“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”

Matthew 7:7

In November 1982, following the death of Leonid Brezhnev, the Soviet Union gained a new but suitably stern-faced General Secretary of the Communist Party, in the guise of the then 68 year-old Yuri Vladimirovich Andropov. Known for his ‘politeness, calmness, unselfishness, patience, intelligence and exceptionally sharp memory’, the “Butcher of Budapest”1 was certainly no slouch when it came to deportations, political arrests, persecution of dissidents, and the abuse of psychiatry. Vladimir Putin speaks very highly of him.

Yet, despite having all of the qualities to be expected of the quintessential Soviet, Cold War leader, Andropov was to enjoy only the briefest of totalitarian supremacies, dying just eighteen months after his appointment. When it came to it, no amount of Gulags, no number of pseudo-psychiatric detentions, and no level of secret service surveillance could rescue his tyranny from the ravages of interstitial nephritis, nephrosclerosis, hypertension, diabetes and chronic kidney failure. The point was not lost on the Politburo: Try someone younger in future.2

But to focus upon the brevity of Andropov’s grim reign of oppression is to miss the point. Andropov’s place in history may be a particularly transient one, but it was still profoundly important, since it was he who perhaps came closest to inflicting nuclear annihilation upon the world. And he came as close as he did because of one very important principle that should be held in mind by anyone who is concerned with assessing an apocalyptic threat: If you believe in such a threat, you only have to demand that everyone look for the evidence and you will find all that you could possibly need.

Operation RYAN

As a former Chairman of the KGB, Andropov (you will not be surprised to discover) had a very distrustful nature, and he used most of this distrust to paint a picture of deviousness and duplicitously aggressive intent when it came to the Western military and political overlords. In fact, there was one idea that Andropov would cling to religiously: The Americans were intent on launching a pre-emptive nuclear attack on the Soviet Union and the only way of defending against it would be to pre-empt their pre-emption. Consequently, upon coming to power Andropov lost no time instigating a massive programme of surveillance aimed at gaining the earliest possible indication that such an attack was in the planning. Nearly all of the KGB’s resources were to be redeployed in the pursuance of such evidence. The undertaking went under the codename ‘Operation RYAN’.3

Now here’s the thing: Just about everyone who worked for the KGB thought that Andropov’s idea was ridiculous. However, not a single one would be so stupid as to suggest as much to their superior. Consequently, instead of feeding back evidence to the contrary (since in reality that was the only evidence available to them) they instead sought and found a motherlode of incriminating evidence proving that Andropov’s paranoia was entirely justified. The reports came in thick and fast. There was the unusually large number of cars appearing in Pentagon car parks. There were the extra lights on in the office after normal working hours. When extra security was introduced at American military bases following heightened levels of terrorist alert, the KGB were on hand to misinterpret it. And when there wasn’t any of that, there were the total fabrications desperately written up in a bid to protect and further the reputations of the KGB’s rank and file. The only things that were more inventive were the expense reports demanding recompense for the prodigious quantities of vodka quaffed whilst constructing the case for pre-emptive Armageddon.

Operation RYAN was proving a massive success. Believing the Soviet Union to be in the grip of an existential crisis, Andropov had put in place all of the information gathering he needed to ensure that the Soviet Union ended up in the grip of an existential crisis. All that was missing was a gesture on the part of NATO that could only be interpreted as a thinly veiled cover story for a pre-emptive attack. It was well known that wargame manoeuvres would be the ideal ruse by which genuine preparations for an attack could be hidden. So to settle the issue once and for all, it would only need NATO to launch the largest wargames in its history, particularly if such games were to feature details that were suspiciously novel in their realism.

And so it was at this moment that NATO launched the largest wargames in its history, making sure that they featured details that were suspiciously novel in their realism.4 The Soviets had their Operation RYAN; to complete the apocalyptic farce, NATO had Operation ABLE ARCHER 83.

Ignorance is extermination

Some might say that, given the Soviet Union’s paranoia, such provocation was the height of irresponsibility. However, you have to see this in the context of the day. It wasn’t that long ago that the Soviet Union had shot down KAL 007, leading President Reagan to brand the USSR ‘an evil empire’. The last thing that America wanted was to be seen as weak in the face of such aggression. Certainly, there was lots of rhetoric coming from the Soviet Union accusing the USA of seeking to launch a pre-emptive attack, but this was dismissed as propaganda: Of course the Soviet Union would want to encourage a de-escalation since that would give them the ideal opportunity to strike pre-emptively; there was no way that the Americans were going to fall for that old trick. Besides which, Reagan had been in too many Hollywood movies to understand how anyone might seriously think that the ‘good guys’ could instigate the aggression; consequently, any accusations to that effect had to be bogus. Except, of course, that is exactly what Andropov did believe, and with an unshakeable certitude!

Andropov had seen enough, and so the Warsaw Pact’s aircraft were duly loaded with their full complement of nuclear bombs and the ICBM silos were brought to launch readiness. All it needed was the command from the Supreme Leader to instigate the conflagration. Of course, the West saw all of this but remained sanguine. As far as they were concerned, the enemy was just wanting to join in with the fun of the games. Little did they suspect that their ‘playmates’ were deadly serious and in the final stages of preparation for a pre-emptive nuclear strike that they fully intended prosecuting.

And then a miracle happened. On November 11th 1983, exactly on schedule, Operation ABLE ARCHER came to an end and Andropov commanded that the silo doors be closed.

Throughout Operation ABLE ARCHER the Americans had been blissfully oblivious to the blooming oblivion. The British had a spy within the KGB5 who had warned of Operation RYAN, but this warning came too late to stop Operation ABLE ARCHER from going ahead. Nevertheless, Reagan did finally get the message and, from that point onwards, both sides committed to improving lines of communication. The return of such an atmosphere of toxic suspicion would require another ex KGB man of similar thinking to Andropov to take up the reins. That man, of course, is Putin.


With the climate change issue in mind, there are several points that need to be made here.

Firstly, fear is a hugely powerful motivator and not everything that is done whilst in the grip of fear can be said to be rational. When the fear is driven from the top, the irrationality is only compounded.

Secondly, it doesn’t need a conspiracy to explain the rapidly self-reinforcing outcome of a moral panic. All that is needed is a belief to be held genuinely by the authority of the day and societal pressures will do the rest. The belief itself doesn’t even need to be promulgated. All that is necessary is for there to be some expediency associated with the act of behaving as if in the thrall of belief. The pressures within the KGB were immense. Any department that was not generating enough corroborating evidence suffered severe criticism. We have reached that point in society as far as climate change is concerned. You can see it in every journalist’s desperate invocation of climate change. And the recent censorship of the BBC’s Bitesize website suggests that the opprobium dealt out to anybody who holds a dissenting view is now at least as extreme as that experienced within the KGB under Andropov’s rule.

Thirdly, it is astonishing to see just how extreme the accepted ‘solution’ can be when faced with the perception of an existential threat. The Soviet leaders would have been just as aware as the Americans were of the inevitable self-destruction to be expected following a pre-emptive nuclear strike. And yet they were perfectly willing to take that step. The only possible explanation is that they suspected that the Americans could survive by making the first move, and they were determined not to let that happen. Better that both sides perished rather than letting the enemy prevail. Nowadays, it’s almost as if the climate activists suspect that capitalist society might survive despite global warming, and they are prepared to wreck everything in order not to allow such a possibility.

Fourthly, what happened during Andropov’s reign was not an historical aberration. Time and again, the same principle has applied: As far as fear-driven surveillance is concerned, it is always a case of ‘seek the evidence and ye shall find it’. It happened to the Soviets with Operation RYAN and it happened again to the CIA with Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. Notwithstanding the probity of the scientific evidence for climate change, it would be bizarre not to assume that the same principle is applying. Some things have to be believed to be seen.

Fithly, there may be no novel wargames to consider, but the weather certainly has plenty of ways to unnerve the suspicious. For Operation ABLE ARCHER, read Hurricane ARCHIE.

And last, but not least, the risk to the world of an accidental nuclear destruction has not gone away. With Putin (the ex KGB colonel) flexing his muscles, and Sino-American relationships deteriorating daily, the risk is probably as high today as it has ever been. And yet no one outside of the Pentagon seems to be giving it a second thought. The menacing symbolism of the mushroom cloud has now been replaced by a polar bear perched perilously upon an ice floe. Global warming, our children are taught nowadays, is THE threat to the modern world. They don’t need to be terrified by an ever-present threat of vaporisation, since the threat of a slow, lingering toasting will do the trick just as nicely. Nuclear conflict is now treated as the over-hyped concern that we can all quietly forget, whilst global warming is the real deal. The bottom line is that there does not appear to be any correlation between the reality of risk and the choice of propagandizing that appears to be dominating the current National Curriculum.

