# Calibrating your probability estimates of world events: Russia vs Ukraine, 6 months later.

Some of the com­ments on the link by James_Miller ex­actly six months ago pro­vided very spe­cific es­ti­mates of how the events might turn out:

James_Miller:

• The odds of Rus­sian in­ter­ven­ing mil­i­tar­ily = 40%.

• The odds of the Rus­si­ans los­ing the con­ven­tional bat­tle (per­haps be­cause of NATO in­ter­ven­tion) con­di­tional on them en­ter­ing = 30%.

• The odds of the Rus­si­ans re­sort­ing to nu­clear weapons con­di­tional on them los­ing the con­ven­tional bat­tle = 20%.

Me:

“Rus­si­ans in­ter­ven­ing mil­i­tar­ily” could be any­thing from pos­tur­ing to weapon ship­ments to a sur­gi­cal strike to a Cze­choslo­vakia-style tank-roll or Afghanistan in­va­sion. My guess that the odds of the lat­ter is be­low 5%.

A bet be­tween James_Miller and solip­sist:

I will bet you \$20 U.S. (mine) vs \$100 (yours) that Rus­sian tanks will be in­volved in com­bat in the Ukraine within 60 days. So in 60 days I will pay you \$20 if I lose the bet, but you pay me \$100 if I win.

While it is hard to do any mean­ingful cal­ibra­tion based on a sin­gle event, there must be les­sons to learn from it. Given that Rus­sian ar­mored columns are said to cap­ture key Ukrainian towns to­day, the first part of James_Miller’s pre­dic­tion has come true, even if it took 3 times longer than he es­ti­mated.

Note that even the most pes­simistic per­son in that con­ver­sa­tion (James) was prob­a­bly too op­ti­mistic. My es­ti­mate of 5% ap­pears way too low in ret­ro­spect, and I would prob­a­bly bump it to 50% for a similar event in the fu­ture.

Now, given that the first pre­dic­tion came true, how would one reeval­u­ate the odds of the two fur­ther es­ca­la­tions he listed? I still feel that there is no way there will be a “con­ven­tional bat­tle” be­tween Rus­sia and NATO, but hav­ing just been proven wrong makes me doubt my as­sump­tions. If any­thing, maybe I should give more weight to what James_Miller (or at least Dan Car­lin) has to say on the is­sue. And if I had any skin in the game, I would prob­a­bly be even more cau­tious.

• I es­ti­mate the chances of NATO get­ting in­volved mil­i­tar­ily in the Ukraine to be less than 1%. Ukraine is not a NATO mem­ber and the US has zero ap­petite for a war with Rus­sia over some former Soviet ter­ri­tory. Rus­sia has already de­tached pieces from Ge­or­gia and pretty much no one no­ticed or cared. For grab­bing Crimea Rus­sia got a gen­tle slap on the wrist and that was it.

The situ­a­tion would be differ­ent in the Baltics, but the West will not in­ter­vene over Ukraine.

• Why will the Baltics be differ­ent? Do you think that the dead hand of the past (in the form of the NATO treaty) will com­pel Obama to act to pro­tect na­tions that most Amer­i­cans have never heard of? If yes keep this in mind

By 1996, Ukraine vol­un­tar­ily gave up all of its nu­clear arms and ac­ceded to the Nu­clear Non-Pro­lifer­a­tion Treaty. In ex­change for mak­ing the world a safer place, it re­ceived se­cu­rity as­surances from Bri­tain, the United States and Rus­sia in the form of the Bu­dapest Me­moran­dum, signed by Bill Clin­ton, Boris Yeltsin, and John Ma­jor, with pledges to “re­spect the in­de­pen­dence and sovereignty and the ex­ist­ing bor­ders of Ukraine” and the “re­frain from the threat or use of force against the ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity or poli­ti­cal in­de­pen­dence of Ukraine.”

Do Baltic mem­bers spend lots of time and money build­ing their poli­ti­cal sup­port among Amer­i­can poli­ti­ci­ans like Is­rael and Taiwan do? If not why will these poli­ti­ci­ans care if Rus­sia re­takes the Baltics?

• Why will the Baltics be differ­ent?

Be­cause they are mem­bers of NATO.

If NATO doesn’t re­act to the Rus­sian in­va­sion, it will be clearly and very pub­li­cly dead. And that would rad­i­cally change the power equa­tion in Europe and may e.g. lead to Western Europe rearm­ing it­self.

I am not say­ing that if Putin, say, starts grab­bing chunks of Es­to­nia, NATO will nec­es­sar­ily in­ter­vene. It might de­cide to die in­stead. But the odds are very differ­ent from the Ukraine case.

And, of course, NATO’s origi­nal pur­pose and whole rea­son for ex­is­tence is pre­cisely to con­tain the Rus­sian/​Soviet ex­pan­sion to the west.

• And, of course, NATO’s origi­nal pur­pose and whole rea­son for ex­is­tence is pre­cisely to con­tain the Rus­sian/​Soviet ex­pan­sion to the west.

I don’t think the rea­sons for form­ing NATO in 1949 are, or should be, rele­vant to­day. Uphold­ing treaties is a le­gi­t­i­mate con­cern, but what peo­ple cared about two gen­er­a­tions ago when they formed them isn’t.

• East Euro­peans wanted into NATO for pro­tec­tion both from Com­mu­nism and from Rus­sian dom­i­na­tion sim­plic­iter. The lat­ter con­sid­er­a­tion has not fun­da­men­tally changed.

• the United States and Rus­sia in the form of the Bu­dapest Me­moran­dum, signed by Bill Clin­ton, Boris Yeltsin, and John Ma­jor, with pledges to “re­spect the in­de­pen­dence and sovereignty and the ex­ist­ing bor­ders of Ukraine” and the “re­frain from the threat or use of force against the ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity or poli­ti­cal in­de­pen­dence of Ukraine.”

Me­moran­dums are non-bind­ing and do not, for ex­am­ple, pass Congress, and cer­tainly are not the ‘supreme law of the land’ like treaties with mu­tual self-defense clauses. That mem­o­ran­dum bound the US to noth­ing and what­ever it meant ex­pired with the pres­i­dent who signed it. It is no more sur­pris­ing that the USA has not in­vaded Rus­sia over its vi­o­la­tion of the mem­o­ran­dum than it is sur­pris­ing that the USA did not in­vade Ja­pan in 1905 or 1910 for coloniz­ing Korea de­spite the let­ters of as­surance to the Korean king and (some in­ter­pre­ta­tions of) the pre­vi­ous treaty. With NATO, ev­ery­one un­der­stands that an at­tack on a NATO coun­try will in­volve Amer­i­can reprisals; in con­trast, I’ve never even heard of this mem­o­ran­dum un­til the past year where sud­denly ev­ery­one is in­vok­ing it as an ex­am­ple of how hol­low Amer­i­can treaties are.

• Me­moran­dums have less promi­nence than treaties so the pub­lic re­la­tions cost to ig­nor­ing them is in­deed smaller.

With NATO, ev­ery­one un­der­stands that an at­tack on a NATO coun­try will in­volve Amer­i­can reprisals

Only if Pres­i­dent Obama wanted to ini­ti­ate reprisals, and does ev­ery­one know that he would? Yes, he would cer­tainly do some­thing sym­bolic, but would he take mil­i­tary ac­tion against Rus­sia if Rus­sia, say, de­cided to take back Es­to­nia? I would give it less than a 50% chance. If Ukraine were a NATO mem­ber and Rus­sia still did what she did, do you think that the U.S. would have taken mil­i­tary ac­tion against Rus­sia?

• Me­moran­dums have less promi­nence than treaties so the pub­lic re­la­tions cost to ig­nor­ing them is in­deed smaller.

When some­thing doesn’t oblige one to do some­thing, and ev­ery­one un­der­stands that well in ad­vance, then yes, the PR hit from not do­ing that some­thing is in­deed small… You gain a rep­u­ta­tion as a promise-breaker by break­ing promises.

Yes, he would cer­tainly do some­thing sym­bolic, but would he take mil­i­tary ac­tion against Rus­sia if Rus­sia, say, de­cided to take back Es­to­nia?

He has to, or else the US em­pire col­lapses wor­ld­wide: the US holds very few ter­ri­to­ries out­right, it de­pends on host coun­tries like Ger­many, Ja­pan, and South Korea, who gen­er­ally have defense clauses just like NATO and al­low & sub­si­dize the US bases in part to benefit from mu­tual defense clauses. If a NATO coun­try is in­vaded with­out a real defense, then Amer­ica’s cred­i­bil­ity goes up in smoke. The day af­ter the in­va­sion, just in East Asia: SK restarts its nuke pro­gram, NK be­gins ex­tort­ing more from SK un­der the threat of in­va­sion, Ja­pan be­gins a covert nuke pro­gram and be­gins the pro­cess of ex­pel­ling the US from Ok­i­nawa (a long-run­ning sore in their do­mes­tic poli­tics jus­tifi­able only as part of the US nu­clear um­brella, and a solu­tion which costs the US much of its ca­pa­bil­ities against China), and so on and so forth.

If Ukraine were a NATO mem­ber and Rus­sia still did what she did, do you think that the U.S. would have taken mil­i­tary ac­tion against Rus­sia?

Oh yes. And that’s in part why Ukraine was never al­lowed to join NATO: too close to Rus­sia.

• He has to, or else the US em­pire col­lapses wor­ld­wide:

Lots of leftwing in­tel­lec­tu­als would love to see the U.S. em­pire col­lapse. We don’t know Obama’s opinion on the topic be­cause he would be smart enough to hide any such anti-pa­tri­otic views.

But I doubt that let­ting Rus­sia take a small NATO coun­try would cause the col­lapse of U.S. power abroad. Para­dox­i­cally, it might in­crease our power as na­tions put more effort into pleas­ing us and beg­ging us to sta­tion troops on their soil to act as trip­wires.

You are right that Rus­sia tak­ing Es­to­nia would cause lots of coun­tries to ac­quire nu­clear weapons. No doubt high tech coun­tries like Ja­pan, Ger­many, and South Korea have plans in place to very quickly get them.

• Lots of leftwing in­tel­lec­tu­als would love to see the U.S. em­pire col­lapse. We don’t know Obama’s opinion on the topic be­cause he would be smart enough to hide any such anti-pa­tri­otic views.

We may judge him by his ac­tions: in­furi­at­ing many left-wing in­tel­lec­tu­als by now-6 years of straight-line con­tinu­a­tion and ex­pan­sion of Bush-era poli­cies with re­gard to na­tional se­cu­rity and em­pire-build­ing.

But I doubt that let­ting Rus­sia take a small NATO coun­try would cause the col­lapse of U.S. power abroad. Para­dox­i­cally, it might in­crease our power as na­tions put more effort into pleas­ing us and beg­ging us to sta­tion troops on their soil to act as trip­wires.

‘But I doubt that let­ting Rus­sia take the Ukraine would cause any col­lapse of US cred­i­bil­ity abroad. Para­dox­i­cally, it might in­crease our power as na­tions put more effort into pleas­ing us and beg­ging us to sta­tion troops on their soil to act as trip­wires.’

• I think the last para­graph is true, al­though I rec­og­nize that you prob­a­bly do not.

• But I doubt that let­ting Rus­sia take a small NATO coun­try would cause the col­lapse of U.S. power abroad. Para­dox­i­cally, it might in­crease our power

In Eastern Europe, the pro-Rus­sian peo­ple would be like: “See? The West is tooth­less; Rus­sia will re­gain her former sphere of in­fluence soon (which in­cludes us).” And peo­ple have an in­stinct to side with the win­ner, so the peo­ple who don’t have strong poli­ti­cal opinions would be likely to join what seems like a win­ning side.

The map drawn at Yalta Con­fer­ence was a Schel­ling point for decades. Peo­ple still re­mem­ber it.

• Lots of leftwing in­tel­lec­tu­als would love to see the U.S. em­pire col­lapse. We don’t know Obama’s opinion on the topic be­cause he would be smart enough to hide any such anti-pa­tri­otic views.

I like your posts and com­ments a lot more when you re­frain from the un­for­tu­nate rhetoric. It also would be nice to step away from the poli­tics proper and get back to the topic of cal­ibrat­ing one’s cer­tain­ties.

• I like your posts and com­ments a lot more when you re­frain from the un­for­tu­nate rhetoric.

Our es­ti­mate of Putin’s es­ti­mate of Obama’s view on the U.S. em­pire is crit­i­cal to cal­ibrat­ing our be­liefs. Lots of leftwing in­tel­lec­tu­als re­ally, re­ally do think that the U.S. em­pire is an evil, im­pe­ri­al­ist force (do you doubt that they be­lieve this?). To cal­ibrate our be­liefs we need to figure out with what prob­a­bil­ity Putin thinks Obama has this view.

• I, and pre­sum­ably shminux as well, though that you were claiming that there’s ac­tu­ally a good chance that Obama ac­tu­ally does want to see the Amer­i­can ‘em­pire’ col­lapse, not that Putin thought that he would.

• To cal­ibrate our be­liefs we need to figure out with what prob­a­bil­ity Putin thinks Obama has this view.

Yes, as­sum­ing it’s one of the many is­sues Putin pays any at­ten­tion to. What are the odds of Putin even con­sid­er­ing the pos­si­bil­ity that Obama might be a hid­den left-wing anti-pa­tri­otic con­spir­a­tor whose main agenda is to break the evil US em­pire? This is an easy ques­tion to an­swer. Pre­sum­ably Putin is to the left of the “left-wing in­tel­lec­tu­als” with his views on the evil­ness of the US em­pire, right? And ac­tual US “anti-pa­tri­otic” left-wingers cer­tainly don’t con­sider Obama one of them, judg­ing by the amount of crit­i­cism they fling at him. So Putin al­most surely sees Obama as the cur­rent sym­bol of US im­pe­ri­al­ism try­ing to pre­vent Rus­sia from ex­er­cis­ing its rights to pro­tect Rus­sian cit­i­zens in formerly Rus­sian ter­ri­to­ries. He may well think that he is weak and try to take ad­van­tage of it, but he cer­tainly does not think that Obama is se­cretly anti-amer­i­can, no more than he thinks that Obama is se­cretly Kenyan. My guess is that you think this is an op­tion worth con­sid­er­ing be­cause of your own poli­ti­cal views, which are ob­vi­ously anti-Obama. This leads to a se­lec­tion bias where you ex­ag­ger­ate the like­li­hood of neg­ligible-prob­a­bil­ity al­ter­na­tives re­lated to the views you dis­agree with.

• Obama clearly wants to pull the U.S. out of Iraq and Afghanistan, which un­der Bush were big parts of the U.S. em­pire. Lots of Repub­li­cans think that Obama wants to greatly re­duce U.S. mil­i­tary power, so why is it silly to think that Putin might think that Obama wants to do so?

but he cer­tainly does not think that Obama is se­cretly anti-amer­i­can,

I take it you don’t have much ex­pe­rience talk­ing with leftwing col­lege pro­fes­sors. It’s far from im­plau­si­ble to think that deep down Obama be­lieves that U.S. mil­i­tary power has, with the ex­cep­tion of WWII, been a force for evil.

Putin is former KGB and the KGB had a long his­tory of get­ting leftwing in­tel­lec­tu­als to spy for them be­cause the in­tel­lec­tu­als dis­liked the West. (I do not be­lieve that Obama is or ever has been a spy.)

• Obama clearly wants to pull the U.S. out of Iraq and Afghanistan, which un­der Bush were big parts of the U.S. em­pire.

Clearly. And for a good rea­son, given how Afghanistan has always been re­sis­tant to ex­ter­nal ag­gres­sion and Iraq was Bush and Cheney’s pet pro­ject, un­re­lated to 9/​11.

Lots of Repub­li­cans think that Obama wants to greatly re­duce U.S. mil­i­tary power

What do they think his mo­ti­va­tion would be, other than pos­si­bly fi­nan­cial?

I take it you don’t have much ex­pe­rience talk­ing with leftwing col­lege pro­fes­sors.

Some. The ex-hip­pie Berkeley types are rather an­noy­ing. Krug­man is an­noy­ing. But to me any ide­olog­i­cally-mo­ti­vated ar­gu­ment is an­noy­ing, be­cause of its anti-ra­tio­nal­ity.

It’s far from im­plau­si­ble to think that deep down Obama be­lieves that U.S. mil­i­tary power has, with the ex­cep­tion of WWII, been a force for evil.

Eh, I don’t see the con­nec­tion. The leftwingers rarely hide their views. Obama has never ex­pressed any­thing close to what you are de­scribing and hasn’t worked for any rad­i­cal leftwing or­ga­ni­za­tions (be­yond a ten­ants’ rights or­ga­ni­za­tion dur­ing his col­lege years). He cer­tainly sup­ported left-lean­ing causes, like health­care and welfare re­forms, in the past, but he still does so, pretty openly. I grant you that his ex­pressed views and ac­tions have shifted right­ward, and his ac­tual views might be closer to what he held 15 years ago, but still solidly within the spec­trum of DNC views. The odds of him con­sid­er­ing the US mil­i­tary power be­ing (a force for evil), given that he never ex­pressed views like that, are pretty slim. Not that I per­son­ally ap­prove of his poli­cies and ac­tions, the man has been a dis­ap­point­ment in terms of his com­pe­tence level. But in­ept does not mean mal­i­cious.

• Obama clearly wants to pull the U.S. out of Iraq and Afghanistan, which un­der Bush were big parts of the U.S. em­pire.

