Russia can lose this war by Timothy Snyder

Russian soldiers march during the Victory Day military parade dress rehearsal at Red Square in Moscow, on May 5. The parade will take place on May 9, marking the 79th anniversary of victory in the Second World War.

On Thursday Russia will celebrate Victory Day, its commemoration of the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945. Domestically, this is nostalgia. In the 1970s, Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev created a cult of victory. Russia under Putin has continued the tradition. Abroad, this is intimidation. We are meant to think that Russia cannot lose. And far too many of us, during Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine, have believed that. In February 2022, when Russia undertook its full-scale invasion of its neighbor, the consensus was that Ukraine would fall within days.

Even today, when Ukraine has held its own for more than two years, the prevailing view among Russia’s friends in Congress and in the Senate is that Russia must eventually win. Moscow’s success is not on the battlefield, but in our minds. Russia can lose. And it should lose, for the sake of the world — and for its own sake.

The notion of an invincible Red Army is propaganda. The Red Army was formidable, but it was also beatable. Of its three most consequential foreign wars, the Red Army lost two. It was defeated by Poland in 1920. It defeated Nazi Germany in 1945, after nearly collapsing in 1941. (Its win in that instance was part of a larger coalition and with decisive American economic assistance.) Soviet forces were in trouble in Afghanistan immediately after their 1979 invasion and had to withdraw a decade later. And the Russian army of today is not the Red Army. Russia is not the USSR. Soviet Ukraine was a source of resources and soldiers for the Red Army. In that victory of 1945, Ukrainian soldiers in the Red Army took huge losses — greater than American, British and French losses combined. It was disproportionately Ukrainians who fought their war to Berlin in the uniform of the Red Army.

Today, Russia is fighting not together with Ukraine but against Ukraine. It is fighting a war of aggression on the territory of another state. And it lacks the American economic support — Lend-Lease — that the Red Army needed to defeat Nazi Germany. In this constellation, there is no particular reason to expect Russia to win. One would expect, instead, that Russia’s only chance is to prevent the West from helping Ukraine — by persuading us that its victory is inevitable, so that we don’t apply our decisive economic power. The last six months bear this out: Russia’s minor battlefield victories came at a time when the United States was delaying Ukraine aid, rather than supplying it.

Today’s Russia is a new state. It has existed since 1991. Like Brezhnev before him, Russian President Vladimir Putin rules through nostalgia. He refers to the Soviet and also the Russian imperial past. But the Russian Empire also lost wars. It lost the Crimean War in 1856. It lost the Russo-Japanese War in 1905. It lost the First World War in 1917. In none of those three cases was Russia able to keep forces in the field for more than about three years.

In the United States there is great nervousness about a Russian defeat. If something seems impossible, we cannot imagine what could happen next. And so there is a tendency, even among supporters of Ukraine, to think that the best resolution is a tie. Such thinking is unrealistic. And it reveals, behind the nerves, a strange American conceit. No one can guide a war in such a way. And nothing in our prior attempts to influence Russia suggests that we can exercise that kind of influence. Russia and Ukraine are both fighting to win. The questions are: who will win, and with what consequences?

If Russia wins, the consequences are horrifying: a risk of a larger war in Europe, more likelihood of a Chinese adventure in the Pacific, the weakening of international legal order generally, the likely spread of nuclear weapons, the loss of faith in democracy.

It is normal for Russia to lose wars. And, in general, this led Russians to reflect and reform. Defeat in Crimea forced an autocracy to end serfdom. Russia’s loss to Japan led to an experiment with elections. The Soviet failure in Afghanistan led to Gorbachev’s reforms and thus the end of the cold war.

Beneath the Russian particularities, history offers a more general and still more reassuring lesson about empires. Russia is fighting today an imperial war. It denies the existence of the Ukrainian state and nation, and it carries out atrocities that recall the worst of the European imperial past. The peaceful Europe of today consists of powers that lost their last imperial wars and then chose democracy. It is not only possible to lose your last imperial war: it is also good, not only for the world, but for you.

Russia can lose this war, and should, for the sake of Russians themselves. A defeated Russia means not only the end of senseless losses of young life in Ukraine. It is also Russia’s one chance to become a post-imperial country, one where reform is possible, one where Russians themselves might be protected by law and able to cast meaningful votes. Defeat in Ukraine is Russia’s historical chance for normality — as Russians who want democracy and the rule of law will say.

Like the United States and Europe, Ukraine celebrates the victory of 1945 on May 8th rather than May 9th. Ukrainians have every right to remember and interpret that victory: they suffered more than Russians from German occupation and died in huge numbers on the battlefield. And Ukrainians are right to think that Russia today, like Nazi Germany in 1945, is a fascist imperialist regime that can and must be defeated. Fascism was defeated last time because a coalition held firm and applied its superior economic power. The same holds true now.

Comment: Timothy Snyder is the Richard C. Levin Professor of History and Global Affairs at Yale University and the author of “Bloodlands” along with many other books and articles. He also conducted an online course, “The Making of Modern Ukraine” in the Fall of 2022. The lectures are still available online. I watched all seven lectures back then and, if you haven’t watched them yet, I strongly recommend them.

In this essay, Snyder holds no illusions that Russia will disintegrate if she doesn’t prevail in Ukraine. He sees it as an opportunity for Russia to rise above her current imperialistic tendencies. It’s an optimistic and hopeful thought for the future of Russia and the Russian people.

There’s nothing here I disagree with beyond Snyder’s point that Russia is a new state. Technically it is, but I see immense continuity between the pre and post 1991 Kremlin. I know for a short time the apparatchiki fled the organs of power in Moscow and many academics from the former soviet Academy of Sciences moved into offices to keep the machinery of government working. It could have been a true time of change, but the old Soviet apparatchiki and the rising siloviki soon pushed the academics out. They just had to wait until one of their own moved into the top spot.

