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Update: McFaul himself says that Lemoine’s article led him to change his views somewhat.

Which part of his views?

He said “stay tuned,” so I assume that we will have to wait and see. Presumably some part of them relevant to the topic of the article.

Which part of the article do you assume was relevant, and which parts were not?

As is, this seems a very awkward appeal to an authority, except without tying the authority to any specific position that can be questioned. It's a favorable expansive claim, but not a particularly meaningful one justifying a day-later 'look, even this person agrees (except I don't know how or about what or when).'

Probably the part about how Putin was not in fact totally gung-ho about NATO expansion in the early 2000s, seeing as that’s the sole topic of the article. But I know exactly as much as you do right now, so I don’t see much point in speculating.

I’m puzzled as to what you mean by an “appeal to authority.” The subject of the piece that I posted responded to the post, and I simply updated the thread with that fact, because it’s obviously relevant to anyone who was interested in the original debate. There’s no argument being made here. If and when McFaul expounds in more detail, I will edit the above post to reflect that as well, and for the same reason.

Probably the part about how Putin was not in fact totally gung-ho about NATO expansion in the early 2000s, seeing as that’s the sole topic of the article. But I know exactly as much as you do right now, so I don’t see much point in speculating.

Apparently you do, or else you wouldn't have speculated a favorable interpretation of a non-position and thought it relevant a day later when the thread was already going cold.

I also note you didn't match the favorable section with a section that was not conceded or dismissed as wrong. This would have better demonstrated your awareness of the strengths, and limits, of the arguments being made, which might have helped justify the assumption of what section was being referred to positively.

I’m puzzled as to what you mean by an “appeal to authority.” The subject of the piece that I posted responded to the post, and I simply updated the thread with that fact, because it’s obviously relevant to anyone who was interested in the original debate. There’s no argument being made here. If and when McFaul expounds in more detail, I will edit the above post to reflect that as well, and for the same reason.

Without an argument being made, McFaul is only relevant to be raised or identified in order to appeal to his authority. This authority may be 'as the person this argument is critiquing, my concession of legitimacy bestows weight on the argument's validity,' but (a) this is still appealing to the authority of a target to bestow legitimacy to the critique, and (b) there isn't actually a concession here to carry weight or bestow validity. It's only 'obviously relevant' in so much that it is used to present an assumption of agreement with an inferred argument to buttress on un-made stance because you started this thread without any sort of submission statement or position.

To update, there must be a date to 'up' so to speak, but so far your debate has been primarily in counter-arguments of people critiqueing the linked article. In the motte and bailey metaphor, that may be an attempt at guerrila warfare behind the attacker's line, but it's not clear there's an attacker here in the first place. An article writer made a critique. One of the personal subjects of the critique made a polite but non-committal concession of nothing specific or in particular. This changes, or challenges, none of the arguments involved by any of the players, on either side.

One of the common themes of the comments regarding this article has been it ignores relevant context, ie that it doesn't actually challenge a real position as much as a strawman or a framing. Counter-arguments by you to these charges do not constitute the original debate when the very premise of disagreement is being questioned. It may be an awkward attempt to have a debate, but it's poorly structured as one, not least for the fact that you neither claim the author speaks for you, which would tie you to a position you'd have to defend, nor do you speak for the author, which means your disputes on his intended meaning are as much a matter of opinion and position as anyone else's.

Really this thread is just an awkwardly formatted comment thread for an opinion peace on another website.

Apparently you do

Because you explicitly asked me to. Don’t ask me a question and then turn around and cast aspersions on me for answering it. That doesn’t incline me to take on your questions in good faith going forward.

when the thread was already going cold

Then why didn’t you just let it cool, and instead decide to pepper me with elliptical, leading questions which have obviously been motivated by drawing out some perceived fault on my part, rather than just forthrightly saying what you thought I was doing and why you objected to it? That would have saved us both some time.

I also note that you didn’t match the favorable section with a section that was not conceded or dismissed as wrong

McFaul didn’t give any such section. I looked at all his tweets and replies since the piece came out. I can’t do the impossible.

Without an argument being made, McFaul is only relevant to be raised or identified to appeal to his authority.

Or to inform interested parties as to the reaction of the subject of the piece to that piece. Not exactly an alien practice! You seem determined to interpret a one-line comment in the most expansive and least charitable terms possible.

And I simply forgot to write a submission statement. I haven’t been very active here of late, so I’m not fresh on those rules, and if you look at my other link posts you’ll notice that I have a bad habit of forgetting to write them in general. With that said, I agree with Lemoine’s position, so he does speak for me in that sense, as should have been clear from the rest of my comments.

when the very premise of disagreement is being questioned

Sorry, what does this mean? I can’t tell from context.

Because you explicitly asked me to. Don’t ask me a question and then turn around and cast aspersions on me for answering it. That doesn’t incline me to take on your questions in good faith going forward.

I asked you to because you made an insinuation/claim for the public record without making an argument. When challenged, you simultaneously claimed you were not making any assumptions, after providing a favorable assumption, and since claimed you could not make an equivalent assumption on the same amount of information.

This is less a challenge of faith and more a challenge to you to speak clearly, with the intended purpose of letting any late-readers of your thread read your last position with the note that the implied argument was not only contested, but identified.

when the thread was already going cold

Then why didn’t you just let it cool, and instead decide to pepper me with elliptical, leading questions which have obviously been motivated by drawing out some perceived fault on my part, rather than just forthrightly saying what you thought I was doing and why you objected to it? That would have saved us both some time.

Because I was curious how you would respond in hopes of being proven wrong, and how you did was telling (and expected).

Also, as a framing device for future readers, and a tertiary goal of nudging you into being a bit better meta-awareness next time you want to post a thread.