If Iraq was ever part of the U.S. em­pire, we might have done what it took to gov­ern it, and would be get­ting cheap oil from Iraq, which I thought was just a fan­tasy of the left. Maybe you’d like the U.S. to act as an old fash­ioned Em­pire, but no­body ex­cept maybe Dick Cheney wants to do that. It might work but I doubt it, but most im­por­tant it has no chance of hap­pen­ing and if part of your cri­tique of Obama is that he’s not an old fash­ioned im­pe­ri­al­ist, I think Teddy Roo­sevelt might have been the last Amer­i­can one.

Putin is former KGB and the KGB had a long his­tory of get­ting leftwing in­tel­lec­tu­als to spy for them be­cause the in­tel­lec­tu­als dis­liked the West.

To­day’s “left wing” in­tel­lec­tu­als are blath­er­ers. Post­mod­ernism is anti-En­light­en­ment and views Marx­ism as an un­for­tu­nate re­sult of the En­light­en­ment the same as cap­i­tal­ism. Noam Chom­sky calls him­self an an­ar­chist. They tend to be anti-ev­ery­thing when it comes to ac­tu­ally do­ing some­thing. And Obama is cer­tainly noth­ing like that crowd. There is no in­ter­na­tional Com­mu­nist move­ment, and there’s been vir­tu­ally none since Brezh­nev, though the USSR ran around try­ing to buy a lot of coun­tries. If you want a clear pic­ture of the era of “Red In­tel­lec­tu­als”, read Wit­ness by Whit­taker Cham­bers, and then I sug­gest Reds: McCarthy­ism in Twen­tieth-Cen­tury Amer­ica by Ted Mor­gan (de­spite the sub­ti­tle, McCarthy­ism is less than half of what the book cov­ers). Cham­bers was the star wit­ness for Nixon’s “pump­kin pa­pers” trial. Both cover a lot of just how deep the in­ter­na­tional Com­mu­nist move­ment got into Amer­ica, and Cham­bers writes beau­tifully and helps you to see why that was. He also speaks for the many who be­came deeply dis­illu­sioned by the Hitler-Stalin pact. I used to think that was odd be­cause in my view it was a very nat­u­ral re­ac­tion to Cham­ber­lain’s Mu­nich, but the Com­mu­nists re­ally did put up a very good show of defin­ing and op­pos­ing the Fas­cists (I say “a good show” for a rea­son but it’s too com­pli­cated to say more), and for as long as that was true, a lot of peo­ple put a halo on them for that, then many of them be­cause naively heart­bro­ken.

• Our es­ti­mate of Putin’s es­ti­mate of Obama’s view on the U.S. em­pire is crit­i­cal to cal­ibrat­ing our be­liefs.

That is true, and how much of Putin’s es­ti­mate of Obama is due to re­lentless right-wing pro­pa­ganda say­ing he’s weak on ev­ery­thing?

I’m not con­vinced he’s failed to do any­thing use­ful that say GWB would have done (or any up and com­ing GOP leader). I think a big prob­lem we have now is we’re in umpteen situ­a­tions in which there’s hardly any clear cut win­ning move.

• Lots of leftwing in­tel­lec­tu­als would love to see the U.S. em­pire col­lapse.

I don’t think their views on the sub­ject are ter­ribly co­her­ent. The calls to stop be­ing the world’s po­lice­man are in­ter­twined with calls to in­ter­vene for “ap­pro­pri­ate” hu­man­i­tar­ian causes. Hard iso­la­tion­ism is a rar­ity nowa­days, I think.

• But I doubt that let­ting Rus­sia take a small NATO coun­try would cause the col­lapse of U.S. power abroad. Para­dox­i­cally, it might in­crease our power as na­tions put more effort into pleas­ing us and beg­ging us to sta­tion troops on their soil to act as trip­wires.

If Rus­sia takes a NATO coun­try and the US doesn’t in­ter­vene then US troops ob­vi­ously don’t act as trip­wires. This im­plies that the US is an un­re­li­able ally, which would prompt the other NATO mem­bers to say a big “fuck you” to the US and take defense on their own hands, which would in­clude turn­ing Europe into the Fourth Re­ich, re­build­ing the Ja­panese Em­pire, some coun­tries pre­emp­tively sid­ing with Rus­sia, and so on.

• Con­sider two rea­sons the U.S. has for pro­tect­ing a coun­try from Rus­sia or China. (1) Be­cause of some doc­u­ment signed a long time ago. (2) Be­cause we would lose a lot if that coun­try fell un­der the con­trol of Rus­sia or China.

(2) has always been a lot more im­por­tant than (1). The dead hand of the past is a lot weaker than it seems in in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions.

Hav­ing the Ger­mans and Ja­panese spend more money on their mil­i­tary would benefit the United States. If I were Putin I would con­sider the main down­side of tak­ing Es­to­nia be­ing that Ger­man would re­spond by mil­i­ta­riz­ing.

• Part of the EU con­sti­tu­tion is about mu­tual self defense. The EU al­most cer­tainly would defend their own ter­ri­tory. Stay­ing out of the con­flict wouldn’t be only a be­trayal of Es­to­nia but a be­trayal of ev­ery EU coun­try.

If Ukraine were a NATO mem­ber and Rus­sia still did what she did, do you think that the U.S. would have taken mil­i­tary ac­tion against Rus­sia?

If Ukraine would be in NATO game then at­tack­ing the “rebels” in Ukraine would be fair game just as the US at­tacks ISIS via airstrikes in Iraq.

• Even with­out the US the EU has more than dou­ble the defense bud­get of Rus­sia. Euro­pean will­ing­ness to defend one of the coun­tries of the EU is by a mag­ni­tude higher than the will­ing­ness to defend Ukraine or Ge­or­gia.

There are open bor­ders in the EU and that means peo­ple from the baltic states are free to travel around. As a re­sult many EU cit­i­zens have in­ter­acted with peo­ple from the baltic states

Latvia has a per cap­ita GDP (PPP) of 20,000 while Ukraine has one of 7,500. Latvia has a func­tion­ing democ­racy and is not ruled by a bunch of oli­garchs. It’s from an Euro­pean per­spec­tive worth pro­tect­ing in a way that Ukraine sim­ply isn’t. Or Moldova, Ge­or­gia, Be­larus or Azer­bai­jan for that mat­ter.

I would also ex­pect that Latvia gives it’s minori­ties cer­tain rights be­cause it’s legally obliged to do so un­der EU law that Ukraine didn’t.

The con­tract that you linked to doesn’t spec­ify that the US has a le­gal duty to pro­tect the Ukraine.

• I would also ex­pect that Latvia gives it’s minori­ties cer­tain rights be­cause it’s legally obliged to do so un­der EU law that Ukraine didn’t.

This isn’t di­rectly rele­vant to the dis­cus­sion, but if Rus­sia were ever to at­tack Latvia, their ex­cuse would prob­a­bly pre­cisely be the treat­ment of eth­nic Rus­si­ans. It is, in fact, a re­cur­ring theme in Rus­sian me­dia.

The rea­son for this is that in or­der to be el­i­gible for a full cit­i­zen­ship one is re­quired to pass Lat­vian lan­guage com­pe­tency and Lat­vian his­tory ex­ams. What is more, Latvia al­lows dual cit­i­zen­ship, but only if the other cit­i­zen­ship is of a coun­try that be­longs to the list that is speci­fied by a law. Rus­sia is not on the list.

Ci­ti­zens of the former USSR who pos­sess nei­ther Lat­vian nor other cit­i­zen­ship who live in Latvia are el­i­gible for a non-cit­i­zen pass­port. They are al­lowed to nat­u­ral­ize pro­vided they pass the afore­men­tioned ex­ams. How­ever, for var­i­ous rea­sons many are un­will­ing (few are un­able) to do so. For ex­am­ple, trav­el­ing to Rus­sia is eas­ier for a non-cit­i­zen than a cit­i­zen of Latvia. How­ever, it is eas­ier to work and travel in the Schen­gen Area if one is a non-cit­i­zen of Latvia than a cit­i­zen of Rus­sia. Thus some peo­ple might find it dis­ad­van­ta­geous to choose one cit­i­zen­ship (in their day-to-day lives trav­el­ing is more im­por­tant than hav­ing the right to vote).

How such an un­usual situ­a­tion came into ex­is­tence? If I un­der­stand cor­rectly, in early 1990s Latvia des­per­ately tried to avoid break­away re­gions, be­cause in 1989 only 49% of the non-Lat­vian pop­u­la­tion sup­ported the idea of the in­de­pen­dence of Latvia (the num­ber of Lat­vians sup­port­ing the idea made up 93%). It should be noted that, ac­cord­ing to wikipe­dia, such situ­a­tion is not with­out a prece­dent:

Peter Van El­suwege, a scholar in Euro­pean law at Ghent Univer­sity, states that the Lat­vian law is grounded upon the es­tab­lished le­gal prin­ci­ple that per­sons who set­tle un­der the rule of an oc­cu­py­ing power gain no au­to­matic right to na­tion­al­ity. A num­ber of his­toric prece­dents sup­port this, ac­cord­ing to Van El­suwege, most no­tably the case of Alsace-Lor­raine when the French on re­cov­er­ing the ter­ri­tory in 1918 did not grant cit­i­zen­ship to Ger­man set­tlers de­spite Ger­many hav­ing an­nexed the ter­ri­tory 47 years ear­lier in 1871.

How­ever, as you can imag­ine, the fact that these non-cit­i­zens (mostly Rus­si­ans) do not have vot­ing rights is a tar­get of out­rage in Rus­sian me­dia. Fur­ther­more, many eth­nic Rus­si­ans in Latvia watch a lot of it and this re­sults in them hav­ing differ­ent opinions (about e.g. situ­a­tion in Ukraine) than eth­nic Lat­vians. How­ever, it is not clear whether they would ac­tu­ally sup­port Rus­sia in the case of armed con­flict.

Please note that I’m nei­ther Lat­vian, nor an ex­pert on Lat­vian law, there­fore the story above may con­tain some in­ac­cu­ra­cies. Still, LW read­ers might find it helpful for their prob­a­bil­ity es­ti­mates of po­ten­tial wars and/​or other events.

• Thank you. I’d won­dered about whether eth­nic Rus­si­ans were ac­tu­ally be­ing mis­treated, though this doesn’t an­swer the ques­tion of whether they were be­ing mis­treated in Ukraine.

The next ques­tion is whether they’ve be­ing treated differ­ently now that Rus­sia is do­ing some in­vad­ing.

• In the 2001 Ukrainian cen­sus 17.3% of the pop­u­la­tion of Ukraine iden­tied as eth­nic Rus­si­ans (58.3% in Crimea) while 77.8% as Ukraini­ans. How­ever, in 2012, only 50% of re­spon­dents con­sider Ukrainian their na­tive lan­guage, 29% - Rus­sian. More­over, 20% con­sider both Ukrainian and Rus­sian their mother tongue and 45% usu­ally speak Ukrainian at home, 39% - Rus­sian and 15% - both Ukrainian and Rus­sian (equally).

Rus­sian lan­guage seems to have high in­for­mal sta­tus, since, ac­cord­ing to wikipedia

A 2012 study showed that: on the ra­dio, 3.4% of songs are in Ukrainian while 60% are in Rus­sian over 60% of news­pa­pers, 83% of jour­nals and 87% of books are in Rus­sian 28% of TV pro­grams are in Ukrainian, even on state-owned chan­nels.

and busi­ness af­fairs are still mainly dealt with in Rus­sian. Some peo­ple even claim that

“There is an es­tab­lished Rus­sian-speak­ing en­vi­ron­ment in big cities and it ex­erts pres­sure on peo­ple,” she claims. “They think that they will not be­long to it if they speak Ukrainian.”

and, ac­cord­ing to the same article

So­ciolog­i­cal sur­veys show a huge gap be­tween the num­ber of those who speak Ukrainian at home and those who also use it at work and in pub­lic. For Kyiv, this is about 50% and 20% ac­cord­ingly.

At the same time, ac­cord­ing to the Con­sti­tu­tion, the state lan­guage of Ukraine is the Ukrainian lan­guage. How­ever, in 2012 the new law gave Rus­sian sta­tus of re­gional lan­guage and ap­proved its use in courts and other gov­ern­ment in­sti­tu­tions in ar­eas where the per­centage of Rus­si­ans ex­ceeds 10%.

As you can see, we can ob­serve the gap be­tween for­mal sta­tus and in­for­mal sta­tus of Rus­sian in Ukraine. Thus for any lan­guage re­lated event there are at least two differ­ent in­ter­pre­ta­tions. For ex­am­ple, on Fe­bru­ary 2014, the new Ukrainian gov­ern­ment tried to re­peal 2012 lan­guage law. While many Ukrainian-speak­ing Ukraini­ans saw it as an at­tempt to fi­nally cur­tail Rus­sifi­ca­tion (in the in­for­mal sphere), many Rus­sian speak­ers “saw the move as more ev­i­dence that the anti­gov­ern­ment protests in Kiev that top­pled Yanukovich’s gov­ern­ment were in­tent on press­ing for a na­tion­al­is­tic agenda.” Ob­vi­ously, back in 2012 it was Ukrainian speak­ers who saw the new law as un­fairly “nar­row­ing the sphere of use of Ukrainian lan­guage” and on Fe­bru­ary 2014 they thought that it was their chance to re­verse it. How­ever, they were far too much in haste, and, even though the act­ing pres­i­dent ve­toed the bill, a back­lash among Rus­sian speak­ers prob­a­bly made Rus­sia’s mil­i­tary takeover of Crimea much eas­ier.

Although the lan­guage isn’t ev­ery­thing, but, ac­cord­ing to an opinion poll

among re­spon­dents who sup­port Ukraine’s en­try into the Cus­toms Union, the vast ma­jor­ity (72%) speak in fa­vor of grant­ing Rus­sian the sta­tus of the state lan­guage. How­ever, among re­spon­dents who sup­port the sign­ing of the free trade zone agree­ment with the EU, the vast ma­jor­ity (72%) are against bilingualism

Another point made by the same poll shows that it is, at least par­tially, a mat­ter of per­sonal iden­tity be­yond lan­guage:

De­spite the fact that Ukrainian is mostly spo­ken by el­derly peo­ple, young peo­ple op­pose bil­in­gual­ism more.

(in­deed, it seems that for many Ukraini­ans this whole EU vs.Cus­toms Union dilemma is more about iden­tity than eco­nomics).

But I digress. In short, it seems to me that if Rus­si­ans were ac­tu­ally be­ing mis­treated, their lan­guage would not have such a high in­for­mal sta­tus in Ukraine, which is dis­pro­por­tionate to the share of ac­tual eth­nic Rus­si­ans in Ukrainian pop­u­la­tion. How­ever, due to the differ­ences be­tween for­mal, in­for­mal pub­lic and in­for­mal pri­vate spheres cer­tain ac­tions (e.g. by the gov­ern­ment) can be per­ceived as un­fair by a cer­tain seg­ment of pop­u­la­tion.

(Dis­claimer: I am not a Ukrainian; the story above may con­tain some in­ac­cu­ra­cies. In ad­di­tion, an ac­tual Ukrainian would be able to tell what ex­actly are pre­vailing sen­ti­ments now)

• That’s in­ter­est­ing. I would have es­ti­mated more pres­sure from the EU on that is­sue. From a quick googling it seemed that no­body sued in the Euro­pean Court of Hu­man Rights about the is­sue.

• I un­der­stand it’s some­thing the EU does crit­i­cise them for. I sus­pect we don’t see that kind of law­suit be­cause the peo­ple who care most about the is­sue also don’t want to le­gi­t­imise EU power in Latvia.

• The Baltics would also be differ­ent be­cause of their ac­cess to North­ern Europe and the strate­gic value mil­i­tar­ily. Th­ese coun­tries are also demo­cratic and EU/​Nato mem­bers which also fac­tor in of course.

• 6 months ago, I would have agreed with you.

• I in­ter­pret the last six months as more ev­i­dence that the West will do noth­ing.

I also see large, um, prac­ti­cal prob­lems with the idea. Who will be in­ter­ven­ing? You can’t think it would be a good idea to send Ger­man sol­diers into Ukraine to fight Rus­si­ans. And will the US ex­e­cute airstrikes against Rus­sia given that Rus­sia is likely to re­tal­i­ate with airstrikes against, say, Alaska?

In any case any­thing re­sem­bling an in­ter­ven­tion will be a colos­sal poli­ti­cal gift for Putin.

• My guesses for the next 6 months:

The odds of Ukraine re­claiming com­plete poli­ti­cal con­trol over ALL ar­eas of the coun­try: 10%

The odds of Ukraine re­claiming com­plete poli­ti­cal con­trol over ALL ar­eas of the coun­try EXCEPT Crimea: 30%

The odds of Rus­sia de facto an­nex­ing some chunk of Eastern Ukraine then set­ting up a new bor­der: 20%

The odds of in­va­sion of the rest of Ukraine by Rus­sia: 5%

Other situ­a­tions, es­pe­cially one where Rus­sia re­tains Crimea and some parts of Eastern Ukraine but the situ­a­tion is still in flux: 35%

Why? I think that the situ­a­tion will es­ca­late fur­ther, but not THAT much fur­ther. Di­plo­macy and a firmer NATO at­ti­tude will stop Rus­sia from com­mit­ting to full-scale in­va­sion, but won’t prompt it to give any land back.

#1415: Will there be a **lethal con­fronta­tion in­volv­ing Rus­sian **na­tional mil­i­tary forces in Ukraine **be­fore 1 Oc­to­ber 2014?

Note the “*” re­fer to very pre­cisely defined terms.

I will up­date my pre­dic­tion based on this LW info.

Are there any com­pa­rable bets re­lated to the South Chi­nese Sea dis­pute?

