Regathering of the Russian Lands

Already in 1990 I wrote that Russia could desire the union of only the three Slavic republics [Russia, Ukraine, Belarus] and Kazakhstan, while all the other republics should be let go. It would be desirable if [a resulting Russian Union] could be formed into a unitary state, not into a fragile, artificial confederation with a huge supra-national bureaucracy. – Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

The Empire, Long Divided, Must Unite

There is a good chance that the coming week will either see the culmination of the biggest and most expensive military bluff in world history, or a speed run towards Russian Empire 2.0, with Putin launching a multi-pronged assault invasion of Ukraine to take back Kiev (“the mother of Russian cities”) and the historical provinces of Novorossiya.

There is debate over which of these two scenarios will pan out. The Metaculus predictions market has given the war scenario a 50/50 probability since around mid-January, spiking to 60-70% in the past few days. This happens to coincide with the public assessments of several military analysts: Michael Kofman and Rob Lee were notably early on the ball, as were some of this blog’s commenters, e.g. Annatar. The chorus of skeptics is diverse, but includes Western journalists and Russian liberals who tend to believe Putin’s Russia is too much of a cynical kleptocracy to dare go against the West so brazenly (e.g. Oliver Carroll, Leonid Volkov); Western Russophiles who are all too aware of and disillusioned with hysterical media fabrications about Russia, and are applying faulty pattern matching (e.g. Michael Tracey); and Ukrainian activists who have spent the last eight years hyperventilating about “Russian aggression” and have been reduced to shock and disbelief now that the real thing is staring in their face.

For the record, my own position is that the war scenario was ~50% probable since early January, might be as high as 85% now, and it will likely happen soon (detailed Predictions at the end).

My reasons for these bold calls can be sorted into four major bins:

  1. Troops Tell the Story: What we have observed over the past few months are all completely consistent with invasion planning.

  2. Game Theory: Russia’s impossible ultimatums to NATO have pre-committed it to military operations in Ukraine.

  3. Window of Opportunity: The economic, political, and world strategic conjuncture for permanently solving the Ukraine Question has never been as favorable since at least 2014, and may never materialize again.

  4. The Nationalist Turn: “Gathering the Russian Lands’ is consistent with opinions and values that Putin has voiced since at least the late 2000s, with the philosophers, writers, and statesmen whom he has cited most often and enthusiastically (e.g. Ilyin, Solzhenitsyn, Denikin), and more broadly, with the “Nationalist Turn” that I have identified the Russian state as having taken from the late 2010s.

I will discuss each of these separately.

News reports from within Belarus have shown local officials flanked by Belarusian women in traditional dress, greeting Russian military commanders with loaves of bread and salt, a traditional welcome.Eternal truism, people love winners, Russia decided to be a winner.

Troops Tell the Story

On the domestic front, the Russian government is reported to have held discussions with large corporations on their vulnerability to sanctions. Last year, the political field had been cleared up of any meaningful “anti-systemic” opposition, with Navalny imprisoned, and his organizations declared “extremist.” Putin has evidently taken heed of historical lessons to heart – sealed train in 1917, sealed airplane in 2021 – and concluded that Russia has no need to tolerate FBK “soviets” in the event of a national emergency. One of the main counter-arguments is that Russia has invested scant resources into war propaganda. The obvious rejoinder is that any casus belli – be it a false flag, or kindly provisioned by the Ukrainians themselves – will only appear towards the tail end of prewar preparations, and that a propaganda campaign preceding it would only serve to discredit it.

But it is troop movements that tell the story most clearly. Over the past couple of months, amateur footage has chronicled a stream of military hardware from all across Russia trundling towards military bases close to Ukraine, augmenting stockpiles already in place from the last war scare in spring 2021. Over the past two weeks, troops were reunited with their equipment and moved to staging areas near the Ukrainian border. This, along with attack helicopters being moved in, are often considered to be the final preparatory stages for large-scale military operations.

As of today, Russia has concentrated ~70% of its land and missile forces (105 out of 169 Battalion Tactical Groups (BTGs), with 14 more on the way even as the “exercises” wind down) and ~50% of its airpower in a ring of steel around Ukraine. In so doing, it has stripped its military presence in the Far Eastern MD to a level unseen even in the desperate last months of 1941. This includes support units such as mobile hospitals, military police, logistics personnel, and the National Guard. Garrisoning them in makeshift accommodations entails big costs and they can only stay there so long, separated from their training facilities, before morale and combat effectiveness begin to dissipate. Coupled with considerations about the onset of the mud season (rasputitsa), springtime foliage greening (easier camouflage for defending forces), and increasing inflows of Western weaponry, this creates huge, purely military incentives for getting it over with sooner rather than later.

Game Theory

Even as the military buildup proceeded apace, Russia forwarded demands to NATO to disavow further expansion (including Ukraine), and to withdraw foreign military forces from the ex-Warsaw Pact states. Regardless of one’s stance on NATO expansion, this is an objectively and patently impossible ultimatum, and the Kremlin clearly designed it to be so (even leaving aside the minor matter of their intended recipient being a country it has labeled as “agreement-incapable”). Nor was there any salutary effect on Kiev. Although its UK ambassador mooted the possibility of Ukraine dropping its NATO bid, he reversed himself the very next day. Which is just as well so far as Russia is concerned, because such a commitment would have been incredible in any case.

However, by mere dint of having advanced these audacious demands – and gotten not only curtly rejected, but pressed with counter-demands to withdraw from Crimea and the Donbass – Russia has effectively committed itself to military operations in Ukraine. Should it fail to follow up, it will be recognized as an unironic troll country, one that scores cheap “owns” against Western “war propaganda” but can be expected to do nothing but puff out its cheeks if/when its bluff is called. Western politicians will have cause to believe that any future Russian buildups will also be bluffs, and that increasing weapons supplies to Ukraine works. Atlantic Council activists who insist that Russians “only understand the language of strength” will be validated, with subsequent responses likely to include acceleration of NATO integration and more “preventative sanctions.”

Window of Opportunity

Although Russia still has a window of opportunity to reintegrate Ukraine, it is steadily closing over the years, as Ukraine phases out Russian language instruction in its schools and rebuilds its identity as an “Anti-Russia”. This year might well be Russia’s last good opportunity to do so after it missed 2014, when it opted for the dubious strategy (if only in retrospect) of “shoving back the Donbass” into Ukraine and using it as a hook to promote federalization and a pro-Russian course.

Perhaps the single most important change since 2014 is that “Chimerica”, the Chinese-American economic relationship, once the central pillar of the world economy, is now in rapid disintegration, in line with growing Chinese power and assertiveness even as the West’s share of global GDP continues its unremitting decline. Consequently, in stark contrast to its studious neutrality back in 2014, China is now outspoken in its support for Russia’s security demands of NATO. For its part, Russia has unambiguously affirmed Taiwan as part of China and criticized the AUKUS alliance against China. (Of course, Ukraine itself did itself no favors when it blocked the sale of jet engine company Motor Sich to China under American pressure). Either way, Russia can be reasonably sure that China – the world’s second superpower, and far more technologically advanced and autonomous than eight years earlier – will have its back in the event of serious Western sanctions.

More broadly, the economic environment has perhaps never been more favorable for Russian irredentism. Russia has spent the past eight years insulating its economy from sanctions through import substitution and pursuing tight fiscal and monetary policies, which allowed it to build up a formidable war chest of $600 billion in foreign currency reserves. In any case, most of the sanctions that could be imposed on Russia cheaply have either already been implemented, or are simply absurd (Russian vatniks will be very sad if Navalny-supporting hipsters were to lose access to the latest iPhone models… maybe not), or are downright impractical, like cutting off its oil exports or cutting it off from the Internet (a popular Reddit fantasy). Even SWIFT is ultimately just a financial messaging system and its removal will just be an inconvenience. Ultimately, Russia has a 2x bigger population, much bigger GDP, and far more developed technological base than Iran, and as Iran mostly gets by, it’s unclear why Russia should be expected to do worse.

