded when the Soviet Union collapsed in the last century. It’s really not obvious to me why either the UK or the EU should be taking orders from the US, especially a US lead by a president exhibiting increasing and very obvious signs of senile dementia.
Also worth noting that the massive expansion of NATO has made article V meaningless. The fact of the matter is that none of the major NATO players would be willing to sacrifice their own blood to come to the rescue of small eastern states such as Estonia and Lithuanian that only a handful of their citizens could even place on a map.

Last edited 1 year ago by Johann Strauss
Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

The UK and the EU chose to take orders from the US because neither is strong enough to give them, and we would rather take them from Washington than from Moscow or Beijing.

mark schonfrucht
mark schonfrucht
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

To be an enemy of the USA is dangerous, but to be a friend is fatal.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago

Having looked at Belarus and Chechnya, I am willing to risk it.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

The UK and the EU not powerful enough. Aren’t the UK and France nuclear powers. They may not have as many nukes as the US or Russia, but enough to lay waste to the US or at least all its major cities. Further, the U is richer than the US and could easily pay for its own defense. Maybe that would be best for all so that they wouldn’t hav to rely on the US, and the US could mind its own business and not put its nose it to matters that are of no concern to its security. Libya anybody? Ukraine?

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

The Russian invasion has proved to a very large majority that NATO is more important than ever.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
1 year ago
Reply to  martin logan

Really. What exactly has NATO done. Most of the arms have come from the US, in fact so many that the US is running out of armaments. A really great place to be when you consider that the next threat is China invading Taiwan.

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

It’s destroyed Russia as a significant power.

That’s a pretty big achievement.

Teresa M
Teresa M
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

NATO should be disbanded and the USA should be made to leave Europe alone. What do we in the USA have to do to Europe and Ukraine’s issue with Russia? That is Ukraine’s business. Not ours. We only made things worse for the people over there with our interference which has NOTHING to do with saving democracy in Ukraine – I only wish our government and the people of our country brainwashed by the government complicit media’s propaganda would be so worried about maintaining some semblance of a democratic republic here in the USA. The Biden family has been financially benefiting from criminal dealings with the Ukrainian government and businesses for years. Now the USA has been sending money to Ukraine to continue the war while we have the biggest deficit in history – the dollar as world reserve currency is at stake (and Putin was helping to reduce its position in the world) – so many factors enter into this conflict between the West and Russia and most are the fault of the West and the USA especially. Why would anyone in the UK or Europe support the USA backed war against Russia? Y’all are HURTING because is this war and it’s not even about any just cause. At all.

Last edited 1 year ago by Teresa M
Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  Teresa M

I would support it because
1) I sympathise with the wish of Ukrainians to avoid becoming a vassal state of the Russian dictatorship – I would not want that for my country either.
2) NATO and US involvement is what protects European countries, including mine, from becoming subservient to the Russian military machine. I can assure you that US presence is making things better for us, not worse.
No comment on the rest. I just wonder who writes your script.

Last edited 1 year ago by Rasmus Fogh
Teresa M
Teresa M
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

I write my own thoughts. I think for myself. And I find it interesting that you hold the mainstream position without realizing that you are repeating what you are told to think by the establishment. Have you looked beyond what they tell you? I know how to research information and think for myself. And I also know that my country, my people, as well as your country and your people, are hurting because of a proxy war that has nothing to do with the well-being of anyone except the people who are running this war. To understand this root cause of this latest conflict one has to understand the financial and economic incentives that have to do with the USA wanting to inflate away its debt (pouring money into Ukraine helps), keeping the dollar as the world’s reserve currency (which Putin was threatening even before the current crisis and WHY should he do any differently if it helps his own people somehow?), the Biden family’s financial ties to the Ukrainian government, the USA puppet government set up in 2014: myriad threads to this situation yet people have been brainwashed into thinking it’s a black and white situation with a clear good guy and bad guy. And y’all over there are so brainwashed you are accepting a terrible economic / energy crisis thinking you are suffering for some higher purpose. Well, the military contract company stocks are way up so there is that – another factor to consider. While you are shivering in your cold, dark flat this winter you can rest easy knowing the stock holders and the board members of those companies are enjoying their warm cozy homes while their bank accounts grow. It’s ok if you don’t know all the reasons for this war you support; you have to read beyond the mains stream media headlines and look past the politicians’ posturing and that takes time. But just understand that before you accuse others of being unthinking bots you might want to consider that some of us read widely and think for ourselves rather than to absorb the propaganda spewed at us by the media and the government. And finally, personally I don’t care whether Ukraine belongs to Russia or to any other country. It’s a Ukrainian issue. Not an issue for those of us in the USA to be concerned about.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  Teresa M

I too read widely and think for myself – and I do not trust everything I read in the MSM either. I will say that you sound like someone who gets a very clear, consistent picture from somewhere and refuses to engage with anything that disagrees with it. So I would be interested in seeing what your source was.

