Paweł Krawczyk

Scientific and political writing of Paweł Krawczyk (

I have recently stumbled upon quite a recent book, “The Oxford Handbook of Karl Marx”, which is yet another modern attempt to explain #Marxism to people who try to “read Marx” due to his “continued” or even “increased relevance” in the face of imminent “collapse of the world capitalism”.

Why do you need “handbooks” and “companions” for a 19th century theory claimed to be “as relevant as ever”? “The Oxford Handbook” admits:

For those wishing to better understand Marx’s work, the historical debates and traditions within Marxism, and the range of ways in which Marxist theory is being used for social science today, finding a point of entry can be daunting.

Maybe it's only the Oxford team who experiences some perceptive difficulties when reading Marx? But no, another popular handbook “A Companion To Marx's Capital” by David Harvey lulls the newbies through the “cryptic” passages only to eventually insist on just taking them as granted:

Marx here lays out fundamental categories in an a priori and somewhat cryptic, take-it-or-leave-it fashion that could do with elaboration. But I am also interested in getting you, as quickly as possible, familiar with the kind of close reading of Capital that is necessary if you are to understand it. Don’t worry, I will not continue at this level of intensity!

Harvey in his book uses the word “cryptic” exactly ten times and it's always about Marx assertions (“a mere four pages of rather cryptic assertions to lay out the fundamental concepts”, “Marx cryptically asserts”) that simply have to be accepted on their face value... “if you want to understand it”.

You really want do understand it, don't you? Or you want to look dumb among your Marxist friends?

Well, nobody wants to look dumb, except if the only way of understanding is to accept someone's “cryptic assertions” point-blank, is this really “understanding”?

And why is it “daunting”? “The Oxford Handbook” explains:

Marx developed a technical terminology that Marxists have found very useful (e.g., use-​value, exchange-​value, organic composition of capital, etc.) and a method of analysis (dialectical materialism), both of which can be difficult for the uninitiated to understand.

And here we get to the core challenge: you can't read Marx works without an “initiation”. Doesn't it apply to any science, which Marxism claims to be? No, at least not in the same sense: you can study modern economy, physics or computing starting from a very basic knowledge of mathematics. The concepts of “interest” (finance) or “energy” (physics) or “information” (IT) are described using mathematical terms. Most importantly, they are interchangeable, so you can speak of “year's interest on kilowatt-hours spent to process gigabytes of information”.

But that doesn't work in Marxism, for many reasons. For a technical analysis of the, well, “technical terminology” I recommend “The Logic of the Planned Economy: The Seeds of the Collapse” (1991) by Paul H. Dembinsky and “Main Currents of Marxism by Leszek Kołakowski.

My favourite however is the second one: the unique “method of analysis” or dialectical materialism.

Dialectical materialism

I have already written about this method before in my article Marxist dialectics as a instrument of self-delusion, but that was mostly focused on practical, historic examples of its application. “The Oxford Handbook” conveniently provides a tutorial on systematic application of dialectical method, which is composed of a number of steps and statements of “laws of #dialectics”.

Any open mind will approach them with curiosity and try to make any sense of these famous laws... which unavoidably end in a huge cognitive dissonance, because these laws go like this:

“Every thing is undergoing quantitative change of one kind or another, and at one speed or another”

Wait, is that it? Yes, that's about all.

There's a few more “laws of dialectics” and all of them display about as much of sophistication and depth as the one above. There's nothing more, no further secrets of universe hidden in the dialectic method! The best description I've seen so far was coined by a Polish philosopher and disillusioned Marxist Leszek Kołakowski:

The diamat [dialectical materialism] consists of assertions of various kinds. Some of them are banalities of common sense and contain nothing specifically Marxist. Others are philosophical creeds, unprovable and unsolvable by scientific means. Still others are simply nonsense. The fourth category includes assertions that can be interpreted variously and, depending on the interpretation, belong to one, the second or the third of the preceding categories.

You may argue there's nothing wrong with the “undergoing quantitative change” statement — but that's precisely the definition of truism, that Kołakowski is talking about:

Among the claims that are common-sense clichés are such 'laws of dialectics' as saying that everything in the world is somehow connected or that everything changes. These claims are not disputed by anyone, but their cognitive and scientific value is negligible. (...) Phenomena in the world are interconnected, but the problems of scientific analysis of the world lie not in how to take this all-connectedness into account — for this is precisely impossible — but which connections to single out as important and which to omit. On this, in turn, Marxism-Leninism has only to offer the saying that in a chain of phenomena there is always a 'main link' to be grasped. This saying, it seems, means only that in practical behaviour certain links between things are, depending on one's aims, important and others unimportant or less important. It is also a trivial truth of common sense, devoid of cognitive value, since no rules follow from it to establish a hierarchy of importance of relationships for any particular case. The same applies to the saying that “everything changes”; only empirical statements that describe individual changes, their nature, pace, etc., have cognitive value. The saying made philosophical sense in Heraclitus' time, but soon descended into the order of common wisdom known to everyone.

Bertell Ollman, who authored “The Oxford Handbook” chapter on “dialectical method” does seem to capture the core problem of religious approach to the method, yet he clearly presents dialectics as the most powerful analytical tool of all times:

Most methods are meant to apply to only one or at most a few of our problems, but there is at least one method that applies to almost everything, and that is dialectics. It is this vast range and what is required to cover so much territory that gives dialectics its special status but also makes it so difficult to explain, and so easy—​for friends and foes alike—​to distort.

Once you know what really are the “laws”, it's not hard to understand how Soviet biological frauds Trofim Lysenko. Olga Lepeshinskaya and others happily used dialectical method in their works, as it allowed them to deliver an incoherent stream of falsehoods and sylogisms mixed with politically correct references to Marx, Engels, Stalin etc under the guise of “scientific method”. A short sample from Lepeshinskaya's 1950 speech, where she was proving emergence of living cells from inorganic material while bashing “idealistic genetics”:

In our country there are no longer classes hostile to each other, and the struggle of the idealists against the dialectical materialists still, depending on whose interests it defends, has the character of a class struggle. Indeed, the followers of Virchow, Weismann, Mendel and Morgan, who speak of the invariability of the gene and deny the influence of the external environment, are the preachers of the pseudo-scientific stuff of the bourgeois eugenicists and of all perversions in genetics, on the soil of which grew the racial theory of fascism in the capitalist countries. The Second World War was unleashed by the forces of imperialism, which had racism in its armoury.

The whole speech is such a vicious hodge-podge of logical fallacies, mixing biology with capitalism, imperialism, racism, blaming and shaming of political opponents, and countless appeals to authority of the saints: Marx, Engels and ultimately Stalin:

The development of the cell is quite new! Virchow and modern biologists believe that every cell is from a cell. But Engels says something completely different: “The cellless begin their development with a simple protein lump, pulling and retracting in one form or another pseudopodia, — with a monera” (F. Engels. Dialectics of Nature, p. 245. Gosudolitizdat, 1948). (...) Engels defines life as “...the mode of existence of protein bodies, the essential point of which is the constant exchange of substances with the external nature surrounding them, and with the cessation of this exchange of substances life also ceases, which leads to the decomposition of protein” (F. Engels. Dialectics of Nature, p. 244).

If we now return the the Harvey's rather puzzling passages on how you need to accept Marx's “cryptic assertions” — no pressure of course, that's only “if you want to understand” them — that was one of the most common tricks in the world of “dialectical thinking”. If took Harvey's offer for granted, you haven't actually understood anything but your brain has been already rewired: you accepted the new meaning of the word “understand”, and a dozen of other well-established terms that have a very special meaning in Marxism.

Marx is never wrong

What I find very interesting is the attitude of modern Marxists towards the criticism directed at their start's theories. Marx is never wrong — Marx, at worst, could have been “misread”. It's your fault, not Marx's. In most cases, of course, this happens to those “uninitiated”, but can also happen to those who spend their lives on reading Marx.

“The Oxford Handbook” uses this argument rather frequently, for example quoting one respected researcher who “80 years ago” (as they emphasise) patronised the critics of long dead philosopher that “The Manifest is a cryptic and epigrammatic document and therefore easily misread”. He's talking about one of the fundamental documents, “The Communist Manifesto”, which was targeted at the broadest audience and for the whole century was the defining document for the communist goals and methods.

Yet, according to the modern Marxists, you are apparently not expected to simply read what Marx and Engels have written in their own words, in the context of their 19th century. Furthermore, you are neither expected nor allowed to analyse their writings using logic or confront it against empirical evidence. You are expected to apply the very special “method of analysis”, available to chosen ones, otherwise you won't be able to “understand” its “correct meaning” as imagined by today's Marxists who desperately want it to remain it “increasingly relevant” even when Marx's postulates are “cryptic” in today's context.

How is that different from 20th century scientology terminology as invented by L. Ron Hubbard, rather universally perceived as pseudo-scientific and sectarian? As Hubbard explains:

It was found that many old words in the field of philosophy, when used, conveyed to people an entirely new idea. The exactness of Dianetics and Scientology required a more precise approach. This approach was achieved by special naming with an eye to minimal confusion with already supposed or known phenomena.

And in the Scientology literature you can actually find excuses identical to those of the modern “explainers of Marxism”:

The only reason a person gives up a study or becomes confused or unable to learn [Scientology] is because he or she has gone past a word that was not understood.

Interestingly, in a rather funny coincidence (?) both”The Oxford Handbook” and Hubbard use the phrase “technical terminology” for their obfuscating use of common terms. Harvey's passage on “accepting critical assertions if you want to understand them” could be just as well written by Hubbard too.

Why is that? There's a very good reason for such obfuscation: while Marxism has been originally declared a proletarian science, it's the opposite of it. In the early days of Bolshevik revolution it was common for an engineer or a mason (both using maths and geometry in their work on daily basis) to stand up on a party meeting and say “excuse me, comrade, but this simply doesn't add up”.

Marxism as an elitist philosophy

Here's exactly where dialectics comes handy, as it allows you to twist meaning of literally everything in order to prove anything, and this is how you end up with a minority party calling themselves “bolshevik” (“the majority ones”), executing fellow Socialist Revolutionary party and anarchists. Ultimately, with dialectics, you end up in the familiar world where “war is peace; freedom is slavery; ignorance is strength”, and I have given more real-life examples in my article Marxist dialectics as a instrument of self-delusion.

With dialectical method, any common conceptual framework or set of fundamental value which could be used to say “wait comrades, we have diverted too much” loses any sense, because now any level of diversion can be dialectically excused. And ultimately the only way of auditing the compliance of the system with its own values is to refer to a higher authority, which will provide one dialectical interpretation today, but it may provide a completely opposite interpretation tomorrow. The only thing you are expected to do is to accept each of them at any given moment without asking questions.

Now, here's the best part: because everyone stands accused of ignorance and lack of sufficient “initiation” required to properly “understand” the special “method”, no criticism is fruitful because any criticism can be evaded. You can't even argue with Marx's written words, because you have, of course, “misread” them!

And Harveys of our times will conveniently explain what Marx truly meant by overlaying his 150 years old “cryptic assertions” on today's context. Have you ever argued with Jehowa's Witnesses?

Once thing is evident in the modern Marxist literature is a rather desperate desire to keep Marxism somewhat afloat — not because it's an useful or precise tool for explaining modern world, but because it's one of the last “grand theories” (literal terms used by “The Oxford Handbook”). And behind the promise of simplicity that comes bundled with these “grand theories” unfortunately comes a requirement for complete immersion in its sectarian language in order to “understand” and, most importantly, switch off any safety brakes most humans have in the form of critical thinking, life experience, mathematics and logic.

But these are required in order to accept Marxism's “simple” solutions: like eradication of a whole class of a society.

— Paweł Krawczyk Fediverse

In response to a recent #China ambassador in France comment about “unclear legal status” of the former #USSR states[^1] a number of Eastern European countries voiced their protest. For example, Gabrielius Landsbergis, Lithuania MFA:

Lithuania never joined the USSR. Moscow illegally occupied our territory, so we resisted until we restored our independence and the Red Army went back home.[^2]

Why there's even a controversy around such an apparently obvious fact? It's due to how Soviet #Russia annexed these countries. And they did it quite cleverly, preserving a delicate balance of brute force, forgery and theatrical legitimacy, balanced enough to be practical for them but also to be acceptable to be used as a fig leaf for the international community. This allowed them for over half a century maintain a “consensus of ambiguity” in the West: when one historians would talk of occupation, others would refer to the “people's referendums and elections” or “Soviet reconstruction of Poland”, and other classic Soviet-constructed clichés in a “it was not black and white” spirit.