Furthermore, it’s not like Russia has no capacity to retaliate. European “green energy” boondoggles have resulted in spiking gas prices this winter, so their capacity to sanction Russia are limited (though, tellingly, Russia has parked LNG vessels in the Baltic Sea in the event that Kaliningrad is cut off). Now that the coronavirus era is ending, so too is the easy money that accompanied it, now that inflation is rearing its ugly head across the developed world. In tandem with record high stock capitalization/GDP ratios, the world seems primed for a sharp deleveraging event that will negatively impact living standards most everywhere. Would be nice for Putin to be able to ascribe that to Western sanctions (much like the post-Crimea sanctions diverted attention away from a recession made inevitable by the end of the 2000-2014 commodities supercycle).

From a military perspective, Russia still enjoys absolute superiority over Ukraine. Although the Ukrainians have made considerable progress, it has been primarily aimed at building up the capability to rapidly conquer the LDNR in their equivalent of “Operation Storm”. It is not built to refight the Third Battle of Kharkov. The Russian military is not a militia which will considerately engage the Ukrainians in infantry vs. infantry battles, as in the Donbass. Nor will it even be a war of tanks, infantry, and artillery as in World War II. This war will be defined by precision-guided Russian rocket and tube artillery, ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and fighter jets pummeling any enemy concentrations that offer up resistance, breaking them and subsequently sweeping them up, in an environment in which Russia enjoys total air and electronic warfare (EW) supremacy. Any military force that is not either strongly ideological (e.g. the various Neo-Nazi battalions) or held together by draconian discipline (spoiler: Ukraine is not a totalitarian state with shtrafbaty and zagradotryady) will disintegrate within hours, if not minutes. Expect drone fanboi seethe as Ukraine’s Bayraktar fleet gets swept up by an actual Air Force in the space of an afternoon.

Now yes, conquering Ukraine would have been much easier back in 2014, when the Ukrainian Army had virtually ceased to exist as a coherent force for a few months. Conversely, it is much easier now than it likely will be in another eight years, in 2030. Due to nationalist pressure in domestic politics, any hypothetical Ukrainian regime will remain committed to recovering the Donbass, and the growth of its military potential will force Russia to commit more and more of its own military power to safeguard the Donbass over the next decade or two. This is not a pleasant situation in a world in which Russia’s own relative military capabilities are likely to decline vis-a-vis the two leading superpowers.

Finally, despite assiduous Ukrainization efforts, it must be noted that its results are as yet ambiguous. Even after a generation of “independence” and seven years of concentrated efforts to remake Ukraine into a schizo “anti-Russia” in which it proclaims itself to be the “real” Russia (the Ukraina-Rus’ concept) in contrast to the fake Russia that emerged out of the Finno-Muscovite swamp, a solid majority of Ukrainians use the Russian language in their daily life and 41% of Ukrainians agree with Putin’s claim that they and Russians are “one people.” In a recent poll, 33% of Ukrainians claimed they would put up armed resistance if Russia invades; remarkably, this would mean basically no change relative to a similar poll carried out in April 2014, which found it to be 21% in the more pro-Russian South-East (back when the LDNR didn’t yet exist!).

Kyiv right now.” – Sean Walker. Have to give them credit, Ukrainians are second to none when it comes to larping, not everyday you encounter a literal homoBanderets.

But talk is cheap. Online bravado aside, it’s already clear that Ukrainians are smart enough to recognize that their prospects in a war with the “country-aggressor” are quite hopeless. Their oligarchs are fleeing in private planes. If the Ukrainians were serious about preparing for a Russian invasion, they would be dispersing their air defense assets, and moving their units to more defensible positions. None of this is happening. What is happening is larp photo op after larp photo op, featuring sturdy grannies being trained by Nazis, middle-aged women with rifles that cost several months’ worth of paychecks, pretty girls in makeup brandishing guns (airsoft guns, in Belarus, last year – to be specific), tacticool squares who are wearing masks outside which basically nobody in Eastern Europe does (will Russian soldiers social distance?), young kids with wooden toy guns… they even found a POC boy to showcase disassembling a gun for the intersectional part of their intended demographic i.e. Americans.

Now might be an apt time to mention that there are jokers who believe Ukrainians are going to fight an insurgency against Russia. That’s right. They believe that Ukrainian hipsters in rainbow masks who use their cell phones every hour (i.e. will be monitored by SORM 24/7), in a country with a Total Fertility Rate of 1.3 children per woman, with de facto open borders with Poland, are going to fight an “urban war” against many of their own Russophile countrymen and siloviks. It’s too ridiculous to comment.

Gathering the Russian Lands

But what is the point it all? Is Putin going senile? Isn’t he worrying that his oligarchs will have their yachts and football clubs confiscated? (Spoiler: That’s feature, not bug).

As it happens, Putin laid it all out in detail in his seminal July 2021 article, “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians.”

Here is my summary of it from The Nationalist Turn:

The capstone to the Nationalist Turn was laid by Putin in his seminal July 2021 article “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians“, in which affirmed that the Ukrainians are a colorful and distinct, but nonetheless inseparable, part of the All-Russian nation, drew a straight line between Ukraine as a de facto colony of Germany following Russia’s exit from World War I and its relation to the West today, repeated his long-standing view that the Bolsheviks laid a time bomb by including the right of secession in the 1924 USSR Constitution, and noted the coercive nature of “Ukrainization” as an ideological project aimed against “so-called” Great Russian chauvinism, thus securing at the state level “three separate Slavic Peoples” – the Russians, Ukrainians, and Belorussians – as opposed to the “large Russian nation, a triune people comprising Great Russians, Malorossiyans, and Belorussians.”

The article ends on an affirmation that Russians and Ukrainians are one people, inextricably bound to each other, and that opinion polls suggest that this is a point on which many millions of Ukrainians agree. He furthermore notes that the Ukrainians themselves do not benefit from allowing foreigners to make an “anti-Russia” out of the Ukraine, citing the economic failures of its post-Maidan years, and never have benefited from such experiments historically. He ends the article on a warning that Ukraine’s “path of forced assimilation” towards Russians within Ukraine is “comparable in its consequences to the use of WMDs against us.”

Incidentally, I strongly recommend you read Putin’s article in its entirety. It is as clear and unequivocal a manifesto of the “White Guardist” worldview that Putin seems to have developed over the past decade as anything else I ever saw, and as such, possibly the single most important article to understanding Putinism as it has developed into ethno-aware nationalism by the 2020s (having been previously defined by unideological technocracy and conservative retrenchment in the 2000s and 2010s, respectively).

Furthermore, note that Putin’s article was made required reading for Russian soldiers as part of political-military preparation. Wait, what was that about WMDs?

There may be an argument: if you are talking about a single large nation, a triune nation, then what difference does it make who people consider themselves to be – Russians, Ukrainians, or Belarusians. I completely agree with this. Especially since the determination of nationality, particularly in mixed families, is the right of every individual, free to make his or her own choice.

But the fact is that the situation in Ukraine today is completely different because it involves a forced change of identity. And the most despicable thing is that the Russians in Ukraine are being forced not only to deny their roots, generations of their ancestors but also to believe that Russia is their enemy. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the path of forced assimilation, the formation of an ethnically pure Ukrainian state, aggressive towards Russia, is comparable in its consequences to the use of weapons of mass destruction against us. As a result of such a harsh and artificial division of Russians and Ukrainians, the Russian people in all may decrease by hundreds of thousands or even millions.

