This is once again a ‘sources and information on everything happening’ post. In the last few days after Russia’s retreat from the Kyiv area, focus has shifted from military and other issues to the atrocities discovered in Bucha. This covers both.

Military Progress and Conditions

The Battle of Kyiv is over, Russia has withdrawn, not entirely smoothly. Here is a claim that sabotage of railway connections with Belarus forced Russia to withdraw. This is in contrast to previous reports of Russia digging in around Kyiv and more in line with earlier reports from late March they were destroying bridges.

The entire Kyiv front is now back in Ukrainian hands, including Chernobyl. The Russians may or may not have been playing chicken with nuclear power plants, but they do not seem inclined to use them as hostages as some originally feared.

It appears they are indeed instead going into some sort of Phase Two, with more limited war goals involving claiming territory in the east. The primary effort looks indeed to be in Donbass. The goal appears to be to encircle Ukraine’s forces. If Russia’s efforts to do this fail, there does not appear to be another path to success even in the east beyond grinding down over a long period.

That does not mean this was ever the plan. It wasn’t, although the encirclement aspect was. Bret Devereaux points out in this thread that Russia’s attacks are entirely consistent with trying to encircle the Ukrainian army and capture Kyiv with a quick knockout punch to achieve a fait accompli, and complete massive overkill for the goal of taking the rest of Donbass.

Also there are any number of other things Russia could attempt to do instead, including something outside of Ukraine.

Here is the new map as of 3 April.

And here’s April 4 from a different source, for contrast

Here is a third source from April 5. Yellow is reclaimed territories.

Russia will attempt to use what remains of the withdrawn invasion forces in the Donbas, where they will try to claim a victory that much more urgently. Ukraine will be able to free up a lot of its own resources to do the same. At one point there were 80,000 defenders in Kyiv, many of which are now unnecessary.

According to some reports, Russia then made preparations to attack Kharkiv (4 April). They had a ‘covert mobilization’ starting on 3 April but the covertness level leaves something to be desired. I also have no idea how they think this is going to work. Previously Ukraine had been actively making progress in the area and should now have far more forces locally available. Metaculus did not adjust.

Russia claims some Mariupol defenders surrendered, which those defenders then denied. Given what we know, and the likelihood anyone surrendering would be tortured or simply be killed, I would not expect a surrender.

Thread of some things not going so well for Russia on the war front.

From 27 March: Russian soldiers often steal civilian phones to communicate with, which is rather poor operational security as it is very easy to listen in on the calls.

War Crimes

Now that Russia has withdrawn from some areas around Kyiv, it looks like Russian troops did some rather horrible things. Images of mass murder in Bucha are appearing on televisions around the world. Is it possible they do not indicate what they seem to indicate? Perhaps, but it seems very unlikely.

As always, there are reasons to claim such things happened when they didn’t, so treat all claims with skepticism, especially extreme ones. Some false claims inevitably slip through, at least at first.

With that disclaimer out of the way, still seems like things are at the level where it is worth highlighting some of the claims of what happened – which again, I am not in position to verify.

Wall Street Journal, original title was: Ukrainians Count Dead, Dig Mass Graves, Clear Land Mines After Russian Pullback. New title is: New Reports of War Crimes Emerge as Russians Retreat From Kyiv Area. It starts like this.

BUCHA, Ukraine—More than 100 civilians lay buried in mass graves in this suburb of Kyiv after Russian troops withdrew last week, one of several regions in which Ukrainian officials and independent rights watchdogs say they are uncovering evidence of war crimes perpetrated by occupation forces.

When the Russian military forces abandoned Bucha, it left streets littered with bodies of civilians. Human Rights Watch on Sunday released a report documenting instances of rape and summary executions in Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine, including Bucha, as well as other alleged crimes.

WSJ also ran an editorial saying Biden was right and Putin has to go.

Yes, we need the pictures. It matters. Pictures. Pictures. Picture. Picture. Short video. Short video. Six minute CNN segment without the pictures, it’s not the same. Firsthand account from a soldier, worth reading. Firsthand report.

We have reason to believe we will find similar scenes in Sumy. The pattern isn’t subtle.

Thread from last week on rapes.

Ukrainian official says on April 5 that similar conditions to those in Bucha indeed exist in many other places. Obvious caveats there, but them overselling here seems unwise.

Russia denies all of it and claims all the images are fakes, that they ‘didn’t show up until four days after they (arrived?) left’ (which NYT also verifies is false from satellite images), that the bodies were moved (which they weren’t), and that it will crack down on such claims, threatening felony prosecution. Link has analysis of these Russian claims, as well as links to many graphic videos.

Here is one thread about other places.

He later had another follow-up thread on the starvation aspect.

RT reports Russians killed 93 Ukrainian civilians, claiming they were deserters in civilian clothes. Could potentially be trying out a new line.

A potentially interesting angle.

State department claims what happened in Bucha was a deliberate campaign.

