Russia Invasion Skeptics on the Eve of the War

Good to remember, as we come up to Russian expanded invasion +2 years. Reader JohnH (February 16th, less than a week before the “Special Military Operation”‘s commencement, ridiculing the thought that Russia was embark on further aggression:

The precisely predicted invasion took place just a anticipated today. And lo and behold, a splendid invasion it was. Shock and awe on a scale not seen since the much hyped Israeli attack on Iran in 2012.

Oh, wait! Neither happened, despite a constant beating of drums, pounding of chests, and gaudy colors of yellow journalism splashed across our screens and newspapers.


Now, like a charismatic doomsday cult leader, the propagandists will recalibrate their message to prepare the true believers for the true, ineluctable Armageddon awaiting humanity at a date TBD as needed.

But will it be enough to distract the public’s attention from the Afghan fiasco, omicron, inflation, and decreasing poll numbers of the current incumbents? We’ll, when all else fails, incumbents generally give it a shot!

Also on February 16th:

In reply to Not Trampis.

The last US ambassador to the Soviet Union, who was translator in the embassy during the. Cuban missiles crisis and an expert on Russia: “ I cannot dismiss the suspicion that we are witnessing an elaborate charade, grossly magnified by prominent elements of the American media, to serve a domestic political end. Facing rising inflation, the ravages of Omicron, blame (for the most part unfair) for the withdrawal from Afghanistan, plus the failure to get the full support of his own party for the Build Back Better legislation, the Biden administration is staggering under sagging approval ratings just as it gears up for this year’s congressional elections.”

Fortunately Gen Z is less gullible than the older generations about these kinds of psyops: lGen Z cares immensely about foreign policy… Gen Zers have also grown up navigating the fallout of the post-9/11 wars. The same survey found that over 70 percent of these voters, a higher proportion than any other age group, agree that “the wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan were a waste of time, lives, and taxpayer money and they did nothing to make us safer at home.” And two-thirds of Gen Z voters believe that the United States “should prioritize economic and diplomatic efforts, rather than military action, to protect our interests around the world.”

On February 18th:

The view from outside the beltway:

“ Every day brings new noise and fury in the crisis over Ukraine, mostly from Washington. But what is really likely to happen?

There are three possible scenarios:

The first is that Russia will suddenly launch an invasion of Ukraine.

The second is that the Ukrainian government in Kyiv will launch an escalation of its civil war against the self-declared People’s Republics of Donetsk (DPR) and Luhansk (LPR), provoking various possible reactions from other countries.

The third is that neither of these will happen, and the crisis will pass without a major escalation of the war in the short term.

So who will do what, and how will other countries respond in each case?

Russian invasion

This seems to be the least likely outcome.”

JohnH on the day of expanded intervention (2/22/2022):

Lots of idle speculation here today. Here’s a more informed commentary by an expert:

“ Russia’s official recognition of the separatist Donetsk and Lugansk republics is both illegal under international law and acutely unhelpful politically, and makes a diplomatic resolution of the existing crisis even less likely.

The Minsk II process for a resolution of the Donbas conflict is now dead — though to be fair, the Ukrainian government had long since made clear that it had no intention of implementing its basic provisions (on autonomy for the Donbas), and the West had made clear that it had no intention of pressuring Ukraine to do so.

The real question however is what Russia does next. In itself, this Russian action changes nothing in practical terms. These areas of the Donbas have been separate from Ukraine, with Russian backing, since 2014, and intermittent fighting has been ongoing since then. Western sanctions are already in place to punish Russia for this…

There can also be different levels of military action. A Russian seizure of the whole of Ukraine, as imagined by Washington, seems inherently unlikely. An occupation of Russian-speaking areas of eastern and southern Ukraine is much more plausible. It may also be, however, that Russia will content itself with inflicting a limited local defeat on Ukrainian forces in the Donbas, by way of illustrating NATO’s inability to help Ukraine, followed perhaps by a pause to see what the West does next.

This would fall far short of invasion. It would mark only a limited escalation in the conflict that has been going on in the Donbas since 2014.”