It’s possible and even likely that Russia will not get the victory she desires. Maybe the Kremlin can spin whatever outcome occurs into a victory, at least for internal consumption. in that case, I don’t see Russia changing at all. Only if the Kremlin has to accept a loss will there be an opportunity for the change that Snyder envisions.


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72 Responses to Russia can lose this war by Timothy Snyder

  1. Stefan says:

    Excuse me sir, but this post is one of the reasons I don’t reach this blog as much as I did in the past, when Mr Lang was writing. The above arguments are no reasons, and they do not answer the questions how is Russia going to lose, and most importantly – why?

    Snyder’s references to the Lend-Lease are not helpful – they mislead people to think they were essential for post-war recovery. Human capital was way more important, as seen by comparing the aid received by the UK and Germany.

    And of course Russia denies the existence of the Ukrainian state and nation. Imagine France accepting Gascony as a neighbour, or Spain – Catalonia, Germany – Bavaria.
    Moving on, attempts to sanction the volume of commodity exports flowing out of Russia have absolutely failed, and apart from White house (interns?) economists, smart people predicted this would only serve to drive up their price, leading to more revenue for Putin, not less.

    Timothy Snyder seems to believe Russian success will be catastrophic for the US. I bet it will not be, and it will most probably lead to a positive reforms and changes in the institutions, that will benefit Americans. Does anyone think a bit more about this?
    The US cannot dominate Eurasia, and this great Northern empire, the heir of the Golden Horde, cannot be tamed with force. The price of arrogance and lack of understanding is your kids dying in a nuclear fire. Why does not anyone try to find a way around it? Getting along with Russians is easy and vodka is cheaper and more effective than ABM (and doomsday torpedo) defences.

  2. John Winthrop says:

    The US could very well end up on the ash heap of superpowers given it’s own imperial overstretch: Shia crescent, the Zionist lobby’s demands, Russia, and China. It’s like they read Brzezinski and Mackinder and carefully followed a reversal of their recommendations.

    The US elite set conditions for a unified China over the course of the 20th century, beginning with the pseudo-reconstructionist interventions of Protestant missions, supporting Nationalists, then Communists. Later came Ping-Pong diplomacy, and massive capital investment. All it justified under the rubric of “humanity”, “global community”, “world peace”, and similar sentimental notions.

    Meanwhile, on the home front, Western societies have a perfected a soft authoritarianism. No freedom of association (considered sin qua non of liberal societies by Hannah Arendt). State repression outsourced to NGOs. De facto coups against elected representatives like Trump and Truss, who really just charismatic centrists. TERFs arrested for denying the female penis in Britain. Police letting Just Stop Oil Protestors obstruct public order because they are “in” with the policy borg. Most recently, Australia and New Zealand trying to enforce draconian speech restrictions onto Musk (who had to beg Likudniks to let him keep running his site). And did I mention obligatory jabs and lockdowns according to The Holy Science?

    I have no enthusiasm for the CCP’s society of quantity or Putin’s sclerotic encore to the USSR. My model is Achilles, a man who spurned custom, and fought only when he saw fit. Many of us, like myself, in the younger generation ,refuse all these competing fairy tales. We are not fighting for abstractions like “global democracy” and what the system dares to call “freedom.” If we don’t get what we want in concrete terms, we aren’t stepping up. Empty moralism, beautiful sentiments about the brotherhood of man doesn’t work for us.

    • Barbara Ann says:

      John Winthrop

      Many of us, like myself, in the younger generation, refuse all these competing fairy tales

      That’s very encouraging to hear, great comment. Of course history was supposed to end with both Russia and China embracing liberal democracy. There does not appear to have been a plan B. In the meantime liberal democracy itself has morphed from the anything goes libertarianism of the 60’s and 70’s to the everything must go (i.e. all traditional values) creed of the totalitarian woke agenda today.

      Western civilization is undergoing moral collapse at an incredible pace and a physical collapse will surely follow. It is hard to escape the feeling that this is being deliberately engineered (to be coincident with the Reset perhaps). Hard authoritarianism is right around the corner and hard times ahead.

      “The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it’s profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater.” – Frank Zappa

      Those who can’t see the wall yet soon will. If the Russians want to refresh their own tree of liberty, good luck to them. I’m more interested in the one TPTB want to tear up by the roots right here at home.

  3. James says:

    Ben Aris links to the 2014 POLITICOEurope Democracy Perception Index which finds that the majority of people in the world trust the USA less than they trust China and Russia.

    I like smart people who disagree with me. Ben Aris is one such person – he is pro-USA but he is a well informed realist. He runs BNE-Intelligence.

  4. jld says:

    Thank you TTG for letting thru “contrarian” comments. 🙂

  5. Keith Harbaugh says:

    A fact about Yale University:
    Its president, since 2013, is Peter Salovey.
    His background I think is worth knowing about.

    Salovey’s grandparents’ families originally came from Poland, Jerusalem, and Austria.
    The Saloveys are descendants of the Soloveitchik rabbinic family.
    His paternal grandfather, Yitzchak Leib was born in Jerusalem in 1895 to a community worker and pharmacist named Zalman Yoseph Soloveitchik (b. 1874).
    Zalman Yoseph was the son of Simchah (c. 1830-1921), a Lithuanian born Jew who emigrated to Jerusalem where he was called “The Londoner,” due to the time he spent living in London.
    Simchah was the son of Eliyahu Soloveitchik, an uncle to the famous scholar Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, known as the Beis Halevi.
    This part of the family’s origins trace to Kaunas (Kovno/Slobodka), Lithuania and then Volozhin, Belarus.

    I am tempted to say more, but that would arouse controversy.
    So I will just point out this fact, and let you build on it as you please.
    There is a certain disproportionality that it is worth being aware of.