In response, France, Germany, Spain and others expelled diplomats. Latvia lowered its diplomatic relations with Russia. Lithuania expelled the Russian ambassador. Biden called Putin a war criminal and called for him to be put on trial, to which Russia responds with whataboutism. USA also wants Russia suspended from the Human Rights Council. Boris Johnson says he will not rest until justice is done, I give him a day. He also called for “maximum sanctions,” whatever that means, matching my image of him from reading descriptions by Dominic Cummings.

In Ireland, Russian embassy asks for government intervention because their bank accounts got closed and no one is willing to deliver them any fuel. Good luck with that.

The Czechs sent Ukraine tanks. More, from a number of Eastern European nations, may be on the way.

Thus the lack of surprise in these two pictures.

Day before the war:

April 4:

As usual, Twitter responded by suspending at least one of those trying to share information on the terrible things happening, saying it is against the rules to share such terrible things.

Genocide

Zelenskyy is calling what Russia is doing genocide. It certainly seems to fit the UN definition. A genocide scholar agrees.

Then there’s this, which has been published by Russian state media, here is the Russian media original source. I have read the Google translate version of the original, and the summary here if anything downplays the content. If you want to split the difference, here is a longer thread that covers more details, the shorter one is reproduced below.

It is clear that in this lexicon, ‘Nazi’ simply equals Western equals any opposition to Russia. It also says quite plainly that all Nazis deserve death, and that Ukraine and its culture must cease to exist. Anyone who took up arms is explicitly to be killed but it clearly goes much farther than that, with calls for ‘liquidation.’ ‘Passive’ Nazis who supported the state are also guilty. The design here says it envisions some sort of fully demilitarized (and likely occupied) rump state in Western Ukraine where people who hate Russia can go, but that does not seem compatible with the rhetoric otherwise used.

That does not make this policy but there is only one reason to allow this to be published.

It is all consistent with Russia systematically destroying monuments, looting churches and museums and taking Ukrainian history textbooks.

In Putin’s Russia

USA claims that Putin is not being informed of the real situation by the Russian military. Many say this may be the actual greatest insult one could throw at him, given his background as KGB, to call him uninformed. It is almost certainly true. Who would dare tell him what is happening? That doesn’t mean he can’t figure it out on his own if he wants to, but full and honest communication is not possible here.

Kasparov will keep repeating that Putin must be opposed and must go, and pointing out that people should stop denying this obvious thing. Here he was on March 26 after Biden said Putin ‘could not remain in power’ to point out that Biden was obviously correct, and to point out that in his model saying this explicitly is helpful. Here he is later on March 28 calling for more support for Ukraine, along same lines.

A report from Russia on April 1, so before the full retreat from the Kyiv area, that Russians felt confident in victory and did not expect major disruptions in their lives or for companies to stay away from Russia for long, the ‘few months theory.’ Some scary other stuff is included as well, like the normalization of the use of nuclear weapons. I’d be curious to hear an update now.

Galeev thread of advice on how to do effective sabotage in Russia, in case anyone reading is interested.

March 26: Member of Russian Parliament suggests invasion of Poland.

At least for now Russia seems to be holding up from the sanctions rather well. The ruble has stabilized (although who is willing to hold it at these prices I have no idea, except for short-term use), and the reports of shortages and panics and disfunction have stopped. If there were major problems I would expect to hear about them. There is still hope for new more impactful sanctions or for greater effects over time, but the most impactful estimates seem clearly wrong.

March 26: at least one place in Russia runs out of paper.

March 27: Warning on Russian state TV that if they cannot beat Zelenskyy and sign any peace treaty whatsoever, that will be the end of Russia.

The New Statemen interview that’s been going around, for those who missed it, claiming that Russia ‘needs some kind of victory’ and will find a way to get one no matter what, and generally giving Russian perspective. Sees risk of escalation as very high.

March 27: Russian parliament introduces bill to make all who speak Russian ‘Russian citizens residing abroad.’ Speculation is that this is to justify future interventions, could also be a way to attract good people. Interesting thought experiment what would happen if we did the same for everyone who speaks English.

March 28: Citizens of ‘unfriendly countries’ will be unwelcome in Russia. Oh no.

Thread arguing that Russia’s military performance has historically been quite poor and thus we should not be so surprised by its performance this time around.

Also some thoughts on working on and viewing Russian history in light of current events. Like everything else, one should not worry that accurately describing past events will somehow help the wrong people. That way lies madness.

An argument that it is the ‘correct mistake’ to overestimate opponents such as Russia. I agree that the cost of that mistake is lower, but it is very much not first-best to believe false things in military situations. Yes, one shouldn’t assume the enemy tanks will be stuck in the mud but one should plan that they might indeed be stuck so you can take advantage. And there is the very important argument that Ukraine was initially denied aid on the basis of the situation being hopeless, so these pessimistic forecasts did real damage.

I had selected Russians With Attitude as my attempt to hear what the semi-plausible Russian line on things was, but finding one of those proved difficult.

If anyone has a new pro-Russian source to take their place, let me know. I demand a plausible lie.

Kamil Galeev has doubled down in many of this threads in predicting, if the West stands firm, not only the fall of Putin but the collapse of the Russian Federation. In this one he compares it to the collapse of the Spanish colonial empire.

