Tuesday, April 05, 2022

Samo Burja - Part I: The New Events.

Sorry that this is something of liveblog/stream-of-consiousness, with most of it being Razib and Samo with only slight commentary by me.

The first 30 minutes were taped after the last 90, which was at the time expected to be a standalone.  Razib had interviewed Burja about world trends, including a lot of discussion of Russia/China/EU/US. Before he had put it up the events in Ukraine started, so he went back and interviewed Samo about those, then proceeded to the original podcast. That is what I am commenting on here.

Burja points out that the mechanised invasion, slow-moving and attempting to deny air supremacy, is very much in keeping with longstanding Russian practice.  He does find the "gentleness" of the method, for example attempting to take airfields rather than destroy them, a bit surprising.  He thinks it is Putin's idea to at least leave the door open for a quick surrender, though he does not expect it. because war is always a shitshow, we overread the value of signs of Russian failure.  "If we had had smartphones during any major operation in 2003, in 1991...let alone smartphones during WWII, during the Blitzkrieg, we would have never-ending stream of video of abandoned vehicles, captured vehicles, vehicles out of fuel, soldiers deserting, and so on. War is just always a terrible, terrible mess." He speaks from schoolfriends' recent memory of Sarajevo and the like when he was growing up, and to a lesser extent, his own. He also speaks from diaries and recorded memories of many campaigns that supposedly went smoothly, if bloodily (like Normandy) that those there described as a clown show. People are hard to organise. Graded on a curve, even though the Russian efforts are a clown show, are a B-. 

European views are mildly sympathetic to Ukraine, but this depends on where you are.  In Spain and Portugal, people don't much care. If you are in Poland or Hungary, there is a view expressed in private, that Germany has gotten them into this mess, not spending on defense and buying Russian gas. He describes a meme going around of four flags with arrows. Poland to Ukraine: weapons.  Ukraine to Poland, refugees. Germany to Russia: Euros; Russia to Germany: natural gas. Russia to Ukraine: Invasion.  Germany to Poland: sanctions for violating EU rules. Yes, the EU just imposed sanctions on Poland and Hungary, not Russia. They are angrier about pushback for social issues like LGBTQ rights. Watch their hands, don't listen to their words.

I will insert here that my Romanian sons are reflexively anti-Russian, and thus are rooting for the Ukrainians even though they have no special affection for them. Neither of them analyzes the events much beyond that. The Russians have earned this attitude from their neighbors over many years. There are legitimate things one can point out about reprehensible behavior of Ukraine, or Hungary, or Romania. To focus on that is not straining at gnats, but it is swallowing a Russian camel. The Russians do not view themselves that way.  Historically they view themselves as the beleaguered protectors of order among ungrateful and irresponsible nations that keep embracing dangerous ideologies. **

There is a discussion of how poorly GDP measures an economy's effect.  Russia has an unbalanced economy, with its elite sector and natural gas affiliated doing very well.  Because so many Russians are still impoverished, we think it must mean the whole mess is unstable, ripe for revolution or at least social pressure.  They don't care. It is always this way, for centuries. Natural gas, not batteries, is the key point of support for green energy in Europe, because it can go on and off at will.  The American experience of focus on battery improvement is not so important to them. Therefore, whatever they say, the Western European left will not oppose Russia in practice. They don't care about their other citizens either.  They keep information from them in the media.* They care much more than the Russian elites about the peasants, sure, but nothing like American standards of even the most callous elitists here. Those people are expendable and always have been. That's why they fled to America. 

Other economies, even if they approve of Russian sanctions this time are paying attention to its need to ally itself with some alternative system. India, Indonesia, and African nations all know that they might likewise need a backup plan some day. Alternative systems might be partly interactive, partly mutually exclusive with the "western" economy of North America, Europe, Australia, Japan. The current alternative offered by China still isn't that good, despite its efforts.  But it's the only one out there, and it is likely to improve. Nations will quietly engage it as a backup plan. Iran has endured similar sanctions for years and waited them out while pursuing alternatives.  You can do that more easily if you don't care about your citizens. The last time there was an international transition was from the European-centered to American-centered. We see that as essentially unified and cooperative now, but it was not always so. 

There is some irony in that it was the US that has put in the most effort to integrate Russia into the Western Economy after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It's also why Nixon went to China.  We thought that would work. We think other countries want democracy and free markets, only held down by autocratic elites, which we can pry them loose from. Maybe not.