I also note that you didn’t match the favorable section with a section that was not conceded or dismissed as wrong

McFaul didn’t give any such section. I looked at all his tweets and replies since the piece came out. I can’t do the impossible.

You did, however, feel comfortable assuming a section that agreed with you despite the same lack of information. Which was the point- that you would assume a favorable and expansive interpretation when allowed, but then retreat to a more defensible position when challenged.

IE, the archetypical motte-and-bailey fallacy this community is named for.

Though your response were more demonstrative than descriptive, it highlighted in the possible final exchange of the thread your approach to the topic, and how your prior positions on the topic further down (in the default sorting way) will be perceived going forward.

Yes, this is pure meta.

Without an argument being made, McFaul is only relevant to be raised or identified to appeal to his authority.

Or to inform interested parties as to the reaction of the subject of the piece to that piece. Not exactly an alien practice! You seem determined to interpret a one-line comment in the most expansive and least charitable terms possible.

Over-representing a one-line twitter comment in a more expansive and less charitable (to your opposition) way was rather the point of citing him. This is why we are calling out the contrast for meta purposes.

As for lack of charity, this sort of flaw is expected from you, hence why this response focuses on the meta-argumentive structure.

And I simply forgot to write a submission statement. I haven’t been very active here of late, so I’m not fresh on those rules, and if you look at my other link posts you’ll notice that I have a bad habit of forgetting to write them in general. With that said, I agree with Lemoine’s position, so he does speak for me in that sense, as should have been clear from the rest of my comments.

This is, alas, far too late to be particularly relevant to your execution of this debate, which has shifted firmly to the meta of this thread, and will continue to be meta so long as you lack an opening argument. Nor is it about the rules about this website specifically. While they are helpful reminders, it's hardly unique that a link to a source is not an implicit endorsement of the source or its framing, and that assuming so is a fallacious assumption.

If you want to speak clearly, you have to speak. It is not on the other party of a debate to strawman a position you may or may not agree with, nor are they obliged to have the debate you might prefer but didn't set out.

when the very premise of disagreement is being questioned

Sorry, what does this mean? I can’t tell from context.

It means that your argument of providing more information for the original debate is flawed, because the original debate never existed.

The common theme of the top-level reply to your link is that the posters consistently felt that the link-author's argument lacks what they consider extremely relevant information needed to discuss the topic, which challenges the very premise of a debate on the article's subject. It innately turns any debate on the argument itself into a meta-argument not on the original link's line of argument, but on the argument construction and composition. In a thread literally including 'lies of omission' in the threat title, these amount to charges of... omission, a central challenge to the thesis.

Counter-arguing a meta-argument of insufficient evidence never relies on introducing new evidence not previously included. If you are convincing on the grounds of the new evidence provided, it demonstrates the objection's point that the original argument was lacking sufficient data. If you are not convincing on the grounds of new evidence provided, the meta-objection still stands.

The proper way to counter-argue a meta-argument of insufficient evidence is not to bring in new information, but to refute the relevancy of the categories of insufficient information. This is, however, a much harder task in the context of NATO expansion and Russia, as categories of relevancy referred to (contemporary and early post-cold-war Russian history, nuclear deterrence modeling, the relative relevance of sincerity, the presumption of spheres of influence to be respected, etc.) have relatively obvious relevance in an article touching on several of these things, to which you tried to counter by... making new arguments that the author didn't. Which is adding new arguments. Which returns to the previous paragraph on meta-argument by new information.

So, I leave it to any future thread finder to enter the thread, read through this latest exchange as one of their firsts based on the default thread formating, and approach the rest of the thread with the mindset this exchange is intended to give them.

Now is your turn, of course, to have the last reply in a dead and dying thread, to prove that you do not, in fact, have better things to spend your time on than the last word, etc. etc. I'm here for the framing, not the last word, so I'll even let you keep it.

Now, mind you, responding for the last word after describing it as wasting your time, and thus demonstrating you both did not, in fact, have better things to do with your time and were predicted in doing so. A successful prediction would indicate my successful modeling of you, and thus a handling of the meta of the conversation, regardless of what you actually say and do, and whether or not I reply. Whereas you not replying would undercut that specific argument, but would leave the main thesis present, and from a public perception of loss of control of the argument. If you continue, I am validated, if you do not, non-continuation comes off as a retreat.

...is what I would end with if the goal were to patronize you rather than try to improve you.

Yes, it would be a meta trap of sorts... but I bring this in the spirit of concluding meta-arguments, which is that seeking the last word in a public argument (such as the post-thread reference) isn't always an advantage, and if you're arguing for effect, can be actively detrimental. Which is why one should rarely refer to the end of the argument in final terms unless one is willing to leave without the last word. Continuing after you characterize an argument a waste of time is self-defeating, as is being predictable in one's reaching arguments. Rhetorical over-reach is something that can be leveraged against you, which is why identifying fallacies is a regular form of discrediting someone's position.

If you intend to argue for effect- which you clearly intended to by the way you approached this thread and topic in general- this is the sort of meta-dynamics you need to be cognizant of lest you undermine your own side. It is not enough to go 'this person's arguments are my own.' You will be in the position of defending the flaws of the other's argument, and in ways you are not capable of correctly defending against but will become party in discrediting them.

I would leave with asking if you thought this exchange brought about by your after-the-fact addition of a reaching insinuation strengthened or weakened the audience perception of the link-author's position, which you share. I will leave with asking you if you think that replying in any form will do the same. The answer will likely demonstrate the difference between arguing to argue, or arguing to have an impact.

[Insert sign off joke here]

I asked you to because you made an insinuation[sic]/claim for the public record without making an argument.

