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Mar 13, 66 tweets

How to defeat Putin?

Many recognise the importance of coercive measures against Russia and necessity to give it a way out

And yet, some presume that the way out should be given to Putin to force him to negotiate. That's a disastrous idea. There's no way he can roll back now🧵

Consider negotiations between Russian and Ukraine. They didn't reach any agreement, and they couldn't. Why? Look whom Putin sent as a chief of delegation - Medinsky. Medinsky is a MGIMO professor who wrote the book on greatness of Russia and was appointed a Minister of Culture

If Putin was aiming for negotiations he would send someone from intelligence/security apparatus. But instead he sent Medinsky, a cheap propagandist with no authority and no influence, who's looked down upon in Kremlin. Putin doesn't aim for negotiations or for peace with Ukraine

That's understandable. Putin tried to launch a Special Operation, but triggered a small victorious war. And nothing is more dangerous for any Russian regime than a defeat in such a war. Historically speaking, Russian regimes usually fell a result of losing small victorious wars

Nothing was more detrimental for Soviet mythos than the defeat in Afghanistan. Materially speaking Soviet losses were not *that* huge, and Russia itself wasn't endangered. But the shame of defeat delegitimised the regime. In 1989 Soviet troops left Afghanistan, in 1991 USSR fell

Defeat in Russo-Japanese War killed Russian Empire. Again, Russia fought with smaller and weaker enemy and could continue the war until Japan runs out of people. But defeats from small and presumable inferior enemy were so shameful that Imperial mythos was destroyed. Empire fell

Muscovy also died as a result of a small victorious war. In late 17th c Russia was ruled by the regent Sofya with her lover prince Golitsyn. They were both Western-educated, fluent in Latin, but influenced primarily by the Catholic culture. At this age Russia was deeply polonised

Sofya was a regent ruling in the name of her two younger brothers who were co-Tsars: Ivan and Peter. To increase his grasp over Muscovy, Sofya's boyfriend Golitsyn decided to finish off Crimean Khanate and amassed a huge Western-trained army for this new conquest

With his huge army Golitsyn marched south, towards Crimea for the first time. But Tatars burnt the steppe, harassed the supply lines. Golitsyn suffered no major defeat but had to turn back. His authority was shaken, he started getting death threats, assassination attempts

Second expedition failed, too. They reached the Wall of Crimea couldn't take it and turned back. Technically it wasn't a defeat. He got some formal concessions from Khan. Sofya & Golitssyn presented it as a victory. They showered army & widows of dead soldiers with lavish awards

The same year, Sofya's brother, a co-Tsar Peter made a coup. Although the military were showered with awards by Sofya, in critical moment nobody stood in here defence. Muscovy died and Russian Empire emerged. It was far more Protestant and North European than the previous regime

Russian regime can survive poverty, stagnation, political repressions. But it can hardly survive defeat in a small victorious war. A Tsar absolutely can rule, while being hated (like Peter I). But he can't rule without being respected. And a shameful defeat destroys any respect

At this point Putin is trapped. His initial assumptions when attacking Ukraine were wrong. Foreign Department of FSB (N5) lied to him, telling whatever he wants to here. He though Ukraine will break quickly but it didn't. And yet, Putin can't turn back. If he does, he's doomed

It's not an accident. That's a systemic factor. Russian regime suffers from subordinates reporting only good and pleasant news to the ruler. When there were technical problems with construction of Akkuyu nuclear plant in Turkey, dozens of higher-ups knew. Nobody told it to Putin

It is nice to be nice. Every courtier wants to be associated with nice and pleasant stuff. Nobody wants to be punished for delivering a bad message (happens all the time). So courtiers were pushing each other but nobody stepped forward and reported. Everyone knew except for Putin

That's why intelligence chief was trembling and stuttering. He knew. He just couldn't tell. Putin already made up his mind and who are you to object. You can't even provide info you have, because that would be unpleasant to the supreme leader. And you don't want to displease him

Putin took a (wrong) decision to invade Ukraine because his was misinformed by FSB who aimed to please him. Those guys are already under house arrest. But decision can not be overturned. Moreover, some Russian military decisions suggest Putin is still in positive feedback loop

But now Putin can't turn back. It's too late. Some fantasise that he can be given concessions which he can present as a victory to his people. That's wishful thinking. First, people are not *that* stupid. Golitsyn tried to play this trick too, but in vain. Still lost the power

Second, jingoist propaganda is very successful. Z-message has a wide popular support which will be only increasing until a catastrophic fall in life quality starts being visible all over Russia. That's another feedback loop, Putin launched Z and now will be pressured to Z forward

Thirdly and most importantly. Invasion of Ukraine is no accident. It's the apotheosis of Putinist ideology. Which is called in Russia "победобесие" - literally "being possessed by the Victory". Which means victory in WWII. Consider the Immortal Regiment that priest talked about

Immortal regiment is a state sanctioned march happening yearly. People march with flags, state symbolics and portraits of their kin who died in WWII. Looks sweet and innocent. But it conveys a powerful necrophilic message which is sublimely conveyed to the public consciousness

