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Post Seven Points for Understanding Ukraine Invasion
Created by John Eipper on 03/12/22 3:26 AM

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Seven Points for Understanding Ukraine Invasion (Mendo Henriques, Portugal, 03/12/22 3:26 am)


The international community lives in a state of nature. -- Immanuel Kant 

The invasion of Ukraine is also an attack by Putin on the West, after securing China's complicity and economic support. Faced with a common threat, Europe and US joined forces with the Ukrainian people, notwithstanding divergent interests within the European territory itself. The invasion put NATO on alert, in particular Russia's neighboring states and other Western allies.

Putin chose to attack now because he considers the West as morally decadent in lifestyles and enfeebled by two years of pandemics; financially corrupt to the point that political parties and radical right-wing personalities are purposely financed by Moscow banks; and because Europe is economically dependent on Siberian gas and oil and the UK, particularly, is attracted to Russian money. His statements in this regard have been constant for more than a decade since his Munich speech in 2007. He had other options, considering the middle-term Chinese threat; but an armed confrontation with an ex-Russian/Soviet territory is the way in which the Kremlin's resources work best and shape its nationalistic electorate. There is nothing for the moment that Ukraine and the West can do but resist; the negotiations are used by Putin only to assess the adversary and change tactics if necessary.

Putin's invasion turned the crisis in which Ukraine already found itself into open war. Until the invasion, the debate was about the "scapegoat" who was "to blame" for the conflict. Was Russia to blame as it wants to come back to an ex-Soviet republic and has the means to support it on the ground, particularly in Donbas and Crimea? Or was it the West to blame? What is the role of the Bucharest 2006 declaration of support for  Georgia and Ukraine joining NATO? Or the 2013 association agreements with the European Union, whose repelling by Yanukovych triggered the Euromaidan uprising?

In the clash between great powers on Ukrainian territory, the conflict seemed located through the occupation of Donbas and Crimea. Then "a black swan" appeared and the "blame game" disappeared.  A new reality of invasion and crimes against humanity emerged. There are geopolitical constants and there are game-changers. The premeditated invasion of Ukraine was a "surprise"; but as far as we can see through the "fog of war" and "secret diplomacy," the courageous resistance of the Ukrainian people was another surprise that made the difference and won the hearts of the friends of freedom around the world. 


What is up?  --Marshal Ferdinand Foch, Supreme Allied Commander, 1918 

In fourteen days, the Russian army occupied about 25% of the border strips of the Ukrainian territory, which is 600,000 km2, the size of the Iberian Peninsula. Kyiv is blocked in the north, west and increasingly east, leaving the south as an escape and supply route. Kharkiv is surrounded and already in partial possession of the invader. Mariupol, ditto. Odessa is under siege by sea; everything indicates that the Russian landing forces do not want excessive casualties. There are army spearheads in the direction of Transnistria. On the other hand, Russian troops in Belarus did not advance into western Ukraine and Lviv, the main axis through which refugees move and supplies arrive. 


Putin was counting on a riot police-type operation, as in Georgia in 2008 and Donbas in 2014, but the lightning victory did not come. The takeover by surprise of Kyiv failed, after the capture on the first day (24 February) of the Hostomel airport, lost and recaptured; stormtroopers of the élite 1st Armoured Guards Army failed to take Kharkiv until now, March 10th. On the other hand, the invasion from Crimea towards the east in the direction of Donbas was very successful, with the siege of Mariupol taking place; and it was successful westward to Odessa, as attested by the capture of Kherson; and further north towards Zaporozhe, in order to consolidate the line of the Dnipro River.

The second week of the invasion brought a strategic adaptation, which seems to be still in progress. After 5 days of blazing operations, the forces near Kyiv took a strategic break to regroup and resupply and began bombing and missile launches on the capital and other besieged cities, to terrorize the populations and intimidate the rulers. The Russians only apply part of the forces committed. Compared with other blitz campaigns, Germany beat Poland in five weeks in 1939; in 2003, the US invasion of Iraq achieved victory after 40 days of fighting.