I made a factual claim that was immediately verified by the link in the comment. No further argument was necessary, that's just how verification works.

When challenged, you simultaneously claimed you were not making any assumptions, after providing a favorable assumption

It's not a "favorable assumption" to observe someone say that an article changed their mind on something and then infer that the thing that it changed their mind on was probably something related to the topic of the article. That's just called having the most rudimentary possible theory of mind.

and since claimed you could not make an equivalent assumption on the same amount of information.

The two statements were not equivalent. I first said I presumed it was something relevant to the topic of the article without saying what that relevant thing would be. Then you asked which specific parts would be relevant, and I kindly speculated about that for you, which speculation was not entailed by what I had said before. Or if it was, then you'll have to give some (presently lacking) proof of that fact, which would confirm that your further question was pointless and thus you were being even more disingenuous than in your initial question. So which is it?

Because I was curious how you would respond in hopes of being proven wrong, and how you did was telling (and expected).

OK, so as I suspected, you were being disingenuous and asking in bad faith. Thanks for confirming. I don't plan to entertain such overtures from you in the future.

You did, however, feel comfortable assuming a section that agreed with you despite the same lack of information.

I don't need to assume that, it's already been demonstrated. I agreed with the whole article, McFaul said he agreed with a part, a fortiori there is some section on which he agrees with me. QED

Over-representing a one-line twitter comment in a more expansive and less charitable (to your opposition) way was rather the point of citing him.

I didn't assert anything that McFaul himself omitted to say, so that's impossible. Quote me anything in the initial comment that wasn't a direct paraphrase of something McFaul said, explain why, and try again.

The proper way to counter-argue a meta-argument of insufficient evidence is not to bring in new information, but to refute the relevancy of the categories of insufficient information.

But I don't care whether the original argument had sufficient evidence or not, I care whether its conclusion is correct, and I'd be happy to evaluate all the outside evidence necessary to decisively establish that either way. And what's being argued over in this thread is the conclusion of the argument, not its construction. (Or, at least, if you read my comments, you'll see that that's what I'm concerned to argue about, and I don't really care if others aren't.) This isn't debate club, there are no technical rules about what evidence you're allowed to invoke here. Most of the rest of your post is otiose in light of this fact. Sorry you wasted your time on it.

So, I leave it to any future thread finder to enter the thread, read through this latest exchange as one of their firsts based on the default thread formating, and approach the rest of the thread with the mindset this exchange is intended to give them.

Well, you come off quite poorly in this exchange, so I hope so.

And if I really cared about the thread formatting, then I could just pin every top-level comment besides the one above to force it to the bottom of the thread. But I don’t, so I’m not going to.

Now, mind you, responding for the last word after describing it as wasting your time, and thus demonstrating you both did not, in fact, have better things to do with your time and were predicted in doing so.

I said that you were wasting my time with your indirect approach to the issue, not that the whole conversation about that issue was a waste of time. In fact, I think it's a fine use of my time (that the all-important future readers may see, of course!) to tell you off for being disingenuous and inform you that you look incredibly silly. And maybe that will help you to do a bit better going forward, so my natural altruism pulls me to give you a hand in that regard as well.

Continuing after you characterize an argument a [sic] waste of time

Good thing I didn't do that then.

I would leave with asking if you thought this exchange brought about by your after-the-fact addition of a [perfectly legitimate factual update] strengthened or weakened the audience perception of the link-author's position, which you share. I will leave with asking you if you think that replying in any form will do the same.

Probably strengthened both, to be honest. You look extremely paranoid here, desperately trying to do damage control against an argument that wasn't even being made, on the basis of Kabbalah-level eisegesis over a single sentence. I think that I come off pretty well by comparison.

One odd thing about posts like these is that their narrative only discusses NATO's actions vis-a-vis the expansion until Georgia or thereabouts, not the very important contextual step for why Eastern European countries were so eager to get under the NATO umbrella - the fact that Russia started intervening in its "near abroad" basically straight out of gate (Transnistria, Abhasia, South Ossetia), as well that, also starting basically right out of gate, there was a real scenario of revanchist and expansionist forces getting in power in Russia, either in an imperialist form or "restore Soviet Union" form (and Putin also started catering ideologically to these forces at least in some form pretty much from the start of his presidency). Of course we now see that E-E countries were hardly wrong in not dismissing these tendencies.

No submission statement, not reading.

It was a bit disappointing, as was the article. Basically another variant of 'the Russians were sincere about opposing NATO expansion,' but without the second or third order argument needed to make it relevant as to why that matters without resting on assumed arguments and strawmen.

I just love these takes.

And I'm gonna love them even more when Chinese flip Canada and US annexes it and y'all are going to be like "Canada as a Chinese ally - that was a legitimate security concern of the United States" totally not like Ukraine which was brazen terrorism.

Whatever fantasies get you off, I suppose.

Thanks! I really didn't expect to be spoonfed a review in response to my complaint, but I do appreciate it.

I had a similar first impression.

The broad thrust of this article is arguing against a strawman. Nobody really disagrees that Russians might have said NATO was a threat. Anyone in the West can point that out freely and openly without fear of reproach. The issue is that NATO wasn't actually a threat in any plausible scenario in the way that Russians were describing it. Russians (or Putin specifically) typically alluded to NATO aggression either from a ground invasion or a nuclear first-strike, both of which were never in the cards given it would start World War 3 and mean a huge portion of the Earth's population from both sides being wiped out in an instant. Some Russians may have drank the propaganda koolaid and genuinely believed the West was willing to eliminate Russia in a geopolitical equivalent of a murder-suicide, but they were mostly relegated to the fringes.