Be that as it may, I can assure you that, as a child of the sixties who has investigated the reality of both risks – nuclear and climatic – it is still the spectre of nuclear destruction that keeps me awake at night. The only problem is that, either way, I am unlikely to live to say I told you so. Which is a shame because that’s what I like to do best in life.


[1] A title earned following his role in the brutal suppression of the 1956 Hungarian Uprising.

[2] In fact, it took a little while for the message to fully sink in. Andropov’s successor was the even more decrepit Konstantin Chernenko. It was only upon the election of Mikhail Gorbachev that the Soviet leadership finally entertained the idea of a non-geriatric succession.

[3] RYAN was an acronym for ‘Raketno-Yadernoe Napadenie’ (translating as ‘Nuclear Missile Attack’).

[4] The details that spooked the soviets included unprecedented use of radio silence, new and sophisticated message formats and a heightened day-to-day interest shown by Western leaders.

[5] Oleg Gordievsky was a colonel of the KGB working in London whilst operating as a double agent for MI6. He had become disaffected by the Soviet system following the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968.


  1. Mark,

    That’s very kind of you. I enjoyed writing it, which I like to think is a good sign.


    That’s the sort of news that in the height of the Cold War would have had the Western press in meltdown. Nowadays, it has to play second fiddle to reports of dragonfly wing patterns being affected by global warming.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Great piece.

    “Firstly, fear is a hugely powerful motivator and not everything that is done whilst in the grip of fear can be said to be rational…”

    “Secondly, it doesn’t need a conspiracy to explain the rapidly self-reinforcing outcome of a moral panic…”

    Yes and Yes. And these can hold hands too. But they are qualitatively different, meaning different rules despite also overlap and similarities, and a particular social phenomenon may feature one much more than another. So the ‘grip of fear’, aka herd panic, is the main driver of irrationalities in the Covid case. And ‘moral panic’, aka existential cultural belief, is the main driver of irrationalities in the climate-change case. Both are *group* behaviours, and some effects are common. But others are very different; for instance cultural adherents have their brains configured to ‘know’ somewhere deep inside (i.e. not consciously) that the cultural fears aren’t in the slightest bit real, just a signalling of group membership (so they don’t *act* like they’re real, even though they virtue signal madly). This is not the case for herd panic.

    Regarding hand holding, a strong cultural dominance (cold war communism) can make a society much more vulnerable to a herd panic should one arise. And the fears of nuclear holocaust were certainly real enough yet can also cause the observed irrationality. Going the opposite way, so to speak, a culture can take advantage of a seemingly unrelated herd panic; ‘build back better’, aka ‘build back greener’, is just such a case.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. John. Thank you for this. Your last paragraph has particular resonance for me (although I was a child of the Forties). It was not uncommon for me to be confronted by undergraduates pushing the view that the environment had never before been so threatened as by climate change. Early on I countered by offering them the Cuban Crisis but they couldn’t understand. For several days when I was an undergraduate my friends and I just gave up. We expected to die in a nuclear holocaust and so played cards rather than go to lectures. Later I didn’t bother mentioning the Crisis, it was impossible to convey to the then modern day youf just how bad conditions had got. It is pleasant now to think that an imminent holocaust no longer haunts us, but fear for many has transformed into concerns about sea-level rise, of increased extreme weather events and a thousand and one other changes.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Brilliant. A couple of points of detail, since detail is so important in a subject like this.
    1) KAL007 was undoubtedly a spy plane. The Americans gambled that the Russians wouldn’t shoot it down because it was full of innocent civilians. The Russians shot it down, demonstrating the weakness of American tactical thinking. The Americans would have done the same thing if the Russians had sent a spy plane full of civilians over the USA.
    2) The “threat of vaporisation” is not the most likely outcome of a nuclear attack. Only the lucky few are vaporised. The majority die slowly as their lungs melt with their faces full of deeply embedded shards of window pane.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Thanks Andy. I think the Operation RYAN fiasco illustrates a number of the points you have made previously regarding cultural phenomena. The Able Archer incident serves as a good analogue for how the unusual can persuade the fearful that a problem has turned critical. The link between extreme weather and the declaration of a climate emergency follows very similar lines.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Alan,

    I was too young to apprehend the Cuban Crisis and my parents did a good job of hiding the terror. The scary thing about Able Archer is that the world had no idea it was on the brink, and yet many historians now claim that we came closer than we did during Cuba. If people just knew how many near misses there have been they wouldn’t be nearly as relaxed as they are now.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Given that the whole nuclear deterrence edifice relies on not being sure what the other side has got (in its mind or in its silos) I’ve never understood why one side didn’t just announce: “Hey! We’ve invented this secret thingy that can detect your secret thingies and destroy them before you can do anything with them.” How could you be sure it wan’t true?

    Then in March 2019 Putin did just that, with his announcement of hypersonic missiles and torpedoes. Apparently knowledgable commenters said: “Aircraft carriers are now scrap iron.”

    The Western media might be expected to react in two ways: they might have said “Liar,” or they might have said “this is the greatest threat we’ve ever faced from the evillest enemy ever.” They did neither. Democrats in the USA might have been expected to claim that any refusal by Trump to pump up military research budgets would be evidence of collusion with the Kremlin. They didn’t. Putin might have broken wind in public for all the media attention his announcement got. It was as if the nuclear balance of power was just too 20th century.

    On JIT’s point about China’s new silos, this article points out why they’re a good thing:

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Geoff,

    I’ve read quite a lot about KAL007 and have gone from being convinced it was part of a spy mission to being much more open-minded. What I will say, however, is that the flight pattern was entirely consistent with the tactics employed by Western surveillance overflights, in which one plane deliberately provokes a response that is then picked up as SIGINT by a second plane.

    I take your point regarding vapourisation but it was the nuclear demise that contrasted best against the global warming threat. To be accurate we should both be playing up the role played by radiation.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I wasn’t born when the Cuban Missile Crisis occurred, but I grew up under the shadow of the Cold War and constant fear of nuclear conflagration. When I was quite young I read “On the Beach” by Nevil Shute, and it scared me witless. I still remember the incredulous feelings of joy when the Berlin Wall came down late in 1989, and it seemed as though the threat of nuclear annihilation had receded greatly. And yet it does remain a real and present danger, and is certainly more of a risk to my continued existence than is the “climate crisis”.

    Given that George Monbiot is a year older than me, you might think he would have a similar take on all this. And yet, in his article which I recently mocked, “How the BBC let climate deniers walk all over it” he called climate change “[t]he greatest crisis humanity has ever faced”. And he criticised the BBC for inaccurate reporting! It’s a strange world, right enough.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Mark,

    >”[t]he greatest crisis humanity has ever faced”

    Some years ago, I wrote an article for a safety engineering journal on the subject of nuclear weapon safety. The research I did for that article left me in no doubt just how lucky we all were to survive the Cold War. I’m sorely tempted to reproduce it on Cliscep but it would be too off-topic.

    Monbiot is just an ignorant fool.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. There’s a new book on the Cuban crisis, “Nuclear Folly” that suggests a Soviet sub commander would have launched his load of missiles except for some adventitious incident.
    Terrific piece John, I’ll check if my Quadrant would like to re-run it.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. John. Open Mic ought to be a suitable site for your “off topic” article. That’s what it was originally designed for.


  13. I’d be happy to see John’s article here. With half a dozen international crises on the horizon, (Taiwan, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Iran etc.) the prospect of nuclear war may soon be a thing again, and climate will have to compete with it as it did with Covid and Brexit. THEY are sure that climate change is a catastrophe of unimaginable gravity. Surely discussion of really serious possible catastrophes is in order?

    Liked by 4 people

  14. Geoff, Alan,

    I probably will post it then. What people probably don’t appreciate is how much our safety depends upon things not going wrong. The opportunities for mishap are much more numerous than is normally appreciated, as is the number of near misses we have had. As you say, Geoff, let’s repossess the word ‘crisis’.

    Liked by 6 people

  15. Geoff, from yesterday re: Moon of Alabama.

    I think they have this about 180 degrees wrong. The new silos are to protect missiles from other missiles, so much is obvious. But there is not the slightest chance that the US would ever fire first, so they are not needed to protect the Chinese arsenal from a first strike.

    (That’s free strategic advice to our Chinese friends.)

    This is my worst-case scenario: China invades Taiwan. The US sends forces to oppose, and the Chinese forces are not up to the job. In preference to humiliation, Winnie decides to pop off a nuke.

    Now suddenly the field of silos takes on its true purpose: to forestall a retaliation.


  16. Jit

    But there is not the slightest chance that the US would ever fire first..

    You and I may know that, but imagine the Chinese leadership basing their defence strategy on the firm knowledge that the USA never ever initiates hostilities in foreign countries. At least, not nuclear hostilities, not until they’d exhausted all conventional means – which would be what, against an army of 2 million plus?


