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Ukraine/Russian Conflict


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12 hours ago, RPG said:

And if we do that and it doesn't work (it won't), what do we do then? What would we have left? It's a balance between hitting Putin hard now (and I agree we should have done more) while still leaving the threat of even more sanctions to come.

Personally, I think that however we manage economic sanctions, they won't work. Russia has built up massive gold reserves in recent years (and we all know what war does for the price of gold) and if the west is going to be of any practical use to Ukraine it will have to be on a military front.

Just a thought, but if 75% of Russian conventional forces are currently tied up with Ukraine, wouldn't now be a good time to test their remaining 25%? Not in an open NATO war but by supporting and providing aid to Ukrainian forces outside Ukraine.

That would lead to WW3. Putin is looking for any excuse to escalate things further. He's already threatening Finland and Sweden, circumnavigating an "official" NATO war by going through a proxy is as good as openly declaring war. Supplying Ukraine as much as possible with weaponry and aid whilst sanctioning the fuck out of Putins circle is already pushing the boundaries to limits.

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8 hours ago, Sibdane said:

You sound like a real pushover. 

I live 270 km south of Ukraine on the black sea coast. I fear my city could become frontline of further military actions should this escalate. It doesn't help there is NATO base very close from here. Sorry but I have to be realistic and weight the odds for the good sake of my family.

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11 hours ago, Cornish Steve said:

The line that cannot be crossed is the invasion of a NATO country. 

So, are we agreed that sanctions of any form won't help Ukraine (not that they shouldn't happen anyway) and that the only practical way to help Ukraine is to commit NATO for es to the fight? If it doesn't happen in Ukraine it's going to happen in Poland or Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia etc.

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6 hours ago, Matt said:

That would lead to WW3. Putin is looking for any excuse to escalate things further. He's already threatening Finland and Sweden, circumnavigating an "official" NATO war by going through a proxy is as good as openly declaring war. Supplying Ukraine as much as possible with weaponry and aid whilst sanctioning the fuck out of Putins circle is already pushing the boundaries to limits.

And it won't work. Putin is a bully. And, like all bullies he will eventually be shown as the coward that he is. He has never taken Russia into a fight that he hasn't first had massive numerical and technological advantage in. NATO would really make him think again if only it could discover its cojones. Yes, there would be escalation but that is coming anyway. Unless you are happy at the prospect of Russian military as far west as the Bay of Biscay. Putin will now keep heading west until he is stopped - militarily!

And the, so far, weak western response will just encourage and embolden Putin more.

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6 hours ago, RPG said:

And it won't work. Putin is a bully. And, like all bullies he will eventually be shown as the coward that he is. He has never taken Russia into a fight that he hasn't first had massive numerical and technological advantage in. NATO would really make him think again if only it could discover its cojones. Yes, there would be escalation but that is coming anyway. Unless you are happy at the prospect of Russian military as far west as the Bay of Biscay. Putin will now keep heading west until he is stopped - militarily!

And the, so far, weak western response will just encourage and embolden Putin more.

And get over confident too probably, which will make him weaker and/or more prone to mistakes. Considering all the advantages he has vs Ukraine, he should be sitting in Kyiv already. But he isn't, and that's considering his numeric and technological advantages (old military saying of "fair fights are for suckers" springs to mind).

I get the desire to go toe to toe, I really do.  But when this kind of thing happens, there has to be patience. You can't just run and jump into a fight with a nutcase coward who has nukes. He's already threatened "any means necessary", he's mentally snapped. 

War is long game thinking. Sad to say but Ukraine is buying time to cripple Putin and Russian economy long term. Its buying time before the inevitable confrontation. The hope is, as I see it, that he won't have the resources or money to feed his troops (he won't care about his population), and his gold reserves will run out quickly when other countries who continue to supply him will extort. He may well advance but he won't be able to sustain it. If we try to resolve this short term its instant sunshine for everyone no matter what time of day. 

12 hours ago, Palfy said:

Even Donald Tusk has said Germany and Italy have disgraced themselves over sanctions against Russia, to defend them is to be like them disgraceful. 

I've just deleted my response. You're clearly stressed out by it so I won't bother trying to reason or explain things with you. 

