Слава и здравие Украине, Слава і здоров'я Росії
Let us pray this ends soon, that peace talks proceed, and there is no escalation.
Out of a genuine appreciation for my readers, who humor me by reading my self-important perspectives (What’s the Venn diagram of people who can read the title and get the wordplay’s homage? I love everyone in it.) I will let you know there are three sections in this essay. The first is where I’ll weigh in on the discourse of the Ukraine-Russian conflict. It’s perfunctory, but I hate being misunderstood about as much as I hate being ignorant of, or incorrect about something. The second and third sections, which are more interesting, are where we will take look at the nature of conflicts between State and citizens, State and State, and how this distinction is beginning to blur before the power of certain technologies, in particular, encrypted, distributed networks.
1. None of this needed to happen.
“Не был в Америке, не знаю, как правильно делать рэп”
Kiev—sorry, I also say Bombay—is as I write this, allegedly surrounded. A dear friend of mine has a sweet, lovely, grandmother trapped in Mykolaiv. Thousands of people have died who were someone’s child, someone’s parent, someone’s best school friend…I was last in Ukraine this past November; Kiev is a cosmopolitan city in a beautiful country of not-overly-friendly but warmhearted folks, which has been my experience with Eastern Europeans in general, including Russians.
It’s easy to write-off one side or another. During the peak of the GWOT, this was done to Iraqis and Afghans. From 2015 through today, it’s done to Americans who voted for Trump. Currently, the dehumanization is done to Ukrainians and to Russians. Sunflower seeds this, Khokhol that. I think we can do without that.
NATO expansion is to blame but Ukraine deserves dignity.
Here is an article from the Los Angeles Times published in 2008. Here is a similarly titled LA Times piece from 2016. The tl;dr of both is that NATO, an alliance of the US & Western Europe (bridging the North Atlantic, you see) formed to counter the might of the Soviet Union, had informally pledged to commit to non-expansion in the last days of the USSR, provided that a re-unified Germany would join the organization and by extension greater Western Europe.
Following German reunification, and the collapse of the USSR, not only were former Warsaw Pact and Soviets invited to join NATO, to host NATO troops and NATO wargames (i.e. US troops and US military exercises), but NATO undertook so-called peacekeeping actions with US troops deployed near and attacking into places in Europe the Russians considered their sphere of influence.
A Westerner might quickly object here—are the Poles unimportant? Aren’t they sovereign? Why does Russia get to bully everyone, huh? Are you paid by Putin?
Sadly, I am not, though I say to governments of the world, hey! I’m Chappelle-able:
Kidding—the truth is the West is out of its goddamn mind on NATO expansion.
Or rather, it’s pursuing self-interest while overly-accustomed to getting its way. Given the US and European experience of the last thirty years in simply invading and policing wherever they please (even if it doesn’t end well or accomplish much), it’s understandable its leaders, foreign policy wonks and political expectations are badly trained. But the framework is still foolish.
Way back in 1823, US President James Monroe articulated what would become known as the Monroe Doctrine, which stated, more or less, “Stay Out of Here”, where ‘here’ is the entirety of the Western Hemisphere of our planet called Earth.
When Kennedy ran for office one issue was bipartisan; closing the Missile Gap:
He did not know what he was talking about, or lied—America had more missiles, and it knew exactly where to put them; in Europe & Asia pointed at Moscow.
The Monroe Doctrine was so fundamentally a part of the US view on territorial sovereignty in the Western Hemisphere that when the Soviets responded to US placement of Jupiter-class ICBMs in Turkey (seen as too slow for a response-deterrent, but fast enough for first-strike capability) by putting their own ICBMs in Cuba, Kennedy invoked the Doctrine to justify a US response, by way of an air and naval blockade. Imagine telling Monroe this, almost 140 years after.
Sovereign nations are like this, super-powers especially like this. They do not mean to bully smaller countries, but they do bully smaller countries just by dint of the size and scope of their borders, economies, and the stakes for their larger populations. Maybe all human life is equivalently valuable. But there are way more Chinese than Lichtensteiners, and more Chinese say in even EU affairs.
But isn’t this all about Putin’s ambitions for a renewed Russian Empire? Nope.
The Russian position is pre-Putin/Federation, consistent and yes, reasonable.
The US/NATO/Western position is that Russia, a major world economy and nuclear power, must tolerate ever closer US-led security elements & materiel closer and closer to its borders, while the US engages in everything from US State Department backed overthrow of democratically elected governments to the US Military bombing sovereign European nations’ capital cities in wartime.
