The Evil Empire strikes

PXL_20220306_155325479 No doubt about where I stand, then1Ukraine: Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation kinda refers; it is interesting to review the comments there, especially: "The last thing Putin wants is another Chechnya or Afghanistan". I nearly wrote something when the Russkies were massing on the border, and then nearly wrote something soon after; but am able to resist no longer. Don't look for any informed analysis, mind you.

So, the situation: after massing troops on the border for "exercises" for months, the Evil Empire finally decided to invade Ukraine. And it seems to be going badly for them6: the expected swift progress has not materialised, the Ukrainians are fighting back, and the Cold West has gathered it's courage and imposed significant sanctions4 and handed over a few anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons, which I support. The price of oil and wheat is up, but... well, we'll worry about that later. 

Many things are unclear, including why the Evil Empire decided to do this. Mostly, that means why Putin decided to do this: for it is a country almost without checks and balances, run - it would appear - by the whim of one man. And run badly2. I decline to speculate on exactly why they did this stupid thing; there are quite enough speculations out there already, feel free to pick your own. But the pattern - of an Evil Autocrat getting into power - is sadly all to common: Gaddafi, Assad, Putin3. It becomes clear that governance is hard, and perhaps we have been mislead by the success and growth of democracies in the last, say, century; it is all to easy to suppress the voices of the people.

Making predictions at this point is unwise, but I will express my hopes that the plucky Ukrainians remain plucky, and stall the Russkies for long enough for the assault to fall apart; this does not seem implausible. More tenuously, I could hope for Putin to be overthrown, but this seems unlikely; more realistically, for him to not escalate to implausible levels (nukes; or mass indiscriminate shelling of cities). The difficulty there is seeing what could be a plausible endgame: perhaps, the answer is that he, like his army, is not as formidable as appeared, and will retreat to oppressing his own people instead of someone else.

We have, unexpectedly, what is effectively the gift of a carbon tax7; but I don't see anyone being grateful. Am I grateful? Perhaps I am. The extra is going to those that pump oil not governments, but I don't find myself too bothered by that. That it is happening so suddenly, and it cannot be predicted how long it will last, is regrettable.

What is Putin afraid of?

The foolish rhetoric does, as usual, hide a kernel of truth: that Putin is afraid of Russia gradually failing, and happy joyful prosperous free market economies springing up around it. In the long run, Russian failure under Putin was inevitable, even before this stupid war.


1. Yes, I know: safely in England well away from any fighting.

2. I think that a country run without checks-and-balances by even one good man would be badly run, but Putin is without doubt not good, indeed he is bad.

3. Most of the Gulf States are hardly paragons of democracy and we prop them up, so I can't say the West is blameless in such matters either.

4. But see-also Bryan Caplan on sanctions. I'd like to think we could manage more imaginative policies like Make Desertion Fast but our leadership can't think fast in unexpected ways. Or perhaps even slowly.

5. My image is a reminder that hope - or at least rhubarb - springs eternal.

6. Hurrah! Nonetheless we must remember that it isn't the individual Russkies who are evil - mostly - it is the system they are trapped in. Although, if they could stop believing in dumb myths about pan-Russianism or whatever, that would help.

7. Except (2022/06) Ted Nordhaus: Russia’s War Is the End of Climate Policy as We Know It: Ironically, geopolitical strife and energy scarcity will do more for the climate than decades of ardent policies.

1 comment:

Tom said...

'A few anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles?' I think the count was 17,000 a few days ago...