  17. Great post John. I’d like to note that the Andropov era had its own version of Greta Thunberg in Samantha Smith, a ten year old school girl who wrote a letter to Yuri Andropov and became something of a celebrity ambassador and then died in a plane crash a few years later. Since the peace movement didn’t have all these international conventions back then, Samantha became an actress starring with Robert Wagner in a TV series called Lime Street. I think this is sort of relevant because Greta’s parents are both thespians.

    Liked by 3 people

  18. Thanks for a sober reminder John.

    and thanks to JIT & Geoff for relevant links.

    just shows what can happen when you “take your eye off the ball”

    Liked by 2 people

  19. I’d just like to remind everyone that it was my genius to foresee John’s.

    OK, yeah, I only glimpsed a fraction of his true talent. I never saw this article coming; but how often does *anyone* write something this good?

    Anyway, John, the above post, which is superb, isn’t just a triumph for me. Sure, it was me who vouched for you; I’m the one who took you on; I corrected the spelling of one of the words in your first article. It’s your achievement too, in a way. No, really: you wrote it. So take a moment out to give yourself an elbow-bump as well.



    Liked by 7 people

  20. Brad,

    I was working as a waitress at a cocktail bar, that much is true.

    It’s the other stuff about genius that needs further checking.

    It’s really good to hear from you, Brad. You should pop in here more often.

    Liked by 6 people

  21. dfhunter,

    “Take your eye off the ball”

    As they did with the threat from pandemics. At least pandemic was in the Government’s National Risk Register. For reasons not properly explained, nuclear conflict isn’t.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Andy

    your comment (9 July) was characteristically interesting.

    I’m curious about this:

    “cultural adherents have their brains configured to ‘know’ somewhere deep inside (i.e. not consciously) that the cultural fears aren’t in the slightest bit real, just a signalling of group membership (so they don’t *act* like they’re real, even though they virtue signal madly)”

    Is it normal for a person’s unconscious belief to have such a dramatic (and externally obvious) influence on their behavior?

    When it *does* happen, can you “make” the person conscious of their belief by drawing their attention to the fact that their behavior makes no sense without it?


  23. Brad, I think we’ve passed through this before, a year or so ago…

    “Is it normal for a person’s unconscious belief to have such a dramatic (and externally obvious) influence on their behavior?”

    Yes, for strong cultural beliefs, absolutely normal. The most common example is religious belief. [About two thirds of the planet is still formally religious, and about half of the rest still profess some kind of spirituality even if less connected to the formal religions. About a hundred years ago, essentially everyone was religious. In fact this didn’t stop detectable innate skepticism throughout history, but this tended to be aimed at a particular brand of worship or at a perceived degeneracy of practitioners, not at the core narratives themselves].

    “When it *does* happen, can you “make” the person conscious of their belief by drawing their attention to the fact that their behavior makes no sense without it?”

    Typically, no. Have you ever tried to persuade a religious person about the non-existence of God? And remember your friend, who up to last year at any rate you completely failed to persuade via reason and the pointing out of illogicality. While one can’t speak to every case and rarely one might succeed (especially where the adherent was already a waverer, or with conflicted beliefs from multiple domains), generally such approaches cause the subject to be uncomfortable, which in turn usually leads to entrenchment rather than a realization that the cultural beliefs are unfounded.

    This is a ‘feature’ of all humanity, not a ‘flaw’. Cultural groups were (and may still be) a huge net *advantage*, which is why the behaviours are so deeply embedded. Some animals have cultural behaviour, its development pre-dates reason and we are dealing with strong emotive pathways here, not logic. Plus we’ve apparently experienced about 100,000 religions, so plenty of mileage via which cultural behaviours have developed much subtlety and complexity.

    An irony in the climate-change case is that Greta *correctly* spotted the *apparent* hypocrisy. She was right that everyone was *not* acting as though the ‘climate emergency’ is literally true. Including all the leaderships. And despite the ubiquitous messaging turned up to 11. She just had the wrong explanation. Instead of being very lazy or liars or nefarious FF supporters profiting despite the coming doom, they are just *believing*. But there’s no reason she would know this. It’s possible her condition led to her spotting the inconsistency; people with Asperger’s interpret communication too literally. They don’t have the correct ‘social decodes’ installed. So this this may include the decode that ‘climate emergency’ means only that ‘I belong to this cultural club’, not that there’s actually a climate emergency.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Belated footnote:

    There has been some debate regarding just how close to the brink we all came back in 1983, and just how serious the Soviets were about launching their own pre-emptive attack. At the time, the British were a lot more concerned than the Americans. It wasn’t just their knowledge of Operation RYAN that concerned them. After all, the Soviet’s reaction to ABLE ARCHER had not been seen previously in response to any other NATO exercise. For example, they had never previously moved their mobile SS-20 missiles to camouflaged firing positions. Nor had Marshall Ogarkov, the Chief of the General Staff, ever seen fit to take up his position in the command bunker below Moscow. The CIA were confident that no misunderstanding would be possible because the Soviets had enough spies within NATO to understand that it was only an exercise. But, of course, they were assuming that the KGB rank and file would be reporting accurately to their superiors, without fear of recrimination (remember also that Stalin had two of his spies shot because they dared to warn of Hitler’s imminent attack in 1941, when the official view was that no such attack could happen).

    Perhaps the best analysis to emerge in later years came from a CIA report not made public until 2015. It stated that the American authorities had committed an:

    “…especially grave error to assume that since we know the US is not going to start World War III, the leaders of the Kremlin will also believe that.”

    The report adds that:

    “The Soviets had concern that the West might decide to attack the USSR without warning during a time of vulnerability … thus compelling the Soviets to consider a pre-emptive strike at the first sign of US preparations of nuclear strike … we may have inadvertently placed our relations with the Soviet Union on a hair trigger.”

    You could say that.

    Liked by 3 people

  25. For some time now I have been tempted to post a comment here regarding the Ukraine crisis. In some respects this looked for a while like operation ABLE ARCHER in reverse, with the West playing the role of the nervous party observing ‘military drills’. As with Andropov, Putin is ex-KGB and he shares his ideologies. In fact, Putin idolizes Andropov. And the USA is just as bellicose as ever, so the stakes are as high today as they were back in the eighties. However, I don’t think we should get too carried away by the idea that this is a role reversal.

    Putin says, ‘We knew the West did not want to be our friends, but that is no reason to have made an enemy of us’. Is there any basis for this? The BBC says no. NATO never set out to make an enemy of Russia – it just objected to Russian expansionism and countered with its own. I say, rubbish.

    Last year the US Sixth Fleet held a joint exercise with the Ukraine navy called ‘Sea Breeze’. Its purpose was to demonstrate how the USA and Ukraine would work together as operational partners to strengthen maritime security and stability in the Black Sea region – Russia’s back door. These annual exercises are nothing new, since they have been held annually since 1997. They are not particularly large scale when compared to Putin’s current military deployment, but last year they had a very international feel to them as 28 countries from six continents joined in (this includes the UK, of course). The reason I know this isn’t because it was all over the Western press at the time. It is because I am a military aviation nerd and I read about it in ‘Combat Aircraft’ magazine, in an article titled ‘Annoying Moscow’.

    Annoying Moscow eh? Well I think we can call it mission accomplished. Twenty five years of annual exercises has finally convinced Russia that the USA sees the Ukraine as its key to securing the Black Sea, and if that isn’t making an enemy, I don’t know what is.

    Liked by 2 people

  26. In many ways it’s a perfect storm. Having poked the wasp’s nest, the west is struggling to come up with an effective response to Putin’s aggressive counter-play, thanks to the”success” of Putin’s “green” useful idiots in the west.

    All that said, I am certainly not absolving Putin of responsibility for the aggression we are now witnessing. It seems obvious that this has been at least eight years in the planning.

    The thing is, the west has had those eight years in which to come up with a responsive plan. Instead of which it has hamstrung itself by the net zero folly, which hasn’t yet reached the stage of giving us independence from fossil fuels, but has made us dependent on others, including quite a few bad actors, for them.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Mark,

    I agree that the Spiked article makes a number of valid points, and the bottom line is that Russian troops should not be in Ukraine. The only thing I would add is that the Western media routinely downplays the antagonism shown towards Russia and fails to appreciate the historical, all-encompassing sense of vulnerability that lies at the heart of the Russian psyche. No one likes to see the menace at their gates. Just ask JFK.

    Oh I forgot…

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Having heard an interview with Putin a few days ago –

    quote – “But the two men clashed when Mr Putin said there was a precedent for war in Europe – the conflict in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s – which he said was waged by Nato against Serbia without UN Security Council approval.