This is 100% bonkers, and US Media caste, Journalist-American and Politician-American sentiments in recent days have clarified just how unreasonable it is. It’s the suggestion that Russia not guard its military and territorial sovereignty with anything approaching the same vigor to which the US feels entitled. The Russian State will simply never accept this, and indicated for literally decades, more and more frequently since 2004 and 2014, that anything like Ukrainian accession into NATO would mean extraordinary military actions on its behalf.
Do you love your Mom? Russians & Ukrainians sure do.
To any reader who’s lost their Mother, or has a poor relationship with them, I do apologize. But for us (fortunate) folks whose Moms are still with us and of course, the best Moms in the world (each one), there’s only one answer: Yes.
Why is that? Someone could offer up several rational reasons we love our Moms. She raised us. She literally fed us all our lives. She tucked us in at night, she read us stories, she healed our boo-boos, she was always there to give us a hug if we were afraid or upset. She tolerated us for a long stretch of heady teenaged years.
These are all true, but to even articulate them almost diminishes what a Mom is.
No, the real reason we love our Mom is because she’s our Mom and of course we love Mom. There’s no real conscious choice involved. That’s not how love works.
Nations are a little bit like Moms.
The median age in Ukraine is just a bit over forty. Slightly more than half of its population has either never known anything but an independent Ukraine, or were in their early 20s (quite an idealistic and happy time for most people) when Ukraine became independent. Plenty are significantly older, and remember truly horrible times within the Russian-led Soviet Union. It is perfectly reasonable for them to feel Ukrainian, not feel Russian and to resent orders that they must.
Here’s an old Ukrainian recruiting ad. No, not that one, an older one. Pre-Crimea.
The cover of Черный Бумер is just so cheesy. Gets me every time. That was replaced with the one which has been making the rounds again, post-Crimea.
Can you really fake this?
Consider how thousands of Afghan police and soldiers, died fighting the Taliban for the dream of a Westernized and Liberalized Afghanistan which rejected hardline Deobandi Islam. But when it came to Kabul, they’d had enough.
This is not how it’s gone down in Ukraine. They are actually fighting tooth and nail. But there’s a little bit of exaggeration—and this exaggeration tells us a lot.
2. Bits before atoms; propaganda matters.
In 1905, many nations sent observers to the Russo-Japanese war. I’m sure all my readers know, but one of the first mechanized modern multi-theater wars was between the Russian and Japanese Empires of Tsar Nicholas II and Emperor Meiji. It was to be the last major war fought without the use of military airplanes.
Like the infamous match-making lobbies of the Call of Duty franchise, each side was totally committed to intense propagandizing and counter-propagandizing. What is today a waning exercise in producing the most barbaric yawp out of all the others for young (and not-so-young) men, is a time-honored contest of pre-warfare and post-warfare. Besides the fascinating technological lure of balloon-based artillery direction and naval reconnaissance augmentation which would presage the World War’s dogfights and strategic bombing and strafing runs, it was noticed that Japan and Russia had different media approaches as well.
The Japanese kept everything buttoned up and didn’t allow access to the front lines. The Russians did not have a concept of OSINT (no one did, but they especially did not) and they allowed observers and journalists everywhere. The Japanese disposition to a “free press” produced astonishing and amusing anecdotes like the experience of Jack London. Eventually, the Japanese did too because it was demanded of them by their allies and funders in an interesting media history you can read about, and things like “UNITED STATES WAR DEPARTMENT, OFFICE OF THE CHIEF OF STAFF (MILITARY INFORMATION DIVISION). (1907) Reports of Military Observers Attached to the Armies in Manchuria During the Russo Japanese War, Vol. 3, 1907. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office.” can even today be requested and printed.
It’s engrossing and I highly recommend it.
One of the things that becomes apparent is how Japanese intelligence’s propaganda apparatus was miles ahead of the Russians. The Russians emanated so much information into everything from rumor to literal newspapers that the Japanese were always better prepared to meet them on the field. Meanwhile, the Japanese would communicate highly orchestrated news of their success and prohibit anything like coverage of their failures. They up-ended what had been a prevailing view of the inferiority of Asiatic races compared to European ones and delivered the Russian empire a humiliating, globally resounded defeat.