Can't speak for Lithuania as I don't know our friendly neighbour's history well enough, but in case of #Poland this is how it was done:

  1. After Germany was defeated by the Allies who then already included USSR, the Soviet troops found themselves all over the territory of Germany-occupied Poland. Red Army was followed by NKVD. Massive looting of Polish territory by Soviet troops continued between 1946 and 1948. Under official orders of Kremlin Soviet troops took away everything they could, from private property to whole factories, farms and even rail tracks.[^3]
  2. Soviets created a puppet Polish “Provisional Government of National Unity” and held 100% control of the territory with Red Army and NKVD, continuing purges, arrests, show trials and executions of former anti-German resistance who did not pledge allegiance to the Soviets. For example Witold Pilecki, the man who brought the first solid evidence of the genocide in Auschwitz and fought in Warsaw Uprising... was then accused by Soviets of being “Nazi collaborator” and executed.[^4]
  3. In 1946 the puppet government organised a referendum on judicial reforms whose results were entirely falsified.[^5] Why bother? Because in Yalta in 1945 they declared independent and internationally monitored elections will be performed in Poland. The referendum was a delicate trial balloon on the reaction of the West. Apart from admitting the falsifications and “thoughts and prayers” there was none.
  4. Consequently, in 1947 Moscow organised full-scale elections which were also entirely falsified.[^6] This way they kind of “legally” passed all authority over Poland to the single Polish and 100% Moscow-controlled communist party, which they only gave away in 1989.
  5. Soviet looting of Poland continued all this time, as they weren't yet 100% certain if they will keep control. It reached such an extent that even the puppet Polish authorities protested in secret communications to Moscow that it undermines perception of Russians as “friends and liberators” of Poland. Moscow didn't care because anyone with “undermined perception” could be arrested or executed. Overall, Soviet plunder of Poland was estimated at $54 billion, a fraction of which was then returned in the form of Soviet investments in industries perceived necessary by Moscow, who then boasted massively about how they “helped a brotherly socialist republic”.[^3]

This is exactly how it happened in other Eastern European countries, with adjustments to local specifics.

And if you see some historical similarities to the 2014 “referendums” in 2014 Donbass, Crimea, 2022 in occupied regions of Ukraine, it's because it was the very same playbook they executed in Eastern Europe in 1946-1947: loot, kill, stage some fake referendums and elections, take 100% control and... pretend “they joined voluntarily”.

If Russia succeeded in #Ukraine in 2022, that's what they planned for the whole country. Was that a good plan? Judging by Western lukewarm reaction to 1946-1947, and then 2014, in long-term Russia's plan was good enough. Look, today only 9 years have passed since Russian invasion in 2014 but you can clearly see mainstream voices accepting occupation of Crimea as “not entirely legal but kind of OK”.

Today's absurdity of Russia-staged “referendum on joining Zaporizhzhia oblast' into Russia”[^7] when not a single Russian soldier even managed to enter the very town of Zaporizhzhia (!) is obvious to everyone who watch the conflict closely. Most people likely heard about these “not entirely legal” referendums but do not realize the full extent of the violation of laws and common sense. That's today. Do you think in 50 years anyone would care about that?

Therefore, if you are a bit unsettled by a rather dramatic reaction of Eastern European countries to Russia's or China's statements questioning or undermining their sovereignty today, it's precisely because we have seen first hand where these words lead...


— Paweł Krawczyk Fediverse

When looking for some pre-war analysis of #Russia's foreign policies I found a 2016 article “Russia Today: Three Horsemen of the Russian Apocalypse”^1 by Dr Vladimir Pastukhov, an expert on Eastern Europe and Russia on University of Oxford. Back then the author predicted three scenarios of devolution of Russia, two involving one form of collapse or another, and an third one, moderately optimistic, where Russian elites somehow manage to replace rigid centralism and cult of personality with a true federation and democratic society.

Back in 2016 the author saw the origins of the decline in “thinning of Russia’s 'cultural layer' and consequent degradation of the elites”, but Russian society was notably absent from his analysis. This is understandable, as anyone who has ever been to Russia does realize the endemic and hopeless political passivity of vast majority of its society. I encourage reading the whole article, but I will just leave this final paragraph from the 2016 article here:

The sooner Russia breaks apart, the more painful this process will be. To a large degree, the newly formed states will find themselves under the protectorate of neighboring Japan, China, Iran and Turkey. Central “parent” Russia will remain a part of Europe, but for a long time it will be the continent’s “sick man.” For a long time to come, control over Russia’s remaining nuclear arsenal will continue to be the world community’s major headache. While undergoing this agony, Russia can provoke military conflicts of varying intensity.

Russian society as source of violence

Just recently I stumbled upon another analysis by Dr Pastukhov's, this time posted on his Telegram channel^2 in Russian, and I found it so interesting that I translated it to English. It very much seems like the author, after 24 February, lost all illusions and hopes of Russian society:

In an authoritarian (or, as it is also called, “police”) state, the primary source of unlawful violence is power, which spreads numerous metastases into the fabric of society. In totalitarianism, things are more complicated. Here, power plays only the role of a trigger, the primary link of the disease. It affects the fabric of society in such a way that practically every single cell becomes an autonomous isotope, radiating violence. The role of power is further reduced to a policy of two “P's”: provocation and populism. Power provokes with one hand a permanent demand for violence from society, and with the other it organises a populist response to this ever-increasing demand.

Note the switch of the paradigm: it's no longer “the elites” and their cultural deficit, it's the “fabric of society” and “every single cell” that contributes to the overall country's stance. I do agree with this diagnosis, because I have witnessed this cult of social Darwinism flourishing in Russia for over 20 years – it's always either you or them, win-win situation is a battle lost.

One way or another, the source of lethal radiation in the Putin-designed system is society as a whole, not the government. The power in this system is assigned the role of a dispatcher, which regulates the power and intelligently directs the flow of violence in the right direction. Therefore, if we simply tear down power (“remove Putin”, as many dream of doing), then globally it will only lead in the first stage to controlled chaos becoming unmanageable and organised violence becoming unorganised. We are dealing with a society which radiates violence like enriched uranium radiates radiation. So far it is a controlled reaction, which does not become a chain reaction only because the authorities skilfully dispose of the surplus “dark energy”.

That paragraph caused quite a stir among some of Russians I shared this article with. The paradox of those people is that they feel offended, yet themselves they do not watch the most aggressive Russian state TV shows, where hosts and guests routinely call to kill and torture civilians, eradicate whole towns, eradicate whole Ukraine, whole Europe etc, and they don't watch them... because they find them disgusting and violent!

Yet, they are apparently unable to notice that majority of their compatriots does watch them, and they do cheer their guests. It's the same majority they refer to as “cattle” (быдло), speaking of their rudeness in daily life, aggressive and dangerous driving... and all the other reasons why they fence their modern apartment with thick, steel door from the society outside. Yet, they are unable to step out of the collective Russian identity and admit the authoritarianism wasn't built in Russia overnight.

Future scenarios

Dr Pastukhov isn't particularly optimistic, to put that lightly:

Let's assume that this hand, clutched in its dead grip on the control panel, is cut off. Which scenario seems more likely: society miraculously organizes itself and suppresses the violence within itself, or a chain reaction of violence ensues that will eventually spawn a “new Putin” in a cloud of nuclear mushroom? There is no clear answer, but the second scenario seems more likely to me personally.

Anticipating the reproach that in talking about the inevitable challenges that Russian society will face in the event of a revolution I am giving larger chances to the existing regime, I want to say in my defense that I don't see the need to simplify the situation just because it might scare someone and make them grasp at the existing reality as the last straw. The fearful ones should not think about the future of Russia at all – it's a fairy tale for adults with a bad ending, which people with weak nerves shouldn't read at all. For the rest, I will say that there is already a dilemma that “decent people” prefer to remain silent about. Without a broad democratic movement Russia will not be pulled out of the worn-out rut of decivilization (chronic cultural deficiency) and any democratization under the existing conditions will lead to a flood of the most obscene, pogrom-type violence in the country. The natural and seemingly only possible response to this threat is the decision to lower the braking “lead rods” of the new dictatorship into the overheated, radioactive social mass. That is, having said “A”, it is necessary to agree to “B”. If we accept the inevitability of revolution in Russia, then we must also accept the inevitability of a revolutionary dictatorship in Russia. And if we accept the inevitability of a revolutionary dictatorship, then we must ask ourselves what mechanisms can be proposed to prevent the revolutionary dictatorship from turning into a reactionary one (and Russia from entering the third circle of “Stalinism-Putinism”)?

At this point, I would like to bring back Pastukhov's quote from 2016, which explains the position from which he's assessing the rationality of the Russian society and its elites:

The world community, in spite of its selfish instincts, will have to exercise great wisdom and careful consideration to be able to discern and support the seedlings of a new Russia, for the very simple reason that preserving manageability and stability across such an enormous space are in the vital interest of all humankind. Admittedly, the chances for the realization of this scenario remain very small. (...) For the world at large, preserving Russia’s unity remains without any doubt the least expensive and the least dangerous scenario.

Returning to the 2023 publication, Pastukhov is pessimistic specifically because you can't impose a mature democracy on a society that does not want it:

The guarantees of the rule of law and constitutionalism (and, of course, democracy) do not lie in the legal and institutional plane, but in the cultural and political planes. The only real guarantee against an eternal dictatorship is a constitutional-democratic social consensus, that is, a value-based (if you like, “conceptual”) unity among the elite. Everything else is a mirage.

Is this possible at all? I believe it's certainly not impossible: Russian elites tried one way (Dugin's anti-rationalism) and they may learn their lesson or may not. There's nothing preventing more optimistic scenarios for Russia... other than widespread belief that you can bully your neighbour, either on a shared stairway or on a shared continent, by mere brute force. Whether the lesson will be learned certainly depends on the outcome of the military stage of the war, because if Putin is given an opportunity to even pretend a victory, what's any lesson to learn here?

— Paweł Krawczyk Fediverse

For a few decades now there was an interesting model of #Russia statehood discussed inside the country, called the “theory of opers and operators”, created by Aleksandr Volkov.^2 Its name is a game of words: “operators” was allegedly term used by FBI to describe financial managers of KGB assets in the West. “Oper” is a Russian slang word for KGB officers.

Quoting directly from one of recent articles that describe the theory:^1

The gist of the theory is that in the early 1970s the KGB of the USSR set up a network of offshore companies to help foreign trade missions circumvent Western sanctions on the purchase of high-tech equipment. The oil crisis and the increase in the US discount rate to 20% under Ronald Reagan led to the accumulation of considerable sums in the accounts of #KGB offshore companies, which ended up in a grey area: the party organs no longer controlled them, while from the Western perspective they were normal capitals. Having both large sums and understanding of how they could be disposed of, officers in Soviet foreign offices began to invest money and make profits within the framework of Western economy. As a result, in the 1980s, the KGB's offshore capital rose to its feet and became independent of cash infusions from the Union.

While Soviet Union existed, the cash was kind of frozen – KGB officers couldn't spend it completely at their will, only steal fraction on various service-related expenses. But then comes 1991 and everything changed:

After the fall of the #USSR, these funds are partly returned home and used to buy up assets. In the framework of the theory, the nineties are a period of struggle between the KGBists, who have settled in the West, and the party-economic elite of the former USSR – a struggle for control of the assets of the communist empire. The Chekists, as a more consolidated group, having at their disposal large capitals, financial infrastructure and, most importantly, close ties with the security/law enforcement agencies on the ground – won this struggle by gobbling up both the “red directors” and the “new Russians” from the organised crime. By the late nineties and early 2000's, the process of redistribution of big business was complete. The offshore Chekists had taken control of the biggest assets and could have stopped their careers at this.

But history never stops at any given moment — the “old guard” could have earned billions by merely working in KGB/FSB, then why not us, thought young aspiring officers? The financial success of the KGB created a huge demand for jobs in the security services, but there were no longer any secret KGB stashes abroad. Another solution was found:

By that time, a mechanism had been developed for taking over businesses through quasi-legal mechanisms and, most importantly, a large layer of operatives had grown up who perceived racket as an organic part of their career development. Since the youngsters could not repeat the success their ancestors, they turned for the regular people: they started stealing first medium and then small businesses. In fact, the devouring of businesses by low-ranking Chekists (hungry operatives) is the main content of 2000-2010's. It is typical that during this period Putin systematically called for an end to the crackdown on business, but in fact did nothing about it, because he simply could not go against the backbone of the regime.

Widespread racket, takeover and stealing of businesses in Russia in 2000-2010's is a fact: all private media and TV stations were taken over this way — cases of Vladimir Gusinsky^3, VK^4, Hermitage Capital Management^5 were most reported, but there were thousands of other smaller and less known companies stolen.

The authors of the “theory of opers and operators” believe that this wave of cannibalistic takeovers, often carried out by people with zero experience in business, led to gradual decline of Russian economy and decline of its competitiveness.

There was nothing more valuable left to be taken over, but appetites of the “opers” were still high, and their cadres were still growing in numbers – I remember statistics where at some point ~15% of the working population in some regions was employed in some kind of security services.

Grab for Ukraine

The authors believe the conflict with #Ukraine that started in 2014^6 is largely influence by the economic motives among the Russian security apparatus running out of businesses to steal in their own country, as described above. Having said that, authors interestingly point out that while annexation of #Crimea logically seems to be an extension of this “economic grab”, they argue motivation behind specifically Crimea was entirely political.

If we stick to economic determinism, we can assume that the return of Crimea was dictated by a desire to expand the fodder base of the KGBists. In fact, this (inherently Marxist) assumption is flawed. If Putin had been guided by this consideration, he would have taken not a single (and very small) region, but all or a significant part of Ukraine, redistributing property there and distributing fodder. This, as we know, did not happen.

I cannot but notice, that the article contradicts itself in this specific part: the authors argue that “the new aristocracy” (FSB) had no motives to start the whole “Crimean affair”, thus hurting their own interests, only to satisfy the appetites of their younger colleagues. Firstly, the economic decline in 2010's Russia was a fact, as was declining ratings of Putin (record low 62% in 2013), and constantly growing security apparatus.

