A fundamentally very scary story
I think this disaster highlights the substantial (and under-appreciated) virtues of Joe Biden.
War is not a zero-sum undertaking, it is a negative sum undertaking
But the “cheap talk” in the Baltics has actually worked!! Putin is committing horrors without compulsion in Ukraine but wouldn’t dream of shooting a single Latvian border guard.
I’m seeing a lot of wise chin stroking from the long term / x risk folks that seems pretty funny to me. Obviously I would also like to avoid nuclear annihilation! But there seems to be some thinking along the lines of ‘if we reduce the number of times Russia or us goes on alert then we are definitely reducing x risk!’ I dunno. I see the Occam razor type appeal here but it doesn’t seem super long term or even just correct in the short term. Acting as though reckless threats of nuclear holocaust are really important just seems to encourage the threats. Do these very smart x risk folks have some off ramp in mind for Russia (or US) nukes? Bc it seems like the plan is to increase the value of the stockpile and increase the value of the threats and just hope that at some future date disarmament happens. But why would it?
In fact if I were any non nuclear nation I would look at what Russia is able to get away with here and say ‘gee I better get some nukes’
The countries in Eastern Europe have a right to have security against invasion by Russia and to become more prosperous through ties to the west. It's good that the U.S. and NATO have provided those guarantees.
It is strange that people refuse to see that Clinton and Bush were great presidents. Their decision to accept East European countries into NATO made countries like Poland and Estonia free and western forever instead of them sharing Ukraine's sad fate. Expanding NATO was a timely, lucky and ingenious decision to take advantage of the temporary weakness of Russia then.
Yglesias said in early 2020 that having Sanders as president was fine. However it is interesting to think about America having an anti America, anti imperialism type of politician as president in the moment of a great international crisis that threatens world peace. It is a very interesting question. If the simulation theory is correct, I am sure the simulation masters are going to try it in the future. Maybe with president Ocasio Cortez?
While Russia's '90s economic woes clearly led to Putin, I'm a little skeptical of the idea that American advice and policy were primarily responsible for those woes. Was the advice we gave to Russia very different from the advice we gave to all the non-USSR Communist countries? Because those countries have done much better. And if we gave different advice, why did we do that? I would hypothesize that one difference was that, even after Russia lost the Cold War, the West really wasn't in a position to dictate to Russia what its economic policies should be. Even a weakened Russia was still too powerful to be dictated to like that, to its own detriment.
The point about the gulf states seems important to me. Pivoting away from the Middle East was happening anyway, but this crisis highlights how little our involvement has gotten us.
"the decision not to disband NATO": Does Matt think that NATO should have been disbanded? I think that retaining NATO is an easy decision.
You said “careless expansion of NATO,” but if a European country comes to us and says “we’re afraid of getting curb-stomped by Russia,” what are we supposed to say? “Sorry guys, realpolitik and spheres of influence dictate that we should let the Russians stomp you if they want to?”
Also, invoking Article 5 doesn’t mean launching a nuclear first strike. I hate it when people slippery slope their way into saying that war between NATO and Russia is automatically nuclear. Maybe it was in the 80s, but not now.
Surprised Matt didn't add the most obvious takeaway from this war, that from a self interested security perspective Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Germany should all be fast tracking their own independent nuclear weapons program.
Obviously, that likely doesn't make the world safer, but having aggressive revanchist dictatorships around doesn't leave good options.
German and France taking lead against Russia isn't going to happen. They had several decades to step up... they didn't. You would probably have a better chance of getting Poland and Hungry to step up.
There is no off-ramp. The end is almost inevitable. Cold War 2. A free western Ukraine that likely becomes part of NATO. An occupied Russian occupied and controlled Eastern Ukraine.
As someone who spent 12-years stationed in Europe with the USAF, and watched as we "downsized" multiple bases to save money... all that money saved was wasted in the Middle East for no discernable purpose. Hind sight is 20/20, but Russia was always going to be a bigger geopolitical foe than Iraq. (Yeah I am channeling Romney).
It's highly likely we will set up new overseas bases in Eastern European NATO Nation... fuck what good assignments. Hopefully though we go back to setting up permanent bases that have assigned personnel instead of rotating in a different unit every 6-months.
As someone who has deployed and been stationed overseas, permanent assignments provide more stability and allow host nation and American personnel to form personal relationships.
My example is Okinawa. The USAF has people assigned there. The marines rotate in and out. Okinawans hate Marines. Aren't too bothered by USAF.
My observation. Putin didn't anticipate the war going viral... overwhelming support for Ukraine on Social Media. He assumed the west and the world public would be apathetic. This has given countries cover and incentive to provide way more logistical, economic and material support than he anticipated. Between all the weapons and the economic sanctions, Putin's win is going to end up worse than the Status Quo, but he can't back down now... so he is screwed.
This whole thing is a result of idealist foreign policy. It's the one thing that I remain most conservative about. Other nations and people aren't like us... just because we "know" we would never invade Russia... Putin doesn't view it like that. We can't just assume that consumerism and McDonalds is going to usher in an era of non-border globalism. Borders matter, and they always will.
GHW was not only a fine citizen, but an excellent president, in his own way.
Matt seriously discounts the concrete benefits that expanding NATO eastward has provided. There's a reason Russia has attacked its own wayward republics in the Caucuses, Georgia, and now Ukraine, and not the tiny Baltic states. Consequently, the Baltics are both a) economically thriving compared to the non-NATO former USSR states, and b) fervent defenders and believers in both the Liberal Order and American Hegemony.
Not to mention, for the countries formerly under the boot of the Soviets, and the Romanovs before that, freedom has been scarce and repression common. They deserve a right to the freedoms we enjoy, and if NATO security provides that with little material benefit to the US or Western Europe, then so be it.
I think having a plan for Russia in a post-Putin world would also be wise. Much like your proposed Good Neighbor Policy for Mexico, Central America, etc., it would be good to have a plan to bring Russia back to being a liberal democracy and to be embraced by the west.