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1 hour ago, Matt said:

And get over confident too probably, which will make him weaker and/or more prone to mistakes. Considering all the advantages he has vs Ukraine, he should be sitting in Kyiv already. But he isn't, and that's considering his numeric and technological advantages (old military saying of "fair fights are for suckers" springs to mind).

I get the desire to go toe to toe, I really do.  But when this kind of thing happens, there has to be patience. You can't just run and jump into a fight with a nutcase coward who has nukes. He's already threatened "any means necessary", he's mentally snapped. 

War is long game thinking. Sad to say but Ukraine is buying time to cripple Putin and Russian economy long term. Its buying time before the inevitable confrontation. The hope is, as I see it, that he won't have the resources or money to feed his troops (he won't care about his population), and his gold reserves will run out quickly when other countries who continue to supply him will extort. He may well advance but he won't be able to sustain it. If we try to resolve this short term its instant sunshine for everyone no matter what time of day. 

I've just deleted my response. You're clearly stressed out by it so I won't bother trying to reason or explain things with you. 

There is already much anti war and anti Putin sentiment starting to surface in Russia. It has been leaked that Putin wanted Ukraine operations ‘completed’ (whatever that means) in 2 weeks. We are now well into day 3 and his day one objectives have not yet been achieved so he will be starting to sweat. Twenty six countries (inc UK) are openly continuing to supply Ukraine with advanced weapons and if Ukraine can hold out for 2 weeks - or even push back - then Putin is toast.

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23 minutes ago, Elston Gunnn said:

Don’t know where to post this.  If it’s been posted elsewhere, sorry for repeat.

Poland won’t play WC qualifier v. Russia.

https://www.bbc.com/sport/football/60536030

 

18 minutes ago, Palfy said:

Hungary and Italy now saying they are prepared to take SWIFT away from Russia, Germany still refusing 😡

Yes, Good to see. If the Russian people or disaffected senior Russian military do not stop Putin then Russia needs to take a long hard look at North Korea - because that (or worse) is where Russia is heading at the moment.

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2 hours ago, RPG said:

There is already much anti war and anti Putin sentiment starting to surface in Russia. It has been leaked that Putin wanted Ukraine operations ‘completed’ (whatever that means) in 2 weeks. We are now well into day 3 and his day one objectives have not yet been achieved so he will be starting to sweat. Twenty six countries (inc UK) are openly continuing to supply Ukraine with advanced weapons and if Ukraine can hold out for 2 weeks - or even push back - then Putin is toast.

And this is where patience is key, despite how hard it is to watch. Ukraine will have drills for this, they'll have tactics to frustrate. My concern from that is he'll go big rather can go home. 

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38 minutes ago, Matt said:

And this is where patience is key, despite how hard it is to watch. Ukraine will have drills for this, they'll have tactics to frustrate. My concern from that is he'll go big rather can go home. 

He will go big but not nuclear, as it is he hasn’t really got the complete backing of all his Generals, I think his own generals will ultimately be the people to bring him down, they won’t allow him to enter them into the war of all wars. 

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44 minutes ago, Matt said:

And this is where patience is key, despite how hard it is to watch. Ukraine will have drills for this, they'll have tactics to frustrate. My concern from that is he'll go big rather can go home. 

I think Putin is showing the first signs of panic already. He has had to ask for help from Chechnya troops to help his failing Russian invasion. This, in itself, will not go down well in Moscow.

just to give an idea how concerned Putin is about his domestic popularity, I have it on very good authority that the invading army logistical support includes at least one mobile crematorium - to avoid news coverage of body bags being flown home (by the hundreds) to Moscow.

For the time being, maximum diplomatic and economic pressure on Russia while openly continuing to supply Ukraine with whatever they need or ask for and keeping a very watchful eye from a NATO standpoint is the way to go.

My big concern is that it is very obvious that NATO is feeding Ukraine with lots of real time intelligence info, which has to come from satellite and AWACS aircraft operating just to the west of Ukraine in NATO airspace. If Putin tries to take out a NATO AWACS aircraft then it will be game on very quickly.

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1 hour ago, Palfy said:

He will go big but not nuclear, as it is he hasn’t really got the complete backing of all his Generals, I think his own generals will ultimately be the people to bring him down, they won’t allow him to enter them into the war of all wars. 

