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I think a secondary goal of the sanctions, maybe even a primary one, is to deter future aggression by China.

Their effect on civilian living standards probably does matter in that respect, even if they're unlikely to turn Russian public against Putin. The legitimacy of every government depends on economic performance to some extent, but I think more so in China than in Russia. Beijing will be watching the situation very carefully, and that's a good thing.

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the problem here is that the Western economy is far more entwined with China than Russia, and would dramatically hurt both parties. Right now there are options for the West to replace Russia: there are no immediate options to replace China. Imagine the pain consumers would face if China stopped shipping stuff to the West? In the short run: it would be incredibly painful. China can suppress its population, and they are more used to poor conditions. If the West's population hates the pain: it can vote out its government and demand a surrender.

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I see a lot of generalization here. Sure, China could _try_ to suppress its population, but you’d be talking about Great Depression levels of unemployment in China. Stuff that China hasn’t seen in generations. Not even during the craziness of the Cultural Revolution and Great Leap Forward.

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My biggest fear is that the West’s pain would sky rocket

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Aug 31, 2022·edited Aug 31, 2022Liked by Noah Smith

Also it doesn't help Russia that Rostec has been busy cannibalizing the defense budget for years in an orgy of corrupt self-dealing by Putin's intel buddies.

Never underestimate the ability of a mafia-state to get in its own way as well.

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Aug 31, 2022Liked by Noah Smith

It would be better to compare economy growth in RU before the war (+4%) with growth after the war started (minus 6%). Or compare forecast for 2022 for Russia with Saudi Arabia ( +8%! )

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Interesting but ultimately unconvincing.

1) Right off the bat, this narrative relies a lot on waving off justifications that were, in fact, given for the sanctions and specific claims about how they would work. A credible case that "Russian sanctions are working" should at least in part seriously grapple with what the President, his Cabinet, and leading Members of Congress said about why they were imposing sanctions and their intended effect. Immiserating the proverbial babushka and stoking a revolt of Russian kleptocrats were explicitly invoked as goals of the sanctions regime. Perhaps we have reached the conclusion that those goals were fundamentally unserious, mistaken, or misguided, but they should be reckoned with nonetheless, since they constituted a significant part of the public justification for these measures.

2) A convincing case would also need to grapple with the effect of sanctions on the West and the broader world economy, not just Russia. What exactly have we accomplished by hamstringing one of the world's largest economies? How has that reordered the global economy? How should we weigh those effects against the supposed impact on Russian domestic military production? Is it sustainable to maintain those sanctions (e.g. through the coming winter)? And what political effect are the consequences of these sanctions having on the Western capitals that championed them at the outset (e.g. how many governments will fall and change hands by the first anniversary of the war)?

3) As the piece acknowledges, the truth about Russian domestic military production is a closely held secret, which makes it particularly shaky ground upon which to stake a defense of Russian sanctions. How much do we really know about how sanctions have impacted military production? Are car imports and domestic automobile production really suitable proxies for evaluating the effect of sanctions? Given the fog of war, secrecy, and war-time propaganda from all sides, how confident are we in the nebulous claims cited about negative effects on Russian military production?

Would love to hear more on any of the above.

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For your 3rd point, doesn’t the dishing out of older equipment (tanks, unguided missiles etc) serve as a proxy for military industrial production failing to catch up with needs of the war?

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Not really, because most national military industry are simply not able to produce enough equipment to sustain a peer-level war. So even if the production was ramping up a lot they would still use up the new equipment faster than they can produce it and so would need to dish out older equipment.

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Aug 31, 2022·edited Aug 31, 2022

After waving off the often-stated reasons for sanctions, the information about military parts is heavily drawn from Ukr generals (a Facebook post) and Ukr intelligence, with the showcase being the Yale study (which reads like spookery). I know Russia is keeping it tight, but there are sources out there that aren't duty-bound to stay on message.

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It's ironic you're accusing Noah of handwaving because what I see from you is "war ergo we know nothing about what is happening in Russia" even though even the numbers being put out by Russia show a significant decrease in industrial production.

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Well said. Noah also easily brushes off the trump card here: China. Sure, Chinese trade to Russia is down now, but that could easily change in the near future. China has most of the high tech that Russia once got from the West.

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That sounds like handwaving as well. I'm no expert here but the experts I've read mostly say that

1. It's actually not as simple to replace Western supply chains with Chinese ones located far from your (Russia's industrial areas) as snapping your fingers.

2. Actually, no, there are critical areas (for example, moderning tools machining machines) where China can't fully replace a Western product with one of the same quality.

Do you have actual expertise in this area or are you handwaving? What are your areas of expertise?