    • mcohen says:

      There is a certain disproportionality that it is worth being aware of.

      Hi keith,what do mean by this statement.

  6. Fred says:

    “On Thursday Russia will celebrate Victory Day, its commemoration of the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945. Domestically, this is nostalgia. In the 1970s, Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev created a cult of victory. Russia under Putin has continued the tradition.

    Abroad, this is intimidation.”

    SMH. Which member states of the United Nations are intimidated by the act that Nazi Germany surrendered unconditionally to the allied powers on May 9th, 1945? The ones that didn’t exist in 1945 or some other nations? Does anyone in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Vanuatu, or Grenada care or are intimidated by a parade in Moscow? How about nuclear armed India and Pakistan? The People’s Republic of China? Maybe CNNplus can answer that as CNN doesn’t bother to ask.

    Meanwhile the German model, the backbone of the now 14 trillion in debt Eurozone, is being destroy alla Nordstream 2 and sanctions. Of course when the European debt is defaulted on and pension, mortgages, salaries and general standard of living implodes just like it did with the collapse of the USSR the same aristocracy of money and academia can say: Russia, Russia, Russia. “If only” they had obeyed the “rules based order” this creative destruction would not have to happen.

    Enjoy an alternate view of the collapsing EU.

  7. English Outsider says:

    The article brought to mind another of the many “Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe” –

    And a reminder from an old hand at the hegemony game –

    God of our fathers, known of old,
    Lord of our far-flung battle line,
    Beneath whose awful hand we hold
    Dominion over palm and pine —
    Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
    Lest we forget—lest we forget!

    The tumult and the shouting dies;
    The Captains and the Kings depart:
    Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
    An humble and a contrite heart.
    Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
    Lest we forget—lest we forget!

    Far-called, our navies melt away;
    On dune and headland sinks the fire:
    Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
    Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
    Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
    Lest we forget—lest we forget!

    If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
    Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe,
    Such boastings as the Gentiles use,
    Or lesser breeds without the Law—
    Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
    Lest we forget—lest we forget!

    For heathen heart that puts her trust
    In reeking tube and iron shard,
    All valiant dust that builds on dust,
    And, guarding, calls not Thee to guard;
    For frantic boast and foolish word—
    Thy Mercy on Thy People, Lord!

  8. Landis says:

    I guess I’ll try my hand commenting on something outside finance.

    I think the amount of death that has come from this war is terrible and it is of course a terrible thing to start a war for amorphous geopolitical and strategic reasons, and it is clear that all else aside Putin did start this war in the kinetic sense. Now putting that aside, I do not understand at all the logic that goes from Putin started a small (by all accounts of past wars in Europe) war in Ukraine to push back against western influence, that if he “wins” will then result in him conquering all of Ukraine and then as dominos the rest of Western Europe. But at the same time, he can just as easily “lose” a war where he has killed a tiny fraction of the 35+mm people and left untouched or at least unleveled most of western Ukraine. I’m not talking about hitting energy infrastructure, I am talking about Dresden.

    The idea that someone whose goal is to race across western Europe would rather “lose” a war than escalate it again befuddles logic, or at least my admittedly limited and unlearned understanding. If the goal is to conquer then why wouldn’t even tactical nukes be on the table before simply “losing”? This is the country whose scorched earth and poisoned well tactics are legendary, would they really be so concerned about damaging Ukraine if their goal is to conquer it and hold it for 100s of years in a conquest to restore imperial Russia? These are serious questions that I have because to me it makes little sense.

    The final thought here is on something I do have a little more experience in which is economics. There is an idea that Russia is just a failed economic state (and in need of Ukrainian resources like wheat and grain) and shut off from global markets. This is just simply not true. Its not true for a number of reasons, the first of which is scale. Russia is a massive economy, full stop. They have the eighth largest economy in the world, and yes per capita that may not stand up and result in poorer and less well off population (no arguments to that logic or reality here), the fact is as a state they can martial tremendous resources, and have done so for decades, on top of having amongst the best natural resources on the planet, that again have been utilized for DECADES. The reason I highlight this is to point out that the scale here just dwarfs anything in the Ukrainian context. Think about how insanely costly the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were for the US, did they decimate our economy? no not at all, despite being a meaningful percentage of GDP. Why? because the war machine is part of the economy and the economy is just too big outside of the war to be dominated by it. Now ofc could we have spent that money domestically on other things so there is an opportunity cost there but that is another discussion.

    Second, the idea that our sanctions, in particular from payments and the SWIFT system, is crippling Russia is just simply untrue. The reality is that our sanctions accelerated a timeline for the replacement of western institutions with eastern and southern ones. As someone who has seen more of the plumbing of the financial system first-hand than most, I can say with confidence that while it may have been a blow to them initially, these sanctions are now fundamentally meaningless. Western institutions that have been taken away will not be clamored back for but simply replaced, as they have been. I think talk of de-dollarization and loss of reserve currency status is very overblown (another topic, another day) but the reality is that a ton of transactions are happening outside the dollar and western systems and that number is only increasing, and increased markedly after the implementation of sanctions against Russia. This whole lend lease argument seems to forget how much money is in China, India, the middle east, and the rest of the world which desires to do business with Russia, and is aligned geopolitically on non-western axis.

    None of this is how I want the world to be, but I’d like to engage with as much facts and logic and reason and as little propaganda and hubris as possible, and this is my honest attempt at doing so.

    • John Minehan says:

      Two big things come out of this war: 1) as you point out, Western Economic weapons are not what they were; and 2) the Russians are not as good as they should be.

      There is some fine print.

      Western Economic Weapons were probably never absolutely unbeatable (Saddam and Iran got parts for oil).

      The Russians ARE that good in may ways: SIGINT/EW (especially at the Tactical level); sensor-to-shooter links between RPVs and MRL units (a “Recon-Fires Complex”). Conventional Russian Mechanized/Motorized units are probably about as proficient as US Light/Airborne/AASLT forces in basic Soldier Skills and Physical Readiness.