Teresa M
Teresa M
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

I’m not going to play dueling sources with you because it devolves into the fallacy of appeal to authority. And in that battle you hold the weaker position because it is the mainstream narrative and thus easily accessible by anyone who doesn’t care to really understand the issue, but to have their opinions formed by them. My knowledge is gained from years of reading on multiple subjects and when people read long and well they gain insight the helps to put current events into perspective beyond media reductionism and sound bites. Instead of appeal to authority try actually thinking about myriad issues at play here. So the basic question to begin with when trying to figure out the truth of a situation is who benefits from the situation as it is. Do you or your community benefit from the US led NATO war against Russia? Do any of the people in the West, or in Ukraine, or even in Russia benefit? Who is benefiting? Who profits from the war against Russia? Why would the US and other Western governments care about democracy in Ukraine when they demonstrably don’t care about it in their own countries (most Western countries now run by unelected officials in state-formed bureaucracies as evidenced from the covid lock-down totalitarianism). Why should we believe anything we are told about Russia when we know now that Saddam Hussein never had weapons of mass destruction, he never gassed his people, and we now know that the Syrian government did not gas it’s own people. But these and other incidents in the past were used by governments as excuses to wage war. Other motives exist for the US to lead hostilities against Russia, such as Russia’s decision in 2021 to remove US dollar assets from its national wealth fund. This decision made the Biden administration mad. And this is not having to do with Ukraine. It is having to do with economics and power and the primacy of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. Many other factors are involved in this conflict and none to do with saving Ukraine from Russia – finally Zelenski is calling on the West to make a pre-emptive nuclear strike against Russia – this man who takes time away from war for a Vogue photo shoot and who is actively speaking out against a diplomatic solution to this conflict is willing to put the entire world at risk to serve his own purpose. If he cared for his people he would avoid nuclear war at all cost. Putin is no Angel. But neither are the Western powers forcing this conflict. It’s possible to have a bad guy vs bad guy scenario. And I would rather your countries in the EU and the UK take care of your own defense – all the tax money our government spends over there is money taken from our families and communities over here. You have no moral claim to money from my family and my community, that we work for. Figure out your own solutions to your problems. This war against Russia does not fulfill the just cause foundation for going to war (see St Thomas Aquinas for more about what makes a just war). And y’all don’t even know what the war is about. If you did you would rise up against the hostilities. Instead you beg for your families and communities to suffer for a cause you don’t even understand – but it is not a noble cause. And that is the tragedy behind your suffering.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  Teresa M

Normally I would say here that there is no point in us talking, because we do not live on the same planet. In you case I doubt that we live in the same galaxy.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
1 year ago
Reply to  Teresa M

Excellently stated.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

I hate to say this Rasmus, but your record, especially in matters COVID, and now Ukraine, indicates that you absolutely do not read widely, and you invariably and blindly accept “The Narrative^TM”, even when the evidence that that narrative is completely off and flawed is evident to anybody who choses to open their eyes. Yet you veil your arguments in pseudo-intellectual tones that purport to make you seem smart and knowledgeable, yet everyone of your comments indicates ignorance of the subject matter.

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

“The only “narrative” is the map, which keeps shrinking Putin’s area of control.

Just shows how quasi-Marxist thinking inhibits rational thought.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

And what exactly is your basis for assuming that Russia wants to invade Europe and the UK. Are you living in cloud cuckoo land?

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

The same reasons why they wanted to invade Hungary in 1956 and Ceckoslovakia in 1968. And Ukraine and Georgia more recently. Russia wants to be a great power, and obviously to be rich. That means being able to boss around your neighbours. As long as the neighbours toe the line and stick within the limits Russia sets they can be safe from invasion (like Finland), but Russia and only Russia determines where the line is. If Russia had the ability to condition and control more countries by the threat of invasion, without undue risk, why would they *not* make use of it? Moral scruples? The US is not run by either angels or charity workers, but they offer a better deal than Russia does. Democracy, for one thing.

Marshall Auerback
Marshall Auerback
1 year ago

Very thoughtful piece. My only small objection was this sentence:  “More recently, the claim by some realists that the US was behind the Nord Stream pipeline attack seems to have been disproved.” I read the tweet. It disproves no such thing at all. I actually think it was most likely that the CIA played a role, along with some NATO allies. But you can’t admit that as it would be a red flag to Moscow and possibly force them to take action vs a NATO country. It was a dangerous escalation, but I see no upside for Russia in doing this when they can just continue to turn off the taps. It’s far more consistent with (stated) US objectives, which is to eliminate the possible use of Russian gas in Europe. Sadly, though, the US is not really assisting its European allies by providing alternative sources (nor is Canada).

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago

I had thought that the Illuminati were more likely to blame.