We might picture that China has Russia by the short hairs at present, but Russia also offers some things to China.  It still has resources and technology. But even more, it offers a back door into the European economy, especially into Germany, that exercises leverage on European nations that would seek to punish China. Europe is more dependent on globalisation than North America. The next five years will be tough on both Europe and North America, but in the end, the US can create the backup internal resources to the global economy (which we should have done before), while Europe cannot. Samo sees their future as impoverishment.  France (nuclear power) and Great Britain (anglospheric connections) will do better than the others but still be badly harmed.  Norway may be hurt least of all. 

So does that mean we hurry to visit European tourist spots now while they are still roughly what we expect, or wait ten years until they are much cheaper and we stand in line with other tourists from China and India?

*Much to say in the future about this. Burja talks about how Western media also does this, left or right doesn't matter. There is the David Brockmeier report of the study about American partisan media followers being paid to watch opposing sources, and the news that Swedish media has not reported covid scandals they know to be true, and even appointed commissions have refrained from mentioning it.  Sweden triaged early covid and would not admit people with comorbidities (read: old people especially) to ICUs at all. They got morphine and died instead.

** Is this Putin sensing and embodying the Soul of Russia in the same way Hitler did for Germany? Is that the hidden explanation why so many talking heads keep wondering if Putin is crazy because of what makes no sense about this invasion? Does he see this as his final legacy as he closes his career, to "restore" Russia to its proper place?


PenGun said...

Oh well. Again, the point of The Special Military Operation is to denazify Ukraine. More precisely the destruction of the forces that have killed 14,000 people in the Donbass since 2014. The same forces the Russians claim were about to mount a serious attack on Donbass.

The Azov brigade controls most of the eastern front and they are unabashedly Nazis. These are the people who shell civilians in the Donbass as they really believe they are commies and need to die.

This is a level of conflict, that can only be resolved by killing a lot of people who think they are better than everyone else. A work in progress.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Yes, that has been the Russian excuse for a couple of centuries, in a few dozen countries, that they were only there to get rid of very bad people. And some of them were very bad people. But ultimately the people who actually live in those countries, when given the choice, decided they wanted the Russians gone, even though that left them "at the mercy" of these other bad people. That seems meaningful. You should probably talk to people from those countries who aren't Russians. Talking to Western communists is probably not getting right up close to the issue.

It's the same pattern every time. If someone makes a positive comment about Americans, however qualified, or any negative comment about Russians or Chinese, however hedged, Pen Gun concludes they must not know what they are talking about. I have seen no variation in this pattern over a few years. What would be the evidence that you actually think about these issues rather than repeat talking points?

james said...

The point about the US out-producing Japan and Germany seems correct--we eventually wound up with superior weapons in a number of fields, but we did a lot of "swamping" to get there. Even so, Germany was getting there first with jets and snorkels and...

We got the bomb first, but the Germans had to give up theirs because of resource issues, and I gather the Japanese would have if they could have--they knew what hit them.

It ties in with the point in the text about drones becoming a quantity rather than quality weapon. We can easily think of ways to use even dumb drone swarms, though I'd rather make bad actors think of them themselves.

One of the books I read on the bronze age claimed that good hammered bronze was probably better than the iron of the era--but once iron could be made in quantity it was far faster and cheaper to outfit your soldiers with iron.

PenGun said...

"What would be the evidence that you actually think about these issues rather than repeat talking points?"

Well the ones that pertain to the present conflict are largely my talking points. Derived from what is obvious to me, although not to those who one might expect to have some understanding. I have though been watching this particular conflict for a long time, and know far too much about it.

james said...

I hadn't heard that about Sweden--I admit I wasn't paying a lot of attention. I wish I could say I was astonished.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

@ Pen Gun - You don't see that what you said is not actually evidence. You simply don't see it.

PenGun said...

As I make up my talking points, always have, I am in no way repeating anyone else's. Now that others may have reached similar conclusions, is always possible.

PenGun said...

Really this prompts a bit of an explanation. I don't google information except on specific topics related usually to some technicality. I have no discussion group, no people who tell me stuff, and I generally disbelieve, as a matter of policy if nothing else, nearly all the information I take in. Its an unprocessed information category that I just leave most everything in.

I draw conclusions from this information and over time, the truth will come to the fore, as the false stuff cancels its self mostly. its a great method although its somewhat abstract, relying to an extent on geshalt, and has proved very useful

Anyway I soak up information rather a lot. I'm old and have not much I have to do. So I do as I please, and really that is figuring out what's going on.