Galeev also speculates on Russia’s future. If Russia is seen as winning in Ukraine, he predicts an outcome similar to North Korea. If we stand firm, he predicts Russia breaks apart.

April 5: TV host calls for killing as many Ukrainians as possible.

Russian host also explicitly says Tulsi Gabbard is a Russian agent.

Russian soldiers behaving terribly? No, no, they must be Ukrainians dressed up as Russians.

Russian soldiers impressed with how rich Ukraine is? Sounds weird, Ukraine is rather poor, but Russia’s wealth is concentrated in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and the places Russia actually gets its soldiers are that much poorer.

Man holds up sign saying ‘you can’t arrest everyone,’ is arrested.

Russia planning its usual size crop of spring conscripts.

Leaving Putin’s Russia? We have questions (link).

With so many tech experts leaving, Russia is hoping it can help convince them to stay by exempting them from the draft. It is an interesting dilemma. If you admit you’re an expert, you can’t be drafted, but also you can’t leave. I wonder if they have linked up the two lists successfully.

Sanctions, Oil and Gas

Biden released a million barrels a day from the strategic oil reserve, and in order to do that he is… drum roll, please… waiving the Jones Act. Nice.

My tax incidence modeling confirms the story checks out, the correct play is to tax Russian oil (MR).

Russia tried to respond to sanctions by insisting that Europeans pay for its gas in rubles. Europeans gave them a very firm no. At first it looked like Russia’s bluff had been called and it would simply fold, but then Putin stepped in and insisted no, really, we will make this happen, and seems to have implemented this by having the payments be made in Euros to Gazprom accounts, then having Gazprom buy rubles which they use to ‘pay for’ the gas.

This setup is important because it matches the mafioso status hierarchy model. Putin escalated against Europe, made a demand and a threat. Europe refused and it turned out the threat was a bluff. Which would move Europe up and Putin down, and is actually kind of a huge deal. Putin’s whole system collapses if he makes threats, doesn’t get what he wants and doesn’t follow through, but he couldn’t follow through for real. So Putin claims he got what he wanted. Interesting.

Man responsible for Nord Stream 2 says he ‘regrets’ it. Man is not resigning.

Germany takes control of German branch of Gazprom to ‘secure energy supply’ and infrastructure. Not sure how that is going to work exactly. Germany has shown a willingness to switch to coal (that’s what you get for closing down nuclear power) if gas is disrupted, but Slovakia and Austria say they won’t cooperate with any gas sanctions and Germany says ‘we need some time’ and there are claims they are the main barrier to further sanctions including by the Prime Minister of Poland. The Baltics are going ahead and stopping the purchase of Russian gas on their own, but even Poland won’t be ready for that until December. Given gas is most needed in winter, that is odd timing to stop buying gas.

Thread about the technical issues surrounding scaling up our use of heat pumps, claiming the main limiting factor is people to install the systems rather than manufacturing. More than that, it seeks to highlight the pattern whereby those trying to solve our environmental (or other) problems are amateurs who talk strategy instead of logistics. It is all symbolic actions and none of it involves asking about the physical path through spacetime that leads to desired results at scale.

Or rather, they talk logistics in the sense of actively sabotaging logistics, like shutting down New York’s nuclear power plant on the argument it could be replaced by renewables, then shutting down the plans to allow New York to import hydropower, forcing us to fall back on natural gas.

We also get efforts like when the European Commissioner for Competition says ‘no more long showers in the EU. Every time you turn off your hot shower water say ‘Take that, Putin!’’ This destruction of the joys of life for symbolic gains while not making the changes that would actually matter is Peak European Union. As with climate change, it is not about how much carbon or energy you save, it is about how visibly you suffer.

Meanwhile France is asking people to do their laundry and dishes on the weekend due to supply issues in order to manage demand, which makes sense but also is the kind of thing that used to be handled by (Bart Simpson standing ready by the blackboard) changing different prices.

Actually impactful new sanctions in the wake of the newly discovered atrocities: Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are closing their borders with Russia and Belarus for all goods. Russia will be cut off from Europe by land. Kaliningrad will be cut off except for the sea.

Even better, on April 5 comes a new EU sanctions package proposal that includes full transaction bans on banks, and a ban on Russian coal. Still making exceptions for gas and oil.

March 22: Claim that ruble is strong (it has continued to be strong) but that we should not confuse that for sanctions not working because if we cut Russia off from imports and won’t let anyone sell rubles then there is no way for the ruble to weaken. There is clearly some truth in this, but it is still not a good sign, and also you very much do not want to be holding rubles.

Biden’s budget includes substantial new support for geothermal energy and storage.

Famine To Go With Our War, Pestilence and Death

Russia blocking the export of Ukrainian wheat on an Egyptian ship.

A lot of people pointed me to Sarah Taber, usually this thread, where she makes the case that the wheat market will be fine. Here are the main points.

I am mostly convinced that this will turn out fine, but markets know better than statistics. If prices are spiking a lot, there is a reason. If most wheat stays local, then losing 0.9% of wheat all of which usually gets exported can still be a pretty big deal, especially if various places ban wheat exports expecting trouble.