      The Russians have weaknesses.

      Lack of Strategic IMINT and HUMINT crippled the initial Airborne Assault on Kiev. For the same Army that carried off the attack on Kabul in 1979 (or the Full Spectrum Attack on Crimea in 2015) this is a gross disappointment.

      The failure to take down the Ukrainian Grid after 2 Years (when the US took down the Iraqi Grid in 3 Days in 2003, further demonstrates Russian weaknesses in these areas).

      The failure to take Kiev also further limited Russia Courses of Action.

      Russian log appears traditionally weak and there is no Murmansk Run bringing US food and trucks.

      The Russians have problems that preclude winning. They have not dealt with them. The correlations of forces are changing but it probably won’t help Russia.

  9. babelthuap says:

    The sanctions and weaponizing the dollar were major miscalculations by the US. Just on those two moves alone the US and NATO lost but that’s not the end of the losing. The losing will continue economically for decades until the west accepts the world has changed.

    • Fred says:

      The European Bankers and aristocratic leadership bear a lot more blame than the US.

      • Yeah, Right says:

        No, they do not.

        It was the meocons in the USA who thought it was A Brilliant Idea to weaponize the “exorbitant privilege” of the $$$$ being the world’s reserve currency.

        That tunnel-visioned craziness is down to them and them alone.

        Because it takes a special type of craziness to fail to see that everyone used the $$$ because it was the *easiest* way to do business, it wasn’t the *only* way.

        • elkern says:

          The results of Neocon policies have been so disastrous for the USA that I sometimes wonder if their true goal is to destroy our Republic.

          • Yeah, Right says:

            Nah, they are just irredeemably stupid people besotted with a clown-like philosophy of how power works.

            They are in rapture to a dogma that doesn’t work, and they have made it their live’s work to beat the world into shape so that it fits into the holes they have in their head.

            Simple as that: their intention is to make the Republic into an Empire, and they do not comprehend that theirs is not the way to do it.

  10. voislav says:

    This is widely optimistic and borderline delusional. It fails to address the socioeconomic conditions that created change is each of these defeats, namely unpopular leadership and massive internal dissent. 1905 war with Japan is a good example, even before the war the country had severe economic and ethnic issues, and the war was just the straw that broke the camels back. So rather than wars being responsible for change, they were simply the trigger for change, socioeconomic conditions for which were already there.

    Current Russia is far from troubled, it’s ethnically homogenous and minorities that exist are largely Russified, they don’t have a separate national identity. Economically country is in a good place, with stable hydrocarbon revenue stream and low unemployment, driven in part by the war economy. Yes, they are suffering casualties in the war, but these have largely been absorbed by poorer parts of the society (volunteers and prisoners), while conscripts have been mostly kept out of the war. Economic sanctions have been shown to be ineffective and the longer the war progresses the less effective they’ll be. Russia also has internal resources to finance and supply the war at least for another 2 years and probably longer.

    On the other hand Ukrainian society has been hollowed out by war, losing 10 million refugees that migrated to Europe and Russia. Its government is highly corrupt and is losing support by the day and faces a legitimacy crisis later this month due to the decision to impose limited martial law rather than declaring a state of war. It’s completely reliant on allied aid for government financing and war material production.

    Ukraine is at a serious danger of collapse. Its army is critically short of manpower and its internal mobilization sources are depleted. Even with the latest package of US/EU aid, stocks of combat vehicles and munitions have been depleted, so where are those war materials going to come from? Politically, there is a substantial portion of its population that is in favour or at least indifferent to Russian takeover. This dissent has been violently suppressed by the government, but it doesn’t mean it’s not there.

    So if anything, the socioeconomic conditions that lead to change in Russia in the past describe the situation in Ukraine far better than in Russia. I would not be surprised to see Ukraine collapse before the end of the year, with breakaway regions declaring independence from “illegitimate” central government, aided by various nationalist militias that were folded into the army, like Azov and Kraken.

    • James says:


      The West can continue to support Ukraine economically for some time. At some point I expect there will be a “North Korea vs South Korea” type division that will take place and Western Ukraine will become a prosperous, largely democratic, US vassal just like South Korea is now.

      • voislav says:

        They can, but the question is will they. I don’t think Ukraine has a future at this point, its population was already old before the war, now the population pyramid is basically inverted. You need young people to build a country.

    • John Minehan says:

      I think the fact that Zelenskyy remains alive despite active attempts by Russia to assassinate him indicate strong popular support.

      The fact Orthodox Churches in Novorossiya, remain aligned with Ukrainian Archbishops aligned with the new Ukrainian Orthodox Church, bodes ill for Russian efforts.

  11. Eric Newhill says:

    Some people fantasize that a man who cuts off his penis and wears a dress really is a woman. Some dream that Ukraine can still defeat Russia. Some opine that there is a genocide happening in Gaza and that corrupt, murdering, jihadists, like Hamas, would negotiate in good faith.

    This is why I like boxing. Everyone runs their stupid mouths until they take a hard right punch straight into it.

    Of course that necessitates at least having the balls to get into the ring after running said stupid mouth. NATO, most of the dick chopping and Hamas advocates run their stupid mouths and stay far away from the ring.

    Ukraine is done and NATO can’t do anything about it short of going nuclear. Ukraine can save what’s left of its ass (like Odessa) by settling with Russia now – which includes Russia keeping their new republics.

    • Rob Waddell says:

      Dear Eric Newhill

      It takes a special kind of intellectual cowardice to hide behind a keyboard and spew such drivel while pretending it passes for insightful commentary.
      But I must admit, your ability to reduce complex geopolitical crises to the level of a playground brawl is truly impressive. Who needs reasoned debate when you can just swing wildly and hope for the best.

