Wednesday 18 May 2022

Mr Putin, What Are You Like? - revisited

After one week of the war in Ukraine,  we posted this

Putin is guilty of Adolf-style micro-managing the military (the ever-tempting sin I've frequently lauded George Bush Snr for avoiding)

Well, even then some BTLers were objecting to an earlier citing of the Sudetenland as a parallel (I could never see why), and many still don't consider these WW2 analogies appropriate.  

OK.  The whole point about analogies / parallels / similes is not that they are in some sense exact: no discursive account in any sphere except the mathematical is ever 100% exact.  The relevant question is:  do we find it useful? **  

It seems to me, and indeed to Mr BQ from time to time, that WW2 often provides extremely useful case studies - as you know, I cited Finland 1939-40 before this all kicked off, and nobody was being compared to Adolf in that one: it's Uncle Joe all the way.  And yes, of course, it breaks down as a parallel with current events because no other nations came to Finland's aid in anything like the way countries have done for Ukraine.  But the point was, I expected - giving reasons - the Ukrainians to fight, against several people who said they'd fold; that Finland and Ukraine are both big countries with plenty of space into which a defender can fall back; and that the Winter War was an example that seemed pretty apposite.  No?

So: back to the headline.  Yep, in that one I made the dreaded comparison with Adolf.  Not just him, of course: Lyndon Johnson was another inveterate military meddler.  And was it right?  As far as the parallel goes, well, from just this week ... 

Russian failures fuelled by Vladimir Putin’s meddling 

Why Vladimir Putin’s Meddling May Be The Reason Behind The Russian Army’s Poor Show In Ukraine 

Prof Sir Lawrence Freedman from King’s College London, said he judged the military statement about Putin’s level of involvement to be plausible

... others now seem to think so, too.  None of us knows for certain.  Maybe it's just a confection of western psyops, designed to make ordinary Russians turn on their man, or annoy Putin to distraction.  Maybe somebody has a full explanation as to why the Russian forces, heirs to the mighty Red Army, have thus far been screwing things up quite as comprehensively as they have, but which doesn't involve inept decision-making by Putin.  Do let us know. 

But amateurish micro-managing in Moscow surely does seem to be a useful thing to consider.



**Obviously, if suggesting a particular parallel fundamentally pisses off ones interlocutor, it ain't gonna move the discussion forward.  If I've misjudged the readership, well, there you go - have a refund, Russian warship ...


E-K said...

My only objection to the Hitler comparison was that everyone claims he'd begun a blitzkrieg to take back large chunks of the EU.

Otherwise I'm sure he's the control freak you say he is.

CityUnslicker said...

The propaganda is a key one though. I was helping my son with his GCSE history. He USSR invaded Czechoslovakia and Hungary the propaganda was exactly the same. Nazi’s rising funded by USA and Uk. Literally the same phrases and messages, so who says history is not a guide? It certainly is for Mr. P

visc said...

Oh come come Nick Drew you are being a little disingenuous here.

I certainly objected to Sudeten comparisons not because they were used due to the treatments of minority populations and subsequent military actions.
No, they were used for the implied and actual the message "If we don't stop Adolf Putler right now [and support the bellicosity of UK Gov.] then he'll invade the Baltics/ Western Europe and create a new Russian Empire'. Which was and always has been patent nonsense on stilts. Talking of bad analogies the 1942 one was misplaced and wasn't that useful either.

Of course historical comparisons are never 100% and only meant to illustrate.

In this case I prefer the start and causes of the Crimean War. An almost wilful desire to misunderstand the Russian position, existing conflict, supporting a corrupt and decaying incumbent, and a large and futile loss of life. Whilst not PM for the start, there was also a colourful PM at the end. (Although the idea that Johnson is is in the same league is silly), but history repeats as farce as the saying goes.

Anonymous said...

Why compare contrasting views of history or ideology. War is a logistics and provisioning exercise. You have western equipment (and deliveries) up against Russian/Chinese supply lines.

It's down to whichever breaks first as Russia won't be running out of money soon.

Nick Drew said...

CU - USSR invaded Czechoslovakia and Hungary the propaganda was exactly the same

Spot on. I watched a PBS prog on the Red Army last week: the speech made by Mr K during Hungary 1956 even included the phrase "it was the correct decision - no other decision was possible" which sounds word-for-word like what Putin said on V-day this time around

Elby the Beserk said...