Why does that matter? Because this is approximately what all wars are:
This conflict is no different. What was the Ghost of Kyiv (how corny) fighter ace bullshit all about? How about all of those pictures of Ukrainian QTs with guns? Who is all of this stuff for? Who is the audience for tall tales of derring-do and pictures of smoke-show Slavic women with big machineguns? Bueller, Bueller?
In the last few days, what started out as American conservatives, politicians and the fat and slightly worse-paid ecosystem of ‘activists’ screeching about Biden caring about Ukraine’s borders but not America’s borders has sharply shifted to these same characters becoming incredibly strange bedfellows with the likes of:
Where to even begin? If you don’t know who that last guy is, stay that way.
It’s worth special mention, how idiotic many American conservatives have revealed themselves to be, once again.
If it weren’t enough for George Soros to be whom they’ve gotten in bed with, they couldn’t even stop to ask themselves why they’re so keen on NATO escalating against Russia anyway? What is it about NATO and the Western order they find so compelling? Do they think it stands for their values to any extent?
Even more egregious is the stuff coming out of Ukraine that gives the Libs pause:
Non-stop ethno-nationalism and implicit hu-white identity from the unofficial organs of shitlib Globalist American Empire for days now, but that video from the Azov Battalion prompted awkward discomfort for US regime boosters.
How did conservatives perceive it? Look at the quote tweets and replies. WOO!
American Conservatives trying anything approaching even one-tenth the level of nationalism and ethnic self identity that is at work in the Ukrainian project of US Empire, for America instead would find themselves raided & shot by the FBI.
The reason propaganda victories matter is because States which don’t have effectively infinite amounts of money and shit-tons of high-grade military materiel (which at the moment describes only the US and China) require assistance from their allies or at least cover from international interference.
Ukraine desperately needs the former, and Russia has enjoyed some of the latter.
The best strategy—and it’s one that seems to have begun to pay off—for Ukraine is to ramp up the sympathy and admiration of NATO and the EU’s people, politicians, and thus make The Right Thing To Do (i.e. the popular thing to do, for Western Liberal Democracies) to support them with lots of military aid, and severely punish Russia economically, hindering their own ability to wage war.
A side effect of this is that childish, comfortable, Western people with no skin in the game start cheerleading people dying—on both sides, by the way—but this is kind of a sideshow to things which matter (though it’s a great simulacra of mattering). This blogpost doesn’t matter either, by the way, but it’s self-aware.
But it comes at a cost.
The Ukrainians clearly winning the social media and PR game looks like a parallelism with Japan in the Russo-Japanese war. Here’s one such perspective:
The reality though is that there is no Ghost of Kyiv. There are a lot of dead people in Kiev, and most of them are Ukrainian military. Here is a thread (likely from a Russian State sock-puppet account by the way, so, uh if you know any one, please send me Rubles, okay?) documenting all the horse-puckey:
All forgivable, only Marvel-brain reddit types having fun, yeah? Wrong, because there’s another side-effect to propaganda besides insufferably childish fantasy.
The other consequence of bullshit about the Ukrainian chances of repelling the Russians and promises of Western aid is desperate and frightened young Ukrainian people believing it and putting their lives at risk for nothing. In a matter of days, this will be over, in Russia’s favor. Was anything going to change because middle-aged Moms, college kids, barkeepers, musicians, businessmen, etc. got themselves killed? And they have gotten themselves killed. What for?
3. Bits before atoms; banks are just databases.
Finally, Russia has been banned from SWIFT and NordStream2 is halted.
Rather than subject you to an Indian Bronson Mansplainer, SWIFT is the way interbank settlement happens nation to nation. It’s not super different from how domestic banks settle things on the backend when you wire money, or rather, use an online wallet app to do a cash transfer. NordStream2 is a massive pipeline taking oil from Russia to Europe, and in particular Germany. There’s a little coincidence where Putin’s old Stasi buddy Matthias Warnig is on the board of directors, and the Germans also decided to get rid of all of the nuclear plants.
But Russia is out of SWIFT! And the Germans have halted NordStream2! You can read all about it. As the above news stories show, a little bit like the Ukrainian fighter ace downing MiGs and Ilyushins over Kiev, reality is more complex. There’s likely going to be severe economic pain faced by the Russians, but not because energy markets will be taken away from them (or, for that matter energy use quickly switched over and reduced anywhere in Western Europe).
The real bite around the balls that Russia—every Russian—is now feeling, is this:
Ursula von der Leyen @vonderleyenSecond, we will paralyse the assets of Russia’s central bank. This will freeze its transactions. And it will make it impossible for the Central Bank to liquidate its assets. https://t.co/8H9eWkNCW9
Recall our lobster-fight picture.
