🧵Two weeks ago, as Vladimir Putin was declaring his vicious war on Ukraine, he called the West an "Empire of Lies." In fact, the Kremlin's disastrous move was itself rooted in lies, misconceptions and giant lapses of expertise & intelligence. 1/ Image
2/ Historians will know more about the decision-making process behind the tragic events. To date, this essay by @andrewsweiss & @eugene_rumer best captures Putin's motivation for going into this war. Unfortunately, it turned out to be prophetic. carnegieendowment.org/2021/11/12/ukr…
3/ War preparation was conducted in high secrecy in order to avoid leaks. Instead of a rigorous interagency process, the whole war planning was reduced to a clandestine operation developed by just a handful of people in uniform and the president himself. economist.com/by-invitation/…
3a/ Side note: given the secrecy, accuracy of 🇺🇸 intelligence community's predictions (even the public part of it spread through media and official statements) deserves credit, and explains why USG was so reluctant to share sensitive details that could endanger sources & methods.
4/ It looks like even during the planning of the military campaign, there weren't enough generals able to ask "what if" questions that could help to do serious contingency planning and get ready for other scenarios than just a speedy victory of the Russian troops.
5/ Needless to say, the preparation to the Western sanctions response was even more flawed since Putin has kept his economic team entirely in the dark. This @FT piece by @maxseddon & @polinaivanovva accurately captures relaxed mood before the invasion. ft.com/content/a2eaba…
6/ Since 2014 various "sanctions task forces" in the 🇷🇺 government (first led by Igor Shuvalov, then by Anton Siluanov & Andrey Belousov) claimed that they have looked into all possible sanctions scenarios, including Iran & North Korea, and did contingency planning accordingly.
7/ It appears that Putin and his war cabinet have developed a false sense of security by the mere existence of these counter-sanctions plans. Nobody did a proper sanity check, while the economic team looked at doomsdays scenarios as "high impact & nearly zero probability."
8/ Vested interest around import-substitution (think Sergey Chemezov etc.) might be another factor explaining why Putin was lulled by the narrative that 🇷🇺 economy is nearly sanctions-proof, and all it takes is just throwing some more money to fix a few outstanding issues.
9/ As a result, neither the war plan, nor the plan to address the economic fallout of possible Western sanctions was rigorously discussed and carefully vetted. The decision has never been run through a "Slepakov test," to use Russian officials' slang.
10/ The other element of Putin calamitous decision to go to war was a long-standing paradox of the Russian foreign policy: the Kremlin has a more nuanced understanding of China or the Arab World than of its closest neighbors in the post-Soviet space, especially Ukraine.
11/ The reasons are many. To start with, the Russian Empire has never perceived Ukraine as a "colony," and thus has never developed a discipline to study Ukraine as "the Other." When Putin wrote that Russians and Ukrainians are "one people," he actually meant it.
12/ These problematic assumption has led to a giant flaw in the Kremlin's understanding of Ukraine. Hence 🇷🇺 diplomats & spies who didn't bother to learn the language or study the culture, and policymakers operating on stereotypes.
13/ Back in 2014 my former @kommersant colleague Liza Surnacheva (@Schroeding) & I have looked into 🇷🇺 chain of command dealing with fallout of Maidan, and didn't find a single decision-maker with a sophisticated expertise on Ukraine. kommersant.ru/doc/2416461
14/ The level of Ukraine expertise in Russia documented by @Schroeding in 2014 was terrifying, and it hasn't improved since. If anything, it only got worse. kommersant.ru/doc/2470379
15/ Clandestine nature of Putin's decision-making on national security and deplorable state of Russian expertise on Ukraine were among factors contributing to ruinous decision to start this ugly war - a tragedy for Ukraine, and a catastrophe for Russia.

