And the road to negotiation.
My respect for you has further increased because of your willingness to learn from others, to credit them for their contributions, and to admit to your mistakes.
Thanks for your well researched and thoughtful commentary.
Can an attack be both deniable and an escalation? What would that even look like?
I’m marking this one down on my calendar: as Harley Lofton notes below, in the space of one issue of The Triad we’re gaming out “limited” nuclear tit-for-tat, spitballing hideous negotiated settlement choices and revealing that JVL and a fair number of others _had no idea of the factual issues around Keystone XL_.
Yes, I’m a Democrat —- and an old one, at that—- but JVL’s ignorance of well-established facts is even more upsetting to me than the other two topics. As educated and well-read as he is, he has managed to exist in a media environment that did not expose him to the most basic facts around a cause that the right has used as a cudgel for years against their political rivals. This is why we are well and truly screwed.
We cannot prevail in the coming realpolitik when we as an educated citizenry do not share the same fact universe and political/patriotic solidarity. I’m not accusing JVL of cluelessness but others still wading in the waters of the Professional Right don’t know where their facts are lacking, where their reflexes are wrong. Our polarized views have become so ingrained that I’m pretty certain we are going to be ineffective opposition to Putin’s unhinged plans. Our fractured democracy makes a joke of “E pluribus unum.”
As long as I’m being rude to the host of the party I might as well have my say about Zelensky(y): can we please tone down the references to Churchill? He IS a failed comedian, an everyman who finds himself in the hottest spotlight of the moment and is just managing to keep his head above water. His repeated insistence on confrontational tactics from NATO is for home consumption and it’s going to tear our domestic and allied politics apart. The Ukrainian populace is going to carry white hot resentment over their inevitable sacrifices for a long time to come and we’re going to be mad that they’re not more grateful. I want Zelensky to survive but he’s the least sophisticated political actor in the room. And for God’s sake, don’t watch more than 20 minutes of TV a day. The media circus is an abomination.
You also need Canadian buy-in politically, and while Alberta citizens are keen (somewhat; the urban citizens less than the rural), the rest of Canada isn't.
The politics of this is a complex issue. Partly, Albertans have done a lot over the last few decades to alienate other Canadians. The usual ebb and flow is that when the Tar Sands are doing well, they want to hoard the cash and drop taxes. Then when the market falls, they rediscover their socialism and it's everyone else's job to keep them afloat until the next boom, while they idle away their time in vaguely white supremacist militias and international truck blockades. (I'm oversimplifing for the sake of comedy, but it's a trite summary) Partly it's Canada's weird gaslighting relationship with Environmentalism, where we're politically kinda hippy-dippy (we have a semi-functional Federal Green Party!), but we're also an economy that regularly produces toxic lakes visible from space and exports asbestos.
Without Canadian political will, KXL is dead. I know it can be easy to forget that we're more than America's chilly natural resource reserve, but our domestic politics are a factor, too, and the voices clamoring for KXL are a small minority up here
An interesting newsletter today.
My headline for it is "Gaming out the Road to Nuclear Annihilation"
I find it unbelievable that people can casually banter about limited nuclear warfare when no such thing really exists. At what point does the atmosphere become saturated with nuclear waste from all the "non-strategic nuclear weapons"... T How many EMP attacks before nothing works anymore? The notion of the "escalate to deescalate" strategy just seems so absurd and not worth hanging the lives of millions on its working.
Most of this crazy talk is generated by assumptions about what Putin does or doesn't think, will or won't do. If Putin is really the monster we assume him to be then we might as well just declare war directly, invade, try and overthrow him, and figure out how to survive a nuclear winter, live without satellite technology or a working infrastructure and roaming bands of survivalist militias taking what they can from the weak to survive.
But I am sure we would save Ukraine, make the world safe for democracy and "own the Ruskies" when it is all done. So good for us.
Well at least the Social Media would be gone and we wouldn't have to have anymore "hot takes" and "smart takes" on what we think but don't know is happening. There is that.