This thread claims it will take 15 months for world grain production to adjust, and I see no signs various countries will release their grain reserves to smooth things over despite the obvious futures play of selling grain now and buying cheaper grain futures to restock later.

India however has a surplus now, and is negotiating to get into various markets. When you don’t allow people (who are in no way attacking anyone) with wheat to sell their wheat to you, it is bold to complain about a shortage of wheat.

This thread claims that no, seriously, the wild swings in commodity prices, including both wheat and fertilizer, are going to be huge problems for poorer countries, and even threaten to disrupt China’s rice crops. Yes, India has lots of wheat to sell, but the bigger problem seems to be not the wheat but the fertilizer. Fertilizer prices are getting crazy high, and this may discourage many from planting more than rising grain prices encourage them, which could end in much bigger production gaps. Paul Graham reports a farmer friend tells him some farmers are indeed not planting due to the high fertilizer prices. If there is not enough ability to produce crops, there is going to be big trouble even if the direct wheat shortfalls from Ukraine and Russia are not too bad.

Ryan Peterson asks for everyone’s best ideas.

EU Style

Reminder that we should be very grateful here in America that we have the right of free speech, for Europeans enjoy no such right. As an example, Germans who approve of the Russian invasion could be subject to prosecution.

Will Ireland join NATO? Public now supports doing so.

The closer EU countries are to Russia and Putin, and the better they know him, the stronger the line they want to take. This is of course not a coincidence. Here is a joint proposal by Slovakia, Poland and the Czech Republic from 25 March.

I am fully with them on 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 8 and 9 (especially, how is this not already done).

I continue not to believe that censorship is the answer to anything, but given what else the EU is censoring, by their principles they should do 3 I suppose.

I actively oppose 7. If Russians want to leave Russia, Europe should welcome such folks. Rather than deny visas, the right move is to throw open the border.

I am highly skeptical of 10, the exclusion from organizations. I get the idea, but you absolutely can even, and sit across from people and talk to them. That is the point.

Austria happy to welcome refugees, but using lack of ‘blue cards’ to deny them ability to work. They are offering 215 euro per adult, 100 euro per child in social support, which is not exactly enough to buy reasonable food.

Claim that Poland supports giving Russian soldiers political asylum, which is a completely obvious free win that very much should have been done by now.

China Style

The closest parallel to Russia’s debacle in Ukraine might be China’s invasion of Vietnam. Author here thinks this is evidence that China will learn from mistakes by itself and Russia and avoid them in the future. An alternative interpretation is that authoritarian armies that have not been tested in a long time and then are asked to invade have a tendency to dramatically underperform – it has been a long time since China’s lessons and things have changed quite a bit. No one who was there at the time is still around now.

China pushing Russian propaganda lines in school.

That was before the atrocities in Bucha were discovered. It is too early to know what line China will take there, but state-aligned sources for now are still defending Russia.

Trump Style

By March 26, Trump had returned to calling Putin smart, describing the whole incident as a ‘great negotiation that did not go so well for him.’ I’d hate to see what he thinks a not so great negotiation looks like.

Then he explicitly asked, in public, ‘as long as Putin is not a fan of our country,’ for Putin to release dirt on Biden.

As far as I can tell, the reasoning is that things that help Trump hurt America, so Putin should help Trump? I mean, fair, but a little on nose and saying the quiet part out loud even for him.

Russian TV host calls on Russia to help “our friend Trump” once again become president.

Trump continues to trade around 40% to be the Republican nominee. I suppose the Scottish teens do not think anyone will care.

Peace Talks and Victory Conditions

For a while there were some plausibly real peace talks. I doubt there will be much talk of peace for the time being after the atrocities in Bucha, as it doubtless makes Ukraine much less willing to compromise.

Also there’s the whole thing where it seems there was an attempt to poison participating-in-the-talks Russian oligarch Abromavich, who lost his sight for several hours, and the Ukrainian negotiating team? We have confirmation that three otherwise healthy people had symptoms. Everyone involved has recovered. Not trying to kill the negotiating team seems like an important safety tip for a successful negotiation, but I have a very different negotiating style so what do I know. There is the implication this might have been done by a hardline faction trying to sabotage the talks, which would make sense. The subsequent public downplaying of the whole incident by all sides also makes sense.

(Here is a thread on Abromavich, and how he got so rich.)

When the parties met on 29 March in Istanbul, the host called even asking for Crimea and in independence of Donetsk and Luhansk as “maximalist” and “not realistic.” This seems very much like siding with Ukraine. Ukraine presented a concrete proposal, in which they get security guarantees (I still don’t get what they are thinking these actually do for Ukraine), Ukraine becomes a neutral non-aligned nation but can join the EU, Russia withdraws, and they agree to then settle the questions of Crimea and Donbass. Russia seemed to at least be pretending to take the talks seriously, including no longer demanding demilitarization or ‘denazification.’ Here is a good list of the details.

Not sure how this fits into a report from 28 March that Putin responded to a handwritten Zelenskyy note outlining peace terms with ‘we will thrash them.And it seems there was much criticism that the negotiators were ‘too soft.’

Either way, seems like a moot point now.