The Russian army has experienced heavier losses of land and air than expected, attested by several sources and even admitted by Moscow (the notorious "498" casualties; the figure may be 2 to 4 thousand according to the North Americans and +10 thousand according to the Ukrainians). The lack of logistical preparation, the restraint in the use of air resources and the low morale of captured soldiers have been noted. According to Western estimates, Russia has not yet used the 150-200,000 or so men it has placed on its border and in Belarus, the country of collaborationist dictator Lukashenko. Russian troop morale is not high; they are not waging the war they know and have trained for, which is hard on the populations; it is rather a stop-and-go-offensive. Despite the daily drama of the scourging of cities, Kremlin forces have made efforts to limit civilian casualties, due to the objectives: 30% of the Russian population has family in Ukraine, and ordering a war of destruction against Kyiv would be suicide. Putin must manage a contradiction; waging war on Ukrainians he regards as Russians. Excess casualties create hatred among the population--a kind of Military Holodomor.  If you want to influence in post-war Ukraine--whatever the outcome--high civilian casualties would be contrary to objectives. This requires the Russians not to repeat the awful scenarios of Grozny and Aleppo. Notwithstanding, in the age of Twitter, Tik-Tok, and Instagram, 2000 casualties create the same perception of 20 thousand.

US military doctrine requires absolute air superiority before the ground troops advance. Russian military doctrine indicates that, after some air missions, the armored columns may advance. Thus, Russia has no air domination. There are great progressions on the ground but also standing columns, and smoking ruins of tanks and vehicles testify to patent weaknesses. Defense minister Sergei Shuigoi, not a soldier, and Chief of General Staff, General V. Gerasimov, have been in their posts since 2012: they planned this operation, with advantages in positioning, time, and material superiority; yet the armies are logistically weak and unmotivated troops. The Russians even recruit civilian vehicles to supply their forces, including the 60km "convoy" north of Kyiv.  


I don't want a ride; I want ammo.  --Volodymyr Zelensky 

Ukraine is losing militarily, winning politically, and tied in the economic field. The Ukrainians surprised the world with the demonstrations in Maidan Square, which began on November 21, 2013, and triggered the 2014 political changes. Now in 2022, Putin's hordes were surprised by the determination of the Ukrainians and their political and military leaders who, instead of bowing to the invaders, showed determination. Every day more of resistance is a step towards Ukrainian identity; creates convergence in the West; and assures them of moral support around the world, of which the UN votes are an example.

The Armed Forces of Ukraine have 200,000 troops, and 100,000 men from the Army, National Guard and Territorial Defense. Kiev has called up 900,000 reservists of which an unspecified number is available. It has superiority in numbers compared to the Russian army. The resilience of the Ukrainian units has been a revelation; not much is known about the operations, but they do not attack the Russian Schwerpunkte; they ambush the weakest columns. This is revealed by the quotes in military medals, recently attributed by President Zelensky.

We don't know if the Ukrainian government will be able to hold out in Kiev for many more days. A massive and surgical bombardment of Government headquarters is to be expected in the third week of war to decapitate the government. The Russians can even wage an annihilation battle but the human losses of a "Kievgrad" would be excessive. The Kremlin spokesperson Peskov announced on March 8, new negotiating conditions of doubtful credibility. The longer the struggle lasts, the more the current government wins. The less territory falls into Moscow's hands, the better-negotiating conditions Kyiv will obtain; even if they kill president Zelensky, both the Defense or Foreign Affairs ministers seem able to succeed him.

On March 8, Ukraine is a state that must have already lost more than half of its economic potential, but the Ukrainian people have definitively asserted themselves as a nation. The Russian dream of the third Rome, the "Union of Russia," Alexander Dugin's "fourth political idea" and similar imperial designs have no place in them.

We do not know how long the open war in Ukraine will last. But even in the event of a military victory, the Russian army is not big enough to occupy a country of 42 million people. We can invade the territory, but we cannot invade the people, as captured and repentant Colonel D. M. Astakhov of the Russian National Guard claimed. This statement by a colonel in a Praetorian unit, politically chosen and headed by Putin's former bodyguard, reflects a low moral, and a big attrition.

Ukraine 2022 is not Czechoslovakia 1938; it is fighting with courage and intelligence and has some Western support. The aggressor is not the Wehrmacht, but nonetheless well-armed with an ambiguously defined mission. The Ukrainians are sophisticated in handling advanced weapons. Even if they capitulate, adapted civilian technologies (suicide drones, for example) and civilian computer-hacking militias have a role to play in special operations. According to General Macmaster, a former US national security adviser, Ukraine may even win the war. 