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Man I’m just a commenter, why are you asking for expertise? There have been many an article about how China can and already has been helping Russia obtained certain sanctioned goods (and of course funding energy money) so it’s logical to assume they could help with high tech stuff down the line.

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Because if you have no expertise and just handwave, it’s not a convincing argument. There’s a big difference between helping out and being able to fully replace what the Western export controls have stopped. You just handwave that difference away. As an example, if China could replace 1% of what Russia imported from the West, then sure, China is helping, but it doesn’t then follow that China can replace 100% of what Russia imported from the West. If it’s just 10%, Russia’s industrial production would still crash.

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The hinted at point here being, that if any final product has enough inputs then you need near 100% replacement or you can't produce anything at all (still 0% production). (This is as opposed to each final product requiring one input where then 10% of replacement = 10% production.)

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Aug 31, 2022Liked by Noah Smith

This is a great analysis. Don't show to Rod Dreher though! ;) Of late you have been on a China-hate stream. Hopefully you will admit Russia is a greater threat than China (probably even for the next 10-20 years, especially if China's economy does not do well under Xi.) And that doing less trade with Russia makes more sense than doing less trade with China. Dreher and Tucker think the opposite, which has nothing to do with race...

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Nah, China’s still the bigger and more intractable threat. As someone noted, this seems to be the reverse image of the start of the Cold War, which was kicked off by the junior anti-West partner fighting a war to a stalemate on the eastern end of Eurasia against the West. This time it’s on the western end and this time, while parts of the West (Europe) have to suffer some economic hardship, they don’t even have to fight and die themselves as they did in Korea. So if history rhymes, in about 2 decades, the West can turn Russia against China.

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And are you Richard Harmania, someone who pines for that "Western, Not White of Course" Internationale, and has such a terrible track record of predicting wars?!? ;)

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I think there may be more than one person named "Richard" in this world

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There are so many that as students of history we have to number them, Richard I, Richard II, Richard III etc.

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Wait, so what we have here is _the original Richard_? From before we had to append numeric suffixes. We should all feel honored.

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LOL, wut? Yes, indeed, the world contains more than 1 “Richard “.

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No Russia still has way more nuclear weapons than China does, has an easier time attacking our more significant trade partners and allies, and has done more bad invasions in the last 40 years than China has. (China has actually been better at the dumb invasion stuff over the last 40 years than the US.) And no I don't think Russia is dumb enough to send divisions into China, and especially not that dumb after Ukraine and Afghanistan.

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Huh? You don’t seem to get my Korean War analogy. China didn’t send tanks in to the USSR either.

And yes, while Putin has engaged in far more wars (just like Mao fought more direct battles after WWII than Stalin did), China poses a far greater threat to Taiwan (and Japan) than Russia does to any major European ally.

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Yeah your analogy does not make sense, breaks down easily, and is not predictive of anything. And nope Russia poses a greater threat to Europe (and all of those allies) than China attacking Japan and Taiwan, especially since they are islands...

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Yeah your analogy makes no sense. And yes, your logic is about as bad as Dick Harmania. Nope, it would be fundamentally easier for Russia to invade Poland or German (or really most of Europe), since they are connected by land, while China would have to conduct difficult if not impossible amphibious invasions. And you never addressed the nuclear weapons imbalance.

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It’s easier for Mexico to invade the US by land too. Capabilities of the countries matter. And once you have enough nukes to wipe out the world, why does it matter if you have 7X times that or not?

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Yeah, Russia still has a better capability of invading the European Super Peninsula than China, and better capability to take Germany and Poland than China can take Japan or Taiwan. Duh. Russia has enough nukes to wipe out the Earth, China probably doesn't. And Russia definitely has more nukes to overwhelm untested defenses, while China does not. Dude you are making my argument for me.

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That key are part of NATO. I don’t think NATO countries are worrying too much about Russian invasion after their performance in (and diminution from) the UKR fiasco.

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If I were as small and as convenient-to-access-by-Russian-rail as the Baltic countries, I'd probably be more worried in late 2022 than I was in late 2021.

Increased Russian willingness to engage in risky + costly war > decreased Russian capabilities

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Sure, but Japan and Taiwan would disagree with them. Japan and Taiwan also have more people and are more strategically and economically important than all those countries added together.

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Japan and Taiwan have more people than the Baltics, but much less than the rest of Europe...

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Finland and Sweden only just got around to joining NATO this year and so definitely don't count as major European allies.

Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are tiny.

Romania and Poland are very worried about Russia for historical reasons but not seriously threatened by the Russian military, based on its decrepit state as revealed in the Russo-Ukrainian War of this year.

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Aug 31, 2022Liked by Noah Smith

Good reading.

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You write that the only sanctions that really matter are the restrictions of Russian imports (technology, chips, parts, etc.) and that these sanctions are working.

