Russia, like the UK and France, is clearly in a period of post-imperial decline.

Putin has had some success in slowing, and even reversing, parts of that decline. Hydrocarbon wealth, and increasingly brutal totalitarian tactics, drove some military successes. But social, political and diplomatic successes haven't followed.

Putin's economic successes are fragile. As in other major hydrocarbon exporters, export revenues flow to a relatively small rentier elite. Other sections of the economy haven't kept up and political repression has restricted the growth of innovative sectors.

The full scale military invasion of Ukraine was a gamble, an unnecessary over-reach, and it is his regime that is under threat.

American 'realists' should be able to recognize that reality.

Whatever happens in Ukraine, Russia's imperial decline is highly likely to continue. There will be more neo-colonial struggles, more fracturing of Russia's borders.

A declining Russia will be a source of many difficulties, for Europe, for China, and potentially for India.

Not so much for the US.

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Thank you for your analysis. Ukraine is NOT Viet Nam. It is a nation being threatened by a foreign power. And we Americans should not be surprised that some military analysts still don’t understand the Viet Nam War. Listen to the Eastern Europeans if you want to hear about what life is like under the Russians. The people of Ukraine deserve the support of the US and more support from the Europeans. If the Russians take Ukraine, which country would be next? China has its own problems to deal with. It is a danger, but one that benefits from a aThe US should continue its work with its Asian allies. The Biden administration deserves more support for its policies and hard work.

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If the US abandons Ukraine, the Chinese may well take that as a sign of weakness and may conclude that they can do whatever they want in Taiwan without western interference. The West will face an even more dangerous situation.

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Of course Ukraine is not Vietnam in any way shape or form! Colby’s analogy is lazy and self-serving to invoke an emotional response to abandon Ukraine without directly calling for it. In this sense I think about this in much harsher terms than Sir Lawrence who does a great job refuting this poor analogy politely. The best way of thinking about the Vietnam era is that the US carried out a policy of focusing on both the cross Atlantic and Pacific theaters equally. The commitment of troops and diplomacy in both spheres is evidence of that. It is not one or the other, but both!

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A concise analysis- thank you!

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I think it's evident that a holistic approach has to be taken from now on. At home, we have to consider balancing energy costs with decarbonizing, we have to balance hawkishness on China with preserving a relationship with our most important trading partner, and we have to consider the totality of any moves we make on the international stage.

We have to walk and chew gum at the same time, largely because all of these factors - and our relationship with China, and the war in Ukraine- do not exist in a vacuum. Each decision affects another directly, and for those who suggest that we should abandon Ukraine in order to focus more on China, I push back and suggest that the very way we focus on China is through our consistent support of the rule of international law.

That's what we're doing vis a vis Ukraine today. That's what we need to keep doing, first and foremost. Folks who don't see this are myopic.

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Yes!! There are too many people in office that are myopic....or plain oppositional.

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Sadly you neglect to mention John Mearsheimer or Jeffrey Sachs and their reasons for opposing the war. You attempt to tarnish opposition by suggesting that only 'right-wingers' like Tucker support peace.

The invasion of Ukraine was both provoked and illegal. Just as our blockade of Cuba was 60 years ago.

It is worse than Vietnam. We left the Vietnamese a country. Ukraine will be a wasteland thanks largely to our geniuses in Washington & London who in addition to depopulating Ukraine have created a Russian-Chinese axis, speeded up de-dollarization, killed upwards of 1/2 a million people, and created millions of refugees.

Much worse than Vietnam and not over yet.

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Sep 6, 2023·edited Sep 6, 2023

NATO was being blamed by Mearsheimer and Sachs, as I remember, for this Russian aggression. And they were/are still(?) saying Russia should be given it's "sphere of influence" Unbelievable.There have been so many responses to this! Unbelievable.

We are not on the ground here. Biden has been hesitant every step of the way. That will be part of the cause at least ( the rest lies w Russia and enablers) for possibly making Ukraine a wasteland and more importantly for genocide and other war crimes. Does Ukraine have ANY agency here?