They (Ukraine) are one of us.  --Ursula von der Leyen 

The worst is yet to come.  --Emmanuel Macron 

The common goal of EU and US governments and their world allies--Japan, South Korea, Australia--is the liberation of Ukraine, the guarantee of its independence with free institutions, and the reconstruction of the economy. This common strategy follows three vectors: military and financial support, economic sanctions against Putin's Russia, and solidarity campaigns.

The West is supplying portable missiles, ammunition, heavy machine guns, precision weapons, secure communication technology and defensive equipment to Ukrainian regular and irregular forces. Supplying MIG-29s has been debated in public and behind the scenes. With Ukrainians willing to fight for their freedom, the moral imperative of support becomes a strategic objective. Even if the besieged Ukrainian cities fall, there will be forces that will continue the resistance. A country the size of the Iberian Peninsula, of 42 million inhabitants, with urban areas, forests and mountains, and hundreds of thousands of armed and angry men and women, is unconquerable.

The limited Western support is a result of NATO wanting to stay out of the war. NATO is in a conundrum; it effectively encouraged Ukraine to come to NATO since the 2008 Bucharest decision; in more than a decade, it did not substantiate or cancel that appeal. The tyranny of procrastination, of half-decisions is now showing its price. NATO does not help Ukraine but is building military paraphernalia at the Russian front, with armoured forces, fighter bombers and long-range missiles to disable bases, enemy air and staging areas in case of war. As European armed forces deteriorated after the end of the Cold War, Germany just added €100 billion overnight to its defense budget, the equivalent of two years. Poland increased defense spending to 3% of its GDP, and bought 250 American M1 tanks. There is talk of a Lend-Lease 2.0, and of the United States as an arsenal of democracy since large stocks of surplus military equipment allow for the strengthening of European allies. In a time when war has become hybrid or 4th generation, specialists keep musing about these decisions.

Specialists in hybrid warfare or 4th generation warfare, such as William Lind, have been talking since 1989 that new digital technologies have made obsolescent the classic military arsenals of the great powers. This debate between "military-industrial complex" and "information society" approaches is not resolved. Yet we see the small missiles Stinger, Law, Javelin, and Irpin shooting down armored colossus; Baraktyar drones destroying 70-ton tanks; "anonymous hackers" breaking into the Russian defense ministry; Elon Musk re-establishing secure communications in Ukraine with the Starlink satellite network. Generally speaking, the war of armored columns, of the 2nd world war, belongs to the past as seen in Azerbaijan's victory over Armenia.

As for nuclear weapons, this is an undeveloped chapter. But it should be kept in mind that, in September 2019, in the days leading up to the November 2020 presidential election, General Mark Milley, US Chief of the General Staff telephoned General Li Zuocheng his Chinese counterpart, to reassure him that China would not be caught off guard by eventual President Donald Trump's political ravings. Rulers can have the "red button" at their fingertips; but the weapons systems are controlled by professional military personnel who are not robots. The second vector of the Western strategy is the economic sanctions applied by North American governments, European Union countries, and their allies. They are having a devastating effect on the Russian economy, which has a GDP like Italy's. Sanctions led multinationals to abandon Russia, whether out of fear of being on the wrong side, fear of future sanctions or pressure from shareholders. Money has no odor is an independent factor in wars and tends to follow whoever reveals power.

As in the case of material aid to Ukraine, the key to sanctions is speed and scale, because the aim is to shake up politics and paralyze the economy. The big US and European corporations have abandoned Russia, creating a "Venezuelization" of the Russian financial system. Putin was surprised by the harsh reaction of the West and has reacted with threats and declarations of force.

Putin claims he went off to war with $630 billion in foreign exchange and gold bullion. Vítor Ângelo, a former senior UN official, writes that the blockade of operations by the Central Bank of Russia removed 50% of this total, frozen in Western central banks. Of the 3300 tons of gold, it can only be bought at a discount of around 30% and buyers will face a great risk when they try to sell it. Thus, out of those approximately 190 billion dollars in gold, Russia could only raise 130 billion. The consequence is that Russia has a gold chest for 4 to 6 weeks of the war, no more than that.

The US has imposed sanctions on Russian energy production to limit the gains Russia makes from short-term increases in oil and natural gas prices. Europe, in particular Germany and Holland, have no capacity to immediately cut Russian gas imports. In the case of SWIFT sanctions, not all of them are complied with, because European banks do not give up on earning on commissions. Money has no odour, again. British sanctions are coming but the "Conservatovs," the Conservative party group linked to Brexit and host to Russian pressure and funding, are strange enemies of Russia.