If there was to be any kind of insurgency, it would have surfaced in the eight years since Donetsk and Lugansk separated. Furthermore, the dangers and costs of occupation are well known to Russians and to Putin, who, as a young man, lived through the Soviets’ Afghan debacle and its aftermath. Though it’s always possible, I seriously doubt that the Russians are as stupid as American leaders of his generation (chicken hawks), who undertook pointless and futile occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, having learned nothing from the Vietnam fiasco.

There is a lot more to consider than making the ridiculous, simple-minded assertion that “Putin wants what he wants.”

JohnH denying Russian military operations, on 2/23/2022 (the day after the tanks rolled):

In reply to Moses Herzog.

I have to give the Russians credit for the most amazing invasion ever. Unlike the US invasion of Iraq, there were no bombs busting in air, no rockets red glare. BBC didn’t even show any movement of tanks, armored personnel carriers, or troop movements. Nada!

But Blinken insists that there was an invasion. How did the Russians suddenly become invisible? How did the firing of rockets suddenly escape infrared detection? Simply amazing!!! The US may have stealth bombers, but Russia must have a whole stealth army! How did they pull that off?

Were the army of war correspondents all caught napping, their ears firmly plugged, their eyes well masked? Or can it all be explained by a simple Orwellian redefinition of the word ‘invasion?’

And JohnH a little over  month after the expanded invasion, predicting doom and demise for the US economy:

I guess this shows that economists who been gleefully forecasting doomsday for the Russian economy don’t know that much about it after all! Basically it’s just cheerleading and propaganda.

Maybe they should refocus their attention to something they ostensibly do know something about—the American economy and just how bad the fallout from the war will be in terms of inflation, supply chain disruptions, and financial impacts. Of course they basically dismissed the impact of supply chain disruptions for most of last year, so it’s hard to have much confidence that they have much worthwhile to say about this year’s.

Most wars begin with the government and infotainment industry joyously proclaiming imminent success and in denial about any likely downsides, including the impact on the economy. Economists with few exceptions seem to have bought into this psyops campaign, refusing to assess the real and likely downsides of the decision to wage economic war on a major commodities supplier. It seems like they are still in the “what could possibly go wrong phase?” Best to lull the American people into a compliant stupor.

Since,2022Q1 (when JohnH made this statement), US GDP has risen 3.5% cumulative, average 2.3% per annum.

By the way, I do not think JohnH is an agent of the Russian government. They would definitely hire more competent propagandists.


50 thoughts on “Russia Invasion Skeptics on the Eve of the War

  1. Not Trampis

    I admit I was wrong when I claimed Putin was not stupid.
    Only an embicile would have invaded. Perhaps Putin is as stupid as Trump

    1. Ivan

      Maybe they are equally stupid, but from a completely different angle.

      Trump inherited billions, and managed not to lose them because he is brilliant at one thing – conning people. He is a pathologic narcissist who is obsessed with making money because money is his only driver and value system. He makes a lot of mistakes because he cannot admit that others are better than him at anything (so he doesn’t want to listen) and he cannot admit having made a mistake (so he cannot learn from his mistakes. Running for president had nothing to do with wanting that power, or having ideological goals and visions for the country. It was an attempt at propping up his flailing name brand after his reality show started to tank. Running gave him billions of dollar worth of free exposure. He was shocked to win; but getting the power and becoming the leader of the MAGA cult, he realized that could also feed his insatiable need for adulation – and it could be monetized.

      Putin is much more able and willing to listen and learn either from experts or from his own mistakes. You can say that he did quite well, but made one huge mistake with the invasion of Ukraine. He is driven by an obsession with being the “Czar” that brings Russia back to its old glory. The Ukraine mistake was made because this otherwise very cautious and calculating man listened to the wrong people, telling him what he so desperately wanted to be true – that a slowly failing and disintegrating Russia would be welcomed with open arms as they took over all of Ukraine in weeks. With Ukraine and Belarus becoming part of Russia he would have the population size and resources to rebuild Russia as a super power. As a ruthless dictator he doesn’t have much of a free press or any advisors to tell him the undesired truth of his current situation. So he has been making additional smaller mistakes, but I think he is currently just trapped in the consequences of his original mistake of thinking he found the way to accomplishing his life goal before it is too late. He cannot take, nor can he or Russia survive, the humiliation of just leaving Ukraine. Yet it is also clear that he cannot afford this fight for years and years at its current level. Biden has trapped him.

