2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine (Part 2)

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Putin is going full Moonie.

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(NY Times reprint via Yahoo)

In a town near Yekaterinburg, in central Russia, newly mobilized men march in place in their street clothes. “No machine guns, nothing, no clothes, no shoes,” says an unidentified observer. “Half of them are hungover, old, at risk — the ambulance should be on duty.”

“They are giving them, at best, basics and, at worst, nothing and throwing them into combat, which suggests that these guys are just literally cannon fodder,” said William Alberque, a specialist in the Russian armed forces and the director of the arms control program at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a research organization based in London.

In theory, the draft was of men in the reserves with military skills that needed refreshing, but in practice, it pulled in virtually anybody, critics said.

“The result of the mobilization is that untrained guys are thrown onto the front line,” Anastasia Kashevarova, a military blogger who has supported the war, wrote in an angry post, one of several such broadsides.

“Chelyabinsk, Yekaterinburg, Moscow — zinc coffins are already coming,” she added. “You told us that there would be training, that they would not be sent to the front line in a week. Were you lying again?”

Thus far, the Kremlin has tolerated criticism of the conduct of the war, while jailing or fining those who questioned any need for the invasion. But there were rumblings this past week that it should crack down on military critics, too.

“They have lost a lot of military specialists,” said Gleb Irisov, a Russian air force veteran and former analyst for state-run news agency TASS. “There is nobody to train these new people.”

Even before the war, Irisov and others noted, Russia struggled to train its two classes of about 100,000 conscripts every spring and fall, with reports of problems such as ill-fed troops.

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Title doesn’t really convey all the content; Fiona discusses more about what the war means in terms of conflict between Russia and the West than Elon being used to convey messages from Putin.

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I suspect, though, that the lesson Tedf Cruz will take from this isn’t “we need to be more tolerant.”

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Those who chose to ignore or failed to learn Russia’s dark history now suffer for it. Many in Russia are currently discovering the hard way that fascination with the “great past” is a surefire way to catastrophe.

Both operational defeats appear to be the result of Putin’s arrogance and incompetence. This is an important point. As Daniel Treisman and Sergei Guriev correctly note in their book, Spin Dictators: The Changing Face of Tyranny in the 21st Century, the image of a highly competent authoritarian leader is the modern dictator’s most powerful governance tool.

This image allows modern autocrats to manipulate not only the electoral majority but also the professionals called to serve the regime. However, this approach works only as long as the leader’s counterintuitive decisions, often taken against expert advice, prove to be at least partially successful or can be presented to the public as such. During the war against Ukraine the failures of unprofessional planning have been all too evident. As a result, the idea of a capable dictator is now in jeopardy.

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One of the core characteristics of fascism is the glorification of a mythical past. Putin’s problem in that regard is that Russia’s supposed “golden ages” depended on a vast uninformed and uneducated peasantry of all ages that believed a tyranny’s brutality was the only way to achieve national greatness. That isn’t the case anymore.

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I remember the Russian Olympics started with opening ceremonies that were going to be a journey through their history…and trying to think if they had anything that wasn’t too somber for such an occasion. I guess it might look different when you’re the tsar of the show, but still.

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Do war*-widows qualify for a pension?

*Special Military Operation-widows

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