The Russian population is suffering and will suffer much more with sanctions that dictate austerity and a real threat of state bankruptcy, the first since 1918. Chinese corporations will not replace everything the West provided, because the modest Russian economy does not interest them as much as the thriving US and European markets. The Russian people will not enjoy Putin turning Russia into Beijing's economic vassal. Putin needs a victory without further delay, even at the cost of war crimes and after 14 days of war, he would have no money for another 2 to 4 weeks. A most specific but significant issue is the Russian-Ukrainian Black Sea mafia, centered in Odessa; it still does not seem to have defined its ally in the invasion. 

The third Western vector is about values of freedom and solidarity. Europe, as regards both governments and civil society, demonstrated massively in favour of Ukraine's independence and showed their solidarity with concrete support for refugees. Brussels gave a lot of money and charity organizations and individuals too. Despite some minor racist incidents, the reception of almost 2 million refugees from Ukraine--and counting--brings out the best of humanity. In the age of Twitter, TikTok, Facebook and Instagram, individuals and organizations are fighting together with official institutions like Deutsche Welle, the independent BBC, and Radio Free Europe to spread compassion and support. All sectors of society--excepting the European radical right and some diehard communists and Serbs--repudiated the criminal invasion of Ukraine. The electorates of the European radical right--Le Pen, Salvini, Órban, the "Conservatovs," as well as US committed Trumpists--lose ground due to their ideological association with Putin and, in several cases, to money. 


There are those who pass through the forest and only see wood for the fire.  --Leo Tolstoy 

After months of manipulation and advertisements since August 2021, Putin launched his war of aggression. Now, the immediate outcome of Western sanctions on Russia is, more than the Russian-Chinese alignment, the vassalization of Russia by China. As Félix Ribeiro writes, Xi Jinping's China wants to be the centre of Asia, a continental space with the maritime projection that allows it to access oil and gas through the Indian Ocean and from Siberia. China has no military capacity, yet, to dispute the oceans and the Pacific with the US; it wants to get closer to Europe, saying "be not be afraid of me; it is just about trade." With the Silk Road project, China wants  "Marco Polo and Vasco da Gama at the same time," in the same ways but in the opposite direction.

For China, Russia's political defeat would mean geopolitical loneliness, and the danger of running out of partners to face the US and its AUKUS allies' pressure. Beijing will therefore do what it can to soften the impact of Western sanctions upon Moscow. There are ideological similarities because both nationalist states choose sovereignty and globalization over democracy. The Russian autocracy enables several freedoms in civil society whereas China's state-sponsored capitalism of one state, two systems does not. Anyway, it is essential for Beijing to keep Russia as a partner in Eurasia.

The West faces a heavy challenge with Putin. As a former KGB colonel, he learned to play with enemies. Fear is his specialty, his main weapon. And fear is only susceptible to being thwarted by courage, the virtue that enhances all others, as Churchill said. The Ukrainians have won the support of Europe and the world with the courage they have shown.

Subjugating free and independent countries by violence is part of the arsenal of the great powers. The US did the invasion of Iraq and, therefore, was not accompanied by either France or Germany. In the post-Cold War period, there were armed conflicts because of civil wars, wars of secession, and wars of direct response to aggression. The invasion of Ukraine is sui generis. Putin attacks an ex-Soviet republic, which has already proved to be independent. It is an unprovoked attack and, as such, not just an attack on Ukraine, but against international law and unwritten codes of morality.

Faced with Putin's choice, increasing numbers of Russian civil society are expressing their rejection; people of influence--of which about 10 thousand are jailed--academics, scientists, universities, mayors, media, the Nobel Peace winner D. A. Muratov, editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta; numerous manifestos have emerged. Putin exploits the xenophobia and chauvinism of most of the population (60%), as well as through his tough control of the media, repression by security forces and non-independent judiciary power. Russia is a police state, with nationalist ideology and an omnipotent leader. Thus, and barring a Russian revolution, the Western objective must be a Russia profoundly weakened militarily, unable to renew onslaughts, internationally isolated and internally divided until the autocrat falls from power. 