• How cer­tain were you that you had suffi­cient in­for­ma­tion to make a mean­ingful pre­dic­tion?

• I clearly don’t. The cal­ibra­tion is about ac­cu­rately es­ti­mat­ing the lack of in­for­ma­tion and trans­lat­ing it into prob­a­bil­ities.

• I think that’s not get­ting the point. You thought the odds of a Rus­sian in­ter­ven­tion were less than 5%. Even at the time and with the in­for­ma­tion available that was prob­a­bly too low. At the same time I would have rated James’ predic­i­tons as too high.

How­ever how cer­tain should you have been of your pre­dic­tion? No the an­swer here is not likely to be 5%. It’s at a meta level: your es­ti­mate was 5%, but with what er­ror bars? How cer­tain were you that you had pro­cessed and up­dated on all the in­for­ma­tion nec­es­sary to make such a call?

If the er­ror bars were too big, you shouldn’t have been mak­ing bets.

• That was in­deed my rea­son­ing, but ap­par­ently it’s not prop­erly Bayesian :) Real Bayesi­ans don’t use er­ror bars! (They use cred­ible in­ter­vals.)

• Differ­ent word for the same thing.

• Sigh.

• An in­ter­val defines a range, with the end­points of that range be­ing rep­re­sented of­ten as er­ror bars when pre­sented graph­i­cally. When I said “er­ror bars” I was in­for­mally refer­ring shminux’s mea­sure­ment of his un­cer­tainty in his pre­dic­tion, re­gard­less of whether he is us­ing cred­ible in­ter­vals, con­fi­dence in­ter­vals, or some other frame­work.

• Ac­tu­ally, I tried a few times to make sense out of it and failed. Feel free to ELI5.

• Maybe a sim­ple ex­am­ple will help. Sup­pose I have an urn with 100 balls in it. Each ball is ei­ther red, yel­low or blue. There are, let’s say, five differ­ent hy­pothe­ses about the dis­tri­bu­tion of col­ors in the urn—H1, H2, H3, H4 and H5 -- and we’re in­ter­ested in figur­ing out which hy­poth­e­sis is cor­rect. The ex­per­i­ment we’re con­duct­ing is draw­ing a sin­gle ball from the urn and not­ing its color. I get a new urn af­ter each in­di­vi­d­ual ex­per­i­ment.

There are ob­vi­ously three pos­si­ble out­comes for this ex­per­i­ment, and the fre­quen­tist will as­so­ci­ate a con­fi­dence in­ter­val with each out­come. The con­fi­dence in­ter­val for each out­come will be some set of hy­pothe­ses (so, for in­stance, the con­fi­dence in­ter­val for “yel­low” might be {H2, H4}). Th­ese in­ter­vals are con­structed so that, as the ex­per­i­ment is re­peated, in the long run the ob­tained con­fi­dence in­ter­val will con­tain the cor­rect hy­poth­e­sis at least X% of the time (where X is de­cided by the ex­per­i­menter). So, for in­stance, if I use 95% con­fi­dence in­ter­vals, then in 95% of the ex­per­i­ments I con­duct the cor­rect hy­poth­e­sis will be in­cluded in the con­fi­dence in­ter­val as­so­ci­ated with the out­come I ob­tain.

In other words, if I say, af­ter each ex­per­i­ment, “The cor­rect hy­poth­e­sis is one of these”, and point at the con­fi­dence in­ter­val I ob­tained in that ex­per­i­ment, then I will be right 95% of the time. The other 5% of the time I may be wrong, per­haps even ob­vi­ously wrong.

As a con­trived ex­am­ple, sup­pose each urn I am given con­tains only 5 red balls. Also sup­pose the con­fi­dence in­ter­val I as­so­ci­ate with “red” is the empty set, and the con­fi­dence in­ter­val I as­so­ci­ate with both “yel­low” and “blue” is the set con­tain­ing all five hy­pothe­ses (H1 through H5). Now as I re­peat the ex­per­i­ment over and over again, 95% of the time I will get ei­ther yel­low or blue balls, and I will point at the set con­tain­ing all hy­pothe­ses and say “The cor­rect hy­poth­e­sis is one of these”, and I will be triv­ially, ob­vi­ously right. On the other hand, 5% of the time I will get a red ball, and I will point at the empty set and say “The cor­rect hy­poth­e­sis is one of these”, and I will be triv­ially, ob­vi­ously wrong. But since the red ball only shows up 5% of the time, I will still end up be­ing right 95% of the time. This means that the empty set is ac­tu­ally a kosher 95% con­fi­dence in­ter­val for the out­come “red”, even though I know the empty set can­not pos­si­bly in­clude the cor­rect hy­poth­e­sis.

The Bayesian doesn’t like this. She wants in­ter­vals that make sense in ev­ery par­tic­u­lar case. She wants to be able to look at the list of hy­pothe­ses in a 95% in­ter­val and say “There’s a 95% chance that the cor­rect hy­poth­e­sis is one of these”. Con­fi­dence in­ter­vals can­not guaran­tee this. As we have seen, the empty set can be a le­gi­t­i­mate 95% con­fi­dence in­ter­val, and it’s ob­vi­ous that the chance of the cor­rect hy­poth­e­sis be­ing part of the empty set is not 95%. This is why the Bayesian uses cred­ible in­ter­vals.

Un­like con­fi­dence in­ter­vals, with a 95% cred­ible in­ter­val you get a list at which you can point and say “There’s a 95% chance that one of these is the cor­rect hy­poth­e­sis”. And this claim will make sense in ev­ery par­tic­u­lar in­stance. More­over, if your pri­ors are cor­rect (what­ever that means), then it is guaran­teed that there is a 95% chance that the cor­rect hy­poth­e­sis is in your 95% cred­ible in­ter­val.

• Upvoted—thanks for a long, even if not fully even handed, re­ply (also it is per­haps not most trans­par­ent to ex­plain CIs us­ing a dis­crete set of hy­pothe­ses). I will try to give an ex­am­ple with a con­tin­u­ous val­ued pa­ram­e­ter.

Say we want to es­ti­mate the mean height of LW posters. Ig­nor­ing the is­sue of sock pup­pets for the mo­ment, we could pick LW user­names out of a hat, show up at the per­son with that user­name’s house, and mea­sure their height. Say we do that for 100 LW users we picked ran­domly, and take an av­er­age, call it X1. The 100 users are a “sam­ple” and X1 is a “sam­ple mean.” If we ran­domly picked a differ­ent set of 100, we would get a differ­ent av­er­age, call it X2. If again a differ­ent set of 100, we would get yet a differ­ent av­er­age, call it X3, etc.

Th­ese X1, X2, X3 are re­al­iza­tions of some­thing called the “sam­pling dis­tri­bu­tion,” call it Ps. This dis­tri­bu­tion is a differ­ent thing than the dis­tri­bu­tion that gov­erns height among all LW users, call it Ph. Ph could be any­thing in gen­eral, maybe Gaus­sian, maybe bi­modal, maybe some­thing weird. But if we can figure out what the dis­tri­bu­tion Ps is, we could make state­ments of the form

“most of the times where I pick a sam­ple Xi from Ps, e.g. most of the time I pick 100 LW users at ran­dom and get their av­er­age heights, this av­er­age will be pretty close to the real av­er­age height of all LW users, un­der a very small set of as­sump­tions on Ph.”

This is what con­fi­dence in­ter­vals are about. In fact, if the num­ber of LW users we pick for our sam­ple is large enough, we can well-ap­prox­i­mate Ps by a Gaus­sian dis­tri­bu­tion be­cause of a neat re­sult called the Cen­tral Limit The­o­rem, (again re­gard­less of what Ph is, or more pre­cisely un­der very mild as­sump­tions on Ph).

What makes these kinds of state­ments pow­er­ful is that we can some­times make them with­out need­ing to know much at all about Ph. Some­times it is use­ful to be able to say some­thing like that—maybe we are very un­cer­tain about Ph, or we sus­pect shenani­gans with how Ph is defined.

• You thought the odds of a Rus­sian in­ter­ven­tion were less than 5%

No, he didn’t. He thought the odds of Rus­sia in­vad­ing Ukraine in the same fash­ion as the Soviet Union in­vaded Afghanistan were 5%. This is a rather differ­ent thing.

• Some­thing like that, yes. I was talk­ing about Rus­sian tanks openly rol­ling across the bor­der. But Putin found a way to do effec­tively the same with­out be­ing so brazen. Which was one of the fac­tors I missed.

• I’ll go­ing to look at the ra­tio­nal­ity skill of be­ing able to tell whether you’ve an­chored on a pro­to­type. Has this already been ex­plored?

• I am not sure what you mean, maybe worth ask­ing in the open thread.

• Garry Kas­parov has made the fol­low­ing Tweets:

The rea­son to take difficult & dan­ger­ous steps to stop Putin to­day is sim­ple. It will get more difficult and more dan­ger­ous tomorrow

The Rus­sian com­man­ders think Putin is crazy but he keeps be­ing right, keeps win­ning with­out re­sis­tance. So they fol­low. It’s 1938-39 again.

The most dan­ger­ous el­e­ment is Putin & his fol­low­ers’ sense of in­vin­ci­bil­ity. The longer they go un­op­posed the harder will be to stop them.

Obama & EU kept look­ing for easy & safe ways to fight Putin. They re­fused to make tough de­ci­sions and the price always keeps go­ing up.

Putin is prob­a­bly try­ing to calcu­late what’s the most he can take con­sis­tent with keep­ing the prob­a­bil­ity of a ma­jor war with the United States be­low some level. If the U.S. is un­will­ing to fight, Putin will take all of the ter­ri­tory of the Soviet Em­pire + per­haps Fin­land, a coun­try that used to be­long to Rus­sia.

Putin prob­a­bly knows he might have a limited time to act be­cause the U.S. might get a hawk­ish Pres­i­dent (Hillary Clin­ton, any Repub­li­can but Rand Paul) or Ger­many might re-mil­i­ta­rize.

• Putin is prob­a­bly try­ing to calcu­late what’s the most he can take con­sis­tent with keep­ing the prob­a­bil­ity of a ma­jor war with the United States be­low some level. If the U.S. is un­will­ing to fight, Putin will take all of the ter­ri­tory of the Soviet Em­pire + per­haps Fin­land, a coun­try that used to be­long to Rus­sia.

Cur­rently, he only seems in­ter­ested in ter­ri­to­ries in­hab­ited by eth­nic Rus­si­ans, who are happy to be (re-)an­nexed to the coun­try they con­sider they home­land.
I doubt he is much in­ter­ested in tak­ing, say, the Baltic re­pub­lics or cis-Dniestr Moldova, as he would have to rule there with an iron fist on an un­co­op­er­a­tive pop­u­la­tion.

• eth­nic Rus­si­ans, who are happy to be (re-)an­nexed to the coun­try they con­sider they home­land.

Are they, or is this a part of mil­i­tary pro­pa­ganda? (I ask se­ri­ously, I don’t know.)

• Well, they are cer­tainly Rus­so­phone. Whether they do in­deed have a prefer­ence for be­ing an­nexed to Rus­sia, I can’t say for sure, but it seems plau­si­ble, at least given the ev­i­dence available on Western me­dia:

The Crimean sta­tus refer­en­dum showed over­whelming sup­port for join­ing Rus­sia, but this refer­en­dum oc­curred un­der mil­i­tary oc­cu­pa­tion and there are cred­ible alle­ga­tions of fraud, thus it is not very strong ev­i­dence.
Less con­tro­ver­sially, the former pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych, who had a pro-Rus­sian plat­form and whose re­moval sparked Rus­sian in­ter­ven­tion, had his elec­toral base in the Donetsk oblast, where he pre­vi­ously served as gov­er­nor.

• Whether they do in­deed have a prefer­ence for be­ing an­nexed to Russia

The pop­u­la­tion in ques­tion is not ho­moge­nous. Some would like to be an­nexed, some would not, some care much, some lit­tle.

• Love that broad brush you have. --- But whether the lo­cals do or do not pre­fer to be an­nexed is be­sides the point, isn’t it. Un­less you think it should be a new stan­dard in in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions that 50%+1 prefer­ence for an­nex­a­tion is a valid ca­sus belli. What a beau­tiful world that would be to live in.

• Un­less you think it should be a new stan­dard in in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions that 50%+1 prefer­ence for an­nex­a­tion is a valid ca­sus belli.

https://​​en.wikipe­dia.org/​​wiki/​​Self-determination

• From your link (sans refer­ences): How­ever, there are far more self-iden­ti­fied na­tions than there are ex­ist­ing states and there is no le­gal pro­cess to re­draw state bound­aries ac­cord­ing to the will of these peo­ples.[43] Ac­cord­ing to the Helsinki Fi­nal Act of 1975, the UN, ICJ and in­ter­na­tional law ex­perts, there is no con­tra­dic­tion be­tween the prin­ci­ples of self-de­ter­mi­na­tion and ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity, with the lat­ter tak­ing prece­dence. --- But again, that’s not even my point. My point is a Kan­tian point: do you want to live in a world where self-de­ter­mi­na­tion of [group] in [coun­try] is suffi­cient grounds for boots on the ground? This is not even a ques­tion about what the US or Rus­sia had been or is do­ing, but about our prefer­ences.

• I’m say­ing we live in a world where a right to self-de­ter­mi­na­tion has been rec­og­nized for some­thing like a cen­tury now, even if it does not come with an au­to­matic in­va­sion au­tho­riza­tion from the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil. So far, I’m not sure if it’s been all that bad al­though as an Amer­i­can, I can­not sym­pa­thize with those who might want to ex­er­cise said right inas­much as there is no other coun­try to which peo­ple like me might want to form.

• The right to self-de­ter­mi­na­tion seems to me to have been “rec­og­nized” as pro­pa­ganda, but prac­ti­cally never prac­ticed.

It was used post WW1, but only be­cause there were two big multi-eth­nic em­pires to be bro­ken up. No-one pro­posed treat­ing the vic­tors similarly; their con­stituent na­tions which wanted in­de­pen­dence had to fight for it, like Ire­land did in 1920-1922.

Very few sig­nifi­cant new na­tions have claimed state­hood in the cen­tury since then on the ba­sis of this prin­ci­ple with­out armed strug­gle. And when there’s a civil war or re­bel­lion and one side wins in­de­pen­dence by mil­i­tary and poli­ti­cal means, I don’t give much cre­dence to ab­stract prin­ci­ples.

Us­ing Wikipe­dia’s list of sovereign states by date of in­de­pen­dence for the last cen­tury, the only states in the first half of the list (from 1973 to the pre­sent) that were es­tab­lished peace­fully along eth­nic lines are Czech and Slo­vak re­pub­lics in the post-USSR breakup of Cze­choslo­vakia. Most other Soviet states be­came na­tions de­spite be­ing multi-eth­nic, or fought bloody civil wars as in Yu­goslavia. So did al­most all Afri­can and Asian colonies post de­coloniza­tion.

I ad­mit I didn’t have the pa­tience to read all the linked ar­ti­cles on that list, and its older half (1914-1972), but at least its first half doesn’t con­tain a sin­gle ex­am­ple of a part of sovereign na­tion break­ing away on the ba­sis of self de­ter­mi­na­tion with­out a ma­jor war. The older half prob­a­bly might have some ex­am­ples, but I ex­pect them to be very few.

• sig­nifi­cant group of states peace­fully es­tab­lished along eth­nic lines [...] in the post-USSR breakup of [...] Yugoslavia

?!

• You’re right. I don’t know what came over me :-( Amended, and thanks.

• Very few sig­nifi­cant new na­tions have claimed state­hood in the cen­tury since then on the ba­sis of this prin­ci­ple with­out armed strug­gle.

A lot of former colonies are now self-gov­erned and a lot of them be­came in­de­pen­dent with­out armed strug­gle. That was what the prin­ci­ple of self-de­ter­mi­na­tion was about. The Bri­tish lost their em­pire over the prin­ci­ple.

It wasn’t re­ally about giv­ing the Scot­tish or the Basques a right to hold a refer­en­dum to get in­de­pen­dence.

On the other hand the prin­ci­ple of im­mutabil­ity of bor­ders as writ­ten down in the Hague Con­ven­tions isn’t that well re­spect ei­ther. The bor­ders of Ukraine changed fre­quently since the Hague Con­ven­tions was made and I don’t see a real rea­son why they should now be im­mutable when a ma­jor­ity of Crimeans doesn’t want to be­long to Ukraine.

The Soviet states also did be­came na­tions in a way that did vi­o­late the ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity of the Soviet Union with­out a war.

• A lot of former colonies are now self-gov­erned and a lot of them be­came in­de­pen­dent with­out armed strug­gle. That was what the prin­ci­ple of self-de­ter­mi­na­tion was about. The Bri­tish lost their em­pire over the prin­ci­ple.

Those colonies be­came in­de­pen­dent states with bor­ders de­cided by the ac­ci­dents of pre­vi­ous colo­nial con­quest, or drawn ar­bi­trar­ily post-con­quest with­out re­gard to lo­cal in­ter­ests or eth­nic, eco­nomic and cul­tural di­vi­sions (e.g. In­dia and Pak­istan).

Similarly, in the Bri­tish-ad­minis­trated post-WW1 man­date ter­ri­to­ries (which they di­vested dur­ing the same gen­eral poli­ti­cal era when they lost their em­pire), they drew ar­bi­trary bor­ders and de­liber­ately in­stalled rulers who were for­eign to the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion or rep­re­sented minori­ties, be­cause they knew these rulers would have to op­press the lo­cals and so would de­pend on for­eign sup­port (e.g. Jor­dan, Iraq).