    Mr Scholz said the situation was different because there was a danger of genocide by Serbs against non-Serbs, to which Mr Putin said what was happening in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region – where Russia is backing separatists was also a genocide, against ethnic Russians.”

    it came as no surprise Putin backs Ukraine’s Donbas region.

    ps – the conflict in Ukraine was big news 2014 or so, but the 24 news rolled on & have not reported since ? (so that’s 7/8yrs this “separatists” civil war has been on going)

    how much do we, in the west know what the people in Donbas region what/think ?


  29. I found Brendan O’Neill’s take pretty annoying. I much prefer Peter Hitchens in First Things in October 2016:

    I still recall a brief return from the U.S.S.R. to my hometown of Oxford, during which I was asked for directions by an American tourist. “You must live here,” he said, impressed by my historically detailed advice. “No,” I confessed with a strange feeling of guilt. “I live in Moscow.” For the first time in my life I had chosen to live in foreign parts, and very strange and hostile parts they seemed to be.

    Yet the experience of living in that sad and handsome place brought me to love Russia and its stoical people, to learn some of what they had suffered and see what they had regained. And so, as all around me rage against the supposed aggression and wickedness of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, I cannot join in. Despite the fact that Moscow has abandoned control of immense areas of Europe and Asia, self-appointed experts insist that Russia is an expansionist power. Oddly, this “expansion” only seems to be occurring in zones that Moscow once controlled, into which the E.U. and NATO, supported by the U.S., have sought to extend their influence.

    The comparison of today’s Russia to yesterday’s U.S.S.R. is baseless. I know this, and rage inwardly at my inability to convey my understanding to others. Could this be because I have been unable to communicate the change of heart I underwent during my more than two years in the Russian capital?

    It doesn’t deal with the latest of course. And that I think is what is important about it.


  30. A more recent take is from Dominic Cummings on his blog yesterday. He’s writing at some length (and for me interestingly) about the relevance to government of the lessons in the book Working Backwards about Amazon’s management practices. But near the beginning, in passing, there’s this:

    If you are thinking about Ukraine, then remember that the same broken central institutions that failed so badly on Iraq, the financial crisis and recovery, covid, fleeing Afghanistan, the petrol shortage, supply chain stresses and so on are in charge of UK’s response on Ukraine/Russia. I strongly recommend you do not trust official statements from No10 or the pundits spoonfed from No10 press office or you will be very surprised about how things turn out.

    More encouragement! That’s in Amazon’s lessons on high performance management for the next PM which I think will ask you to stump up for a month to get that far down.


  31. Richard,

    I don’t want to derail John’s thread, but might I ask which part of Brendan O’Neill’s article you found annoying? I think Putin’s behaviour is awful, but the problem is that the west long since abandoned the moral high ground by its repeated interventions in sovereign nations, simply because it felt its interests required it. I opposed that then as I opposed Putin’s behaviour now.

    I have sympathy with Peter Hitchens’ words as quoted by you. As always, it is the leaders who cause the problems that many (most?) of their people don’t want. Two weeks’ holiday spent in Russia (one in Moscow, one in St Petersburg) certainly doesn’t make me an expert, but I have to say my wife and I found the Russian people to be unfailingly decent, polite, helpful, and concerned for our well-being. We were in St Petersburg when Putin invaded Georgia, and watched it unfolding nightly on the TV in the little bar opposite our hotel which we took to frequenting. The unhappiness, on the part of the regulars, at what Putin was doing, was palpable.


  32. Mark, I find the glib rhetoric about sovereignty without first giving the backstory as Hitchens gives it – or more strongly – very hard to take. Cummings has also lived in Russia and agrees we should never have been pressing to make this key neighbour, previously part of the USSR, a member of NATO. There are many nuances but that must come first for me. The full article by Hitchens I find utterly convincing. (But I didn’t go with this expert, but with Richard North, in the early days of Covid. North was closer to Cummings at that point – despite his deep criticisms of the man, with Christopher Booker, over Brexit. Hitchens agreeing and indeed deferring to Booker on that. An interesting quartet of experts. Hopefully I left tribalism behind in processing all this and managed to make my own mistakes!)


  33. Thanks Richard.

    I believe that this morning we can at least all agree on condemning Putin’s vile war-mongering, and wish the people of Ukraine (and those decent people in Russia) well. Sadly the useful green idiots have guaranteed that short of going to war ourselves (God forbid) there isn’t a lot the west can do about this in any meaningful way. Putin has all the cards (oil and gas), and he’s been preparing for this moment for years, so the Russian economy will withstand any sanctions pretty well for quite some time, I imagine.


  34. PS In line with the thrust of John’s article, today’s developments are a graver threat to humankind than climate change. And along the way, Putin’s armed forces must be creating a lot of greenhouse gas emissions. I look forward to the reports of XR protestors demonstrating outside the Russian embassy in London.


  35. In the light of what has happened this morning, I find the title of this thread both apt and disgusting.


  36. The above is not an attack upon you John. It’s a cry from the heart about the situation we are all in and a reaction to the peril we may all be in.


  37. Talking about historical perspective and national psyche is all very well but, when it comes down to it, the gameplay appears to be at the mercy of an individual who gives every impression of having a strong sense of personal destiny that shall, when necessary, involve us all. If you have a God then now might be a good time to make peace with Him. The rest of us will have to make do with a nice cup of tea.

    Liked by 1 person

  38. I must say, this article looks both prescient and highly relevant just now.

    Today’s events certainly put climate change in perspective. Humankind is capable of destructive behaviour in so many ways.


  39. At least the BBC is asking the question:

    Why is Russia invading Ukraine and what does Putin want?

    It does have a lot to do with NATO. My view is that the West has to take a lot of the blame for that. Stupid or deliberately provocative? That gets us into motives. I won’t go there.

    Putin’s claim of genocide in Ukraine is false and should not be made lightly by any Russian leader, especially given the Holodomor of 1932-33, which undoubtedly was genocide. But, unlike Germany and the Holocaust, Russia has not been good at facing up the dark side of its past.


  40. I commented here yesterday regarding Putin’s mental state, his sense of personal destiny, and how it projects onto us all. This is not something that has only just occurred to Western leaders over the last 48 hours; it has been known about for years, as evidenced by this 2014 article that my wife dug out for me this afternoon:


    “A recent report said that German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has talked with Putin more than any other leader in the last few weeks, reported feeling ‘bewildered’ by Putin. After speaking with him, the report claimed, she said she was not sure he was in touch with reality, telling US President Obama that Putin was ‘in another world’…”

    “…The bottom line is that the current psychological trajectory of Vladimir Putin is one of a feeling of historical destiny leading him to reclaim the dignity and respect due to his great Russian empire. This is a journey which is as much personal as political, because once the hubris syndrome takes hold in the brain, the personal and the national are identical because the leader is the nation and its destiny.”

    Actually, the bottom line is that Western Europe now faces a genuinely psychotic leader in charge of a modernised land army that dwarfs its own, flaunting a nuclear button that he suspects will be an important part of his destiny. And I’m supposed to give a flying f**k about 1.5C warming?

    Liked by 2 people

  41. John, I think you mean 0.3 C warming, as we are at +1.2 already.

    Blaming this on NATO makes no sense. Yes, we have invaded other countries, but not to my knowledge a country armed with nukes. Ergo, there was/is no threat from encroachment of NATO on Russia’s borders, other than as an example of how democracies prosper and dictatorships do not.

    More widely we have been stupid in everything we have done, ensuring that Putin has us over a barrel. Literally.

    Liked by 1 person

  42. Jit,

    >”I think you mean 0.3 C warming, as we are at +1.2 already.”

    No, I meant 1.5C warming, as I was adopting the widely followed convention of quoting the target with respect to a pre-industrial baseline. Just because I followed the convention, there is no reason for anyone to believe I might not understand how little warming is supposed permissible from this point.

    As for the blaming of NATO, you make a rational argument for why Putin should not have felt threatened. However, the whole point is that Putin is not thinking rationally, and NATO has known this for many years. Encouraging former Eastern Bloc countries to join NATO might have seemed a good idea since it provides an aegis of protection that is supposed to deter Putin from an aggressive attempt to reverse the dissolution of the Soviet Union, but it has two unfortunate side effects:

    a) It entrenches Putin’s sense of regret and historical injustice and feeds his maniacal nostalgia (lots of fevered talk from him recently of neo-Nazism, I note)

    b) Adding these former Eastern Bloc countries has not significantly increased the conventional strength of NATO’s border armed forces and so the trigger point at which NATO will have to resort to tactical nuclear warfare to deter against territorial incursion has been lowered. Is this threat now too big a risk for Putin to take? I’d like to think so but, then again, I’d also like to think he wasn’t a psychotic fantasist with little notion of risk – as his recent rhetoric and actions seem to betray.


  43. John, I was not trying to be a pedant, merely to describe the level of the “threat”!

    And I have some free tactical advice for Vlad: there is no way NATO will ever drop a nuke on him, even if he drops a nuke on us. None.