Cassander Antipatru
Cassander Antipatru
1 year ago

This “realists are evil” rhetoric is, I think, because for most people in the West today WW2 is the main, if not only, historical reference point. Every dictator must be Hitler II, meaning that they’ll inevitably keep expanding as long as possible and the only way to avoid fighting them later is to fight them now. Everybody advocating for peace must be Neville Chamberlain or Lord Haw-Haw, either a clueless patsy or a corrupt enemy sympathiser. The fact that, whilst WW2 might have been started because of attempts to appease a fundamentally unappeasable man, WW1 was started because of outside nations getting involved in a squabble in Eastern Europe, is largely forgotten.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago

If you can give a realistic and convincing suggestion for what it would take to satisfy the desires of Russia – and how the world would look once it was done – could you please share it? I honestly cannot come up with anything more convincing than a return the the 1970’s – Warsaw pact, cold war and all.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Do you not think this is very much a Cold War action? Russia’s satisfaction, your Cold War comparison, is further down the road. What is happening now is classic Cold War.

Cassander Antipatru
Cassander Antipatru
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Letting Russia annexe the Russian-speaking areas of Ukraine, and a commitment from NATO not to let Ukraine join the alliance.

People (some of them mention in the article above) have been warning for decades now that Russia felt threatened by NATO’s eastward expansion, and particularly by the prospect of Ukraine joining the alliance/falling into the western orbit. I know some commentators like to portray the Russian invasion as some completely unprovoked, out-of-the-blue thing with no possible explanation beyond a desire for world conquest, but they’re just talking nonsense.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago

Letting Russia annexe the Russian-speaking areas of Ukraine, and a commitment from NATO not to let Ukraine join the alliance.

OK. Next question: in return for what? Given such a deal, what would Russia do to protect the security interests of (rump) Ukraine, or the Baltic states, or even Finland or Poland? Abandon Transdnistria? Withdraw troops from Russia’s border regions? Would Ukraine be allowed to decide its own foreign policy, including choosing whose ‘orbit’ to fall into?

If this was just about territory , the concessions you mention might well be worth it in order to get peace and freedom from a Russian military threat. The problem is that the most obvious continuation is that Russia would pocket the concessions and proceed from new strength to acquire control of first Ukraine and then Eastern Europe, the way the USSR had it of old. All in the interest of being a great power and keeping potential threats far away.

It is not enough to say ‘I am aggrieved, and if I do not get what I want I will keep making trouble’. To get a deal you also need to convince the other side that if you do get what you ask for you will stop making trouble, rather than just come up with new demands. I would love seeing the basis for a compromise and a long-term peace. But unless there is some convincing reason to think that a concession now will actually solve the problem, it seems better to take the fight now rather than later.

Last edited 1 year ago by Rasmus Fogh
Jeffrey Mushens
Jeffrey Mushens
1 year ago

WW1 started because Imperial Germany thought this was an opportunity to deal with France and Russia before both became too strong. It would also enable an escape from the, to the militarist, imperial elites, inexorable march of the socialists. Franz Fischer is an eye-opener in this respect. In 1938 the only objection to the Sudeten crisis was realist, not principled. How could a believer in self-determination (how destructive has this American Progressive formulation been, in destroying multi-ethnic societies?) object to Sudeten Germans (as, earlier, Austrians) exercising their ‘right’ to join Germany? Besides, in 1938 UK was not ready for war. And it was not obvious then that Hitler was worse than Stalin.
The problem with the realist position, post the Russian invasion in February, that a diplomatic solution, other than on “Russia wins” terms looks unattainable. Until Russia is defeated and pays the price for unprovoked aggression, genocide and mass murder. None of this means that Ukraine was a perfect state, and deeply corrupt, and that US interference in Ukraine wasn’t a mistake. But bthe realists have this one wrong. PS I’ve read that the pipeline explosions may been been failure of maintenance by the Russians – which is deeply plausible.

Jeff Andrews
Jeff Andrews
1 year ago

Stop your bellyaching, the whole bunch of you. As Putin said his army hasn’t even started, NATO can’t keep hiding behind the reluctance to fight a nuclear power. They must either put up or shut up, either way when Ukraine is finished with, if NATO doesn’t want to fight Russia directly they better tell Poland, Sweden and the Baltic statelets to behave themselves.
And don’t start with the American BS about ‘tactical’ nukes, there’s either nuclear weapons used or not. And by the way, the Russian targets are the FO building in London and the Pentagon. Or the ‘we’re already living through WW3’, keep pushing it and we will be. I hope the rabble rousers in these comment threads are ready to get conscripted. From what I remember in Iraq we better up our game, getting escorted out by the Iraqi army and Americans wasn’t one of our better days.

JĂŒrg Gassmann
JĂŒrg Gassmann
1 year ago

A very odd piece.
By now, of course, the so-called “lockdown sceptics” have been proven right, where “lockdown sceptics” broadly refers to those who thought the WHO’s September 2019 pandemic management guidelines, distilled from over a century of experience, should have been paid attention to, and not casually tossed overboard in favour of experiments all experts knew would not work – they never have.
If that is meant to be a lesson, then the lessons should be to pay attention to John Mearsheimer, George Kennan (the “father” of containment), Henry Kissinger (Nobel Peace Prize winner), Zbigniew Brzezinski, and other anti-American peaceniks of their ilk – right?