"Nick Drew said...
CU - USSR invaded Czechoslovakia and Hungary the propaganda was exactly the same

Spot on. I watched a PBS prog on the Red Army last week: the speech made by Mr K during Hungary 1956 even included the phrase "it was the correct decision - no other decision was possible" which sounds word-for-word like what Putin said on V-day this time around

7:52 am"

One must recall one Gordon Brown, who on the eve of introducing whatever catastrophic policy would state that he was doing it....

"Because it's the RIGHT thing to do"...

decnine said...

Putin seems to be working his way through Famous Historical Blunders. Now, he is said to be building a Putinot Line.

Anonymous said...

What a brilliant choice of critic in Lawrence Freedman. He knows all about going to war (on false pretences too, which no one can say is the case for Russia) then getting put on the inquiry team into said war!

Anonymous said...

Why can no one say Russia is going to war on false pretences?

The Russian claims come from the same folder as the dodgy dossier. Only they are not as well photocopied.

Anonymous said...

I've just discovered Ryanair flies to Rzeszow from Luton two or three times a week. It would be instructive to go planespotting there for a few days*. ATM the only planes there I can see are the Ryanair flight and a US military Blackhawk.

* if you could avoid arrest

Anonymous said...

Anon 9.48 - the Russian reasons are pretty much a clone of Kosovo. In each case a rebellion against the central authority led to military action against the rebels, action in which it was often very difficult to distinguish between rebels and innocent civilians*. IIRC 800,000 or so people left Donbas and Luhansk for Russia before 2022.

The Ukrainian Armed Forces, NATO-trained and a much tougher proposition than they were in 2014, were preparing to retake the rebel-held areas of Donbas and Luhansk. Russia intervened as did NATO in Kosovo, which is no longer a part of Serbia.

* witness the recent trial in Ukraine where a Russian squaddie, in a commandeered civilian car after his convoy came under attack, confessed to shooting a civilian who was on his phone because he might report their position. Somewhere online there's an interesting thinkpiece about the difference widespread phone adoption could potentially make to civilian status.
On the other hand IIRC Chris Ryan, in "The One That Got Away", owned up to cutting the throat of a poor elderly Iraqi shepherd for precisely the same reason - fear that he'd report him.

Anonymous said...

Former President George W. Bush: “The decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq. I mean of Ukraine.”

He doesn't seem in good shape for 75, unless you compare him with Biden.

Sobers said...

If you want to believe what you read in the Western media, go ahead. Given this is the media that has just informed us that the Ukrainian fighters were 'evacuated' from Mariupol the other day, when the easily confirmed reality was they surrendered and/or were captured and were taken away as prisoners by the Russians, personally I'd take whatever is written or said by Western media or talking heads with a lorry load of salt.

Anomalous Cowshed said...

Anon @ 10:17am

"Somewhere online there's an interesting thinkpiece about the difference widespread phone adoption could potentially make to civilian status."

I think a couple of SF authors have played with this - probably Brin a while back, but most likely Stross fairly recently.

dearieme said...

I can think of an example of a beaten army being evacuated by its foes. The Royal Navy carried Napoleon's army from Egypt back to France. The Corsican had abandoned them and Britain presumably thought it a better idea to ship 'em back than to bear the losses of fighting them again in the Near East.

Anyhoo: quite right, Sobers. The press lied to us.

MMM = moronically mendacious media.

Don Cox said...

It's worth while to read about Putin's background and early years on Wikipedia. It's probably not wildly inaccurate.

I liked this:

"At age 12, he began to practise sambo and judo. In his free time, he enjoyed reading the works of Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and Lenin."

I don't believe anyone could enjoy reading those dreary people. He more likely had to read excerpts for school.


Jan said...

@Sobers Yes the language used is definitely meant to convey the result which HMG/BBC wish to be the truth.

The reality is quite different. Presumeably the people in the steelworks (if they had any choice) decided on the lesser of two evils ie certain death or taking a chance with their captors.

It sort of reminds me of the BBC-speak we got used to during the plandemic.

Don Cox said...

Presumably the fighters in the steel works were running out of ammunition. As you say, it was then surrender or die.