  44. I see earlier in the thread I offered similar advice to our Chinese friends re: Taiwan.

    The reason I don’t think we would fire back if a nuke was used (battlefield or otherwise) is that we would be scared of the resultant escalation. But I suppose we would fire back if Vlad launched everything, having nothing left to lose.


  45. Jit,

    I appreciate the clarification. I think we can all agree that the level of threat must be kept in perspective.

    Your advice for Vlad would reassure a rational, peace-loving leader. Unfortunately, I suspect that Vlad already accepts your analysis and will be emboldened by it. He has openly shown contempt for what he sees as weak Western leaders — weakness is so un-Russian. I think that he was convinced that NATO was trying to start a fight that he is equally convinced he will finish. He just needed to choose his own moment. He takes his cue from Andropov — pre-empt the pre-emption.


  46. I don’t think we *know* what Putin is like. I got confused on this when I looked into the claims of Bill Browder. Very confused.

    But I would agree that we are about to find out.


  47. Richard,

    Actually, I think we pretty well know what Putin is like. He is a very public figure who has made no secret of his feelings. Psychological profiles are ten a penny but, based upon what I have seen for myself, I think there is something not quite right about him. Where I will agree is that it is very difficult to read his next move. I think that is due to his irrationality. The only reservation I have is that he may be playing up the irrationality as a ploy that says ‘don’t mess with me, I’m capable of anything’.

    Liked by 2 people

  48. JIT. You suggest that if nuclear war commences and Russia lets loose its arsenal, that the West has nothing else to lose and should fire back with everything we have. I partially remember a television play or film in which a leader was persuaded not to return fire for “humanity’s sake” and the bitter recriminations that such a decision left. It certainly left me with much thinking to do and I still cannot decide who should prevail, although for a long time now I have felt those arguing that fire should not be returned are correct.


  49. This was written just before the invasion but I think has merit:

    Russophobia leads people automatically to assume the worst of the Russians. This may on occasion be entirely correct, but it also leads to an acritical or positive view of any opponent of Russia such as Ukraine.

    Going by the picture of the country presented by almost all political leaders and news outlets, it is a democracy not too dissimilar from Norway or Denmark. Putin is supposed to fear that his people will be tempted to dispense with his rule because they will prefer democratic Ukraine over Russian autocracy.

    But Putin may not have to worry about this for some time since Ukraine is one of the most corrupt countries in Europe. Kyiv newspapers print lists of members of the Ukrainian parliament, giving the names of the oligarchs to whom they owe allegiance.

    Domestic political struggles in Ukraine are frequently ferocious and hard fought, but are seldom mentioned in reportage of the present crisis, perhaps because it spoils the image of Russia being the only threat to democracy.

    This projection of an image of a battle between demons and angels is a characteristic of most conflicts, but Russia almost invariably finds itself selected as chief demon. This gives a skewed vision of what is really happening on the ground.

    Because Russian grievances are assumed to be without merit, their actions appear irrational or demonic. They may be true, but assuming that this is the case from the beginning only deepens the crisis and makes it more insoluble.

    Patrick Cockburn in inews on 23rd Feb

    Is Ukraine is really “one of the most corrupt countries in Europe”? Was the transfer of power in 2014 the most beatific of all time, without any interference from outside? Are the Bidens of Burisma really the Churchills of the current agony, against the modern appeasers? My bullshit meter says hang on a moment.

    Liked by 1 person

  50. What is Putin hoping to gain from this madness !!!

    had to go back to the “Ukraine orange revolution” link form Wiki.

    long read & not sure if accurate, but it ends with –

    “In Russian nationalist circles the Orange Revolution has been linked with fascism because, albeit marginal, Ukrainian nationalist extreme right-wing groups and Ukrainian Americans (including Viktor Yushchenko’s wife, Kateryna Yushchenko, who was born in the United States) were involved in the demonstrations; Russian nationalist groups see both as branches of the same tree of fascism.[79] The involvement of Ukrainian Americans lead them to believe the Orange Revolution was steered by the CIA.[79]”

    wonder if Putin means “fascism” & it’s translated as Nazi ?


  51. Governments employ legions of highly qualified military and political analysts to speculate upon the effects of proposed strategies before making their move. This tradition goes back to the formation of the RAND Corporation and it is steeped in the application of highbrow concepts such as game theory. I, on the other hand, have an analysis that, whilst being far less sophisticated, is offered for nothing (which is probably what it is worth):

    a) Putin is a dodgy geezer

    b) The USA is a super power that is doing what all super powers do when they perceive the waning of their global influence

    c) History runs deep and nothing good ever comes of a leader spouting nationalist ideology fuelled by nostalgia

    d) Any move from this position is a losing move

    There now. I have shared with you the sum total of my understanding.

    Liked by 1 person

  52. John, your list of four reminds me of this guy in December

    That’s the producer of the film Steve Mc put me onto in 2018 cheekily interrupting.

    I agree with him. The levels of deception in this area are truly immense.

    I don’t think “doing what all super powers do when they perceive the waning of their global influence” sufficiently explains it.


  53. Richard,

    >”I don’t think ‘doing what all super powers do when they perceive the waning of their global influence’ sufficiently explains it.”

    I couldn’t agree more. I don’t think anything that anyone might highlight could sufficiently explain it. I am reminded of what H.L. Mencken once said:

    “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”

    Liked by 1 person

  54. John: I thought you would agree!

    dfhunter: Steve Mc retweeted this earlier. I can’t say I can vouch for it (yet) but Steve I find remains careful


  55. Speaking of losing moves: I don’t think that Zelensky’s call for citizens of the world to flock to Ukraine to form a ‘foreign, international legion of volunteers’ is a terribly smart thing to do. The idea is very romantic but the reality is that it is likely to lead to the creation of a country that is at the mercy of vigilantes, criminal gangs armed to the teeth, and ideological groups with varying political agendas who spend more time fighting amongst themselves than they do with the Russians. If Kiev is not being defended by drug barons and Nazis now, it may soon be. I wonder what plan the Russians have for Ukraine after the toppling of the current regime. I hope for their sakes that they have thought it through more than the Americans did in Iraq.


    Liked by 1 person

  56. John Ridgway says:

    “Governments employ legions of highly qualified military and political analysts to speculate upon the effects of proposed strategies before making their move. This tradition goes back to the formation of the RAND Corporation and it is steeped in the application of highbrow concepts such as game theory”

    Yer, yer, but do they track the unintended consequences of the moves they do make? It is one of Hudson’s theories that sanctions can be good for the sanctioned country because they break to link to the US financial system and encourage the country to develop its industry to become more self-sufficient.

    a) Putin is a not one of our dodgy geezers — that’s better.


  57. Bill,

    Putin The Dodgy has now put his nuclear arsenal on ‘special alert’, which is the highest state of readiness for launch. I don’t wish to be alarmist, but we may be reaching the point where you can stop worrying about correcting your typos.

    Liked by 2 people

  58. The BBC has been trying to reassure me that things are not quite as serious as they seem. According to Gordon Corera, BBC’s Security Correspondent:

    “He will want to create ambiguity over what counts as too much – and what he is willing to do in response. But that is not the same thing as actually wanting to use the weapons – Putin will know the consequences for him and Russia would be terrible.”

    I don’t think the BBC, or anyone else in the West for that matter, seems to have the faintest idea just how perilous the situation is. The position now is almost exactly parallel to the days of Operation Able Archer and Project Ryan. Back in 1983, the Soviet leader, Andropov, was convinced of Western duplicity and hostile intent. When he put his missiles on ‘special alert’ it was with every intention of using them. The West did not appreciate this because they could not see how Andropov could be thinking of an imminent attack on him and they had not appreciated that he believed in the strategy of pre-empting a pre-emptive strike. Putin is Andropov’s successor, both psychologically and in his strategic thinking. Putin has just taken the first step towards actually starting World War 3 and we all think he is sabre-rattling.

    Back in 1983 we accidentally averted war by ending the war games that had spooked Andropov. Today, we have no war games to end. What is there to change Putin’s mind?


  59. John:

    “Putin The Dodgy has now put his nuclear arsenal on ‘special alert’, which is the highest state of readiness for launch.”

    Isn’t this exactly what a careful commander would do to keep outsiders out of a private fight?


  60. Bill,

    >“Isn’t this exactly what a careful commander would do to keep outsiders out of a private fight?”

    Yes it is, and that is why the potential for a catastrophic misjudgement is high. We can stop looking for motives once we have rationalised Putin’s actions in terms of what a ‘careful commander’ would do, or we can look into history and see how his actions fall in line with his nearest counterpart acting in a similar scenario. It is this alternative analysis that offers a rather more chilling prospect. We should be asking why Andropov might have made a similar move whilst issuing rhetoric alluding to Western aggression. The answer is given by history. He would do it to pre-empt an imagined attack.

