Russian x-risk newsletter March 2022 update

I will not comment on the details of the current war as there are many good analyses elsewhere.

As international cooperation with Russia almost stopped, Russia can now “sell” only one “good”: the lack of global catastrophes. By selling I mean using them as a topic of negotiation.

Russia can deliberately generate four types of such catastrophes:

1. Global nuclear war or nuclear doomsday machine

2. Biological

3. Global hunger based on limiting the export of grain and fertilisers

4. Artificial “peak oil” based on limiting the export of energy and metals.

More about it:

1. As Putin can’t afford to lose in Ukraine, and Ukraine is not inclined to sign a ceasefire, he has two options: large scale mobilization of conscripts or the use of tactical nukes. He constantly claimed that as it is not “war”, there will be no mass mobilization. This increases the chances of the second option: tactical nukes. But there are no useful military targets for them, except roads to borders by which western military aid is coming. A nuclear attack near NATO borders would be very escalatory.

There could be other escalations: resuming the nuclear tests and the start nuclear tests above ground. These all increase chances of the mentioned above preemptive strike against Russia as at some point costs and risks will look justified.

2. No public information about Russian biorisks.

3. Food crisis seems to be already brewing as a large part of the seed material in Russia is imported from the West, and, for example, seeds for sugar beet it wasn’t completely imported for 2022. Anticipation of sugar shortages resulted in panic buying which increased shortages.

Russia is a big exporter of wheat and fertilizer and such export was halted. Ukraine export also stopped and sowing may not happen in the East part of the county. Russian fertilizers are crucial for places like Brazil, and Bolsonaro visited Moscow in early Feb to ensure that delivery will continue.

4. While Russia produces only 10 per cent of global oil output, its export, 7.8 mln barrels per day, is a much large share of the total internationally traded oil. See also Export land model

The risks from Russian unfriendly AGI is now lower as there will be no new supercomputers because of export limitations.

As most oil is consumed domestically by different countries, only around 30 mbd are traded internationally, and Russian export is around 25 per cent of this. Russian export could decline not only because of not yet happened trade ban but because oil service companies already decided not to provide materials for the service of Russian oil wells, which are already significantly depleted and require extensive maintenance.

This will not be the end of the world for rich countries, but poor countries will be cut from oil because of its high prices and will have difficulties in maintaining agricultural production which will again contribute to the global food crisis.

One thing which worries me: as Russian public image is very bad, the first strike on Russia will look justified for some Western policymakers and the public – if they will be sure that there will be no retaliation. The US and other Western countries in Feb asked all its citizens immediately leave Russia, claiming some obscure terrorism risks. This looks ominous. Even if decapitating strike is possible, some retaliation could happen anyway, in the form of tactical nukes on drones, biological agents etc.

Other news:

- Total excess mortality from covid reached 1 million people in Russia around New Year’s Eve. Deaths and cases are now declining but still are around 500 people die a day according to official sources.

- Kriorus (under Valeria) bought its own liquid nitrogen generator.

- Kazakhstan experienced a coup in January, with some Russian help. Previous president Nazarbaev was very interested in life extension and after several failures with local scientists played – via his daughter – with now inmate Peter Nygard in stem cell research in the Bahamas. I think that now all this research has stopped.

- Russian state investment company Rosnano built under influence of the idea of nanotechnology in the 2000s has defaulted on its bonds in autumn. Its mastermind Chubais left Russia in spring.