What Russians/Putin were actually worried about was one of three things:

  • Western cultural and economic hegemony. NATO expansion doesn't really directly impact this, but NATO expansion serves as a barometer that the West is still triumphing over the former Soviet Union.

  • The West fomenting pro-democracy movements in Russia, similar to the Color Revolutions. Much of Russian society and Putin in particular have a deep antipathy for democracy, seeing it as not only a personal threat but as an invasive, enemy ideology and incorrectly blaming it for the turmoil of the Yeltsin years. Again, this doesn't really have anything directly to do with NATO expansion, but the fact that NATO is expanding at all means the West is robust enough to possibly try something like a pro-democracy coup in the future.

  • Loss of their sphere of influence. Many Russians still see their country as a Great Power, and the fact that NATO even has the possibility of being extended to Ukraine is deeply insulting.

So yes, many Russians say "NATO is a threat". But no, no reasonable Russian thinks NATO is a threat in a conventional sense since Russia still has the largest nuclear stockpile in the world. Instead, saying "NATO is a threat" is used as a dogwhistle to stoke generalized anti-Western sentiment or to appeal to delusions of grandeur, i.e. that Russia should reassemble the borders of the Soviet Union.

The issue is that NATO wasn't actually a threat in any plausible scenario in the way that Russians were describing it

Really?

Firstly, nuclear weapons are protection for today. Will it still be relevant in 20 or 30 years? Or will the development of missile defense systems make strategic missiles irrelevant? But the multiple numerical superiority of NATO and the territories of Ukraine convenient for the offensive will remain relevant much longer.

Second, proxy wars. Georgia is a perfect example. The creation of a supply and training base for Chechen fighters through the Caucasus mountains is a catastrophic threat that almost nothing can counter (the camps themselves are located on NATO territory, and it is almost impossible to effectively cut off supplies through the Caucasus mountains). The borders with Ukraine are not so obviously dangerous, but they can also be used to support the armed opposition (which still needs to be created, which is not easy, but makes sense with such a potential for supply through Ukraine). And the large length of these borders makes the supply cut much more difficult than for the borders with the Baltics or Finland.

And the restriction of access to markets and the loss of a sphere of influence are negative events in themselves, although not a military threat.

Second, proxy wars. Georgia is a perfect example. The creation of a supply and training base for Chechen fighters through the Caucasus mountains is a catastrophic threat that almost nothing can counter

You probably haven't heard about https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_in_Abkhazia_(1992–1993)

Russian meddling in affairs of its neighbors began long before 2008, or Chechen Wars. So it was really the other way around — fighters from North Caucasus (including Chechens) supported by RF invaded Georgia and fought against government forces, and eventually prevailed. Also they participated in cleansing of ethnic Georgians there. It really shows how disingenuous this argument is

we invade neighboring countries, incite instability there; oh how awful, now they hate us, we must invade them to secure our borders!

The thesis of the article is not that Russians merely said that, but that they believed it (whether this belief was actually true is, for the purposes of the article, neither here nor there), and that McFaul is misrepresenting the context of Putin's statements to make him look disingenuous in this regard. What is taboo in the West is to point out that, when they did say these things, Russian elites were not merely pretending to be worried about NATO as a front for their dastardly neo-imperialist designs.

What is taboo in the West is to point out that, when they did say these things, Russian elites were not merely pretending to be worried about NATO as a front for their dastardly neo-imperialist designs.

I think it's taboo to point it out without caveating (as the article does) that this worry was "to a large extent irrational" (his words).

I think that many people also broadly object to using it to explain Russian behavior at all, or to suggesting that it wasn’t entirely irrational. But fair point.

The Russian elites were worried about NATO exactly because their dastardly neo-imperialist designs. If you want to conquer your neighboring states, or at least subjugate them into a bunch of subservient satellite states, sort of like they did with Belarus, and thus restore the Mighty Russian Empire, of course you'd be worried that a Western mutual defense union right in the middle of where you plan to do that would interfere with your plans. If you plan to rob a place and they are installing a new security system and got a guard dog, of course you are feeling your plans are genuinely threatened by it! There's no need to pretend. It's the honest truth - yes, all that would make the planned robbery much harder to do.

I think the problem is here that the word "threat" is used in two senses interchangeably, and it confuses the matter. The Western "threat" is when you live peacefully, and somebody may attack you, so you feel threatened. The Russian "threat" is when you want to meddle with your neighbors to subjugate them and include them into your future Empire, but somebody might make that harder, and so you feel "threatened". These are different things, but it looks like when discussing whether Russians were "threatened" by NATO they are used as if it's the same thing.

This is just assuming the conclusion at issue, namely that Russian elite opposition to NATO enlargement is motivated in petto by neo-imperialism and, what’s more, has been so for (the great majority of) the whole duration that they’ve strenuously objected thereto (going on 40 years now). This is a strong claim that requires strong evidence, which does not seem to be forthcoming.

I am not assuming it, I know it, as I know any observable reality. It's not some mental construct, it can be plainly seen. The neo-imperialism bent of the Russian elites is completely obvious to anybody who watched them for the last 3-5 years. All the state propaganda machine has been pushing these ideas for a while now. If you understand Russian, all the evidence you need is plainly there, whereever you go - from the government-controlled TV channels to the lowliest telegram or VK troll groups. Everybody wants to repeat the Great Patriotic War victories and raise the glorious Mother Russia from her knees. Well, maybe not literally everybody (there are always traitors) but among the "true patriots" that has been the dominant tone for a while. And if you observe the actions for the last couple of decades - Transnistria, Georgia, de-facto anschluss of Belarus, then the Ukraine invasion - it is clear that Russia treats the ex-Soviet states as their legitimate playing ground and ultimately the target for "re-unification" if possible. In Ukraine, it was openly stated when it looked like it was possible. When turned out it was a pipe dream, the "re-unification" target contracted to the areas occupied by Russian forces, but the idea stayed the same - everything that has been USSR is legit Russia.