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No, Ukraine has no agency. The US pays the bills. No US/NATO, no war. It's been that way since the start. In March 2022 Ukraine and Russia had a tentative agreement; which US/NATO blocked. No question the war is illegal - but US protestations here seem a bit like the proverbial 'pot calling the kettle black'. (Think Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, ...). And now with Hunter's sh*t, Biden APPEARS to be self-interested. And, BTW, what do you think of the Cuban missile crisis? We blockaded Cuba

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Without the US allies would keep supporting Ukraine, more. But we are not ending support. Trump and his far right are the minority. Trump will lose. Ukraine will fight regardless. Your other points are plain irrelevant or wrong or picked up off of Fox News,

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Yes, thanks for mentioning them both.

Jeffery Sachs has succinctly explained the timeline and events:


. . .which John Mearsheimer predicted and explained 9 years ago would lead to war and Ukraine to ruin:


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Because of Putin's aggression based on his own changing reasons, including a distorted version of history- not about NATO- and also Russian/ Putin's aggressive behavior in the last decades in Eastern Europe, NATO has expanded. That's because the countries of the ex USSR WANTED membership for protection. NATO did not seek this. Putin's behavior has made NATO more necessary. Thankfully NATO and the EU are now open to admitting Ukraine. Ukraine will have to rebuild. Russia will take generations to live these atrocities down including what Putin & Co. is doing to Russia as well. Russia has been weakened, now begging North Korea for help, and becoming a vassal state to China. Russia had a chance to work with the West. But tell yourself a different story.

I used to admire these guys, Sachs and Mearsheimer. They are really off now.

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The war has left hundreds of thousands of men dead or disabled, thousands of tanks, aircraft, artillery pieces, and armored vehicles in ruin, and NATO’s weapons stockpiles depleted.

While the war ground on, Russia’s economy surpassed Germany’s and is forecast to surpass Japan’s by the end of next year. Its global economic ties are expanding with BRICS +. Russia now churns-out more weapons, drones, tanks, and artillery shells than all of NATO combined. Russia has an overwhelming advantage in available manpower against Ukraine. Unless NATO sends its own forces and own men to die by the thousands and risk global nuclear annihilation, Russia is unlikely to cede Crimea and the Donbas back to Ukraine.

It makes no difference to label it “anti-Ukraine” and “Russia propaganda”; it’s still reality, and no combination of new weapons shipments, wishful thinking, and anti-Putin invectives will change it.

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A 20 second google search found that Germany's GDP was close to double Russia's in 2023 by estimates of the IMF, World Bank and UN. DocHollywood is right that Russia has more military equipment and manpower than the Ukraine but the results of the last 17 months suggest that they have not been able to turn this into military effect. The preparedness to tailor actions to unpleasant realities is a virtue but I rather question DocHollywood's grasp of the realities of this conflict. Ditto the so called Realists.

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Russia overtakes Germany to become fifth biggest economy in the world in GDP on a PPP basis

“. . .economists have long argued that considering only Russia’s nominal GDP of around $2 trillion is to underestimate its economic strength. Arguably, the belittling of Russia over the last decade has led Western leaders to badly miscalculate how vulnerable the Kremlin is to sanctions.

Looking at GDP in PPP (purchasing power parity) terms removes price level differences and allows a better comparison, especially of living standards, between countries.

In these terms Russia has just overtaken Germany to become the fifth wealthiest economy in the world and the largest in Europe, worth $5.3 trillion.”


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Even if we assume that PPP numbers are appropriate, total NATO GDP (PPP) is about $60 trillion, so still exceeds Russia’s by a factor of 11 or so. In fact, we could ignore NATO’s ten largest economies, and Russia’s PPP-adjusted GDP would still easily be exceeded by the remaining small NATO countries (from the Netherlands on down = $7.2 trillion). To the extent Russia outproduces NATO on any war materiel, it’s because we are having difficulty forming the necessary political will.

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All true.

But since ‘we are having difficulty forming the necessary political will’ to divert our resources into making more war, by what right or principles of democracy should we do so? The White House, Congress, and the mainstream media want more arms and money sent to Ukraine, but Americans increasingly don’t:


“CNN Poll: Majority of Americans oppose more US aid for Ukraine in war with Russia”

In a democracy, doesn’t our political will matter?