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 year ago

By calling Tracy a holocaust denier you are literally doing what your article advocates against. Controversial opinion? Yes. Holocaust revisionism? No, just what on earth do you think the words holocaust revisionism mean?

Last edited 1 year ago by UnHerd Reader
Smalltime J
Smalltime J
1 year ago

Setting up ‘idealism’ as the opponent is a straw man. There are very practical and realistic reasons not to give in to Putin’s nuclear sabre-rattling. Lawrence Freedman’s excellent blogposts on the Ukraine war set this out very clearly. And the governments of the Baltic States and Poland can’t be said to be indulging in misty eyed romanticism when they support a hard line against Russia – they are motivated by the very real concern that if a hard line is not taken then they will be next.

Igor Resch
Igor Resch
1 year ago

Writing such an article after eight months of war in which basically every single expectation about the Russian war machine turned to dust can only be explained by utter ignorance or corruption by the author. Notwithstanding the fact that the air is getting thinner for Putin whithin the Kremlin, one wonders how one would bring the Ukrainians to stop fighting? This will never, ever happen. I’m shocked that there is still such foolishness around this topic, but some people still seem to be carried away by the look of Putin riding a horse topless.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
1 year ago
Reply to  Igor Resch

 every single expectation about the Russian war machine turned to dust ‘.
But isn’t it becoming clearer by the day that the Russians, however, ramshackle their army on the ground, could still flatten most Ukrainian cities in an afternoon should they so choose?
So far, the Russians have conducted this war for the most part as if we were still living in the eighteenth century.
‘the air is getting thinner for Putin within the Kremlin’
Are we sure that’s a good thing? Whoever is waiting in the wings could be a lot worse.
There is nothing so dangerous in war as strategists who think that victory is a certainty.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago

This article just appears to be the writer complaining that those who deem themselves to be realists are upset that some of their opinions have attracted criticism.
Their realism (or realpolitik to borrow another favoured phrase of theirs) never seems to allow the view that by simply arming Ukraine, NATO and the west can significantly weaken a major rival without risking the lives of a single soldier and much more cheaply than engaging in actual combat.
If the day comes Ukraine is willing to cede territory to avoid further combat then that view should be respected, however the choice should be theirs to make

Aaron James
Aaron James
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

China is the enemy, and by keeping a strong Russia on their thousand miles of borders China had to behave very differently from now – where we drove Russia into his camp.

You armchair, war-mongering Neo-Cons are destroying the world economic and power structure because you are all mindless sheep driven by the MSM Globalists.

You do not have to watch the children starving in the third world because the price your playing at soldiers is to make their farms unable to afford fertilizers, or petrol for their tractors, or gas for cooking. The inflation you export to pay for your War making them unable to afford anything but desperate poverty – They pay the price you condemn them to.

You likely have a pension and house sorted out – so can play big solider where other people die – WILE the young people in your own country will never afford their own house, or get a pension as you wrecked the economy – because ‘it is a price worth paying’ to send $80 Billion arms and just cash to keep the oligarchs fighting. The sanctions causing the USA To lose Reserve Currency Status, causing the West to have to print another Trillion to buy the oil and gas YOU Inflated will be paid by the young as Inflation…This recession becoming a Global Depression so you Neo-Cons can play the great game of war between streaming Netflix and having a cup of tea – not having to see the starvation, limbs blown off, houses and jobs destroyed, and all Europe going broke by the inflation which is the price of you playing War in some one else’s nation, and billions being reduced to abject poverty.
ï»ż
Warmongers make me sick! You are all tools of the Globalists but say you support it for ‘Justice’ – well have you seen babies starving? I have! That is what your games give – …………………………

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Aaron James

I’m sure if you threw a few more cliched insults my way people are bound to take your point of view seriously. However unfortunately your Sherlock Holmes like deductions about me are a long way off, as is most of the rest of your post.
It was Russia that invaded Ukraine, it was Russia that blockaded all the ports and stole the grain. It’s also Russia that has the power to end all this tomorrow by taking its soldiers back to within its own borders.

B Emery
B Emery
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Actually nato laid sea mines around the port of odessa so no ships could use the port, they had to clear these before the first grain shipments could leave. Pretty sure there’s even footage of Boris saying this. There was much made that these would go to poor countries, the world ld food organization actually reduced the amount of grain that would be available to developing countries so the west would have enough, developing countries cannot afford the inflated price of grain at the moment and the ivory coast has already started to suffer.

Last edited 1 year ago by B Emery
Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  Aaron James

All bow down to the great and wise one, Aaron! Don’t even think about challenging his wisdom, because he knows everything.

I think you and Putin are similar characters – would be lovely to see you meet and clash in who knows best!

pessimist extremus
pessimist extremus
1 year ago
Reply to  Aaron James

You armchair, war-mongering Neo-Cons are destroying the world economic and power structure... – an interesting diagnosis for Putin. Or would him taking country by country be strenghtening the structure?