Lo­cal peo­ple were not con­sulted by a refer­en­dum or ple­bisc­ite, and in no case that I’m aware of did pre­vi­ously multi-eth­nic or multi-cul­tural states peace­fully di­vide into na­tion states. There is cer­tainly a prin­ci­ple of de­coloniza­tion and de-im­pe­ri­al­iza­tion, but I’m not see­ing any self-de­ter­mi­na­tion.

The bor­ders of Ukraine changed fre­quently since the Hague Con­ven­tions was made

When the Hague Con­ven­tions were signed, Ukraine didn’t ex­ist as a sovereign state and hadn’t done so since the 17th cen­tury. Its bor­ders changed a lot af­ter that, but always as a re­sult of war and con­quest, apart from Rus­sia’s gift of Crimea in 1954. It was par­ti­tioned and par­tially an­nexed many times over the 20th cen­tury by its more pow­er­ful neigh­bors. This his­tory did not fol­low self-de­ter­mi­na­tion at any point.

I don’t see a real rea­son why they should now be im­mutable when a ma­jor­ity of Crimeans doesn’t want to be­long to Ukraine.

Even if you ac­cept it as a valid moral prin­ci­ple, the devil is in the de­tails. How large a ma­jor­ity do you re­quire be­fore sup­port­ing sep­a­ratism against a minor­ity’s wishes? How much ger­ry­man­der­ing in the ge­o­graph­i­cal bound­aries do you al­low? What is the min­i­mum size of a group that may se­cede (since no-one will rec­og­nize fam­ily or tribe-sized states in prac­tice)? If peo­ple who se­cede take their pri­vately-owned land with them to form their new state, what hap­pens when the own­ers of the mine or oil field pro­vid­ing 10% of your GDP se­cede and then sell their re­sources back to you at a 500% markup? If the rich­est and best-ed­u­cated 10% of your pop­u­la­tion all hap­pen to live in the same few cities, and they se­cede to stop wealth re­dis­tri­bu­tion to the other 90%, is that alright? If a group of peo­ple wants to se­cede and im­ple­ment an fun­da­men­tal­ist state with no free­dom for women, gays, or athe­ists, do you try to stop them as you would non-state ac­tors in your coun­try, or do you shrug and say “eh, we don’t de­clare war on Saudi Ara­bia, ei­ther”?

The Soviet states also did be­came na­tions in a way that did vi­o­late the ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity of the Soviet Union with­out a war.

The USSR (and the War­saw Pact) was a union of sep­a­rate re­pub­lics to be­gin with; it chose to dis­solve it­self and they re­sumed their sovereignity. More im­por­tantly, I don’t think any­one would ar­gue that a state has no right to break it­self up if a large ma­jor­ity of its cit­i­zens agree. It’s a differ­ent mat­ter if only the cit­i­zens in a par­tic­u­lar re­gion want to break away, and the rest want them to stay.

• Lo­cal peo­ple were not con­sulted by a refer­en­dum or ple­bisc­ite, and in no case that I’m aware of did pre­vi­ously multi-eth­nic or multi-cul­tural states peace­fully di­vide into na­tion states.

The no­tion of self-de­ter­mi­na­tion is not pri­mar­ily about refer­en­dums and ple­bisc­ites. A gov­ern­ment that’s backed by a home grown mil­i­tary coup doesn’t vi­o­late the prin­ci­ple.

What is the min­i­mum size of a group that may se­cede (since no-one will rec­og­nize fam­ily or tribe-sized states in prac­tice)?

Not ev­ery group of peo­ple is an eth­nic group with the cor­re­spond­ing rights.

In this case you have a ma­jor­ity of Crimeas who speak Rus­sian. You had the the gov­ern­ment in Kiev who came to power as the pres­i­dent fled the city be­cause armed Ukrainian na­tion­als took power over the city. They con­tinued to de­stroy build­ings of com­mu­nist party. Then they passed laws to re­move the sta­tus of minor­ity lan­guages.

In that cli­mate Crimeans have a valid in­ter­est to se­cede.

How much ger­ry­man­der­ing in the ge­o­graph­i­cal bound­aries do you al­low?

That a ques­tion about who sets the bound­aries. In the case of Crimea the nat­u­ral bound­aries work quite well. In the case of Scot­land the bound­aries are also ob­vi­ous.

In the case of the Basque coun­try or Pada­nia I’m sure that you could find a way to set rea­son­able bound­aries.

• The no­tion of self-de­ter­mi­na­tion is not pri­mar­ily about refer­en­dums and ple­bisc­ites. A gov­ern­ment that’s backed by a home grown mil­i­tary coup doesn’t vi­o­late the prin­ci­ple.

Then I’m con­fused. If the gov­ern­ment of a break­away re­gion isn’t backed by its pop­u­la­tion but re­lies on mil­i­tary force, is it self-de­ter­mi­na­tion? If na­tion A con­quers half of na­tion B and sets up a state where a minor­ity rules by force, is that self-de­ter­mi­na­tion? I thought the an­swer was clearly no in both cases, but if a gov­ern­ment backed only by a mil­i­tary coup (i.e. force ma­jeure) counts as “self-de­ter­mi­na­tion” then I’m to­tally con­fused as to what you mean by those words.

Not ev­ery group of peo­ple is an eth­nic group with the cor­re­spond­ing rights.

In this case you have a ma­jor­ity of Crimeas who speak Rus­sian. You had the the gov­ern­ment in Kiev who came to power as the pres­i­dent fled the city be­cause armed Ukrainian na­tion­als took power over the city. They con­tinued to de­stroy build­ings of com­mu­nist party. Then they passed laws to re­move the sta­tus of minor­ity lan­guages.

In that cli­mate Crimeans have a valid in­ter­est to se­cede.

(Your com­ment doesn’t seem to be a re­sponse to my ques­tion about min­i­mum size)

Since their “refer­en­dum” passed un­der Rus­sian com­mando con­trol I have no idea what per­centage of the pop­u­la­tion might be op­posed to in­de­pen­dence, let alone op­posed to Rus­sian rule. 58.5% of the pop­u­la­tion of Crimea are Rus­si­ans, but 24% are Ukraini­ans and 10.2% are Crimean Tatars many of whom only re­cently re­turned from a decades-long ex­ile origi­nally im­posed by Stalin. No mat­ter how this plays out there is go­ing to be a severely op­pressed minor­ity maybe as large as 34%. (Do you think Ukrainian is go­ing to have minor­ity lan­guage sta­tus in Rus­sian-oc­cu­pied Crimea?)

That a ques­tion about who sets the bound­aries. In the case of Crimea the nat­u­ral bound­aries work quite well. In the case of Scot­land the bound­aries are also ob­vi­ous.

For Crimea and Scot­land this may be true. I was talk­ing about gen­er­al­iz­ing the prin­ci­ple of self-de­ter­mi­na­tion.

• If the gov­ern­ment of a break­away re­gion isn’t backed by its pop­u­la­tion but re­lies on mil­i­tary force, is it self-de­ter­mi­na­tion?

The no­tion of self de­ter­mi­na­tion is that ev­ery peo­ple can gov­ern them­selves. It’s a group right. Not one of in­di­vi­d­ual per­sons. Party of self-de­ter­mi­na­tion means that a coun­try can’t re­move a king of an­other coun­try even if 60% of the pop­u­la­tion dis­likes the king and would pre­fer an­other kind of poli­ti­cal sys­tem then monar­chy.

(Do you think Ukrainian is go­ing to have minor­ity lan­guage sta­tus in Rus­sian-oc­cu­pied Crimea?)

That de­pends very much about how the con­flict plays out. I do be­lieve that if things go ac­cord­ing to Putins plan, that’s the out­come. Nei­ther the EU nor Rus­sia wants to wage war against each other, so sooner or later they have to ne­go­ti­ate a set­tle­ment. Rus­sia wants a set­tle­ment that gives Crimea in­ter­na­tional recog­ni­tion and is prob­a­bly will­ing to give the Ukraini­ans and Tatars in Crimea minor­ity rights in ex­change.

Putin makes moves so that he will have a set­tle­ment which is over­all benefi­cial for Rus­sia. Win­ter is com­ing and the EU needs gas. As long as the West doesn’t want to set­tle Putin is go­ing to take more ter­ri­tory in Ukraine. I don’t com­pletely un­der­stand what game plan Obama fol­lows and what his goal hap­pens to be in the con­flict.

(Your com­ment doesn’t seem to be a re­sponse to my ques­tion about min­i­mum size)

A bunch of smaller groups of na­tive Amer­i­cans got some form of au­ton­omy that al­lowed them to start cas­inos in the desert and do a bunch of things that are oth­er­wise ille­gal in the US. I’m okay with han­dling it like that.

• The no­tion of self de­ter­mi­na­tion is that ev­ery peo­ple can gov­ern them­selves. It’s a group right. Not one of in­di­vi­d­ual per­sons.

I don’t see how to rec­on­cile this with your state­ment that:

The no­tion of self-de­ter­mi­na­tion is not pri­mar­ily about refer­en­dums and ple­bisc­ites. A gov­ern­ment that’s backed by a home grown mil­i­tary coup doesn’t vi­o­late the prin­ci­ple.

If a gov­ern­ment doesn’t have pop­u­lar ma­jor­ity sup­port, and so it would not win a refer­en­dum, but keeps power any­way through mil­i­tary force, how does this up­hold a group right for self-gov­er­nance? Wouldn’t the group right ar­gue in fa­vor of any­one who doesn’t sup­port the gov­ern­ment be­ing self-gov­ern­ing and un­co­erced by their mil­i­tary powre?

Party of self-de­ter­mi­na­tion means that a coun­try can’t re­move a king of an­other coun­try even if 60% of the pop­u­la­tion dis­likes the king and would pre­fer an­other kind of poli­ti­cal sys­tem then monar­chy.

On that view, Rus­sia was wrong in sup­port­ing Crimean sep­a­ratism.

A bunch of smaller groups of na­tive Amer­i­cans got some form of au­ton­omy that al­lowed them to start cas­inos in the desert and do a bunch of things that are oth­er­wise ille­gal in the US. I’m okay with han­dling it like that.

I don’t know any­thing about Na­tive Amer­i­can rights and poli­tics in the USA, but I ex­pect that this au­ton­omy is granted be­cause the ma­jor­ity feels guilty over past con­quest and op­pres­sion and is try­ing to make amends. A differ­ent group of com­pa­rable size (say, peo­ple of Chi­nese de­scend) would not be al­lowed to “do a bunch of things that are oth­er­wise ille­gal” merely be­cause they had a minor­ity eth­nic sta­tus and wanted self-de­ter­mi­na­tion.

• If a gov­ern­ment doesn’t have pop­u­lar ma­jor­ity sup­port, and so it would not win a refer­en­dum, but keeps power any­way through mil­i­tary force, how does this up­hold a group right for self-gov­er­nance?

The will of gov­ern­ment is the will of the group. After Egypt had their rev­olu­tion the new gov­ern­ment still had to pay the debts of the old dic­ta­tor be­cause they old dic­ta­tor was recog­nised to be able to make con­tracts in the name of the na­tion. How a dic­ta­tor comes to power isn’t that im­por­tant for de­ter­min­ing whether he’s ac­cepted as rep­re­sent­ing a group.

On that view, Rus­sia was wrong in sup­port­ing Crimean sep­a­ratism.

The demo­crat­i­cally elected gov­ern­ment of Crimea went through sep­a­rat­ing on their own. Rus­sia claimed that it acted ac­cord­ing to the new prin­ci­ple of “re­spon­si­bil­ity to pro­tect (R2P)” which means that it’s okay to use mil­i­tary to pre­vent vi­o­lence against a minor­ity. Without the Rus­sian soliders Kiev likely would have used vi­o­lence to stop the Crimean gov­ern­ment from hold­ing a refer­en­dum.

Kiev also didn’t go through the im­peach­ment pro­cess to re­move the sta­tus of the old pres­i­dent so it’s not clear why a de­jure pres­i­dent shouldn’t be al­lowed to ask an out­side coun­try for mil­i­tary as­sis­tance.

Rus­sia also ar­gues that with­out Western in­terfer­ence the protest move­ment wouldn’t have man­aged to make the pres­i­dent flee Kiev.

A differ­ent group of com­pa­rable size (say, peo­ple of Chi­nese de­scend) would not be al­lowed to “do a bunch of things that are oth­er­wise ille­gal” merely be­cause they had a minor­ity eth­nic sta­tus and wanted self-de­ter­mi­na­tion.

Chi­nese peo­ple in the US don’t have a claim to land in the same way that na­tive Amer­i­cans, Basque, Scot­tish or the var­i­ous peo­ple in Crimea have.

In Ger­many our na­tive Sor­bic minor­ity gets minor­ity rights that we don’t give to Turk­ish im­mi­grants. YOu can’t im­mi­grate and then claim that you then should get the land into with you im­mi­grated.

• The will of gov­ern­ment is the will of the group. After Egypt had their rev­olu­tion the new gov­ern­ment still had to pay the debts of the old dic­ta­tor be­cause they old dic­ta­tor was recog­nised to be able to make con­tracts in the name of the na­tion. How a dic­ta­tor comes to power isn’t that im­por­tant for de­ter­min­ing whether he’s ac­cepted as rep­re­sent­ing a group.

You seem to be say­ing it’s OK for there to be mil­i­tary dic­ta­tors as long as sub-groups of the coun­try can se­cede. But no mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor ever lets any­one se­cede. I am con­fused by your po­si­tion.

The demo­crat­i­cally elected gov­ern­ment of Crimea went through sep­a­rat­ing on their own.

The gov­ern­ment of Crimea was not demo­crat­i­cally elected; it was put in place by the oc­cu­py­ing Rus­sian army who didn’t leave the lo­cals much free­dom to vote.

Rus­sia claimed that it acted ac­cord­ing to the new prin­ci­ple of “re­spon­si­bil­ity to pro­tect (R2P)” which means that it’s okay to use mil­i­tary to pre­vent vi­o­lence against a minor­ity. Without the Rus­sian soliders Kiev likely would have used vi­o­lence to stop the Crimean gov­ern­ment from hold­ing a refer­en­dum.

Prevent­ing a refer­en­dum hardly rises to the level of vi­o­lence that should jus­tify an in­va­sion. Is hold­ing a refer­en­dum a legally as­sured right?

Kiev also didn’t go through the im­peach­ment pro­cess to re­move the sta­tus of the old pres­i­dent so it’s not clear why a de­jure pres­i­dent shouldn’t be al­lowed to ask an out­side coun­try for mil­i­tary as­sis­tance.

Rus­sia also ar­gues that with­out Western in­terfer­ence the protest move­ment wouldn’t have man­aged to make the pres­i­dent flee Kiev.

That seems true.

YOu can’t im­mi­grate and then claim that you then should get the land into with you im­mi­grated.

By that logic, no­body ex­cept Na­tive Amer­i­cans should have any land rights in the USA. In prac­tice no­body fol­lows that rule af­ter a suc­cess­ful con­quest. Mak­ing ex­cep­tions like those for Na­tive Amer­i­cans is done on a guilt /​ rec­om­pense ba­sis, but it’s not a gen­eral le­gal prin­ci­ple be­cause you could never get it to ap­ply out­side a very few minor cases.

• Without the Rus­sian soliders Kiev likely would have used vi­o­lence to stop the Crimean gov­ern­ment from hold­ing a refer­en­dum.

Did they have any right to hold such a refer­en­dum? If they do, how come the Basques don’t?

Kiev also didn’t go through the im­peach­ment pro­cess to re­move the sta­tus of the old pres­i­dent so it’s not clear why a de­jure pres­i­dent shouldn’t be al­lowed to ask an out­side coun­try for mil­i­tary as­sis­tance.

Whose law? Can the gov­ern­ment of Taiwan au­tho­rize an in­va­sion of China? Can Franz, Duke of Bavaria au­tho­rize an in­va­sion of the UK? If I de­clare that un­der the lm­mian con­sti­tu­tion I am and always have been ruler of the US, does that grant me the right to in­vade?

I don’t think the con­cept of a de jure pres­i­dent is co­her­ent—the only way a con­sti­tu­tion got writ­ten in the first place is when the de facto rulers chose so.

• Did they have any right to hold such a refer­en­dum? If they do, how come the Basques don’t?

As far as I’m con­cerned the Basque should have the right to hold a refer­en­dum.

I don’t think the con­cept of a de jure pres­i­dent is co­her­ent—the only way a con­sti­tu­tion got writ­ten in the first place is when the de facto rulers chose so.

In what sense do you con­sider the Kiev gov­ern­ment the de facto rulers of the whole of Ukraine in­clud­ing Crimea? The gov­ern­ment got con­trol over Kiev through the thread of us­ing vi­o­lence. It might have also got con­trol of Crimea through the threat of vi­o­lence if Rus­sia wouldn’t have pro­tected the Crimean gov­ern­ment from be­ing vi­o­lently co­erced to fol­low the dic­tates of Kiev.

I don’t see that when I pres­i­dent loses con­trol over the cap­i­tal be­cause of threats of vi­o­lence but that pres­i­dent still con­trols other parts of the coun­try he au­to­mat­i­cally stops be­ing pres­i­dent.

Pro­tect­ing a minor­ity in a coun­try from be­ing vi­o­lently co­erced is what re­spon­si­bil­ity to pro­tect is about.

Whose law?

The new gov­ern­ment in Kiev didn’t change the part of the con­sti­tu­tion that de­clares that you need an im­peach­ment pro­cess to im­peach a pres­i­dent and they didn’t go through the pro­cess of im­peach­ing the pres­i­dent that’s out­lined in the Ukrainian con­sti­tu­tion.