Kind of sad that that's somewhat of a relief but honestly, I'm not convinced. 

Apparently he's not provided enough fuel for his tanks! He's gone full on Hitler just assuming he can waltz through and has no backup plan.

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3 minutes ago, Matt said:

Kind of sad that that's somewhat of a relief but honestly, I'm not convinced. 

Apparently he's not provided enough fuel for his tanks! He's gone full on Hitler just assuming he can waltz through and has no backup plan.

Sounds like a master class in how not to invade. 

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12 minutes ago, Palfy said:

Sounds like a master class in how not to invade. 

Reading its because he assumed he'd have Ukraines fuel depots already. How skint must Russia already be if they're skimping on fuel for a landbased invasion? Then ask yourself, how quickly are all these sanctions going to hit?

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23 minutes ago, Palfy said:

Apologies mate not my strongest skills set ✌️

And now commiting anti tank weaponry.

I know, and especially at such a scary time it's hard to not jump the gun. I'm incredibly impulsive and emotional as I'm sure you've all seen over the last however many years. But because military and politics is something I've immersed myself in over the last 5 years or so, I feel confident enough to control myself on the subject. Usually, wasn't so much the case during my drinking days and still today with insomnia raising its ugly head again. 

There's another old saying of "never interrupt the enemy whilst they're making a mistake". If Putin has underestimate Ukraine and overestimated his own ability, then as horrific as this is short term, it might be more beneficial mid term. That's a big if though. 

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Putin wanted a quick war, maybe to take Kyiv and then take the east of Ukraine along the Dnieper river. Looks like the bravery of Ukrainian people and armed forces has held the Russians up, the flow of weapons and support is key in making the war too costly for them.

FIBUA (Fighting in a built up area) is incredibly costly in lives on all sides, and time will force Putin to use heavy artillery which will be devastating to the civilians and those fighting. Ukraine is a massive country with 40 million people and the level of resistance from both Ukranian armed forces and civilians will bleed Russian resources and resolve. It will also isolate further Russia from the international community.

I expect Russia to be removed from Swift, which along with the sanctions will hurt. The large reserve of cash he has built up will be quickly eaten up in propping up the Ruble and subsiding companies and banks that will lose so much money. 

I expect that the longer this goes on the greater the chance of those supporting Putin will either force him out or to stop the invasion, either way Putin and Russia will weakened substantially. 

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3 minutes ago, London Blue said:

Putin wanted a quick war, maybe to take Kyiv and then take the east of Ukraine along the Dnieper river. Looks like the bravery of Ukrainian people and armed forces has held the Russians up, the flow of weapons and support is key in making the war too costly for them.

FIBUA (Fighting in a built up area) is incredibly costly in lives on all sides, and time will force Putin to use heavy artillery which will be devastating to the civilians and those fighting. Ukraine is a massive country with 40 million people and the level of resistance from both Ukranian armed forces and civilians will bleed Russian resources and resolve. It will also isolate further Russia from the international community.

I expect Russia to be removed from Swift, which along with the sanctions will hurt. The large reserve of cash he has built up will be quickly eaten up in propping up the Ruble and subsiding companies and banks that will lose so much money. 

I expect that the longer this goes on the greater the chance of those supporting Putin will either force him out or to stop the invasion, either way Putin and Russia will weakened substantially. 

Just need to look how the Chechens demolished the Russians in Grozny. Urban warfare against a smaller force who know the city is extremely dangerous without massive infantry support. If the proposed numbers are true, Putin has half of his total trained (emphasis there, he'll resort to conscription no doubt if needed) infantry available which leaves the rest of Russia incredibly vulnerable if things don't go well. He needed to take the city in a day or 2 and he's failed so far. These delays and the resistance he'll face even if he takes Kyiv is already costly and must be seriously pissing him off. The Russians have never had a problem with numbers, knowing how to use them has proven to be the issue. Unfortunately that's always resulted in massive loss of life (WW2 for example - 20-27 MILLION estimated Russian deaths between military and civilians).

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31 minutes ago, Formby said:

I have been very impressed with Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, showing immense courage and fight, rallying his people in those videos. There is a quiet determination about him. Amazing to think he was a comedian up until 2019.  

He's been amazing, offered a way out of the country by America says, "I Need Ammunition, Not A Ride."