So here is the thing with this energy stuff as I see it: not all energy assets are totally fungible with every other energy assets. I get it. But the folks talking about the gas prices for *this week* are making me want to rip what remains of my hair out.
A couple weeks hence, Putin's Russia is still going to be a rogue nation run by a war criminal. You still don't want to buy energy from them. You also have a bunch of American allies who we *should* want to induce to roll back their remaining Russian energy purchases. Lowering prices is in our domestic and FP interests. So yes, Keystone XL is not going to do anything for you on your spring break road trip, but that's not really the fight we are in. Also, getting some energy savings in one area can help offset increases in another area.
I know some of the center-left Bulwark readers probably prioritize climate change higher than I do, but guys, if you have $5.00/gal gas for the next two years and tell people to buy electric vehicles, I'm sorry but go ahead and seal in Trump 2024. Gotta deal with the right now problem right now.
I know JVL is always right, but you've referred to Lawrence Freedman as Lawrence Freed in two Triads.
The way Russia has performed so far in Ukraine, whether the country's nuclear arsenal actually works is open to question. Every dollar spent on maintaining it is a dollar that can't go toward the cost of a mega-yacht for some highly placed official.
Of course, that's a double-edged sword: if money is being skimmed from the nuclear weapons maintenance budget it's almost certainly being siphoned from the *safety* budget, too.
I'm of the mind that any nuclear event, even an airburst designed to generate an EMP and shut down part of the electric grid, nets negative for Russia and Putin.
Everyone around Russia will want to kickstart their nuclear arms programs, especially the Baltic nations.
NATO powers with nuclear programs will be asked (and some might!) start selling and/or shipping nuclear arms to those treaty members without.
We in the US will have to figure out how we manage our end of the alliance after the doors get blown off like that. There are always deeper sanctions and other actions we can take that don't involve putting boots on Ukrainian (or Russian) streets.
And, anyone in their right mind within his organization will be scared shitless over the consequences.
NATO doesn't have to respond, and I don't even know that a response is advisable. But, launching a nuke over a Russian city is bound to lead to problems. I don't believe in an "escalate to de-escalate" scenario succeeding.
A cyberattack, meanwhile, is practically rote for the Russians. I personally see it going that way first.
The pipeline thing is sure surprising. All this time I have been listening to my Biden complainer friends gripe about it being shut down. I had no idea! And, it wasn't easy to check on what your guy said. Only the TC website talked about the currently working pipeline. All articles on Google search were about XL. I rarely complain about media, but this seems like an important differentiation to me. I knew the product to be shipped wasn't much good, but it's been shipping the whole time anyway. HA!
Going to add an asterisk to my JVL is always right shirt
Isn't there a 'nuclear football' process in Russia that goes down several layers from Putin? He could theoretically make the call to launch but get overruled by a General in the process correct?
Fine, if you're going to break out Coldbringer, I'm gonna give one of my favorites to everyone today. Presenting for the Bulwark Plus readership, the tuna and the chef.
Are we sure Putin knows Mutually Assured Destruction is still a thing?
I think if it was Putin alone he probably would have tried an EMP or tactical nuclear strike already. I'm not sure I want to be a fly on the wall in Moscow right now but I am sure there's a lot of anger and fear around what Putin may or may not decide to do. It seems like they are laying the pretext for a chemical or biological false flag now.
On the topic of Keystone, the real problem is that the oil producers are slow to ramp up production in wave of 2019 and COVID cuts. They're going to enjoy huge profit margins until demand crashes and they need to drill more. From a business perspective it's great but it's terrible for the larger economy (us).
Everything I've read points to a nuclear "event" in NATO territory being only a matter of where and when Putin will do it. Would he precede it with a massive cyberattack on the West, especially the US? A tactical nuke strike in Ukraine? But none of this is "our fault", for anything other than far too many years of wishing that Putin would not be Putin.