    2. Steven Kopits

      The war is not over. Russia’s military spend in 2024 is planned at greater than Ukraine’s entire GDP. Right now, I am not convinced of the level of support, particularly from the US, but also from Western Europe. Can Ukraine prevail? I think so. Can it prevail without a restructuring of the Price Cap? I fear not.

      1. pgl

        You were finally saying something we could agree with but then you had to go all Stupid Steve with:

        ‘Can it prevail without a restructuring of the Price Cap? I fear not.’

        Dude – you are a moron. So shut the eff up.

        1. Steven Kopits

          What do you see as the source of funding? I would think funding to the end of the war would be around $200 bn, maybe $100 bn more. How much do you expect the US government to contribute? Right now, I do not see the appetite in Congress for this scale of funding. Where do you think we should get it? Or at least, what is your scenario for funding Ukraine for the next two years?

          I believe the Russians should fund Ukraine through a restructured Price Cap. I see it as absolutely essential, as I have since the start of the war. What is your plan? How do you see things playing out?

          1. baffling

            “I would think funding to the end of the war would be around $200 bn, maybe $100 bn more. How much do you expect the US government to contribute?”
            i would think we should fund this without exception. their is a price to defeating a tyrant such as putin, and i am willing to pay it and deal with any financial consequences. that is far cheaper than dealing with the consequences of a victorious putin. i find it simply appalling that anybody should need to strike some kind of financial deal to defeat putin. it is something that needs to be done, so it should be done without exception.

          2. Anonymous

            Yves Smith @Naked Capital presented a review of financing the Kiev war

            Over $220B, about half to fund the Kiev government.

            $$ turns into military capability when combat effective formations are established. Most of the military money was spent by delivering hard assets from existing military stocks.

            US deliveries were mainly “drawdowns”.

            By now further US draw down will be taking flesh from plans the pentagon has for places like Korea and west Pacific.

            Or take years to procure ammunition and weapons.


          3. Ivan

            @ Anonymous,

            So far the funding of Ukraine has been a fraction of our annual $800 billion in military spending. You are absolutely right that a lot of it has basically only been an accounting “cost”. It doesn’t cost anything more to have equipment given away to Ukraine than to have it sit in storage and slowly rot away. However, we never prepared for or imagined a major conventional war drawing on stocks for years on end. So we have to increase production capacity by providing long term (5-10 years) contracts to producers.

          4. pgl

            You know I have grown tired of your yapping so many thanks to baffling to responding for me to your latest worthless babble.

      2. Ivan

        Russia exports about 6 million bpd x 365 days = 2.2 billion barrels per year. So if they get $10 more per barrel than “planned” – they have another $22 billion per year. That is about 1.25% of Russian GDP. Not pin money, but I am not sure that the level of success of the Price Cap is going to make a huge difference one way or the other.

        Sure if Ukraine had to fight this war on their own economy alone they would be toast – but they don’t. The relevant GDP comparison is that of US + Europe, and it is about 25 times that of Russia. Even if Russia turned to full scale war economy it would still be for US and Europe to decide when or whether to stop Russian bleeding in Ukraine. The money we need to give Ukraine to match Russias spending is a very small % of our economies. If US decide to drop out of the support for Ukraine then Europe will need to step up. They can do that – and it’s likely they will, because they understand the dangers if Putin is not being seen as having lost this invasion.

  2. James

    I do try and remember that my comments will be here “forever” before I post something. By the way, you can do a rough compilation of your comments by doing an Internet search of “Econbrowser “posting name””. The relentless regurgitation of right-wing/dingbat GOP talking points by some commentators makes me wonder if they are paid operators. (thanks Menzie for the round up on this one.)
    In regards to criminal/child kidnapper Putin’s war – with the relentless grab of foreign assets by the Russian oligarchs to enrich themselves – I wonder if any investors will be investing in Russia again? – One recent example is interesting because as near as I can determine at least 25% of investment was from countries that have no sanctions against Russia – this is basically a criminal asset grab – For more on this – and this
    All so Putin can keep Crimea – (don’t forget the current estimate of 300,000+ dead/wounded Russian men – and Crimea does not have a reliable water supply: )

    1. pgl

      Hey don’t you have a paper to write on how the Quantity Theory of Money captures Russia’s inflation? Until you get that published (snicker) shut the eff up.