Why, then, continue the sanctions on Russian exports (oil and gas, fertilizers, other raw materials)? These seem to be at worst causing and at best exacerbating the primary problems the West faces right now, namely inflation and high energy prices/energy shortages in Europe. Additionally, the knock-on effects are energy and food shortages in poorer countries as the U.S. and Europe secure supply that would have gone to these countries. The collateral damage of the sanctions regime goes beyond just the U.S. and Europe.

Finally, the sanctions on Russian exports are causing the U.S. to take actions like drawing down the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, putting our own national security in a more risky position.

We've had 6 months to gauge the impact sanctions are having. It seems to me there is no shame in making adjustments on the fly and being more precise in our actions. Indeed, if we can roll back sanctions that are causing harm to West (Russian energy exports), then we have better odds of staying united, for longer.

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Aug 31, 2022·edited Aug 31, 2022

The problem with sanctions against Russia is that, Russia can live months, if not years without Boeing/Airbus parts, but Europe cannot live one day without Russian gas. It's a form of power asymmetry.

We are very used to thinking that countries that rely on resource extraction are "third world", "exploited", "peripheral". It is not really the case. And a "Saudi Arabia with nukes" is very formidable [Even the one without nukes is hard to deal with, as Biden just found out]. In fact an alliance of commodity exporters, like what happened in the 1970s [and Putin is actively trying to forge], is a grave threat to the human civilization. There's no reason why we have to tolerate all the industrial output and scientific progress of the world being choked by the Tsar in Kremlin, religious fanatics in Iran, murderous princes in the Gulf, and the "socialist" dictator in Venezuela. Enough is enough.

On the ideological front, we must forget about the "first-word vs third-world, core vs peripheral" propaganda [Russia has a GDP PPP per capita of $30K!!], and reconsider why is it considered morally justified for a country, instead of mankind, to own the resources in its territory. The oil-poor countries in the Middle East have long whined about the oil-rich countries not spreading their oil wealth equally to the entire Muslim world, but they do have a point. A world that accepts national sovereignty over its natural resources is practically incentivizing imperial expansion and genocide, like Putin is doing, as the amount of natural resources is generally proportional to the area of the land.

On the practical front, it is simply insane that the machines and software that the West exported to Russia do not have any "kill switches" embedded into them. These kill switches should have been enabled right on Feb. 24, and all the computers with Windows/Mac operating system become bricks. They are necessary countermeasures against Putin's arbitrary threats to do "maintenance" on the gas pipes and thus level the asymmetric sanction playground. It's like a nuke-less version of MAD.

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Sep 1, 2022·edited Sep 1, 2022

Should all the cell phones and other computers that China exports to the US have kill switches in them too?

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Maybe the US shouldn’t buy sensitive equipment from China, then. BTW, that is indeed a national security concern.

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Ehhh. It’s more than just planes. Russia’s entire manufacturing and transportation capacity is breaking down. And sure, it will come down to which side can take more pain, but it’s not as if Europe has no other sources of gas or energy either.

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Aug 31, 2022Liked by Noah Smith

> For Electronic copy available at: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4167193 52 example, the Russian tank producer Uralvagonzavod has furloughed workers

I think you copied some boilerplate text from the PDF that shouldn't be here.

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Thanks, fixed!

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Aug 31, 2022Liked by Noah Smith

> it can’t don that nearly as much

Typo

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Thanks, fixed!

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Necessity is the mother of invention. So in the short and probably medium term we've made a short war in Ukraine into a long drawn out affair. To do this we've shined a glaring light on Russia's weak points so they can now set about fixing them because to not is an existential crises. Essentially we are teaching Russia how to be more self sufficient. BTW... I think we all know Russians are smart. There weakness has always been brutality and a lack of trust in one another. It seems we're doing our best to fix that I guess.

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That's an argument to kill off Russia now when possible. Unless you think that allowing belligerent authoritarian countries to simply gobble up smaller neighboring ones would be better for you.

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What do you mean “kill off Russia”? Kill all the Russians? Maybe deport them to concentration camps elsewhere?

You can’t really kill Russia as it is an idea that lives in the heads of over 100M people.

Do you mean overthrow the government of Russia? That often has unintended consequences (see Iran 1953, Guatemala 1954, Congo 1960, Vietnam 1963, Haiti 2004, Honduras 2009, etc). Plus I don’t think the usual CIA sponsored band of thugs approach is likely to work here and invading Russia would be a really bad idea.

It’s probably better to let the Russians sort this one out themselves.

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Oh, for sure. IMO, Russia is destined for chaos and likely bloody breakup. I see almost no way out of that future. The problem I have with the hand-waving crowd is that they seem to think that somehow giving in to Russia would somehow forestall that future from eventually arriving anyway.