    I do have one crumb of comfort, however. If Putin genuinely suspects NATO of wishing to start WWIII on their terms, why would he have played into their hands by invading Ukraine?


  61. Although it doesn’t deal with the crucial regime change in Ukraine in 2014 and the civil war that followed, with neo-Nazi involvement, that had cost 14,000 lives before Putin’s invasion, here’s an article in Spiked that I really appreciate (sorry Brendan): The peace that could have been – After the Cold War, the West had an opportunity to bring Russia into the fold.

    Meanwhile Steve Mc retweeted this in the last hour or two. Let’s hope they have something better.

    Is this it?


  62. @Richard Drake – thanks for another look/angle at the history.

    @John – someone said (here I think) Putin’s Russia is already bordered in the west by 4/5 ? NATO members.

    my thoughts on – “I, on the other hand, have an analysis that, whilst being far less sophisticated, is offered for nothing (which is probably what it is worth):”

    we are all stunned with this (the intel was right, but I thought he would never do this).

    you ask “If Putin genuinely suspects NATO of wishing to start WWIII on their terms, why would he have played into their hands by invading Ukraine?”

    he wants his buffer back in the south & thinks the West weak. finger on the nuke’s (do you feel lucky) just adds to the pressure.


  63. Richard:

    If the US and UK governments oppose ceasefire what exactly do they hope to gain? or maybe that should be what are they afraid of losing?


    I note this bit of guardianese:

    “Based on these known facts, [Putin’s] plan was to hit Ukraine hard and fast, decapitate its government, establish a puppet regime in Kyiv, and ride out the impotent rage of western sanctions.”

    Except that none of that has happened, as far as we can tell:

    – There was no “Shock and Awe” as in Bagdad
    – There hasn’t been any “Drone War” as in Armenia v Azabjan


  64. ..continued

    – There hasn’t been any “drone war” as in Armenia v Azerbaijan 2020
    – No one from either side has produced any classic “Shell holes in Apartment blocks” photos
    – Both sides are talking to each other, much to the disappointment of the US and UK governments
    – Russian ex-ministers have said it will be all over by March 2nd

    Of course, the only people who really know what’s going on are fighting in Ukraine so anything written on the internet is will be no more than guesses, supposition and propaganda.

    Speaking personally I would rate the Guardian as the Izvestia to the BBC’s Pravda.


  65. Bill, I agree entirely that the Guardian didn’t know Putin’s war aims and still doesn’t. So his ‘failure’ is pure propaganda.

    On your question, forgive the use of tweets

    Here the Neo-Nazi influence is pretty clear – and it’s not the worst example by any means. So, unrelated question, why were these folks so lenient about the blatant corruption of the Bidens, the great Democrats who fought against the fascist tyranny of Donald Trump?

    But here’s the kicker, in a couple of responses to Steve:

    Truss rightly doesn’t get a mention. Nuland rightly does. But they may still fail to stop the moves to peace. That’s my prayer.


  66. On Victoria Nuland herself, and the Neo-Nazi forces she’s backed in Ukraine since at least 2014, here’s Steve in December 2020, discussing British spy Christopher Steele and his own ‘disinformation operation’ on Ukraine since the coup in 2014:

    The two areas are intimately connected – which is why some of us are much more sceptical of a black-white approach to the current conflict. Here’s Steve starting to give some of the evidence of Neo-Nazi involvement. I was amused by the ‘fact-check’ here though I’ve no idea who this tweeter is:

    Steve continues:

    I think this evidence is highly significant, not least to Putin, who will have far more of it.

    Others, like Richard Tol, think Steve has become a mouthpiece of Kremlin propaganda.

    But his analysis is for me both careful and deep.

    So, sceptics don’t always agree.

    (Not that Tol would accept that moniker either, I think. But you get my drift.)


  67. Last, but not least, I think we can all at least echo Steve in the last hour here, in admitting we haven’t been concentrating on enough of the critical background to make balanced judgments at the start of the conflict


  68. Lee Smith’s “Ukraine’s Deadly Gamble” in Tablet magazine three days ago.

    Yes, Putin wants to prevent NATO from expanding to Russia’s border. But the larger answer is that he finds the U.S. government’s relationship with Ukraine genuinely threatening. That’s because for nearly two decades, the U.S. national security establishment under both Democratic and Republican administrations has used Ukraine as an instrument to destabilize Russia, and specifically to target Putin.

    While the timing of Putin’s attack on Ukraine is no doubt connected to a variety of factors, including the Russian dictator’s read on U.S. domestic politics and the preferences of his own superpower sponsor in Beijing, the sense that Ukraine poses a meaningful threat to Russia is not a product of Putin’s paranoia—or of a sudden desire to restore the power and prestige of the Soviet Union, however much Putin might wish for that to happen. Rather, it is a geopolitical threat that has grown steadily more pressing and been employed with greater recklessness by Americans and Ukrainians alike over the past decade.

    That Ukraine has allowed itself to be used as a pawn against a powerful neighbor is in part the fault of Kyiv’s reckless and corrupt political class. But Ukraine is not a superpower that owes allies and client-states judicious leadership—that’s the role of the United States. And in that role, the United States has failed Ukraine. More broadly, the use of Ukraine as a goad against enemies domestic and foreign has recklessly damaged the failing yet necessary European security architecture that America spent 75 years building and maintaining.

    The best overview that I’ve seen so far, that does deal at length with the ‘Maidan Revolution’ of February 2014 and its destructive consequences, both for Ukraine itself and the ‘European security architecture’.

    We’ve wandered far here, of course, from our central concern of climate and energy. Or have we?

    The White House seems to have taken a perverse pride in the death and destruction it helped incite in Eastern Europe. In April 2014, CIA Director John Brennan visited Kyiv, appearing to confirm the agency’s role in the coup. Shortly after came Vice President Biden, who took his own victory lap and counseled the Ukrainians to root out corruption. Naturally, a prominent Ukrainian energy company called Burisma, which was then under investigation for corruption, hired Biden’s son Hunter for protection.

    Joe Biden ‘counseled the Ukrainians to root out corruption’. Of course he did. And aren’t crooked energy companies so useful for earning a little protection money? That’s how much the leading climate alarmist administration in the world cares. “C’mon, man.”

    Nordstream 2 also looms large in this convoluted story. Speaking personally, I’m sorry that the energy poor of Germany will no longer benefit from it. As for the energy poor of the UK, I’d take a whole lot more risks to get our Bowland shale gas flowing. That’s likely to be a gamble of a very much smaller kind than Ukraine’s Deadly Gamble above.

    Liked by 2 people

  69. @Richard – “We’ve wandered far here, of course, from our central concern of climate and energy. Or have we?”

    have a look at Beth’s link upthread for the energy link (maybe)

    Liked by 1 person

  70. I half expect Western geologists now to cease referring to the Permian time period to avoid irritating the sensitivities of thoseagainst all things Russian. I believe is a distinct possibility having just read that comparethemarket dot com is pulling adverts that involve the meerkat Alexandr Orlov because of the invasion of Ukraine.

    Liked by 1 person

  71. It gets worse. A social media campaign would relabel chicken kievs are as chicken kjivs. Amidst the horror of war the world is going stupid.

    Liked by 1 person

  72. @Richard – o/t – but how is your eye/cataract after the op ?

    finally got my op date on 28th April – fingers crossed.


  73. Richard, a serf pome 🙂

    Context’s the thing whereby
    we may unearth the problem
    situation of the king (and troops.)
    Siituation analysis is able to
    transcend the myopia of
    point of view and opacity
    of time and space


  74. Beth: I feel honoured!

    dfh: The op went perfectly. Sadly, in my case, the diagnosis of a cataract may not have been the whole problem. I think that’s very rare. I’m sure yours will go well.


  75. Beth you have it wrong.
    “Context” explains away
    Difficult matters.
    It’s writing that rebuts.
    “Situation analysis”
    Are big words
    Concealing the same
    See them used to explain
    “Climate Catastrophe”


  76. I watched the ‘RealLifeLore’ video recommended by Beth. The energy (plus Crimea water supply) perspective I badly needed (thanks also to dfhunter). As well as the basic challenge Russia faces defending itself in the west. Very clear and very well explained – prepared before the invasion happened of course. I’ll be thinking about it for a while.

    Liked by 1 person

  77. Well, Alan, as with scientist, historians do conjecture and refutation, though scientists investigate natural world phenomena and historians social events. And while scientists may unearth laws in nature, historians can find no such laws in history, historicism is an error, there are no laws of rise and fall of civilisations, history does not repeat itself. How to understand historical events in past eras and different cultures is a fraught task for historians.

