Russia Imposes Trade Embargo And Threatens Airspace Restrictions Against US And Her Allies

It's an unprovoked act of war, and you can read more about it at my "main" blog now ... or you can wait until I get the piece posted here as well.

UPDATE: I've been having trouble getting my [redacted] together about re-posting it, so for the moment it is available only at the above link. I hope you don't mind.

As always, your comments are invited.



Reality bites. Either you deal with reality or reality will deal with you.

Saker draws attention to the Russian practice of not getting into protracted threatening behaviour but rather just acting. Many cultures have this approach including North American Native peoples. Even mafia culture as outlined in the classic, "The Godfather".

In the novel, the Godfather instructs his son (paraphrased), "never make threats. If you are not going to carry them out, you will look stupid and weak. If you are going to carry them out, why warn 'em?"!

It's a great way of gaining reasonable behaviour from people (incl children) particularly if the action taken is not escalatory and remains 'tit for tat'.

It is a very strategic move on Russia's part. When contemplating the prospect of being subjected to siege, one's first thought is food supply. I think it is very significant that it was Medvedev who announced the sanctions. Ordinarily, I would think it would be Putin's place to make the announcement as it involves foreign relations. Medvedev has been the EU and US's ally inside Russia and by him announcing the sanctions he is saying that Russia is united in this stance against them.

The Anglo/Zionist Empire just keeps stepping on landmines.

I notice that the EU is saying that Russia's long overdue reaction is "politically motivated"! Um .... well, yeah! As if their actions aren't political. Which all goes to support your contention, WP, that the meaning of actions is determined by who is doing them. Great article, btw!

thanks, James

You make some very important points. Unfortunately it would be anti-American (or worse) to give them any credibility. Wink

GW Bush also used to say that any opposition to him or his agenda was "political". What is the implication? "They are politicians, but I am not." Does anybody believe that?

Similarly, the Obama campaign used to go to great lengths to make sure their candidate was never described as a politician, using the same reasoning, I guess. None of it makes any sense. That's probably why they say it. You would have to be crazy to believe it. But many people still do.

And thanks for your kind words about the piece as well. A close reading of it will reveal -- to the more attentive readers -- that I am being facetious. And you would have to be crazy to believe any of it. Unfortunately, it's not much different from what's being said by people who are all over the media, acting serious and wanting to be taken seriously. But you still have to be crazy to believe any of it.

the tactical value of threatening

... but I have to say I think I disagree with you (and Saker) in your comments about threats and threatening. Specifically, I think I disagree about [1] whether the Russians are threatening or merely acting, and [2] whether or not there is a tactical advantage to be gained by the use of threats. (Or maybe I don't really disagree with you, but I don't really understand what you are saying.)

[1] As I read it, when Medvedev mentions things that they are considering doing but have not decided to do, such as restricting US (and US-allied) access to Russian airspace, he's making a threat. Do you think I have this wrong?

[2] In chess, for example, a threat is a valuable weapon, even if you don't intend to carry it out, because if it is plausible, then the opponent must take steps to defend against it, and that costs him time, as well as tying up his forces so that they cannot be used for the things he would prefer to be doing, such as counter-attacking. Of course chess is not life, but there are very close parallels, so as an allegory it can be useful. And I am wondering, do you think holding a threat over an opponent is advantage in chess but not in politics or international relations? (Or am I misunderstanding what you're saying here?)


Very good points, WP! They deserve an essay in themselves smiling

I'll try and write a fuller explanation of my views later tonight. But briefly-
1) you're right, WP. Medvedev is threatening the EU and the US regarding the proposed airspace restrictions. I would not do that and neither would Putin, in my estimation. But Medvedev is made of different stuff. He probably still thinks he can reason with the EU with words. His is an explicit threat and is counterproductive for the reasons I mentioned previously.

2) a distinction needs to be made between an explicit threat and an implicit threat. One allows for face saving sometimes but the other never does. In chess, the moves and threats are implicit within an explicit context - there's no pretence at co-operation. It's open war. So, in chess, are the threats implicit or explicit and does the difference matter? The difference can sometimes matter a great deal in life. As you say, the chess analogy is valuable but it is always an analogy.