First message is that Russia saved the world from the Nazi military machine (which it fostered for years, but who cares) and thus everyone is in eternal debt before Russia. Second, is that Russia is stronger than anyone and absolutely can repeat WWII success - "можем поворить"

Putinist ideology is dualist. The dark force of Nazism fights against force of light, Russia. Hence, anyone who objects Russia *now* is Nazi. Finns, Poles and ofc Ukrainians. Having Ukrainian identity is itself a proof of your Nazism. If were not Nazi, you'd just become Russian

That's a paradoxical twist of Putinist ideology which is not well understood abroad. Any minority culture which is regarded as a threat to the homogeneity of Russian world will be declared:

1. fake
2. treasonous
3. Nazi

Russia is the force of light, so those defying it are Nazi

In 2020 Putin introduced new amendments into Article 68 of Constitution which called the Russian language the tongue of the "state-forming ethnicity".

Many minorities objected against this obvious move to make Russia a Russian ethnostate. They were immediately accused of Nazism

This blogpost reflects this logic. Tatar activists objected against the idea of ethnic Russians being a state forming ethnicity introduced into the constitution. It proves these minority activists are Nazi. Anti-Nazism is embracing Russian ethnostate, while Nazism is defying it

Победобесие, the cult of WWII is now a tool legitimising Russian ethnonationalism. Russia should be the Russian ethnostate which has the right to expand limitlessly. Russia is inherently the anti Nazi force, so those resisting it or minorities who keep their identity are all Nazi

In Putinist worldview, the war is all fun and games. We defeated Nazism, ergo we can defeat anyone, we are just superior. The level of warmongering insanity in modern Russia is unbelievable. It's conveyed as loving memory of WWII, but in fact it's all preparation for a new war

A darker aspect of this campaign is heavy involvement of children. If you google победобесие you'll find tons of images with children being used in all this warmongering propaganda. Westerners don't quite understand the deeply necrophilic and militaristic agenda of Putinism

In modern Russian discourse, Russia is the anti-Nazi force and any ethnic minority which didn't fully assimilate is either apparently Nazi or potentially Nazi which just didn't show their colours. If you were not Nazi, you'd just abandon your Nazi roots and de-Nazify = Russify

Denazification = Russification, because being minority, like Ukrainian is Nazi. If you speaks Ukrainian, it proves your Nazism. If you criticise policies of Moscow, you are 100% Nazi. If you resist its territorial expansion, no further proof is necessary - Nazi without any doubt

That's the context of Putin's invasion of Ukraine which foreign analysts totally miss. For two decades he's being maxing warmongering and using WWII to justify extreme Russian ethnonationalism and imperial expansion. Z-campaign isn't an aberration but the essence of Putinism

I wouldn't blame these analysts too much. Many twists of Putinist ideology, such as the implicit message that any minority is Nazi (tainted, criminal) but that they can redeem themselves through de-Nazification (=Russification) are just too counterintuitive for the Western mind

Z-campaign isn't an aberration. It's completely logical. Putin tried to rush Z, but failed because he was misinformed by his own intelligence who didn't want to upset him with bad news. Any "deescalation" is an insane idea. He'll regroup and rush Z again, but now much stronger

There'll be no better chance to defeat Putin than now. Because now he rushed Z and miscalculated. This miscalculation created a point of failure which should be exploited fully. Because if it isn't, Putin will just regroup and ally with China. Next war will be way worse than this

Can China substitute the West as Russian trade partner? It depends. In short perspective - no. Reorientation takes time and Putin has no time is Russian economy is sanctioned fully. But if Putin is allowed to regroup and stays in power, he'll get sufficient time to complete it

Right now Russian economy is already surviving systemic shock. Why? Because the scale of conflict was unexpected. They didn't expect such an escalation and thus didn't prepare. So now Russia is on a brink of collapse. But next time it will prepare better and be much more robust

Any sincere and unironic talk about the "deescalation" reflects extremely short term thinking. Caring only about what happens here and now and how to minimise immediate threats. Unfortunately, it ignores more long-term consequences of deescalation which will be detrimental

The best formula of institutional evolution is:

1. Scare them
2. Don't finish them

It skyrockets the chance that they evolve. Right now the regime is very scared. So they're working fervently on integration with China and "deescalation" will buy them time they need desperately

Conflict with Russia seems suboptimal. But avoiding necessary conflicts is not avoiding but just delaying. Why would you do that? Putin's miscalculation makes regime super fragile *for now*. Which means that's the best time for escalation ever. Next time they'll be more robust

That's important, because "deescalation" and defeating Putin are two different goals that require two different strategies. Deescalation means don't threaten him in any way and give him as much as possible in a hope he won't ask for more. Unfortunately that's all wishful thinking

That's how Hitler negotiated with Chamberlain in in 1938. Hitler demanded Sudetenland and that put Europe on a brink of war. Notice the body language. Hitler desires deescalation, he'll humiliate himself for it, cuz in case of escalation, he's doomed. He isn't fully prepared yet

Chamberlain wasn't some irresponsible warmonger. He was a reasonable leader with clear priority to save his nation from the horrors of a new war. Thus he deescalated. He gave reasonable concessions to Hitler and claimed he gave Britain 'Peace for our time". You may sleep quietly