    2. Ithaqua

      “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” Do we really need JohnH to repeat his errors ad infinitum? Well, there is some amusement value there, but other than that… Maybe, Ithaqua wrote with little hope and less expectation, this will serve as a useful reminder to JohnH, well, for a few posts anyway.

      1. Econned

        There’s no way that you think Menzie Chinn is doing this as a favor to prevent JohnH from repeating history. I don’t see it.

        1. Ithaqua

          No, I think he did it for the amusement value, but there is a possibility – however small – that it will have a beneficial side effect!

    3. Ivan

      Yes John H consistently brings nothing of use, or any novel insights, to this site. His knowledge and intellectual capabilities are too limited to bring value to a scholarly oriented site like this. He copies things he see on the internet with no critical evaluation or analysis of the content. So the fact that he was also hilariously wrong on that issue, back then, brings me no useful new insight.

      1. Econned

        The problem is that Menzie Chinn disagrees with your assertions regarding ‘John H’. If Menzie did agree with your characterization that ‘John H’ “consistently brings nothing of use, or any novel insights, to this site”. If it were true that his “knowledge and intellectual capabilities are too limited to bring value to a scholarly oriented site like this.”, it seems highly unlikely Menzie would go out of his way to generate attention of ‘John H’ comments. But, of course, Menzie’s agenda isn’t very… scholarly.

        1. baffling

          it takes a lot for prof chinn to outright ban a commentator. my preference is that he would ban econned. however, if he is not going to ban somebody, that does not mean he will give them license to comment stooopidity with no repercussions. so if somebody like johnny, covid or econned, wants to continue to make stoooopid commentary, i think it is only appropriate that prof. chinn point out their stoooopidity to the other folks on this site. some of those fools whine about that, because they think it is their right to come onto this blog and spout their propaganda. but they are simply jealous fools full of professional envy.

        2. Ivan

          I am not sure I would trust the judgement of “scholarly” from someone who is using an assertion as support for an assertion.

          Sometime an act can serve one purpose, or another, or many, or simply be comic relief. I don’t find it my job to question the way that our host use his website – even in the few cases where I don’t agree or understand it.

          1. Econned

            Your assertion of assertions is fair. I’d assert that questioning is precisely what comment sections are for. I’d also assert that it’s not a ‘job’, but nothing here is.

    4. Macroduck

      Because truth matters. Maybe not to a stalker like you, but to others.

      If you don’t think comments posted here matter, why do you post comments? If comments matter, why would it not matter whether commenters are biased, dishonest or benighted?

      Really, man, your bitterness is messing with your thinking..

      1. pgl

        “your bitterness is messing with your thinking”.

        He may be bitter but when did Econned show any sign he knows how to think?

  3. JohnH

    Menzie Chinn: June 10, 2022 said: “The wholesale damage wreaked upon the Russian economy has cast a new light on sanctions efficacy. The Russian economy is slated to shrink by 30% by the end of 2022. More importantly, the long term impact of cutting the economy from Western technology and imports is likely to set the Russian economy back decades. The ruble has recovered to its pre-war levels, but this seeming resilience is only a surface gloss; the recovery has been achieved by imposing stringent capital controls, restricting the purchase of foreign exchange, and forcing firms to surrender export proceeds earned in foreign currency.”

    Was there a typo? If memory serves me right, it was the Ukrainian economy that declined by 30? Russia’s dropped by about 2% in 2022 and is expected to rise by about 3% in 2023.

    But there were plenty of doomsayers joining the “Russia’s economy is doomed propaganda.” For example, “Russia’s economy is beginning to crack as economists forecast sharp contractions.”

    As I (presciently) said, a month after the invasion: “I guess this shows that economists who been gleefully forecasting doomsday for the Russian economy don’t know that much about it after all! Basically it’s just cheerleading and propaganda.

    Maybe they should refocus their attention to something they ostensibly do know something about—the American economy and just how bad the fallout from the war will be in terms of inflation, supply chain disruptions, and financial impacts. Of course they basically dismissed the impact of supply chain disruptions for most of last year, so it’s hard to have much confidence that they have much worthwhile to say about this year’s.