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More from @AlexGabuev

Nov 18
The Black Sea Grain Initiative is extended, and it's a very welcome development. However, the grain deal's implementation shouldn't be taken for granted as the Kremlin is still in quest for leverage against Ukraine and its global partners. Some brief thoughts. 1/ Image
2/ UN Secretary General @antonioguterres is spot on thanking @RTErdogan for keeping the grain deal together. Without Ankara's effort to put pressure on Moscow, BSGI could be dead by now.
3/ This excellent piece for @CEIP_Politika by Alexandra Prokopenko (@amenka) outlines why Turkey's role in keeping the deal afloat remains so crucial, and how disastrous war in Ukraine has given @RTErdogan a lot of leverage over Putin. carnegieendowment.org/politika/88349
Read 10 tweets
Nov 14
Russian newspaper @kommersant reports on 🇺🇸🇷🇺 secret talks in Ankara. According to Kommersant, Moscow is represented by SVR director Sergey Naryshkin. His usual U.S. counterpart is @CIA director William Burns.
The Russian side leaking information on secret meetings with Ambassador Burns has now become a standard Moscow practice, at least since his visit to Moscow a year ago.
Last time Burns and Naryshkin have most likely met was in July in Armenia. There might have been other offline contacts too, and there must have been some calls/virtual conveinings. reuters.com/world/europe/r…
Read 4 tweets
Nov 11
The liberation of Kherson by 🇺🇦 hasn't led to nuclear escalation, but the West cannot assume that Putin will be a rational actor on nukes if he sees his nation and regime under existential threat. Some thoughts for @TheAtlantic 1/ theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/…
2/ Senior US officials appear to be taking the risk of Russia using nuclear weapons in Ukraine deadly seriously amid the humiliating setbacks Russian forces have faced. The latest defeat is their withdrawal from the key city of Kherson.
3/ It's understandable why some people prefer to believe that there are no conditions under which the Kremlin would use nuclear weapons in Ukraine. After all, Moscow has repeatedly signaled red lines in this conflict and then failed to act when those lines are crossed.
Read 17 tweets
Nov 3
Putin's decision to pull the plug on the grain deal has predictably backfired. His U-turn shows how a disastrous foreign policy has given tremendous leverage to few remaining partners of 🇷🇺. But using it to stop the war or force the Kremlin to deescalate will be very hard. Image
2/ When walking away from the grain deal, Putin hoped to put more pressure on the West. Pushback from countries like Turkey was predictable, as we've discussed earlier, and this time around it worked faster than many have anticipated - including myself.
3/ It's very instructive to see how Putin talks about @RTErdogan's role in his decision to return to the grain deal. He outlines it during November 2 meeting with permanent members of 🇷🇺 security council. en.kremlin.ru/events/preside…
Read 16 tweets
Oct 29
Russia officially suspends the Istanbul grain deal for indefinite time. The Kremlin is desperately trying to put more pressure on Kyiv and the Western coalition supporting Ukraine. However, this audacious attempt to gain leverage may backfire against Moscow. 1/
2/ The official explanation of 🇷🇺 MinDef is that the latest 🇺🇦 attack on Sevastopol (aided by 🇬🇧, Russia claims) has targeted some Russian assets used for securing the food corridor, so the deal is suspended indefinitely. t.me/mod_russia/212…
3/ This claim is supported by @MID_RF in a separate statement. 🇷🇺 reps in the Istanbul joint coordination center overseeing transport of 🇺🇦 food have been notified that Moscow is no longer part of the deal. mid.ru/ru/foreign_pol…
Read 14 tweets
Sep 28
With 🇷🇺 looming annexation of more 🇺🇦 territory, and ongoing mobilization, we've entered the most dangerous phase of this war. Key reason is: Putin has boxed himself in, and will have no option but to keep going.🧵expanding on a recent @FT piece. ft.com/content/6d1f5a…
2/ Russian actions we see are part of Putin's Plan B for this war. It was shaped not by contingency planning by the Kremlin, but rather by collapse of Plan A ("I'll take Kyiv in 3 days") and situation on the ground. It includes conquest of Donbas & southern 🇺🇦 regions...
3/ ... and their annexation through sham referendums. The goal is to extend 🇷🇺 nuclear umbrella over those territories thus dramatically hiking the risk for Ukraine and its Western friends should Kyiv contemplate liberating those territories.
Read 19 tweets

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