Now, how NATO plays into this is of course a logical conclusion, but I think it is a very natural one. If you consider Ukraine legit your territory, temporarily misled by "nationalist government" into being a "fake state" (this is all quotes from actual Russian propaganda) - then of course this government joining NATO and gaining Article 5 coverage is a major problem. Of course they don't like it - it kinda puts the end to the project - now what they have, a piece of Georgia, a tiny piece of Moldova, Belorussia and that's the whole Empire? Pathetic. Of course they went all in to try and not let that happen.

Observing the last 3-5 years does nothing to explain the 3+ decades prior to that in which Russians were also vehemently opposed to NATO expansion, which is in large part what the article is discussing.

I didn't observe it for the last 3-5 years, I observed it for much longer, it is the last 3-5 years when the neo-imperialism has become so dominant, so prominent and obvious that any diligent observer, without special knowledge or deep analysis, would be able to instantly pick it up. Before that, during the previous 3 decades, it wasn't the single direction at all. During the 90s, where Russian democracy was still alive, even though flawed (aren't all real democracies?) - the eternal Russian struggle between slavophiles and westerners has been also alive. Some people wanted more European direction, some wanted to go "our own way" - but the imperialist ideas weren't the only game in town at all. It all happened much later, building on the cult of the Great Victory in part, and on dismantling the democracy under the premise that it was the reason why 90s felt so miserable and chaotic for many. During much of this time, most of the fractions didn't really care about "NATO expansion" - because they weren't hostile to the West and the Western culture, and they did not nurture the dream of rebuilding the Empire. Surely, some fractions did - but they became the only game in town much later. Even the Chechen wars were presented as much more about security and terrorism (and TBH, not without a cause - Chechens weren't exactly innocent there) than about preserving the Empire. It was a long process, and I am not sure Putin himself thought in 1999 that he is going to become what he is now.

Thus, I do not think 3+ decades prior to that in which Russians were also vehemently opposed to NATO expansion is a proper description of what happened. If we limit ourselves only to Putin, which is more like 2 decades, he was never a particular fan of NATO (which is no wonder for a KGB officer), but he wasn't "vehemently opposed" to it until his imperialist doctrine coalesced, and as for other Russians, it was not true for even longer. Putin did blame NATO for the failure of his soft-takeover plan of Ukraine, which involved installing a puppet ruler (in which he eventually succeeded) and roping Ukraine into being a permanently subservient satellite state, just like Belarus (at which he failed). But that hostility began somewhere around 2004, before that the relationships were definitely not friendly, but also not openly hostile. And even then the idea was still more of "we want to control neighboring states" rather than "we want to assimilate them and restore the Russian Empire" for a while.

Yeltsin repeatedly reiterated his opposition to NATO expansion as early as 1993. And while he may have waffled a bit in ‘93 (as the Tribune article notes), probably because he’d been told some misleading things on the subject by US diplomats, he infamously blew up at Bill Clinton over the matter in late ‘94. I cannot find any comparable waffling from him after that point. There may have been internal divisions over this, but I think that the public Russian position was pretty clear even in the early 90s.

I don't think Yeltsin ever had designs on conquering Ukraine or anything close to that. He was upset that the USA does not treat Russia as an equal partner (this inferiority complex goes back centuries deep), and felt Russia is being humiliated by the West taking unilateral steps without Russia getting some respect in return. Also, he was very upset that NATO actions may jeopardize his chances on the coming elections - due to the pressure from the anti-Western fractions that perceived him to be too pro-Western. It is both about respect and about internal politics, but not really about any imperialist designs. TBH, his complaints about lack of respect were not entirely baseless - Russia lost the Cold War (or USSR did, and Russia took over the business after that), and while they still wanted the same stance as USSR used to have, they really didn't have that kind of pull anymore. So the nature of the disagreements was substantially different back then.

1994 also was exactly when the infamous Budapest Memorandum was signed. When Russia and USA (and UK) agreed to be partners in security the existing borders of Ukraine, in exchange for which Ukrainians gave up their Soviet nukes. We all know how well that worked out.

Did we read the same article? Does it have even one quote from a Russian leader stating unequivocally that they oppose NATO expansion? I can believe they did oppose it but the article says nothing of the sort

It repeatedly says that Russian leaders “spent years denouncing [NATO expansion] in sometimes hysterical rhetoric” and he directly quotes Putin as saying that he didn’t think NATO expansion “[made] any sense” in 2001. Also, there’s no end of other public statements to similar effect since the 90’s that you can find with a very basic internet search.

The thesis of the article is not that Russians merely said that, but that they believed it

That's a conclusion this article tries to offhandedly make, but most of the evidence presented is unrelated to that point. If the article wanted to conclude that Russians genuinely believed NATO was a threat specifically from the point of a ground invasion or a nuclear first strike, it needed to do a lot more work justifying why Russians thought NATO was willing to commit collective suicide by ignoring MAD when there were decades of Cold War precedent saying this wouldn't happen. Instead, the article tries to sneak that conclusion through the back door by handwaving away any irrationality with a whataboutism that the US was irrational for invading Iraq.

If you’re just going to dogmatically insist on the hermeneutics of suspicion then there’s really nothing more to be said. And why think that the only thing Russian elites could possibly fear from NATO is a ground invasion or a nuclear strike? (A claim which Lemoine notably doesn’t make. Although the US did unilaterally withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia under Bush, which surely couldn’t have soothed anyone antsy about nukes.) You simply assume this without argument. Why shouldn’t they also be concerned with, say, a Color Revolution or losing their sphere? (Or even just an increase in the risk of accidental conflict/mistaken escalation?) Do you think it’s irrational for the US to claim a sphere of influence via the Monroe Doctrine? Or is your objection solely to the rationality of Russian desire for a sphere of influence?