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30 minutes ago, Sibdane said:

Putin has ordered nuclear deterrents on alert. 

Which is scary but also shows how worried/frustrated he is. This does not mean he's planning on using them, and it's not the first threat he's made about it. Again it was almost inevitable if he didn't steamroller Ukraine. Scary but not certainty. 

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1 hour ago, MikeO said:

He's been amazing, offered a way out of the country by America says, "I Need Ammunition, Not A Ride."

It's a great one-liner, delivered with perfect timing! Maybe the previous career helped? In years to come, I hope to see it in a list of famous political quotations. It deserves to be.

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23 minutes ago, Matt said:

Now commiting NATO 2% defence spending (€100bn) and extra weaponary. They must've found alternatives to their fuel dependence. 

I would say that the government have been shamed by the rest of Europe, even German citizens have been out in force demonstrating their show of support and stand with Ukraine. 
All members of NATO should commit to the 2% of GDP especially the richest nations in the union, after all it’s the best form of defence in the world and for it to operate properly it needs the funds just as much as the country’s that have joined. 
On the subject of Oil and Gas the Germans are still buying from the Russians with for now the blessing of it’s allies, this may be why we are seeing a change of stance by the Germans, to now agree to SWIFT, supply weapons and contribute to NATO in full, I think that’s part of some sort of compromise to them still buying from the Russians. The Ukrainian's have publicly thanked everyone for their additional support but  on the issue of SWIFT they have asked for all and not a selected few Russian banks to have SWIFT removed, and they have also asked for all country’s to stop buying Gas and Oil from Russia which was aimed at the Germans. It’s good that more sanctions are being heaped on the Russians, but if in the coming days it’s felt it needs to go even further with all Russian banks being blocked from SWIFT and no one being allowed to buy Oil and Gas from Russia, I feel Germany will abstain from the tougher sanctions. 

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31 minutes ago, Palfy said:

I would say that the government have been shamed by the rest of Europe, even German citizens have been out in force demonstrating their show of support and stand with Ukraine. 
All members of NATO should commit to the 2% of GDP especially the richest nations in the union, after all it’s the best form of defence in the world and for it to operate properly it needs the funds just as much as the country’s that have joined. 
On the subject of Oil and Gas the Germans are still buying from the Russians with for now the blessing of it’s allies, this may be why we are seeing a change of stance by the Germans, to now agree to SWIFT, supply weapons and contribute to NATO in full, I think that’s part of some sort of compromise to them still buying from the Russians. The Ukrainian's have publicly thanked everyone for their additional support but  on the issue of SWIFT they have asked for all and not a selected few Russian banks to have SWIFT removed, and they have also asked for all country’s to stop buying Gas and Oil from Russia which was aimed at the Germans. It’s good that more sanctions are being heaped on the Russians, but if in the coming days it’s felt it needs to go even further with all Russian banks being blocked from SWIFT and no one being allowed to buy Oil and Gas from Russia, I feel Germany will abstain from the tougher sanctions. 

There's doing the right thing for others, but you can't do that mid/long term if you throw your own country into chaos. If Putin turned off the taps, Germany stops (40% of their gas comes from Russia). The EU stops (30% of Russian exports). Not checked oil.  Its a ridiculous situation but it is the reality. Unless there's a backup plan in place, without being extorted, you can't just turn off a fuel supply without imploding yourself and then you're a hindrance rather than a help. It took a few days longer than others but others aren't as dependent as Germany. 

NATO budget increase prior to this would've also exacerbated the issue and ramped up tensions against all the west. Putin has given the excuse to actually meet the requirements. Either intentionally or not, he has given the green light for NATO to strengthen itself by making the first move. 

EU has made a joint declaration to provide arms. That's massive. 

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7 minutes ago, Matt said:

EU has made a joint declaration to provide arms. That's massive. 

The EU wheels always seem to slow to turn but I suppose that’s to be expected when every country is a chief, but your right it is a massive help to the Ukrainian’s and huge statement to the Russians. 