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Well we don’t live in direct democracies. Our leaders/representatives are elected for terms of years, and they aren’t required to do 180 degree policy turns based on each new opinion poll. That early august poll was from when the predominant news narrative was of a “stalemate”I.e. before Ukraine started breaking through the first defensive line in Zaporizhia. Who knows what the polls will say a month from now?

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You’re replying to a rhetorical trick question, and I think the preponderance of evidence shows you got it wrong.

We don’t live in democracies.

Our leaders are beholden to the centers of wealth and power they needed to get elected, not to the citizenry.

See for example, ‘Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens’, Gilens & Page; doi:10.1017/S1537592714001595 © American Political Science Association 2014

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Can you share the sources for your factual claims?

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“ Russian defense industry may soon produce more tanks than it loses in Ukraine” - July 7, 2023

“ A few days ago, British intelligence estimated in one of its daily reports that Russia was losing 10 times more tanks in Ukraine each month than the Russian defense industry could produce today.

. . .

However, in recent months, and beyond the statements of the Russian authorities, which are known to be unreliable, objective findings tend to greatly moderate the enthusiasm of His Majesty's intelligence services.

. . .

Since then, things have evolved relatively, and do not go in the direction of the British declarations. Indeed, the observation of documented losses of Russian heavy tanks in the last 2 months tends to confirm the monthly production of around thirty tanks per month between November 2022 and June 2023.

. . .

In fact, there is every reason to believe that the announcements made in March that Uralvagonzavod was producing 50 armored vehicles, including 30 tanks each month, as well as the ramp-up of the T-62M production sites, seem to be corroborated by the destruction observations. on the front.”


“And Russia produces such a number of tanks in a year”: a ten-year plan for the release of Leopard 2” - August 19 2023

“The German publication Stuttgart-Zeitung reports that it has received internal documents from the KMW [Krauss-Maffei Wegmann] concern. They spelled out the company's plans for the release tanks Leopard 2 by 2032. In total, it is planned to produce 648 cars in ten years. This figure caused concern in the French press, which points to a much higher pace that Russian tank building has gained.

As indicated, given that Russia produces as many tanks in a year as the whole of Europe in a decade, it is necessary to oppose the RF Armed Forces with a combat system with a significant operational and technological advantage.”

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Sheer slogans, no substance

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That Russia is wasting resources on a futile war cannot strengthen Russia’s actual economic output. Their ability to produce advanced military equipment has been crippled by the lack of access to modern technology.

They might be able produce more low tech ammunition, but as the range of their artillery is inferior to that of Ukraine, it won’t help them. At the same time refurbishing old tanks won’t help them.

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‘Belgian military expert warns of major obstacles to Ukraine counter-offensive

Thursday” - 10 August 2023

“A Belgian military expert has issued a pessimistic assessment of Ukraine's prospects of victory in its ongoing war with Russia, highlighting the inadequate supply of ammunition and diminishing number of reservists that could pose major difficulties to Kyiv's army this autumn.

Speaking to l'Echo, former Belgian Army Colonel Roger Housen noted that he also did not expect Russia to win a "decisive victory" in the next couple of years but surmised that "in the best case scenario" the war will become a "frozen conflict... with all the instability that this entails on the international scene".

However, Housen said that Russia nevertheless enjoys "a triple advantage" with its larger population, hundreds of thousands of new recruits, and its more resilient economy.

. . .

Housen was especially negative about the state of Ukraine's current counteroffensive, noting that Kyiv lost a fifth of the tanks supplied by Western countries during the operation's first week.

"Right now, [the counteroffensive] is not working. The first Russian line is still holding and in places there are five defensive lines at a depth of 30 to 40 kilometres.”

Housen expressed deep concern about Ukraine's lack of ammunition, which he attributed to the "weakness" of the West's military production capacity. "Ukrainian artillery currently consumes 8,000 shells per day – a third of the monthly production of shells by the United States.”

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That’s an old comment by a Belgian colonel. Since then Ukraine has apparently breached the first line.