Face saving as a concept is important because it involves 'honour'. Honour is not just about 'culture', ego, pomposity or even integrity. It is the basis of a practical survival strategy in dealing with psychopaths. But more later . . .

looking forward to more later

Thanks again, and please do continue sharing your thoughts when you have the time and energy.

the 'more later'!

I used Don Corleone's advice to his son in my support of Russia's sanctions against the EU farm products because I agree with his conclusion that it is not wise generally to tip your hand to your opponent. However, I do not agree with his reasoning. I use the example often because people can relate readily to the reasoning and this is sad because the Don is instructing his son in how to deal with psychopaths in a psychopathic manner. People relate to it because we are all schooled in a psychopathic culture. The object of the Don's instruction is to destroy the family's opponents. But a reasonable man wants to win his opponent over so that both may prosper. And usually better together than separately.

Putin has been trying to win the Europeans over to his side but the last round of sanctions against Russia have had the support of the same Europeans that he has been negotiating with. So the distinction has to be made now that the Europeans, if not unreasonable themselves, are acting at the behest of those who are unreasonable. So words are a waste of time and actions now are the order of the day. The farm produce sanctions from Russia are in accordance with that. The talk of possible future sanctions against US and EU in regard to air routes is no longer appropriate because it is more talk after talking has been shown to be ineffective.

Force can be offensive or defensive and is called violence when offensive and self-defence or protection when defensive. Violence provokes more violence and protection diminishes violence. Russia wants to diminish violence so the sanctions it imposes on the EU and US should be protective of Russia in the first instance. The farm produce sanctions fit the category of protection because a country facing the prospect of an economic siege must be able to feed itself and not be dependent on the very people who would put them under siege.

The air route sanctions, if enacted, may be protective economically of Russia's airlines and those of their allies, particularly Malaysian Airlines which has been singled out for violence by the US. In which case, they would minimize further sanctions. If, on the other hand, they are retributive over Dobrolet's troubles at the hands of the Europeans, then this will exacerbate the situation together with the prospect of being viewed as equally vindictive and psychopathic as the US is. This has further implications.

Giving advance notice of probable or certain actions to be taken if demands are not met can be viewed as either threats or as warnings. The difference is largely semantic but I need terminology to make a distinction between offence and defence. So I'll define a threat as notice of an action that is intended to exploit another; offensive, in other words. A warning, for the purposes of my argument here, is notice given that you will protect yourself against aggression i.e. defensive.

A threat therefore will lead to more violence whether complied with or not (submission to exploitation is accepting and validating violence and encourages more violence). A warning, being defensive, will not lead to more violence. It may lead to the use of force to repel physical violence but either way it will lead to a reduction in violence as opposed to counter threats and counter offensives or, on the other hand, passivity in the face of threats.

I do not have enough familiarity with the airline situation to know whether Medvedev's talk of air route restrictions constitute a threat or a warning; whether it is offensive in nature or defensive. I suspect it is offensive but because we have established that we are not dealing with reasonable people (i.e. the US behind the EU heads) in any case, talk is at best a waste of time. So I think Medvedev would have advanced Russia's interests by keeping his mouth shut in regard to the air route restrictions.

So the question now is how do you deal effectively with an unreasonable person? It is wise, especially if the downside is large, to assume an unreasonable and unreasoning person you are dealing with is a psychopath. The first thing is to really understand what an unreasonable person is telling us through their behaviour. What this behaviour is telling us is that they are unreasoning. It sounds circular but the point needs to be made explicit; they are not reasoning like you or I.

Psychopaths cannot learn from their mistakes because they cannot accept responsibility for their actions when the consequences do not align with their perception of what should have happened. In other words, they opt for their own perceptions or image of reality over what objective reality is telling them. They retreat into denial. So, you cannot reason with them because they cannot see what you are getting at; that reality imposes costs when you break certain natural laws. Therefore it is a waste of time reasoning or negotiating with them. They think they can control all consequences.