In 2013 there was a strong pressure on Ukraine for “economic integration” with Russia and the very direct cause for #Euromaidan was specifically the surprising decision of Yanukovych to turn away EU association agreement^7 and instead join Russian economic zone. If the latter happened, FSB could simply continue expanding their “fodder base” into Ukraine unhindered, as it did in Russia. But that was prevented by mass-scale protests of Ukrainians, by order of magnitude larger than Russian protests against Putin's “re-election” in 2012.^8

And as the fodder has been taken away from FSB, they had a strong motivation to at least grab Crimea, which would both provide some consolation to the hungry elites, punishment for Ukraine, and rating boost for Putin.

Crimea certainly provided a wealthy trophy, as wave of business takeovers demonstrated shortly after it was annexed, with plenty of new private, fenced beaches in the most attractive places.^9 How does war in #Donbass fit into this hypothesis? It's interesting case, because politically war in Donbass has been a complete failure, leading to no political wins and instead a lengthy, frozen conflict and plenty of troubles for Russia.

Was there anyone gaining from war in Donbass? Of course — only in the first two years of the war over 50% of large industrial enterprises have been looted by occupiers^10 and, noted by many people, the absurd separation into two — Luhansk and Donetsk — “People's Republics”, has no political purpose or explanation. But it creates perfect “zones of exclusive economic rights” between organized crime controlled by FSB and GRU respectively. And, as with every organized crime groups competing for resources, there were a number of assassinations of top LPR/DPR heads and even shootings between LPR and DPR militias.

FSB and the war in Ukraine

Returning to the Ukrainian extension of the “theory of opers and operators”, authors believe this orientation of Russian elites exclusively on its own wealth and welfare explains lukewarm attitudes towards the victory. Make no mistake, the authors represent 100% Russian nationalist view and definitely support the idea of forcible submission of Ukraine, they are just critical of how Putin does it.

They believe what others call “incompetence” is simply result of different than official actual goals of the conflict: they argue, the “economic vector” explains the vague and frequently changing official objectives of the “special military operation”, lack of any specific description of what “victory” would mean for Russia in this war, but also demoralisation inside Russia itself — widespread corruption in the army, theft of military equipment that would otherwise help war effort and even shutting down of specific military industries when they are most needed.

In essence, the Chekist regime seeks not so much to win as to adapt to conditions new to it (in fact, the conditions of a forced and unnatural confrontation between bees and honey). Within this logic, the population and the economy continue to be viewed solely as fodder (and hence there is nothing strange about the sawing up of a factory needed for the front), and the military defeat and destruction of Ukraine does not look particularly attractive.

The advantage of an extended war, for Russian “elites” following this logic, is not only the mobilization effort which allows continued theft on the generously allocated military budget (30% of overall state budget now!), mobilization of the poorest parts of the society (who had been likely kept in this state for the last decade for purpose) with the perspective of generous military compensations^11 but also unrestricted looting of the newly occupied territories.

Looting on mass scale allows to at least for a while satisfy not only individual “entrepreneurs” on all levels, from regular soldiers stealing electronics or jewellery from Ukrainian homes, large scale theft of Ukrainian grain and up to professionally organised theft of artwork from Kherson museum^12, but — most importantly — the FSB that likely takes share of every item brought back to Russia.

— Paweł Krawczyk Fediverse

Oleg Pshenichnyi from The Insider made a great collection of quotes from leaders of #Russia, #Ukraine and international politicians related to the war. Unfortunately, so far it has been only published in Russian. Here's the collection in automated DeepL translation (with a few manual tweaks). I have posted a similar analysis back in June (Russian deception and denial of war in Ukraine), and it indeed shares some of the quotes with this one, but of course Pshenichnyi list is much larger as it spans over the whole year. I find these quotes to be very valuable evidence of rapidly changing Russian narratives and justifications.

January: “Russia is not going to attack anyone!

UK Foreign Office: “We have information indicating that the Russian government is seeking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kiev as it as it considering the invasion and occupation of Ukraine”.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki: “President Putin created this crisis, by gathering 100,000 Russian soldiers along the Ukrainian border. We have reached a level of level of tension that Russia is ready to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine at any moment.”

Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen Mark Milley: “Given the kind of forces assembled – ground manoeuvre forces, artillery, ballistic missiles, air force – if all this is used together against Ukraine, something very serious will happen that will lead to a significant number of casualties. Can you imagine what it would look like in densely populated areas, near roads and so on. It could be just nightmarish.”

Sergey Lavrov (to US Secretary of State): “You claim that we are going to attack Ukraine, even though we have already explained many times that this is not the case.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov: “There is no risk of a large-scale war that could break out in Europe or elsewhere. We do not intend to take any aggressive actions. We do not intend to attack or invade Ukraine.”

The Russian Embassy in the US: “Once again we emphasise: Russia is not going to attack anyone. The practice of moving troops on our own soil is our sovereign right. We urge that there be no more hysteria and no more tension around the problem of Donbas. And most importantly, do not encourage “hotheads” in Kyiv to new provocations”.

Vladimir Zelenski: “What is the news, exactly? Hasn't this been a reality for 8 years? Didn't the invasion begin in 2014? Isn't the threat of a large-scale war appeared only now? This danger has been around for more than a day. And they haven't become bigger. The hype around them has gotten bigger. And now they're actively attacking not our but on your nerves. So that you have a constant sense of unease. All of our citizens, especially the elderly, need to understand that. Breathe out and calm down. Don't run out for buckwheat and matches. What should you do? There's only one thing to do. calmness, a cool head, confidence in your forces, in your army, in our Ukraine. <...> And I am sure that in my New Year address I will say: “Dear Ukrainians! Didn't I tell you? We are good!” We did not panic. We were not provoked. We were calm and strong and we are greeting the next New Year. Without panic. Without no horror. Hopefully without viruses. And I sincerely believe – without war.

Boris Johnson: “We have agreed that we will respond in a coordinated manner to any Russia's attack on Ukraine. In a co-ordinated way, by imposing tough joint sanctions, which will be tougher than any we have ever imposed on Russia before.”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: “Ukraine poses no threat to Russia. It is the idea of a democratic, stable Ukraine that is a problem for [Kremlin]... The risk of conflict is great. Russia's aggressive actions undermine security in Europe...NATO will engage in substantive dialogue with Russia in a spirit of benevolence. However, one must be prepared for the possibility that diplomacy will fail... Aggression against Ukraine will have will have serious consequences for Russia”.

February. “Russian warship”.

Vladimir Putin: “Our plans do not include the occupation of Ukrainian territories. We We are not going to impose anything on anyone by force. We will strive demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine.

Volodymyr Zelenski: “The battle is happening here. I need arms, not evacuation”.

Alexei Navalny: “This war is designed to distract attention from Russia's problems... I think those who started this war are bandits and thieves”.

Boris Johnson: “This is an attack on democracy and freedom in Eastern Europe and around the world. world. We will make sure that this terrible, barbaric adventure by Vladimir Putin will fail.”

Genichesk resident: “You are occupiers! You are fascists! You fascists! Why the fuck did you come with guns to us? Put some sunflowers in your pockets, when you're down here...!”

Ukrainian border guard: “Russian warship – fuck you!

The mate of a Georgian refuelling ship (to a Russian ship): “If you run out of fuel you run out of fuel – you can use your oars”.

Dan Watson of the Red Cross: “For ordinary people, the situation is apocalyptic.”

Miloš Zeman: “I said the Russians are not crazy and will not attack Ukraine. I admit that I was wrong... A madman must be isolated”.

Oleksiy Arestovych, advisor to the Ukrainian president's office: “According to our data, the first Russian Federation's strike has failed.”

March. “This is where we bury them.”

Vladimir Putin: “Saving people from a genocide is the main goal of the special operation in Ukraine.”

Vladimir Zelensky: “The strike on Kharkiv is a war crime, state terrorism of the Russian Federation. After this, Russia is a terrorist state.”

Pavel Kirilenko, head of the Donetsk region: “The town of Volnovakha no longer no longer exists”.

Mariupol deputy mayor Serhiy Orlov: “In the bombed out Drama Theatre building there were sheltering 1,000 to 2,000 residents [...] 80-90% of the city was bombed. Not a building is without damage. Either destroyed or damaged”.

Ramzan Kadyrov: “We should go into Kiev and take Kiev away. If we had been left near Kiev, we would have gone into Kiev and cleaned up”.

Alexander Lukashenko: “And now I will show you from where Belarus was being prepared to was being prepared to attack. And if six hours before the operation there had not been a preemptive – I'll show you a map – they would have attacked our troops.”

Alexei Arestovich: “The Russian army is not strong. It is just long. Eight out of Putin's ten armies are here. This is where we bury them...”

Lyudmila Narusova: “ were forced to sign a contract or were signed for them The conscripts were made to sign the contract or they signed it for them. But in the end only four of the company of a hundred men survived”.

Channel One editor Marina Ovsyannikova: “Russia is an aggressor country. And the responsibility for this crime lies only on the conscience of one person. And that person is Vladimir Putin... Unfortunately, for the last few years I have been working Channel One, doing Kremlin propaganda, and I am now very ashamed for that”.

Joe Biden: “Two hundred thousand Russians have already fled from Putin [...] God knows this man man cannot stay in power.”

April. “How do you negotiate with a crocodile?

Volodymyr Zelenskyy: “We will establish the full truth about all these atrocities . No matter how much time and effort it takes, we will find them all.”

Sergey Lavrov: “As a gesture of goodwill, changed the configuration of troops in Chernihiv and Kiev oblasts, but this was not appreciated. Immediately there was a staging in Bucha. This plot was played out in the same way as the plot with Skripals, with the Malaysian Boeing, Navalny, Litvinenko”.

Alexei Arestovich: “Those who attack don't usually take trophies. You don't go to Kiev with a carpet under your arm... When they realised they were going to retreat and there's nothing to lose, they started to execute it all...”

Boris Johnson: “How can you negotiate with a crocodile when it has your leg in in its jaws?”

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, German president: “My commitment to the “Nord Stream 2 was clearly a mistake. We were holding on to bridges that Russia no longer believed in, as our partners warned us.”

Sergei Shoigu: “The US and Western-controlled countries... are demonstrating intentions to provoke the Kiev regime to fight to the last Ukrainian.”

Maxim Marchenko, head of the Odessa military administration: “The missile cruiser Moskva went exactly where our border guards sent it today on Snake Island.”

The sunken cruiser Moskva

Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General: “I was shocked when I was told that two rockets exploded in the city of Kiev, where I am. This is a dramatic war and we absolutely need to end this war, to have a way out of of this war.”

FSB CJC: “A group of members of the Russian-banned neo-Nazi terrorist organization National Socialism/White Power – Russian citizens – have been detained. By orders from SBU they planned assassination of a well-known journalist Vladimir Solovyov. During a search of the detainees, we found and seized an improvised explosive device. an improvised explosive device, a rifle cut from a hunting rifle, pistols and cartridges, Molotov cocktail type incendiary devices, a grenade as well as forged Ukrainian passports”.

May. “Russia is here forever”.

Andrei Turchak: “I wanted to say once again to the residents of the Kherson region that Russia is here forever. There should be no doubt about that”.

Alexei Navalny: “You will suffer a historic defeat in this stupid war, that you have started. It has no purpose and no meaning”.

Lithuanian Seimas (unanimous): “The Kremlin regime seeks to destroy the Ukrainian. Therefore, such actions must be recognized as genocide, and Russia is a State which supports terrorism. A state that supports and carries out terrorism”.

Valeriy Zaluzhniy, AFU Commander-in-Chief: “Informed my American counterpart I have informed my American colleague about the transition of Ukrainian defence forces to counteroffensive actions in the Kharkiv and Izyum directions”.

Andriy Melnyk, Ukraine's ambassador to Germany: “Militarily, Berlin has simply abandoned Ukraine. They probably lack leadership and courage”.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz: “Already now Vladimir Putin has failed in all his strategic goals. A Russian takeover of the whole of Ukraine is even less realistic today than than at the beginning of the war. Putin cannot be allowed to win his war. And I am convinced that he will not “he will not win it.

Vladimir Zelensky: “Mr. Kissinger, for example, emerges from the deep past and says that it is allegedly necessary to give Russia a piece of Ukraine. Such It feels like Mr. Kissinger has 1938 on the calendar, not 2022, and he thinks he's talking to an audience not in Davos but in what was then Munich.”

Sergey Lavrov: “Zelensky is making an argument: what kind of Nazification if he is a Jew. I could be wrong, but Hitler also had Jewish blood. Wise Jewish people say that the most ardent anti-Semites tend to be are usually Jews. “There's always a Jew in the family”, as we say.

Alexander Lukashenko: “I absolutely believe that the use of nuclear weapons on the territory of Ukraine is inadmissible, also because it is close to us. Not exactly here, but not across the ocean, like the United States.”

Yuri Shevchuk, musician: “The homeland, my friends, is not the president's asshole that you have to all the time, you have to kiss it. The homeland is a pauper granny at a train station selling selling potatoes. This is the motherland.”