The recent conflict in Ukraine is something I have followed rather closely since the coup in 2014 and am admittedly somewhat emotional about it. Most of the people who fought against the Nazis from the west, who really did come to ethnically cleanse the entire area, are dead. I admired some of them and have an emotional bias because of this.

This does not change the fact that the CIA does control Ukraine, and that its these very Nazis they used for the coup, that now are the somewhat unofficial eastern branch of Ukraine's army. The branch that did a missile attack on Donetsk yesterday and hurt some children, and 3 days ago killed 25 people, shooting at a built up area.

Anyway the SMO is going fairly well and although I could explain that in some detail, I will refrain. Its far more fun to watch all the armchair generals getting everything wrong. Hell, the real ones are the funniest. ;)

sykes.1 said...

"Russia has an unbalanced economy, with its elite sector and natural gas affiliated doing very well. Because so many Russians are still impoverished, we think it must mean the whole mess is unstable, ripe for revolution or at least social pressure."

This may represent 1992 and Yeltsin's government, but it is nowhere near true today, some 30 years later. On a PPP basis, the Russian economy is at least 20% larger than precovid Germany's. And considering the wide range of things that Russia does and makes that Germany (and even US) cannot, you can make an argument that Russia's real economy is at least twice Germany's. That would make it half ours. It also implies that Russian defense spending is about one-third ours, or larger.

It is also necessary to point out that the modern Russian economy is the most autarkic in the world, thanks to endless American sanctions. Russia's industrial sector is actually more diversified and comprehensive than either the German or American economy. (Do you remember de-industrialization? The Midwest does.) Pre-Ukraine war, Russia ran trade surpluses even without oil and gas exports. You might also note that Europe has carefully excluded oil, gas, coal and wheat from the sanctions.

By the way, no country in Latin America, not even Mexicon, supports the current sanction on Russia, nor does and country in Africa, nor in the Middle East, not even Israel, and only a handful of Asian countries do, all of them US military allies.
If you accept that, than what's going on makes sense. If you still believe Russia's economy is only as big as Spain's, then you are enmeshed in contradictions.

As to the poverty of the Russian people, that is false, too. Moscow, St. Petersburg and other major Russian cities look like Western Europe or even US, only without the homeless and outdoor camping or street violence. The Russian cities are almost as nice as the Chinese cities.

When one looks at the fentanyl epidemic in our rural areas, the surrender of the downtown areas of dozens of cities to armed Antifas/BLM and M13 gangs, the exploding murder rate in the black community, the country that is failing economically is the US.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

@ Pen gun - a much better answer than I expected and I thank you. What you describe is not a terrible way to arrive at conclusions, and better than most people use. It does have a weakness, in that one becomes prisoner to the one's preconceptions, to the ghosts of previous (perhaps even long-previous) discussions or attention to others' discussions. We think we are acquiring and weighing information as it comes in, but we are selecting it, sometimes at very subtle levels. We apply our standard biases which we no longer even notice. It is common to mankind.

We seldom get to understanding another POV from listening to those who disagree (related to the new post I just put up), but only from those who mostly agree with us, but have a different take we had not expected. I actually think that attending too constantly to those we disagree with solidifies our previous ideas rather than undermines them. It is the psychology behind those village exercises the Chines used to have, where people took turns arguing the other POV. they found that it strengthened party belief.

So though you say you have no discussion groups, you actually have this one and Chicago Boyz, so I have to hope that you have other groups where the others start from premises more similar to yours. Otherwise your opinions will always only be new examples of last decade's opinions, which was in turn merely the decade prior, repackaged. If you don't I think you should.

PenGun said...

The only groups I actually harass on a regular basis are high end stereo groups, mostly on youtube where the lies are told for profit. There are all kinds of nice people, but also many predators. ;)

Chicago Boyz is an epicentre for Milton Friedman and his ideas. Thinking they were at the heart of American economic darkness, I decided to throw down there. That was a long time ago. You I looked into after the astonishing statement that Zappa was not a genius.

I do not belong anywhere, but that is just fine. I really am the cat that walks by himself, and all places really are the same to me.

PenGun said...

Random stuff. It became apparent that the F35 was a bit more of a joke that I thought, after the Israeli press laughed at the fairly primitive S200 equivalent, exploding along the north coast of Israel.

Because I am interested I knew the Russians, after several Israeli incursions, had turned on a bunch more radar and had hooked up the Syrian air defence into their net.

The explosions were the S200s timing out and blowing up after pursuing Israeli F35s most of the way home. The Russians have always been amused by the US's invisible aircraft, as they are not. ;)