Furthermore the size of the Russian economy is of lesser significance, as the size of western economies is tenfold larger than Russias…

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“Counter-offensive troops punch through Russia line, generals claim” - BBC, September 3, 2023:

‘Ukrainian generals claim they have breached Russia's formidable first line of defences in the south, as the counter-offensive launched earlier this summer may be poised to gather pace.

. . .

"We are now between the first and second defensive lines," one of Ukraine's top generals in the south, Brig Gen Oleksandr Tarnavskiy told Britain's Observer newspaper.”

Maybe, but it appears Ukrainian authorities and Western sources are now calling “the forward security zone” which includes Robotyne, “the first line”


“It does not help that the forces closest to the fight sometimes give very different accounts of what is happening at the front.

Approached by the BBC on Saturday, Ukraine's 46th Air Assault Brigade said fighting was continuing near Russia's first line of defence, but that "no one has yet managed to go beyond the first line."


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Thank you for your thoughtful comment. We all live in the whole world; drawing lines doesn’t help. I am deeply concerned about analysts who think that letting Putin destroy freedom in other countries will work out well. Those who don’t learn from history are condemned to repeat it.

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Great analysis! The issue is not one or the other but to see the inherent linkages between the two theaters of interest and understand the deeper motives and psychology of Russia and China through its actions over time. If Colby is truly interested in deterring China, defeating Russia is a necessary condition. It sends a message that the US and it’s allies will do what it takes to ensure the promotion of countries with their shared values and interests. Demonstration of resolve (from the perspective of Putin and Xi) matters greatly. Putin took the wrong message from the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in this sense and blundered into Ukraine. Furthermore, Colby and his ilk fail to understand the fragility of the Russian and Chinese economies based past and recent decisions, and the internal political ramifications and fears of the ruling parties should things spiral out of control.

What the Pacific firsters are telegraphing is the belief that US, NATO, AUKUS industrial output is nowhere ready to meet the challenges of ramped up conflict. This is not entirely wrong, but the Russian invasion of Ukraine is the impetus to get that started and to learn from AFU new tactics and ideas that can blunt any advantages in industrial output China may have in the pacific region.

The bottom line is there is too much one or two dimensional thinking and failure to see linkages and how all these challenges and needs are intertwined across the globe. Sir Lawrence is right, we need to be “little r” realistic about the world as it presents itself today. Yet, the world as it presents itself is far more complex than those like Colby see it or would have us believe it.

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Great and thorough analysis.

We cannot ignore the behind the lines impacts of the War on Russias internal infrastructure.

Putin’s narrowing revenues as a result of the sanctions will continue to wear down their ability to maintain some semblance of civilization.

I still wonder how long remaining internal alliances can hold. Some further fragmentation of the former Union is certain to weaken the central authority.

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“Ukraine is not divided and it has a stable leadership.”

I don’t know. That’s a very, very loaded sentence.

Really? Take the first part: “Ukraine is not divided.” Have you never heard of Western Ukraine and Eastern? One is predominantly Russian-speaking and pro-Russian (East) and the other is not. Have you looked at Eastern Ukraine’s election history versus West? This is evidence, to my mind, of a very divided nation.

“Has stable leadership.” Man, are we still talking about a Ukraine that recently went through a coup and has—for decades—struggled with enormous corruption? I mean, read articles pre-2022 invasion. Post-2022 most western coverage called Ukraine a “democracy,” only second after the U.S. This has *not* been western coverage of Ukrainian government historically. Not at all. It’s not part of the EU for reasons I mentioned—that have been self-evident for decades. But, as I’ve said, post-2022, the coverage has been nothing short of illusory. There’s reality and there’s illusion. Post-2022 coverage has, sadly, been detached from reality. So, yes, the Realists have valid points.

As an aside, if the US (or any other country) really believed in Ukraine’s government—and actually wanted to help Ukraine defend its territorial integrity—we’d be doing what France did with Israel: helped Israel build nukes. Until Ukraine gets nukes, it will almost certainly never be safe.

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The key point for me is the extent to which Russia winning in Ukraine, or failing to lose, is a good thing or a bad thing for possible Chinese ambitions in the pacific. If you agree that Russia failing to lose in Ukraine is a positive signal for China then the cost to America in blood and treasure is small.