It’s not a “whataboutism,” it’s an example to show that national elites can be sincerely committed to obviously-mistaken propositions about their own security interests. “There is historical precedent for X, so you shouldn’t be so skeptical that X could happen,” is not whataboutism at all, it’s a perfectly legitimate argument. Or what hermeneutically differentiates American elite fear of Iraq from Russian elite fear of NATO for you, and if nothing, then do you think the former were just lying too?

And why think that the only thing Russian elites could possibly fear from NATO is a ground invasion or a nuclear strike?

I'm not saying this, as per my first post. I'm saying the arguments of "NATO is a threat" coming from Russia boil down to two flawed lines of thinking:

  • That NATO is a threat from a conventional sense, in the form of a ground invasion or a nuclear attack. The problem with this line of thinking is Mutually Assured Destruction is still as relevant now as it was in the Cold War. Some pro-Russian sources/posters say the threat from NATO is indeed conventional, but they never have a good answer for the fact that MAD makes it irrelevant.

  • That the West is a threat in unconventional ways, in form of fomenting pro-Democracy movements or general economic + cultural hegemony. The problem with this line of thinking is that NATO expansion is a non-sequitur. The fact that Finland and Sweden are joining NATO doesn't particularly make Russia more vulnerable to unconventional threats like these, other than serving as a vague barometer that the West is doing well.

Even allowing for a sizeable degree of irrationality (since rival elites indeed probably have an inflated sense of how dangerous their outgroup is), it's still very difficult to see how NATO gets through MAD or how it's directly relevant to unconventional threats.

First of all, even if NATO weren’t directly attacking Russia, having members of a huge alliance on your border increases the risk of accidental conflict or mistaken escalation, as I said. And to make matters worse, it also dramatically raises the stakes of such erroneous clashes, because now instead of a minor skirmish with one bordering state, Article 5 can transform things into a world war. Moreover, this also puts neighboring states under the nuclear umbrella of another power, which in turn increases the risk of nuclear war too. And even if all of these risk-increases are small in absolute terms, the consequences if they eventuate are so utterly catastrophic that they’re still massively negative in expectation. I don’t see anything irrational in being very worried about this even if you aren’t particularly worried about a direct invasion or a nuclear first-strike out of the blue.

Also, it seems strange to say that MAD obviates any fear of conventional threats. If that’s the case then why don’t nuclear states massively cut their conventional military budgets relative to non-nuclear ones? They can just nuke the home countries of any invaders, after all. Instead what we’ve seen are very high conventional military budgets throughout the Cold War, right alongside huge nuclear stockpiling.

Other than the "strong NATO increases Russian paranoia of unrelated unconventional attack" bullet point that I mentioned above, I don't see how it appreciably increases the risk of an accidental conflict. NATO and the Warsaw pact were crammed right up next to each other for decades without major incidents along the European border. Russia specifically has bordered 5 NATO States for over a decade now, and it's even turned Kaliningrad into one of the most heavily weaponized regions in the world, like a dagger ready to stab at Warsaw which is <200 miles away or seal off the Baltics via the Suwalki Gap, but again there's been no major incidents.

Conventional militaries are still needed for offensive actions against non-nuclear powers that the US and Soviets both engaged in during the Cold War.

NATO and the Warsaw Pact did have notable incidents along their borders. US-Soviet tank squads almost fought over Soviet prerogatives in East Berlin in ‘61. Able Archer almost triggered WWII in ‘83, it was a massive NATO military exercise in, inter alia, Western Germany (right on the border with the Warsaw Pact). US deployment of Pershing 108s to Western Germany (again, on the border) in the early 80s made the Soviets think NATO was preparing a first strike because the Pershings could hit Belarus and Ukraine in <10 minutes from there. That caused the Petrov incident, where everyone almost got nuked. The Cuban Missile Crisis itself was precipitated by the US putting new ballistic missiles in eastern Turkey, once more, right by the Soviet border. As a matter of history, the idea that there were no notable incidents (many of them based on accidents or misunderstandings) centered on the NATO-Warsaw border is just silly.

Yes, Russia has bordered those states for a while now, and they vigorously protested their entry into NATO too! And just during this war, Lithuanian attempts to cut off some Russian transit into Kaliningrad itself caused an international incident, as did mistaken (one might even say “accidental”) reports that a Russian missile had crossed into Poland and killed two people. Neither of those incidents would have been nearly as tense and serious but for the fact that Article 5 is lurking in the background in both. Bordering NATO states leading to escalated tension over minor clashes and misunderstandings isn’t a merely theoretical possibility, it’s already happened multiple times just this year.

The US and the Soviets were not building their conventional militaries so big to fight Vietnam and Afghanistan, they wanted to be ready to fight each other in the Fulda Gap if need be. This was the object of lots of NATO and Warsaw military planning that’s now public record. MAD did not remotely obviate the desire for conventional superiority over one’s nuclear-armed opponents. If MAD were all you needed, this would be blatantly irrational.

The article does not present a single piece of evidence demonstrating Russians believed NATO expansion was a security threat. The one money quote from Putin this guy hammers on like it is some proof of McFaul’s dishonesty is Putin saying it didn’t “make any sense”. That’s literally it.

Is it simply a "delusion of grandeur" to respond to threats even if not directly martial and only against one's dignity, culture, and preferred system of governance? That seems valid to me. I don't know if characterizing it as "generalized anti-Western sentiment" is correct either because I feel like the West would likely respond in a similar way in a similar situation (that is, the behavior is anti-Western but the motives are more universal than just being anti-Western).