As part of those negotiations, Russia claimed it would pull back from Kyiv area. Then, as if it was afraid it might be seen keeping its promises and lose its street cred, it bombed Kyiv. Since then, of course, it as completely withdrawn from the area, so it does seem like Putin wants to be seen as constantly breaking his promises even when he is going to effectively honor them. It’s a bold strategy.

Risk of Nuclear War

Putin spokesperson says ‘no one is thinking about using a nuclear weapon.

Normally this would be alarming, since whatever such governments loudly proclaim they are not thinking about has a way of soon happening, but with nuclear weapons the threat is stronger than its execution so this actually does seem reassuring.

Less reassuring is that many senior Russian officials are in a nuclear war bunker.

For more on the subject see my previous post.

In Other News

Current equipment bounty levels offered by Ukraine.

Reminder how shameful it is we are only taking 100k Ukrainian refugees.

Reminder that letting Russia win would indeed end the existing world order.

Thread on the military future of tanks.

Tyler Cowen’s take on who loses in status based on the war. I might say more on this in the future, and the most interesting name is one that is not there.

Samo Burja watch: On 31 March he recognizes that Russia will not win militarily within the first 50 days, still predicts a similar outcome within the year as the most likely result and considers Russia taking a bunch of territory the optimistic scenario.

Thread (from 25 March) documenting some of the terrible conditions Russian soldiers are subjected to, and that Zelenskyy promises good treatment to Russian soldiers who surrender. I still say they’re not paying enough.

Of course, neither is Russia. Hence: Da loot. Da loot. Da loot.

Anonymous claims to have identified over 100k Russian soldiers in Ukraine.

Another story pre-written story that did not happen accidentally published in Russian state media.

Zelenskyy interview from 27 March (video).

Arnold Kling asks the not-asked-enough question ‘what did we learn?’ I strongly agree that the lesson is not ‘the country with the larger GDP will win.’ That is true for long protracted symmetrical battles like World War 2, but very much not what mattered here. The lessons I am taking are that modern warfare favors the defense, being highly motivated matters a lot, having had experience matters a lot (Ukraine got to fight in Donbas for 8 years). And most importantly, that corrupt autocratic mafioso states like Russia are by default far more dysfunctional than we realized.

It is no longer the current thing, but there were numerous reports that the Red Cross (seen here meeting with Lavrov) was helping Russia distribute forcibly displaced Ukrainian citizens to where they would be put to work, calling the whole thing an ‘evacuation,’ although this did not stop Russia from detaining Red Cross workers aiming to help people in Mariupol. Ukrainian sources were warning not to donate to the Red Cross. Among those I know this is a moot point, since everyone already considered them a relatively inefficient option.

The real River Tam would never apologize.

Prompt: I am the very model of a Russian major general.

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Re: April 5: TV host calls for killing as many Ukrainians as possible.

I know no Russian, but some people in the responses are saying that the host did not literally say that. Instead he said some vague "you should finish the task" or something like that. Still warmongering, but presumably you wouldn't have linked it if the tweet had not included the "killing as many Ukrainians as possible" part.

Could someone verify what he says?

I am Russian and I can confirm that he most certainly did not call for "killing of as many Ukrainians as possible".

He said that there can be no negotiations with Nazis outside of putting a boot on their neck because it will be seen as weakness, and that you shouldn't try to have "small talk" with them, or shake hands with them. He did say "a task is set and it should be finished". He did not explicitly say anything about killing, let alone "as many as possible", at least not in that clip.

It seems like one literally cannot trust anyone to report information about this war accurately.

As delirious as the article "What Russia must do to Ukraine" clearly is, I want to point out incorrect translations and filtered-evidence style omissions from it. This might seem like a petty nitpicking, moral-wise, but since Zvi did choose to cite this "translation" in the first place (instead of just mentioning the gist of it), I think it warrants correction.

 

I chose a couple of fragments from original and wrote them down in Russian.

  • M - my literal translation (which probably sounds awkward, but is optimized for accuracy)
  • S - "Short" translation from this twitter thread 
  • L - "split the difference" (aka "Long") translation from this twitter thread 

 

1. Нацисты, взявшие в руки оружие, должны быть по максимуму уничтожены на поле боя. 

M) Nazis who took up arms, must be maximally eliminated on the battlefield.

S) Nazis who took weapons, must be killed in numbers as much as possible...

L) First, he goes, everyone who took arms against Russia must be eliminated. Totally. No trials...

 

2. Однако, помимо верхушки, виновна и значительная часть народной массы, которая является пассивными нацистами, пособниками нацизма. Они поддерживали нацистскую власть и потакали ей. Справедливое наказание этой части населения возможно только как несение неизбежных тягот справедливой войны против нацистской системы, ведущейся по возможности бережно и осмотрительно в отношении гражданских лиц.  

M) However, besides the top ranks, a significant fraction of the masses is guilty too, they [the masses] are passive Nazis, abettors of Nazis. They supported Nazis' rule and pandered to it. Just punishment of this part of population is possible only through bearing [by this part] of inexorable burdens of just war against Nazi system, which is waged, whenever possible, with care and caution toward civilians. 