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3 minutes ago, Matt said:

I saw that earlier today, I’ve been glued to Sky news pretty much 24/7, pissing the missus off to be honest, but as I’ve been saying to her this is a effecting us now and could effect us a hell of a lot more very soon, and as a micro manager and control freak I need to know what’s happening good or bad🙂

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26 minutes ago, Matt said:

Sweden, Finland and the biggest surprise in Turkey all commiting support in some form or another. It would be great if more from the rest of the world united as a collective show of force now. 

It would, not completely sure but I thought Turkey was one of the first country’s to support them from years ago, I’ll be honest I haven’t checked just something in the back of my memory. 

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27 minutes ago, Palfy said:

It would, not completely sure but I thought Turkey was one of the first country’s to support them from years ago, I’ll be honest I haven’t checked just something in the back of my memory. 

Seen what the connection was with Turkey now they signed a trade agreement at the beginning of the month, not what I initially thought but I new something had happened between them. 

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10 minutes ago, Palfy said:

Seen what the connection was with Turkey now they signed a trade agreement at the beginning of the month, not what I initially thought but I new something had happened between them. 

Plus their leader has been quite pally with Putin in the past. Guess he values his NATO links more. 

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13 hours ago, Palfy said:

It would, not completely sure but I thought Turkey was one of the first country’s to support them from years ago, I’ll be honest I haven’t checked just something in the back of my memory. 

it is true but our so-called “über leader” also jerks russia off time-by-time. they still don’t want to be a side on this as they fear the wrath of putin. they really do…

still, we have sold them military uav’s before the conflict. according to their military account, they are using them pretty much to destroy russian convoys.

as I said above, our own “supreme leader” fears putin and don’t wanna be a side on this until the last minute but we are NATO force after all, and one of the biggest man-force in NATO army. if things escalates, our side is obvious. that decision is beyond erdogan’s craziness.

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2 minutes ago, MikeO said:

Astounding that Putin is now saying that sanctions are "akin to a declaration of war," while his actual act of war is just a "special military operation".

I wish he would declare war on the rest of Europe or all of NATO countries, so we can finish him off once and for all. 

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Long read this but I found it interesting (it's behind a paywall so I've copied/pasted)...

The war has woken the West to its own decay. Let’s pray it’s not too late

Self-obsession has blinded us to the poison seeping into our democracies. No wonder we feel guilty

Matthew Syed
Sunday March 06 2022, 12.01am, The Sunday Times

Perhaps what will confound future historians the most is how dramatically the alarm bells have been ringing these past three decades. After five centuries of growing self-confidence and rising prosperity across the West, built upon a steady accretion of norms and values suffused by liberty and law, and then the great leap forward of the Industrial Revolution, we became lost in our own dream world.

This has happened before, of course. In Rome, in Egypt, and the other great empires of the past, success led to complacency, then decadence, then an inability to notice the danger until it was too late. “It was scarcely possible that the eyes of contemporaries should discover in the public felicity the latent causes of decay and corruption,” Edward Gibbon wrote in The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. His point is simple: insiders are typically the worst at spotting the rot.

This is perhaps why so many failed to notice the indicators blinking red in recent years. Democracy — the system of government that supposedly represented the end of history — has been in retreat. At the time of the French Revolution, only 4 per cent of the world’s nations were engaged in the experiment of representative government, a number that rose through various waves, not least after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Then there was a turning point with a steady decline in the percentage of the world’s population living in what we like to call the free world.

At the same time, and intimately related, was a profound cultural retreat. The political scientist Robert Putnam has documented a dizzying array of data that reveals growing polarisation, individualism and narcissism across western societies. Perhaps the most intuitive finding is a survey question asked to students. Do you agree with the following statement: I am a very important person. In 1950, 12 per cent agreed. By 1990, this had exploded to 80 per cent and continues to rise.

Putnam’s point is that we have become more vain and self-obsessed, more focused on rights than responsibilities, more likely to seek fame as an end in itself rather than achieving something worthy of fame. We are also more likely to heatedly disagree on trivial matters such as whether the word curry amounts to cultural appropriation — a classic case of what the British anthropologist Ernest Crawley called “the narcissism of small differences”.

While Xi Jinping was resetting the world order through his Belt and Road initiative and Vladimir Putin was recreating the Russian empire by annexing Georgia and Crimea, we were arguing over gender-neutral toilets.

