Ukrainians Are Nobody’s Pawns

Agree. And no one seems particularly interested in compromise, least of all Putin.


I’ve been following Niall Ferguson’s work for years. I used to read a fair amount of military history, so obviously his interest in counterfactuals naturally coincided with mine. I also recently rewatched the Robert McNamara documentary The Fog of War, as soon as my analysis of Putin’s endgame in the prewar phase proved so wrong, like so many others. The phrase damage limitation springs to mind…



I thought the first part of the article was bizarre. Isolationists are muttering! Darkly!

FWIW, regarding Ukraine, most conservatives I’ve spoken with kind of sound like most liberals I’ve spoken with. With both, the overall thrust is that 1) Putin is doing something terrible, 2) the West needs to everything it can to help Ukraine and punish Putin, and 3) we need to do in from the sidelines. Because Putin has nukes, the war needs to stay in Ukraine.

Sounds to me like the author has an axe to grind.


At the start it condemned the non-interventionists. Then it spent the rest of the time saying why we shouldn’t intervene.

It’s a complicated matter. I myself am a non-interventionist a’la Ron Paul’s A Foreign Policy of Freedom But I’m not of the ilk mentioned in the heading. It’s more nuanced and less political tribalism.

I like seeing Ukraine stand up for itself and fight its own war. That means, when they win, they’ll be undisputed and proud. Not the saved damsel who can be hit again so easily. We should support Ukraine but how far, with whose money? I don’t know the answer but I can still be humored that this essay was a great case to NOT intervene.

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What’s the basis for these opinions, and why have you stated them as if they’re facts?


There are two problems with this statement.

  1. Ukraine already stood for itself when it voted Zelensky who promised peace.
  2. The war Ukraine is fighting right now is not its own war, its America’s war against Russia that Ukraine is fighting.

You are a genius Mourvedre, your glorious strategy would not only end this war in a matter of days, but it will also prevent all future wars from ever happening. It will solve all environment problems forever, it will solve all political and economic problems forever, and all this as you correctly stated, in a matter of days. Brilliant thinking!

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Claiming that sanctions aren’t working just means they aren’t working yet. And “working” is defined by objectives. They won’t bring regime change, but they can certainly change Putin’s plans. He has been very studious about his popularity via polls, and can maintain it through propaganda only so long.


When progressives look for a villian they see Trump. When they look for a hero they see AOC. On the right MAGA folks do the same thing in reverse. It is hard to be very patriotic if you hate half the country for mostly trivial reasons. On the other hand Russia vs Ukraine is clarifying. The Ukrainians are clearly fighting to be free and have a normal life. The Russians are fighting to extend an evil empire. The people of Ukraine are really being murdered in mass. The horrors happening to them are real and terrible. No group in America on the left or the right has any problem worth crying about in comparison. It is not surprising to me that American partisans on both sides if they take a moment and view what is happening, realize it is bigger than their own arguments. It does surprise and sadden me how many do not realize that.


I’ve never been able to get through more than 15minutes of the Fog of War. I always wonder what type of asshole one has to be to actually be deeply involved in the mass killing of so many people as a fully grown adult and then, years later, when it is publicly expected to do so… come out with a mea culpa. McNamara was an agent of the state. And his actions, along with a great many who led the US into, and through Vietnam, proved him to be an enemy of the people of the state. I feel largely the same way about W. He has undergone considerable rehabilitation since Trump… and yet nothing Trump ever did comes even close to the insane miscalculation of W. But fuck it, he’s friends with Michelle Obama and Ellen DeGeneres so… he must be a good guy now!




The structure of global finance:

Plus, one has to look at the realpolitik of the situation. Do you really think that a Putin successor will look favourably on the oligarchs? Taking a few toys away in the West might hurt their feelings, but that is as nothing to the seizure of their capital wealth which will likely result from a regime change or possibly even trials and sentences.

Westerners imagine that the Russian system is similar to their own, where it is the structures of governance and court rulings which have allowed capital to turn wealth into political power and influence, at unprecedented levels. Other civilizational cultures simply don’t work the same. Chinese billionaires have been disappeared. Russian ones publicly poisoned.

The coup-proof structures which have been implemented within the Russian military and intelligence sectors:

But mostly because of acknowledged experts in the field who got it right when I (and everyone else) got it wrong.

And the way others around the world, as well as more knowledgeable historians like Niall Ferguson, are viewing the conflict:


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No arguments there, sir.

Sanctions don’t work. They never have- although I will admit that it’s possible that at some future date they might.

I’ve linked this above, but I will link it again.

PS Where sanctions can have some value is as a diplomatic tool, where the softening of which can be a concession to the appearance of a better relationship- but they don’t have that value here, do they? Because the West has boxed itself a situation where the cessation of sanctions is politically untenable for any Western leader.

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They drank their own Kool-Aid. The Western elite simply cannot imagine that people across the planet are not equally desperate to pay 10$ for a latte, shop at Whole Foods, subscribe to the New York Times, laugh “knowingly” at the dull, predictable humor of Jon Stewart (or John Oliver), obsessively Tweet every last goddamned feeling and measure their heart-rates on a fucking Apple Watch.