There are already cash shortages. When markets open on Monday, there will be a slaughter, a liquidity crunch like they’ve never experienced at this level of development Russia has effectively ordered partial capital controls by forbidding foreigners from selling any ruble denominated securities. Russia, debanked.
‘Member these guys? from the old discourse? Was just a few days ago, I swear!
What Russia is experiencing is something that only Iran had experienced before at quite the same level, but mechanistically something that American and Canadian and other Western political dissidents have been dealing with for years now, from their allegedly free and open democratic governments.
There’s a Russian phrase that gained some new currency among right wing dissidents in recent years, ported into English as as ‘Who, Whom?’ As Lenin said:
Весь вопрос—кто кого опередит?
Kto–kogo? Who-whom? Who will knock over whom? All else, all other kinds of negotiations and assurances and re-assurances about intentions and the telos of policy, from NATO wargames in Poland to what’s acceptable to say or how to say it during protests in Canada so the bank will keep your accounts open—all of it is just ‘Who, Whom’. There’s no broader principle in play, only victor and victim.
But necessity is the mother of invention. Recall that everyone loves Mom.
When Ukraine was facing its own credit crunch, it leapt into action:
Ukraine / Україна @Ukraine2. Donate money to support the Ukrainian Army. You can transfer money to the following accounts: 🇺🇦 https://t.co/XXCiLUgMOv 🇺🇦 https://t.co/1Cr5CAEilv 3. Organize street protests in your city to support Ukraine and condemn Russian aggression
With Patreon! That Patreon campaign of course, was not long for this world:
IB | @getswype @lndian_BronsonThe government of Ukraine actually put up a Patreon to get financial assistance and then Patreon took it down what a time to be alive https://t.co/3c02pTJH7X
And Ukraine did remediate the lack of an ENS address: ukrainedefense.eth
Ukraine / Україна @UkraineStand with the people of Ukraine. Now accepting cryptocurrency donations. Bitcoin, Ethereum and USDT. BTC - 357a3So9CbsNfBBgFYACGvxxS6tMaDoa1P ETH and USDT (ERC-20) - 0x165CD37b4C644C2921454429E7F9358d18A45e14
What will Russia end up doing?
The way to think about this is that the requisite alignment production demanded by everything from a Walgreen’s employment of an apathetic checkout clerk, to a State’s recruitment of volunteer defense militia, is it happens by one or both of two types of information being transferred between parties:
If you can’t convince people to lay down their lives for a cause, you can pay them to do most of it. And if you can convince them to lay down their lives for it, payment isn’t actually so crucial—it’s usually a mix. But you have to do one or the other; without either why would someone do anything you want them to do? The only relationship left is compelling them to do it through force, i.e. slavery.
When you take away the ability to transmit digital information, be it ideas on the feed or numbers on a screen, you reduce the ability of a person to produce alignment with other people to the extent of their physical shouting on a soapbox and the cash in their wallet or the labor they can perform. That’s the power of deplatforming, and relative to what the non-deplatformed get while opposing them, it can mean utter destruction, in political contests and in war.
The coming future will have its own version of кто кого, something like: “Do you have root access? And does anyone else?”. Do you have the ability to transmit information to those who doubt a political candidate, or who are going to believe in a casus belli? Do you have the ability to send and receive funds with those interested in your success or who might be instrumental in executing it for you?
And, can anyone stop you?
To close, I offer up this prediction: more and more citizens of the Western world’s polities will begin exploring crypto as they find themselves in the position of being dissidents, even enemies of the State. In tandem, Russia, China, India, and the Middle East, Latin America and Africa more broadly will explore their own State-backed crypto liquidity solutions and their alternative international settlements architectures will accommodate crypto natively, not only Western government fiat. What might begin as CBDCs will ultimately usher in a world of multicurrency, multichain, non-third party custodial money as a universal standard because the costs of being custodial are too high for any individual or any State to bear, and financial Exit will become so easy for any entity.
Subscribe to Indian Bronson:
And share this piece!
And when justice is gone, there's always force. And when force is gone, there's always Mom—Hi Mom! So hold me, Mom, in your long arms. So hold me, Mom, in your long arms. In your automatic arms. Your electronic arms. In your arms. So hold me, Mom, in your long arms. Your petrochemical arms. Your military arms. In your electronic arms.