In a country with elections, there is choice, intrigue and alliances that determine the future. In a country where "the tsar is by divine right," there is no choice.  --Andriy Kurkov 

After 14 days of the war, and pressured by sanctions and military losses, will the Kremlin negotiate with the legitimate Zelensky government? The Kremlin considers that it has almost achieved the "demilitarization" of Ukraine; it has somehow dropped the "denazification" epithet but it surely will attempt to decapitate the Kyiv government through precision attacks. Russia wants to keep Crimea and Donbas and to make Ukraine's non-membership of NATO constitutional.

These unnegotiable goals attract the sympathy of Russian power elites; the question is they are acceptable to the Ukrainian government which is willing to negotiate, but not to capitulate. Each passing day strengthens Kyiv and weakens Putin, and Russia has not yet given enough indications to look for a non-military way out.

On the other hand, the dragging conflict in the coming weeks and the economic degradation of Russia resulting from the heavy Western sanctions will trigger a silent struggle in the Kremlin, between pro-European and pro-Asian currents. The Moscow-Beijing axis privileged by Putin does not necessarily attract the enthusiasm of all its generals nor of the oligarchs and even less of the population in general. The clash between Europe and Russia will last if Putin remains, and only Putin's departure will change the strategic terms. Let's say that Putin finds himself in the Napoleonic moment in 1813; all his victories are behind but he faces a coalition of nations.

The ideal outcome of the conflict--for the Russian people above all--would be the replacement of Vladimir Putin in Moscow, the leader who chose to wage a cruel war on a brother people and who proved that he cannot be trusted. The downfall could be due to an elite carrying out a palace coup or, much more remotely, a popular uprising. None of these outcomes seem imminent or particularly likely. But "black swans" appear.

In great power politics, the Moscow-Beijing axis will not last forever and Moscow pro-Europeans know that Putin's avantyura leaves them exposed to China's demographic, industrial and scientific resources. In the long run, the support for Putin pro-China and Asia politics will be over. We are far away from the collapse of Putin's regime and the long-term weakening of the Russian state's capacity and appetite for aggressive warfare. It is a line with very slow initial progress and then a sudden drop. The trajectory is clear, but the timelines are unknown. Collapse can take months or years, and there will be many setbacks and backlashes along the way. We will still see in the future the hated Nordstream 2 supplying cheap gas to German industry. The president of the United States, this one or the next, will end up shaking hands with the president of the Russian Federation--not this one but the next.  


Each war has three protagonists: our side, the enemy, and money; both opponents must take precautions with money.

A strategic analysis requires an explanatory theory. I mean that each war has three protagonists: our side, the enemy, and capital; with this one, both opponents must be careful. "Follow the money." Money matters. Money makes the world go round. This much we must know to understand what goes on behind the conveniences, half-measures, sanctions, adjudications, hypocrisies, betrayals, as well as agreements and treaties that witness the unfolding of war.

Secondly, it is important to bear in mind Rodrik's trilemma; it is not possible to have at the same time and with the same intensity, democracy, globalization, and sovereignty. European countries chose democracy and globalization. China and Russia chose sovereignty and globalization. US does not need to choose as long as they are the imperial power; their national security doctrine justifies what of the three factors is stressed in each circumstance. Security is for your safety, sir. A new US national security strategy document has been in the workshop for months and now it is clear that it will no longer focus solely on China; the United States wants to remain a great power in both Europe and the Indo-Pacific. This will require larger defence budgets. In Europe, in June in Madrid, a new strategic concept of NATO will be presented, which, ominously, has remained the same for twelve years. That is why President Macron said that NATO was "brain dead." 

Europe has major problems of energy dependence that will not be overcome in the short term and a deficit in common sovereignty resulting from being a polyarchic democracy. You cannot have everything; choosing democracy first and globalization second.  Europe has difficulties in making joint decisions. In times of conflict, it is a cruel handicap. In times of peace, is not necessarily a disadvantage, and proof of this is the strengthening of the euro against the dollar since it was introduced in 2000. Europe can now strengthen common sovereignty. Internally, the Ukraine war did more for European unity than all the directives from Brussels.

There are different perceptions of peace, but all of them are based on a truism: the ultimate purpose of war is peace. Now, peace is elusive as a Jorge Luis Borges' tale "The Garden of Forking Paths," El jardín de los senderos que se bifurcan.   The fall of the Polish November Uprising spawned a famous quote, Peace reigns in Warsaw upon the brutal crushing of the insurrection by the Russian army in 1831. Beijing's concept of peace for Xingjian is the same as Putin's concept for Ukraine.