Sobers said...

"The press lied to us.

MMM = moronically mendacious media"

The most interesting point about the story was not that they were lying, but that they were lying in such an obvious and easily discovered way. They really don't care any more. Its just a case of say what they like, yes a few people on the internet will soon know the truth, but the lie has done its work among the supine masses, so who cares about what a few fascist white supremacists witter on about?

Anonymous said...

"It's worth while to read about Putin's background and early years on Wikipedia. It's probably not wildly inaccurate"

ANYTHING on Wiki which is politically contentious will be inaccurate or at least heavily slanted.

It's fine for electron energy levels in excited hydrogen atoms, but useless for anything political. And as we know, pretty much anything and everything's political these days.

I'm surprised wiki didn't say his youth was spent studying the campaigns of Genghis Khan.

PS - another odd plane looping past Rzeszow to land - no ID, flightradar says it left Braunschweig (Brunswick to us) which is the VW local airport, Flightradar track seems to have started at Brno. 3,000 ft but only 84 kts. Just turned its transponders off and then on again thrice, coming in, the passengers on the Ryanair just leaving should have a view.

Anonymous said...

Looks like it's a Cessna 560 Citation Encore+, business jet which has a stall speed of 82 kts, another meeting?

AndrewZ said...

Explanations for the failures of the Russian forces include poor levels of training leading to unsophisticated tactics, the use of conscripts with low morale who didn't know what they were doing or why, and sub-standard equipment.

Much of this is ultimately down to the huge levels of corruption in Russia. When corruption is so widespread, every institution, including the army, becomes a scam to enrich the people running it. The maintenance of real capabilities is increasingly neglected and problems are hidden instead of fixed.

Effective institutions have a culture that focusses on results and is intolerant of incompetence and dishonesty. Corruption destroys that, and spreads a general cynicism and apathy throughout society. If everything is a grift, then cheats and liars prosper and only suckers try to work hard or do the right thing.

However, the ludicrously unrealistic plan for a quick victory is best explained by Russian nationalist ideology, which denies the existence of any Ukrainian national identity and views all opponents as Nazis. If Putin and his advisors really believed that Ukrainians were just Russians living under a Nazi regime, then they would naturally have expected resistance to end as soon as the government was overthrown.

But if Putin spent the first week of the war discovering that nobody had been telling him the truth about anything, then of course he would want to micro-manage everything from then on. It would be the only way to know what was really happening.

Anonymous said...

But Andrew, I'm sure Ukraine is just as corrupt - or have the last 7 years of NATO assistance at least cleaned up their military?

PS - that Cessna just dropped someone off at Rzeszow, and now landed in Warsaw. If I have the patience I'll try and see where it ends up.

dearieme said...

In my attempt to work out why Putin chose Feb 24 as his starting date the most interesting clue I saw was that Russian conscripts serve for only a year, starting in the Spring - on average in May.

So what now? Are the boys going home to Mama? Are they told to bloody well stay put? What about the new intake - who is available to train them?

Anyone here know?

Nick Drew said...

dearieme - it turns out that ...

o since no state of war has been declared, it's illegal for conscripts to be sent to fight abroad (which is not to say some haven't been, but not en masse)

o the "contractors" - i.e. regular forces in our parlance - can indeed be sent, but equally - again, with no declaration of war - they can alternatively just resign & go home (and merely forgo their salary and benefits). Many have done just this, although again some have been swept along with cajoling, threats etc**

o large numbers of "Russian" forces are Donbass-region pressgang fodder, given WW2 rifles and canvas-hooded trucks

o the rest are Chechens (akin to serfs of the warlord) & mercenaries of various stripes

so actual 'professional Russian troops' are by no means the majority of the soldiery being deployed. And a good proportion of the ones that were sent in on Day 1 were the Airborne - and essentially wiped out, of course, as unsupported airborne always have been since they were first introduced onto the battlefields of the world in WW2

this explains much

what I'm not sure about is the leadership. Aside from the Chechens, most of the senior officers must be Russian 'regulars', and their performance has been worse than just what would have been inevitable from the poor average quality of the above
**BTW, we in the west tend to associate 'regular forces' with a degree of military professionalism & competence, at all levels, even if often recruited from the less educated of our fellow countrymen (that includes the officers, BTW). Not so with Russian "contractors" - it is most often the lumpenproletariat from the regions, for whom regular money, food and accommodation are a very compelling attraction. They are much looked down upon. And the conscripts are those too stupid to do any form of tertiary education, which provides an exemption

dearieme said...