Can the gov­ern­ment of Taiwan au­tho­rize an in­va­sion of China?

The Taiwanese gov­ern­ment can cer­tainly al­low Chi­nese sol­diers to do what­ever they want within the bor­ders of Taiwan.

Can Franz, Duke of Bavaria au­tho­rize an in­va­sion of the UK?

The ruler of Bavaria had never au­thor­ity over the UK and ac­cord­ing to the Ger­man con­sti­tu­tion he doesn’t have any au­thor­ity over Bavaria ei­ther. The pres­i­dent of the Ukraine on the other hand has au­thor­ity over the ter­ri­tory of the Ukraine and at the time of the Crimea refer­en­dum he wasn’t im­peached via the the le­gal pro­cess of im­peach­ment that’s de­scribed in the Ukrainian con­sti­tu­tion.

If you treat­ing a coup on the cap­i­tal on a coun­try and the pres­i­dent leaves the cap­i­tal I don’t think that means that the pres­i­dent “re­signed” or loses his claim on be­ing the pres­i­dent.

A more fit­ting com­par­i­son would be if the Dalai Lama can au­tho­rize mil­i­tary ac­tions of for­eign troops within the ter­ri­tory of Ti­bet. But the Dalai Lama doesn’t con­trol any of the ter­ri­tory in Ti­bet while the Ukrainian pres­i­dent still had some back­ing in parts of the coun­try, so the Dalai Lama has a weaker claim.

Let’s say you would have a few US mil­i­tary gen­er­als who threaten a coup if Obama doesn’t re­sign. Then Obama leaves Wash­ing­ton and a ma­jor­ity of the US congress makes a vote that John Boehner is the new pres­i­dent. Do you think that would mean that Obama loses his claim to be­ing the pres­i­dent of the US?

• The Taiwanese gov­ern­ment can cer­tainly al­low Chi­nese sol­diers to do what­ever they want within the bor­ders of Taiwan.

There are no de jure bor­ders of Taiwan. Both the PRC (which cur­rently gov­erns main­land China) and the RoC (which cur­rently gov­erns Taiwan) (offi­cially) claim that both main­land China and Taiwan are part of one na­tion and each (offi­cially) claims to be the sole le­gi­t­i­mate gov­ern­ment of the whole na­tion. Also, the RoC used to con­trol main­land China and was ex­pel­led from it in a way (IIUC) not com­pletely un­like the former Ukrainian gov­ern­ment or Obama in your hy­po­thet­i­cal.

• As far as my hy­po­thet­i­cal goes, I think Taiwan has the right to ask the US to have US mil­i­tary sta­tioned within Taiwanese bor­ders and that the US can ac­cept such a re­quest from Taiwan.

I don’t think that would vi­o­late Chi­nese self-de­ter­mi­na­tion in a mean­ingful ex­tend.

• In what sense do you con­sider the Kiev gov­ern­ment the de facto rulers of the whole of Ukraine in­clud­ing Crimea? The gov­ern­ment got con­trol over Kiev through the thread of us­ing vi­o­lence. It might have also got con­trol of Crimea through the threat of vi­o­lence if Rus­sia wouldn’t have pro­tected the Crimean gov­ern­ment from be­ing vi­o­lently co­erced to fol­low the dic­tates of Kiev.

The up­ris­ing in Kiev was of course vi­o­lent, but it was a pop­u­lar one; the Pres­i­dent had lost what­ever le­gi­t­i­macy he once had (and given the alle­ga­tions of elec­toral fraud, I’m not sure how much that is). Govern­ment is by the con­sent of the gov­erned.

If you con­sider it le­gi­t­i­mate for the pop­u­lar ruler of a sub­set of a coun­try to in­vite a for­eign in­va­sion then surely that makes the no­tion of self-de­ter­mi­na­tion mean­ingless. Any coun­try X want­ing to in­vade coun­try Y can sim­ply find the small re­gion of coun­try Y that sup­ports them and get them to ask for an in­va­sion.

(FWIW I don’t think the new gov­ern­ment in Kiev would have had the au­thor­ity to in­vite a for­eign in­ter­ven­tion ei­ther, un­less and un­til said gov­ern­ment was widely rec­og­nized across the coun­try. I would have ar­gued for a UN peace­keep­ing force or similar in­ter­na­tional coal­i­tion, and refer­enda when peo­ple were se­cure enough to make it a free vote. But I think the Rus­sian in­cur­sion makes it rea­son­able for Kiev to re­spond in kind)

Pro­tect­ing a minor­ity in a coun­try from be­ing vi­o­lently co­erced is what re­spon­si­bil­ity to pro­tect is about.

But R2P is a novel the­ory with no ba­sis in in­ter­na­tional law, right? Again, I sus­pect that in any case where coun­try X wants to in­vade coun­try Y they could find some rea­son­able-sound­ing prin­ci­ple that sup­ports that in­va­sion.

The ruler of Bavaria had never au­thor­ity over the UK and ac­cord­ing to the Ger­man con­sti­tu­tion he doesn’t have any au­thor­ity over Bavaria ei­ther.

My point was that the Repub­lic of China gov­ern­ment claims le­gal au­thor­ity over all of China. And that, al­though he re­nounces any claim to it, Duke Franz is the right­ful heir to the Bri­tish throne.

Let’s say you would have a few US mil­i­tary gen­er­als who threaten a coup if Obama doesn’t re­sign. Then Obama leaves Wash­ing­ton and a ma­jor­ity of the US congress makes a vote that John Boehner is the new pres­i­dent. Do you think that would mean that Obama loses his claim to be­ing the pres­i­dent of the US?

I think it means Obama isn’t ruler of the US un­til the two sides sort this mess out. And I think it means nei­ther side has the right to in­vite for­eign troops into the US. Again, isn’t that the whole point of self-de­ter­mi­na­tion?

• The up­ris­ing in Kiev was of course vi­o­lent, but it was a pop­u­lar one; the Pres­i­dent had lost what­ever le­gi­t­i­macy he once had

A lot of the par­ties agreed to a com­pro­mise be­fore they pres­sured the pres­i­dent to flee. I don’t think that if you don’t like a com­pro­mise that was ne­go­ti­ated and with was ac­cepted by most stake­holder you have le­gi­t­i­macy in re­mov­ing the pres­i­dent via the thread of a coup.

They also didn’t just pres­sured the pres­i­dent to flee but also de­stroyed in­fras­truc­ture of the com­mu­nist party via force. That’s no good ba­sis for peace­ful democ­racy.

The up­ris­ing wasn’t com­pletely self-de­ter­mined ei­ther. The ex­tend isn’t quite clear but over the years the US in­vested 5 billion into pro­duc­ing pro-Western thought in Ukraine. Feed­ing a bunch of protesters to stay at a cen­tral place is ex­pen­sive.

But R2P is a novel the­ory with no ba­sis in in­ter­na­tional law, right?

Peo­ple came up with R2P af­ter pure self-de­ter­mi­na­tion didn’t work that well in Rwanda. Then the Kosovo con­flict was fought on the ba­sis of R2P. Kosovo sets a prece­dent.

I would have ar­gued for a UN peace­keep­ing force or similar in­ter­na­tional coal­i­tion, and refer­enda when peo­ple were se­cure enough to make it a free vote.

That’s not pos­si­ble be­cause the UK and the US would have cer­tainly ve­toed such an UN re­s­olu­tion. France prob­a­bly as well. If Putin could have a UN recog­nised voted that gives a Crimean refer­en­dum au­thor­ity he would have gone for that choice. Putin wants that when the con­flict is over the world recog­nises Crimea as part of Rus­sia and a UN backed refer­en­dum would have been a good way to get there.

And that, al­though he re­nounces any claim to it, Duke Franz is the right­ful heir to the Bri­tish throne.

Re­nounc­ing a claim means that you lose a right.

I think it means Obama isn’t ruler of the US un­til the two sides sort this mess out.

Do you think that for similar rea­sons the US has no busi­ness helping the Iraqi gov­ern­ment or the Kur­dish to push back ISIS?

Not to for­get that the US used mil­i­tary in the last decade for worse rea­sons.

• The right to self-de­ter­mi­na­tion seems to me to have been “rec­og­nized” as pro­pa­ganda, but prac­ti­cally never prac­ticed.

If it has not been prac­ticed, then it can­not be harm­ful as Ilya claims. So which is it: do in­ter­na­tional ab­strac­tions have no force and no con­se­quences, in which case it doesn’t mat­ter at all, Kan­tian or oth­er­wise, which ab­strac­tions are mouthed? Or do they mat­ter at least a lit­tle bit? In which case you don’t seem to have demon­strated any harm from the ab­strac­tion—fight­ing bloody civil wars is not a new phe­nomenon.

• It hasn’t been prac­ticed. If it starts be­ing prac­ticed, how­ever, it may be as harm­ful as Ilya claims, so his ar­gu­ment de­serves a re­sponse. But say­ing:

I’m say­ing we live in a world where a right to self-de­ter­mi­na­tion has been rec­og­nized for some­thing like a cen­tury now, even if it does not come with an au­to­matic in­va­sion au­tho­riza­tion from the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil. So far, I’m not sure if it’s been all that bad

Is not ev­i­dence be­cause it hasn’t been re­ally prac­ticed so far.

Also:

do in­ter­na­tional ab­strac­tions have no force and no consequences

I’m not claiming any­thing about other ab­strac­tions, some of which definitely have force, just this one.

• One also hears the claim that Ukraine has the right to de­ter­mine whom it wants to ally with and the Rus­si­ans have no right to pre­vent Kiev from join­ing the West. This is a dan­ger­ous way for Ukraine to think about its for­eign policy choices. The sad truth is that might of­ten makes right when great-power poli­tics are at play. Ab­stract rights such as self-de­ter­mi­na­tion are largely mean­ingless when pow­er­ful states get into brawls with weaker states. Did Cuba have the right to form a mil­i­tary al­li­ance with the Soviet Union dur­ing the Cold War? The United States cer­tainly did not think so, and the Rus­si­ans think the same way about Ukraine join­ing the West.

• Un­less you think it should be a new stan­dard in in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions that 50%+1 prefer­ence for an­nex­a­tion is a valid ca­sus belli. What a beau­tiful world that would be to live in.

We live in a world where might makes right. This said, I was men­tion­ing the fact that the an­nexed pop­u­la­tions are eth­nic Rus­si­ans pre­sum­ibly will­ing to join Rus­sia as ev­i­dence for the hy­poth­e­sis that Putin is prob­a­bly not go­ing to try and re­con­quer former Soviet Union.

Yes, I know that Hitler also started by an­nex­ing Ger­manophones and then went for a full scale con­quest of all Europe, but I think that Putin is un­likely to pull some­thing like that:
Should Rus­sia at­tack a NATO/​EU coun­try, it would at the very least be fi­nan­cially crip­pled by loss of trade with Western Euro­pean coun­tries, the con­flict would likely ex­ca­late to a full scale con­ven­tional war with the US, which would have a very real chance of fur­ther ex­ca­lat­ing to a nu­clear war. Putin may not be ex­actly a nice guy, but, un­like Hitler, he doesn’t seem to be crazy.
Also, even if he was crazy, Rus­sia, while not be­ing ex­actly a paragon of democ­racy, is not a dic­ta­tor­ship. The peo­ple who keep him in power would de­pose him if they saw him as a threat to their ma­te­rial in­ter­ests and safety.

• > ev­i­dence for the hy­poth­e­sis that Putin is prob­a­bly not go­ing to Well, that’s a load off my mind! For a sec­ond there I thought he was re­build­ing an em­pire us­ing com­pletely trans­par­ent Soviet-era pre­texts in small enough steps that the West is un­able to over­come its paral­y­sis. Look, it’s very sim­ple. Putin is a preda­tor, and Europe would rather have warm homes in win­ter than stand on prin­ci­ple. That is their right of course, but let us call a spade a spade. > is not a dic­ta­tor­ship If Putin’s Rus­sia is not a dic­ta­tor­ship, there are no dic­ta­tor­ships on Earth.

• Well, that’s a load off my mind! For a sec­ond there I thought he was re­build­ing an em­pire us­ing com­pletely trans­par­ent Soviet-era pre­texts in small enough steps that the West is un­able to over­come its paral­y­sis.

Does he want to an­nex an­other Chech­nya or two?

Look, it’s very sim­ple. Putin is a preda­tor, and Europe would rather have warm homes in win­ter than stand on prin­ci­ple.

What prin­ci­ple? Why should Euro­peans give up their warm homes and cheap elec­tric­ity to defend the ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity of coun­tries which aren’t even part of the EU or the NATO?

• Com­pare with this state­ment made in 1938:

Hitler has started by an­nex­ing Ger­manophones, but I think he is un­likely to then go for a full scale con­quest of all Europe.

Should Ger­many at­tack a coun­try for­mally al­lied with the ma­jor pow­ers of France and Bri­tain, like Cze­choslo­vakia, it would at the very least be fi­nan­cially crip­pled by loss of trade with Western Euro­pean coun­tries, the con­flict would likely ex­ca­late to a full scale con­ven­tional war with the US. Hitler may not be ex­actly a nice guy, but in 1938 he cer­tainly doesn’t seem crazy.

Also, even if he was crazy, Ger­many, while not be­ing ex­actly a paragon of democ­racy, is not a dic­ta­tor­ship. The peo­ple who keep him in power would de­pose him if they saw him as a threat to their ma­te­rial in­ter­ests and safety.

• Parts of Cze­choslo­vakia and Poland were parts of what had been Ger­many and pop­u­lated by Ger­man-speak­ing peo­ple. Bri­tain (and later the US) de­clared war on Ger­many, not the other way around; my un­der­stand­ing is that Ger­many at that time did not want war with Bri­tain and had not ex­pected the dec­la­ra­tion.

Given Hitler’s views on the slavic peo­ples, Nazi Ger­many was always go­ing to go to war with the USSR and Yu­goslavia sooner or later, but I don’t find it im­plau­si­ble that Western Europe (and the US) could have stayed out of that war, had that been how we wanted to play it.

• Tech­ni­cally Ger­many de­clared war on the US, not the other way around.

As for war with Bri­tain (and France), they had for­mally com­mit­ted to it in the event that Ger­many in­vaded Poland. In ret­ro­spect it was odd that Hitler se­ri­ously thought they might not at­tack him; it looks more like hope than ra­tio­nal ex­pec­ta­tion.

• Hu­man pre­com­mit­ment is pretty weak, and na­tional pre­com­mit­ment more so (cf Bu­dapest Me­moran­dum el­se­where in the thread).

• it would at the very least be fi­nan­cially crip­pled by loss of trade with Western Euro­pean countries

Main­tain­ing trade re­la­tion­ships with other Euro­pean coun­tries wasn’t re­ally much benefi­cial for 1938-era Ger­many, and in fact it could be ar­gued that it was ac­tively harm­ful, given the huge for­eign debt from WW1 repa­ra­tions.

the con­flict would likely ex­ca­late to a full scale con­ven­tional war with the US

The US wasn’t that much in­ter­ested in Euro­pean af­fairs back then. Cer­tainly there wasn’t any­thing com­pa­rable to the NATO.
Also, nu­clear weapons didn’t ex­ist in 1938.

Hitler may not be ex­actly a nice guy, but in 1938 he cer­tainly doesn’t seem crazy.

Ex­cept that he had writ­ten a book de­tailing his de­ranged poli­ti­cal plan that he had then been fol­low­ing to the let­ter.

• > Ex­cept that he had writ­ten a book de­tailing his de­ranged poli­ti­cal plan that he had then been > fol­low­ing to the let­ter. “Above all, we should ac­knowl­edge that the col­lapse of the Soviet Union was a ma­jor geopoli­ti­cal dis­aster of the cen­tury. As for the Rus­sian na­tion, it be­came a gen­uine drama. Tens of mil­lions of our co-cit­i­zens and co-pa­tri­ots found them­selves out­side Rus­sian ter­ri­tory. More­over, the epi­demic of dis­in­te­gra­tion in­fected Rus­sia it­self.”—the fa­mous 2005 speech.

• Above all, we should ac­knowl­edge that the col­lapse of the Soviet Union was a ma­jor geopoli­ti­cal dis­aster of the cen­tury. As for the Rus­sian na­tion, it be­came a gen­uine drama. Tens of mil­lions of our co-cit­i­zens and co-pa­tri­ots found them­selves out­side Rus­sian ter­ri­tory.

Without con­don­ing, I think I un­der­stand his point: Soviet Union was a multi-ethinic coun­try dom­i­nated by a Rus­sian eth­nic ma­jor­ity (par­tially due to de­liber­ate eth­nic cleans­ing and geno­cide).
When Soviet Union col­lapsed, it was pre­cip­i­tously bro­ken up along ad­minis­tra­tive or his­tor­i­cal in­ter­nal bor­ders, with­out giv­ing much thought to the eth­nic com­po­si­tions of the coun­tries that were formed. Rus­si­ans who found them­selves cut off from Rus­sia went overnight from be­ing the dom­i­nant eth­nic­ity to be­ing an eth­ni­cal minor­ity. I guess they didn’t like it.

Putin has a plat­form based on Rus­sian na­tion­al­ism, hence cater­ing to the plight of the “co-cit­i­zens and co-pa­tri­ots found them­selves out­side Rus­sian ter­ri­tory” is nat­u­ral to him. It pan­ders to his elec­torate and, should he in­deed suc­ceed to an­nex them, he could prob­a­bly count them as his sup­port­ers.

All of this seems con­sis­tent with Putin want­ing to an­nex Rus­so­phones, as I said in my com­ment up­thread. He cer­tainly isn’t rant­ing about a di­v­ine mis­sion to de­stroy “the Jew” and re­claim the Leben­sraum for a Thou­sand-Year Em­pire.