    The historian R.G Collingwood thought we could understand a past event by a sympathetic re enactment of the original experience of the actor, but this is impossible, we are unable to read minds and additionally, our own point of view acts like blinkers, we impose a narrative from our own cultural perspective .Only if you can build, through contextual investigation, given you have enough solid data, like primary texts or crucial artifacts, social data etc, can you can infer the problem situation of the actors, particularly the decision makers. Only then can you formulate a conjecture that as in science, may be replaced by another later conjecture with better explanatory power.

    Here’s Karl Popper regarding situational analysis in History saying how merely reading the words of an emperor’s edict, for example, doesn’t amount to knowing their historical significance:
    ‘The historian’s analysis of the situation is his historical conjecture which in this case is a meta-theory about the emperor’s reasoning.Being on a different level from the emperor’s reasoning, it does not re-enact it, but tries to produce an idealised and reasoned re-construction of it, omitting inessential elements an perhaps augmenting it. Thus the historian’s central meta-problem is : what were the decisive elements in the emperor’s problem situation?'( Objective Knowledge Ch 4. Clarendon Press.)


  78. Beth,

    Thanks for the link giving the historical, economic and strategic perspective for the Ukraine invasion. The stuff regarding Russia’s historical vulnerability I was aware of, but the water supply and fossil fuel discovery insights were new to me. It has inspired me to revisit my use of the word ‘irrational’ when applied to Putin. It isn’t that we are dealing with a psychotic and paranoid leader, but we are dealing with one whose rationality countenances the sort of military adventure that most leaders would not contemplate. As a purely defensive manoeuvre, taking Ukraine makes a lot of sense. The problem seems to lie in Putin’s preparedness to destroy a nation that does not accept his invitation for rehabilitation and his lack of insight into how the West might react. At the very least, there seems to have been a misjudgement on his part regarding the ramifications following such a course of action. Irrational? Maybe not, but certainly a way of thinking that does not bode well for Europe’s future security.

    On a second point, I also think I need to revisit my recent comparison to the ABLE ARCHER scenario of 1983. As it has transpired, the ‘special alert’ level has not actually reflected in any change in battle preparedness, as it did in 1983. It appears, therefore, that those who took it to be nothing more than a verbal reminder of Russia’s nuclear strength were right after all. I cannot tell you how relieved and thankful I am to have been wrong about that. However, I remain gravely concerned how this is all going to pan out. The rhetoric about there being no point in having a world without Russia is only a restatement of the logic of mutually assured destruction – any nuclear attack on Russia will be met in kind. However, let us not forget that any existential threat may be met in the same way, and if the economic sanctions are seen as such a threat then Putin may yet threaten nuclear retaliation to force the West to back off with its sanctions. The third world war may already have started, albeit still in its pre-nuclear phase.

    I thought the following article was quite sensible, although I’m not buying the covid-19 isolation theory as a possible explanation of Putin’s present state of mind:



  79. John,

    Appreciate your logical assessment. It’s a grave situation when two nuclear powers go head to head but your link shows Putin not out of control as yet despite the press ‘madman’ aspersions.

    Regarding what Putin wants, I think his address to the nation expressed a crucial defensive aim. Tho’ leaders’ public speeches do not always express their private views, in this case Putin knew the West’s leaders would be listening and he would be able to express a major concern- namely NATO on Russia’s border. It’s bizarre that Western reporting fails to air this concern even tho’CIA chief and ex diplomat to Russia, William Burns said it and urged diplomacy. His view is ignored by a jingoist media.Seems Trump, despite his flaws, did a better job of diplomacy than Biden as regards Ukraine and Putin and also North Korea.

    Appears likely Putin will seek to replace the West’s favoured Ukraine government with a Russian puppet government favourable to Mother Russia.

    Liked by 1 person

  80. Beth,

    Lots of things worry me, including the prospect of Russia becoming a failed state. I could add that, once Ukraine has been brought under Russia’s martial control, the Ukrainian resistance will not cease but will instead be recategorized as terrorism on Russian soil sponsored by Western states. Far from making Putin feel more secure, the annexation of Ukraine will create a heightened sense of vulnerability in the face of a perceived Western threat. I also note that Lavrov stated today that there were clear signs that the West was planning for a third world war – rhetoric that exactly mirrors the Soviet thinking back in 1983.

    All in all, I am finding that there is no solace to be found in logical analysis, and attempting such an analysis is doing my mental health no good whatsoever. I think I will be turning my attentions elsewhere, if I can.


  81. John, I would have “liked” your comment, for the clarity of your analysis, but as I can’t like such a depressing conclusion (even though I agree with it) I’ll content myself instead with thanking you for your article and for your subsequent thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

  82. I would like to return to the original purpose of my article, which was to point out that whenever authorities who are convinced of something being true send people out to confirm it, the inevitable result is confirmation. With project RYAN in 1983, the ‘truth’ was that the West was about to launch a pre-emptive attack; the KGB obligingly supplied Andropov with the ‘confirmation’. I have drawn parallels with the climate change problem and confirmation of the imminent existential threat. The Ukraine crisis provides a further example; although, this time, it is the existence of a practicable solution that has proved to be the subject of faux confirmation. Hence the following report:

    “The Fifth Service of the FSB, Russia’s main intelligence service, has been targeted and the leadership placed under house arrest, according to the authors’ sources.

    Its head, Colonel-General Sergei Beseda, and his deputy were being held after allegations of misusing operational funds earmarked for subversive activities and for providing poor intelligence ahead of Russia’s now-stuttering invasion. The operation has hit serious obstacles, not least fierce resistance by the Ukrainian armed forces and the unity of the population, including most Russian-speakers, behind President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his government.

    The Fifth Service was responsible for providing Putin with intelligence on political developments in Ukraine on the eve of the invasion. And it looks like two weeks into the war, it finally dawned on Putin that he was completely misled. The department, fearful of his responses, seems to have told Putin what he wanted to hear.”

    The lesson to take away is this: If the authorities are already convinced that there is a practicable alternative to fossil fuels and that a rapid transition would entail acceptable risk, then sending someone out to confirm whether this is true or not will inevitably provide the confirmation. As with the dubious risk, so with the dubious solution.


    Liked by 3 people

  83. According to the BBC live feed covering Putin’s speech today:

    “The West, he said, without explaining what evidence he had, was preparing for the ‘invasion of our land, including Crimea’.”

    I have two points:

    1) I have said several times here already that to understand Putin one has to understand Andropov, since he was Putin’s idol and mentor. Andropov was convinced that the West was committed to a strategy of pre-emptive strike and he advocated that the only way to deal with this was to pre-empt the pre-emption. This nearly led to war back in 1983 but we got lucky. With Putin our luck just ran out. We shouldn’t be asking what Putin will do next, we should be asking what he might be thinking the West will do next and how that might be pre-empted.

    2) The BBC doesn’t see any evidence to justify Putin’s allegations that NATO was preparing for a war. Well, let me repeat what I said earlier in this thread just before the war broke out:

    “Last year the US Sixth Fleet held a joint exercise with the Ukraine navy called ‘Sea Breeze’. Its purpose was to demonstrate how the USA and Ukraine would work together as operational partners to strengthen maritime security and stability in the Black Sea region – Russia’s back door. These annual exercises are nothing new, since they have been held annually since 1997. They are not particularly large scale when compared to Putin’s current military deployment, but last year they had a very international feel to them as 28 countries from six continents joined in (this includes the UK, of course).”

    I should add that the exercises included mock land invasions. And yet the BBC still chides Putin for pushing fake news. I say again, Putin is an Andropov. Give him reason and he will pre-empt.


  84. John – thanks for a balanced comment/appraisal on the situation, which I don’t feel we are getting from the BBC & other MSM.

    As usual this crisis prompted me to read up on another one, which I had heard of but knew no details.
    halfway through a book on Suez Crisis & The Hungarian Uprising, that happened at the same time (1956) –


    not sure how relevant it is to the situation today?

    Liked by 1 person

  85. Oh dear, the BBC Reality Check Team are now on the case:


    Lots of fluster and bluster about Putin’s paranoia but, strangely enough, no mention of the annual war rehearsals held on the Crimean doorstep by Nato since 1997. I’m not saying this is proof that Nato intended a pre-emptive attack, but I still think that the BBC are doing a rank bad job by not mentioning them — theirs is a particularly selective reality. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the BBC is acting as little more than an instrument of propaganda in this instance.

    Liked by 1 person

  86. Great Power Politics with Professor John Mearsheimer. Putin, ( the Soviet decision maker,) viewing Ukraine as part of NATO as an existential threat.The same basic principle as in Cuban Missile Crisis for the US.

    Liked by 1 person

  87. Is the Guardian catching up?

    “Forgetting the apocalypse: why our nuclear fears faded – and why that’s dangerous
    The horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki made the whole world afraid of the atomic bomb – even those who might launch one. Today that fear has mostly passed out of living memory, and with it we may have lost a crucial safeguard”


    “But we can’t drive nuclear war to extinction by ignoring it. Instead, we must dismantle arsenals, strengthen treaties and reinforce antinuclear norms. Right now, we’re doing the opposite. And we’re doing it just at the time when those who have most effectively testified to nuclear war’s horrors – the survivors – are entering their 90s. Our nuclear consciousness is badly atrophied. We’re left with a world full of nuclear weapons but emptying of people who understand their consequences.”