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The Soviet Union *already* broke up; the only remaining region I know of that had a serious separatist movement was Chechnya, and we know how that worked out. At most it could sort-of break up internally while still being one country on paper, but I don't see any maps changing.

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Folks in Europe weren't expecting the Russian Empire to be overthrown in 1917 either. Nobody foresaw the fall and dismantling of the USSR.

Many events seem improbable until they happen.

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And most imaginable future events that seem improbable actually are improbable and don't happen.

/me shrugs

It could happen, but I wouldn't bet on it.

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Sure if I were trying to start a thermonuclear destruction of all mankind.... but no.... that wasn't what I said. As far as belligerence goes... or arrogance, pride, hubris, naivety, presumptiveness or simple mindedness I don't really give a flying fig about Russia or Ukraine. France is nice! So is Italy! But Ukraine.... don't really care. Never wanted to go. Never plan on visiting.

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“The only purpose of sanctions that makes any logical sense is this...”. What about the purpose of allowing American companies (and their foreign partners) to swoop in and pick up the business that Russia is losing via the sanctions? If Europe moves away from Russian dependency on energy, someone is going to pick up that business. Not to mention the increase in Western energy company profits this year, driven in part by the sanctions against Russia. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/oil-companies-record-profits-2022-exxon-chevron/

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You are a bit too focused on the present. Well planned sanctions must hurt the average Babushka badly. True, it is a bit cruel and it is not going to stop this war. But it will be a powerful deterrent against the next war. The rule based world order that the western countries support is all about having rules for the future. Starting an aggressive unprovoked war means terrible suffering for the aggressor's citizens is a very good and effective rule.

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By your logic, Americans’ living standard should have been destroyed by sanctions after the Iraq War. The US is the worst possible country you can find to regulate the “rules based world order.”

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My personal opinion is that the United States should have been sanctioned for that war (although the cost of the sanctions for other nations would have been higher than sanctioning Russia) but it is better to have one country capable of doing unjustified wars than for every big country to be able of starting(and getting benefits from) them and the fact that the United States did wrong things in the past doesn’t seem like a good argument not to do good things like sanctioning imperialist governments

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Saddam Hussein's Iraq could not expect enjoying peaceful world order it tried to destroy.

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Oh trust me, when you're in another world order, you'll yearn for the US-enforced rules-based world order. Or are you under the illusion that you would be better off if China was a local or world hegemon?

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Maybe as an American I would. But given the US record with regards to the rest of the world, it’s probably a crapshoot. The US has killed more civilians than any other country since WWII. Certainly more than China has.

But maybe China would go on a worldwide spree of coup plotting and nation invading if they had the chance too. Given their history, it seems unlikely to me, but it’s certainly possible.

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Again, check back from the future. I think your imagination is too limited. You’ll be yearning for the days of American hegemony.

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I doubt it. As an American, it's almost impossible for me to imagine a future world order that will seriously impact my quality of life. What do you imagine happening? That someone will invade the US? Raise the price of gasoline?

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It's a sad indictment of American education and a cause of perennial problems that Americans seem to have no comprehension of how reliant they are on the rest of the world (as is every other modern economy).

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Yeah, you have no clue how privileged you are.

There are much worse things that can happen than the price of gas being raised.

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You could have written - causing human suffering is not the point, but sanctions are going to cause a lot of it.

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You know what causes more suffering? Invading another country.

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Really glad to see conservatives coming around to the anti-war point of view. Now if you could just take the next step and realize that we don't need such a large and expensive military just for self defense.

Perhaps I am reading too much into your comment, but were you opposed to the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan as well?

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Well, our military is also effectively the "defense" force for much of the world. :/

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Yes, and I'm not a conservative. What unit did you serve in as a paratrooper?

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1/505 PIR. It’s a regiment of the 82nd Airborne.

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What is so frustrating though is Putin's power to just turn off the gas. But better news came yesterday thst Germany has managed to store nearly 80 per cent of its capacity which is about 3 months supply.

There was a large drop in natural gas October future prices as a result. Around 30 percent. Hopefully this drop will be sustained or increase. The main economic issue in Europe is the cost of living crisis. There are different policy solutions on offer.

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I am sorry but your article is biased. Russia is entirely capable of import substitution in the long run. Sanctions imposed after its Crimea invasion led to more import substitution. Also remember, you have no idea about its military numbers. Your article itself admits as much. Such casual suppositions harm the integrity of your piece. Finally, remember as winter approaches, Europe's view on Russia will dramatically change. Already France/socialists in Germany/many experts all over are suggesting that a negotiated solution is going to be better for them. It is only the US which appears to be relatively unaffected by Russia. It is the only one pushing ahead. Very soon, it could find itself isolated

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