Sunday, March 06, 2022

Random thoughts on the Russian Invasion of Ukraine

 1) My first thought was: Doesn't Putin know that his army (and his society) is corrupt and people are promoted on loyalty rather than talent, hence the invasion is not going to work? But then note

a) He invaded Georgia (the country not the state)

b) He annexed Crimea

c) NATO agreeing on sanctions? They can't even agree on what to have for lunch.  

d) The above question ASSUMES that he will lose. This is not clear yet.

2) The US and other countries are imposing sanctions. Visa, MC, and Netflix have withdrawn from Russia. Will these cause Putin to stop, or will they just impose hardships on the citizens without having an affect? I ask non-rhetorically. Foreign Policy is hard, though I suspect Biden has hired experts and is listening to them. Doesn't mean they are right. 

3) This seems like a case where its obvious that Putin is in the wrong so I was surprised to see some Pro-Putin arguments. To be fair, some were more that we should not get involved, which is not quite Pro Putin. Here are some and my thoughts on them.

a) Putin never called me a racist and never made my kids learn Critical Race Theory. This is meant as a GOTCHA comment. To take it seriously one would have to (1) examine what American's are learning in grade school, (2) examine what Russians are learning in grade school, (3) see which country is giving their students a more honest view of things (particularly history), and (4) decide that whichever school is teaching more honest material deserves are support. 

b) Putin is a strong leader and I admire strong leaders. Really? If  Biden was a strong leader who could push through the Build-Back-Better plan, would you admire that? You can't just admire strong leaders in the abstract, you have to see where they lead. (Same with admiring people who have principles.)

c) Putin stands for good Christian values. OH- so Putin likes to help the poor and does not approve of divorce or pre-marital sex. Oh, that NOT what you mean? Oh, you just mean that he does not like gay people or abortion. OH, thats not correct- Russia has the second most number of abortions of any country (see here) So the only issue where Russia shares your values is in not liking gay people. Is that enough  commonality is enough to justify invading a country? This does raise the serious question: who do you support in a war? The country that shrares your values? The country that didn't start it (sometimes hard to tell, though not in this case)? The country you have a treaty with? These are good and serious questions. 

d) How come the world does not like Putin's war based on lies and had no problem with W's war on Iraq that was based on lies? This is actually a good question. Being an academic by first impulse is to write a paper on it. There are differences between the invasion of Ukraine and Gulf War II, but still, lets assume that they really are somewhat equivalent. The person asking the question was probably AGAINST Gulf War II. Hence they should be against the invasion of Ukraine as well. So this is a good question about the America and NATO's Double standard and hypocrisy but is not a reason to be pro-Putin. (I was emailed that there are many conflicts that American and NATO do not care about that are as bad as Putin's invasion.) 

e) Russia had real concerns about security. The last time Russia was invaded was WW II (if I am wrong then please correct me in the comments). Even so, I've heard analogies made to America freaking out when Cuba had Nuclear missiles. There were no nukes in Ukraine. Ukraine was not going to join NATO anytime soon. I wonder if this was a pretense on Putin's part and not a real reason. 

f) See here. I give an excerpt (I am not making this up). 

But as its Covid mission has become less clear, the group’s channels have turned to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, where conspiracy-minded thinking has flourished. While some group members have admonished Russian President Vladimir Putin for the invasion, QAnon and anti-vaccine contingents within the groups have seized on a false conspiracy theory that the war is a cover for a military operation backed by former President Donald Trump in Ukraine.

The conspiracy theory, which is baseless and has roots in QAnon mythology, alleges that Trump and Putin are secretly working together to stop bioweapons from being made by Dr. Anthony Fauci in Ukraine and that shelling in Ukraine has targeted the secret laboratories. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has emerged in the past year as a main target for far-right conspiracy theories.

3) I was somewhat surprised when Hungary came out against Putin. But Putin's arrangments with his allies are transactional- there is no real love there. I was much more surprised when Switzerland came out against Putin. Switzerland has been neutral since 1515 (I think I read that some place). 


  1. *The conspiracy theory, which is baseless and has roots in TCS mythology, alleges that Cook and Levin are secretly working together to stop P vs NP from being solved by Prof. William Gasarch in Ukraine and that shelling in Ukraine has targeted the secret laboratories. Gasarch, director of the National Institute of TCS and AI, has emerged in the past (50) years as a main target for far-right P != NP conspiracy theories.

  2. Asking the question of equivalence with Iraqi war based on lies is as you said valid, very much valid and should be raised, and indeed doesn't mean we, who ask/raise, support Putin.

  3. I feel like I am on Jeopardy: The answer is Transnistria, what is the question. So I looked it up

    Transistria is `an unrecognized breakaway state located in the narrow strip of land betweenthe river Dniester and the Moldovia-Ukraine border that is universally recognized as part of Moldovia'

    Please give an intelligent comment about Transistria with regard to the Russian Invasion of Ukraine.

    1. Russia put its fingers into the region in the 1990s.

      The region is right on the border of Ukraine.

      I would put it with 1a and 1b in your post.

    2. thanks for clarification!

  4. Never heard this conspiracy before. Maybe there are conspiracies about spreading conspiracies?

    1. Indeed! There can be meta-conspiracies--- Alice spreads a rumor that Bob thinks X in order to discredit Bob. Or only one person in group Y thinks X and the rumor is spread that they all do. In the case at hand it may be that a very very small part of Qanon, or maybe even just ONE member thinks that Fauci has a secret lab in Ukraine.

  5. "Biden has hired experts"
    With our dependence on Russian natural resources, Keystone cancelation, ongoing conversations with Maduro and many other reasons this sounds like a joke.

  6. Clarify: you are saying that Biden messed up but not quite saying how.

  7. Putin is obviously in the wrong in that whatever may have been happening in Ukraine, it doesn't justify the horrors of the current invasion.

    But if you're looking for reasons why someone might be a bit sympathetic to Russia/Putin, or at least not all that sympathetic to Ukraine, you can do a lot better than what you have listed. There really are a significant number of neo-Nazis in Ukraine, in positions of power. The revolution/coup in 2014 really did have troubling aspects. Ukraine really does treat its ethnically-Russian minority badly. The conflict in eastern Ukraine in the last 8 years really has lead to many deaths. The west really has been unwilling to clearly resolve legitimate concerns about NATO expanding to Russia's borders.

    Resolving the current situation is going to require acknowledging these things.

  8. Here is an article on the history:

  9. As this is a blog on complexity theory I would like to ask about the role of theory in these affairs. It seems to be a gross simplification to reduce everything to the question on what is going on in the head of Putin. It would be interesting to know the Kremlin strategists and their adivce. So what is the game theory behind this atrocious war? In the US there are think tanks and rumors go that JFK was briefed by the RAND corporation how to best handle the Cuban missile crisis. Has this theory been developed for the 21st century and are Putin and his theorists up to date?