      And let’s not forget your charming views on gender identity. Ah yes, because nothing says “I’m an dickhead” quite like reducing the lived experiences of millions to a crude joke about genitalia. You’re truly a beacon of enlightenment in a world desperately in need of it.

      So Eric, champion of ignorance, defender of bigotry, and master of the cheap shot, please fenestrate yourself and leave commentary to us ignorant, but human, savages.


    • John Minehan says:

      You have a point, but I think the limited Russian LoCs (and continuing successful Ukrainian efforts to set the conditions to sever them (destroying the Black Sea Fleet as an effective force). Have already decided this war.

  12. scott s. says:

    So, it sounds like defeat of Russia entails mobilization of Poland and a new Polish-Russo war. Can’t see Ukraine doing it alone, even with massive supply from outside.

    • TTG says:

      scott s,

      Poland is already beefing up her defenses along the border with Belarus. The Baltics are doing the same along the Belarusian and Russian borders.

  13. Yeah, Right says:

    “Russia can lose this war, and should, for the sake of Russians themselves.”

    OK, so HOW can it lost this war?

    “It is normal for Russia to lose wars.”

    Hmmm. Not much of basis for optimism, is it?

    After all, as the author says and TTG points to: “Today’s Russia is a new state. It has existed since 1991.”

    So the past is the past, and the Russia of 1991 hasn’t lost a war since its formation.

    I have to say that Snyder’s article is the sort of airy-fairy wish-fulfillment argument that one would expect from a neocon acolyte: the outcome that I want will come to pass, because that’s what I want.

    But how do you get to that most-desirable point?
    Ah, see that black-box in the middle? It goes through that and comes out exactly how I want it to.

    • voislav says:

      Russia has lost a war since 1991, the First Chechen War. You could argue that First and Second Chechen Wars are one long conflict, but I’d disagree. But Russia’s that fought the First and Second Chechen Wars were different countries as well.

      • LeaNder says:

        But Russia’s that fought the First and Second Chechen Wars were different countries as well.
        Different how, voislav?

    • John Minehan says:

      I disagree that Russia is a “new country since 1991.” It has largely the same body of interests and Sphere of Influence.

      The Russian Empire, the USSR and the RF are the same polity with different government forms and names.

      “Self determination,” the idea that “Small Nations Might Be Free” are probably good things. “suicidal nationalism? probably isn’t.

      I suspect we got us a “Test case.”

  14. Barbara Ann says:

    “It is not only possible to lose your last imperial war: it is also good, not only for the world, but for you.”

    I couldn’t agree more. This could very well prove to be America’s last imperial war – one regime change operation too far. America is very bad at empire and the Republic has suffered greatly from attempts to blame America’s ills on Russia and other foreign scapegoats. The enemies of the Constitution are domestic and the sooner Americans are forced to confront these the better.

  15. drifter says:

    Russia’s victory conditions:
    Win – cease fire and puppet state established in West Ukraine. Russia keeps territories.
    Draw – cease fire and NATO infills Ukraine. Russia keeps territories.
    Lose – cease fire. NATO infills Ukraine and war continues latently or low level. Russia has to fight to keep territories.

    Note that win vs. draw vs. lose depends on Ukraine’s ultimate disposition vis-a-vis NATO. So Russia should act in a way to minimize more direct NATO intervention. Keep the fighting in the East and try for political collapse in Kiev. Big territorial gains, even if such were possible, at best lead to a draw because they are likely to provoke direct NATO intervention. Better to keep cutting out the guts of the Ukrainian military. Western democracies have this weird religious belief that willingness to fight is a measure of a people’s moral worth.

  16. frankie p says:

    The breadth of the comments attacking this article and TTG’s agreement with it from a wide variety of angles is very satisfying. Keith Harbaugh, thank you for that excellent comment. You forgot to mention that Timothy Snyder is the Richard C. Levin Professor of History and Global Affairs at Yale University, and the Levins probably aren’t very friendly to Russia.

    The fact is that this article occupies space in the current bizarre unreality that is the American narrative today. It’s a bizarre unreality in which Biden Administration officials like Yellen and Blinken go to China and tell the Chinese to slow down their manufacturing and accuse them of genocide in Xinjiang without evidence. It’s a bizarre unreality in which we continue provide the weapons that enable Israel to continue its genocide while telling them that they should stop bombing civilians. Not because we feel that bombing civilians is wrong, mind you. We tell them to stop bombing civilians because Biden will lose in swing states because he is losing / has lost the young vote and the Muslim vote. It’s a bizarre unreality in which the media and Congress focus on the feelings of Jewish students on university campuses as a diversion from the fact that 70 or 80 Gazan children are killed every day in Gaza. Killed = dead. Oh, but those poor Jewish students and their feelz! And always the drone of the completely bizarre unreality: the constant hum of the “Rules-based international order”, a facade that was created out of rotten cloth by the US and never ratified in any international legal setting.

    • mcohen says:

      Frankie p

      That’s right.They go to China and tell them to slow down.They go to Ukraine and tell them to keep the Russians occupied.Xinjiang is bordering on eastern Russia.That is what the bankers want.All the fertile forests and now with warming of the permafrost all the land and water.

      Go on google maps and check out the development since 1990.

  17. English Outsider says:

    Been ferreting around the boring but important stuff, Who’s got what that can go bang. Simplicius looks at ATTACMS and it seems the Russians don’t have a complete answer to them yet. Nor for some time.

    Our UK/French Storm Shadows are different in that they don’t rely so much on GPS, But there’s a claim that the ISR facilities we use don’t give real time information on the target sites. This caught my eye – ” Often the SIGINT assets like British RC-135 Rivet Joints or U.S. RQ-4s fly the night before the attack, or at least hours prior, gaining intelligence on the location of Russian systems.” Wonder if that’s really the case. Our naval drones don’t seem to have the same problem with time lag. I thought we’d been homing them in on Russian ships in real time. One of those things to wait for clarification on.