    Most wars begin with the government and infotainment industry joyously proclaiming imminent success and in denial about any likely downsides, including the impact on the economy. Economists with few exceptions seem to have bought into this psyops campaign.”

    I already acknowledged that I misjudged Putin’s intentions in February, 2022. And I got the potential blowback on the US economy wrong…it was Europe that got hit. But I stand by the rest of the above quote, particularly the excessive, irrational exuberance and optimism at the outset of a war.
    Now if you want to talk about whoppers, here’s a former CIA Director: “Ukraine’s counteroffensive will be very impressive – US General” Well, it was very impressive, but not in the way Petraeus predicted.

    And this one, dated March 15, 2022: “Military experts and former commanders have said that Russia’s army is days away from running out of resources, with what was intended to be a swift seizure of key Ukrainian cities turning into a drawn-out war.”

    1. Noneconomist

      Sorry, JH. Your pants have been on fire so many times it’s a wonder you haven’t spent considerable time in burn wards, As we’re also well aware, your tongue cannot be unforked no matter how many times you try (and lie) to do so.
      You’re a proud Putineer. You parade around as anti-war while cheering on a devastating, unnecessary invasion by a declared war criminal. You have no shame.

    2. Macroduck

      So Johnny admits that he got the big stuff wrong – not that he had any credible choice. His masters said they were only holding war games, and he repeated it. No Need for thought. No need to remember the 2014 invasion. No need to consider Georgia, Abkhazia, Transnistria, Ossetia (twice), Tajikistan, Chechnya (twice) or Dagistan.

      Menzie, meanwhile, got the direction right, but the magnitude wrong. And Johnny pretends the two are equally wrong. Soon, he’ll be back to ignoring his own mistake – he ignores all his own many mistakes – while casting shade on anything that makes Russia look bad, including the fact that Russia started this war, both times.

      Russia invades Ukraine twice, killing for land and power, raping, torturing and kidnapping because what the heck, they have nukes. That’s what Johnny defends.

    3. pgl

      Dude – you are such a worthless little liar that NO ONE here gives a rats a$$ about the trash you write.

    4. pgl

      The Demise of Dollar Dominance?

      That was the title of Dr. Chinn’s essay which of course the lying scum named JohnH cherry picks to claim that essay was about some alleged Russian economy.

      Dude – such blatant misrepresentations over something our hosted wrote should be grounds for having your worthless sorry self banned from this blog. Like we do not miss CoRev, we would not miss your incessant trash.

    5. pgl

      “Menzie Chinn: June 10, 2022 said:”

      Let’s be clear. Jonny boy copies and pastes the 8th paragraph as if paragraphs 1 through 7 and paragraph 9 did not exist. Jonny boy when caught with his little panties around his ankles resorts to the worst cherry picking trash I have ever seen. No Jonny boy is one disgusting little liar. It is time for this trash to be put in the banned trash bin next to CoRev.

  4. Macroduck

    Off topic, the manufacturing construction boom –

    Wolf Street has gotten around to noticing the pace of factory construction. While Wolf Richter is prone to sensationalism, this bit is pretty good:

    What he writes is mostly self-evident, but he puts it together well: While factory construction is pretty spectacular now, the big impact comes later, when new factories begin producing goods.

    One issue that I haven’t seen addressed in relation to the coming increase in factory output is its effect on international trade. Goods are more tradable than services, so the trade deficit shrinks? Factories are highly productive, so growth accelerates in an economy with a high marginal propensity to import, so the deficit expands? A shift toward a greater share of goods production in GDP reduces the marginal propensity to import, reducing the deficit? More rapid growth raises U.S. interest rates relative to the rest of the world, strengthening the dollar and widening the deficit?

    My head spins. Thought from other than the troll choir?

    And where is AS lately?

  5. Macroduck

    John Burn-Murdoch at the FT has taken a look at the divergence between economic performance and consumer moods in the U.S. His approach seems quite clever, though perhaps his perspective from outside the U.S. made it obvious. He plots measures of economic performance against measures of consumer mood for the U.S., Germany, France and the UK. Only in the U.S. does economic performance diverge from consumer mood. Inflation in the other countries is as bad or worse than intue U.S., so claims that inflation is driving the split between economic performance and moods don’t wash. Ask yreourself, are Germans really less sensitive to inflation than Yanks?