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

“This article just appears to be the writer complaining that those who deem themselves to be realists are upset that some of their opinions have attracted criticism.”
He’s suggesting they may have a point and that it’s of no help to shut down their opinions. Just as the same position was shut down during Covid and then proven to be the wiser position.
“by simply arming Ukraine, NATO and the west can significantly weaken a major rival without risking the lives of a single soldier and much more cheaply than engaging in actual combat.”
Who are you referring to here?

Last edited 1 year ago by Brett H
Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

I don’t believe their opinions have been shut down, they’ve been free to make them and have done so since the invasion began. I haven’t seen any evidence of them being cancelled, merely criticised.
As for you second part, I was referring to NATO, and the fact they are able to weaken a hostile power without risking any of their troops simply by arming Ukraine. Putin has given them an opportunity to severely weaken Russia without them firing a shot, and they’re not going to look a gift horse in the mouth

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

“In the past fortnight, the realists have been described as “intellectually bankrupt”, “pro-fascist” and “Putin apologists” — and that’s just in one article.”
Thats not mere criticism. I think we all know what shut-down means today.  
Yes your moral position’s interesting and clear. So we’re sending Ukraine arms to fight a war with a huge costs against our enemy so that we don’t pay in the same way they are. Let Ukraine fight our dirty little war.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

You make it sound as if the Ukrainians are mercenaries for NATO, rather than a nation trying to repel a Russian military guilty of numerous war crimes

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

You constantly misrepresent what I say.
“by simply arming Ukraine, NATO and the west can significantly weaken a major rival without risking the lives of a single soldier and much more cheaply than engaging in actual combat.”
No, not mercenaries, but certainly they may be dupes for your geopolitics views. This is history: innocents dying for the Cold War.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

They are innocents dying because a dictator has invaded their country and is firing missiles into residential areas in tactics reminiscent of the Blitz, not because NATO has given them the means to defend themselves. I’m surprised this needs repeating to be honest

B Emery
B Emery
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

And here realism has died again. Nato and America are saints, Russia is guilty of war crimes according to Billy bob. I assume you buried your head in the sand Billy Bob when America lost control of its opium war in Afghanistan and pulled out leaving hundreds starving as they had stopped cultivating wheat in order to grow opium for the US market. I expect you are unaware that the first target in Iraq was the desalination plants that provided civilians with water and expect you must be completely ignorant of the catastrophe in Haiti where they pumped the toilet waste from the un camp into the local river and caused a cholera epidemic that killed 10000 people, you need to get off your high horse Billy Bob and realise the west is as morally bankrupt as Russia. It is far more complex than good nato v bad Russia, it is a geopolitical struggle of west against east, now the east has found its feet and doesn’t feel like being bossed by the US.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

“Let Ukraine fight our dirty little war”
… and defend themselves with our assistance against a swarm of looting torturing raping mass-murdering thugs.

Last edited 1 year ago by Richard Craven
Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

No doubt. We know what the Russians are like. But that’s the truth about this dirty little war.

Last edited 1 year ago by Brett H
Jonathan Webb
Jonathan Webb
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

I hope you realize that Ukraine is one of the most corrupt countries. All that foreign aid? I assure you, much or most of it will go into the pockets of the politically connected.

Kat L
Kat L
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

There was negotiation back in April and the US put a stop to it. Obviously the govt is willing to fight to the last Ukrainian.

Micael Gustavsson
Micael Gustavsson
1 year ago
Reply to  Kat L

Any proof that the US put a stop to negotiations? I got the impression that negotiations faltered because Russia wasn’t serious.

Stephen Ford
Stephen Ford
1 year ago

The mistake that so-called “realists” make is to see the Ukrainian war in isolation without considering what will happen subsequently if Putin is appeased.
If Putin is encouraged by a “victory” in Ukraine he will subsequently move on to further aggression either again in Ukraine to finish the job of conquest there or to new areas such as Georgia, Moldova, Estonia etc.
Not only that, tyrants in other countries, China for example, are observing the situation and could be encouraged to wars of conquest of their own by a perceived Russian success in Ukraine.
Looking at this in the whole from a global perspective it is very clear that the “realists” are dangerously wrong.

Bruce Crichton
Bruce Crichton
1 year ago

You are not realists, you are fantasists, promoting your own imagination above fact.

Putin responds to restraint by seeing it as weakness.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
1 year ago
Reply to  Bruce Crichton

If you are not to be guilty yourself of fantasising you have to tell us what victory looks like in this war. Are the Ukrainians going to invade and occupy Russia? No, they’re not. Are the Russians ever going to give up Crimea? No, they’re not, whatever follows Putin. In that case what is the alternative to a negotiated peace that involves compromise?

mark schonfrucht
mark schonfrucht
1 year ago

This article made some sense, until the inevitable moralising vitue-signal in the final sentence which obviates the whole argument: “Putin and Covid are both malevolent forces…”. What does this mean? Is covid a “force”, or is the REACTION to covid a force? Is Putin a “force”, or is NATO a “force”? Who started this horrible and needless war? And who was it that LOCKED us down?