• When Soviet Union col­lapsed, it was pre­cip­i­tously bro­ken up along ad­minis­tra­tive or his­tor­i­cal in­ter­nal bor­ders, with­out giv­ing much thought to the eth­nic com­po­si­tions of the coun­tries that were formed. Rus­si­ans who found them­selves cut off from Rus­sia went overnight from be­ing the dom­i­nant eth­nic­ity to be­ing an eth­ni­cal minor­ity. I guess they didn’t like it.

Re­place “Soviet Union” with “Aus­tro-Hun­gar­ian Em­pire” and “Rus­si­ans” with “Ger­mans” and you have a de­cent de­scrip­tion of the eth­nic situ­a­tion be­fore WWII.

• Ok, but his plat­form then log­i­cally in­cludes tak­ing the former Baltic re­pub­lics, prob­a­bly big chunks out of cen­tral asian re­pub­lics, and de­pend­ing on the read­ing parts of Brook­lyn also. There are lots of Han Chi­nese in all sorts of places. There are lots of mex­i­cans in Cal­ifor­nia. > I guess they didn’t like it. You treat the lo­cal opinion as mono­lithic, your anal­y­sis is su­perfi­cial.

• Ok, but his plat­form then log­i­cally in­cludes tak­ing the former Baltic re­pub­lics, prob­a­bly big chunks out of cen­tral asian re­pub­lics, and de­pend­ing on the read­ing parts of Brook­lyn also.

So what? He cer­taily can’t take parts of Brook­lyn, most likely he can’t take even parts of the Baltic re­pub­lics, which are mem­bers of the NATO, EU, Schen­gen Area, Euro­zone, etc. Tak­ing them would cause much greater dis­rup­tion to Western Euro­pean and Amer­i­can in­ter­ests than tak­ing Crimea or Donetsk.

He may in­deed take parts of the cen­tral asian re­pub­lics, if China lets him.

There are lots of Han Chi­nese in all sorts of places.

Which makes this an is­sue be­tween Rus­sia and China, not Western Europe.

There are lots of mex­i­cans in Cal­ifor­nia.

I’m not ex­actly ex­pect­ing columns of Mex­i­can tanks rol­ling into Cal­ifor­nia any time soon, do you?

You treat the lo­cal opinion as mono­lithic, your anal­y­sis is su­perfi­cial.

It’s a first-or­der ap­prox­i­ma­tion. Do the Scot­tish peo­ple want in­de­pen­dence from the UK? Well some do and some don’t, no true Scots­man in its literal form. And yet, they will soon have a refer­en­dum and if the ma­jor­ity votes for in­de­p­den­dence, Scot­land will be an in­de­pen­dent coun­try.

• Main­tain­ing trade re­la­tion­ships with other Euro­pean coun­tries wasn’t re­ally much benefi­cial for 1938-era Ger­many, and in fact it could be ar­gued that it was ac­tively harm­ful, given the huge for­eign debt from WW1 repa­ra­tions.

All re­main­ing Ger­man WW1 repa­ra­tions were can­cel­led in 1932, and were un­der mora­to­rium since be­fore then. They had noth­ing to do with the be­gin­ning of the war in 1938.

The Ger­man econ­omy through the 1930s was suffer­ing from a for­eign trade im­bal­ance—it re­lied on cru­cial im­ports while not hav­ing enough ex­ports to earn the trade bal­ance to pay for them. This re­mained true even af­ter the an­nex­a­tion of Aus­tria and parts of Cze­choslo­vakia. If Ger­many had not con­quered such a large ter­ri­tory in 1938-1940, if the war had merely be­come an­other stale­mate with trenches and mostly sta­ble fronts (as many mil­i­tary thinkers pre­dicted), Ger­many would have run out of sup­plies in less than half a year and col­lapse. (This was why much of the Ger­man army lead­er­ship quietly op­posed Hitler’s plans un­til the Bat­tle of France.)

Ex­pand­ing trade and avoid­ing a French-Bri­tish block­ade and a US em­bargo seemed to be top eco­nomic pri­ori­ties for Ger­many in 1938-1939. It turned out that mak­ing war was a big­ger one.

My source: The Wages Of Destruc­tion: The Mak­ing and Break­ing of the Nazi Econ­omy, Adam Tooze.

The US wasn’t that much in­ter­ested in Euro­pean af­fairs back then. Cer­tainly there wasn’t any­thing com­pa­rable to the NATO.

The US with­drew from Euro­pean af­fairs dur­ing the Great De­pres­sion. But by 1938 it was back and it was clear that in an­other Euro­pean war, while it may not par­ti­ci­pate, it would sup­ply Bri­tain and France with arms, loans and ev­ery­thing else it could, if only to make sure they could re­pay their re­main­ing loans from WW1.

I agree it was less clear that the US would en­ter the war. In fact Hitler de­clared war on the US for a rea­son that looks laugh­ably triv­ial in ret­ro­spect. Then again, he be­lieved war with the US was in­evitable any­way; I don’t re­mem­ber right now what his rea­sons were for be­liev­ing that.

Also, nu­clear weapons didn’t ex­ist in 1938.

I don’t think that makes such a big differ­ence. To­day sev­eral ac­tors have nu­clear weapons, which bal­ances things out. In 1938 no­body did, but the US still had the biggest econ­omy in the world (al­though it would take a few years to get up to speed for war) and could de­ci­sively tilt the bal­ance in any war it in­ter­vened in at full ca­pac­ity.

Ex­cept that he had writ­ten a book de­tailing his de­ranged poli­ti­cal plan that he had then been fol­low­ing to the let­ter.

Could you point out what was de­ranged about it, ex­actly? (Par­en­thet­i­cally: It’s hard to have a dis­cus­sion when you use an emo­tion­ally charged term like de­ranged with­out mak­ing any ac­tual de­scrip­tive state­ments.)

• All re­main­ing Ger­man WW1 repa­ra­tions were can­cel­led in 1932, and were un­der mora­to­rium since be­fore then.

Didn’t know that, thanks.

Could you point out what was de­ranged about it, ex­actly?

“The stronger must dom­i­nate and not mate with the weaker, which would sig­nify the sac­ri­fice of its own higher na­ture. Only the born weak­ling can look upon this prin­ci­ple as cruel, and if he does so it is merely be­cause he is of a fee­bler na­ture and nar­rower mind; for if such a law did not di­rect the pro­cess of evolu­tion then the higher de­vel­op­ment of or­ganic life would not be con­ceiv­able at all.”
“the per­son­ifi­ca­tion of the devil as the sym­bol of all evil as­sumes the liv­ing shape of the Jew.”
”For how shall we fill peo­ple with blind faith in the cor­rect­ness of a doc­trine, if we our­selves spread un­cer­tainty and doubt by con­stant changes in its out­ward struc­ture? …Here, too, we can learn by the ex­am­ple of the Catholic Church. Though its doc­tri­nal ed­ifice, and in part quite su­perflu­ously, comes into col­li­sion with ex­act sci­ence and re­search, it is none the less un­will­ing to sac­ri­fice so much as one lit­tle syl­la­ble of its dog­mas… it is only such dog­mas which lend to the whole body the char­ac­ter of a faith.”

And so on.

• “The stronger must dom­i­nate and not mate with the weaker, which would sig­nify the sac­ri­fice of its own higher na­ture. Only the born weak­ling can look upon this prin­ci­ple as cruel, and if he does so it is merely be­cause he is of a fee­bler na­ture and nar­rower mind; for if such a law did not di­rect the pro­cess of evolu­tion then the higher de­vel­op­ment of or­ganic life would not be con­ceiv­able at all.”

Strip away the slightly overblown rhetoric, and you’re left with So­cial Dar­winism: the idea that de­sir­able traits, or “fit­ness”, is strongly her­i­ta­ble on the in­di­vi­d­ual and there­fore also the so­cietal level. And racism: the idea that hu­mans can be grouped into dis­crete cat­e­gories the differ­ences be­tween which are much greater than the differ­ences be­tween in­di­vi­d­u­als within each group.

Hitler and other Nazi thinkers made a lot of fac­tual er­rors: mix­ing ge­netic/​biolog­i­cal and memetic/​cul­tural evolu­tion to­gether and even declar­ing them in­sep­a­rable, greatly over­stat­ing the dis­crete­ness of races, and go­ing against psy­cho­me­t­ric facts in declar­ing Jews to be vastly in­tel­lec­tu­ally in­fe­rior. But sci­en­tific er­rors, which were not all that glar­ing given the 1920s state of knowl­edge and its pop­u­lariza­tion, and com­mit­ted by a poorly ed­u­cated non-sci­en­tist, do not make one “de­ranged” (i.e. crazy in some sense). And very many peo­ple in all na­tions in the 1920s, in­clud­ing some very smart ones, would have agreed with most of his state­ments, if not nec­es­sar­ily with the spe­cific racial hi­er­ar­chy he pro­posed.

The ele­va­tion of so­cial Dar­winism and racism into an eth­i­cal code was also not re­ally unique and cer­tainly I wouldn’t call it “de­ranged”, when con­trasted with some other pop­u­lar ide­olo­gies and eth­i­cal the­o­ries of the time (e.g. Com­mu­nism through rev­olu­tion, or Anar­chism by Pro­pa­ganda of the Deed, or even the di­v­ine right of kings, which only re­ally died in Europe in WW1).

“the per­son­ifi­ca­tion of the devil as the sym­bol of all evil as­sumes the liv­ing shape of the Jew.”

I don’t know whether to call it “de­ranged” or not. We would need to taboo the word. I do know it is far from origi­nal and was a com­mon sen­ti­ment among many Chris­ti­ans.

“For how shall we fill peo­ple with blind faith in the cor­rect­ness of a doc­trine, if we our­selves spread un­cer­tainty and doubt by con­stant changes in its out­ward struc­ture? …Here, too, we can learn by the ex­am­ple of the Catholic Church. Though its doc­tri­nal ed­ifice, and in part quite su­perflu­ously, comes into col­li­sion with ex­act sci­ence and re­search, it is none the less un­will­ing to sac­ri­fice so much as one lit­tle syl­la­ble of its dog­mas… it is only such dog­mas which lend to the whole body the char­ac­ter of a faith.”

I re­ally don’t see what’s wrong here; it’s a sound in­stru­men­tal pre­scrip­tion. Is the en­tire Catholic Church “de­ranged” for fol­low­ing this rule?

• Strip away the slightly overblown rhetoric, and you’re left with So­cial Dar­winism: the idea that de­sir­able traits, or “fit­ness”, is strongly her­i­ta­ble on the in­di­vi­d­ual and there­fore also the so­cietal level.

There’s at least one more er­ror—the idea that you can tell in ad­vance what “fit­ness” is go­ing to be, so that you can se­lect among hu­man traits to op­ti­mize for the fu­ture.

• Strip away the slightly overblown rhetoric, and you’re left with So­cial Dar­winism: the idea that de­sir­able traits, or “fit­ness”, is strongly her­i­ta­ble on the in­di­vi­d­ual and there­fore also the so­cietal level. And racism: the idea that hu­mans can be grouped into dis­crete cat­e­gories the differ­ences be­tween which are much greater than the differ­ences be­tween in­di­vi­d­u­als within each group.

The fac­tual claims are em­piri­cally falsifi­able, at least in prin­ci­ple. The most con­tentious point is de­riv­ing ought from is.

The ele­va­tion of so­cial Dar­winism and racism into an eth­i­cal code was also not re­ally unique and cer­tainly I wouldn’t call it “de­ranged”, when con­trasted with some other pop­u­lar ide­olo­gies and eth­i­cal the­o­ries of the time (e.g. Com­mu­nism through rev­olu­tion, or Anar­chism by Pro­pa­ganda of the Deed, or even the di­v­ine right of kings, which only re­ally died in Europe in WW1).

There was also clas­si­cal liberal democ­racy, but I con­cede that early 20th cen­tury Europe had lots of ide­olo­gies which we would con­sider weird by mod­ern stan­dards. In this cul­tural en­vi­ron­ment, Hitler may not have looked as weird as he does now, but I’m un­der the im­pres­sion that he was a loose can­non even by the stan­dards of his time.

I don’t know whether to call it “de­ranged” or not. We would need to taboo the word. I do know it is far from origi­nal and was a com­mon sen­ti­ment among many Chris­ti­ans.

His­tor­i­cally, yes. But the 20th cen­turies it was un­usual to pub­li­cily ex­press these opinions, es­pe­cially for a poli­ti­cian. Jews were well in­te­grated in Western Europe. There were Jewish aca­demics, poli­ti­ci­ans, judges, etc., though ob­vi­ously there was an an­ti­semitic un­der­cur­rent that Hitler pan­dered to.

I think I should con­cede that the word “de­ranged” was not very ap­pro­pri­ate. My point is that Hitler had an un­usu­ally ag­gres­sive ide­ol­ogy. One could have been tempted to write it off as rethorics, as many peo­ple of that time in­deed did, but by 1938 it should have been fairly clear that he was in­ter­ested in im­ple­ment­ing it for real.

• His­tor­i­cally, yes. But the 20th cen­turies it was un­usual to pub­li­cily ex­press these opinions, es­pe­cially for a poli­ti­cian. Jews were well in­te­grated in Western Europe. There were Jewish aca­demics, poli­ti­ci­ans, judges, etc., though ob­vi­ously there was an an­ti­semitic un­der­cur­rent that Hitler pan­dered to.

Maybe. My im­pres­sion was that an­ti­semitism was al­ive and well among the non-highly-ed­u­cated ma­jor­ity of the pop­u­la­tion. But I’m not very sure about it. (In coun­tries other than Ger­many, like Poland, Ukraine and Rus­sia, an­ti­semitism was definitely as bad as Hitler’s.)

• Your ob­ser­va­tion and V_V’s don’t ac­tu­ally con­tra­dict each other: for ex­am­ple in parts of the pre­sent-day west­ern world ho­mo­pho­bia is al­ive and well among the non-highly-ed­u­cated ma­jor­ity of the pop­u­la­tion but it’s un­usual to pub­li­cily ex­press these opinions.

• Cur­rently, he only seems in­ter­ested in ter­ri­to­ries in­hab­ited by eth­nic Russians

Cur­rently that is all he is openly or semi-openly tak­ing ac­tion on. As for what he is in­ter­ested in, he is on record as call­ing the col­lapse of the Soviet Union “a ma­jor geopoli­ti­cal dis­aster of the cen­tury”. It seems clear that he wants to re­store all of that ter­ri­tory. All else is tac­tics.

I doubt he is much in­ter­ested in tak­ing, say, the Baltic re­pub­lics or cis-Dniestr Moldova, as he would have to rule there with an iron fist on an un­co­op­er­a­tive pop­u­la­tion.

Rul­ing with an iron fist on an “un­co­op­er­a­tive” pop­u­la­tion (if they don’t ac­tively fight, what will their “un­co­op­er­a­tion” get them?) is what Rus­sia does. It did that through the years of the Soviet Union, and be­fore that un­der the Tsars, when it was de­scribed (by the Soviets, no less) as “the prison of na­tions”. Plus ça change, plus c’est le même chose.

Pre­dic­tion: within five years, there will be sep­a­ratist un­rest in all of the places you men­tioned, fanned (but not openly) by Putin.

• I find the op­pos­ing in­ter­pre­ta­tion to be more cred­ible, good write-up of it here.

• Putin prob­a­bly knows he might have a limited time to act be­cause the U.S. might get a hawk­ish Pres­i­dent (Hillary Clin­ton, any Repub­li­can but Rand Paul) or Ger­many might re-mil­i­ta­rize.

In this con­flict Ger­many wants ne­go­ti­ate a deal that ac­cepts a Rus­sian Crimea in ex­change for Ukrainian con­trol of the rest of Rus­sia and the US op­pose such a deal. Ger­many has a stronger in­ter­est in keep­ing the Rus­sian gas pipelines ac­tive than it has in whether or not Rus­sia con­trols Crimea.

Defend­ing an EU coun­try like Fin­land would have a com­pletely differ­ent pri­or­ity. I doubt that Ger­many would have a huge prob­lem with Rus­sia tak­ing over Be­larus ei­ther. Minsk is any­way badly gov­erned.

Bis­mark might be a bet­ter com­par­i­son then 1938-39.

I don’t think the key prob­lem is US un­will­ing­ness to fight but the un­will­ing­ness to en­gage in diplo­macy make a deal that gives Rus­sia offi­cially Crimea in ex­change for keep­ing the rest of Ukraine un­der the con­trol of Kiev.

• Yeah, yeah. It’s always 1939, the bad guy du jour is always Hitler. As­sad is Hitler, Putin is Hitler, Sad­dam was Hitler, Qaddafi was Hitler.

The war­mon­gers re­ally need to get a new rou­tine, peo­ple aren’t fal­ling for it any­more.

• But per­haps it re­ally is always 1939. Or, to be even more glib, what you are say­ing sounds to me much like:

Every time we see ice­bergs on the hori­zon, you steer around them, but the ship never ac­tu­ally sinks. And ev­ery time I say we should for­get about ice­bergs, you bring up the Ti­tanic. You para­noiacs re­ally need to get a new rou­tine, peo­ple aren’t fal­ling for it any­more.