If we go through Western concepts of peace, we may follow the precept si vis pacem parabellum. Weapons are the best guarantee of peace: the military-industrial complex works to produce and export them. National security is always at the forefront. Such is the stance of neo-conservatives and hawkish liberals in Washington, Democrats or Republicans, whatever the rest of the country may think; it has the support of aggressive evangelical Christianity. The North American territory has so far been fortunately spared from war with foreign enemies (1812 being an exception) and US only fights in expeditionary corps; the sum of combat casualties from all its wars is around one million dead, just over the sum of deaths from COVID 19.

We get another Western perception of peace following the precept Si nollis bellum para pacem. If you don't want war, prepare for peace. This is the European Union's favorite approach, building commercial and normative bridges among nations. Human rights activists and woke European Christianity favor this approach.

Europe is a continent completely martyrized by centuries of wars and violence, inflicted mostly upon itself and upon colonial domains. That cruel past is brought back by Putin's invasion of Ukraine. War is back in Europe in its old ugly face. Europe has largely prospered for nearly three generations due to the absence of war with the exception of the Balkan conflicts in the 1990s. The only good news is the remarkable solidarity and determination of the friends of freedom and compassion, all over the world, to give a hand to the Ukrainian people that are fighting with courage.

JE comments:  Mendo, this is a masterful analysis; thanks!  WAISers:  please share this essay far and wide. 

You put your finger on Putin's central conundrum:  How can he wage war on the Ukrainians, whom he considers Russian?  But perhaps he has moved on from that paradox to the immediate urgency of clinging to power. 

The world's biggest fear is that as Putin's desperation grows, he may be tempted to resort to the nuclear Final Solution.  We all trust that sanity will prevail down the chain of command.  Can anyone, possibly Boris Volodarsky, fill us on in the Russian procedure for a nuclear launch?  Specifically, how many individuals are required to push the "button"?

Mendo, again, muito obrigado.

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  • My Biggest Fear: Putin Going for Broke (Tor Guimaraes, USA 03/12/22 7:26 AM)
    I agree with many of the assertions by Mendo Henriques (March 12th), but think we should have agreed to have a demilitarized Ukraine with guaranteed borders defended by the US/NATO to avoid this insane war where the results can still be WWIII or further decay of the human condition throughout the world. Now, what will become of the Ukrainian people and their nation, not to mention the rest of the world?

    To answer Alan Levine's question, Cameron Sawyer might be right when he says this Ukrainian war will destroy Russia. Just as likely it may be the fuse which will destroy us because all the analyses I have read on this Forum and elsewhere have been a little narrow-minded in my opinion: no one has brought up the world's dependence on Russia as a supplier of energy and how some countries who used to be staunch US allies are sitting on the fence refusing to insult Putin: Israel, Saudi Arabia, UAE, not to mention other Arab countries, China, etc. Why?

    Increasingly I fear Putin is going for broke, using this US financial, economic sanctions retaliation against the invasion as a trigger to create huge financial, economic destruction in the West. He might be counting on our stupidity. Pushing China and Russia together into "friendship with no limits" when Western economies are so vulnerable and the US government so incapable has been the biggest blunder in US foreign policy ever. Now the energy markets will become more important and Russia has strong cards. If Putin sees (maybe has planned to) that he can sell his oil, gas, etc. directly to China in Yuan, he will go all the way. The Chinese will love it as a major step making their currency more serious as a potential reserve currency. It won't replace the US dollar as the main reserve currency but will make the biggest dent on it since Bretton Woods. Through a bankrupt US dollar will come our financial destruction.

    I am not a member of Putin's kitchen cabinet, but I see evidence he might be playing chess.  If so, chewing up Ukraine might be analogous to killing one of our pawns.

    JE comments:  China has done anything but come to Putin's rescue--certainly less than I anticipated.  In short, China realizes that its bread is buttered better in the West.  (The Chinese don't butter their bread, but work with me here.)  China probably fears that doing too much business with Russia in this climate will result in the West taking revenge in the form of sanctions against specific Chinese corporations.  Do I oversimplify?

    Russia produces 11% of the world's oil, just behind Saudi Arabia.  Its contribution is significant, but not critical for the world's survival.  Of more importance is the point raised by Massoud Malek:  Europe's dependence on Russian natural gas.