Diane Merriam
Diane Merriam
1 year ago

There are just too many ways to look at it. Were the NATO countries going to deny membership and therefore treat some nations as second-class ones because they used to be under Russian control? Same for the EU. Yes. It pissed Russia off and, perhaps, justifiably so, from its point of view. But either they are sovereign nations or they aren’t. Ukraine was never going to invade Russia. Ukraine is in no way run by Nazis. Nor was there “genocide” against Russian speakers. Shoot, Zelenskyy speaks Russian. They simply stopped teaching all in Russian and had Ukrainian as default on all government papers. How terrible.
We taught Russia that we wouldn’t respond by letting them get away with Chechnya and Georgia and Crimea and supporting and encouraging and *directly* operating as a Russian army in the Donbas with no more than a slap on the wrist. So of course he thought he could get away with it again. But the 2014 invasion *made* Ukraine a country and made Ukrainians Ukrainian more than anything else could have done. For eight years they learned and prepared and forged bonds with each other.
While some NATO countries have participated in some military actions, as an organization it has never started one or shown any desire to do so. It is a defensive organization.
Nor is there any reason to believe that Russia would have been satisfied with “just” Crimea, Luhansk, and Donetz. If they had managed to make it to Mykolayiv before the bridge was blown, they would have gone on to Odesa and cut Ukraine off from the Black Sea altogether. Moldova would be nothing for them to take once they got to the Ukrainian border there to join up with their forces already in Transnistria. The places it needs to control to make itself “safe” from routes that many historical invasions have come through are past Ukraine and include parts or all of several NATO nations. If Russia does get past Ukraine, there’s no way to avoid a direct confrontation between Russia and NATO. As long as the war stays in Ukraine, both sides can technically say that they weren’t directly at war.
After all, the USSR sent top of the line planes, air defense systems, and other weapons, also including technicians and even some direct operators to North Vietnam, which NATO countries haven’t in Ukraine, and that didn’t start WWIII. Given the poor performance the Russian military has demonstrated, there’s no question that NATO would win a conventional war and that *would* be a direct battle. I doubt that if it came to an Article 5 situation that NATO would stop at Russia’s borders as they are trying to insist that Ukraine does, at least with Western weapons. And that *would* then be an existential threat to Russia.
Russia “freaked out” over the possibility of Ukraine eventually getting to go NATO and European Union, but then says they have no problem with Finland doing so. That land border is just as long and also, for hundreds of miles, parallels the only road and rail line that connects Greater Russia to its Northern military bases in Murmansk. Finland is also much closer to St. Petersburg, Russia’s other major city, than Ukraine is to Moscow.
There were no “solutions” to the problem of Russia and the rest of Europe once Putin took power. There was a chance they could have been integrated between ’91 and 2000, but it just didn’t happen. Countries don’t change their spots that fast. If Russia had been satisfied with Crimea and stopped backing the insurgencies, the rest of the world would have let sleeping dogs lie. But it didn’t. Given Russia’s demographics, it was likely now or never, so the now was chosen and we have the mess we’re all in.

Last edited 1 year ago by Diane Merriam
Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Diane Merriam

Good comment.
“As long as the war stays in Ukraine, both sides can technically say that they weren’t directly at war.”
This seems to be the reality to me. Very sad but still the reality of geopolitics. Not the first time and not the last time. Realpolitiks means the sacrifice of smaller, or weaker, countries for the sake of detente between those with power. This is the price others pay for the piece of mind we in the stronger states want. It says something very telling about humanity, something much more complex than simply right from wrong or the fight for democracy.
This is from another interesting story from UnHerd. “Did America Cause Europe’s Energy War?”
“However, the mounting evidence forces us to ask an uncomfortable question: could the US strategy in Ukraine be aimed not only at weakening Russia, but Germany as well?” 

Last edited 1 year ago by Brett H
Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago

The comparison between ‘Russia realists’ and ‘lockdown sceptics is quite apt. Both were pushing very strong views on the assumption that their opponents were evil idiots. Both dealt with the downside risks of their own policies by simply ignoring that there would be any. They may not have been treated very well, but having such people ‘in the tent’ is not useful. Some clear and, yes, realistic predictions about the number of COVID dead or the future behaviour of a victorious Russia would have made all the difference, but neither group produced anythying beyond motivated reasoning.

In the case of Russia, we have been ‘realist’ for quite a while. OK, promising to take Georgia and Ukraine into NATO was unrealistic hubris, back when it happened. But the west realistically did nothing about Chechenya or Georgia (there was nothing we could do), and the annexation of Crimea and the invasions in the Donbas was met with sanctions to make a point and with brokering the very Russia-friendly Minsk agreement. Russia’s vital interests and their local military supremacy were realistically accepted, and Russia was allowed to keep the closest and most Russian-speaking areas under its control. Now Russia is trying to expand its control to cover Ukraine, and – thanks to Ukrainian sacrifices – there *is* something we can do. At what point does realpolitik demand that we block further Russian expansion?