June. “A gesture of goodwill”

Mikhail Piotrovsky, Director of the Hermitage: “On the one hand, war is blood On the other hand it is the self-affirmation of the people, the self-affirmation of the nation. Every man wants to assert himself. And in his position on the war, is undoubtedly self-asserting itself. And we've all been brought up in the imperial and an empire unites many nations.

Max Pokrovsky, musician: “If the colour of the nation is so rotten that it cannot get together and sing one anti-war song (and, as we know, many do the exact opposite), what can we expect from the nation?”

Vadim Boychenko, mayor of Mariupol: “Our cautious figure, while we could still It is 22 thousand civilians killed by the occupation troops. This is many times more than Nazi Germany did in two years of occupation.”

Vladimir Putin (on the missile attack on a shopping mall in Kremenchug with dozens of casualties): “Yes, there was no terrorist act, no explosion. No one just shoots and strikes just like that in the fields, as a rule it is done against targets we've been exploring. I am sure that the same thing happened in this case. The Russian army doesn't strike any civilian objects.”

Igor Konashenkov, Russian Ministry of Defence spokesman: “In a move of goodwill, the Russian Armed Forces have completed their tasks on Snake Island and withdrawn the garrison there.”

Emmanuel Macron: “We must not humiliate Russia so that when the fighting so that when the fighting stops, we can find a way out through diplomatic solutions.”

Dmytro Kuleba, Ukrainian Foreign Minister: “Calls not to allow the humiliation of Russia can only humiliate France or any other country that would to call for it. Because Russia humiliates itself. We are all better off concentrate on putting the Russian Federation in its place. This will bring peace back and save lives.”

Colin Kahl, US deputy defence secretary: “The HIMARS will give the Ukrainians more capabilities to confront them. Right now, they have the howitzers that we've already given them, and the range of the HIMARS is more than twice as long, which will allow them – even with fewer launchers – to be more successful against [Russian forces].”

Grigory Yavlinsky: “Smart Voting” at the behest of the “leader” [Alexei Navalny], which was announced as a protest vote and became mass among people who called themselves liberals, in reality it turned out to be a vote for representatives of pro-government parties that supported, support and will continue to support the war.”

Leo Tolstoy (quote for which Moscow MP Pavel Yarilin): “And stupefied by prayers, sermons, proclamations, processions, pictures, newspapers, cannon fodder, hundreds of thousands of people uniformly dressed, with a variety of murder weapons, leaving their parents, their wives, their children with a longing in their their hearts, but with a youthfulness in their hearts, go to the place where, at the risk of death, to do the most terrible thing of all: killing people they don't know and who have done them no harm.”

July. “We will pick up and take away. Ukrainian children will be ours”.

Vladimir Putin: “It was not Russia who unleashed the war in Ukraine, but the collective West... Everyone should know that we, by and large, have not started anything serious yet.”

Putin: “Everyone should know that we haven't even really started yet”.

Unnamed US DOD official – CNN: “Russia has sent about 85% of its army to invade Ukraine. Russian casualties amount to thousands of lieutenants and captains, hundreds of colonels and many generals.”

Alexei Arestovich: “I have one answer: 'You haven't started, but you're already finished'. Everyone can see these endeavours have very little time left. A month and a half and they will stall quietly. They won't be able to advance any more”.

Anton Krasovsky, propagandist: “There was a discussion whether a tear of our Russian child is worth the tear of a Ukrainian child... When we take back these lands and the children will be Russian, then we will protect them.... We will take back, take back, take back – and these children will be ours.”

Anna Kuznetsova, Deputy Chairman of the State Duma of the Russian Federation: “The evacuation of more than 2,000 orphaned children has been carried out since the start of the special military operation (SSO) from the territory of Ukraine to Russia”.

Vladimir Zelensky (on the strike on Nikolaev): “It is a double crime to It is a double crime to destroy pedagogical institutes, so that there is no educational institution, and new teachers can't be taught. But don't let the terrorists hope that this that it will do them any good. We will definitely rebuild everything they have destroyed, every one of more than 2,000 educational institutions, all kindergartens, all schools, institutes, universities, and most importantly, we will preserve our humanity and civility.”

Ukrainian army general staff: “Explosions in Olenivka, which led to the deaths of Ukrainian prisoners of war are a deliberate provocation and an undeniable act of terrorism by the occupier's armed forces. According to the Ukrainian Defence Ministry's GUR. Ukrainian Ministry of Defence, it was committed by mercenaries from the Wagner PMC. The organization and execution of the terrorist act was not coordinated with the leadership of the Russian Ministry of Defence. The main purpose of the terrorist act is to conceal the facts of total embezzlement of funds allocated for the Ukrainian prisoners of war. It is known that a commission from Moscow was due to arrive at the “facility” on 1 August.”

Ramzan Kadyrov: “We are already developing a plan for the demilitarisation of NATO countries, and the first The first one after the capture of Kiev is Poland <...> Poland will become a reality as fast as it has become a country if it doesn't stop yapping, as quickly as it became a country if it doesn't stop yapping”.

Dmitry Chistyakov, a retired EMERCOM official: “No more bloodshed! Don't be fooled by the phrase, that “we'll never know the whole truth anyway! Everything is not so clear-cut!”. In a world where every move is filmed on an iPhone and every shop has a security camera in every store, oblivion won't work. In my second Chechen war, I pretty soon I understood what it was like and that's why I'm not a member of any veteran organization. War is a monstrosity which is not worthy of glorification, it is always a savoury set of of war crimes.”

Dmytro Kuleba, Ukrainian foreign minister: “Let's first change the situation on the front, and then we will talk to Russia. Everyone understands that the negotiations are directly “Everyone understands that the negotiations are directly linked to the situation at the front. I simply say to all our partners: “Russia should sit down at the negotiating table Russia should come to the negotiating table after its defeat on the battlefield. Otherwise it will be the language of ultimatums again...”

August: “Tired of your Russophobic clucking”

Dmitry Medvedev: “European bosses are fed up with their Russophobic clucking about Schengen visas for citizens of our country. They'd better introduce a total ban on those visas.”

Vladimir Zelenski: “The most important sanctions are closing the borders. Let them live in their own world until they change their philosophy (...) Whatever kind of Russians they are... send them back to Russia. Then they will understand. They will say, “This [war] has nothing to do with us. The whole population can't be held responsibility, can it?” It can. The population has chosen this government, and they doesn't fight it, doesn't argue with it, doesn't shout at it.”

Russian Deputy Defence Minister Aleksandr Fomin: “The Kiev authorities do not limit themselves by any moral or legal standards. On a daily basis, members of nationalist battalions commit crimes that are not properly assessed by the international community. The shelling of markets, railway stations, residential neighbourhoods, humanitarian aid distribution points and other places of of mass gatherings of people.”

Catherine Russell, UNICEF director: “At least 972 children have been killed or injured as a result of violence since the escalation of the war in Ukraine. And these are just figures that the United Nations has been able to verify.”

The Ukrainian representation to the EU: “We are grateful to the European Union for joining Ukraine's case before the International Court of Justice against Russia on charges of genocide.

Oleksiy Reznikov: “A new threat to Ukraine could be the fatigue of the of the international community from this war. “I call it fatigue syndrome, and for me this is one of the main threats, and we need to work with this threat... Because it is very, very dangerous for us”.

Donald Trump: “Putin couldn't attack Ukraine if it were me. Ukrainians could have given up Crimea. They could have said 'OK, we won't join NATO,” and would have had a country, because I think Putin wanted to to make an agreement.”

Olga Stefanyshyna, Ukraine's deputy prime minister: “Once upon a time, we aspired to join NATO to become part of a collective security system and prevent a big war. Today the situation is different. On the territory of Ukraine there is an ongoing full-scale war, during which NATO as an organisation has nothing to We work more individually with allied states and they themselves are more inclined to bilateralism. They are more inclined to bilateral cooperation.”

Mikhail Podolyak: “The massive shelling of Ukraine on Independence Day is yet another manifestation of the helplessness and terrorist nature of the Russian barbarians after six months of disgrace and defeat. Is it still not clear that the attempt to intimidate Ukrainians is a totally losing idea? Better think about the final “goodwill gesture”.

Vladimir Zelenskiy: “What is the end of war for us? We used to say: peace. Now we say: victory... And we don't sit down at the negotiating table out of fear, with with a gun to our head. And we put our hands up only once – when we celebrate to celebrate our victory. All over Ukraine. Because we do not bargain with our our lands and our people. For us Ukraine is the whole Ukraine. All 25 regions, without any concessions or compromises.”

September. “We gained air and at my command – Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!”

Russian Defence Ministry (on the retreat from Kharkiv Region): ““It has been decided to regroup Russian troops in the Balakley and Izyum districts. To this end, within three days. An operation was carried out to roll back and organize the redeployment Izyum-Balakleya group of troops to the territory of the DPR”.

St Petersburg municipal deputies: “We believe that President Putin's decision Putin's decision to launch the USO is detrimental to the security of Russia and its citizens. In this connection we ask you to propose to bring charges of treason against the President of the Russian Federation to remove him from office”.

Alla Pugacheva: “Please count me among the ranks of foreign agents of my beloved country, for I stand in solidarity with my husband, an honest, decent and sincere man, “a true and incorruptible patriot of Russia, who wishes his homeland prosperity, peaceful life, freedom of speech, and an end to the deaths of our boys for illusory causes, making our country a pariah and weighing down the lives of our citizens.”

Alexei Navalny: “My demand: an end to the criminal war and idiotic mobilisation.”

Alexei Gorinov, political prisoner (final word in court): “I want to admit my guilt. Guilt before the long-suffering people of Ukraine... The guilt that I, as a citizen of my country, I was not able to do anything, I was not able to prevent the ongoing madness.”

Ruslan Zinin, who shot the military commander of Ust-Ilimsk: “Now we will all go home and no one will fight”.

Viktor Orban, Hungarian prime minister: “The war in Ukraine may continue until 2030 г. Ukraine could lose 1/3 or 50% of its territory. The war would have been Ukraine's war but the West has intervened and made it global. By imposing restrictions, Europe is shooting itself in the foot.”

Vladimir Putin: “Politicians in Europe have to convince their fellow citizens to eat less, bathe less and dress warmly at home. And those who start asking “and ask fair questions like 'why is it like this?'” – are immediately labeled enemies, extremists and radicals.”

Vladimir Zelenski: “Our state has always offered Russia to agree to coexistence on equal, fair, dignified and just terms. Obviously, this is impossible with this Russian president. He does not know what dignity and honesty. That is why we are ready for a dialogue with Russia, but with another president of Russia.

Vladimir Putin: “We took in the air and on my command on the count of three. One, two, three! (cheering) Hooray! (cheering) Hooray! Hooray!”

October. “Use your brains!”

Anton Krasovsky: “Such should have been drowned in Tysin. You said that “Moskals occupied them” – and you just throw them into the river with a strong current. There every hut is called Smerekova Hata. Right into this Smerek's hut... to hammer and burn”.

Vladimir Putin: “I will talk to the lawyers. Even, frankly, I haven't I have not even thought about whether it is necessary to declare by decree that the partial mobilisation is complete. But it is completed, the point has been set.”

Dmitry Peskov: (on the borders of the annexed regions). “Part of the clarification has already has arrived, I'll tell you in less legal terms. The LNR and DNR are the borders of 2014. Kherson and Zaporizhzhya – we will continue to consult with the population of these regions.”

G7 statement: ““The G7 strongly condemns and unequivocally rejects Russia's unlawful attempt to annex the Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporozhye and Kherson regions of Ukraine and Kherson oblasts of Ukraine, in addition to the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of city of Sevastopol. We solemnly reaffirm that we will never recognize this illegal annexation or the bogus referendums Russia uses to justify it.”

UN General Assembly: “Russia's unlawful actions regarding illegal Referendums held on 23-27 September 2022 in the Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, Luhansk and Kherson regions of Ukraine, Luhansk and Kherson regions of Ukraine, and the subsequent attempt to illegally annexation of these oblasts is null and void and does not constitute grounds for any change in the status of these oblasts of Ukraine”.

Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the occupation administration in Kherson: “There is no movement. They will not enter Kherson, it is impossible”.

Vladimir Putin: ““Any alternative point of view is declared in the West as subversive propaganda and a threat to democracy, the Kremlin is seen everywhere. Whatever comes out of Russia is now all the machinations of the Kremlin. Are we really so all-powerful? This is nonsense, what a descent to. You can not blame everything on the intrigues of the Kremlin. Use your brains!”

RUSSIAN FEDERAL SECURITY SERVICE: “The organizer of the terrorist attack on the Crimean bridge was the Main Directorate of Ukrainian Defence Intelligence Directorate, its head Kirill Budanov, his staff and agents. Citizens of Ukraine were involved in organising the transport of cargo from Bulgaria to the port of Poti, Georgia, and then to Armenia. In order to transport the cargo from Bulgaria to the port of Poti, Georgia, and then on to Armenia, Ukrainian nationals Mikhail Tsyurkalo, born in 1975 in Kovalyk, were involved, born in 1975, Denis Olegovich Kovach, born in 1979, Roman Ivanovich Solomko, born in 1971. Mr. Solomko Roman Ivanovich, born in 1971; Mr. Inosaridze Sandro, a citizen of Georgia, a broker named “Levan”; and Mr. Terchanian Artur, a citizen of Armenia. Artur Terchanyan, born in 1985.”

Vladimir Zelenski: “We certainly didn't order that.”