Those are all opinion pieces. You can’t establish that your opinions are facts by citing opinions that affirm your own views, especially since someone with the opposite point of view could do the same.

Research indicates that simply acknowledging our fallibility helps us to be more open to following arguments wherever they lead, without pre-judging them based on our own knowledge. It primes us to be more humble. But that kind of acknowledgement can be hard in a world where we’re rewarded for being right.

Ben Franklin was often the smartest person in the room, and he knew it. But he was also smart enough to know that he would not always be right, even though he was smarter. So he developed a little trick to help him overcome his overconfidence.

Whenever he was about to engage in an argument, he would start by saying something to the effect of, “I could be wrong, but…” and then smash you with his argument. He’d also avoid using any absolutes, like “always” or “certainly” or “never.”

In this way, he would avoid putting his debate opponent on personal defense. But even more important, this became a clever way for him to leverage his confidence in a way that still allowed him to learn.


In my opinion, the fact that you assert this opinion as a matter of fact makes it even more compelling…

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Here’s another opinion: you’re about half as clever as you think you are.

Aww c’mon. You can do better than that!

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Fair point. But one could equally argue that any position which believes that there may be a regime change is equally an opinion.

Plus, we have hard data points.

  1. Sanctions have never worked, historically- or at least successes have been dwarfed by failures. Fact: The UK governments lack of support for sanctions did more than the rest of the world’s sanctions to end Apartheid. When the time came it was a quite British Country Estate and the British who were chosen to help in the very first round of negotiations between Mandela’s people and the SA government. The events shown in the movie Endgame are largely true. What did have an effect was the disdain wealthy White South Africans faced travelling abroad- but they were still a functioning democracy, if a very selective and completely unfair one. The same cannot be said for Putin’s Oligarchs.

  2. Plus, we have hard data points. There may a degree of bias in the polling- perhaps as high as 10%- but the overwhelming evidence on the ground from Russians shows that the Russians may not like the war, but they still broadly support Putin. Plus, we know that the majority of Russians support Putin, because we know propaganda works and he has been very effective at shutting down opposition. Only the young or especially tech savvy are exempt.

  3. The role of Offshore Holding Companies and Tax Havens is well documented. Many an African dictator has escaped with his country’s wealth. It is possible to track and interdict such funds, but only if one is willing to do so under the veil of secrecy- effectively sifting the most powerful Western tax avoiders from Russian oligarchs. We did it for terrorism, but not the cartels, which some might argue posed the greater threat all along.

  4. Do you really think successor to Putin wouldn’t want to go after the oligarchs real capital wealth? Maybe not- but the dissenting oligarchs who are willing to take the risk, have been shown to be the exception, not the rule.

  5. Security measures against the Russian military and intelligence. Barak Barfi’s piece may be an opinion piece, but he draws on real data and known structural changes to come to his conclusions. If a coup is to come from anywhere in Russia it will be from a military/intelligence alliance. The facts on the ground make this an extraordinarily difficult uphill struggle. Gone are the days of multiple assassination attempts on Hitler and the various seditions, real or imagined, against Stalin. These days it’s a relatively easy thing to create real-time intelligence maps of principal players, thousands of them and even track their contacts to see where they have intersected in the real world. Gone are the days of the clandestine dead drops in bookshops. It may still work with unknown parties, but anyone who is anyone it simply won’t work anymore. Why do you think anyone who gets within a mile of critical defence sector work has to sign an agreement abrogating their constitutions rights? So they can be tracked, followed, watched and surveilled, and cross referenced with hundreds of thousands of other actors. And these are relatively obscure non-entities we are talking about, not the strategically important players who number in the hundred or low thousands.

  6. The rouble has recovered. Of course, there is economic pain on the ground. But for the most part the evidence on the ground supports the contention that the West is being blamed. Again this may be an opinion- but it tallies with evidence gathered from the aftermath of other instances of sanctions, historically.


I disagree this is a hard data-point. Not to be pedantic, but for this claim to be considered true or false it really needs a definition for the word “worked”.

  1. To stop a country from engaging in behavior or action. - By this metric the sanctions have not worked. Although as its only been a couple months I think its fair to place the word “yet” at the end of that sentence.
  2. To inhibit the ability of the country to effectively proceed with a behavior or action. - By this metric the sanctions are effective, and growing more so as time passes.
  3. To signal to others that this sort of behavior has consequences. - Again, by this metric this has been very successful. Consider how rapidly China found the limits of their friendship with Russia just a month after declaring that “Friendship between the two States has no limits”.
  4. To effect regime change. - In this case then yes, sanctions rarely are effective.

I do not think regime change is really what people expect to accomplish when sanctions are leveled. Precisely because it almost never happens. However talking about regime change does sell papers and gets the talking heads invited to the shows. It leaves the chattering classes something to chatter about, but little more.

Price controls = recovery?