OK, let’s be se­ri­ous. Let’s say that “be­ing Hitler” means go­ing on an ever-in­creas­ing cam­paign of con­quest against neigh­bour­ing coun­tries that re­sults in a very dam­ag­ing war. We could note that this kind of be­havi­our was very com­mon prior to the Napoleonic Wars (Napoleon, Fred­er­ick the Great, Charles XII, Louis XIV, Wallen­stein, Philip II, Suleiman I, etc etc). Since the Napoleonic Wars, there have been a num­ber of in­ter­na­tional frame­works more-or-less ex­plic­itly de­voted to pre­vent “Hitlers,” and which have had some suc­cess. How­ever, IR is ba­si­cally an­ar­chy, which means that when ac­tors fail to abide by the rules of those in­ter­na­tional frame­work, forc­ing them in line means war.

There haven’t been a lot of “Hitlers” in re­cent years. But at least part of the rea­son that the peo­ple you call “war­mon­gers” nipped the likes of Sad­dam, Milo­se­vic, Galtieri, etc in the bud. For ex­am­ple, Sad­dam was definitely on the Hitler path in 1991, and what stopped him was west­ern mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion. And not only did this in­ter­ven­tion stop him, but it acted as a warn­ing to other lead­ers who might be con­sid­er­ing more bel­li­cose ac­tion, and helped re­in­force the rules and norms of our peace­ful in­ter­na­tional frame­work.

But this com­mit­ment is for­ever be­ing tested, be­cause lead­ers get glory through war. Con­sider that the fame and pop­u­lar­ity of Amer­i­can Pres­i­dents has been shown to be higher the more Amer­i­cans who die in mil­i­tary com­bat in their term in office (!) and then mul­ti­ply that for more bel­li­cose so­cieties such as Rus­sia. A peace­ful world re­quires con­stant vigilance.

In the cur­rent case, it’s clear that Putin is en­gaged in an ag­gres­sive cam­paign of con­quest against his neigh­bours (not merely in Ukraine). It’s not clear where this will stop. It’s clear that ev­ery vic­tory strength­ens Putin’s do­mes­tic po­si­tion and em­bold­ens him for the next step. This is the clas­sic “Hitle­rian” path, and ev­ery­one from Hillary Clin­ton to Prince Charles has noted it. That doesn’t mean the West should nec­es­sar­ily in­ter­vene (maybe the costs are greater than the benefits) but it’s pretty ob­vi­ous why the com­par­i­son is so widely made. I’d say the ‘rou­tine’ that no-one is fal­ling for is the Pan­glos­sian one that Putin isn’t a preda­tor—with each new Rus­sian out­rage, it be­comes harder and harder to sus­tain.

I haven’t heard the (po­ten­tial) in­ter­ven­tions against Qaddafi and As­sad jus­tified on the same grounds. There, the jus­tifi­ca­tion is usu­ally a com­bi­na­tion of (1) hu­man­i­tar­ian and (2) pre­vent­ing failed states, which is rather differ­ent.

• Let’s say that “be­ing Hitler” means go­ing on an ever-in­creas­ing cam­paign of con­quest against neigh­bour­ing coun­tries that re­sults in a very dam­ag­ing war.

...AND end up on the los­ing side of his­tory.

That’s an im­por­tant ad­den­dum be­cause some­times you go on an ever-in­creas­ing cam­paign of con­quest against neigh­bour­ing coun­tries that re­sults in many dam­ag­ing wars, es­tab­lish a suc­cess­ful em­pire, im­pose a Pax Ro­mana, and, ba­si­cally live hap­pily ever af­ter. Peo­ple who suc­ceed at this aren’t usu­ally called Hitlers.

• Okay… that has also de­clined a lot re­cently. I don’t see the re­sult be­ing any differ­ent.

• But you also have to re­mem­ber that there is not the his­tory be­tween the US and these other regimes the way it is be­tween the US and Rus­sia. Putin is an old com­mu­nist and he re­mem­bers the old days, he re­mem­bers them very well and he wants them back. Putin and his cronies chafed in the 90′s un­der Pax Amer­i­cana and now they have their chance to shake up the in­ter­na­tional or­der rather than con­form to the Amer­i­can lead way of do­ing things and I think he is of the opinion that if it doesn’t hap­pen now there won’t be an­other chance for a gen­er­a­tion.

• 1938: “Just give him the parts of Cze­choslo­vakia he wants. Yeah, an­nex­ing a part of other coun­try is wrong, but a minor­ity speak­ing his lan­guage lives there, so, uhm, he kinda has a good rea­son. More im­por­tantly, we have a good rea­son to be­lieve he will stop there. Just let’s not be the bad guys who fight over noth­ing. Every­thing will be fine when he gets what he wants, he is a rea­son­able guy.”

2014: “Just give him the parts of Ukraine he wants. Yeah, an­nex­ing a part of other coun­try is wrong, but a minor­ity speak­ing his lan­guage lives there, so, uhm, he kinda has a good rea­son. More im­por­tantly, we have a good rea­son to be­lieve he will stop there. Just let’s not be the bad guys who fight over noth­ing. Every­thing will be fine when he gets what he wants, he is a rea­son­able guy.”

The analo­gies are much deeper here than merely “he is a guy we don’t like, there­fore Hitler”. Things that hap­pen in­side Rus­sia are also very dis­turb­ing—I am try­ing to ig­nore poli­tics, and I usu­ally don’t care about what hap­pens in Rus­sia, but some news still get to me—Putin’s sup­port­ers are openly na­tion­al­ist, racist, ho­mo­pho­bic, pretty much ev­ery­thing you as­so­ci­ate with fas­cism, he has a strong sup­port of the Ortho­dox Church, jour­nal­ists who crit­i­cize him are as­sas­si­nated. (Some­one liv­ing in Rus­sia would be more qual­ified to write about this.) The only way he could lose an elec­tion would be against some­one who is even more like this. Win­ning a sym­bolic war against the West will only make him more pop­u­lar.

To test how strong is this anal­ogy, we should make bets like: Con­di­tional on Putin suc­cess­fully an­nex­ing a part of ter­ri­tory of Ukraine, what is the prob­a­bil­ity of Rus­sia at­tack­ing an­other coun­try within 1, 3, 5, 10 years? Which coun­try will it be?

• The analo­gies are much deeper here than merely “he is a guy we don’t like, there­fore Hitler”. Things that hap­pen in­side Rus­sia are also very dis­turb­ing—I am try­ing to ig­nore poli­tics, and I usu­ally don’t care about what hap­pens in Rus­sia, but some news still get to me—Putin’s sup­port­ers are openly na­tion­al­ist, racist, ho­mo­pho­bic, pretty much ev­ery­thing you as­so­ci­ate with fas­cism, he has a strong sup­port of the Ortho­dox Church, jour­nal­ists who crit­i­cize him are as­sas­si­nated.

All of these things also ap­ply to the other ex­am­ples I men­tioned, and many other coun­tries be­sides. Peo­ple said the same things about Sad­dam, Qaddafi, As­sad, etc. Putin is of course say­ing similar things about his Ukrainian en­e­mies to what you are say­ing about him. (Ad­mit­tedly, they make it easy for him.)

There is no short­age of his­tor­i­cal ex­am­ples of his­tor­i­cal re­van­chism, yet the “Hitler in 1939” anal­ogy ut­terly dom­i­nates. So why rely 100% on one anal­ogy. Why in­sist on us­ing the ex­am­ple that is the clos­est stand-in for “evil psy­chopath who can­not be rea­soned with, but must be de­stroyed ut­terly?”

Prob­a­bly be­cause you’re in the midst of a me­dia driven two-min­utes hate. His­tory be­gins and ends with Hitler, 1939!

(Se­ri­ously, your stan­dard for be­ing Hitleresque is be­ing racist, ho­mo­pho­bic, and na­tion­al­is­tic? It might be a fun ex­er­cise for you to write down a list of 100 his­tor­i­cal lead­ers, de­ter­mine how many were/​were not racist, ho­mo­pho­bic, or na­tion­al­is­tic. This will give you your Hitler/​non-Hitler ra­tio. Do you think the ra­tios of Hitlers : non-Hitlers is greater or less than 1?)

• Prob­a­bly be­cause you’re in the midst of a me­dia driven two-min­utes hate.

This situ­a­tion is op­ti­mized for me­dia, but ex­actly in the op­po­site way. The whole at­tack is di­vided into many in­cre­men­tal steps. Each small step is not enough to evoke a mil­i­tary re­sponse from the West. Then there is a pause, un­til me­dia stop pay­ing at­ten­tion and find some­thing else to care about. Then an­other small step.

(Re­mem­ber the first step? Rus­sian sol­diers with­out uniforms in Ukraine ter­ri­tory, not yet openly fight­ing any­one, just car­ry­ing weapons and look­ing in­timi­dat­ing. So, what are you go­ing to do about it? First, there is no war yet, and sec­ond, they even deny be­ing Rus­sian. Calm down, ev­ery­one, calm down, noth­ing to see here. -- A few steps later it’s ob­vi­ous there are Rus­sian troops there, but we already kinda knew it for months, so why the sud­den over­re­ac­tion to­day? Calm down, ev­ery­one, calm down, noth­ing new is hap­pen­ing here.)

This is how you over­come the Schel­ling point—by do­ing a calcu­lated very small step, and then call­ing your op­po­nent ir­ra­tional if he wants to re­act.

• This is how you over­come the Schel­ling point—by do­ing a calcu­lated very small step, and then call­ing your op­po­nent ir­ra­tional if he wants to re­act.

This Yes, Prime Min­ster video is rele­vant: https://​​www.youtube.com/​​watch?v=IX_d_vMKswE

• This situ­a­tion is op­ti­mized for me­dia, but ex­actly in the op­po­site way. The whole at­tack is di­vided into many in­cre­men­tal steps.

Di­vid­ing some­thing in many in­cre­men­tal steps that each are news­wor­thy gen­er­ally means that the whole things gets more me­dia at­ten­tion than if you do ev­ery­thing at once.

Wik­ileaks for ex­am­ple didn’t re­lease all the ca­bles at once but pur­pose­fully spread them out over a time to give them more me­dia at­ten­tion.

• Se­ri­ously, your stan­dard for be­ing Hitleresque is be­ing racist, ho­mo­pho­bic, and na­tion­al­is­tic?

Not just be­ing na­tion­al­is­tic, not just be­ing ex­pan­sion­ist, but ac­tu­ally tak­ing ter­ri­tory.

• I would guess that more than half of all rulers in his­tory took oth­ers’ ter­ri­tory, or tried to and failed. And be­ing na­tion­al­is­tic goes with­out say­ing ever since the in­ven­tion of na­tion­al­ism.

The spe­cific tac­tic of nib­bling on your neigh­bors one bit at a time, vary­ing your speed de­pend­ing on in­ter­na­tional re­ac­tions, was used by Hitler but also by many oth­ers. Cal­ling a com­mon be­hav­ior Hitleresque isn’t use­ful.

There are good rea­sons for com­par­ing Ger­many in 1938 with Rus­sia in 2014, but I don’t think these are among them.

• I would guess that more than half of all rulers in his­tory took oth­ers’ ter­ri­tory, or tried to and failed. And be­ing na­tion­al­is­tic goes with­out say­ing ever since the in­ven­tion of na­tion­al­ism.

And more than half of all the rulers in his­tory would find them­selves re­ally re­ally out of place in the mod­ern world if they tried to do the same things they did in their his­tor­i­cal con­texts, and we would rather not have to deal with them.

A rather low bar to get over, there.

• I don’t think Hitler was very un­usual among rulers of, say, the post-Napoleonic epoch of 1814-1945. He was just first un­usu­ally suc­cess­ful (mak­ing many en­e­mies) and then un­usu­ally thor­oughly defeated and oc­cu­pied (al­low­ing those en­e­mies to make his name par­tic­u­larly in­fa­mous).

• But Rus­sia still has a “demo­cratic” poli­ti­cal struc­ture, ev­ery­one off course knows that it’s not like this in re­al­ity and only one party ex­ists. But soon in 2018 there’ll be new pres­i­dent elec­tions and that’s last term for Putin. Uncer­tainty that’s what we will get for sure

I’m liv­ing in Rus­sia how­ever I don’t watch TV and read news­pa­pers, but I can say for sure, that Rus­sian In­vaders are pro­claimed heroes, and NATO guys as Evil. And It’s not a sur­prise for me that on the other side of the Globe opinion is ex­actly the con­trary. My per­sonal view of the prob­lem is that Putin and Obama are both worth each other, they are strong lead­ers and will they never stop if there is a chance to gain more power. Si­tu­a­tion in Ukraine is imho this—Ukra­nian side com­pletely en­tan­gled in their own prob­lems, and they thought that it was Rus­sia who they must blame and gone com­letely nuts, then West gave them weapons and so on

To test how strong is this anal­ogy, we should make bets like: Con­di­tional on Putin suc­cess­fully an­nex­ing a part of ter­ri­tory of Ukraine, what is the prob­a­bil­ity of Rus­sia at­tack­ing an­other coun­try within 1, 3, 5, 10 years? Which coun­try will it be?

Too much global­iza­tion (rus­sial­iza­tion in this case) is hard to con­tol, Rus­sia has enor­mous ter­ri­tory, we already got Crimea which is a port, and got un­friendly re­sponse from the world. I ex­pect things to calm down for next 4 years I as­sume prob­a­bil­ity of 5% of the in­va­sion to any other country

• My per­sonal view of the prob­lem is that Putin and Obama are both worth each other, they are strong lead­ers and will they never stop if there is a chance to gain more power.

As some­one in Amer­ica, I can tell you the idea of call­ing Obama a “strong leader” sounds hilar­i­ous.

• Putin’s sup­port­ers are openly na­tion­al­ist, racist, ho­mo­pho­bic,

Would you mind taboo­ing what you mean by “racist” (and pos­si­bly also “na­tion­al­ist” and “ho­mo­pho­bic”) and why your defi­ni­tion is bad, there is cur­rently a long de­bate in an­other thread on this very sub­ject.

• Things like the Nashi move­ment, and laws against LGBT peo­ple.

Yes, there is the irony that Nashi is offi­cially an “anti-fas­cist” move­ment. To un­der­stand this, it is nec­es­sary to know the con­no­ta­tions these words have in the former com­mu­nist coun­tries, as pro­pa­ganda shaped them for decades. Shortly: any­thing as­so­ci­ated with former Soviet Union and her satel­lites is “so­cial­ist”, and any­thing as­so­ci­ated with West is “fas­cist”. It’s like yin and yang for ev­ery­thing; e.g. col­lec­tivism is “so­cial­ist” and en­trepreneur­ship is “fas­cist”, but also be­ing ethini­cally Rus­sian or at least Slavic is more cen­tral to the con­cept of “so­cial­ist”, and the idea of hu­man rights (other than the right to live hap­pily and obe­di­ently un­der a so­cial­ist gov­ern­ment) is kinda “fas­cist”, be­cause it goes against the power of the col­lec­tive.

So a per­son who doesn’t think about this too deeply (you know, most of the pop­u­la­tion) can iden­tify them­selves as “anti-fas­cist” and mean: “I hate en­trepreneurs, ho­mo­sex­u­als; and ev­ery­one who is not eth­ni­cally Rus­sian/​Slav should go away from this coun­try”. Hav­ing read a few ar­ti­cles about the Nashi, this is more or less the mean­ing they use.

(This is a point I would like to em­pha­sise as of­ten as pos­si­ble—though usu­ally I don’t, re­spect­ing the LW’s at­ti­tude to poli­tics—that the ideas of “left” or “so­cial­ism” in former Soviet coun­tries are so com­pletely un­like their ver­sions in the West. It is just a re­sult of suc­cess­ful pro­pa­ganda and sup­press­ing the flow of in­for­ma­tion that makes most leftists in the West be­lieve oth­er­wise. If you take a typ­i­cal Nazi, re­duce his hate of Jews by 80%, and con­vert him us­ing the chrono­phone to a post-Soviet cul­ture, this is what passes as “left” here.)

• Things like the Nashi move­ment,

Look­ing at the ar­ti­cle, I don’t see what speci­fi­cally you’re con­sid­er­ing “racist”. It would help if you stated your defi­ni­tion. Ok, it would help even more if you didn’t through around words com­monly used by SJW’s to mean “any­one I dis­agree with”.

and laws against LGBT peo­ple.

You mean like the laws ev­ery coun­try had un­til maybe a cou­ple decades ago?

If you take a typ­i­cal Nazi, re­duce his hate of Jews by 80%, and con­vert him us­ing the chrono­phone to a post-Soviet cul­ture, this is what passes as “left” here.

So are the Rus­sian cre­at­ing an over­ar­ch­ing recre­ational or­ga­ni­za­tion and bring­ing all pri­vate clubs un­der its con­trol?

• To taboo the SJW-like words, here is what I mean: wor­ship of phys­i­cal power, en­thu­si­asm about war, em­pha­sis on re­pro­duc­tion of pure­bloods, agres­sion against peo­ple differ­ent from the norm.

• Yes, Nashi is im­pres­sively scary. Ku­dos for read­ing up on them.

• Bri­tain tried em­brac­ing for­eign­ers even ones who had no in­ter­est in as­similat­ing. This was the re­sult.

• Those are just two differ­ent ways of judg­ing peo­ple by their eth­nic­ity in­stead of by their in­di­vi­d­ual ac­tions.

My idea would be some­thing like: Do what­ever you want as long as you fol­low the law. When you break the law, go to jail.

• Ex­cept that in this case the po­lice and so­cial work­ers weren’t will­ing to en­force the law for fear of be­ing called “racist”. More gen­er­ally, the law is only as strong as the will and abil­ity of peo­ple to en­force it.