JJ Barnett
JJ Barnett
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

“Some clear and, yes, realistic predictions about the number of COVID dead or the future behaviour of a victorious Russia would have made all the difference, but neither group produced anything beyond motivated reasoning.”

I would take exception to this line re suggested Covid alternative responses, particularly those outlined in the GBD (as referenced by the article). If you read the document or listen to anything this collection of scientists have said in interviews [including the one with UnHerd] it’s clearly not “motivated reasoning”, no matter what you personally think of the suggestions offered.

Those scientists were proposing that we use the existing (evidence based) methods of handling a pandemic, rather than throwing out everything we knew about viruses and pandemic response, shredding our pandemic preparedness plans on a whim, and going full tilt for a brand new Chinese style method of pandemic response involving the never-before-seen concept of “quarantine” of healthy people, entire societies at a time.

I appreciate there are very different views on what we should have done re Covid response, but you seem to be indicating that these scientists were just mouthing off as opposed to making a sincere case for a clear and scientifically sensible plan. [What they suggested was our plan, until we suddenly got spooked and binned it to follow China.] That seems to wilfully misrepresent their proposal and the evidence that backed it?

Last edited 1 year ago by JJ Barnett
Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  JJ Barnett

It was indeed the existing plan – but the existing plan had been optimised over years to deal with the flu. It was at best quite uncertain how the plan would work with a new and substantially different virus. I think that they suffered from a professional deformation of scientist (I am in science myself). To wit that you take it for granted that current theories work until you have a better one – because it is unbearable to be left with no theory at all. So you do not make adequate allowance for the probability that your theory might be wrong, and what the alternatives might be.

I have two main complaints against Gupta et al.
First that they kept coming up with numbers showing that COVID was much less dangerous than other people thought, and that the epidemic had already run its course. Which were subsequently disproved by events. To be sure those numbers should go into the probability calculations, just like Ferguson’s did, but at best they were misrepresenting the risk they might be wrong. At worst it is motivated reasoning.
Second the idea that we could just let the epidemic run and protect the vulnerable while we did that. Never mind that the strategy was based on the idea of herd immunity – which in the end did not materialise. Never mind that there is a legitimate debate whether it would be less damaging to take a lot of deaths up front rather than the consequences of lockdown. Never mind even what would have happened to hospitals once intensive care filled up with COVID patients. But the idea that you could protect the ‘most vulnerable’ (eveyone over 70?, 55? and all the asthmatics, diabetics, etc. below that age?) in the middle of a raging epidemic that went through the entire population was never remotely realistic. I cannot speak for Gupta or any other individual. But I suspect that a lot of people went with that argument only because it allowed them to be against lockdown measures without facing up to how many deaths their favourite policies might (at worst) cause.

JJ Barnett
JJ Barnett
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

“First that they kept coming up with numbers showing that COVID was much less dangerous than other people thought, and that the epidemic had already run its course. Which were subsequently disproved by events.”

Not sure what you mean by that? Total mortality from this pandemic (as per the Our World in Data/JHU dataset) is objectively very low, arguably so low that in hindsight this would not have qualified as a ‘pandemic of international concern’ without the WHO monkeying about with the definitions (as the CDC did with “vaccine”). And are we not now all agreed on the fact that much of what was labelled Covid-19 mortality was in fact people dying with Covid-19 rather than of Covid-19? …I was of the understanding that both those things are pretty well accepted now, even by those who argued in favour of lockdowns, though I’m happy to be wrong.

To your latter points, I’m not sure it was a “raging epidemic” in the sense that masses of people would have died had we done nothing, and I think the IFR data now shows that, but since hindsight is 20/20 let’s say instead that for the sake of argument it was a virus with a really scary IFR [or we credibly believed it to be so when crafting the models and the policy response]. Modelling of the most outlandish upside predictions was pushed forward as The Scienceâ„ąïž during this period, and people saying formerly sensible and obvious things like “what are the assumptions feeding this?” and “who has done the cost/benefit analysis” were subjected to astonishing vitriol and the impugning of their character as “granny killers” etc.

Herd immunity is not a crazy new policy idea, it’s simply the descriptor for what happens when enough of the population has met the virus, sufficient to attenuate it’s R rate. The vaccine strategy was also a ‘herd immunity strategy’. It was an attempt to accelerate the herd immunity outcome by presenting the antigen to large numbers of people through immunisation rather than community circulation. Herd immunity is a wise strategy, and had the vaccines actually been vaccines (and delivered immunity to the recipient) then it would have worked, as it has done for many other pathogens in the past. Is it not fair to say that a significant reason this pathogen is still circulating so well is that we tried a herd immunity strategy using a non-sterilising immunisation, which obviously cannot work, and didn’t work?

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  JJ Barnett

On deaths, I go with the Economist estimate, which is 16.8-27.6 million extra deaths from COVID (as against the official estimate fo 6.6 million) I do not know what it takes to make a ‘pandemic of international concern’, but I would say that 22+/-5 million deaths is quite a lot.