So the answer to your uncomprehending questions is simple and literally right there in the text. “It would not be an exaggeration to say that the path of forced assimilation, the formation of an ethnically pure Ukrainian state, aggressive towards Russia, is comparable in its consequences to the use of weapons of mass destruction against us.” The pieces really are sliding into place. Laugh if you want, but at least these WMDs are more real than the Iraqi ones that G.W. Bush used as a pretext to attack Iraq, at any rate. Any responsible Commander-in-Chief would be dutybound to spare no effort to confront such an existential threat to his nation.

The other observation one can draw just from this brief extract is that Putin seems to really grok that population is power. His comments about the loss of Russian identities in their millions may be linked to his other comments on how Russia lost hundreds of millions of potential Russians due to the cascade of demographic catastrophes that befell the Bolshevik-ruled territories of the former Russian Empire from 1917 to 1947. In the Putinist reading, the “Anti-Russia” project pursued by the zombie post-UkSSR, a polity created in its current form by Lenin, can be viewed as a continuation of Ukrainization as an “ideological project aimed against “so-called” Great Russian chauvinism.”

This brings us to something more in the realm of speculation as opposed to something that Putin definitely thinks. But here goes. The value of Ukraine is not in its territory, nor less its sovok rustbelt industries, nor even less its position on the invasion route to Moscow (spoiler: We live in the ICBM age). Ukraine’s value is, forgive the triteness, in its people, or its human capital – namely, 35 million 95+ IQ people who are very close to and compatible with Russians, who are indeed an intrinsic part of the All Russian nation. Now if Russia was prepared to expend a rather high cost in welfare funds and knock on effects on integrating 1.5 million genuinely quite “alien” Chechens, then paying a drastically more modest price (per capita) for 35 million of its own kith and kin is eminently rational. Although Russia’s 145 million people can still generate sufficient economies of scale to maintain political sovereignty and to run a largely self-contained technological civilization, complete with its own IT ecosystem (read: sovereign memetic space, “socially distanced” from the Woke nihilism of the West), space program, and technological visions. But creating and then sustaining such a world-civilization will certainly be considerably easier in a restored “Russian World” that unites Russians, Belorussians, and Ukrainians under one banner in a Slavic superpower of 200 million people stretching from Brest to Vladivostok

Shock and Disbelief

It is pretty amusing to observe Western commenters who have been ranting and railing for years about dezinformatsiya and maskirovka suddenly go into denier mode. I mean, I don’t exclude that this is a bluff 100%, and would have to eat a big L if it is. But the L the Kremlin would have to eat would be incomparably bigger, imagine torpedoing your international credibility and your markets just to “humiliate” and “destroy” “Western war propaganda”. But I think the likelier explanation is that many observers, possibly including Zelensky’s entourage, are in “shock and disbelief.” As one acquaintance put it, “seeing how people are still dismissing this as a bluff makes one understand Stalin in June 1941 more.” Saddam in 2003 would be a similar story.

At a deeper, world-historical level, one might even view the Ukraine Question as a Chekhov’s gun, just waiting to be fired off, even willed to, in the collective unconscious. In Samuel Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations (1996), a Russian general is quoted as saying that “Eastern Ukraine will come back in five, ten or fifteen years.” In the Deus Ex universe, “Ukraine’s anti-separatist dissension” is “quelled once and for all” by mercenaries operating from Belgorod in 2016. They may have both… jumped the gun on timelines, but Putin finally has his finger on the trigger. The world will be very different in a month’s time.

***

Predictions

Russia’s goals seem to be maximalist. It is possible we see the occupation of most or all of Ukraine, and the subsequent annexation of probably most or all of historical Novorossiya, forming a corridor to Transnistria; possibly Kiev and the central regions up to the Soviet borders before World War II; but perhaps not Volhynia, and probably not Galicia. It will almost certainly not involve limiting the intervention to the Donbass, because a frontal and inevitably bloody assault on the main concentration of Ukrainian military power makes no sense; instead, it will likely consist of a multi-pronged assault from Belarus to Kiev, from Belgorod to Kharkov, from Crimea to Mariupol and Dnepropetrovsk, and perhaps an amphibious assault on Odessa.

The duration of the conflict will depend on the extent to which Ukrainian soldiers are prepared to fight. In conventional models, it will take several weeks, with a few thousand Russian casualties and several 10,000’s of Ukrainian casualties. However, given those very disparities – inevitable given Russia’s vast preponderance in materiel, mobility, and technology – I suspect there’s a very good chance that the collapse might happen much quicker. By moving its Embassy to Lvov, the US has already implicitly acknowledged that Russia will win, so the correct game theory move for Ukrainian soldiers is to follow their own oligarchs into defection and accept the 2-3x salary increase from joining the Russian Army. In this scenario, which is both my hope and intuition, Russian and Ukrainian military casualties will be limited to the hundreds and thousands, respectively.

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.

 

Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.

 

Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.

Comments

  1. Daniel Chieh says

    A triumphant return to blogging! I look forward to the Great Bifurcation post as well.

  2. Was waiting for this. WB Anatoly! Clear-eyed analysis.

  3. Peter Nimitz says

    Welcome back to blogging! Regarding video games – there is another that predicted a Russian invasion of Ukraine. In Empire Earth (2001), Donetsk is militarily aligned with Russia in 2018, and Ukraine is conquered in 2035.

  4. Pulling the trigger here and taking some sanctions might be a plus. Russia might delay or even reverse the creeping Western degeneracy at home.

    For context I am a 50 year old Australian, so I have seen and know the full horror of that process. For example, as a teenager I remember when homosexuality was made legal in my home state. Now, 30 years later, my children complain about “celebrations” at school for “pride week”.

    Better to roll the dice now and good luck with it!

    • Dave Spenser says

      As Anatoly implies, sanctions are a feature not a bug. They will hurt Europe far more than Russia (especially when Biden “bring[s] an end to” NS2). Germans will finally be forced to confront the illusory nature of their sovereignty, which was described so eloquently by Maria Zakharova recently.

    • Yes. Same age from Denmark here. Not going to go to war against Russia to fight for trans rights, gay education to my children, mass immigration from Sudan, and the privilege of being called racist, having toxic masculinity and all the rest.

      I wonder who they expect will fight their wars.

    • I live in Australia too and I think it is good we are a free society and that the government can’t tell adults who to have consensual sex sex with. It must be very hard for you Charlie to live in a multicultural, woke society. But remember that by being woke Australia has the best and brightest move here which has given us an economy as big as Russia. Russia would be much more powerful if they were more like us.

  5. It will happen but i think it will happen in the same way as China plans to do with Taiwan – Economy/economic gravity, isolation and coercion. This current military gathering, exercises were meant to wreak havoc on Ukraine government and economy. More will come soon as gas contract through Ukraine ends in 2024. EU has no money to spray in the dark pit of Ukraine as it itself is debt ridden. 2030-2035 is good timeframe for Ukraine, Taiwan. Meanwhile Russia, China gonna work together on wrecking the American global order.
    My question is – Has Russia/Putin planned for government after Putin? any suggestions or indications?

    • This is it, after Russia takes Ukraine the break with the West will be complete and irreversible, regardless of who is his successor is.

  6. Very interesting analysis, but do you have any time ranges? The tabloid leaks put it as today’s morning – which was obviously wrong. So any idea? And also, why is the Russian domestic media not preparing the population? In the prelude to Iraq, the US was beating war drums for a couple years.

  7. Disconcerted Denizen says

    The arguments are poorly substantiated, they seem more like wishful thinking.

    1. Vlad Putin has one ideology, it’s called money. No he doesn’t care about esoteric concepts from the 19th century like nations. He will narrate or publish under his name many things, few of which he writes himself and close to none reflect his own beliefs: getting rich and staying in power.
    2. The Russian government has discredited itself on so many occasions thus far and blundered so much that already no-one takes them seriously. To name a few: hacking into democratic party confidential emails, murder of over 200 people via an anti-air missile, the poisoning of Litvinenko, Skripal and finally Navalny and the confused, deranged and internally incoherent rebuttals and excuses provided by Russian so called authorities.