This is not a cheap rhetorical point, by the way. The index of political polarisation — which measures the intensity of our internal squabbles — is at its highest for a century. In the United States, partisan disputes became so feverish that the Congress became incapable of passing legislation that everyone knew was in the national interest. Research by Yale found that only 15 per cent of Americans would punish a politician for engaging in electoral malpractice such as gerrymandering so long as it benefited their own side. In other words, a majority are so eager to shaft political opponents that they are willing to fatally weaken the constitutional struts of the citadel in which they collectively live.

It perhaps goes without saying that the policy advisers surrounding Xi and Putin noticed all this and more (as can be seen from leaked policy documents), sending their bots in their hundreds of thousands to inflame these pseudo-disputes and coax us ever deeper into the self-indulgent echo chambers that dominate the online world. I guess I am not alone in fearing that the metaverse, with its virtual ecospheres and fictional identities, will accelerate these trends, pushing us deeper into the metaphysical wormhole of digital escapism – and away from empirical and moral reality.

Some have wondered why China has prevaricated when it comes to an amphibious assault on the island of Taiwan, but the answer has been in front of our noses. They delayed not because they feared short-term military defeat but because they believed they had time on their side. They were resetting the world through stealth and increment and with western complicity. Why send a warning shot that might wake up a sleeping adversary? Better to put Taiwan on the back burner until it could be presented to an even more enfeebled West as a fait accompli.

Everything changed on February 24 when Putin sent his tanks into Ukraine, a gambit that (I am convinced) horrified the Chinese Communist Party. It will benefit in the short term from a client state dependent on its purchases of gas but this is of relatively minor significance in the great power competition that will determine the next 100 years. They know that the West has finally noticed what Gibbon called “the poison introduced into the vitals of the system”: the torrent of dirty money in our financial centres, the infiltration of universities and think tanks, and the broader corrosion of our values.

Some pundits described last week as a “reset” for western policy, but what we are seeing is, I think, infinitely more consequential. This is a reawakening of the West. It has been stunning over recent days to see politicians talking about problems that many of us have been warning about for a decade: inadequate defence spending, the imperative of traditional alliances, the dangers of strategic dependence on autocracies, whether for gas or anything else. A Tory spokesman even conceded that Russian cash in party coffers might have compromised the integrity of policy. Well, yes.

But as I watch the courage of Ukrainians, my dominant emotion is guilt. Guilt that we didn’t stand up to the autocrats earlier. Guilt that our self-indulgence blinded us to the dangers. Guilt that Ukrainians are, even now, dying for the freedoms we forgot how to defend. At the very least, we must extend sanctions to all Russian banks, freeze the assets of oligarchs and stop reloading the Kremlin cash machine by purchasing Russian hydrocarbons. We will suffer a drop in living standards but this is a fight for our way of life.

There is a famous phenomenon in optics called “perceptual reversal”. You know the kind of thing: you look at an image of a young woman, long eyelashes projecting across the left contour of her face, before it suddenly flips. You are now confronted by an older, hooded woman with a large nose, your senses startled. In Berlin, Paris, London, Washington and beyond over the past week, we have witnessed the political equivalent of perceptual reversal. We owe it to ourselves and all Ukrainians never to allow our senses to become so distorted again.

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1 hour ago, MikeO said:

Long read this but I found it interesting (it's behind a paywall so I've copied/pasted)...

The war has woken the West to its own decay. Let’s pray it’s not too late

Self-obsession has blinded us to the poison seeping into our democracies. No wonder we feel guilty

Matthew Syed
Sunday March 06 2022, 12.01am, The Sunday Times

Perhaps what will confound future historians the most is how dramatically the alarm bells have been ringing these past three decades. After five centuries of growing self-confidence and rising prosperity across the West, built upon a steady accretion of norms and values suffused by liberty and law, and then the great leap forward of the Industrial Revolution, we became lost in our own dream world.

This has happened before, of course. In Rome, in Egypt, and the other great empires of the past, success led to complacency, then decadence, then an inability to notice the danger until it was too late. “It was scarcely possible that the eyes of contemporaries should discover in the public felicity the latent causes of decay and corruption,” Edward Gibbon wrote in The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. His point is simple: insiders are typically the worst at spotting the rot.