So if psychopaths do not respond to reasoning, what do they respond to? Another way of putting the question is, what do they understand? They understand force and coercion because that is what they base their whole strategy in life on; violence and the threat of violence. The violence may be physical, verbal or economic or may take some other form. When they act with violence, the appropriate response, one which they will understand, is return defensive force (passivity invites more violence).

In game theory experiments, the most effective strategy in dealing with “a rational actor” (which is code for a psychopath i.e. someone who acts purely out of self interest) on a repetitive basis is called “tit for tat” and is pretty self explanatory. There are two 'tricks' to it, though. One is to respond with force that is slightly less than the violence perpetrated against you. This says that you will defend yourself (which imposes a cost) now and in the future but are not interested in escalating the situation. In other words, “back off and we can continue to live in relative peace and you don't have to worry about me attacking you in return later”.

The second 'trick' is to respond quickly. This is how we train animals and young children (not with violence I hasten to add). Animals, very young children and psychopaths all share a limited capacity to reason but we are all hard-wired to learn causation through correlated events close in time. This learning does not require reasoning ability.

The above strategy all depends on a commitment to defend one's interests so I'll add some reasoning to do so.

In dealing with threats of all sorts from bullies and psychopaths, I have found it very effective to call the bullies on their threats straight away especially if the threats are explicit. If the threat is implicit, I will voice it as explicit and ask the bully if that is what they mean. Usually at this point the bullies' retreat and say “No, that is not what I meant”. If they do make it explicit then, again, I challenge them to carry it out. Nine times out of ten, they back down because of two things. First of all, they are cowards. Secondly, the threatened action is not their preferred course for you. They want their demand met (or else). The 'or else' is not really what they want.

In the case of the one time in ten that the bully follows through with their threatened action, you still win because you have not buckled to the bully and you have maintained your self respect which is crucial to your quality of life. Even if the bully wins that first fight, he will not come back again if he knows he is going to get himself into another one.

When you fight back you always impose a cost on them. It is worth bearing in mind that violence is a tool in the hands of a bully or psychopath to achieve psychological dominance. When you fight back, win or lose, you deny them their goal of psychological dominance and they will look for someone else to bully next time.

In any case, we can't know the future in most instances so we have to develop a strategy that will benefit us most of the time. 'Calling' bullies works 9 out or 10 times and that is a winning strategy in anyone's language.

If a culture has learned this lesson well, how does it pass it on to the succeeding generations effectively? This is where the concept of 'honour' that I mentioned in my previous comment comes in. We have within us a sense of the preciousness of our freedom of choice. When that is violated we are being exploited and almost always through violence or the threat of violence. If you teach the next generation to view this impingement upon their freedom of choice as an impingement of their dignity (which it is), then you have inbuilt a winning strategy against bullying and psychopathy. The culture will survive against attacks from psychopaths.

I could go on, as is my want smiling , but I had better end there and I hope I have answered the questions in all those words!


I have gone back and reread your article again, WP, (which I should have done before my last comment!) and I find these words from Medvedev- (emphasis mine)

"[W]e are also developing measures to retaliate against the EU sanctions against Dobrolyot for its service to Simferopol."

This is definitely a threat and it sounds like it was uttered out of desire for revenge. An understandable and common reaction to aggression but one that Russia cannot indulge in without some cost, at least, to itself. I'm at a bit of a loss as to know how Medvedev came to say it. I cannot imagine Vladimir Putin saying something like this as he is always so careful with his words and I wonder if he knew Medvedev would be saying it that way.

Still, I guess it is a small thing in the scheme of things but I hope Putin muzzles Medvedev in future.

thanks for the more

there's a lot to absorb, and I'm not sure whether I understand it all yet, but I'm still working on it. Wink

More on threats

I've been thinking more about your chess analogy, WP, and I can see your reasoning as applied to chess. Chess does have parallels with warfare, of course, and that is a principal reason why it was promoted, as I understand it. But there was something that didn't fit or transfer from the chessboard to the situation in Ukraine and Russia's response and non-response.