    3. It’s funny to see this empty bravado in response to proposed sanctions. “Haha iphone hipsters will be mad lmao”. What about android? What about the 100% of computers in russia running US designed CPUs? Will Mr. Karlin enjoy using an obsolete computer 5 years from now? Will he enjoy going to far-right conventions in Europe by train, because a ban of aircraft spare part imports will ground the russian-onwed boeings and airbuses?
      Now as for SWIFT. Yes, it’s “just a messaging system”. But the sad reality is that almost no-one has joined its Russian analogue. If sanctions are in place, most banks won’t bother even more so than now, in fear of being targeted by US regulators. It will have major ramifications for Russian trade.

    To sum up: the Russian kleptocracy is incompetent, a testament to years of negative selection. They will have wasted billions for nothing extremely easily, like they have wasted them on a dead-end pipeline or on Putin’s moldy palace. Vlad himself is not a warrior. He is a murderer, that much is certain, but the knife in the back kind. Once he is exposed, he is powerless.

    Now as for the aim of this bluff, who knows what is inside the thick skulls of people still living in the 70s, who don’t even use computers, let alone the internet. If we give them the benefit of the doubt, this is a ploy to distract western regulators from impending sanctions on Putin’s cronies, his own money bag holders. If we don’t, it’s another chimp out to boost the ego of an inferiority complex-ridden dictator in the metaphorical autumn of his rule.

    • Anatoly Karlin says

      Hi “Concerned Citizen”! https://www.unz.com/comments/all/?commenterfilter=Concerned+Citizen
      Looking forwards to new, powerful predictions from you. “I predict that luka is on his final legs.” Damn, potato dictator must be really tired now. https://www.unz.com/akarlin/what-should-russia-do-in-belarus/#comment-4096742

      “Will he enjoy going to far-right conventions in Europe by train…” I like trains, but I have never been to any European far-right conventions, and can’t imagine why I’d want to go. I think Russia will do just fine with aircraft, it has the MC-21 which is almost entirely domestic components now including the engine.

      • Daniel Chieh says

        To be fair, going by armored car is a praxis of aesthetic.

      • What do you think about the fact that nowadays even eastern Ukrainians are possibly less supportive of Eurasian integration than Poles were 110+ years ago? :

        https://www.iri.org/resources/public-opinion-survey-of-residents-of-ukraine/

        The data for eastern Ukraine, from page 23 in the report above, are this:

        67% pro-European integration
        9% pro-Eurasian integration
        13% pro-other integration
        11% difficult to answer/unsure/no answer

        I certainly would not have been surprised if support for Eurasian integration at least reached double-digits in Poland (or at least in Russian-controlled Poland) 110+ years ago.

        The figures for southern Ukraine are even worse, almost comparable to Ukraine as a whole:

        79% pro-European integration
        2% pro-Eurasian integration
        14% pro-other integration
        6% difficult to answer/unsure/no answer

        On page 25 of the report above, we see polling for Ukrainians’ views on NATO by region and age as well. NATO would win a referendum in eastern Ukraine by a 37%-24% margin and in southern Ukraine by a 51%-19% margin.

        So, Yeah, ultimately, the effect of this war appears to have shifted Russophile sentiments in Ukraine downwards by around another standard deviation.

        You claim that “normies'” opinions are malleable, but I wonder just how malleable they actually are in favor of the side that kills their friends, neighbors, and family members and bombs their cities. Think of it this way: Would Canadians be particularly well-disposed towards the US if the US would have tried to use military force to conquer their country? The cultural differences between the US and non-Quebec Canada are probably comparable to those between Russia and Ukraine, after all. Or compare the US with Australia/New Zealand if you want to.

        Also, I will say this: Even if Russia will win this war, it will likely fail in achieving its most important goal, which would be securing Ukraine’s human capital. After all, with that level of opposition to Russia, and also with easy access to the EU, almost any Ukrainian who wants to live a better life and who isn’t physically forced to live in Ukraine would almost certainly prefer to live in the EU (or in some other part of the West, such as the US) than to live in Russia. Yes, I really do think that most Ukrainians would prefer to emigrate if their home town will ever end up under Russian or pro-Russian rule.

    • You’re a bit hard to follow. You mean that Biden ever does ingest enough modafinil to be able to focus long enough to write his speeches? Do any of the clans of US elites competing for primacy there have any ideology except money? And yet, is it the ruling US elites or the ruling Russian elites who have let the spread of poisonous woke ideologies divide and cripple the constituencies of their own countries? (while I do tip my hat to the efforts of CIA-backed NGOs acting in Ukraine, those efforts might not be enough after all). Why is hacking into democratic party confidential emails (while using US-designed CPUs) a blunder? (was it perhaps insufficiently sophisticated compared to the US spying of top EU officials?) What about all those Androids produced in China, lock stock and barrel? What about moving past a 20th century view of the importance of US? (maybe catch up with some animations such as the one in https://www.reddit.com/r/Sino/comments/effvpw/how_china_displaced_the_us_as_the_largest_trading/) What if banks which don’t care about being targeted by US regulators get a god-sent boon from scooping up a massive business from the old titans which do care about that? What about USSR having been perfectly able to run an air traffic network without Boeings or Airbuses?
      Also perhaps you are rejoicing too early about the “dead-end pipeline”; it might not be all dead when the Europeans have had enough of paying through their nose to not freeze their asses, just to support the interests of a US which had dropped them cold turkey as soon as the Pacific alliance became more interesting.

  8. you gave scant attention to the actual cost of reintegrating Ukraine, or large parts of it. Considering its ageing population and massive exodus of young and educated people. I have seen a trillion dollars mentioned just to raise the population to the Russian level.

    Now, over the long term, I mean at the civilizational timescale, it should pan out ultimately. But practically I suppose the Russian government may want things to be more gradual, similarly to how South Korea envisages reintegration with the North (where the gap is considerably more drastic granted). I think it has to do with not forming a unitary state just yet but gradually ramping up investments over a long period with the ultimate goal of reunification

  9. Anatoly Voronin says

    O tempora, o mores… No workers’ paradises, no racial superiority, no chests with exotic treasures, no manors with serfs. No promises, no expectations. Just safety of Russia and better salaries to siloviki and bureacracy. If this conquest happens, this might be the most boring conqest ever.

    Of course, it won’t solve any questions. Will just shift their jurisdictions. That’s why I still hope you’ll find inner energy to care about more Ukrainian things than just attitude to Russia. That’s how Kholmogorov types always behaved and look where it got them. Old school triedinstvo was defeated when Belorussians and Ukrainains were learning time and time again that Russians don’t want to know anything about them. Russian Wikipedia uses Italian analogues to explain Ukrainian dish halushky to Russian people. I don’t think triedinstvo has future unless for some reason there’s a grassroots boom in demand for Ukrainian cultural product in Moscow. You’re among the very few who could provoke such boom, and yet you wrote this article in English, sticking to existing market instead of moving into domestic one.

    I don’t think that Putin will leave Galicia alone. Independent successor state will act like West Berlin in legal sense and Palestine in military sense, helping to get people West and weapons East. The West won’t miss such an opportunity to increase terrorist activities throghout entire RF. Unless China throws some big brotherly cash in, stability of such empire will be fragile indeed.

  10. Grim Deadman says

    I agree with some of the points raised, but not with the end conclusions.

    1) You seem to take lightly the political environment of both countries. First, there is public support in Russia neither for war nor for occupation. Second, public mood in the Ukraine, while sceptical of the invasion, will turn outright hostile if the invasion does happen. Guerilla warfare — no, Intifada — quite possibly yes. Thirdly, while new sanctions are unlikely to crush the Russian economy, bite they will, and there are plenty of reasons why western leaders might want to inflict pain on Russia despite the damage these new sanctions cause to their own countries (domestic politics and economics).