    But the reference to Rivet Joint. I remember worrying about Rivet Joint in ’22. If the Russians wanted to give NATO a slap on the wrist they wouldn’t hit US assets. They’d focus on the Europoodles. Biden’s not going to see New York fry because a Europoodle plane got knocked out. And the deconfliction arrangements and implicit understandings in this carefully choreographed proxy war do seem to get a little elastic sometimes.

    On a subject I’m more familiar with and have been since 2014, neo-Nazis, I reckon both sides have different notions. Snyder, above – “And Ukrainians are right to think that Russia today, like Nazi Germany in 1945, is a fascist imperialist regime that can and must be defeated. Fascism was defeated last time because a coalition held firm and applied its superior economic power. The same holds true now.”

    I see that written a lot in England, The Russians are the fascists, not us. In fighting them we are on the side of history, as in WWII. But Simplicius links to Putin’s Victory Day speech.

    “The West would love to forget the lessons of World War II, but we remember that the destiny of humankind was decided during the colossal battles of Moscow, Leningrad, Rzhev, Stalingrad, Kursk, Kharkov, Minsk, Smolensk and Kiev, and in the intense and bloody fighting from Murmansk to the Caucasus and the Crimea.

    “For the first three long and harsh years of the Great Patriotic War, the Soviet Union, along with all its constituent republics, fought the Nazis virtually single-handedly, while (the) virtually of all Europe worked to support the Nazi war machine.

    But let me emphasise: Russia has never belittled the significance of the Second Front or that of Allied assistance. We honour the valor of all members of the Anti-Hitler Coalition, the Resistance Movement, the underground movement and guerrillas, as well as the courage displayed by the peoples of China fighting for their independence against militarist Japan’s aggression. We will forever remember and we will never forget our joint struggle and the inspiring traditions of alliance.”

    Looking at the monuments to Nazi collaborators sprinkled over all Ukraine bar the Donbass and still being proudly erected even today, at the Ukrainian children’s textbooks that rewrite history and claim the Nazis of WWII were the liberators, not the enemy, at the honouring of the OUN as heroes rather than Nazi collaborators, at the careful whitewashing of those Nazi collaborators when it comes to war crimes, and at the modern neo-Nazi war crimes in the Donbass catalogued by Brayard and so many others, seems to me Snyder has gone for a walk on the dark side. And we with him. As I wrote in once to the Colonel’s site – seems an age ago now – fight the Russians by all means if that’s what all must do, but not with proxies such as these.

    For me as an Englishman it is one of the most shameful aspects of this Ukrainian war that this time round England is fighting for Nazis, not against them. As one closely connected with Germany, I don’t believe the Germans will return to sanity until they get to grips with the fact that the country of Nie Wieder has been backing Wieder for a good twelve years. As for my relatives in the States, so successful has been the NATO information war than not one of them would believe that Biden and his predecessors have been backing, and making full use of, adherents of the same ideology against which the USA put its full power eighty years ago.

    Evil enough. But also dumb. For the Russians the White Tiger rides again but now, not just most of Europe but all the West is riding with it.. Do we really think they’ll knuckle under to it this time round?

    • Fred says:

      Imperial Britain has been warned by Russia to stop attacking via their proxy. So says the evil lord of evil.
      “We ARE NOT on the path to WW III, we are already in WW III and the West already lost it. NATO has neither troops nor resources to introduce anything in 404. Russia’s tactical nuclear drills was a message to European chihuahuas, primarily UK, after showing UK ambassador in Moscow the list of British targets Russia will strike OUTSIDE 404 if London continues with terrorism. Russia is not afraid of Article 5.”
      Andrei Martyanov

      Remind us all what Boris Johnson did in Kiev in 2022.

      • English Outsider says:

        Fred – seems Washington’s still pretending the Emperor has some clothes left to wear and the Europoodles are running around like headless chickens. So situation normal.

        Or will be. We heroes of the West have to fight to the last Ukrainian first. Doesn’t look as if that’ll take too long now.

        Going to be a long hard Cold War II. Go long Rheinmetall.

    • Keith Harbaugh says:

      EO, you talk fairly often about something called the “White Tiger”.
      I checked Wikipedia, and such an animal actually exists.
      But that doesn’t seem relevant to geopolitics.
      For those of us less “clued in” than you,
      could you tell us what you are talking about when you say “White Tiger”?
      Thank you.

    • John Minehan says:

      My mother’s people make a big hero of Sir Roger Casement “who brought German rifles to the Lonely Bana Strand” in 1916 (while Irish Troops fought on the Western Front).

      That Ukrainians make heroes of people who fought the people who perpetuated the Holodomor by siding with the people who were perpetrating the Shoah is human nature.

      It does not make it right but “Enemy of my enemy is my friend,” comes from somewhere very basic.

      • LeaNder says:

        That Ukrainians make heroes of people who fought the people who perpetuated the Holodomor by siding with the people who were perpetrating the Shoah is human nature.

        Johnm you mix matters up, somewhat, it feels. I misread? You did not understand Timothy Snyder’s mission of expertly ‘framing ohistory’ for ‘never-again-times’?

  18. VietnamVet says:

    This article is the reason in my dotage that I am pessimistic that Western Civilization can survive end-stage capitalism. To earn a living and get richer one has to believe that money and power are the singular expression of human interactions in the marketplace. There is no such thing as society, culture, morals, right or wrong. The last US military victories were against Imperial Japan, Grenada, and Panama.

