What Disinformation?

Featured image Sweden has established a new Psychological Defence Agency to combat potential Russian disinformation, the London Times reports. The agency hasn’t actually spotted any Russian disinformation yet, the article says, but it knows where to look: Staff at the agency, which has its headquarters in the western city of Karlstad, are working in a nation increasingly plagued by polarisation and mistrust. Next week, parliamentary elections will take place in a climate »

A Footnote on Reagan & Gorbachev

Featured image When Gorbachev became general secretary in 1985, Reagan wrote in his diary that he was “too cynical” to believe reports that Gorbachev was a “different kind” of Soviet leader. Gorbachev thought Reagan was “a dinosaur,” fully slavish to America’s capitalist class. But by degrees they warmed to each other personally, ironically by means of bitter and direct philosophical arguments in their unprecedented five face-to-face meetings over the next three years that »

Who Killed Darya Dugina?

Featured image Darya Dugina was the daughter of Alexander Dugin, one of Vladimir Putin’s close associates, a leading pro-Putin intellectual, and a vigorous supporter of the Ukraine invasion. Dugin is an exponent of “Eurasianism,” arguing that Russia is a unique civilization that has rejected Western liberalism and is the heir to the Russian Empire. Darya herself was a journalist and a supporter of her father’s ideas and Putin’s regime. On Saturday night, »

Guest Post: Emina Melonic on ‘War Chic’

Featured image Emina Melonic is the perfect person to reflect on the meaning of the Vogue cover shot of the Zelenskyys: The war in Ukraine has been odd, to say the least. At the beginning, I was following it closely, especially since I saw the echoes of my own experience, namely in war-torn Bosnia. I saw innocent people dying and displaced out of their homes. But just like most things in this strange, »

Is Russia Reeling?

Featured image A friend sent me a link to this paper, which says that, contrary to much of what we see in the press, Western sanctions are devastating Russia’s economy. The authors are all associated with Yale; subject to that caveat, here it is: As the Russian invasion of Ukraine enters into its fifth month, a common narrative has emerged that the unity of the world in standing up to Russia has »

BoJo’s no go

Featured image Boris Johnson is both the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the author of a respectful book on Winston Churchill. He holds himself out as a conservative to boot. Yet Walter Russell Mead captures BoJo in an emission of pandering pap that ought to embarrass him. In his weekly Wall Street column today Mead quotes Johnson speaking to German media between the Group of Seven and NATO summits late »

Advantage Putin?

Featured image I missed the news that Western leaders leaders “jok[ed] about” Putin at the G7 summit this week, as the AP puts it in its story today. I think “mocked” would probably be more accurate. They mocked Putin’s public displays of manliness: As they sat down for talks, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson jested that G7 leaders could take their clothes off to “show that we’re tougher than Putin” amid Russia-West »

Opinion Shifting Against Ukraine War Effort

Featured image As I’ve written before, Americans are remarkably united on the Russia-Ukraine war. Almost everyone is on Ukraine’s side, and almost no one wants us to send troops. So differences in opinion are relatively nuanced: how far should we go to support Ukraine’s war effort? How one answers that question depends partly on whether one sees a risk of wider, possibly nuclear, war, and partly on how one sees our support »

A Nuanced View of the Russia-Ukraine War

Featured image For me, the war in Ukraine is simple: Ukraine didn’t invade Russia, Russia invaded Ukraine. So I am on the Ukrainians’ side. But at the same time, my perspective is nuanced. The nuance consists of wondering whether it really is in our interest to send tens of billions of dollars worth of war materiel to the Ukrainians. What interest, exactly, do we have in the conflict that makes such an »

Collusion revisited — again

Featured image I badly mangled this post when I sought to correct a link in it yesterday. I’m taking the liberty of reposting it as intended below the break with apologies to readers who may have seen it in its mangled form. * * * * * The late Richard Pipes’s narrative history The Russian Revolution is a great work of humane learning. Pipes’s mastery of the sources shines through his text. »

Collusion revisited

Featured image The late Richard Pipes’s narrative history The Russian Revolution is a great work of humane learning. Pipes’s mastery of the sources shines through his text. The text itself reflects a lifetime of study and reflection. Reading Gary Saul Morson’s essay/review linked in the adjacent post, I was reminded of Pipes’s chapter 7 (“Toward the Catastrophe”), covering the assassination of Rasputin. It includes this passage on the November 14, 1916 speech »

March 1917 revisited

Featured image The current (May 12) issue of the New York Review of Books carries Gary Saul Morson’s chilling essay/review (behind the NYRB paywall) taking up March 1917: The Red Wheel/Node III (8 March–31 March): Book 3 and Between Two Millstones: Book 2, Exile in America, 1978–1994, the most recent of the books by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn to be translated and published in English. Professor Morson channels Solzhenitsyn’s thinking on the preface to »

Putin Sings

Featured image In 2010, a number of celebrities were invited to St. Petersburg, Russia, to participate in a fundraiser for a children’s hospital there. As an added treat, Vladimir Putin took the stage and sang Fats Domino’s “Blueberry Hill.” He played the piano, too. Sort of. You pretty much have to see it to believe it. See how many American celebrities you can spot: It’s pretty surreal. Sharon Stone talks about her »

The Inexorable Logic of Dictators

Featured image Since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and its rapid stall out from effective Ukrainian resistance, there has been a lot of talk, backed up with appropriate quotes from Sun Tzu and other classic authors on strategy, that we need to contrive some kind of graceful “offramp” for Putin. This seems like unpromising advice. Time to recall once again the counsel of Churchill, made for a foolishly hopeful American »

Disinformation, American style (3)

Featured image In its lead editorial this morning the Wall Street Journal turns its attention to President Obama’s performance at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics/Atlantic Disinformation Conference this week. The editorial is headlined “Barack Obama rewrites his Russia history.” It opens this way: “As somebody who grappled with the incursion into Crimea and the eastern portions of Ukraine, I have been encouraged by the European reaction [this time],” Mr. Obama »

Ukraine, the Russian Perspective

Featured image It is hard to think of a recent policy issue on which American public opinion has been so unified: just about everyone is pro-Ukraine, but hardly anyone wants American troops to fight on the ground. Despite this apparent consensus, various public figures, including Donald Trump, have been vilified as pro-Russia. It light of recent revelations about Russian atrocities, it is safe to assume that essentially no one–certainly no politician or »

Our Ukraine Dilemmas

Featured image A certain amount of caution is recommended about reporting and commenting on the Ukraine War, mostly because solid facts are hard to come by (the “fog of war” and all that), and judgment about what to do is in equally short supply, especially inside the head of our president. A few things appear certain. First, the Ukrainians have fought with great skill and effectiveness, and surprised the world with their »