    2) The entire brouhaha is quite obviously not about the Ukraine — Russian officials said it, Macron said it, Foreign Affairs said it, it’s not news. The fact that the Russian demands were maximalist and impossible to meet obscures the fact that quite early on Putin did say himself that he did not expect any assurances by NATO to be credible. Which means the Russian demands were not really demands but a statement of fact: any further attempt at NATO expansion will trigger armed response from Russia, irrespective of what NATO says of wants. That’s just the world we live in as of last year. The statement was effective: notice the shift in tone in major Western media from ‘Russia is a 3rd world country with oil’ to ‘Russia has a world-class military and will have a say in European affairs whether we like it or not’.

    3) You treat that high-IQ pop like it’s Russia’s to lose, and in the very long run, you might be right, but at this moment Ukraine is an economic basketcase and an ifrastructural nightmare. I cannot imagine the Russian authorities wanting to sink trillions of USD into that while at the same time being piled with sanctions for doing it. That’s what the US would want, not Putin. And it’s way more convenient when those high-IQ pops move to Russia, rather than conquering their homeland and paying their parents’ pensions. You outlined this yourself before in posts related to Taiwan.

    So no, I do not believe there will be an invasion, not because Putin is chicken, but because he simply wins so much more from not invading.

    • Certainly immigration is a much less controversial way of increasing one’s human capital relative to invasions. No doubt about that. So, maybe Russia’s best strategy should be to turn all of Ukraine into a shithole while giving out Russian passports like candy. Incredibly Machivallian, but also likely very effective. The challenge, of course, would be figuring out how to do this without a massive increase in Western sanctions. Maybe a huge Russian invasion of all of Ukraine followed by extreme devastation and then a Russian withdrawal from most of Ukraine? Not sure, to be honest.

    • Ukraine has a ton of good farmland though, and farmland is increasingly valuable. Yes, the infrastructure is not in great shape, and yes there are issues with pensions and the low birth rate in Ukraine. All good points. High IQ Ukrainians are going to the west, I suspect, or perhaps to work for the startups in Lviv.

  11. Astral Preobrazhensky says

    An excellent and thoughtful article; the description of what is happening in Russia seems to be unassailable; however the claims about Ukraine seem to be rather wishful and not as realistic (I’ll make a separate comment on that). Hopefully the Kremlin has a more realistic view of Ukraine and the odds of war are lower than AK claims. I think they do, and I’ll stick with my prediction from a month or so ago that odds of massive invasion are still 10%. I’d guess now, 10% chance Russia does nothing and backs down, 60% chance of Donbas action only (including clearing Ukrainian forces out of the rest of the province, possible missile strikes beyond Donbas as necessary), 20% chance of Donbas + limited action beyond, such as grabbing a land corridor to Crimea and/or seizure of Kharkiv without touching Kiev, Dnipropetrovsk and even Odessa.

  12. Would say that the military guessess in the ‘Window of Opportunity’ detract from rather then add to the article: your best guess is as good as mine when it comes to Ukranian military scenarios and if you think you’ve 100% sussed it then I have a bridge to sell you. You also severely misrepresent the pro-Russian sentiment, confusing speaking Russian with being Pro-Russian. There is also the issue of not acknowledging the actual effect of an invasion on sentiment, opinons can change very quickly and depending on how violent the annexation ends up being these can form and harden anti-Russian opinons remarkably quickly. Overall good article, disagree with your conclusion about defection and collapsing resistance, but the broader conclusions of Putinism’s morph from Technocracy to Ethno-nationalism and the reasons behind it are solid.

    • Astral Preobrazhensky says

      Indeed, as this crisis has developed, resolve to fight the Russians if they invade has increased rather than decreased in Ukraine’s West, South, and especially Center. But it has decreased in the East.

      https://www.kiis.com.ua/?lang=ukr&cat=reports&id=1099&page=1

      If Karlin is right about Ukraine buckling, he is probably only right about Kiev-controlled Donbas and Kharkiv. He is wrong about the rest of the country. And even in the East there are plenty of people willing to resist, it would not be as easy as Russian nationalists wish it to be.

    • Anatoly Karlin says

      Which military “guesses” in particular sit badly with you?

      In the rather pessimistic post Ukrotriumph https://www.unz.com/akarlin/ukrotriumph/ , I noted under “Nation Building” that Russophile sentiment actually increased by more than a standard deviation in Crimea after the annexation, while falling by an S.D. in the rest of the country. People, it seems, are in large part a product of their media environment.

      • Yes, my general perception is that there are a lot of Ukrainians (particularly in the south / east) who are currently anti-Russian as an outcome of being on the Ukrainian side of the Donbass war, but would accept a fait accompli of Russian rule and shift their opinions accordingly given prolonged rule by the Russian government (or a Russian proxy government).

        • Worth noting that while Russophone sentiment has significantly fallen in Ukraine, it was primarily replaced by neutralist sentiment rather than by pro-Western sentiment. A pro-Russian course or neutrality combined likely get 50+% support in eastern and southern Ukraine even nowadays.

        • “but would accept a fait accompli of Russian rule and shift their opinions accordingly given prolonged rule by the Russian government (or a Russian proxy government).”

          Only if their own standard of living was significantly improved, as in Crimea. And of course it would help if Ukraine also remained much poorer than Russia. Once that stops being the case, whenever that might be, …

      • Worth noting that Crimea (if Sevastopol is included in it) was 80+% Russophone, so it’s not surprising that support for Russian rule there post-annexation went up to 80+%. But only the Donbass is also 50+% Russophone among the other Ukrainian regions. Kharkiv, Zaporizhya, and Odessa are in the 40-49% Russophone range, and all of the other Ukrainian regions are less than 40% Russophone.

      • Also, worth noting that the Crimea polling post-referendum wasn’t too different in terms of its outcome from the UNDP polling in Crimea in the years before the referendum:

        https://www.unz.com/akarlin/trump-right-on-crimea/

        It’s polls such as the KIIS one that were outliers, perhaps at least in part because they involved asking about a union of all of Ukraine and Russia.

      • I’ve looked at the relevant data right now:

        http://kiis.com.ua/?lang=eng&cat=reports&id=1102&page=1

        When you take into account the loss of Crimea and a huge part of the Donbass, the fall in pro-Russian sentiment in the rest of Ukraine in 2014-2015 was more like half a standard deviation.

        Pro-Russian sentiment in Ukraine was at around 12% in February 2014. It fell to 8% by May 2014, but please keep in mind that Crimea and a large part of the Donbass were already lost by then, so this sentiment change was likely due to Crimea’s + Donbass’s secession from Ukraine rather than an organic change in sentiment. It then fell to 2% by 2015, and a fall from 8% to 2% is around half a standard deviation rather than a full standard deviation. So, that part of the fall was organic. But then pro-Russian sentiment in Ukraine increased from 2% in 2015 to 6% in late 2021, thus ensuring that most of the organic decline in pro-Russian sentiment was already reversed by then since 6% isn’t very far from 8%. So, ultimately, out of the decline in pro-Russian sentiment in Ukraine from early 2014 to late 2021, most of it (from 12% to 8%) was due to Crimea’s + Donbass’s secession from Ukraine whereas only a smaller part of it (from 8% to 6%) was actually organic.

        So, pro-Russian sentiments in the rest of Ukraine fell by half a standard deviation in 2014-2015, then mostly rebounded to almost their early 2014 levels (post-Crimea and Donbass secessions, of course) by late 2021.

        Also, here’s why I’m skeptical of Russia replicating the huge increase in pro-Russian sentiment in Novorossiya like it previously did in Crimea: In Crimea, Russia needed to improve the lives of a relatively small number of people while also avoiding serious Western sanctions. This Russia was able to do. But with the rest of Novorossiya (perhaps excluding the Donbass), it obviously wouldn’t be able to avoid serious Western sanctions and it would need to improve the lives of a much larger number of people. This would obviously make the job much harder since Russia would need much more money to spend on improving the economy of the newly annexed regions while also needing a lot of money for itself in order to withstand the shock of crippling and severe Western sanctions.