I gather that in WWI the British, with only its small - by Continental standards tiny - regular army, faced the devil of a problem training first the volunteers and later the conscripts. If you withdraw NCOs from the front line you weaken it. If you don't you've got nobody to train the newcomers except, presumably, old farts who had already retired.

So who is going to train Russia's new intake of conscripts? I mean, even if all the regime plans to do with them is garrison their frontiers elsewhere they'll still need to learn how to point a gun.

Anonymous said...

And the Antonov 124 leaves Rzeszow for what looks like Turkey - it must be heavy stuff - cannon, vehicles, maybe Turkish drones - you can ship hand held stuff in directly as the US and UK have done. Annoying, I'll have to stay up just to see where it lands. It's past Istanbul where the TB2s are made, hope it doesn't go on to Tel Aviv.
I wish ND would give us his view on why Russia aren't interdicting this "lethal aid".

Anonymous said...

Looks like Ankara - it's gone dark a couple of dozen miles south of Ankara Esenbo─ča, but it had dropped to 7,000 ft and 170kts from 35k and 450kts. Other aircraft landing there came in from the south.

Just found it again, it's landed there.

E-K said...

I think it's quite evident that Mr Putin is dying. That he has been terminally ill for some while. News reports are suggesting that he's been under treatment for five years.

He's been conducting meetings and conducting the duties of high office whilst suffering tremors and nausea and undergoing treatment during short breaks.

It took twenty years in office for him to do something truly outrageous on the global stage. And I've always agreed that invading Ukraine was a nasty thing to do. My complaint has always been that we have never afforded the man respect and that we provoked him into doing this.

It is clear that his aspirations - whatever they are - are nothing like Hitler's were.

Now that's THREE world leaders who are ill simultaneously, if news about Xi is true as well.

E-K said...

See the Putin look-a-like at the bottom of this article.

E-K said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
iOpener said...

"mighty Red Army"?

You mean the one that was almost entirely armed and supplied by the west?

Am I the only one who thinks that the Russians have been ably assisted in their propaganda by our own left leaning 'elites' for all of the last 100 years? That every word out of the Russian state is a lie, including 'and' and 'the'?

Don Cox said...

Why should we afford Putin respect ?

If he had left office when his term limit was up, I might respect him. Instead, he arranged that fiddle with Medvedev so that he could stay in power indefinitely.


Nick Drew said...

Kev - Putin dying: yes, as per Victory Day notes, he looks awfully ill (obviously steroids) and one hears it from every direction. Doubt if Xi will be making quite such a public show of his own condition, whatever it is

dedicated planespotter anon @ 11:20 pm - why aren't they interdicting arms? It's not the only thing he's holding back on. Putin (or somebody in his close circle) has laid down what he considers to be an appropriate set of rules for his military. His judgement is obviously deeply flawed; but not non-existent. Maybe a full post next week

Nick Drew said...

PS, note Medvedev is becoming prominent again. This is significant

E-K said...

Nick: My "We have never afforded the man respect ..." and my subsequent comment.

Pot calling kettle, eh ?

The likeness is uncanny !

Anonymous said...

Flaming fish - now the Japanese are landing weapons at Rzeszow! Just landed 5 minutes ago.

Anonymous said...

Last night the big Antonov 124 was in Ankara from Rzeszow, tonight it's heading that way again, though it could be going to Burgas in Bulgaria. The AN124 can carry 150 tons.

Anonymous said...

Boeing C-17A Globemaster III from Brize Norton lands at Rzeszow.

Anonymous said...

Hmm. A US Airforce C-40C has just left Chisinau in Moldova, heading west. It's a multi-config thing generally used for people.

Applying pressure to Moldova to do something about Transnistria?

Anonymous said...

Also an Ukrainian oligarchs helicopter just flew Austria to Rzeszow.

Anonymous said...


The backfire is on us then. The Chinese empire grows apace.

Thud said...

Really? China is not happy with success of western weapons and financial sanctions efficiency, they are not stupid and will learn that we are not done yet.