Fear is a poor counsellor

Apparently, some Europeans are scared to death of Putin (quoting from a piece in The Guardian that seems to have been taken offline):

“Focusing merely on weapons could add fuel to the conflict and rather lead us away from a desired solution,” the German defence minister, Ursula von der Leyen, said at a security conference in Munich on Friday. “There are already far too many weapons in Ukraine. Supply to the separatists is potentially unlimited.”

Weapons don’t fight by themselves. The supply of combatants from Russia to Donbass is not unlimited. How many men has Russia lost in the conflict? Some say several thousand. The official count of Soviet soldiers killed in Afghanistan is 13,000 over 10 years. Even if only a thousand have been killed since the start of the Donbass war in April, the daily rate of casualties would be close to the 1979-89 war, and Russia has only half the USSR population.

War is also a rather expensive business, as is feeding disaster areas like Donbass. It may not have registered with the Kremlin yet, but Russia’s economy is shrinking and a large-scale war won’t revitalize it. I have argued that this downturn could be unprecedentedly painful for large socioeconomic groups in Russia.

Finally, despite all the Goebbelsian propaganda from the Kremlin, few people in Russia are prepared to accept a full-scale war with Ukraine because it would be fratricide. At the moment, Moscow puppet media are trying to paint the Ukrainian forces as an patchwork of ultranationalist berserkers. It cannot work for long. Imagine a land war with a front line a thousand miles long and mostly Russian speakers with Ukrainian and Russian names on one side and Russian speakers with Russian and Ukrainian names on the other.


  1. Re “fratricide” – this is not really an argument. Civil wars happen; they are by definition fratricidal. All the talk about Russians and Ukrainians being “brotherly peoples” is correct at least in an ironic sense – in real life, brothers fight.

    • Large subgroups of Russians and Ukrainians are virtually indistinguishable. There has to be a compelling reason for Russians to accept a war with Ukraine. For now, the Kremlin is telling Russian audiences that the Ukrainian military is a fringe group of Nazi sympathizers. It won’t work for a pilot ordered to bomb Kyiv, God forbid. Technically, the Chechen war was a civil war but psychologically it was colonial or, perhaps, an equivalent of an Indian war in the US.

  2. Civil wars happen; they are by definition fratricidal.

    Not always: in the case of the US civil war, where brothers sometimes fought on opposing sides, then yes. But many others are tribal (i.e. in the Nigerian civil war) or the sides based on ethnicity (such as the former Yugoslavia) where each side genuinely do see each other as different. I think AK’s point is that there really isn’t much between Ukrainians and Russians, yet the Russians are trying to portray Ukrainians as being an altogether different people.

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