      • You can also see something comparable in declining support for the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) in Ukraine starting from 2014. It used to be in the 35% range but then became in the high 10-s % range–so, 16-19%. That’s a fall of about half a standard deviation but even so, it’s worth noting that the 16-19% data is for Ukraine without Crimea and a large part of the Donbass whereas the 35% was for a territorially intact Ukraine, so adjusting for Ukraine’s current borders, the fall in EEU support might be from the high 20s to the high 10s–in other words, something between 1/3 and 1/4 of a standard deviation.

        Pro-Russian sentiment actually didn’t collapse in Ukraine in and after 2014 as much as you think it did. Some of this “collapse” is simply the result of Crimea’s and the Donbass’s exit from Ukraine, which makes a comparison between pre-2014 and post-2014 Ukraine only partially reliable. There was a bit of a remaining collapse, of course, but much smaller than you think. Certainly nowhere near one whole standard deviation!

  13. Astral Preobrazhensky says

    I think AK focuses too much on silly pictures made for Western PR such as ladies and POC with guns, and as a result has an unrealistically low estimation of Ukrainian willingness and capacity to resist. He writes “In a recent poll, 33% of Ukrainians claimed they would put up armed resistance if Russia invades; remarkably, this would mean basically no change relative to a similar poll carried out in April 2014, which found it to be 21% in the more pro-Russian South-East”

    Well, since 2014 Ukrainians have tasted war and have seen a massive buildup on their border, and resolve had not changed. More importantly, since 2014 100,000s of Ukrainians have had some military experience and at least know how to shoot. As a result, the potential consequences of armed resistance are much worse for Russian now than they would have been in 2014. But his poll was from December. The same poll has been repeated in February, as the situation for Ukraine has gotten scarier:

    https://www.kiis.com.ua/?lang=ukr&cat=reports&id=1099&page=1

    Resolve to engage in armed resistance has increased from 33% in December to 38% in February. The increase was strongest in the Center (Kiev), up to 42% which is now almost the same as Western Ukraine’s 45% which saw a smaller increase, from 40%. Keep in mind the poll asks both men and women so probably around 70% of central Ukrainian men say they will put up armed resistance. Seizing Kiev with its 3 million will be very costly for Russia, doing so will force Russia to turn what it considers to be the “mother of Russian cities” into rubble.

    The results also show a slight increase in willingness to violently resist Russia in southern Ukraine (Dnipropetrovsk and Odessa), from 30% to 33%. Which means around half of the men there say they will resist violently.

    So in most of Ukraine, resolve to fight has increased, especially in Kiev and the Center. The flight of oligarchs, btw, mostly involves Easterners and pro-Russians such as Novinsky. Over half of the parliament members who fled Ukraine were from the Opposition Bloc. This leaves less of a fifth column in the country. The patriots have not left.

    Which leads to a silver lining for Russians. In Eastern Ukraine, unlike in the West, South and Center, resolve to take up arms and fight Russians has decreased – from 26% in December to 18% in February. This may bode well for expansion into the rest of the Donbas oblasts, or even Kharkiv. However, taking the latter would still be messy given that it is a city of 1.5 million, base of the very well-armed Azov militia numbering a couple thousand (comparable to the low estimate of Chechen fighters in the Grozny battle), and in which probably a third of men said they would put up armed resistance.

    • Losing Kharkiv would still be a huge blow to Ukraine due to the loss of its industries, a million people or so (some would undoubtedly relocate to rump Ukraine), and due to its symbolic status as the Ukrainian SSR’s first capital.

  14. New Ledford says

    A well-argued, well-researched case for imminent war. I still disagree. Reasons:
    – Russian leaders say it’s just an exercise, so it probably just is.
    – I think a feint followed by inaction increases the tension between Washington and its allies, because a war would be much worse for Europe than for America. Especially worse for Ukraine.
    Even a mere feint demonstrates possibilities. This improves Russia’s position.
    – Most of the time, nothing much happens.
    – There are no consequences to my being wrong, no one cares what I say, so missing a war doesn’t matter. Simple no/yes so I say no.

    • New Ledford says

      So, is invasion or is not invasion? Is war or is not. Am wrong or right? I guess I’m wrong, pretty much counts as an invasion. And a successful one. Win for Russia, imo.

      Kudos to Mr. Karlin, no one who reads him was surprised by Putin’s speech.

      • New Ledford says

        Is invasion. I thought Russia could win a lot just by bluffing. You can also win a lot just by invading. Hope it is short with little bloodshed.

  15. Candide III says

    I don’t think much of your arguments from game theory. The Russians have been constantly and publicly denying that they are preparing for an invasion: they are just conducting legitimate and regular military exercises. (For all I know it is true. Russia has been holding its exercises near Ukrainian borders since May 2015: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ukraine-crisis-russia-military-idUSKBN0OC2K820150527 Similar articles can be easily found for every year since, including last year, by restricting Google Search to a particular year.) The Russians can, without contradicting themselves in the slightest, say that their regularly scheduled exercises are over and units are returning to their permanent bases. It is Americans and their closest allies who have been drumming up threats, moving embassies, advising their citizens to leave ASAP and so on. If Americans wanted to call the Russians’ supposed bluff, they should have been cool as cucumbers. Instead they have been enthusiastically playing up to the Russians, getting their panties in a bunch, and should the Russians now announce as above, it is Americans who will end up looking silly.

  16. Based and redpilled. I wrote my own, similar post here a few days ago:
    https://eharding.substack.com/p/the-case-for-russia-invading-ukraine

    I wonder what Putin and Xi discussed during their meeting on Feb 4.

    I still think Russia is more likely to not invade than to invade; I don’t think much of Putin.

    • Anatoly Karlin says

      Thanks, yeah I saw it, but didn’t read it on purpose before I’d written mine, to avoid inadvertent influence. Looks like we think along similar lines across multiple issues.

      “There is no reason to think that Ukraine has either the will or the ability to resist a Russian attack. The capabilities of the Ukrainian military pale relative to the Russian, and the war will primarily be fought with missiles and artillery, which Russia has more of, and airpower, which, while not particularly useful against an insurgency, is highly useful against a state army. Similarly, Ukraine has neither the will nor the ability for an insurgency following a Russian occupation. Ukrainians are an industrialized and civilized people with low fertility. People who claim otherwise should have the sense to recall how the various anti-Ukrainian nationalist insurgencies went in 2014 -they were all defeated by the pitifuly armed, manned, and trained Ukrainian army until Russia intervened directly to save the one in Donbass. ”

      Persephone Victra had an amusing take in another thread:

      “Noticing an amusing change in normie narratives. Within the last 2-3 weeks it went from “Russia won’t invade!” to “The Ukrainians will be able to hold off the Russians and make them pay!” and now “Fighting a guerilla war will ruin Russia! I look forward to the next few weeks, when it will be “The Ukrainians will all vote for opposition parties!””

      • I actually would still expect something similar to The Troubles in Ukraine if Russia invades, especially in Kiev and the Ukrainian territories to the west of Kiev.

      • The Troubles meaning the North Irish Troubles.

  17. Persephone Victra says

    Powerful and jubilant return to blogging. Great to have the Karlinator back in action.

    On the topic of predictions, for posterity I’ll post mine here. Also agree the goals will be maximalist. I think the mostly likely scenario is the annexation of some or all of Novorossiya and regime change in a rump state that includes Central / West Ukraine. This will include a new constitution and probably membership of the Union State and / or the EEU.

    The lack of media preparation is almost certainly so that the Ukrainian ‘provocation’ is more legitimate and has real shock value. When this happens, almost certainly in the next week, perhaps two, Russia now has the option to recognise the Donbass republics as independent, allowing them to request military aid from Russia officially and also Russia will have the excuse of protecting its many citizens there.