Ukrainian GUR (on the first mass rocket attack on Ukrainian cities): “Russian occupation forces have been instructed by the Kremlin to prepare massive missile strikes on Ukraine's civilian infrastructure as early as 2 and 3 October. Strategic and long-range aviation units received orders to to prepare for the task of massive rocket attacks. The targets were determined to be critical civilian infrastructure and central areas of densely populated Ukrainian cities.”

November. “If we manage to lose, The Hague awaits even the Kremlin janitor”

Sergei Surovikin (on the surrender of Kherson): “Comrade Minister of Defence, I report. “We are successfully resisting all enemy offensive attempts. <...>...<...> Comprehensively having assessed the situation, it is proposed to take up defence along the left bank of the of the Dnieper River. I understand that this is a very difficult decision”.

Oleksiy Arestovich: “Let's get this right – the Russian army is not leaving Kherson. It has been knocked out of Kherson by the Ukrainian Defence Forces”.

Ekaterina Shulman: “I have one question: why did you rewrite the constitution, you lazybones? With the kind of military fortune we have, we could have wisely waited. This is the basic law, not the Notes by the Bedside, it's not all the events of the day.”

Margarita Simonyan: “If we manage to lose, The Hague awaits even the janitor who sweeps the paving stones inside the Kremlin wall. What good will it do us if one more district of Kiev goes without light or or not? The scale of the catastrophe our country will turn into if we manage to do it [lose] can't even be imagined.”

Vladimir Putin (to Nina Pshenichkina, whose son died in Luhansk in 2019): “We will all leave this world someday...Some do or don't live, it is not clear. And how do they leave? From vodka or something else. But your son lived. And his his goal was accomplished. That means he did not leave life in vain.”

Yevgeny Prigozhin (on the defector Nuzhin killed with a sledgehammer): “As for the perpetrator, the show shows that he didn't find happiness in Ukraine, but he met unkind but fair people. It seems to me that this film is called “To a Dog, Death by a Dog.” It's a great director's work, and it's... in the same breath. I hope no animals were harmed during the filming”.

Andrey Loshak, documentary filmmaker: “Russian missiles plunge Ukraine into darkness. Russia itself has been living in darkness for a long time, now dragging stubbornly into it Ukrainians who are desperately resisting. With the imposition of sanctions on energy sanctions, darkness has become a staple of Russian exports. ... There is not a single idea how to make the world a better place. ... No matter how many bombs the Russian army drops on Ukraine's power grid, the country will have a bright future and Russians will have an endless bad trip, a long and painful plunge into the heart of darkness.”

Dmitry Medvedev: “Against us today is part of a dying world. It is a bunch of insane Nazi junkies, a nation drugged and intimidated by them, and a large pack of barking dogs from the Western kennel. With them a motley pack of grunting gilts and and the small-minded philistines of a collapsed western empire with drool dripping down their chins of degenerate saliva. They have no faith and no ideals except their own made-up and their own obscene habits and standards of doublethink that deny the morality bestowed upon normal men. So by rising up against them. have gained sacred power.”

Volodymyr Zelenskiy: “If someone proposes a way for us to return Crimea back into the country in a non-military way, I would only be in favour. If, however, a possible solution is military, then there is no need to waste time on this.”

Alexei Navalny: “General Sergei Surovikin is not only a war criminal, but also a common thief. “General Armageddon... has already made hundreds of millions of rubles from the war in Syria and bought himself luxury housing with that money. Now all of his family's his family's assets are simply classified. Maria Singer and Georgy Alburov, in a new investigation reveals how one of Russia's top military Russia's top military leader.”

December. “Gerasimov is a faggot and a fuckin' devil.”

Vladimir Putin “We have nothing to reproach ourselves with. We have always considered the Ukrainian people as a brotherly people. I still think so. What is happening is, of course, our common tragedy. But it is not the result of our politics.”

Alexander Kibovsky, head of the Moscow department of culture: “We are fighting Nazis. That's why it's right to quote Konstantin Simonov's lines: 'So kill one! Then kill him quickly! As many times as you see!” Work, brothers!”

Valery Fadeyev, head of the HRC of Russian Federation: “The Nobel Peace Prize has ceased to be a prize of any significance, and secondly, it is no longer a peace prize, It has finally discredited itself with today's decision. I would like to advise the Russian Memorial to give up this prize in order to retain to preserve at least a vestige of good memories of itself.”

Vladimir Putin: “Maximum focus and concentration of forces is now required from the counter-intelligence agencies, including the military. It is necessary to harshly suppress the actions of foreign secret services. The actions of foreign intelligence services must be harshly suppressed and traitors, spies and saboteurs must be promptly identified.”

Wagner PMC mercenaries: “To the Chief of General Staff: you're a f*cking faggot and a fucker. We have nothing to fight with, we have no shells. We're here at Bakhmut against the entire the entire Ukrainian army. There's nothing else to fucking call you but one word.”

Vladimir Putin: “99.9% of our citizens, our people are ready to give everything in in the interests of our Motherland... This convinces me once again that Russia is a special country. country and we have special people.”

Senior Lieutenant Dmitriy Vasilets: “It's better to go to jail, but not to commit these acts, not to encourage your subordinates to do it. A lot of people think they don't have a choice. My point is that there is always a choice. It's better to go to jail than than to overstep the bounds of humanity.”

Dmitry Medvedev: “The swindling freaks are wishing death on a daily basis for their their countrymen and their country... Traitors who hate their country that they call for its defeat and destruction, must be regarded as hostis publicus, enemies of society... Such persons should not be allowed back into Russia for the rest of their lives. They should be completely cut off from sources of income in of our country, whatever they may be.”

“OVD-Info: “From 1 January to 14 December 2022, 20,467 political detentions were recorded in Russia detentions on political grounds (including 19,478 detentions after February 24).”

Pope: “Our Ukrainian brothers and sisters are meeting this Christmas in darkness and cold, far from home due to the devastation of 10 months of war. Inspire us to concrete acts of help to all those suffering and enlighten the the minds of those in whose power it is to silence the sound of the cannons and put an immediate end to put an immediate end to this senseless war.”

— Paweł Krawczyk Fediverse

Germany's one time famous #Energiewende (energy transition) program has been blamed with gradually pushing the country into the hands of #Russia gas dependency, rather high CO2 intensity of German electricity generation (even while having one of the largest shares of #renewables) – and all that at extremely high electricity prices.

I won't go into the details of Energiewende timeline and criticism, as it has been sufficiently discussed elsewhere. I just wanted to look at one particular document, a foundational one, to see if an ideological bias of the program could have something to do with its failure.

The document in question is a 2011 report Germany's energy transition – A collective work for the future by Ethics Committee for Secure Energy Supply (original in German).

The report is a feasibility study of the Energiewende and one of the primary questions it attempted to answers is whether it's possible to still decarbonise the German electricity generation and phase out #nuclear power at the same time. The question was being raised based on a rather sober notion that removal of the only low-carbon and dispatchable electricity source that nuclear is, makes the decarbonisation much harder rather than easier to achieve.

The report's conclusion was not only a firm “yes”, but also a recommendation to make that particular target binding:

The Ethics Committee is firmly convinced that the phase-out of nuclear energy can be completed within a decade by means of the energy transition measures presented here. This goal and the necessary measures should be a binding commitment on the part of society. Only on the basis of a clear timeframe can the necessary planning and investment decisions be made.

On an engineering note, the primary challenge with removing nuclear from the grid is that it's dispatchable, that is produces electricity we need it, not when wind wants to blow or Sun wants to shine. By removing especially a dispatchable source you need to replace it with something else, also dispatchable, or you're risking blackouts.

The report's conclusion?

It is possible because there are lower-risk alternatives.

Are there? Well, there are no other dispatchable electricity source alternatives, neither in 2011 nor today. What did the report's authors have in mind back then?

Germany has alternatives: power generation from wind, sun, water, geothermal energy, biomass, the more efficient use and increased productivity of energy, and fossil fuels used in a climate-friendly way. Changes in people's lifestyles also help to save energy if they respect nature and preserve it as the basis of creation.

Note a very careful wording here: interests of nearly every interest groups have been captured here in a very inclusive way: renewable industry, farmers, but also fossil fuel suppliers (!) and even environmental and religious groups, who get a nod in the last sentence.

The report is generally very conscious about the interests of the German businesses and scientific community:

The phase-out should be designed in such a way that the competitiveness of industry and of Germany as a business location is not jeopardised. Through science and research, technological developments and entrepreneurial initiative to develop new business models for a sustainable economy.

However, there's one business and scientific community that is consistently vilified in the report:

The phase-out is necessary and recommended in order to eliminate the risks posed by nuclear power in Germany in the future.

The “risks” are mentioned in the report 33 times on 48 pages, so nearly on every single page, excluding list of authors etc. From the EC JRC (2021) report we know that all electricity generation technologies come with some risks, the risks of nuclear power are easily manageable, and from the UNECE (2021) report we learn that nuclear power comes with quantifiably lowest environmental impacts among all generation sources.

Environmental impacts by different sources of electricity (UNECE 2021)

When reading the Energiewende report it's hard not to feel that its largest bias (but not only one) was obsessive singling out of nuclear power as the most risky source, while even fossil fuels are not presented as such — even though exactly the opposite conclusions come out from scientific reports on the impact of fossil fuels on human health and climate. The report solved this problem by simply not quoting any single scientific publication to support this particular claim. There just seems to be an a priori assumption that all authors kept in their minds so hard that nobody even felt any need to prove it.

Almost an axiom.

It was so deeply embedded into the report, that it even impacted the writing style. Note the scare quotes:

The accident in Fukushima has shaken confidence in expert assessments of the “safety” of nuclear power plants. (p. 10)

The axiom is even explicitly mentioned in the report, which quite clearly explains its rather notable lack of any impartial and evidence-based discussion on “should we do it” or even “can we do it”. The report from the beginning was intended as a way to convince the lawmakers that it must happen, and the sooner the better:

The question is no longer “nuclear power yes or no?”, but rather the question of how to shape the phase-out, i.e. “phase-out sooner or later? (p. 10)

The report reaches deep into the religious origins of obligation of human towards the nature:

It is about the question of how people deal with nature and the relationship between society and nature. The Christian tradition and the culture of Europe result in a special obligation of man towards nature. Man's ecological responsibility for nature aims to preserve and protect the environment and not to destroy it for one's own purposes, but to increase its benefits and to preserve opportunities for securing future living conditions. (p. 11)

And there's nothing wrong with this postulate on its own, except the whole narrative is so extremely biased in its vilifying of nuclear power while whitewashing any other generation (including fossil), that its practical outcome is literally reverse of the intended: nuclear phase-out has resulted in increased pollution and human mortality. The rest of that chapter sounds like highly inspired by Antroposophy, a popular pseudo-scientific “esoteric philosophy” popular especially in Germany, inspiring anti-nuclear, anti-GMO and anti-vaccination movements.

Death rates from energy production per TWh

Most notably, on page 14 there's a whole long section on risk management, which is honest, professional and logical, with statements such as “there cannot be zero risk in large-scale plant”, “none of the energy options is risk-free” and calls for “scientific facts and jointly agreed justified ethical weighing criteria”. At the end it however it does literally the opposite: rather than actually looking at science and comparing the relative risks per units of energy, it simply jumps straight to a conclusion like a magician pulling a rabbit from a hat:

It is easy to see why nuclear power plants can and should be replaced by lower-risk methods of energy production. This is because almost all scientific studies come to the conclusion that renewable energies and the improvement in energy efficiency entail lower health and environmental risks than nuclear energy. Moreover, from today's perspective, the economic risks of these alternative energies appear to be manageable and limitable. (p. 14)

This couldn't be complete without the mandatory nod towards Gazpromthe fossil fuel industry:

This also applies in a weakened form to the use of fossil energy sources, if the agreed climate protection goals are met. (p. 14)

The authors were unavoidably going to hit the conflict of removing a dispatchable low-carbon source from the grid and the targets of decarbonisation. They resolve it rather easily – you can't compare these!

The question of whether the climate problem is bigger or smaller than the problems resulting from nuclear accidents is answered differently, but basically there is no meaningful basis for comparison. (p. 20)

The next key controversy they faced is “security of supply”, or simply uninterrupted supply of electricity throughout the country. Their verdict?

In the next few years, a considerable increase in renewable energies will have to be achieved. This expansion is important in order to achieve the goal of climate-compatible energy production. Wind, solar thermal energy, photovoltaics (PV), geothermal energy and other innovative approaches, together with flanking measures for electricity storage, can thus tend to contribute to securing the base load demand. Today, biomass power plants are already capable of providing secure power. (p. 22)

Unfortunately, this statement is directly contradictory to the stated section topic: variable renewable energy (VRE) is called “variable” for a reason, and because it's weather dependent a better expansion of that acronym would be “variable random energy”. Renewables do not improve supply security, quite the opposite – they cause insecurity by dropping supply at random moment during peak demand times, and by overloading the grid with unneeded supply during low demand periods.

Especially talking about “renewables securing the base load demand” is an oxymoron, as “base load” is called “base” specifically due to its stable and predictable character.

Among all listed technologies biomass is the only dispatchable generation technology that actually exists in Germany – it provides ~14% of the electricity and is highly controversial as most of the “biomass” are trees imported from Siberia and Africa to be burned in German power plants.