S) Not just the elites, the most of the people are guilty, they are passive Nazis, Nazi enablers. They supported these elites and must be punished

L)"A substantial part of the population" is also guilty - of "passively supporting Nazism." Therefore, they must be made to suffer all hardships of war as a just punishment. 

 

3. Военные преступники и активные нацисты должны быть примерно и показательно наказаны.  

M) War criminals and active Nazis must be exemplary and demonstratively punished.

L) They are all war criminals and active Nazis. They must be executed, brutally and publicly

Also important.

It is clear that in this lexicon, ‘Nazi’ simply equals Western equals any opposition to Russia. It also says quite plainly that all Nazis deserve death, and that Ukraine and its culture must cease to exist.

Neither of these claims could be inferred from the article alone. Below is an excerpt, characteristic of official anti-western narrative (with my translation):

Коллективный Запад сам является проектировщиком, источником и спонсором украинского нацизма, в то время как западенские бандеровские кадры и их "историческая память" — лишь один из инструментов нацификации Украины. 

Collective West is a designer, source and sponsor of Ukrainian Nazism, whereas the western Ukrainian Banderites with their "historical memory" - is merely one of the tools [among others] of nazification of Ukraine. 


 

West/Us mentions are scattered throughout the article, here's tldr: 

  • West and US have total control over Ukraine, they've inflated its artificial sense of separate national identity to pit it against Russia. Ukraine is totally instrumental 
  • West and US as civilizations follow a path of degradation and lure others onto it 
  • West and US are a superpower-colonizer of the world 

Regarding "Reminder that we should be very grateful here in America that we have the right of free speech, for Europeans enjoy no such right." and Germany:

The basis for the claim made by the German embassy is the following section of the German criminal code (§ 140 StGB - translation by me):

"If one of the unlawful acts specified in section 138 (1) numbers 2 to 4 and 5 last alternative or in section 126 (1) or an unlawful act pursuant to section 176 (1) or to sections 176c and 176d

  1. is rewarded after it has been committed or attempted in a punishable manner, or
  2.  is approved in a manner likely to disturb the public peace, publicly, in a meeting or by disseminating a content (Section 11 (3)),

that is punishable by imprisonment for not more than three years or by a fine."

The acts in section 138 are, e.g., murder, high treason, and relevant here, conducting a war of aggression.

In Germany, the government does not have the right to decide what you can say. But it is true that there are some very specific things that are by law forbidden to say in public (mostly as a result of the crimes committed by Nazi Germany).

(Abramovich, not Abromavich. It's from the name Abram originally.)

Is Steven Pinker ever going to answer for destroying the Long Peace? https://www.reddit.com/r/slatestarcodex/comments/6ggwap/steven_pinker_jinxes_the_world/

It's really not at all good that were going into a period of much heightened existential risk (from AGI, but also other sources) under cold war like levels of international tension.

So it was a self-destroying prophecy that would have held if not for the jinx? So close.

It is also possible that this enables strong EU-USA cooperation in many areas, and also that it may lead to the breakup of the Russian Federation and effectively take Russia out of play. There are always possible upsides.

>April 5: TV host calls for killing as many Ukrainians as possible.

No, he's not? He says pretty radical propaganda shit, but he doesn't say that. Not in this video, at least.

The Sarah Taber tweets on wheat seem logically flawed.

What matters, first, is how much total world production of wheat (and other food) will decline as a result of the war.  Saying that exports of wheat from Ukraine are only 0.9% of world production, so they won't be hard to replace, assumes that we don't care whether the people in Ukraine starve.  If, hypothetically, Ukraine produces no wheat at all as a result of war disruption, then their entire usual production will need to be replaced, not just their exports.  Ukraine would need to import wheat, from somewhere.

Second, as she does discuss, there's the matter of whether the wheat produced somewhere can get to the place it's needed.  Switching around how world wheat trade works may not be totally easy.

Third, there's the disruption of fertilizer production and trade.

We'd better hope that the weather isn't bad.  Of course, we can also hope that peace descends on Ukraine soon, and agriculture gets back to normal.

But just in case, we'd be well advised to get rid of the ethanol scam. 

I am definitely in the 'worried about this' camp in terms of third world impact. Alas, I see no sign we are even remotely considering things like getting rid of the ethanol requirement - also, my understanding is we would need California to waive its gas standards to actually get ethanol production to decline.

Thanks for these. I've been trying to follow the war, but still missed many interesting links that you've collected.

Samo Burja watch: On 31 March he recognizes that Russia will not win militarily within the first 50 days, still predicts a similar outcome within the year as the most likely result and considers Russia taking a bunch of territory the optimistic scenario.

Samo seems to have been consistently too optimistic on Russia's behalf, and slow to update. On Feb 27 when others started to detect a turning of the tide, he wrote in response:

The standard for an actual victory would be "compared to yesterday the Russians have been pushed back."

I guess it is impolitic right now to suggest Ukraine is losing.

I've been following Samo because he writes about topics I'm interested in, but he often doesn't give detailed reasons for his conclusions, and I'm not sure how much weight to give to his (not explicitly supported) views. Anyone want to chime in on this?

