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February 2022

Stipulating that we have no idea how this will turn out, it is worth tallying some of the surprises thus far.
Apparent lack of punch in Russian initial attack, to include on Ukrainian air forces; ineffective airborne assaults and spetsnaz raids; ferocity of Ukrainian resistance in depth.
Unanimity of western response, to include arms supplies (e.g. Sweden of all places), and Germans not only participating in sanctions, but deciding to lay out double their annual defense budget. This on top of demonstrations, etc.
Extent of sanctions, to include suspending SWIFT, and much more; closing of air space to Russian aircraft, and the general move to make Russia a pariah state. This includes denunciations from, e.g. Kenya and other non-European states.
Western and Ukrainian superiority in the information warfare realm -- to include heartening videos and stories, pictures of Russian soldiers looting or being pushed around by Ukrainian civilians, etc. all on top of effective release of US and allied intel before the crisis.
What appears to be considerable Ukrainian tactical successes against Russian armored columns, and serious problems with the battalion tactical groups which we have heard so much about.
A variety of forms of opposition to the war being expressed in Russia, which takes considerable courage on the part of those doing it. Including more muted criticisms from within the elite.
The leadership qualities of President Zelensky, grossly underestimated by a lot of Western analysts.
And I could go on. The point is that analysts who were (a) mesmerized by Russian hardware; (b) impressed by Russian doctrine; (c) inclined to pessimism about Western democracy in general and the willingness to push back of our leaders missed a great deal.
Instead, some old truths, all found in Clausewitz and Tolstoy, viz., the moral element matters in war, as do the decisions of many individuals; that the fog of war exists; that war is the domain of surprise; and that it is about interaction, not mechanical planning.
Finally: we do not know how this will unfold, but one does sense that history is moving remarkably quickly here. And - at great cost in human suffering - the outcome may be the end of the road for a brutal dictator, and renewed confidence in free institutions. One hopes. []

Eliot A. Cohen

The international situation has apparently left many people in the English-speaking countries confused. I write this thread in the hopes of sharing a perspective I believe is widely if not unilaterally shared in Finland, most leftists included.
What we see happening in Ukraine right now is, to put it bluntly, Russian (or more precisely, the Kremlin's) imperialism. If no other evidence convinces you, I beseech you to read a translation of Putin's speech yesterday.
This has very little if anything to do with NATO, and almost everything to do with Putin's desire to reinstate the Russian Empire. He has consistently maintained in public that it was a "mistake" to "allow" the former Soviet republics to become independent.
Now he said out loud that Lenin made an error in 1917 when he let the former Russian territories "go." One of the countries that gained independence from Russia in 1917, by the way, was Finland.
What Putin seems to fear the most, rightly so, is that democratic revolution reaches Moscow. Thus, democracy itself is a threat to him.
He is not really afraid of NATO military forces: we can objectively demonstrate that the deployment of NATO forces to countries close to Russia used to be laughably minuscule before 2014.
Only after Putin's blatant 2008 and 2014 breaches of post-World War II convention of not redrawing the map of Europe with a sword did NATO even step up military deployments. Still, the deployments were mostly cosmetic.
The post-2017 "enhanced forward presence" in the Baltics, for instance, consisted of four battalion task groups. Independent analysts have now counted about 125 similar Russian army groups massing along Ukraine's borders.
The most powerful nuclear weapon states in the world really do not fear an attack by other nation states. But what frightens Putin and his band of kleptocrats is the very real possibility that the Russian people decide to get rid of them.
Democratic, successful countries bordering European Russia are a menace to him personally. They show the Russians an alternative, and can serve as sanctuaries for dissidents that Putin would like to invite for a tea by the window.
This is the reason why Putin is doing his best to undermine the European Union, for instance. He cynically supports the European and American far right, up to and including support from clandestine intelligence services and financial assistance.
Failing Europe would be a boon for Putin, and a divided Europe is a weak Europe whose individual countries can be threatened or corrupted from within.
Putin also controls a formidable propaganda machine, which has been very successful in selling a story of poor Russia being threatened by evil NATO and thus forced to mass the second greatest invasion force seen in Europe since the end of the WW2 - against non-NATO Ukraine.
(I personally cannot see how the Ukrainians even would be responsible for NATO's actions even if the above was true, any more than those wedding parties the U.S. has droned over the years were the responsibility of Al Qaida or the Taliban.)
But in reality, the fact is that NATO has not "enlarged" itself: the fact is that democratic countries close to Russia have wanted to join NATO. I hope you ask yourself: why?
Do you really believe that people in countries like the Baltics are evil warmongers who just want to have a go at the Russians? Or that they are duped by some ominous NATO cabal planning to subjugate the Russians?
Or would a more plausible explanation be that people in countries bordering Russia are genuinely concerned that resurgent Kremlin could do precisely something like they have been doing in Georgia and in Ukraine?
I for one used to oppose NATO membership for Finland. I hoped the Kremlin would stop after the first two overt uses of military force, in 2008 and 2014. It did not do so.
Now I'm among those in Finland who are saying that the facts have changed and the opinions need to change as well. There has been a tremendous outburst of public support for Finland's NATO membership. Because we want to avoid a war.
I firmly believe violence cannot build a sustainable world. But sometimes the democracies need to find their spine. I'm still a reservist in the Finnish army and yesterday I voluntarily reviewed my wartime tasks and mobilization packing list, just in case.
Back in the 1930s, democracies turned their backs on democratic Spain. For years I've wondered, could the history have turned the other way if they hadn't? What if they had shown more solidarity when solidarity was needed?
Even if a war could be avoided by yielding to the Kremlin, I really fear what that would mean for the Nordic social democratic experiment. You see, what "finlandization" actually means is a circumscribed quasi-democracy.
A country that is at the mercy of the Kremlin, like we were during the Cold War, may be overtly democratic, but only as long as the people are wise enough to only choose candidates that are acceptable to the Kremlin.
I could well write another thread this long about the various downsides of finlandization, but I spare you for now. Just consider this: yielding to the Kremlin means that parties and politicians who like the Kremlin gain in power. Which politicians would those be?
Right now, the nationalistic-conservative far right is the favourite of the Kremlin. More European countries would end up like Hungary, dominated by the far right who proceed to sell off the country's assets, like public health services, to their cronies.
In Finland, our social democracy could effectively end. With it, the experiment to create a sustainable social democracy would suffer, and probably end as well. If the Nordic experiment then fails, what do the left has to offer to the world then?
This is a struggle between democracy and autocracy. I lament that many in the left take the side of autocracy, even though I understand the power of propaganda and the blunders the U.S. for instance has done in the past.
But I hope this thread helps some. If you have any questions, please let me know. Thank you for reading, and in solidarity from Finland!
[This appeared as a thread on Twitter at:]

Janne Korhonen