  88. Nassim Taleb is a pretty clued in chap who knows a thing or two about the measurement of uncertainty and risk. He isn’t dismissive of the threat posed by climate change, but even he doesn’t seem too concerned regarding the scale of risk. Referring to his appearance at a conference last year, this was said of him:

    “One of the main stars, risk guru Nassim Nicholas Taleb didn’t seem too preoccupied with sustainability. Climate change didn’t even make it to the top three on his priority list of risks to watch out for; no place for it among pandemics, war, and a new financial meltdown…Many wise and inspiring thoughts from Taleb, as expected. And yet, the words that linger on are these: ‘Some people talk about the climate, I don’t know, I don’t see as much of an existential risk there as others do…’.”

    And yet, despite his words, the author of the article, Julia Axelsson, somehow contrives to take home a completely different message:

    “Uncertainty, like beauty, being in the eye of the beholder, is it perchance that the risk expert doesn’t regard what’s happening to our Extremistan of a planet as uncertain anymore?”

    This just goes to show that, for some people, it is impossible to be too direct, but I’ll give it a go:

    No, Julia, just no.


    Liked by 2 people

  89. Is the UN finally waking up to what has long been, and undoubtedly remains, a far greater threat to humanity than climate change?

    “World ‘one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation’, UN chief says
    Citing Ukraine, the Korean peninsula and Middle East, António Guterres says: ‘We have been extraordinarily lucky so far. But luck is not a strategy’”


    “The United Nations’ secretary general, António Guterres, has warned that a misunderstanding could spark nuclear destruction, as the United States, Britain and France urged Russia to stop “its dangerous nuclear rhetoric and behaviour”.

    At the opening of a key nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) conference in New York, Guterres warned that the world faced “a nuclear danger not seen since the height of the cold war”.

    Citing Russia’s war with Ukraine and tensions on the Korean peninsula and in the Middle East, Guterres said he feared that crises “with nuclear undertones” could escalate.

    “Today, humanity is just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation,” Guterres told the 10th review conference of the NPT, an international treaty that came into force in 1970 to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.

    “We have been extraordinarily lucky so far. But luck is not a strategy. Nor is it a shield from geopolitical tensions boiling over into nuclear conflict,” he added, calling on nations to “put humanity on a new path towards a world free of nuclear weapons”.

    The meeting, held at the UN’s headquarters in New York, has been postponed several times since 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic….”.

    Priorities, eh?

    Liked by 1 person

  90. Is this anything new? All my life I have lived with the threat of nuclear Armageddon. The threat lessens or worsens, but it’s always there. It’s like living in earthquake country. For most of the time it’s in the background of your mind, ready to spring out fully formed and spiky.

    Liked by 1 person

  91. Alan,

    As you say, the threat lessens or worsens. At the moment it seems so much worse beause we don’t seem to be dealing with a cold war anymore and Putin’s rationale, combined with NATO’s adventurism, augers very badly. In that respect, things seem different. However, what intrigues me most is how this is perceived by those who do not share our perspective. I speak, of course, of the younger folk who have been brought up to fear climate change above all else. I suspect nothing will impinge upon that world view once it has become entrenched.

    Liked by 1 person

  92. John. The young can picture the adverse effects of climate change because those are continuously being spelled out to them or are being augmented everywhere they turn. I don’t think the full effects of an nuclear exchange can really be considered, even with pictures of Nagasaki or Hiroshima as guides.


  93. Alan,

    I’m sure you’re right. They’re just bigger bombs after all. You and I had documentaries and ‘Where the wind blows’ to achieve the required levels of apocalyptic dread. Each generation is fed on the diet dictated by their elders.


  94. “Pelosi, Taiwan and climate: why military conflict might be good for the planet
    Economic activity that fuels growth also drives deadly weather events. The Ukraine war has forced Europe to rethink its reliance on Russian energy
    A Taiwan Strait conflict that disrupts global trade might make us stop consuming our way to climate disaster”


    “[…] Black swans like the Covid-19 pandemic tend to make this happen against just about everyone’s will. Russia’s war against Ukraine may work towards this goal on the margins, given that many in Europe will need to curtail power generation until they figure out how to replace the Russian energy supply. But, with talk of fossil fuels filling the gap in the near term, we could see the opposite.

    Which brings us back to Pelosi, who has the world guessing whether she will make Taipei part of her Asia-Pacific itinerary. Such a move carries the risk of a military conflict in the Taiwan Strait, which would have dire economic consequences as supply chains run through China and the rest of Asia.

    If a conflict ends up severing trade between Asia and the US, billions of us will suddenly need to make do to an extent far greater than when Covid-19 disrupted supply chains.

    All things considered, a Pelosi delegation to Taiwan might be just what the Earth’s natural ecosystems need.”

    Then again, nuclear war might be just a tad harmful?

    Liked by 1 person

  95. Mark – how do you find these nutty posts ?

    partial quote -“We can only hope that concern about the floods, violent storms and heatwaves that have been torturing Americans lately might shake some Republicans in Congress out of their climate change denial.”


  96. When is a scoop not a scoop? When the BBC is involved:

    “Banned Russian oligarchs exploited UK secrecy loophole”


    According to the BBC’s News Data Journalism Team:

    “The BBC has worked with Finance Uncovered to analyse leaked documents and thousands of company records that show how ELPs [English Limited Partnerships] have become a route to dodge anti-money laundering laws requiring the real owners, or persons of significant control, of UK companies to be disclosed.”

    Except, they are five years too late. If they had read ‘Putin’s People’ by Catherine Belton they would have seen an account (in chapter 13, ‘Black Cash’) of how Russia exploited Britain’s lax scrutiny of ELPs. Specifically, they could have read this on page 417:

    “The depth of the problem was recognised only when it was already much too late. The crusading journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, renowned for her investigations into corruption in her native Malta, had warned of the possible consequences when she spoke to a British Member of Parliament shortly before she was killed in a bomb attack in 2017. ‘She came to see me in my office,’ said the MP, ‘and told me Russian and Azeri money had bought the whole of the Maltese Government and they were sending it all to London. She told me, “There’s a wall of cash heading to London. But I didn’t get involved. I am a family man. I have kids’.”

    I’m sorry, BBC, but this story was already scooped in 2017. And before you start crowing about the Mirror Trades, the Moldovan Laundromat, Diskont Bank and the Bank of New York scandal, Belton got there before you as well. Try to keep up.


  97. The most worrying thing about the breakdown in US-Chinese relations is the fact that China is now demonstrating a ratchetting up in its belligerence, and the risk of nuclear war, whether triggered accidentally or deliberately – right?

    Wrong, if you work for the Guardian:

    “What does the US-China row mean for climate change?
    Analysis: breakdown of cooperation between world’s two biggest greenhouse gas emitters over Taiwan could spell disaster for global warming targets”


    “China’s decision to halt cooperation with the US over the climate crisis has provoked alarm, with seasoned climate diplomats urging a swift resumption of talks to help stave off worsening global heating.

    On Friday, Beijing announced a series of measures aimed at retaliating against the US for the “egregious provocation” of Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the US House of Representatives, visiting Taiwan. China, which considers Taiwan its territory and has launched large-scale military exercises near the island, said it will stop working with the US on climate change, along with other key issues.

    While the extent of China’s withdrawal from climate discussions is still not clear, the move threatens to derail the often fragile cooperation between the world’s two largest carbon emitters, with only a few months to go before the crucial UN Cop27 in Egypt this autumn. Experts say there is little hope of avoiding disastrous global heating without strong action by the US and China, which are together responsible for about 40% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions….

    …The US and China have accused each other of not doing enough to cut planet-heating emissions at various points in recent years. China attacked US “selfishness” when then-president Donald Trump rolled back various environmental protections in 2017, while Joe Biden, Trump’s successor, last year claimed the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, had made a “big mistake” by not attending the Cop26 climate summit in Scotland.

    However, the two powers achieved a breakthrough at the same talks in Glasgow in November, agreeing a surprise plan to work together “with urgency” on slashing emissions. Xie Zhenhua, the head of China’s delegation, said both countries must “accelerate a green and low carbon transition”. John Kerry, the US climate envoy, acknowledged that the nations have “no shortage of differences” but that “cooperation is the only way to get this job done. This is about science, about physics.”…

    …Hultman said that while high-level climate talks could now be curtailed, other bilateral collaboration may continue, although details on this are still scant. Regardless of the situation between the US and China, progress could still be made at the Cop27 talks in Egypt, he insisted….”.


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