This is perhaps why so many failed to notice the indicators blinking red in recent years. Democracy — the system of government that supposedly represented the end of history — has been in retreat. At the time of the French Revolution, only 4 per cent of the world’s nations were engaged in the experiment of representative government, a number that rose through various waves, not least after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Then there was a turning point with a steady decline in the percentage of the world’s population living in what we like to call the free world.

At the same time, and intimately related, was a profound cultural retreat. The political scientist Robert Putnam has documented a dizzying array of data that reveals growing polarisation, individualism and narcissism across western societies. Perhaps the most intuitive finding is a survey question asked to students. Do you agree with the following statement: I am a very important person. In 1950, 12 per cent agreed. By 1990, this had exploded to 80 per cent and continues to rise.

Putnam’s point is that we have become more vain and self-obsessed, more focused on rights than responsibilities, more likely to seek fame as an end in itself rather than achieving something worthy of fame. We are also more likely to heatedly disagree on trivial matters such as whether the word curry amounts to cultural appropriation — a classic case of what the British anthropologist Ernest Crawley called “the narcissism of small differences”.

While Xi Jinping was resetting the world order through his Belt and Road initiative and Vladimir Putin was recreating the Russian empire by annexing Georgia and Crimea, we were arguing over gender-neutral toilets.

This is not a cheap rhetorical point, by the way. The index of political polarisation — which measures the intensity of our internal squabbles — is at its highest for a century. In the United States, partisan disputes became so feverish that the Congress became incapable of passing legislation that everyone knew was in the national interest. Research by Yale found that only 15 per cent of Americans would punish a politician for engaging in electoral malpractice such as gerrymandering so long as it benefited their own side. In other words, a majority are so eager to shaft political opponents that they are willing to fatally weaken the constitutional struts of the citadel in which they collectively live.

It perhaps goes without saying that the policy advisers surrounding Xi and Putin noticed all this and more (as can be seen from leaked policy documents), sending their bots in their hundreds of thousands to inflame these pseudo-disputes and coax us ever deeper into the self-indulgent echo chambers that dominate the online world. I guess I am not alone in fearing that the metaverse, with its virtual ecospheres and fictional identities, will accelerate these trends, pushing us deeper into the metaphysical wormhole of digital escapism – and away from empirical and moral reality.

Some have wondered why China has prevaricated when it comes to an amphibious assault on the island of Taiwan, but the answer has been in front of our noses. They delayed not because they feared short-term military defeat but because they believed they had time on their side. They were resetting the world through stealth and increment and with western complicity. Why send a warning shot that might wake up a sleeping adversary? Better to put Taiwan on the back burner until it could be presented to an even more enfeebled West as a fait accompli.

Everything changed on February 24 when Putin sent his tanks into Ukraine, a gambit that (I am convinced) horrified the Chinese Communist Party. It will benefit in the short term from a client state dependent on its purchases of gas but this is of relatively minor significance in the great power competition that will determine the next 100 years. They know that the West has finally noticed what Gibbon called “the poison introduced into the vitals of the system”: the torrent of dirty money in our financial centres, the infiltration of universities and think tanks, and the broader corrosion of our values.

Some pundits described last week as a “reset” for western policy, but what we are seeing is, I think, infinitely more consequential. This is a reawakening of the West. It has been stunning over recent days to see politicians talking about problems that many of us have been warning about for a decade: inadequate defence spending, the imperative of traditional alliances, the dangers of strategic dependence on autocracies, whether for gas or anything else. A Tory spokesman even conceded that Russian cash in party coffers might have compromised the integrity of policy. Well, yes.

But as I watch the courage of Ukrainians, my dominant emotion is guilt. Guilt that we didn’t stand up to the autocrats earlier. Guilt that our self-indulgence blinded us to the dangers. Guilt that Ukrainians are, even now, dying for the freedoms we forgot how to defend. At the very least, we must extend sanctions to all Russian banks, freeze the assets of oligarchs and stop reloading the Kremlin cash machine by purchasing Russian hydrocarbons. We will suffer a drop in living standards but this is a fight for our way of life.

There is a famous phenomenon in optics called “perceptual reversal”. You know the kind of thing: you look at an image of a young woman, long eyelashes projecting across the left contour of her face, before it suddenly flips. You are now confronted by an older, hooded woman with a large nose, your senses startled. In Berlin, Paris, London, Washington and beyond over the past week, we have witnessed the political equivalent of perceptual reversal. We owe it to ourselves and all Ukrainians never to allow our senses to become so distorted again.