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Amidst this high level intellectual analysis, the end state is nothing but destruction of Ukraine. Intellectuals, scholars and policymakers will keep on talking like this and on the ground its Ukrainian who will suffer. This strategy of the West does not have well defined 'ends'. Nor it has viable 'ways'. It only has 'means'. However, only having 'means' is not enough to craft better strategy.

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The US doesn’t care about Ukraine. That’s something nobody is mentioning here. The US government hardly cares about its own citizens—but, miraculously, when it comes to international politics, all of a sudden, Ukrainians are the cream of the crop…for whom? The CIA? The Pentagon? The White House? Why?

What will almost certainly happen is the Yemenization of Ukraine. Over 1,300 public schools have been destroyed. Nearly 20% of their country has been annexed. The Dnipro-Donetsk region—the most important region for Ukrainian gas—is in Russian hands. Crimea? Same. Only the Carpathian Mountains remain that have some—little—natural gas relative to the Dnipro-Donetsk and Crimea/Black Sea.

Over ten million Ukrainians have left their country, nearly a quarter. There are roughly 250,000 dead or wounded Ukrainian soldiers.

At what cost? If the point is to destroy Ukraine—this is certainly being accomplished. In fact, if you examine the numbers closely there won’t be a country left soon.

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American Realists engaged in this debate believe it is in America’s interest to withdraw the US from NATO (formally or simply by announcing the end of America’s engagement in European security). Pulling support for Ukraine is simply a means to undermine the Western Alliance, or at least Washington’s participation in it.

This is an excellent article from the Professor, as always, but I’m not sure he appreciates the radicalism of the Realists he’s describing.

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This is a tricky subject - because any analysis that is not pro-Ukrainian can be misconstrued as pro-Russian.

A different basis for comparing the medium or long-run viability of Ukraine’s defence effort is Ukraine’s economic base.

Russia’s focus on disrupting electricity supply last winter had a secondary effect of disrupting heavy industry and manufacturing - beyond hitting the high end command and control infrastructure and logistics.

This suggests that a “total war” model of the conflict taking into account economic aspects should be adopted - less Vietnam than the Ruhr in the Second World War.

Any analysis of the war should take into account the economic geography of Ukraine - the Donbas used to account for almost half the country’s economy.

Are Slovyansk, Kramatorsk and Kharkiv military objectives for the Russians because of their strategic or economic importance?

Depriving Ukraine of the Donbas would ultimately deprive her of the means of funding its army - creating a long-term dependency upon military (and economic) aid.

Which is where some of the South Vietnam comparisons might begin to apply.

Apologies for sounding downbeat

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You’re not sounding downbeat; you’re sounding like you did your homework. Ukraine is being Yemenized as we speak…

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JDL: "America and her allies need to rethink their actions and tread lightly. Proxy War geopolitical gamesmanship can easily unlock the irreversible Pandora's box and unleash WWII.”

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You're probably right that choices in foreign policy are never simple. I nevertheless need a clear answer to "why it is best to confront aggression sooner rather than later," which I did not find in your essay. Something about keeping China out of Taiwan...which we've officially recognized as part of China for 50 years? Something about saving face for the Western Alliance...already so far gone that its members are now bombing each others' pipelines? Your reasoning is too subtle for me to grasp, I'm afraid.

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Sep 5, 2023·edited Sep 5, 2023

The US is heavily dependent on the semiconductor and electronics manufacturing capacity of Taiwan. If Taiwan were to be captured by China, most of the electronics components in your smartphone, laptop, vehicle, banking systems, wireless, and telecommunications infrastructure, and even some of the electrical grid electronics would suddenly have to be purchased from China. Oh, also, much of the electronics base of US defensive weapons would also have to be bought from China.

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According to the State Department, we're already buying Taiwanese semiconductors from China. https://www.state.gov/countries-areas/taiwan/

Even if that were not the case, surely the best way to ensure the uninterrupted supply of those and the other $500B/year of goods Americans happily buy from China is to maintain peace in the region and friendly relations with all countries involved? Turning Ukraine into a war zone hasn't exactly done wonders for its industry and exports.

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Why Silicon Valley Cares about Silicon Again


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CHIPS for America


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