The "delusion of grandeur" is in regards to many Russians wanting the days of being a great power back, when in reality the Russia of today is too dysfunctional, corrupt, and kleptocratic to keep up with the likes of the USA or China.

People in the West may very well have done similar things if roles were reversed. That doesn't necessarily make it just, correct, or rational though.

This article puts a lot of weight on the phrase “legitimate grievance”, but that just sort of sidesteps the question of justification.

If you say my shirt is ugly, I may now have a “legitimate grievance” because you insulted my clothing, but this would hardly be sufficient justification if I chose to murder you in response. So the fact that it is a “legitimate grievance” is really very meaningless. Likewise, the question of “legitimate grievance” with respect to Russia seems similarly meaningless to me. All of these articles from Russia sympathizers are saying little more than “Yes but you insulted his shirt first!”

All of the articles like this have always left me with the same questions. And these are sincere questions, I know little about this conflict. Does the invasion of Ukraine actually do anything to prevent or rollback NATOs expansion? Does the invasion of Ukraine increase Russia’s security? Does the invasion of Ukraine benefit Russia in a way that outweighs the costs? Does it honestly seem like Russia is in a more secure position now than it was a year ago? If the answer is no, then how is any of this justification relevant?

What is your basis for calling Lemoine a "Russia sympathizer"? What does that even mean? And he explicitly says in the piece that the events he's discussing don't justify the invasion, so I don't see where you're getting the idea that discussing the Russia-NATO history here is supposed to justify anything. The point is just that McFaul is being dishonest about the relevant history in order to downplay any possible fault on anyone's part besides Putin.

What difference does it make? He may have invaded because he thought the moon was made of cheese, it’s not a legitimate grievance.

Either might doesn’t make right in which case russia’s security needs do not trump its former satellites’ needs to join rival alliances, or it does then russia is the weak one and its wants are subordinated to the US-EU’s.

What difference does it make?

Main difference it must make is that Russia isn't the real big baddie of this century from a Western perspective. It is China. If the Western aim wrt Ukraine was to avoid war and come to a peaceful settlement where both sides would become part of some rules based system where the rules are made by the Americans, then it has failed miserably. So it is pretty important to look at why/where things went wrong and take lessons if you want to avoid a proper World War.

If you had read the article, then you would know that Putin’s primary concern was not with NATO expansion as such, but with Russian exclusion from the post-Cold War European security architecture of which NATO was the centerpiece. What you are asserting is a non-sequitur.

Again, main disagreement is I don't think it's a legitimate grievance, as the article keeps asserting. So whether he thought he was excluded from modern architecture, or he thought he was Peter I or some other illegitimate nonsense is irrelevant.

Well, I have no clue why you think it’s illegitimate and you haven’t given an argument for that, so there’s nothing for anyone to go on there.

What does this "inclusion in the architecture" mean if not being granted the power to prevent neighbours from choosing allies according to their own security and economic needs?

It’s a euphemism, typical of the two-faced discourse of russian diplomacy and its defenders. The idea is they should have been granted extra powers, officially under a banner of good etiquette, inclusiveness and all things nice, but implicitly backed by the cold threat of military action against the weak if their 'needs' were not 'respected'. That’s the path they went down in Ukraine. They ate their cake, and now that it’s proven indigestive, they want to go back to having it.

Sad to see hangers-on like you fish out their outdated arguments from the trash can.

Sad to see hangers-on like you fish out their outdated arguments from the trash can.

The rest of your argument is fine, but please do not resort to ad hominems. Russia seems to be one of several topics where people have a problem just saying "I think your analysis is wrong" without adding "Because you are obviously a shill for < Putin >/(((The West)))/whatever."

What does this "inclusion in the architecture" mean if not being granted the power to prevent neighbours from choosing allies according to their own security and economic needs?

The article itself (with which you still have yet to engage) provides plenty of context on this, e.g. re: "negotiations as 20" vs. "negotiations as 19+1." Russia even wanted to join NATO at one point, so the idea that Russia voicing security concerns is purely a cover for stopping neighbors from joining alliances is ridiculous.

Sad to see hangers-on like you fish out their outdated arguments from the trash can.

What does this add to the discussion?

The article itself (with which you still have yet to engage) provides plenty of context on this, e.g. re: "negotiations as 20" vs. "negotiations as 19+1." Russia even wanted to join NATO at one point, so the idea that Russian security concerns are purely a cover for stopping neighbors from joining alliances is ridiculous.

No, it is not. If not for NATO, Russia by now would have started war with the Baltic countries, probably even gained quick victory because they are smaller than Russia.

As for the fault of the west, some are saying that Hitler got to the power because of hyperinflation. Other economists are quick to argue that it was actually due to austerity policy that followed it. In any case, we can analyse what could have other countries done to prevent fascist Germany. But the arguments that we only had to convince the Jews in Germany to stop predatory banking practices and the WWII would be averted are wrong on too many levels.

The same is about Russia. What the west could have done is to support post-Soviet countries more to avoid crash of their economy. I don't know how feasible it was but at least it is open for debate.

The Baltics didn’t join NATO until 2004. Putin took over in 1999. Russia didn’t invade the Baltics in that five years where they were basically defenseless because … ???

The USSR send military force to the Baltic countries to prevent them from declaring independence. The coup against Gorbachev was attempted.

Argument that because Putin didn't do it in 1999, therefore he would never do it given the chance, is very weird. Sorry for saying that because the rules probably do not allow me to talk like that.