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    • We Tend to Forget Which Nation Produces the Most Petroleum (Timothy Ashby, -Spain 03/14/22 5:25 AM)
      John E wrote: "Russia produces 11% of the world's oil, just behind Saudi Arabia. Its contribution is significant, but not critical for the world's survival."

      I wanted to add that the USA is still the largest producer of global oil at 20%, nearly double that of Russia (11%) and ahead of Saudi Arabia (12%).

      JE comments: I would venture that most Americans don't know this, as we think of ourselves as largely dependent on petroleum imports.  I'll humbly add that I did know this, but I have oilmen/oilwomen in the family.

      See the chart below.  The US also consumes 20% of global oil, but still has a net deficit of nearly 2 million barrels per day.  China is the country that must import the most--nearly 10 million barrels/day.  Note that these figures are from 2020, and an awful lot has happened since then.


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  • An Ironic Kant Quote (from Michael Frank) (John Eipper, USA 03/12/22 8:31 AM)
    Michael Frank writes:

    Mendo Henriques began his post of March 12th with a quote from Immanuel Kant:

    The international community lives in a state of nature.

    The (perhaps) unintentional irony is that Kant lived in Konigsberg, a city in East Prussia that fell to Russian siege in 1945 and has been continuously occupied ever since.

    JE comments:  I'm trying to apply the Kant quote to today's geopolitics, but I can't.  (!) There's nothing "natural" about the shifting borders of that part of Europe.  Think of a city in the news every day: Lviv/Lwow/Lemberg.

    Next up:  the Seven Bridges of Konigsberg.  Kant solve that one either...

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    • Russian "Occupation" of Konigsberg? Not Exactly (Cameron Sawyer, USA 03/15/22 4:00 AM)
      Michael Frank (March 12th) described East Prussia as "[falling] to Russian siege in 1945 and has been continuously occupied ever since."

      What? "Occupied"? This is grossly ahistorical. Are we now so under the spell of our own emotions that any case of territory transferred to Russia is automatically "occupation"? A couple of days ago I read in the New York Times about a Ukrainian mayor being "kidnapped" by the Russian military authorities. "Kidnapped"? Where did that come from? He was arrested. It's horrible what they are doing, but let's not throw the English language out the window in the process (or historical accuracy), getting carried away out of rational thinking by our own moral outrage.

      The actual history of the matter is that East Prussia was partitioned at the Potsdam Conference of July-August 1945, where the victorious allies, the US, USSR, and UK, represented by Truman, Stalin, Churchill, and Atlee, carved up Germany (and Eastern Europe) by mutual agreement after the defeat of Nazi Germany. The borders of Germany were considerably redrawn, with a huge area of German Silesia, Pomerania, and East Brandenburg, back to the Oder-Neisse line, an area where millions of Germans lived, being incorporated into Poland. In addition, the ancient German city of Danzig was incorporated into Poland, and East Prussia was partitioned, with the Southern half going to Poland, and the Northern half, including Konisgberg, going to Russia. Some Eastern territories of Poland were reassigned to Lithuania, Belarus, and Ukraine. Truman and Churchill put their signatures on this document next to Stalin's. In the West--Saarland and part of the Rhineland, the latter an important industrial area (and the former a place where some of Germany's most delicious wines were made) were transferred to France.

      Following Potsdam, the Poles and Soviets carried out a massive ethnic cleansing of these areas, expelling the German population which had been living in some parts of the annexed territories for many hundreds of years. It is estimated that about 11 million Germans lived East of the Oder Neisse Line at the end of the war. According to the Schieder Commission report of 1954, 2 million German civilians perished as a result of this brutal ethnic cleansing, although this figure is disputed and the facts are hard to determine. In any case, the Germans expelled by the Soviets from "occupied" Konigsberg were a small part of this picture--there were only 200,000 Germans there when the Soviet Army arrived. Out of 11 million in all the territories East of Oder-Neisse.

      So, "occupied"? No indeed--this was the agreement among the Allies, to liquidate German territories East of the Oder-Neisse. Would Michael say that Saarland has been "continuously occupied since" by the French? Or the Southern part of the former East Prussia is "occupied" by Poland? Or that the former East Galicia, including the major city of Lviv, is presently "occupied" by Ukraine? Lviv was almost exclusively Polish-speaking, and was a major center of Polish culture, until the city together with a large territory surrounding it was reassigned from Poland to Ukraine (at that time, of course, part of the USSR) by the same pens on the same map which assigned Konigsberg to Russia, with the signatures of Churchill and Roosevelt.