Electricity storage has been always the Holy Grail of renewable energy, as in theory it's the missing ingredient that allows to store the excess energy produced by variable renewables during their peak generation times to be released when they go down. But that's theory – in practice storage is tricky, with the only large-scale storage technology available being hydro pumped storage, which Germany has ~15% in power (W) and 4% of annual generation (Wh), and an emerging technology is battery storage, which after 10 years of Energiewende achieved 4% of power and <1% generation.

Ultimately, the question of “how to replace phased-out nuclear capacity” is watered down and left without a definitive answer. That is, if we don't count this forecast – rather shocking in the context of postulated decarbonisation of the whole program:

The German Association of Energy and Water Industries even goes beyond this in its figures on the addition of power plant capacity: by 2019, around 50 power plants (wind, gas, hard coal, lignite, biomass, waste, run-of-river; also pumped storage, compressed air) with approx. 30 gigawatts would be built. (p. 22)

Wait, what?! Gas, hard coal, lignite? And of course, no “approx. 30 GW of compressed air” power plants have been built, ever.

Dependence on imports

Can you think of any other significant “supply security” aspects? Well, certainly there's dependence on foreign imports.

This aspect is represented in the report by... two paragraphs of rather vague analysis, listing “imports of oil, gas and uranium” as the key dependencies.

Yes, 100 tons of uranium and 100'000'000'000 of cubic meters of gas and oil are put in the same line and presented as equivalent. The only conclusion is to keep the imports “diverse”, and I have an impression that the authors either avoided the topic or simply dismissed it as too trivial to discuss any further.

Gazprom sends its compliments back to 2011

Electricity costs

Another important part of the analysis contains a forecast about estimated price rises as result of nuclear phase-out. And we have a forecast:

The German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) concludes that the moratorium will only lead to minor electricity price increases for households amounting to a maximum of 1.4 percent. The DIW attributes the increase mainly to the rise in exchange prices of about 0.4 cents per kilowatt hour (six per cent).

The grim reality was that only 5 years after these words were written, Germany reached the highest electricity prices in the whole EU. In 2022 the billions of discounted gas from Russia came out to come bundled with a energy blackmail and €200 billion stabilisation package to help skyrocketing electricity prices.

Social consensus

I quite like that large part of the report is dedicated to achieving social consensus on the terms of the transition. As a matter of fact, large part of the document discusses that topic and I'm skipping that as most of it is non-controversial to me. I do believe the approach of engaging communities into a widespread discussion and consensus-based decision making is very valuable, and it's a feature visible throughout the whole document:

Such a process of understanding is a viable path to a concretisation of the basic consensus. On this path, ideological divergences will always arise. They concern, for example, the extent to which protection against risks should take precedence over protection of the quality of life.

Of course, the old “garbage in, garbage out” rule still applies — if you start from biased and flawed assumptions, you'll end up with a nice consensus that is factually flawed.

And some of the very valid concerns were simply skipped in the document, one of them being the fact that renewables are very hungry for land surface. How do you resolve a conflict between those who want to build way more wind towers and PV farms in Bavarian hills, and those who want to preserve the hills for future generations?

As we can see in 2022, the conflict has simply not been resolved: the opponents of industrialisation of Bavarian landscape simply block new wind farms, the proponents simply call them “NIMBY”, turning a valid concern into a tribal war (ironically, the same people who now use the “NIMBY” argument were in the past protesting against nuclear power plants).

Here comes DESERTEC

The section on actual technologies to drive the transition is long but surprisingly vague in terms of both concrete outcomes and especially their feasibility. I won't discuss it in details, but rather conclude that in general it proposes a lot of ideas that are hard to argue with (“energy efficiency”, “modern insulation” etc) but in general it looks more like a result of enthusiastic brainstorming where random ideas are enumerated (“let's combine innovative products ... oh I've heard someone proposed electricity storage in refrigerator systems”, and here it lands in the report”) but contains zero actual analysis of their feasibility even on the highest level (“we need to reduce demand by X GW ... potential for reduction in residential buildings countrywide is Y GW”).

Then follows the whole section on “Renewable energies” (p. 31+) which bears exactly the same spirit as described above. And then I got to this:

In the medium and long term, solar thermal energy also offers great opportunities for energy cooperation with Southern Europe and Africa, which also has development potential in Africa. The “Desertec” initiative is a first important approach.

Ah, the DESERTEC! In 2009 the project, which proposed to build massive arrays of PV panels on Sahara and then export electricity over HVDC lines to Europe was massively advertised, with far-fetching forecasts it will produce “15% of Europe’s electricity requirements by 2050”. No wonder it just had to be mentioned in the 2011 report, and I remember when any doubts on “but how do we...” were promptly dismissed with the magical “a-ha, but we'll have DESERTEC soon!” discussion-ending argument.

2009 DESERTEC explainer showing "how much Sahara we need to cover with PV to power EU, world etc"

A typical dialogue with Energiewende proponents in 2011 looked like: “How do we replace 8.5 GW of the phase-out nuclear? Elementary: we will have DESERTEC!”

Will you?

Predictably, in 2013 DESERTEC was practically dead due to a mix of reasons: technical complexity of HVDC, lower than expected capacity of panels, higher than expected prices, Arab Spring in Africa and many other reasons that could have been forecast by the Energiewende architects, if they haven't been blinded by wishful thinking.

Reality of PV on Saraha

I believe this section of the report is both representative to the spirit of Energiewende and symbolic to its failure: its authors pushed a hard time-bound decision to phase-out a reliable, low-carbon electricity source while placing all their bets on a future, prospective technologies with a very uncertainty of feasibility. Germany literally jumped head-first into a pool covered in a dense fog of future, hoping it will be full of clean, modern tech just because “society wanted it”. One thing that was certain was the demand for electricity. As the expected technologies never really materialised, or were way less optimal than expected, but the German society of course expected 24/7 power supply, the pool came out to be actually filled with hard, dirty fuel of the past – coal.

Increasing fossil fuels like a pro

The most surprising conclusion from reading the report is that the increased role of fossil fuels was kind of guaranteed already in 2011. The whole section “Fossil-fuelled power plants” (p. 34) starts with a righteous disclaimer (“phase-out of nuclear energy must not be at the expense of climate protection”) but it only plays the role of a fig leaf before what comes next:

The supply gap resulting from the phase-out of nuclear energy is to be closed primarily through the use of renewable energies and energy efficiency as well as through the use of fossil fuels, especially gas. They provide the security of a permanently available electricity supply. (p. 34)

Now, as we saw in the later years, the supply gas was not really closed “by the use of renewable energies and energy efficiency”, and that was kind of obvious due to the intermittency of the former and minuscule storage capacities.

The next few pages sound literally like an advertising leaflet from “Gazprom”, where fossil gas is “safely available”, new gas plants can be built in “three years”. Of course, according to the authors, “there is no reason to fear a lock-in effect”, and then comes the best: “natural gas is the fossil fuel with the lowest CO2 emissions”, and they happily wrote this in 2011, when CO2 intensity of nuclear were already known at 12 gCO2eq/kWh while from fossil gas is 490 gCO2eq/kWh, that is ~40x more.

At the end of the chapter, there's a mandatory nod to the coal industry, praising “modern, highly efficient coal-fired power plants”.

Gazprom sends its compliments back to 2011

I don't think the next paragraph will be of any surprise, after what we have read so far: the same attitude of “phase-out now, think about alternatives later”, and they certainly will appears because “of utmost importance”:

Creating electricity storage options will be of utmost importance. Due to grid integration and the state of research, solutions with hydrogen or methane as well as pumped storage, for example, are feasible in the future. New, unconventional infrastructural services will include the systemic storage of electricity. The electricity re-serve has a dampening effect on prices. The creation of extensive storage capacities is not a prerequisite for the nuclear phase-out. However, storage facilities of various types will be so important in the future that their further research, development and testing must be intensified today. (p. 37)

“Proliferation” and “nuclear waste”

The report contains further two sections, titled as above, which are an absolute mastery of vague and allusive style of writing. The topic of “proliferation” is a belief that where there are civilian nuclear reactors, there must be a bomb.

The authors do not even try to prove their point with any specific examples, they simply declare that unspecified “international laws to contain and control proliferation have so far been of limited effectiveness”. This argument completely ignores the fact that while there's 30+ countries with nuclear power, there's only 7 with nuclear weapons, and that club remains largely stable over the last decades. In addition, two countries (Israel, North Korea) allegedly have nuclear weapons but no nuclear power, which once again demonstrates that these two sets are largely independent.

The strongest argument used by the authors in this section is that “people increasingly have the impression”.

The section on nuclear waste starts with a demonstration of utter ignorance of the authors to the fundamental concepts of physics (“several millennia”), and ironically ends with a warning against “excessive optimism” about technology being able to deal with the waste, when the whole remaining parts of the report are one huge tribute to “excessive optimism” as it comes to all the technologies authors like and expect to magically appear to compensate for nuclear phase-out.

The myths and reality of nuclear wast

“Firmly convinced”

The report starts with a declaration that Committee “is firmly convinced” that the nuclear phase-out is not only feasible, but “can be completed within a decade”.

What follows is a mix of naive technocratic optimism about some magical technologies that will conveniently appear within only a decade (!) to happily compensate for the lost nuclear capacity, and cynical but calming “last resort option” of expanding fossil fuels capacity just in case the “magical” option did not happen.

What we saw in reality, was collapse of the naive renewables optimism (mostly driven by absence of any scalable storage) and prompt switch to the “cynical fossil option”, simply because it was the only option to keep the lights on in the country!

We will have phased out nuclear energy by 2022. We have a very difficult problem, namely that almost the only sources of energy that will be able to provide baseload power are coal and lignite. Naturally, we cannot do without baseload energy. Natural gas will therefore play a greater role for another few decades. I believe we would be well advised to admit that if we phase out coal and nuclear energy then we have to be honest and tell people that we’ll need more natural gas. (Angela Merkel, Speech at 49th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos on 23 January 2019)

By 2021 energy crisis we saw Energiewende turn into its parody, with Germany, which now has 120 GW installed capacity in renewables, is forced to turn to the most hard-core version: new coal (!) and gas plants, while the soon-to-be-closed nuclear fleet has been desperately spared for unspecified period thanks to appeals of thousands of scientists and engineers, with with fierce opposition from “Greens” who would rather keep “safe coal”.

I think the best demonstration of the bias of the reports is that Energiewende is still being presented as “leading program for decarbonisation”, while Germany's CO2 emissions intensity routinely 5-10x higher than its mostly nuclear neighbours!

Germany CO2 intensity vs mostly nuclear countries

— Paweł Krawczyk Fediverse

Narratives about the war in #Ukraine inside #Russia are very much different than in most of the world – as a matter of fact, most Russians are expected to believe the full-scale invasion is merely a “special military operation” and legally banned from referring to it as “war”.

Russians are also expected to accept ever changing objectives of the war (as demonstrated in my article On the Kremlin's ideas of “denazification” and “Russophobia”), and generally frequently changing frame of reference seems to be the new standard of political thinking in Russia these days. This is an “old new”, as it bears strong resemblance to Soviet “dialectical thinking” (see Marxist dialectics as a instrument of self-delusion for details).

For the sake of a discussion with a friend inside Russia, who plainly rejected any idea that Putin's narrative about the war has actually changed, I have compiled a list of official statements from the period preceding the war, and early into it.

“Speaking of invasion just makes everyone nervous”

First suggestions that Russia may be preparing an invasion into Ukraine appeared in October-November 2021 based on unusual concentration of armed forces right on Ukraine's border with Russia and Belarus. These were interpreted by most experts as an intimidation campaign, even as US and EU intelligence insisted that Russia plans actual invasion. Russian officials of course denied any such suggestions:

Ministry of Internal Affairs [of Russia] called US announcements about Russian army amassed at the Ukraine's border “a campaign of fakes” (3 November 2021, В МИД назвали заявления США о войсках России у границ Украины фейковой кампанией

Kremlin dismissed data of risk of armed invasion into Ukraine as “empty threats” (12 November 2021, В Кремле сочли пустым нагнетанием данные о риске вторжения на Украину

Putin: “Look, they've been talking about possible entry of Russian troops into Ukraine since the beginning of the year – as we conducted “Zapad-2021” exercises – but that never happened” (30 November 2021, Путин: “Смотрите, о возможном вводе российских войск на Украину говорили еще в начале года – мы проводили учения “Запад-2021” – но, как видим, этого не случилось”.

Please note these are exclusively official statements, which tend to be rather balanced in wording and tone, while state media were in full spin of sarcasm and literally laughing off these concerns. The campaign of denial continues, in spite of increased concentration of Russian troops on the border:

Remember history: Peskov of possibility of the war. Russia never invaded anyone first (26 December 2021, Вспомните историю: Песков о возможности войны. Россия никогда первой ни на кого не нападала.

Lavrov: You claim we are planning to invade Ukraine, even though we explained many times that it's not true. (21 January 2022, Лавров: “Вы утверждаете, что мы собираемся напасть на Украину, хотя мы уже многократно объясняли, что это не так.”

“Our own troops on our own territory”

The denial continues in February 2022, weeks and then literally days before the fatal date of 24 February.