Very interesting read, I find the “but as I watch the courage of the Ukrainians”and onwards the most important piece in this, we and others have not done anywhere near enough to help the Ukrainians and in doing so help ourselves, the fact government’s in Europe are still trading with Russia is a disgrace as the author says this may impact our standard of living, but to carry on contributing to their economy will in the end destroy our freedom and way of life, I know what I would find worse. 

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Russia and Ukraine have a very long, complicated history, like 1100 years worth. I am by no means a Russian expert, just someone who has been fascinated by Russian history and read a good deal of books on it's history. Both Ukrainian and Russian's lineage traces back to the Rus, and the Kievian Rus of the 900's. The Russian Orthodox Church was founded in Kiev, in the late 10th century. The Mongal invasion separated Kievian Rus and Muscovy for about 250 years. During that time Moscow and it's influence over the Slavs grew, and Kiev's fell. In the 1600 the Cossacks moved away from Poland and swore allegiance to the Tsar, which effectively brought what we know as the Ukraine into the Russian Empire until the end of WW1. 1922, Ukraine was a founding member of the USSR where it remained until 1991. The Russian have considered the Ukrainians to be ethnic Russians "Little Russians", due to language, religion, culture for a long time. Despite the close and historical ties, most Ukrainians consider themselves Ukrainian, aside from swaths along the Russian boarder - Donbass (hello Don Cossacks) etc. 

Peter the Great was obsessed with taking Azov from the Ottomans, to give Russian an ice-free port on the Sea of Azov, and thereby the Black Sea, which is dominated on the northern side by the Crimea. The Azov region is still the only ice-free port that gives Russia access to the world that doesn't require going thru the Artic, or the Pacific, and the Russian Navy has been intent on dominating the Black Sea since the early 1700's. Then there is the famine in the early 30's when Stalin starved 3+ million Ukrainians - that Ukraine recognizes as a genocide against Ukrainians at the hands of the Soviet Union. The relationship is complicated, but there is some validity to the Russia feeling Ukraine is culturally important to Russia. Not unlike Kosovo to Serbia, but that's for a different day. chy 

Now you have a Cold War era KGB spook in charge of Russia, who is nuts and still pissed about the dissolution of the USSR and hyper nationalistic. In his mind, it's part of Russia, and having it be part of NATO moves the Iron Curtain from Eastern Europe, puts it on his doorstep, as well as puts the most wide open indefensible part of the Russian territory on a NATO border. Oh, and Ukraine has enough resources, that if tapped, could rival Russia as a petrol state. 

 

I would agree with the Russian/Strongman leader thing, they have been "governed" by an autocrat since Ivan The Terrible in the 1500's. There was a symbiotic relationship with the Tsars and the boyars that keep each in power/rich and the people had zero say in anything. It was replaced by the Soviet General Secretary and the Party Hierarchy, and now it's Putin and the Oligarchs. It simply has never changed for the Russian people. Democracy in Russia lasted from about 1993 until Putin took office around 2000. So one thousand years of history, with less than 7 years of a democracy. It's a foreign concept by and large to the Russian conscious.  Which in no way means the "deserve" to be oppressed or brutalized - nor does Ukraine deserve to be invaded in a war of civilian annihilation.

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Given today's announcement of 'partial mobilisation' of Russian Reserves by Putin (up to 300,000 Reservists) I thought it was worth bumping this thread back into play. I think Putin is getting desperate. His front line troops are poorly trained, have no kit (or have abandoned what kit they had) and are retreating. What can Putin expect from Reserves? The Russian stock market is down 10% in a single day, the price of a flight to get out of Russia is now prohibitively expensive (unless you are a 'pro Putin' oligarch of course), Kazakhstan has started impounding Russian convoys in accordance with Western Sanctions, Armenia is now starting to politically distance itself from Russia and awkward questions for Putin are now being asked fairly openly on Russian TV channels.

Hopefully, this is the beginning of the end for Putin but he remains very dangerous until detained or taken out by his own side I think. We are now entering a dangerous and decisive phase and I fear it will get worse before it gets better.

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