    (Menzie has recently demonstrated that weighting inflation heavily in sentiment calculations does lead to lower reading of consumer sentiment:

    Presumably, that is as true for Germans and French and Brits as for U.S. types)

    Burn-Murdoch then pulls another neat trick:

    “Last weekend FocalData ran a poll for me, asking a representative sample of 2,000 US adults whether they thought economic circumstances had improved or deteriorated over recent years. The results were startling: Americans are consistently wrong in the negative direction on almost every measure we polled. By huge margins, they believe inflation is still rising (it’s falling), that it has outstripped wage growth (wages have outpaced prices), and that they have become less wealthy (they’ve become much wealthier).”

    He doesn’t stop there, either. He examines some distributional arguments used to explain the mood gap and finds them wanting, as well.

    Burn-Murdoch finally gets around to the political divide in consumer moods, as seen in U. Michigan data, and finds the source of the problem there.

    Well, it’s about time somebody caught on. What have I been telling you? Oh, and note that the mistaken notions held by the majority of survey respondents are routinely promoted in comments here by members of the troll choir. It’s no accident that U.S. citizens are misinformed about the economy; it’s the result of politically motivated dishonesty.

    1. Ivan

      Part of that ignorance is that the meme of “trust nobody but Fox news” has been so successful in the ignorant general population in this country. Fox has been hammering the general paranoia of you can’t trust anybody – then presented themselves as the “fair and balanced” source of information.

      1. Macroduck

        Yep. Sadly, Democrats and swing voters live in a news and conversation culture that is skewed by the presence of faux news and other right-wing propaganda mills. The echo escapes the echo chamber. So when you look at sentiment among swing voters and Democrats, it is happier than among Republicans, but probably still less happy than if the steady flow of lies wasn’t there. It has been the work of a generation and more.

      1. pgl

        China does consume more than half of world coal consumption. Now its rise in production is really steep because China despite all that consumption is trying to rely less on imported coal.

    1. pgl

      Look on the bright side. China despite consuming more coal has decided to rely less on imports from places like Australia.

      That US production is down is interesting as we are exporting more of the stuff which means our coal consumption is falling faster.

      But shhhh – don’t tell CoRev as that clown never understood international trade.

  6. pgl

    Maybe little Lindsey should run Putin’s war crimes in Ukraine:

    Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin must be doing something right. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R–LetGodSortItOut) has lost confidence in him. Amazingly—even for Graham—all Austin said was that Israel should do more to protect civilians in Gaza or else risk driving Palestinians “into the arms of the enemy.” That’s it. You’d think even Graham would acknowledge the pragmatic wisdom of that. The point at which Graham loses confidence in somebody represents approximately the highest level of bloodthirstiness any normal person should tolerate. Approval from Graham is a reliable indicator that it’s time to rein things in.

    Kevin Drum provides a link to the latest disgusting trash from Little Lindsey:

  7. pgl

    The Democrats want to extend aid to the brave Ukrainians defending their homeland but Republicans also want this:

    Republicans have demanded Pentagon detention camps on U.S. military bases, long detentions for families with children, and “unworkable” nationwide mandatory detentions, according to a second person familiar with the negotiations, who revealed their details on condition of anonymity.

    At least these Republicans are not insisting on all out invasion of Mexico that kills each and every Hispanic.

    1. Ivan

      We need these hard working and eager asylum seekers to fill those jobs and make enough money that they can fund their own stay here in the US (until they get kicked back out again). Instead the GOP want us to waste huge sums of money to lock them up – and as an unintended consequence driving cost of food in the country up because there are nobody to harvest it.

      The MAGA hats have been brainwashed to think the refugees are some kind of a problem. In reality they help us with lots of important jobs that we cannot fill using US labor. Without them the prices of many things would increase drastically. Because the GOP refuse to expand immigration courts and get asylum cases decided in a few month, rather than 5-7 years, we have a lot of asylum seekers who stay here for years, working and paying taxes. Our economy has become dependent on all those people being here and being in limbo – and they have in turn found an asylum claim a simple way to come here and make some money before they go back home.

      1. pgl

        “We need these hard working and eager asylum seekers to fill those jobs and make enough money that they can fund their own stay here in the US”

        Yep and check out the new post that highlights something from Econofact!

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