More comments

The problem with this narrative is that McFaul and Person omit crucial context about those statements that totally undermines the conclusion they draw from them. First, while the statements they quote make it sound as if Putin had no problem with NATO expansion, he made it very clear even at the time that he thought it was a bad idea. For instance, in the same November 2001 interview they quote, Putin also said that he didn’t think that expanding NATO “[made] any sense” because NATO had been created to deal with the threat posed by the Soviet Union and “there [was] no Soviet Union anymore”, so NATO expansion wouldn’t increase anyone’s security. Similarly, during a press conference in 2004 with Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, then Secretary General of NATO, he stated that “Russia's position toward the enlargement of NATO is well known and has not changed” and repeated his view that it wouldn’t increase anyone’s security, but strangely those statements and many others like them didn’t make it into McFaul and Person’s article.

You'd be hard pressed to find a single person in the Baltics who thinks joining NATO didn't increase their country's security. The only difference of opinion is that some soviet Russians living in the Baltics think this is a bad thing, stopping Putin from restoring their rightful place as part of the Russian Empire.

Well, if enough people think it, I guess that must make it true!

In any event, the point of the passage that you’re quoting does not turn on Putin’s assertion being correct.

It's funny to see highly upvoted comments of people arguing "lots of people in X believed Y, therefore Y is true" and downvoting people who write that's not a supportable argument, and then upvoting "lots of people in Russia believed NATO expansion was a threat, but that's not a legitimate belief and they didn't believe it" and then retreat to "okay, maybe they believed it, but it's dumb therefore Russia bad," while downvoting any disagreement.

And then accusing the dissidents of being paid shills.

I didn't say "lots of people", I said "basically everyone actually living in the countries involved". (including security analysts, politicians, pro-Russia people etc.)

Motteposting does have a point, though. Putin's literal words don't actually convey worry, but are also clear bullshit. Therefore more significance should be given to their negative valence, which does indicate worry.

yes, that's the example

"basically everyone actually living in the countries involves" thought X, therefore X is true, and yet making the claim that basically everyone living in Russia having a belief about actions of the US and co is met with downvotes and derision, attacks against the people, attacks against whether this was genuine, and attacks on the legitimacy of the belief itself

and then attacking the people even defending any part of that accusing them of being shills

it's a post about the behavior of the people who are on this forum which make it appear like arguments as soldiers

as an aside, I can't tell you how little respect I would assign to the beliefs of "security analysts, politicians, pro-russia people (whatever that means)" generally

The whole NATO expansion thing has a lot in common with deplatforming. The claimed principle in both cases is free association, the actual goal in both cases is marginalization. A rightist having a meltdown, calling his opponents a bunch of fucking nazis and hopefully attacking them is the best outcome. He outs himself as the villain and you can destroy him with a clear conscience. And the best thing is, he is actually a villain, like a starving peasant turning to highway robbery or an incel turning to date rape.

And the worst thing for Russia is, this is not the end. There's absolutely no guarantee Russia won't remain a designated bogeyman, a Piliguinia, even if it loses convincingly, even if Putin is not allowed to remain in charge, even if it admits total blame for every war it took part in since 1618 and shows its belly in general. As I've said on the old motte, there's no one left in Russia who can pull off what Witte did in Portsmouth or Talleyrand did in Vienna.

There's absolutely no guarantee Russia won't remain a designated bogeyman, a Piliguinia, even if it loses convincingly, even if Putin is not allowed to remain in charge, even if it admits total blame for every war it took part in since 1618 and shows its belly in general.

This is what happens when a country goes out of its way to screw its neighbors for hundreds of years. There's almost nobody in Eastern Europe who has any faith that Russia wouldn't gobble them up if given a chance.

Having Putin invade Ukraine was the worst possible outcome. Russia is now excluded from Western markets and politically stigmatized, so it will no longer have an incentive to behave itself in interactions with the West. It will become like North Korea, an insular security state that uses terrorism and criminality to get what it can from a hostile global order. Ukraine itself has lost a third of its population, had a large amount of land permanently scarred, and had its economy destroyed, and even if it wins it will find itself with a long-term hostile neighbor. Large amounts of Western capital have been sacrificed to the war effort, and Russia's resources and economic contributions to the world are now for China to take. So economically, security-wise, and in terms of Ukraine's well-being it seems like the war has been a monumental disaster for Western diplomacy.

Can you explain the last references?

Reference one: When Russia lost its war and the better part of its navy against Japan, everyone expected it to pay a heavy price. Russian statesman Sergei Witte managed to minimize territorial concessions and avoid the question of reparations altogether.

Reference two: after a certain Napoleon was finally sent to his retirement home on Elba, the victors assembled in Vienna to redraw the map of Europe. Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord managed to maneuver himself into the negotiations and ensured France lost only its new acquisitions and not, say, Alsace or Nice. Austria, on the other hand, ended up in a worse position than it was in 1790.

France lost only its new acquisitions and not, say, Alsace or Nice.

Extreme pedantry, I know, but Nice wasn't part of France immediately before or after Napoleon:

The Treaty of Utrecht (1713) once more gave the city back to the Duke of Savoy, who was on that same occasion recognised as King of Sicily. (...) From 1744 until the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748) the French and Spaniards were again in possession. (...) Conquered in 1792 by the armies of the First French Republic, the County of Nice continued to be part of France until 1814; but after that date it reverted to the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia.

It only became part of France for good in 1860:

After the Treaty of Turin was signed in 1860 between the Sardinian king and Napoleon III as a consequence of the Plombières Agreement, the county was again and definitively ceded to France as a territorial reward for French assistance in the Second Italian War of Independence against Austria, which saw Lombardy united with Piedmont-Sardinia.

Thank you. I should've trusted my nagging doubt about Nice and just written "Provence".