The War in Ukraine

It’s been a while since my last post. A lot has happened, I have had a lot of thoughts that ended up not being written down. In any case, there is a war about a nightly train ride to the east of here and it is shaking the world and putting into doubt a lot of the things we thought were firm anchors to the world we live in. Below will be a collection of my thoughts throughout this time, updated from time to time.

There will also be quotes out of the book WAR by Sebastian Junger.

This seems to be first war shown explicitly on social media. Maybe that is because I didn’t pay enough attention in other wars, but it certainly feels like this time around social media is influencing how people think and how real this is. I include LinkedIn (possibly my main social media channel these days) in that.

It is a weird mix of virtue signaling and people really making a difference by vouching for relevant charities worth donating for and by illustrating how they deal with the refugees they have taken into their homes.

The Ukrainians themselves are intelligently using social media to raise awareness among the general public with Zelensky himself as well as other key figures such as the Klitschko brothers appearing on all channels. They even apparently succeed in getting foreign nationals to fight for their cause. Possibly because our well-fed, content generation hopes to instill some sense into their lives.

“Combat isn’t where you might die — though that does happen — it’s where you find out whether you get to keep on living. Don’t underestimate the power of that revelation. Don’t underestimate the things young men will wager in order to play that game one more time.”

Sebastian Junger, WAR

That’s all fair and square, but what did make me throw up in my mouth is the bullshit response by many companies that „stand with Ukraine“. Really? How? I didn’t see many companies actually disclose the amounts they were donating. Yes, many stopped doing business there (although there is nuance here, and I think companies provided basic services and food to the Russian people have a very good case for continuing to do what they do) – however, I am not sure how putting a Ukraine flag on your social media profile is helping the people of Ukraine win this war.

Elon Musk, who has been an annoying human being at times prior to the war (disregarding the rule of law, generally being awful on social media), in this case didn’t make a big deal out of actually helping for real: by sending Starlink (satellite internet) receivers to the Ukraine that will allow ongoing connections even when mobile phone networks are destroyed by the Russians.

“War is life multiplied by some number that no one has ever heard of.”

Sebastian Junger, WAR

For the first time in my (conscious) life a nuclear holocaust appears plausible. Our cosy lives are suddenly in danger. While the beginning of Covid made petty things of daily life relative, the concept of entire civilizations wiped out due to an escalating war takes it to an exponentially different level.

Who cares about your career, your salary, your real estate investment? Why plan for the future if there is a risk that nuclear or even conventional war is coming to your country?

To some extent, or maybe to a major extent, this war can be traced back to us exploiting the planet. Without the gas and oil money Russia receives from us, there would have been no financing the war machinery and the establishment of a corrupt elite. Since apparently our government is afraid to ask any kind of real sacrifice from the German people, we can continue to heat our apartments to 23° Celsius in Winter and we even get subsidies on the petrol we put in our cars.

I find this incredible.

I also feel, but of course, I may be completely wrong, that you could indeed ask people to reduce consumption (or just ration it for them) if you explain it to them the right way and if you track success. (i.e. „Due to reduced consumption of gas and petrol, our weekly purchases of gas/oil from Russia fell by x% to €y million…“). I may be completely naïve here.

If there is any positive spin to this war, it is that the Western world has finally understood (or seems to) that we need to get off of fossil fuels way faster than we thought viable.

Possibly another positive outcome is that NATO suddenly has purpose again, and that Europe and the West seems to stand together as one. For now. Fingers crossed.

It has also led to Germany rethinking its military spending and finding another €100 billion to invest in upgrading the Bundeswehr. It has been pretty clear for a long time that this country would have been unable to properly defend itself, but suddenly, caught with its pants down, we find the will to upgrade. Never waste a good crisis.

However, there is one aspect, that has not been discussed publicly yet:

In a scenario where Trump takes the US presidency again in 2024, in which France votes for Le Pen this year and in which the Brits continue to distance themselves from Europe…in a scenario like that, having its own nuclear weapons suddenly makes a lot of sense for Germany. (The US, UK and France are the only NATO powers with access to nuclear weapons to my knowledge)

Not having any in this case means there is no nuclear deterrent to Russia for Germany and other parts of central Europe.

I think this is the time to point out that the Swiss apparently have enough bunkers for about 100% of their people, Germany for less than 1%. Then again, do you want to live in a post-all-out-nuclear war world?

We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.

George Orwell (probably, maybe Winston Churchill)

So if a country provides another country with military equipment, such as tanks – as some Eastern European countries are to the Ukraine – how does that work?

  • Is the Ukraine supposed to give the remaining tanks back, when the war is over?
  • Is there a contract, that details what is handed over and under what conditions? (i.e. don’t use it to attack someone else other than Russia)
  • Is there a language barrier on the operational side? I.e. are there instructions, levers, you-name-it, that are labeled in the native language of the original owner country? How will the Ukrainian army deal with that?
  • How do you get the materials there? How do you get …say 100 tanks… to the Ukraine? By train?
  • Do you provide fuel with it as well? I am pretty sure that’s a key resource and I am guessing these things are gas-guzzlers.

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