We might interpret Russia's engagement in war exercises within Russia as a threat. But is that stretching things? Perhaps it might be better seen as 'castling' one's king. A defensive move within one's own territory. The fruit ban may be seen as advancing a knight, for instance. A little unexpected but not a major assault in itself. It could be seen as 'development' and defensive in nature. It might also be a small attack and it might be an implied threat of things to come. The potential is there but it is a matter of interpretation. What it is most definitely is an action.

Next we have the threat of airline restrictions. It is a verbal threat and there is no equivalent in chess. One is restricted to actions in chess and verbal threats do not enter the game. Indeed, you cannot even test your opponents reaction to a possible move on your part by touching or picking up a piece without then being forced to move it. So no feints are allowed.

Clausewitz said war is the continuance of politics by other means and the ranks of politicians are filled with psychopaths and psychopaths lie one way or another every time they open their mouths. Psychopaths are fond of making verbal threats but they are liars and this must be borne in mind at all times. They are intent on creating illusions for their opponents. It is a mistake to think you can defeat a psychopath using his methods.

Putin is a martial artist of high rank in two Japanese martial arts; Judo, which is more defensive, and Kyokushin karate, which is more offensive. But with either art, the guiding principle is to avoid a battle if at all possible. Part of the Bushido Code of Japan is the concept of the "Undrawn Sword". The Samurai is said to have lost his personal battle if he finds himself in a position where he has to draw his sword to fight. He has lost every opportunity to negotiate a peace. But from this position now, the Samurai is totally focused on defeating his now enemy.

"The Undrawn Sword" ensures that the Samurai does not attack first. Of course, making verbal threats or even warnings (other than the visual evidence of the undrawn sword) play no part in this scenario. Apart from a defensive posture (sometimes) nothing must be done that can be interpreted as aggressive. Peace is the goal.

So if a fight is to happen, it has to be started by the opponent and to start it they have to come into your space. This has an advantage for the defender because the opponent is vulnerable when they do this. I would suggest all martial artists know that when someone attacks they create opportunities to counter attack from a position of strength into weakness.

When you throw your fist out it is unprotected and it also leaves your body unprotected. Your arm becomes a lever that can be used against you. When you kick your foot out, the foot and leg is vulnerable and you have compromised your balance. You are supremely vulnerable. When an army advances into defended territory, they are vulnerable. The advancing army cannot move everything at once. There are immediately supply and logistic problems and communication vulnerabilities. They are exposed on unfamiliar ground. If the forces are equal the attacker will lose.

The attacker uses threats, smoke and noise to engender fear in the defenders to counter this natural advantage. The answer is to turn down the volume (propaganda) and watch the moves and not spend your time making threats, smoke and noise of your own.

Boxing usually displays the western approach to fighting by emphasizing attack or aggression. But Muhammad Ali brought a different approach to the ring and defeated more champions and contenders than anyone else in history. He let his opponents come to him. He would often drop his guard to entice them to attack. When the opponent attacked Ali was ready and counter attacked, like an "Eastern" martial artist would, into the vulnerabilities they exposed.

Ali was "Western" though in his pre-fight threats and jibes which were all designed to enrage his opponent or at least offend his ego so that he would attack from the start. But Ali was a professional fighter and made his money from fights. So promoting fights was his business. Eastern martial artists are not 'professional' in that same sense and Russia and Putin certainly are not. They do not want to fight because win, lose or draw, innocent people will die. But if a war comes to them, they are prepared to win and will do what is necessary (and only what is necessary) to win. Till then, they have the undrawn sword on their belt.

So making verbal threats is counterproductive to Putin's aims and I would think he had a 'quiet word' afterwards to Medvedev (who would be lucky to know one end of a rifle, never mind a sword, from the other).

So to finally answer your question, WP, threats can have tactical advantages if you think like a psychopath and your opponent is unaware of this fact (and many other things besides).

If you are not a psychopath, the best strategy is to
1. 'turn down the sound' and focus on the moves and
2. prepare your defensive strategy which is aimed at taking maximum advantage of the inevitable weaknesses contained within any attack and
3. keep your mouth shut (regarding threats, that is) to maximize any chance of peace and to maximize the surprise of your response when and if physically attacked.

If I ever get to the Part 2 of my Psychopath article, I'll include a section of where 'warnings' fit into dealing with psychopaths.

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