      Germany's eastern territories were taken away by agreement among the Allies ostensibly in order to remove points of possible friction in the first place (WWII nominally started, on 1 September 1939, over Danzig, which is today Gdansk). But in reality probably it was more a "spoils of war" kind of thing. The greatest part of which went to Poland. But the suffering and death inflicted on the innocent German civilian population is horrifying.

      Different plans for carving up defeated Germany are discussed here: https://neverwasmag.com/2018/11/how-germany-was-divided-a-history-of-partition-plans/ Roosevelt was particularly keen to dismember Germany into several smaller states, and brushed aside any concern about the suffering of German civilians, calling them complicit in Nazism and so deserving what they get.

      JE comments:  Cameron Sawyer raises the hard question:  if we describe Konigsberg/Kaliningrad as "occupied," we would have to do the same thing for Danzig/Gdansk or Lwow/Lviv.  To quibble with Cameron, I would add that Poland was no "beneficiary" of these redrawings, as it emerged from WWII as a smaller state (by 20%) than in 1939.  There were also major dislocations of Poles, including my in-laws, and including the unprecedented transfer of the entirety of Lwow (with its art) to the former German city of Breslau/Wroclaw.

      But what about saying the mayor of Melitopol was "arrested"?  This implies a certain legality, although kidnapped doesn't fit either.  How about made a prisoner of war?

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  • China and Russia are Not Moving Towards "Limitless Friendship" (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela 03/12/22 11:01 AM)
    I don't know if all the assertions and arguments of Mendo Henriques (March 12) are correct, but his post essay was revealing to me and I enjoyed reading it.

    I do not completely agree with Tor Guimaraes when he says that the demilitarization of Ukraine should have been accepted to avoid this war. I have repeatedly stated that Putin's ambitions and interests go far beyond demilitarizing and preventing Ukraine from joining NATO. His territorial and geopolitical expansionist aspirations are much deeper and he has given evidence of it.

    At the same time, I am also not very much in agreement with him that China is the biggest beneficiary, whatever the outcome of the war. Its economic and strategic interests are closer to strengthening its relationship with the West; and it is doubtful that China and Russia have been pushed into a "limitless friendship." China's ambiguous and ambivalent position on the invasion seems to suggest that they want to be on good terms with "God and the devil." Simply, the economic relationships with the West are much more appealing for the Asian giant than those they may have with the "median" and incipient, natural resource-dependent, Russian economy.

    One last thing, in response to John's concern about how Europe is paying for gas imports from Russia, as I understand it is very simple; there are some banks that were left out of the SWIFT sanctions, precisely to make such payments.

    JE comments:  China stands to benefit precisely because Russia and the West are busy beating up on each other.  Think of how Stalin rather enjoyed WWII until Hitler broke the pact in June 1941.  In harsh geopolitical terms, the only downside for China is the increase in the price of raw materials and fuel.

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    • How China Benefits from the Ukraine War (Francisco Wong-Diaz, USA 03/13/22 4:26 AM)
      The Chinese communist regime is definitely the main beneficiary of the Ukrainian conflict. Russia is being weakened diplomatically, economically, morally and militarily as they now become dependent on Chinese largesse and funding.

      The Chinese have exercised tremendous influence and control over Siberia and are close to annexing it as a suzerainty. China is currently benefiting economically by, for instance, increasing the sale of aluminum. The Biden administration claims to have unified NATO, blames Putin for the inflationary trend, fails to openly accept Poland's excess of Ukrainian refugees (as per VP Harris's laughing spells), and cannot even convince India and Mexico to criticize Putin's genocidal crimes.

      See:  Russia is turning to China to survive sanctions amid invasion of Ukraine, but it won’t be easy - The Washington Post

      JE comments:  China stands to gain regardless of this war's outcome, although if Putin is removed, I predict a pivot to the West for the New Russia.  This would be for no other reason than Putin's close association with the Chinese regime.

      Some weeks ago I mentioned to WAISers that we booked a trip to Poland for late April.  We will see Aldona's city, Lublin, vastly transformed.  According to conservative estimates, there are already 30,000 refugees in a city of 300,000 (10%).  I suspect the true numbers are far higher and will continue to grow.

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