Notes: The Monday Taki post is up. This week is a post about the mistakes Russia has made in the war thus far. Sunday Thoughts is up behind the green door, covering some news items of the day. SubscribeStar and Substack.
All wars have their unique character, but the war in the Ukraine is probably one of the strangest in the history of the West. Its strangeness is due to the two sides operating from a different set of facts and a different framework for those facts. It is as if the two sides are fighting entirely different wars. In point of fact, the two sides are fighting different wars, despite doing so on a common battlefield. That reality is about to become clearer as the war moves into winter.
The first main difference in the war is that the Russians are fighting it from a highly legalistic and bureaucratic perspective. The West does not seem to grasp this and keeps treating it like a cartoonish war of conquest. They frame Putin as a version of Hitler, who is now a cartoon villain in the Western imagination. Putin is attacking Ukraine for no reason at all and has no real plan other than war. It is just some irrational land grab, like when Hitler conquered Poland¹.
In reality the Russians have conducted this war like a group of lawyers engaged in complex civil litigation. They spend a lot of time on legalistic points like the official legal status of the disputed territory. Before the start of the war, the Russians put a lot of time into legally recognizing Luhansk and Donetsk as independent territories. The ongoing attacks on these areas by Ukraine was the legal pretext for the Special Military Operation that started eight months ago.
This legalistic mindset is turning up in the response to the terrorist attack on the Kerch bridge in the Crimea. The facts were quickly established. Ukraine took credit for the attack and promised more. Once the Russian investigators confirmed the essentials of the attack, that it was terrorism and sponsored by Ukraine, the Russians could then conduct anti-terrorism activity. Again, this an important legal distinction for the Russians, as it permits specific activities.
Russia launched one hundred missiles at key Ukrainian facilities overnight as a response to the attack and as a warning. Much of the internet is down in Ukraine and parts of various cities are without power and water. You see, Russia can legally attack civilian infrastructure in response to terror attacks. The warning here is that if the terrorism continues, the Russians have the legal right to take out all of Ukraine’s power, water and communications systems.
Contrast this with how the West is fighting the war. At the start, Western governments seized the property of Russian companies and individuals. There was no court case or legal arguments about it. They just did it. They filled Western media with gleeful stories about stealing the yachts of Russian oligarchs. The owner of the Chelsea football club was forced to sell the team. Germany seized the assets of Gazprom, the Russian energy firm that supplies its natural gas.
Then you have the sanctions war. Much of what has been imposed on Russia has been done outside the normal channels. The whole point of the New World Order is that it is a rules based world and those rules are administered though global entities like the World Bank and the World Trade Organization. The point of these groups is to hash out difference between countries. All of those were bypassed. Even the legislatures of the respective countries were bypassed.
When you put the two ways of waging the war side-by-side, you get a picture that is the opposite of what is presented. The one side is bogging itself down in paperwork and legalism while the other side is cutting through the red tape and the rule of law to implement the latest polices. In a way, it is like this war is being waged between the bureaucracy of the post office and the leadership of the Mafia. It is a war between two entirely alien ways of viewing the world.
Another place you see the contrast is in public relations. The Russians have abandoned the field when it comes to the meme war. They have invested no effort in winning the daily news cycle or spinning events into clever narratives. Instead, they provide daily updates on the granular details of the war. If you care about how many flat tires were fixed by Russian forces every day, the Ministry of Defense is your source. Their reports are a dry accounting of the basic facts.
On the other hand, the Western side of the war is a carnival of creative stories that are splashed across Western media. The occupation of abandoned territory in the north was treated like the Battle of the Bulge. The terror attack on the Kerch bridge was a great blow to the Russian army. Once it was clear the bridge was not destroyed and was back in service, it was off to the next narrative. The West has been waging this war on the internet as if it is actually taking place there.
Probably the biggest difference between the two sides is how they explain their respective involvement in the war. The Russians see it as a defense of the Russian people and the Russian homeland. The people in the Donbas are Russians and therefore must be defended by Russia. Further, Western activity in Ukraine is portrayed as part of a larger American effort to destroy Russia. The Russian people are once again being called upon to defend the motherland.
In the West, the war is an abstract thing. It is a defense of democracy, which is a thing no one bothers to explain. In fact, if you ask what it means you get shouted down as a threat to our democracy. Like so much of what has happened in the West over the last three decades, this war is a moral signifier. If you support it, you are a good person, but if you have doubts, it means you are a bad person. Even thinking about why this is true is a sign you may be a bad person.
All wars have consequences but it is never easy to see what they are until they finally arrive, usually long after the fighting has ended. No one at the end of the Great War imagined the events of the 1930’s. In this case, the West is sure that what lies ahead is their New World Order. The Russians think what lies ahead is a multipolar world of which they are an important part. Two powers, fighting two wars with two visions of what comes next and both cannot be right.
¹We know. Everyone knows.
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