    Militarily, I think it likely Ukraine fill be hit by massive cyberattacks, EW, and missile strikes simultaneously. This will essentially decapitate the leadership and make communication between forces and command impossible. Important strategic targets such as airbases air defence, and concentrations of armour will be wiped out by missiles, airstrikes, and long-range artillery before they can be properly manned. Russian forces will then sweep in and clean up a very disjointed Ukrainian resistance, which will include probably an OOM more surrenders than casualties. People do not fully appreciate how difficult it is to fight against a military with the capabilities of Russia. Isolated and unsupported units are on suicide missions, and they will surrender. I doubt it will take more than a week, and likely less.

    I expect the main axes of advance to be:
    -From Belarus (and Bryansk) south to Kiev, on both sides of the Dnieper, encircling the city.
    -The 1st Guards Tank Army and co will likely sweep down from Kursk around / through Kharkov and Poltava to the Dniepr, as far as Dnipro.
    -Forces from Rostov and Voronezh + Donbass military will keep the Ukrainian main deployment tide down while forces from Belgorod and possibly Crimea encircle them, later moving to Zaporozhia.
    -Naval operation, likely landing south of Odessa, and meeting up with forces from Crimea approaching overland from Kherson. And perhaps with Transnistria.
    -Quite possibly small incursion from Brest in Belarus southward to mop up Ukraine’s western border

    Since I was the first of the community to rate the likelihood of an invasion as more than 50%, I will accept any and all praise on offer when I am right.

    • There are not enough forces deployed near Ukraine for such operation. If such a conflict is to happen, reservists will be called en masse. And you will see it in the rus markets where smart money is. Plus Russia won’t make any big military attack to take Ukraine anyway.

  18. Astral Preobrazhensky says

    The crisis has pushed Poroshenko’s party to the top in terms of popularity; the pro-Russian Opposition Bloc has dropped to fourth place: https://www.kiis.com.ua/?lang=ukr&cat=reports&id=1100&page=1&fbclid=IwAR344ObvP-zSMLbeEGmPb0MQ12wEeC4pp6Leq3piG5Cdmd3ktGCczysi2ec

    This matches the expressed increased willingness of Ukrainians to take up arms and resist if Russians enter Ukraine.

  19. You raise several good points, but there are soe things that are not clear to me.

    First of all, invading Ukraine != annexing it. If you annex it, you will quickly go bankrupt paying Russian level pensions and upgrading the infrastructure to at least a bad Russian level. But if you install a puppet government, which you support militarily, you get most of the perks and only a few of the drawbacks. That way, urban guerillas and potholes are somebody else’s problems to fix. This option is not exactly unheard of, since this is exactly how for example Abkhazia and Transnistria live.

    Secondly, you seem to be awfully sure that Ukrainians won’t resist an occupation. While I agree that the ‘everyone will grab a gun and shoot the invaders’ narrative is wildly overblown, it’s impossible to determine a population’s willingness to resist in advance. On the one hand, quite a few Ukrainians probably quietly sympathize with Russia, and those who don’t probably have a family to feed by going to a job and getting a salary and not raising goats and selling them in the nearest market. On the other hand, anti-Russian propaganda has been present since Ukraine’s independence and those under 30 have never heard anything good about Russia at all. Whether pragmatism or ideology wins reains to be seen.

    • I think that there would be a sizable number of Ukrainians (at least a million, possibly a couple of million) who would be willing to engage in low-level terrorism in Ukraine post-Russian invasion similar to Northern Ireland during The Troubles. Two million is just 6-ish % of Ukraine’s total population, after all. One million is just 3% of Ukraine’s total population. Maybe exaggerating a bit because a more honest analysis should exclude children and elderly people, but still, the number of Ukrainians willing to engage in low-level terrorism should at least be in the hundreds of thousands.

      • I’m fairly confident that after a few weeks of sitting in basements, drinking with friends and humping the girlfriend will have a whole new appeal. Bullets flying by and artillery shells hitting uncomfortably close will likely reinforce that. It would also depend on the number of collaborationists, i e people who immediately pick up the phone and call the security service, so as to retain relative peace where they live. But even so, the Troubles were mostly a nuisance for the UK and could never really threaten its presence.

  20. Mark E Moran says

    Excellent analysis. You need a signal boost.

  21. Dave Spenser says

    Anatoly – an excellent and well reasoned article. I’d read Putin’s essay on historical unity before, but you make several excellent points in support of what is really going on inside the man’s head. Too many cynics in the West assume he is driven by the same tawdry motivations as they and fail to recognize his self-appointed nationalistic/patriotic mission. What a way to bring his leadership term to an end and truly justify the inevitable epithet that posterity will grant him.

    You predict annexation. Do you consider there is a chance that instead an occupation over the short term and return of sovereignty may be the outcome? Once the fighting is over and the hardcore Nazis & Russia-haters are dead/jailed or have fled, might it be possible to reconstruct the Ukrainian state – constitution and all – perhaps inside the Union State and/or CSTO? CSTO membership in particular would ‘Maidanproof’ the new Kyiv – viz. Kazakhstan not so long ago.

    • I think that it would be more likely that post-Russian invasion there would be a nominally neutralist Ukrainian state (so, no EEU/Union State/CSTO membership for Ukraine) but one that would be de facto/informally closely allied to Russia. A Vichy version of Ukraine, if you will.

  22. FWIW, I think that if Russia is really serious about demographics, it would also aim to significantly boost its birth rate. That’s where the really huge gains age. An increase from 150 to 200 million is not too crucial (it’s what, 33%?), but an increase from 150 to 300 million, let alone 400-500 million, would be much more significant. This could only be done through a massive increase of the Russian birth rate Israeli-style–just make sure that it’s not dysgenic! Immigration I think would have limited gains since there simply aren’t very many high-IQ people who would prefer to move to Russia over moving to the West. Though I suppose that Chinese who don’t like the West but who still want to leave China for whatever reason might be willing to consider moving to Russia–if Russia would actually be interested in them, of course.

    • “This could only be done through a massive increase of the Russian birth rate Israeli-style–just make sure that it’s not dysgenic!”

      Great point, and difficult to do. The Chinese have had a massive advantage of brutal competition among the lower economic strata combined with a culture of testing and promotion on merit. Anglo-Saxons, on the other hand, have a declining IQ due to dysgenic reproduction and an entrenched system of nepotism (now supplanted by a Jewish ruling class, but formerly Episcopalian/Anglican).

      There are signs that some regions of Russia have significant increases in birthrate. These things tend to go in cycles, as propensity for childbirth is partly genetic and weak breeders are eliminated from the gene pool. France is a good example of the phenomenon.

  23. Many thanks for this most interesting article, Mr Karlin; I was very glad to see a new posting from you, as you bring a perspective lacking from most other commentators- and data lacking from all others. What I think you have right is that in the long term, from the Russians’ perspective, they need the additional population if it they are to remain an independent power. Also, you have, in my view quite rightly, pointed out that Mr Putin’s article last year about ‘Historical Unity’ was intended to set out the intellectual justification for moves towards reunification. We have now seen, as a second phase, the diplomatic demarche proposing a new security treaty; and the third stage appears to be a complex of active measures to reintegrate the Ukraine. The subtlety of this third phase has escaped most observers: there are many feints and bluffs; but even if we assume neither Moscow nor Washington wants a war, there is a looming expectation of conflict that almost begs ‘the archduke to be shot’. Once can’t say who would be responsible, but you have described quite clearly how Russia would most likely be the military victor. As to the aftermath, ‘you might as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb’; the sanctions won’t be much worse than those imposed for the Crimea, and the West will learn to live comfortably with a Russia that includes the Ukraine- just as they did for the 1650s onwards.