I think that Samo does have and offer a lot of detailed information, but he puts much or most of that behind a very expensive paywall, either the Bismark Brief or what he does for private clients. And that having worked up lots of details and a model that he presents as a key value add and brand, it becomes difficult to walk away from that special knowledge and model when events overtake the situation, making him slow to (publicly, anyway) update, but e.g. he did lose an actual $100 bet where he took much-worse-than-Metaculus odds on Russia winning by day 50, in a non-flashy context on Twitter, so I believe that he believed it at the time.

My understanding is he basically had a strong thesis, with many details, that: 

  1. Putin/Russia are a live player with a deep game plan.
  2. Russia's army was reformed and ready to go (an explicit Bismark Brief right before the war).
  3. That a lot of our actions against Russia would only backfire (e.g. sanctions).
  4. A belief that West are dead players and a general realpolitik approach that says that Ukraine is simply outgunned and outmatched here.
  5. That Ukraine being so good at media was doubly suspicious - means they're likely not good at real war (as opposed to my model, where good at anything makes you good in general) and also that they were focusing on the fake war at real war's expense and thus were kind of fake, and also that we were very fooled.

When one has such an overdetermined position, both logically and motivationally, it's hard to turn around. From his perspective, there's a lot of reasons to hold the line from a personal-EV perspective, and not much reason to reverse course. It's a tough spot.

My understanding is he basically had a strong thesis, with many details

Thanks, now I'm curious how he got into this epistemic state to begin with, especially how he determined 1 and 2 on your list. My current guess is that he focused too much on things that he could easily see and things that fit into his framework, like Putin being strategic and measured in the past, and Russia's explicit reform efforts, and neglected to think enough about other stuff, like corruption, supply problems, Putin being fooled by his own command structure.

It's too bad that nobody in rationalist circles seems to have done much better than mainstream intelligence/geopolitical analysts (who were also too optimistic for Russia). Perhaps the best one could have done was to follow OS (open source) intelligence analysts on Twitter, who were at least quick to update once Russian under-performance became apparent, early in the war. But that unfortunately means we can't depend much on foresight for future geopolitical events.

Naively, under my view of Samo's view, it would require bigger chunks of data to make substantive updates. This is an oversimplification, but my chain of reasoning about Samo's view goes approximately like this:

  • Great Founder Theory: The correct lens for history is institutions, and the seminal events are the launch or collapse of important institutions.
  • The failure of the initial invasion will feed back into questions about whether or not the Kremlin, FSB, Russian army, etc. are in collapse as institutions. This is a hard problem:

Discerning whether an institution is near failure is a difficult epistemic problem. There are many outwardly visible pieces of institutions that do not reflect their actual health.

  • It seems to me that the harder the problem the slower the update, and the smaller the consequences the less weight there is on the evidence.
  • Applying that: it doesn't appear this is any kind of existential threat to any of the Russian institutions involved in launching the invasion. I think there might be some kind of conundrum like: if Ukraine escalates into an existential threat, the greater Russian institutional resources predict victory for Russia; but if it doesn't escalate, it doesn't seem to weigh much.

It seems like the kinds of things we are talking about in this war, like it being a political/economic defeat for Russia as a country or Putin as a regime, read as a kind of category error in the Great Founder Theory paradigm, which I might describe as "longtermist institutional realpolitik."

I would guess that major updates would occur with events like: formal addition of new countries into NATO; collapse of things like Russian banks, oil and gas companies, or similar; coup attempts or successful revolutions; the creation of new institutions for Russian/Chinese economic alignment, the creation of new European institutions for energy independence, etc.

FYI, Samo Burja's username here is [removed by Ben Pace].

Hey Thomas, pardon my edit, and perhaps you have good reason to think otherwise, but I currently believe that Samo would prefer to not have his pseudonym be public. I'll check in with him to confirm and revert if not, I just want to take extra care to not accidentally dox someone, and I think it's good to lean on the side of caution with deanonymization.

Added: his non-pseudonymous account is of course Samo Burja.

Added2: Samo confirmed he does not wish to be deanonymised.

Okay, I didn't know that. I find all his accounts quite interesting to read, and quite consistent with each other, too. Despite the fact, that they are from different times. 

On topic, he was quite wrong in this particular Ukraina-Russia case. But who wasn't?

Thanks for being understanding! I agree, reading Samo's writing is quite interesting :)

Thanks for the pointer to the heat pump bottleneck thread. I take this as good news. I assumed a Marshall Plan for heat pumps was actually impossible, but apparently it's just the usual society-level learned helplessness? Heat pumps really are low hanging fruit? 🤷

Sidenote, must watch Technology Connections video on why heat pumps are amazing for reducing natural gas usage even when your power is generated from natural gas plants.

On Germany importing non Russian gas - I understand Germany's ship-based import capacity is bottlenecked by ports with LNG terminals, which really can't be built in a year. But it looks like it's possible to use some kind of specialized ship as a floating LNG terminal that acts as an intermediary (with some efficiency losses, of course) but it could increase import capacity more than previously thought. (Article is German and beyond paywall, but it says Germany is trying to rent such specialized ships for this year.)