Chamberlain wanted peace and deescalated. And that's how London looked in a couple of years, after German bombings. Concessions Chamberlain made increased Hitler's standing in Germany. Deescalation gave Hitler time to regroup and build up his war machine. He became much stronger

Why would I bring up Hitler, you may ask? Because in one crucial aspect Hitler's and Putin's strategy are similar:

1. Manufacture crisis
2. Get concessions and roll back
3. Increase your standing in the country, become stronger
4. Scale up and repeat

It's not gonna end now

Consider sizes of countries where Putin waged his wars in chronological order:

1. Chechnya, 1999 - 1 million
2. Georgia, 2009 - 4 million
3. Syria, 2015 - 17 million
4. Ukraine, 2022 - 44 million

He's scaling up and quickly. Each time he chooses a bigger prey. So far it worked

Let's introduce some game theory. You know Prisoner's Dilemma? Two criminals are arrested but there's little evidence except for their potential testimonies against each other. If they both keep silence, they receive small sentences. If they both confess, they receive long ones

But if one confesses, and another is silent then the traitor will be released and a true friend buried under jail. Thus the worst scenario ever is that you cooperate and they don't. And vice versa. Nothing brings such big payout as betrayal of the one who will cooperate

It shows asymmetry in payouts regarding human cooperation. Will you betray or stay true, be hawk or a dove? What would be best pragmatically speaking? Paradoxically, hawkish strategy is never more successful than with doves. Betrayal is most profitable when other side cooperates

Putler strategy is entirely built on assumption that the other side will play dove. If I *know* they play dove and will cooperate, it means I maximise my profit by playing hawk. I manufacture conflict, they play dove, I get a maximum payout. Then I scale up. And again. And again

In other words, Putler strategy is totally rational from the standpoint of game theory. It's a payout maximising strategy built on assumption that you guys are cowards. If I *know* you'll play dove, I'll be constantly manufacturing conflicts and scaling up to get more concessions

If I know the algorithm the other side is using, then I can hack it. I can devise my own to maximise my profits, based on what I know of their algorithm. And if your algorithm is "play dove no matter what" then the hack would be "play hawk no matter what". That's just game theory

What does it mean pragmatically speaking? First of all, it means that showing your algorithm, is a huge mistake. If you show it, they'll work on hacking it. And yet, how can they know if what you showed is true? How can they be sure? Only if you always act very predictably

If you act predictably, it means the other side will be quite sure about what your algorithm look slikes and able to hack it more effectively. Besides, high level of confidence of your algorithm (which is a result of your predictability) allows them to pursue risker strategies

In this context, many "voices of reason" regarding the current war sound pretty dumb. If we translate this message into game theory language it'd be:

"They want to play hawkishly. That's insane. Acting hawkish is risky, so we must demonstrate we will play doves no matter what"

Acting predictable is safe only when you believe the other side is not actively trying to hack your algorithm. But what if it does? Then it's the other way around. First, they can hack your strategy more effectively. If you were less predictable, it would be harder to hack you

Secondly, the other side *are humans too*. They're also afraid, anxious, concerned. Pursuing risky strategies is always somewhat scary and usually you need high confidence to do it. Why do they have this confidence? Because they're very sure you'll play dove

If they thought there's even 20% risk you'll escalate quickly brutally and very hawkishly it would greatly diminish chance they'd do anything risky. In a sense, your unpredictability is a shield against a malevolent will that is actively trying to hack you

Deescalation is insane because it shows you are super predictable dovy dove. And even if he had some concerns about playing hawkish before, now you eliminated them and showed it's safe. So next time he'll play even hawkier hawk - and that's rational. You just showed him it's safe

That's exactly how WWII started. Allies played doves and were super conflict avoidant. As Chamberlain pointed out it would be stupid to engage into "a quarrel in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing" (Czechoslovakia). So he played dove and chose peace

As a result of deescalation Hitler concluded:

1. I know what their strategy is
2. Their strategy is to always play dove

Ergo. I can hack it and get huge payouts with no risk, because they're predictable cowards

"I saw my enemies in Munich, and they are worms" he told

Allies thought they're behaving smart and rational and thus are very safe. Consider a French slogan "Faut-il mourir for Dantzig?". Should we be dying over Dantzig? It just makes no sense to escalate a conflict over Eastern European land we know nothing about

And yet, rational and responsible behaviour of Allies persuaded Hitler that they're predictable doves and he can be very confident about it. So he maximised his payouts by playing hawkish and scaling up. And when at some point Allies didn't back off he was very surprised

Hitler tried to maximise his payout. He maximised it by playing hawkish because he was 100% sure they're gonna play doves. And he was sure because all the previous years they'd been working super hard playing doves and persuading him they'll play dove no matter what

Allies believed dove signals they're giving were safe. But they were super destructive. The more they projected dove behaviour, the more rational it was for Hitler to maximise hawkishness game theory-wise and scale up. That's how WWII happened and that's how WWIII will. End of🧵

Since it's gonna be difficult to navigate through my older threads on Twitter, I'll soon start publishing them on my substack in a more readable format


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