• Genghis Khan was Hitler, Julius Cae­sar was Hitler, Hernán Cortés was Hitler. Ad­verse se­lec­tion in the poli­ti­cal pro­cess of­ten fa­vors lead­ers who re­ally en­joy tak­ing other peo­ples’ stuff. Also, com­par­ing some as­pects of Putin to Hitler (as Kas­parov did) doesn’t mean you think Putin=Hitler. Putin, thank­fully, doesn’t seem to en­joy kil­ling for its own sake.

• Putin, thank­fully, doesn’t seem to en­joy kil­ling for its own sake.

Nei­ther did Hitler. He always had ex­trin­sic goals to be achieved by kil­ling. Often those were quite ad­mirable goals if you ac­cepted ex­treme par­ti­san­ship for the Ger­man peo­ple at the ex­pense of ev­ery­one else. (Not always; he sup­pressed do­mes­tic op­po­si­tion ruth­lessly, but it was noth­ing in com­par­i­son to his treat­ment of non-Ger­mans and no differ­ent from most other states at the time.)

• Yup, should have erected a fence vs mis­be­hav­ior early. The West did not be­cause the West can­not co­or­di­nate. Oh and Obama is sadly an empty suit, and didn’t lead at all. I don’t have a par­tic­u­lar axe to grind vs Obama, I re­ally wish he wasn’t what he turned out to be.
• Yup, should have erected a fence vs mis­be­hav­ior early. The West did not be­cause the West can­not co­or­di­nate.

No. Bluffing is a key part of US for­eign policy. If you fre­quently bluff than you don’t have fences.

Obama also gets some­thing from the con­flict. EU na­tions who are an­gry at the US for NSA spy­ing don’t act on that anger be­cause the have to show strength in the con­flict with Rus­sia and an EU US con­flict would pro­duce weak­ness. It in­creases the chances of get­ting an EU-US free trade agree­ment.

• The West did not be­cause the West can­not co­or­di­nate.

I re­ally don’t think it’s a co­or­di­na­tion prob­lem. I think it’s a will prob­lem.

• The Cold War ended with eco­nom­i­cal vic­tory of the West, and memetic vic­tory of the Soviets. The eco­nom­i­cal defeat led to col­lapse of the Soviet em­pire. The memetic defeat re­sults in the lack of will we see to­day.

It was a huge strate­gic mis­take af­ter the fall of com­mu­nism not to use the op­por­tu­nity to ex­pose the crimes of the regime, and to re­move the im­por­tant peo­ple from power, just like it was done with Nazis. For ex­am­ple in Slo­vakia, the com­mu­nists still have the power; they have to com­pete for it in demo­cratic elec­tion and some­times they lose, but they still have the ad­van­tage of decades of un­op­posed brain­wash­ing on their side, and the skills and con­tacts of the former se­cret ser­vice. Th­ese days, Slo­vakia is tech­ni­cally a mem­ber of EU, but our gov­ern­ment is com­mu­nist, the prime minister is openly pro-Rus­sian, the ma­jor­ity catholic church fo­cuses on fight­ing ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity and liber­al­ism, and some of my “friends” on face­book still in­sist that Ukraini­ans are at­tack­ing them­selves, Rus­si­ans are only try­ing to pro­tect the in­no­cent vic­tims, and the evil Amer­i­cans are spread­ing pro­pa­ganda to start the war be­cause that’s all those evil mer­ce­nar­ies ever do, un­like us, peace­ful Slavic broth­ers. So… this is one EU coun­try, which hap­pens to share a bor­der with Ukraine. We will not be helpful, be­cause we are already con­quered memet­i­cally.

• It was a huge strate­gic mis­take af­ter the fall of com­mu­nism not to use the op­por­tu­nity to ex­pose the crimes of the regime, and to re­move the im­por­tant peo­ple from power, just like it was done with Nazis.

You can’t just go in an re­move im­por­tant peo­ple from power. That would have needed a mil­i­tary in­va­sion at a time where it wasn’t clear who con­trols which nu­clear weapons.

The Cold War ended with eco­nom­i­cal vic­tory of the West, and memetic vic­tory of the Soviets.

I think you over­state that case. A lot of former Soviet coun­tries like Poland aren’t pro-Rus­sian. Poland has 38 mil­lion cit­i­zens while Slo­vakia has 5.5.

• Given Rus­sian/​Pol­ish his­tory, if com­mu­nist pro­pa­ganda were strong enough to make Poland pro-Rus­sia, the com­mu­nists would have taken over the world.

• Poland was Eastern-bloc, yes. It was not a part of the Soviet Union since WW2 wound down.

• The same is true of Slo­vakia. It was part of Cze­choslo­vakia.

I use Soviet coun­try to mean, a coun­try which poli­ti­cal struc­ture is build on Soviets as op­posed to a rep­re­sen­ta­tive democ­racy.

• I’m aware of Slo­vakia’s ori­gin, hav­ing vis­ited Cze­choslo­vakia. I’m not sure where I im­plied any­thing differ­ent.

Sorry for be­ing pedan­tic.

(why the down­vote, who­ever? Was it be­lief I was ly­ing about vis­it­ing Cze­choslo­vakia? Believe it or not, the coun­try did ex­ist un­der that name dur­ing my life­time. Was it sus­pi­cion of my be­ing sar­cas­tic in my apol­ogy? I was not.)

• The Cold War ended with eco­nom­i­cal vic­tory of the West, and memetic vic­tory of the Soviets

Which memetic vic­tory? Marx­ism/​com­mu­nism/​Soviet ide­ol­ogy pretty much im­ploded af­ter the fall of the USSR. Look at what China did. I think it was a to­tal memetic loss for the Soviets.

It was a huge strate­gic mis­take af­ter the fall of com­mu­nism not to use the op­por­tu­nity to ex­pose the crimes of the regime, and to re­move the im­por­tant peo­ple from power

First, whose mis­take and who would have been do­ing the re­mov­ing?

Se­cond, it de­pends on the coun­try. I think that in Rus­sia the old Soviet “im­por­tant peo­ple” were effec­tively re­moved. The new poli­ti­cal elite is not the old poli­ti­cal elite.

• First, whose mis­take and who would have been do­ing the re­mov­ing?

In my coun­try, our mis­take, of course. Peo­ple were too ideal­is­tic dur­ing the “Velvet Revolu­tion”. We thought that just pub­li­cly end­ing the evil regime is enough, that we can just for­give ev­ery­one and have a fresh start. And that the bad guys will be happy for be­ing for­given (in­stead of e.g. ex­e­cuted for their crimes) and they will live peace­fully.

Yeah… they just waited for a year or two to make sure there is no will to pun­ish them… and then they re­turned to the power. Since most of the judges or po­lice­men or peo­ple in any po­si­tion of in­fluence ex­cept for par­li­a­ment (be­cause all our at­ten­tion was fo­cused there) were former com­mu­nists, it wasn’t even difficult. They just had to wait for he­do­nic adap­ta­tion, and blame all the prob­lems on lack of so­cial­ism, and then win one elec­tion. Then they re­moved all their op­po­nents from the pub­lic me­dia and used the me­dia for pro­pa­ganda. And used the loyal se­cret ser­vice against poli­ti­cal op­po­nents.

I think that in Rus­sia the old Soviet “im­por­tant peo­ple” were effec­tively re­moved. The new poli­ti­cal elite is not the old poli­ti­cal elite.

I don’t know about situ­a­tion in Rus­sia. Just say­ing that it’s not enough to re­move the visi­ble peo­ple in par­li­a­ment. It is also im­por­tant to re­move com­mu­nists from the jus­tice and se­cret ser­vice. Other­wise, you get new faces, con­nected to the old less visi­ble peo­ple.

• Which memetic vic­tory? Marx­ism/​com­mu­nism/​Soviet ide­ol­ogy pretty much im­ploded af­ter the fall of the USSR. Look at what China did. I think it was a to­tal memetic loss for the Soviets.

And yet the cur­rent head of the EU is a not-quite-re­pen­tant former Soviet apol­o­gist.

• I would dis­agree, many of the former so­viet re­pub­lics are full of old com­mu­nists or those who were as­cend­ing the party ranks right at the end.

• many of the former so­viet re­pub­lics are full of old communists

First, I ex­plic­itly said “Rus­sia”, not USSR.

Se­cond, of course there are a lot of old com­mu­nists. In the Soviet era if you wanted to make any kind of a ca­reer you had to be one. LOTS of peo­ple were com­mu­nists. What do you think hap­pened to the rank and file of the CPSU? An­swer: noth­ing, they’re still around and still am­bi­tious.

• Se­cond, of course there are a lot of old com­mu­nists. In the Soviet era if you wanted to make any kind of a ca­reer you had to be one. LOTS of peo­ple were com­mu­nists. What do you think hap­pened to the rank and file of the CPSU?

What hap­pened to the rank and file mem­bers of the Nazi party af­ter WWII?

• What hap­pened to the rank and file mem­bers of the Nazi party af­ter WWII?

Noth­ing much, I think. Of course, a lot were kil­led dur­ing the war, but those who sur­vived went through de­naz­ifi­ca­ton and re­mained nor­mal mem­bers of the Ger­man so­ciety.

• Thank you for prov­ing my point.

• Sa­muel Hunt­ing­ton would be cheer­ing if he were al­ive be­cause he pre­dicted that this is what would hap­pen. We would have a multi-po­lar world and that a great deal of that po­lar­ity would be based on eth­nic­ity and he used the Slavic coun­tries as a prime ex­am­ple. The down­side is he pre­dicted a lot of small scale con­flict un­der this sys­tem which we are see­ing.

• Ab­solutely, not only is there a Will prob­lem you have a clas­sic war weari­ness quo­tient in the US and UK and the EU to be perfectly blunt as we showed in Libya no longer has the re­sources to mean­ingfully put up a fight in a large scale and mean­ingful way. How the EU con­tinues to ac­tu­ally make its NATO com­mit­ments is in­ter­est­ing be­cause all in all Europe needs to re-arm it­self to a cer­tain de­gree and I think that pro­gram needs to hap­pen right away. Not only is Aus­ter­ity a ter­rible dis­aster but so is the EU mil­i­tary situ­a­tion. One might also no­tice the silence from Ban-Ki Moon on this.

• I hes­i­tate to make 1938-1939 com­par­i­sons be­cause the world situ­a­tion is far differ­ent now than then es­pe­cially be­cause of global­iza­tion. I do how­ever agree with Kas­parov the longer Putin gets away with this the more em­bold­ened both the Krem­lin and his troops will be. The prob­lem here is two fold: The US is war weary af­ter 10 years of do­ing Iraq and Afghanistan and Obama go­ing to the coun­try to put boots on the ground is a dicey de­ci­sion and eco­nom­i­cally now isn’t a great time to do that.

How­ever, I think there are some de­ter­rents you could do:

If I were Pres­i­dent Cowan I would have already moved 30K troops into Ger­man for a lit­tle ger­man va­ca­tion. I would also move some as­sets into place in the Gulf of Alaska. You know just rou­tine troop move­ments and it would look very threat­en­ing and it might make Putin start think­ing twice. The best way to get an en­emy to stop do­ing some­thing is to get them wor­ried be­cause then their own fear will ei­ther make them do some­thing stupid that you can ex­ploit or they will cease and de­sist. I might also start an eco­nomic war by ask­ing the FED to dump a few billion Rubles into the world econ­omy just to see what hap­pens. Frankly, its time to get Machi­avel­lian.

• The prob­lem here is two fold

Do you re­ally think that if your two prob­lems were ab­sent—if the US were not war-weary and if the econ­omy were do­ing great—then the US would be ready to put boots on the ground in Rus­sia?

To quote a fel­low named Vizzini, You fell vic­tim to one of the clas­sic blun­ders—The most fa­mous of which is “never get in­volved in a land war in Asia” X-D

and it would look very threatening

I think it would look pretty silly and would give Putin a mighty poli­ti­cal gift. He’d point a finger at your troops and yell that the Amer­i­can war­mon­gers are prepar­ing to in­vade Mother Rus­sia—and that’s all he would need to re­ally unite all the pop­u­la­tion be­hind him.

by ask­ing the FED to dump a few billion Rubles into the world econ­omy just to see what happens

I don’t think the Fed has a few billion Rubles. And my guess as to what would hap­pen is that Putin will close the taps on the oil and gas flow­ing into Europe, Ger­many in par­tic­u­lar. Frau Merkel would be most dis­pleased, I would think.

• Yes I think in a differ­ent sce­nario the US would be more hawk­ish on Rus­sia with­out War weari­ness and bet­ter eco­nomic con­di­tions. This is ba­sic war the­ory.

You are right, Putin could cer­tain point at in­creased troops in Ger­many as the West get­ting ready for war and it might lead to mo­bi­liza­tion, how­ever, as Putin is in no mood and Rus­sia is in no eco­nomic con­di­tion for a pro­tracted war with the West I think it would have the cor­rect provoca­tive effect. I don’t think Putin would slow down but it would make ev­ery­one at the Krem­lin think twice. I would keep them there for about 3 months and then send them home.

The Fed has a few billion rubles be­cause all global trade ac­counts must bal­ance and the Fed­eral Re­serves keeps vast quan­tities of ev­ery trad­ing part­ners cur­rency so that trade ac­counts will bal­ance, they can re-buy Amer­i­can debt in lo­cal cur­rency, and for sta­bil­ity of global mar­kets. So yes, you could dump a few billion rubles by re-buy­ing cer­tain amounts of Amer­i­can debt from China and pay­ing for it in Rubles.

• The Fed has a few billion rubles be­cause all global trade ac­counts must bal­ance and the Fed­eral Re­serves keeps vast quan­tities of ev­ery trad­ing part­ners cur­rency so that trade ac­counts will bal­ance, they can re-buy Amer­i­can debt in lo­cal cur­rency, and for sta­bil­ity of global mar­kets.

What is this I don’t even

• Ba­si­cally, the Fed as apart of the global cen­tral bank­ing sys­tem keeps var­i­ous cur­ren­cies on hand for global trade pur­poses. Ergo you could dump those back in the mar­ket.

• Ba­si­cally, the Fed as apart of the global cen­tral bank­ing sys­tem keeps var­i­ous cur­ren­cies on hand for global trade pur­poses.

Does it, now? Ac­tu­ally keeps “cur­ren­cies on hand”? Or maybe we’re talk­ing about FX swap lines?

Can you provide a like to e.g. a Fed bal­ance sheet that shows “a few billion rubles”?

• I can­not say/​find in­for­ma­tion on what ex­actly they keep on hand these days. How­ever, the cur­rency swap lines can be cre­ated liter­ally at will which they did dur­ing the 2008 crisis. Also, if you look at the case of Leo Wanta, who armed with 2.7 Trillion dol­lars desta­bi­lized the Soviet econ­omy with FX swaps in Brus­sels be­tween 1989 and 1991.

• the cur­rency swap lines can be cre­ated liter­ally at will

Yes, but when you have an FX swap line, you don’t own the for­eign cur­rency, you only have a fa­cil­ity to get some in ex­change for yours. In your ex­am­ple, for the Fed to at­tempt to de­value the ru­ble it would have to get it first from some­one (likely, the Cen­tral Bank of Rus­sia), effec­tively buy­ing it for dol­lars—thus defeat­ing the en­tire point of the ex­er­cise.

if you look at the case of Leo Wanta

The case of Leo Wanta doesn’t seem to sup­port your claims.

• You can trade Amer­i­can debt for Rubles from a Rus­sian trad­ing part­ner like the EU. Also, I would google more gen­eral in­for­ma­tion about Leo Wanta. Your refer­ence doesn’t ac­tu­ally talk about what he did.

• 1 Sep 2014 6:01 UTC
2 points

I feel like there is a lot of noise in this thread. We’d do well to avoid any fur­ther men­tion of Hitler. But the first ex­change with Lu­mifer was good.

What is Good Judg­ment Pro­ject say­ing? Maybe I should get around to ac­tu­ally par­ti­ci­pat­ing...

One place to start might be look­ing at free­dom in­dices and yes, you can see that Rus­sia is ba­si­cally a dic­ta­tor­ship now.

An anal­ogy that comes into my head is Brezh­nev and the Cze­choslo­vakia in­va­sion.

• I feel like there is a lot of noise in this thread.

In­deed. But it is still way bet­ter than what a similar topic would have gen­er­ated on red­dit or el­se­where.

An anal­ogy that comes into my head is Brezh­nev and the Cze­choslo­vakia in­va­sion.

Right, it used to hap­pen ev­ery 12 years like a clock­work af­ter the Soviets “liber­ated” Eastern Europe in 1944: 1956 Hun­gary, 1968 Cze­choslo­vakia, 1980 Poland and Afghanistan. And by 1992 there was no more Soviet Union. In ret­ro­spect, I should have ex­pected that an­other in­va­sion is not out of the ques­tion.

• And if I had any skin in the game, I would prob­a­bly be even more cau­tious.

I en­dorse putting skin in the game. I was sur­prised by how much more ed­u­ca­tional a skin-in-the-game pre­dic­tion feels than a pas­sive one.

• You re­ally shouldn’t be­lieve any­thing com­ing out of Kiev, es­pe­cially about pur­ported Rus­sian in­va­sions. Not that you should be­lieve any­thing com­ing out of Moscow ei­ther, but the former’s wild-fan­tasy to mea­sured-pro­pa­ganda ra­tio has been far far higher. They’ve cried wolf so many times and it is dis­tinctly in their in­ter­est to try to pro­voke NATO.

• They’ve cried wolf so many times

Cor­rectly, too. The pro-Rus­sian rebels are sup­plied with arms and fighters by the Rus­si­ans. The Rus­si­ans troops were kil­led and cap­tured on Ukrainian ter­ri­tory. There are NATO satel­lite images (as in, not com­ing out of Kiev) of Rus­sian columns around Novoa­zovsk...