Yeah, heat pumps keep looking great from all angles, aside from one person who claimed that you have to choose between 'will actually work' and 'will reliably not burn down your house' which I didn't have a chance to investigate. I don't know that they rise to 'cause area' levels of good idea, but it would not surprise me at this point if they did. 

To understand Bucha (and other places) one first needs to look at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zrf0yLxViRo, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5KFcfVWbyzU, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ev0x9pqYqvs and similar videos (https://www.google.com/search?q=ukrainian+civilians+confront+russian+soldiers+youtube). What you see there is people who are not afraid. But fear is an indispensable ingredient of authoritarian regimes. Russians know that they cannot govern people like those in these videos and decided to do something about that.

This is why it wasn't concealed - they wanted the Ukraininans to know and start to be afraid.

On the prize of fertilizer, Peter Zeihan explained on Feb 15 that "Russia and Belarus are the worlds second and fourth largest suppliers of potash. Nitrogen fertilizer is disappearing because of what is going on in energy markets. Phosphate fertilizer is disappearing because of what is going on in China. And if this war happens [this was on Feb 15], potash fertilizer globally has a shortages as well."

Peter Zeihan is prone to hyperbole and overstatement in pursuit of clarity. I have no problem with this, but it should be labeled as such.

Well, I made the mistake of looking at one of the pictures from Bucha, and... 

... I don't think I'm going to be feeling rational about anything for a while. I have 2 small kids, and another on the way, and right now all I want to do is cry while tearing the throat out of the people responsible.

I understand. 

Consider that it might not be a mistake. It is easy to condemn atrocity, but condemnation means nothing. To look square at the consequence, that is hard, and crushing sorrow is the price. But someone has to bear witness for these people. Today that person is you.

You are going to be ok.

Me and the boys already completely desensitized from cartel footage:

If anyone has a new pro-Russian source to take their place, let me know.

Only thing I've come across that is anything in that direction:

https://www.thepostil.com/the-military-situation-in-the-ukraine/

March 27: Russian parliament introduces bill to make all who speak Russian ‘Russian citizens residing abroad.’ Speculation is that this is to justify future interventions, could also be a way to attract good people. Interesting thought experiment what would happen if we did the same for everyone who speaks English.

It is a wrong reading of the bill. (In Russia very many media described it incorrectly.) Really, the author of the bill has tried to decrease the number of people who can be treated as "compatriot". The current revision of the Russian law about compatriots doesn't expect that compatriots are oblige to know Russian. And one of the MPs decided to "fix" it.

With so many tech experts leaving, Russia is hoping it can help convince them to stay by exempting them from the draft. It is an interesting dilemma. If you admit you’re an expert, you can’t be drafted, but also you can’t leave.

There are no real laws about it. But it seems a draft exemption rights will be linked with companies. If you are working for a company which is listed somewhere as "IT company", you cannot be drafted. It seems your position in a company doesn't matter.

But the current draft will be conducted under old laws. (In Russia there are two drafts in a year: from April to June and from October to December).

I was wrong about IT specialists and drafts. Already there is government decree about it.
For a draft exemption you must:

  • have bachelor or master degree in speciality from very long government's list;
  • work for an accredited company for 11 months or more if you graduated more than a year ago. If you have less than a year after graduation, you should work for an accredited company and the working period doesn't matter.

And these rules apply to the current draft.

As far as I can tell, the reasoning is that things that help Trump hurt America, so Putin should help Trump? I mean, fair, but a little on nose and saying the quiet part out loud even for him.

 

It's obviously that Trump America is great, and Biden America is bad. So Putin should spank Biden for making America bad again, so that Trump can help Make America Great Again (Again).

Is there any direct evidence linking the Bucha massacre to Russian military? Kremlin's alternative theories being bullshit doesn't mean they did it. They just don't really have a motive, though it could've easily been soldiers acting on their own without much oversight going on. Ukrainian government gave out guns to civilians, so it could've been someone else. I've seen Russian army rations lying near the bodies on some of the photos (EDIT: for the record, the photos come from here, which is far from a reliable source, I cannot verify that these photos are from Bucha, I will edit the comment if I find the original source) - could it be that there people were given rations by Russians, and then they were killed by some locals after being accused of disloyalty to Ukraine? 

Until we have more information, we cannot know for sure, and should be cautions of any unverified reports. I'd say as of right now it's 65% probability that Russians did it, and 35% that it was someone else. 

 

Edit: if this report is to be trusted, it was Russians after all.

Besides witnesses there's

  1. NY times article showing satellite images with bodies appearing during occupation period.
  2. Drone footage of armour shooting on cyclist.

What would you consider a more direct evidence?

NY times article disputed the Russian alternative explanations about how the bodies were moved there. I agree that those are bullshit, and I am not disputing that.

That drone footage seems like direct evidence to me, yes.

I still say they’re not paying enough.

Am I getting something wrong here or is this statement pro-let's torture Russian POWs?

Confirming this is a 'we should be giving Russian soldiers who surrender or defect bigger bribes' comment.

No, I think Zvi meant that Ukraine isn't paying Russian soldiers enough money for defecting.