Putin: Movement of our own troops on our own, I want to reiterate, our own territory, is being presented as a threat of Russian invasion – in this case, into Ukraine. Allegedly this also threatens the Baltics and other countries who are our neighbours. On what basis – it's unclear. (8 February 2022, Путин: “Передвижение наших войск по собственной, хочу подчеркнуть, территории представляется как угроза российского вторжения – в данном случае на Украину. Якобы в опасности себя чувствуют и страны Прибалтики, и другие государства – наши соседи. На каком основании – не очень понятно”

Please note the “movement of our own troops on our own territory” argument, as it was used by top Russian for a number of times, for example in December 2021 ( and February 2022 ( In the latter Dmitry Peskov said:

We are not ready, and we will not accept complaints about how we move troops on our own territory. This is our sovereign right, and we are not intending to discuss that with anyone. Мы не готовы и не будем воспринимать претензии относительно того, как мы перемещаем Вооруженные силы на территории нашей страны. Это наше суверенное право, и мы не намерены его ни с кем обсуждать.

This argument is important as the whole narrative of “Russia feeling threatened” that was widely discussed in 2021 was based specifically on actual or imaginary movement of armed forces of Ukraine and other countries in Eastern Europe. Russia clearly did not grant other countries the same “sovereign right” as it reserved for its own military, and unfortunately many Russia's friends in the West empathically accepted that logic.

Days before the invasion top Russian officials switch between the “none of your business” and “haha what invasion” narratives:

“So what, invasion doesn't happen?” – Lavrov smirked on insisting journalist's question (15 February 2022, “Так что, вторжения не будет?” — Лавров ответил мимикой настырному журналисту

Putin: We believe, and I want to highlight this, that all disputes will be resolved in the course of negotiations between current Kiev authorities and leadership of these republics (22 February 2022, Путин: “Мы рассчитываем, и я хочу это подчеркнуть, что все спорные вопросы будут разрешены в ходе переговоров между киевскими сегодняшними властями и руководством этих республик”

The last comment was published a day after Putin voiced Russia's recognition of “LNR” and “DNR” as independent states, and two days before the armed invasion. For all that period an intensive artillery shelling continued in Donbass, which war presented by Russia as coming from Ukraine into the Russia-occupied territory. However, OSCE Special Monitoring Mission painted a completely different picture for that period:

  • complete withdrawal of artillery from the frontline on the Ukrainian side, as required by previous ceasefires, with cannons physically confirmed by the SMM to be in storage;
  • lack of withdrawal of artillery units on the Russian side, with cannons physically seen in field and firing;
  • numerous civilian casualties and buildings destroyed on the Ukrainian side as result of incoming artillery fire;

Russian officials and media therefore presented a completely inverted picture of the reality on the Donbass frontline, presenting Ukraine as violating ceasefires, while it was the Russian side that continuously shelled the Ukrainian side throughout the period directly preceding the invasion. In Russia however, this didn't matter as OSCE is widely presented as “biased”, even though Russia is member of the SMM and frequently used its influence to soften the reports from Donbass.

A number of border provocations also happened during that week and were widely covered in Russian media with the intention of amassing popular anger of the “Ukrainian escalation”. Ukrainian and Russian military experts being rather uniformly critical of the sloppiness of these provocations did not matter, as they were intended for popular audience that seems to be completely devoid of any critical thinking skills.

“We are not occupying anyone”

Finally, in his speech on the day of the invasion Putin said clearly:

Our plans do not include occupation of Ukrainian territory – we are not imposing anything to anyone by force (24 February 2022, Путин: “При этом в наши планы не входит оккупация украинских территорий. Мы никому и ничего не собираемся навязывать силой”

This statement can be confronted with May and June announcements of creation of “Kherson People's Republic” on the occupied territories in the south of Ukraine, and its planned annexation into Russia. And it's important, since Kherson area was never before occupied by Russia, unlike Donbass, formally recognized as “LNR” and “DNR” by Putin.

Such statements can be used to point out Putin breaking his own promises or change of plans, but in reality they will cause zero consternation inside Russia. Russian audience is fully conditioned to accept any change of plans and breaking of any earlier promises, be it about pension age or invasion of other countries.

Conclusions that can be drawn from the analysis of Russian communications in the period preceding the war:

  • Russian statements, demands and declarations have little value in terms of predicting or correlating with Russian actions. Detailed analysis of Russian officials' wording, tone and “reading between the lines” is a pointless exercise. Therefore, as of June 2022, any statements of Russia on annexing or not annexing specific territories, or allowing specific goods to be exported, or humanitarian corridors, cannot be taken at their face value.
  • The best predictor of Russian actions are Russian position on the ground and intelligence on its planned actions. If Russia cannot physically annex a territory due to its inability to exercise military control, it won't. If Russia can do it, whether it will depends on its internal costs-and-benefits analysis, which may be however based on biased premises or perceptions.

You may also want to see the whole 2022 compilation of quotes by Pshenichny.

— Paweł Krawczyk Fediverse

The first few months of Russian invasion on #Ukraine saw a rapid transformation of the concept of “denazification” which was from the beginning fundamental to the ideological and moral justification of the war. One important thing to remember is that Russian propaganda efforts are largely targeted at its internal audience in #Russia, where it's being propagated by means of highly emotional and literally shouted TV shows. Such channels neither imply nor require logical or factual consistency, and as result the message is short of both. Attempts to rebuild some kind of logical skeleton behind it are only undertaken opportunistically, when needed – for example when even moderate allies raise brows after being confronted with the Kremlin narrative. And over the last few months we saw just that.

“Anti-Soviet equals Nazi”

An insight into the Kremlin's understanding of Eastern European “Nazism” was given by Medinsky in March in an RT interview where he commented the progress of peace talks with Ukraine:

On denazification the situation is quite strange because our Ukrainian colleagues, from the the other side of the negotiation table, believe that there's no Nazi parties in Ukraine, and that modern Ukraine in no way supports this direction. I personally believe they are not paying enough attention to things that worry the whole world, such as activities of the #Nazi paramilitary groups which are allowed in Ukraine, their symbols, their training, their ideology; on activities of neo-Nazi and extremist organizations; and finally on the fact that in Ukrainian towns streets and squares are officially named after criminals who fought against the countries of the anti-Hitler coalition.

Note the last rather convoluted sentence – “criminals who fought against the countries of the anti-Hitler coalition” – where merely a mention of Stepan Bandera would be sufficient to make the point? Unrolling that, what Medinsky says is because Soviet Union fought against Nazi Germany, therefore anyone fought against Soviet Union is a Nazi. Of course, this argument is ahistorical and illogical – Soviet Union was a key supporter of Nazi Germany in 1939-1941, and in all Eastern European countries invaded by these two in 1939, the local resistance was directed equally against Third Reich and USSR. The latter only joined part of anti-Hitler coalition after 1941, and joined it rather forcibly, after being attacked by Hitler. There certainly was some collaboration with Germans in all territories but that included Soviet Union (RONA, Vlasov army) just as well as Ukraine, whose infamous SS-Galizien was much smaller than its Russian counterparts. Collaboration of guerilla groups (such as Ukrainian OUN or UPA) was much more complex, as they entered ceasefires and made tactical deals with both German and Soviet troops during various stages of war. This is precisely why the argument of the resistance groups such as OUN being “German collaborators” is quite a far stretch – they perceived both Germans and Soviets as occupiers (plus, Bandera himself spent most of the war in German concentration camp). Soviet propaganda took just one piece of this puzzle – “fought against Soviets” – and made it a whole case for anti-Soviet resistance being “Nazi”. How absurd that went can be especially well demonstrated on case of Poland, which, having no collaborator government or army at all, saw trial of Witold Pilecki and Trial of the Sixteen, where Polish resistance Home Army leaders were charged with “collaboration with Nazis” while they were consistently fighting Germans since 1939 when Soviet Union was still happily fueling Nazi invasion on Europe! Conclusion: this way of the “Nazi” designation simply follows the Soviet propaganda trope – if you're against Soviets, you're “Nazi” because Soviets at some point switched sides and joined Allies. Absurdity of this argument can be easily demonstrated when we repeat it with other Allies in mind – for example, arguing that “anyone who is against Great Britain is a Nazi”, which logically makes USSR itself a “Nazi”. There's nothing in it but rather simplistic Soviet-time cliche.

“Asymptomatic Nazism”

April saw a widely commented article by Timofey Sergeytsev “What Russia should do with Ukraine?”. The author freely roams between neo-imperialist, colonial and contemptuous points of view, completely denying Ukraine and Ukrainian people any subjectivity and simply looking at the war in Ukraine as some kind of suppression of a slave mutiny. However, he also speaks of “denazification”, and in a very interesting way:

A particular feature of Nazified Ukraine is its amorphousness and ambivalentness, which allows for the masking of Nazism as a desire to move towards an “independent” and “European” (Western and pro-American) path of development, (in reality – towards degradation), while insisting that Ukraine “doesn’t have any Nazism, only private and singular excesses.” There isn’t, after all, a single important Nazi party, no Fuehrer, no fully racist laws (only their curtailed variants in the form of repressions against the Russian language). As a result, there is no opposition and resistance to the regime.

The striking honesty of this analysis needs to be fully appreciated: the author notes lack of evidence for any Nazi symbols, programs or parties... but insists on the classification of the whole country as “Nazi” as if the word “ambivalent” simply replaced any need for evidence. It's not an original invention by Sergeytsev: in Soviet Union, when the authorities struggled to find a specific criminal code article to prosecute dissidents, but they still wanted to prosecute them, they came up with a very similar concept of asymptomatic or sluggish schizophrenia. Conclusion: an evidence-based diagnosis in case of both “Nazism” and a disease would start from having a defined set of symptoms and then matching these against a case. What we see here is an opposite: you very much like the idea of X being a “Nazi” or “schizophrenic”, so you simply assign the label and resolve the issue of missing match by simply prefixing your diagnosis with “amorphous” or “asymptomatic”. Of course, this way anyone, including the person making the diagnosis, can be a match too, and the whole concept of diagnosing is reduced to simple shoe-throwing.

“Russophobic Russians”

Alexander Dugin has been always in the avant-garde of Kremlin imperialism and his arguments can be best characterized as “flexible”: if it doesn't work one way, he just tries another, and he always finds some followers. This way he Gish-galloped through “geopolitics”, “sacred geography”, “political pragmatism” and now ended up as one of the leading Russian experts of “Ukrainian Nazism”. The latter is especially entertaining granted that in literature Dugin is “known for views widely characterized as fascist”. In a May publication for “Nezygar”, on the topic of “denazification” Dugin did correctly note that Russia's arguments about “Nazi Ukraine” aren't widely accepted (to put that lightly), in the absence of any Nazi parties. He also noted Sergey Lavrov's rant, where he practically equated Israel with Nazis as “strange and convoluted”, but blamed that on the topic having “complex political science” context. Is it lack of evidence to blame? Not at all:

These questions cannot be convincingly answered by Russia, regardless of hard we try. (...) Who is an antisemite is determined by Jews and the state of Israel, and also various international Jewish organizations who hold a kind of “monopoly” on determining who is an “antisemite” and who is not. (...) Moscow is today not in a position to push its own definitions in this sphere.

Dugin honestly admits the failure of Russian propaganda on making the slur of “Nazi Ukraine” even remotely convincing due to lack of evidence. With his usual flexibility Dugin proposes a solution:

To explain what we mean by “Nazism” in modern Ukraine and justify the denazification as the objective of the special military operation, we must equate the Ukrainian Nazism with Russophobia. And in this field nobody can object and claim we incorrectly assign the label, because just as Jews determine what “antisemitism” is, it's only Russians who can answer “what is Russophobia?”

Simple? Yes. Consistent? No. Dugin's proposal is rather infantile, granted that since 2014 Russian propaganda has ridden the “Nazi” argument, suddenly turn on your heel and say “yeah, maybe there were no Nazis, we just meant Russophobes”.

But then, the whole “Russophobic” argument is also terribly inconsistent if we ignore the “Nazi” prehistory. Dugin defines it in the following way (and proposes making a law of it):

Russophobia is hatred against Russians for being Russians, building a politics on this hatred, and performing specific actions, including violent ones.

The sad truth is however that Russian armed forces are (and have been since 2014) mostly killing Russian-speaking population in Ukraine – that includes Ukrainians and ethnic Russians, dying under bombs in largely bilingual central and predominantly Russian-speaking East part of Ukraine. And it's largely Russian-speaking and ethnically Russian soldiers in armed forces of Ukraine who are defending their country against the invasion. They are not fighting them because the invaders are Russian, but because they are invaders. The “Russophobic” argument is incorrect because Russian armed forces are fighting mostly Russian and Russian-speaking population in Ukraine, and the ethnicity is not a distinguishing feature here. The main disagreement between the fighting parties is Russia's allegiance to one particular political movement that assumes superiority of not only Russian ethnos, but also a very specific authoritarian political system represented by Putin. Conclusion: it's a classic “no true Scotsman” fallacy – Kremlin only chooses to recognize as “Russians” those who uncritically approve Putin and his model of a state – therefore those who don't, are automatically classified as “Russophobes” and “Nazis”, even if they are Russians themselves.