  24. U live in a Fantasy World

  25. All credibly lost…’The pieces really are sliding into place. Laugh if you want, but at least these WMDs are more real than the Iraqi ones that G.W. Bush used as a pretext to attack Iraq, at any rate.’ The naivety, whether a justifiable pretext to go to war or not, is astounding.

  26. Hard to not be skeptical after so many false alarms and so much fake news about Russia over the years, but you make an incredibly compelling and well researched/though out argument. Looking forward to seeing what happens (well not really but you get it).

  27. I feel like this is an extremely optimistic view of russia’s ability to blitz a country. When was the last time that occurred? Abkhazia and South Ossetia 2006? Ukraine is a gigantic landmass compared to tiny Georgia. Same in regard to the military. The author also goes into no detail as to the fallout from such an invasion from all european neighbors and NATO warmongers and just points out the ukrainian state’s weaknesses and makes a happy go lucky prediction of immediate surrender like in Afghanistan with a few hundred to a few thousand russian military deaths and easy subduing of tens of millions of ukrainians and all pro-western people being teen larpers who will flee at the first opportunity. I’d like to smoke what he’s smoking.

  28. Erik Sieven says

    Maybe a war could lead to a lot young women fleeing Ukraine to Western Europe. This could finally make women in Germany change their mind about letting in refugees.

    • They already have, though. The exodus of young people was underway back in 2015 at the least. Last time I went in 2019 it was noticeably different in terms of demographics, and yes, a lot of the young attractive ones left.

      Ukraine’s major problem is not political, it is demographic. I can’t tell you how many stupid young Ukrainian women I met who just wanted to live a good life and travel, akin to western idiots. The other part was that they seemed to think that the EU is a democracy, and they were completely ignorant of the EU Commission and its powers compared to the Parliament. Love the Ukrainian people, but they are in big trouble unless they have more children (particularly if they join the EU, which will flood them with muslims).

  29. AK, I completely agree that in the event of a full invasion, it will be over quickly, and fantasies of fierce, prolonged partisan resistance will fail to materialize. However, I find it difficult to believe that Putin is capable of anything so bold and decisive. This is the same guy who for 7 years has refused to recognize or even openly arm the LDNR, and now suddenly he is going to storm Kiev? For all his bare-chested posturing, Putin’s 20-year record has been that of a risk-averse weakling obsessed with diplomacy. Most likely this is all just a stupid attempt to pressure Ukraine into accepting his betrayal of the Donbass via Minsk2. If he does invade, it will be a limited operation, which fails to conclusively settle the Ukraine problem, but brings on all the same sanctions anyway.

    • Who knows. Putin is a WEF (Klaus Schwab) alum who is buds with goblin faced Henry Kissinger. I don’t think he is the nationalist that many believe him to be, and he may have ulterior motives that are actually quite cohesive with the overall scheme of the ‘new world order’ outlined by the wackjobs in the elite.

  30. Nick O'Connor says

    Maybe Russia, as it was understood to exist before the first world war, could never have survived the changes necessary to become part of the modern world, and realise its potential. But the extent of its failure is still tragic.

    If you were to tell a Russian in 1910 that by 1950 Russia would be recognised as one of the two global superpowers, but by 2022 its GDP would be lower than that of Brazil, Canada and Italy, they would wonder what could possibly have happened. If you told them that in that time Russia hadn’t fought, let alone lost, a major war, they’d conclude it had been governed by imbeciles. If you then told them that its current leader had been in power for a third of that time, they would assume that he must be the greatest of them.

    If you then told them that this man had a plan to improve things that involved an invasion and occupation of part of Ukraine, undertaken in a manner that will ensure the lasting enmity of every significant country with the exception of China, at a time when Russia’s major source of wealth is forecast to collapse in value, they would be horrified.

    But if you told them that there were many intellectuals who fervently believed that this man was a political strategist of unparalled sagacity, I doubt they would be surprised at all.

    • As much as I hate to defend Putin, when he took office Russia’s GDP ranked 25th in the world, behind Switzerland and Austria, whereas it currently ranks 11th (actually just ahead of Brazil in the most recent IMF estimate). It would have been difficult for any other leader to do a much better job climbing out of that hole, particularly in the face of the economic warfare the USA has waged on Russia, ever since it asserted independence from US hegemony in 2014.

      • Nick O'Connor says

        That would be a reasonable argument if he’d been in power for five or even ten years. After 23 years, it isn’t. He’s had complete control for nearly a quarter of a century, and Canada has a larger GDP than Russia. He’s a failure.

        • Have you ever been to Russia and seen the infrastructure? Hard to start with what the doddering Soviet Union left you and then immediately turn it into something to rival the genius of the Germans or Anglo-Saxons.

          On the other hand, have you checked out Detroit lately? It’s also easy to take Anglo-Saxon genius and turn it into third world primitivism by allowing the wrong groups to populate a region.

    • That’s kind of a weird comment considering that in 1910 most Russians would never have predicted that 20+ million of their number would be slaughtered by Jewish communists like Lazar Kaganovich and Joseph Jughsvili.

      What would modern Russia be like today if it hadn’t lost tens and tens of millions of dead in various wars and purges? Not to mention that the Bolsheviks seem to have liquidated the smartest of the Russians, including the intelligentsia.

  31. Jared Asman says

    You have successfully documented your ability to predict the future, provide historical context, and tell the ugly truth in plain language..

    I salute you sir.

  32. Outstanding, Anatoly! Thank you for putting this together.

  33. Jared Davis says

    You seem to have gotten the geographic prediction correct, although it’s not settled yet. The second paragraph of your predictions seems on trend, too. And yours is the only solid analysis of Putin’s viewpoint that I’ve seen. Americans (including myself) seem genuinely perplexed by Putin’s speeches the past few days, and completely thrown off by the historical interpretations offered. I don’t like the outcomes or agree with the political aims, but I have to commend you for both writing truthfully about recent events and being basically correct.

  34. Ukrainian soldiers doing game theory in their heads and deciding they’ll defect to Russia for higher pay is… an interesting take.

  35. Paul Harper says

    You certainly seem to have underestimated the Ukrainian people’s sense of own, separate identitity, will and ability to resist (alongside extent & unity of Western response to date). We’ll see whether the tyrant can prevail militarily (probably), but it is another matter altogether to maintain a forced occupation long-term over a country & people this size in what seems likely to be an ongoing armed insurrection against the occupiers.

  36. Great article. You saw it coming clearly.

    Kremlin.ru is down/inaccessible since last Sunday, at least from my EU country.

    Could you find a way to make “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians” available in English on an alternate site? Also, links to any of the other statements/speeches that Putin put out last week would be great, if you have them. At this point, it is important for everybody to be able to get statements directly from the Kremlin without Western media spin.

  37. How many Ukrainians have gone to Russia since 2014?

  38. If conquering countries against their consent for their human capital is fair game, does this mean that Hitler was justified in his conquests back in the day? For instance, conquering Czechia in March 1939? Or for that matter, invading Poland and the Soviet Union? Most of the people there were likely disposable for him, but still, there was likely a sizable fraction of them whom he deemed capable of being successfully Germanized. 10% of 150 million people is still 15 million people, after all.

    But Yeah, the idea that countries need to conquer other countries in order to become Great Powers/superpowers, that certainly countries don’t have a right to exist, and that countries who fail to conquer other countries lose their own right to existence strikes me as having a very Fascistic and even Nazi bent to it. I suspect that Hitler considered Czechoslovakia a fake and gay country, for instance–and Hitler certainly believed that the Soviet Union lacked the right to exist within its existing borders. Plus, Hitler believed that Germany needed more people, land, and resources for Germany to be able to effectively compete with the US and the British and French Empires. And of course Hitler likely believed that Germany has lost its own right to exist once it became ever more likely that Germany was going to lose World War II.

  39. This particular analysis… had significant oversights, in retrospect.

  40. Lauri Elias says

    So much insight, but ultimately wishful thinking.