    The peaceful fall of the Soviet Union could be called victory of propaganda and human greed. But rather than accepting that all humans have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; Russians and its resources were exploited to make oligarchs richer. Like now in North America, life expectancy plunged in Russia in the 1990s until the Kremlin restored its control over the country. Westerner leaders are totally inside the bubble, detached from reality — France sending the Foreign Legion to Odessa. In the last four years, Kabul fell, 1.1 million Americans died with COVID, Palestinians are being eradicated, the Red Sea closed to Western shipping, and the proxy World War 3 between NATO and Russia in Ukraine is on the razor’s edge.

    Rather than return to the past, Russia will secure its future with China. The Kremlin is explicit. It will defend Crimea and ethnic Russian Eastern Ukraine with nuclear weapons. The article only mentions “the likely spread of nuclear weapons”. How crazy is that? I was in the US Army 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment – Brave Rifles after Vietnam to be flown to Germany to defend the Fulda Gap. The First Cold War was a success. We are still here. We were told, once there, we had a week’s life-expectancy. That is reality. Every war simulation with Russia, once the shooting starts, ends with a nuclear war. If Western Civilization is to survive, there must be a Restoration of Constitutional Republican Government by and for the people. Instead, the USA is replaying the 2020 Presidential Campaign with the worst two one-term Presidents since James Buchanan who enabled the start of the American Civil War.

    • wiz says:


      The West is in indeed in a crises.
      Much of the US’s rallying idea was built around the American dream. That dream is failing.
      The insatiable greed for money and power by the West’s elites is destroying the society.

      The alternative, championed by Russia and much of eastern Europe is the idea that although market economy is important, so are traditional values like sound immigration policy, family, religion and a balance must be found between those.

      Sure, there are plenty of oligarchy in eastern Europe as well, but they are witnessing what is happening in the “progressive” West and are taking notes.

      The Western people are taking notes as well and increasingly leaving the US.

      Youtube is full of such stories. This one is about an American that moved to Russia but there are similar videos of Americans moving to Poland, Serbia, Hungary… and all list pretty much the same reasons.

  19. d74 says:

    Thank you, TTG.
    I didn’t know Snyder, his works, his academic credentials and especially his profound originality.

    On second thought, I would carry on consistently not knowing him. Difficult task, almost beyond my reach, but there is so much at stake that my endeavors are worthwhile.
    God forbid, I’ll do it.

    Good day for all.

  20. mcohen says:

    Snyder I’d right

    Russia is done.The East goes to China.The west to europe
    Only the industrious survive.That is the law of the jungle

  21. aleksandar says:

    I wanted to analyze and comment but it’s useless,all this op-ed is propaganda.

    Few points :
    Seems that this “emeritus professor” knows nothing about banderists and so on who killed 100 000 Poles and 30 000 Jews in Volhynie.
    They were so barbaric and sadistic that German generals in High Command East (OKWO) asked Hitler to remove them from east front !

    Ukrainians were on both side.
    But already divided.
    Easterners in Red Army.
    Westerners in Wehrmacht.

    From a military point of view Ukraine has lost this war day one.
    Another opinion is only ” I want to believe “.

    If this is the best analysis that can be done in USA, well, you are in troubles.
    Remind me of Lake Balaton orange trees.

    Defeat in Ukraine is USA’s historical chance for normality, to restore the Republic and be again USA I liked so much fifty years ago.

  22. Lars says:

    A lot of people know that it is imperative for Russia to withdraw from Ukraine, especially in Europe and a lot of action is now underway to make it so. Regarding nuclear weapons, at least the Russian military know that using them would be suicidal. They can’t even rely on all of it working. I see a lot of what I refer to as “flawed event calculus”. Certain events are given more weight than warranted and by no means predict the future. The late Sen. McCain once referred to Russia as a gas station with nuclear weapons. That is still a rather apt description, regardless of all the efforts to deny it and as I have already stated, the nuclear threat is not all that credible, since once you start, you have no idea how it will end. What Russia and its apologists omit is that Ukraine today is a very different country, which means that conventional thinking is obsolete. All that Russia will accomplish will be to over time substantially make NATO much stronger militarily and Russia will over the same time find less and less funding to compete. They have a long history of wasting human capital and they are having trouble generating the monetary kind, a lot due to the kleptocracy that they have created and the Russotrolls avoid acknowledging.

  23. Jovan P says:

    Mr Timothy Snyder, please sell me a bridge so I can jump off it after reading your text…

    Russia is a new state, remembering 27 million fallen Russians and Soviets is ”intimidation abroad” (maybe he could watch the movies ”Come and see”), there was ,,consensus” that the second strongest army in Europe would fall in days, Russia should lose ”for the sake of the world”…

  24. F&L says:

    In case you think you’ve seen it all.

    Bus Plunges off Bridge in St Petersburg, Russia (30 seconds).

    • TTG says:


      Just a drunken bus driver, not surprising at all.

      • Peter Williams says:

        TTG typically jumps to the stereotype.

        “The bus driver was detained by police. His wife was quoted by Russian media as saying that managers forced him to work a morning shift after working for 20 hours the previous day and getting virtually no rest.”

  25. leith says:

    Like others here, I started following Colonel Lang’s committee of correspondence back in 2003 when he was a lone voice arguing against the invasion of Iraq. I agreed with him then just as I strongly disagree now with the Kremlin’s so-called “pre-emptive invasion” of Ukraine. The phony Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld stated reasons for the invasion were clearly fabricated. Just as Putin’s stated reasons for his occupation of Ukraine are also bullshit. Cooked up by RT, Sputnik and the Kremlin’s web brigades as a firehose of falsehoods.

    We are a long way from the war in Ukraine but there are lots of exploding heads in our discussions here, and elsewhere. Some are condemning one side’s historical atrocities of 80 years ago while forgetting other atrocities of the same era. And implying that those past crimes justify the cruel barbarity of using “aircraft-carrier killer” cruise missiles now against civilian apartment buildings. It appears to be a mentality where rational thought and moral principles are thrown aside. Apparently, we all have not learned the lessons of history and don’t know any better in the 21st Century than we did in the past.
    The laws of war are not just for one side in a conflict. Humanity should also apply to all sides.