“Whatever works”

As noted in the beginning, Kremlin's approach to ideology seems to be largely instrumental – unlike in Soviet times, there's no carefully constructed ideological system with its saints and scriptures. Instead, it's a casually picked mix of various ideological tropes taken from Soviet, Russian Orthodox and Russian Empire, based on their perceived attractiveness for the audience, even if ends up with an Orthodox icon with Jesus and atheist Stalin all in one picture. Application of these is opportunistic – if the story works for the target audience, they'll just go with it because why worry for details if you can spend the “saved” budget for a holiday in Emirates? If it doesn't, they'll simply invent another one – this is how we ended up with the “firehose of lies” in so many stories, such as MH17 or Bucha. Does it work? Clearly not with Western audience, which, even among its most forgiving representatives, seems to be listening to Kremlin's statements made at different times and actually trying make sense of it, and is often left puzzled by the contradictions and basic nonsense. Dissection of these is rather trivial – you don't really need excellent analytical skills, it's usually sufficient to compare Russian officials statements at some month apart to capture striking inconsistencies. All these publications, when watched over a longer period, make an increasingly depressing impression of rather desperate attempts to justify the biases of its authors rather than attempts at actual analytics.

— Paweł Krawczyk Fediverse

In late 1910's the Western views on the #Bolshevik Revolution in #Russia were, as usual, divided. Criticism from anti-communists was quite predictable, while people with broadly socialist views at minimum saw it a chance for an actual social change and watched curiously, granting it the benefit of the doubt, even if a bit concerned about its violent character. Reports about Red Terror atrocities were well-known in the West, but if you believed in the revolution, it was easy to dismiss them using popular fallacies such as “but both sides are violent” or “but violence is just a transitional step in the eradication of the bourgeoisie”.

The more respect should be paid to the voice of Bertrand Russell, who being an active member of British socialist movements, produced a painfully honest record of what he saw during his 1920 trip to Soviet Russia (there was no #USSR yet). His position is not anti-communist at all, quite the opposite – he openly declares he's “one with Bolsheviks” as it comes to their goals, but their political reality he saw, and the impression of the leaders he had, seem to be both largely repugnant to him.

Russell also avoids the trap of many anti-communist intellectuals, that is tribalism: while seeing the whole “cruelty, perfidy or brutality” of other, predominantly capitalist countries, he doesn't allow himself drift into the instinctive position of defending Bolsheviks as the only major political force able to oppose them, which was one of the primary forces driving pro-Soviet denialism in the West through 20th century.

For start, Russell makes one more interesting observation: he describes Bolshevik's approach to #Marxism as “religious”, if not “fanatical”, including “elaborate dogmas and inspired scriptures”. Oh, irony – one of the most anti-religious movements in history is being described as yet another quasi-religious one:

Bolshevism is not merely a political doctrine; it is also a religion, with elaborate dogmas and inspired scriptures. When Lenin wishes to prove some proposition, he does so, if possible, by quoting texts from Marx and Engels. A full-fledged Communist is not merely a man who believes that land and capital should be held in common, and their produce distributed as nearly equally as possible. He is a man who entertains a number of elaborate and dogmatic beliefs—such as philosophic materialism, for example—which may be true, but are not, to a scientific temper, capable of being known to be true with any certainty.

There's another fragment that perfectly combines two observations: that Soviet communists have already moved (we're talking about 1920!) to a “life after life” mode of justification of their miserable choices and methods; and that the Western communists, left with Soviet propaganda as primary source of information, are much more inspired by the Bolshevism than the people on the ground there:

The effect of Bolshevism as a revolutionary hope is greater outside Russia than within the Soviet Republic. Grim realities have done much to kill hope among those who are subject to the dictatorship of Moscow. Yet even within Russia, the Communist party, in whose hands all political power is concentrated, still lives by hope, though the pressure of events has made the hope severe and stern and somewhat remote. It is this hope that leads to concentration upon the rising generation. Russian Communists often avow that there is little hope for those who are already adult, and that happiness can only come to the children who have grown up under the new régime and been moulded from the first to the group-mentality that Communism requires.

And then this rather outright criticism on hypocrisy of Western communists justifying Soviet methods:

Western Socialists who have visited Russia have seen fit to suppress the harsher features of the present régime, and have disseminated a belief among their followers that the millennium would be quickly realized there if there were no war and no blockade.

Russell also dismisses a popular (even today) argument that the Bolshevik violence was somehow provoked by opposition of the “White” supporters of the Tsar, and by the Allied intervention in Russia:

The expectation of such opposition was always part of Bolshevik theory. A general hostility to the first Communist State was both foreseen and provoked by the doctrine of the class war. Those who adopt the Bolshevik standpoint must reckon with the embittered hostility of capitalist States; it is not worth while to adopt Bolshevik methods unless they can lead to good in spite of this hostility. To say that capitalists are wicked and we have no responsibility for their acts is unscientific; it is, in particular, contrary to the Marxian doctrine of economic determinism. The evils produced in Russia by the enmity of the Entente are therefore to be reckoned as essential in the Bolshevik method of transition to Communism, not as specially Russian.

It's also worth placing the Allied intervention in a context: when it started, the rightful government of Russia was pluralist Russian Provisional Government, which was recognized internationally, and it was that Government, not Tsar (who abdicated earlier), that Bolsheviks have overthrown in October Revolution, and then left Allied forces fighting Germany. Therefore the Allied intervention was intended primarily on preventing German return to power by strengthening the “White” army who at the same time was fighting Germany and Bolshevik on the orders of the government perceived as rightful government of Russia.

Most importantly however, Russel in that paragraph made a fundamental observation about the type of people that most revolutions bring to power:

A condition of widespread misery may, therefore, be taken as indispensable to the inauguration of Communism, unless, indeed, it were possible to establish Communism more or less peacefully, by methods which would not, even temporarily, destroy the economic life of the country. If the hopes which inspired Communism at the start, and which still inspire its Western advocates, are ever to be realized, the problem of minimizing violence in the transition must be faced. Unfortunately, violence is in itself delightful to most really vigorous revolutionaries, and they feel no interest in the problem of avoiding it as far as possible. Hatred of enemies is easier and more intense than love of friends. But from men who are more anxious to injure opponents than to benefit the world at large no great good is to be expected.

About the delusional perception of Western supporters of Bolshevik he has to say this:

Friends of Russia here think of the dictatorship of the proletariat as merely a new form of representative government, in which only working men and women have votes, and the constituencies are partly occupational, not geographical. They think that “proletariat” means “proletariat,” but “dictatorship” does not quite mean “dictatorship.” This is the opposite of the truth. When a Russian Communist speaks of dictatorship, he means the word literally, but when he speaks of the proletariat, he means the word in a Pickwickian sense. He means the “class-conscious” part of the proletariat, i.e., the Communist Party.

Just remember, Bertrand Russell wrote these words in 1920, less than three years after the October Revolution, already predicting the direction in which the Soviet system was heading, as well as its ultimate collapse.

— Paweł Krawczyk Fediverse

Russian government has quietly informed US embassy in Moscow it will postpone the ban on employing Russian staff that it introduced with a lot of hype as a reprisal for “unfair” expulsions of Russian diplomats in response to GRU activity on the ground and on the Internet.

It seems like Kremlin quickly stepped back as soon as US embassy said it will only offer services to US citizens and suspend issuing visas to Russians. Russian bargain position seems to be quite weak in such international sabre rattling, as it's still Russians that need to travel to USA more than Americans to Russia. Many wealthy Russians, including government officials, are investing their profits in USA or EU, while people from these countries investing their savings in Russia are yet to be seen.

Kremlin is making exactly the same mistakes it was making back in 20th century, which ultimately took it to a collapse of the whole country. Its power relies entirely on military force, which it certainly mastered. But military is expensive, and is developed at the cost of other branches of economy. The US suffers from the same problem, but the difference is US can afford it (if barely) while Russia cannot.

Russia's economy is still largely based on exports of hydrocarbons (~40%) and other natural resources (~20%). And because Kremlin couldn't resist from controlling and then weaponizing the exporters (as it did many times), everyone started considering it to be a cheap but unreliable partner. This led to a wave of diversification efforts among Gazprom customers – as of 2020 even Germany, largest importer of Russian gas in EU, only secures ~50% imports from Russia and the trend is to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

Russia's leadership certainly realizes the current model is not sustainable. This apparently results in perception of lack of safety, which in turn results in obsession of control, both internal and external. And Kremlin seems to understand only one tool in foreign policy – force.

Some of the Russian military interventions were clearly a desperate struggle for a few more years of gas sales (like in Syria, whose sole purpose was to prevent building a pipeline from Quatar to EU), most of them did not make any sense from the point of view of Russian economy. The war in Ukraine or Georgia made absolutely no sense from business point of view,it seemed to be mostly about turning some areas into military-controlled blackholes. Russia certainly is controlling the territory of DNR/LNR... and what?

And while many countries (US, but also France, UK or even Poland) took part in similarly stupid dick contests in 20th century, most of them simply could afford it in terms of their economic performance. They came out of these adventures bruised, at huge human and financial cost (Vietnam) but recovered. Russia, then Soviet Union, and now Russia again tends to end up in different outcomes.

Soviet dogmatism

Now, what was the point of 1979 Soviet invasion in Afghanistan? It was utterly pointless and stupid operation, that ultimately got USSR stuck there for 10 years and hundreds of thousands killed on both sides.

Now, if you think about the foreign policy of modern Kremlin, it's just repeating exactly the same steps.

Back in 1953 the East Berlin uprising was not about politics – it was about working conditions and Soviet-imposed work quotas. Same repeated in 1956 in Hungary, 1968 Czechoslovakia and 1981 in Poland.

All of these were suppressed by military interventions – just note, uprisings started not because they wanted to leave Eastern Bloc, but merely because they wanted better living conditions. And they were all suppressed, with hundreds of civilians killed.

What was the point of these interventions? None, apart from obsession of control and “teach them lesson”, in spite of all evidence clearly witnessing to the inefficiency of Soviet economy, which led to stagnation and then ultimately to a tragic collapse in late 80's.

Repeating the history

Back in 2000's Ukraine wasn't at all obsessed on joining NATO – mass protests (Orange revolution, then Euromaidan) had primarily economical background, which is understandable if you look at this:

GDP per capita PPP chart for Russia, Poland, Ukraine

Back in 80's, on the ground in countries like Poland, everyone understood we were part of Eastern Bloc. But the economic situation was so dire that reforms were required – and they were not at all directed at the “road to socialism” directed by USSR (and nobody really believed in it anywhere). The postulates of the strike committee in Gdańsk Shipyard in 80's were literally as if from a socialist party leaflet.

The expectation was that USSR will at least not interfere, because... it was simply unreasonable thing to do. When people can't feed their children, this is when revolutions break out.

So what did USSR do? Of course, they interfered, and suppressed the reforms – in 1953, 1968, 1981, and then on much smaller scale in each country separately, as protests broke out literally every 5-10 years.

Not because that would somehow hurt its economy or “road to socialism”, but out of the obsession of control, and “teach them a lesson”.

Exactly the same thing happened again in Ukraine in 2014...

Leaving aside the fact that Ukraine is a sovereign country whose independence is recognised by Russia, and it has the right to join whatever alliances it likes, back in 2014 Ukraine was not interested in joining NATO. It was merely interested in economic cooperation with EU – if you don't understand why, once again just look at the GDP per capita chart above.

Did it hurt Russia? Quite the opposite, as economic growth in Ukraine would only increase its trade with Russia.

The only thing it did hurt were the feelings of the Russian elites who believed that their Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) was an actual alternative to EU. And as usual, instead of just proving that simply by being economically successful and viable alternative (which it wasn't), they chose to force the potential breakaway country into submission.

What followed was only a logical chain of consequences, with sanctions and counter-sanctions, and GRU operations in Sofia, Vrbetice, and sanctions for these.

Does the current Kremlin policy have any future?

Clearly not. The view that Russia has some kind of invisible “zones of influence” that must be respected is only present in Kremlin, and in some European capitals and I guess it's mostly out of kindness. I haven't met anyone in Russian province who would actually care if Ukraine or Georgia joins EU – if anything, they'd welcome it as EU would be then closer to them.

And now, as result of Russian intervention, Ukraine wants to join NATO.

And it wants to join NATO in the very same way as the whole of Eastern Europe promptly jumped into it after seeing what was going on in Russia in early 90's, with at least three further military interventions, KGB coup and numerous calls to “restore USSR in its previous borders”. Readiness to join NATO (which is otherwise quite costly) is proportional to the perceived threat from your neighbour...

Is there a way forward for Russia?

The problem is that any sector that gets successful in exports is immediately weaponized by Kremlin, either for bullying other countries (Gazprom, Rosatom) or simply for racket (Nginx).

If that goes away, and I think it's entirely doable, Russia has plenty of things to be proud of – Rosatom, Gazprom, highly competitive IT industry, new prospective hydrogen energy projects and many more. In most of its parts, Russia is a quickly developing and modern country whose potential is thwarted by a close circle of paranoid and backwards-thinking Cold War leftovers.

I'm pretty sure Putin's circle does realize that perfectly well. After all, most of them travel a lot and most have property abroad – usually in the same USA and EU that they officially condemn as “decaying”. It's not in their slightest interest to further close Russia and turn it into some kind of North Korea, and people in Russia won't allow it.

In the upcoming decade we will hopefully see Putin going away in a peaceful manner, with formal continuation of power preserved, and Russia opening up again.

— Paweł Krawczyk Fediverse