No, we are *not* agreed that ‘much of what was labelled Covid-19 mortality was in fact people dying with Covid-19 rather than of Covid-19′.

Whatever you call it, the choice was between 1) trying to slow down transmission and (if you cannot stop it) delay the pandemic while people looked for a vaccine 2) letting the virus run free and concentrate on protecting the most vulnerable, thus getting the immunity from people actually catching the virus quickly. 2) is generally known as the ‘herd immunity’ strategy.

The reason the virus is still circulating is that none of the available methods have been enough to stop it. It is not like there was a better vaccine lying on the shelf.

What I mean by this:
First that they kept coming up with numbers showing that COVID was much less dangerous than other people thought, and that the epidemic had already run its course. Which were subsequently disproved by events.
is that along the time Ferguson came out with his simulation data, Gupta came out with alternative simulations showing that COVID was already burned out, because the majority of the UK population was either natively immune or had caught it already. I think it is fair to say that this was grossly incorrect. The Swedish medical establishment also did some numbers that implied everyone in Stockholm had already caught the virus. Now there is actually nothing wrong with publishing an alternative simulation that is compatible with known data (which is what Ferguson did, after all, no matter how the press chose to present his results). But Gupta did not present her data as just one of a series of possibilities, and used them to a argue quite strongly for her Barrington strategy. At a minimum I would say that she was if anything less objective and disinterested than her scientific opponents.

JJ Barnett
JJ Barnett
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

I appreciate your response. I have to take issue with a key points though…

Deaths with vs of Covid. The UK ONS data is available online, updated weekly, so let’s use that as a benchmark since we would probably both agree it’s a high authority source (govt stats from an organised 1st world country, with socialised/centrally administered healthcare system, hence good surveillance capability across the healthcare landscape). In Dec 2021, at the point in the pandemic that circa 140k people were reported by ONS to have died from Covid, it was already clarified in the surveillance reports that the average number of serious comorbidities involved in a Covid death was 4. [Makes sense, given the average age of death being higher than the average UK life expectancy].

This prompted a FOIA request asking the ONS to clarify how many people had died purely from Covid, without underlying serious comorbidities, to which the answer given was just over 17,000 (total over both years, 2020 & 2021). A follow-up FOIA then asked for further clarification re those numbers, asking for a breakdown by age cohort, and asking which of the total number of death classified as Covid deaths have the agreement of a coroner/autopsy to confirm that Covid was responsible for the death. The answer that ONS gave was less than 7,000 (over the 2 year period) and heavily age stratified (presumably as most of us would expect).

So if 140k over 2 years was the high watermark for death in total; average comorbidities = 4; average age of death = higher than life expectancy in the country cohort…
And taking the higher number of 17,000 as the ballpark range for people who likely died due to Covid-19 alone (no other co-causal factor) over those 2 years…

…Then the truth for how many people actually died of Covid (rather than with Covid) can be presumed to exist somewhere in the middle of those two extremes, agreed? Somewhere between 8,500 and 70,000pa. Total flu mortality during 2020 and 2021 dropped to almost nothing, so we should probably expect to see some/all of those [25-30k a year, average] flu deaths shift over into Covid mortality metrics.

Regarding excess mortality, in the year 2020 when we were immunonaive and had no vaccines, total mortality for the year was 689k, up from 604k (2019) and 616k (2018), so that’s about a 14% YoY jump, or approx 85k as a fixed number. Currently, we are running at around 10% WoW non-Covid excess mortality, which is rather concerning. This is where a cost/benefit analysis, or frankly any kind of approach that could consider the collateral harms and account for those as well could have helped us. We can’t say for certain what is driving the circa 10% more people dying each week at the moment, except to say that these are non-Covid deaths. I don’t envy the people in charge during this period and having to make choices that someone will be angry about no matter what, but I don’t think a cost/benefit based approach would have been an inhuman suggestion, on the contrary it may have been able to bring some collateral harm potential onto the board as well, such that we could have taken an approach that considered totality of harm and not just harm from Covid?

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  JJ Barnett

Cost-benefit analyses are always good, and I am very much in favour. The problem is that two years ago, and to some extent even now, most of the numbers are guesswork at worst, and come with huge uncertainties at best. It is pretty much impossible to make a good cost-benefit analysis when all the numbers you need are extremely uncertain. Here I suspect scientists are worse than many, BTW, because they are used to dealing with certainties, or waiting till they get proof. Even at best it is a matter of which risks you are willing to take (how much economic damage? How many additional deaths?). And I think there was a strong tendency (on both sides, admittedly) to take the decision first on ideological or personal grounds, and then selecting the data that would justify it.

As for the ‘pure COVID deaths’ it is surprisingly hard to get precise numbers, but your approach is precisely targeted to minimise the number. First you you limit yourself to reported COVID deaths, because it could never happen that someone died of COVID without it being reported (?). Then you exclude everyone with co-morbidities – that is what, the most vulnerable 20% of the population? The you limit yourself to people with an autopsy. Then you as