    But instead, there is a poisoned atmosphere where partisanship prevails over principle. The suffering won’t stop until that is reversed. Wars and war crimes unfortunately will never end. Haters like Bandera and Putin will always be with us. How does the world get rid of these cannibalistic psychopaths? Humans should be smart enough to overturn the kaleidoscope of horror eventually. Could it happen in the adulthood of our great-grandchildren? Or in their great-grandchildren’s? Probably not! What is the answer?

  26. drifter says:

    A few random thoughts: TTG is moving in the right direction by not replying to commenters. This gives space for commenters to interact. In addition, TTG can “improve” the commentary biome by focusing on the wars – Ukraine, Gaza and Syria. A successful blog is not about what interests the blogger at the end of the day. It’s about what interests its readers.

    • TTG says:


      I have neither the time nor inclination to respond to all comments. Besides, that’s not what this committee of correspondence was ever about. This blog and its predecessor have always addressed an eclectic range of subjects. It will continue to do so, but if anyone else, besides Barbara Ann would like to broach something new as a guest writer, I’m open to that.

      • drifter says:

        Yeah, whatever. Give your best shot in your original post. Then give your best shot in your next post. Focus on the wars.

    • leith says:

      TTG –

      Please keep up with occasional posts on space, boats, cyberstuff, etc. And anything else you choose. It’s good to take a break from the wars going on in the world.

      • TTG says:


        You can count on that. Commenting on nothing but war would bore the shit out of me.

      • leith says:

        TTG – I miss Colonel Lang’s occasional posts on Virginia Ham and other delicacies also.

        Fred – How about a post on stone crab or red snapper or conch fritters?

        • Fred says:


          They would be much better subjects than my migraine inducing HOA troubles. No home internet due to the space aliens, or magnetic storms, so might be tomorrow.

  27. Jim. says:

    I Read today Russian Army ..Armored//Launched Biggest Offensive Attack in Two
    Years With Effct…But Last Weeks News Said Russian Had Few Armored Vehicles…Reaorting to Russians on Motorcycles Being Destroyed By the Ukraine
    Army…That Half Of Russian NK Missles Are Useless and Defective..And That The
    German Green Party Was Creating Documents for Ukrainian Men of Military Age…So Thet Could Not Be Drafted Back to Ukraine…

    I Read That All Those American Weapons Were on a Very Slow Train Through Poland..
    and Must Be falling out Open Doors…Hey Panco…Big Solar Blast Today Hitting This weekend May Take out Most GPS…and Comms…Maybe Tornados in Europe..
    To Give Toto a Ride…Not Your Normal Times..For Beach Combing..

  28. mcohen says:

    Normally i never read the links just the summary by ttg.I was intrigued by the authors pedigree and decided to read the article.

    These statements stand out

    Abroad, this is intimidation
    Russia can lose
    Lend lease
    Today’s Russia is a new state
    A strange American conceit.
    Russians who want democracy and the rule of law will say……

    There is tension in the air
    Stamping of feet
    Said the eagle to the bear
    When do we eat

    Black crows have gathered
    In field and grove
    Vultures are sighted
    Circling high above

    Over the horizon
    The clash of armor
    Fiery flames have risen
    Coming closer with a roar

    To the awaiting scavengers
    Go the spoils of war
    But there are no victories
    At deaths door

  29. John Minehan says:

    Russia, despite fighting both doggedly and cleverly, never overcame several basic problems that doom its efforts in a war as prolonged as this:

    1) the Russians only really have two LoCs into the contested regions;

    2) the Russians have traditionally had bad logistics and they have not improved;

    3) they are not that popular in the land they sought to liberate; and (finally)

    4) they do not have the Strategic IMINT or HUMINT to make a Recon-Strike Complex work at the Operational level (despite their proven success with Recon Fires Complexes at the Tactical level.

    The Russians probably will lose based on these factors.

    On the other hand, Ukraine (as a nation-state) can still lose since they have a lower population, greater loses and an increasingly unpopular draft.

    However, signs of resiliency can be seen in the fact that Zelenskyy has not been assassinated, despite active Russian efforts.

    Further, a Russian victory may tend to prove an adage the Russians attributed to Alexander the Great during their war there: “You can conquer Bactria but you can’t hold it.”

  30. mcohen says:

    Hi would mind explaining and maybe expanded in easy words no.4.

  31. John Minehan says:

    Back in 2003, we turned the lights off in Iraq in Iraq in about 3 days as we had information from Iraqi expatriates and a lot of technical intelligence gathering assets’. With those, we targeted the powerplants and also took out a lot of their Air Defense.

    Two years later, the Russians are still trying to do that. Some people have said they are fighting a war of attraction but it would have been better to do all of that early 9and keep doing it if needed).

    The Russians do Tatical things well with Fires, but have not really set up a campaign plan as we did in Bosnia, Kosovo, Desert Stor, and OEF-1 and OIF-1.

  32. Peter VE says:

    “the weakening of international legal order generally”
    I’d like to show some examples of that “international legal order”.
    That is the order which bombs Embassies (Damascus ’24, Belgrade ’99).
    That is the order which occupies large areas of Syria to the benefit of Tahrir al-Sham.
    That is the order which overthrows governments, without any plan to rebuild (Somalia; Iraq, Libya, etc, etc.).
    That is the order which sets up an underground terror organization to push Western Europe into greater fear of the East (Operation Gladio)
    The more the current “international legal order” is weakened, the better for the vast majority of people on the planet.

  33. John Minehan says:

    The current events in Ukraine remind me of the Kaiserschlacht or Ludendorff Offensive in the Spring of 1918: a final effort to win before American assistance defeats the attacking force.

    The Russian offensive will weaken them but can’t succeed.

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