The invasion as an inflection point

31 03 2022

I’ll be giving the following online talk for the University of California Santa Barbara next Tuesday at 4 pm Pacific Standard Time. It hinges on the idea that the invasion of Ukraine, like other unexpected “hyper-events” (such as the Covid-19 pandemic or the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster), provides a historical “inflection point” at which rearrangements of agency — that is, rearrangement of the structural forces and capacities by which human potentials are shaped and constrained — might occur. There’s of course no guarantee that they will occur, or that the rearrangements will be for the better and not for the worse. The talk will provide some speculation on the kinds of rearrangements that might be possible.

The Invasion of Ukraine as a Turning Point

What are the implications of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in the hindsight of its first six weeks, for world affairs? This talk by Adrian Ivakhiv will highlight the role of media and “information war,” the refugee crisis, and policy responses by western and other countries, to understand how the invasion and its apparent failure could reshape the possibilities for global cooperation on other challenges including climate change, refugeeism and migration, and democratic and authoritarian politics. 4:00 pm on Tuesday, April 5th, 2022 via Zoom (Zoom ID: 825 9988 6556).

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NATO expansion: a hypothetical question

23 03 2022

If I counted all the articles arguing that NATO expansion contributed to the current Russian invasion of Ukraine, I would be kept up all night. (All are variations on Mearsheimer.)

Can someone convince me that they aren’t all missing one fundamental point: that if NATO had not expanded, we have no idea if that would mean that Russia would not have attacked Ukraine in 2014, or Georgia in 2008 (from which it militarily carved out South Ossetia and Abkhazia), or supported separatists in Moldova (from which it carved out Transnistria in 1992)?

These are all non-NATO countries. Doesn’t the logic suggest that Russia would have, by now, also invaded the three Baltic states as well, if not others?

Since we don’t know that, we are all talking hypotheticals: on one side, the hypothetical that NATO expansion got Russia so mad that they attacked those non-NATO countries; on the other side, the hypothetical that they attacked them precisely because they could still do that without attacking NATO.

Which do you find more plausible?

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Call for collaborators

16 03 2022

UKR-TAZ compiles materials helpful for understanding Ukraine, with an emphasis on radical democratic (left-libertarian) perspectives. (See here for more.) That makes it an unusual if not rare space on the English-language internet.

To do this well, especially at a time like this, requires help. We are not calling for donations — if you can provide any, please donate to the organizations listed here. Rather, we seek collaborators, who would be willing to collect articles and/or media to be shared here, and potentially contribute original work of an appropriately analytical (or inspirational) nature. If you are interested, please write to the editor, including the words “UKR-TAZ” in your Subject line. Thanks.

UKL resource list revived

16 03 2022

For those with time to educate themselves, the University of Ottawa’s Dominique Arel has compiled a lengthy list of recent and upcoming video webinars featuring scholars in Ukrainian studies, Russian studies, and related fields. (The list of several dozen is hardly exhaustive; the two university panels I’ve been on aren’t there, and I can think of others that could be added.) They are part of the revived Ukraine List “UKL,” which Arel has edited for many years now, with intermittent frequency but quite regularly during the last few Ukrainian “crises,” the Orange Revolution of 2004 and the Maidan of 2013-14.

This 504th issue of UKL also includes numerous full-length articles, some of them from pay-walled publications, covering analytical perspectives on the Russian invasion.

A PDF with active links to the entire issue of UKL is found here:

The webinars feature close to the beginning of the document.

Thoughts on the humanitarian crisis

14 03 2022

I’ve shared some thoughts on the humanitarian dimension of the Russian invasion, in the longer-term perspective of similar and future crises, here.


13 03 2022

I’ve given this blog a facelift, mainly to make it more readable, as some readers have complained over the years about the legibility of the white text on a black background, and especially the grey quoted text. But I also felt it was time to brighten and enliven it, in the spirit of підбадьорювання (pidbadioriuvannia, enlivening, enspiriting, as in lifting up one’s spirits during times of war or struggle); and because the old theme didn’t work well with the “categories” (see right-hand sidebar). I’ve also reorganized the categories to make them more useful. Comments welcome.

Yermolenko: Ukraine as ‘Tabula Rasa’

5 06 2020

New Eastern Europe has published a very interesting interview with philosopher Volodymyr Yermolenko.

A few snippets:

Some countries are ruled by military juntas, Russia is ruled by the KGB and Ukraine, I believe, is in fact ruled by a corrupt conglomerate made up of the judiciary, prosecution and the police. The army in Ukraine has been very weak for a long time and we did not really have intelligence services, so the police and judiciary took advantage of this power void and took over the country. These institutions are successfully reproducing through family ties and thanks to universities such as Odesa Law Academy run by Serhiy Kivalov (former chief of the State Election Commission under President Kuchma and head of the High Council of Justice under President Yanukovych). Unfortunately, reforms aimed at increasing the independence of judiciary encouraged by European institutions have only lead to strengthening of this judiciary and prosecution mafia. These changes were designed in accordance with models supported by the Council of Europe and based on Montesquieu’s idea that a judiciary can only be just if it is independent. However, in Ukraine the independence of the judiciary has simply meant that this corrupt system continues without challenge. As a result we are now in a deep crisis and it is hard to say what we can do about it.

[. . .]

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Fugitive radioactivity

12 11 2017

Cross-posted from Immanence

The Washington Post reports that “Ruthenium-106, named after Russia” has been wafting all across Europe.

Two quick observations here.

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Plot thickening agents…

26 05 2017

Inside Russia’s social media war on America (Time)

The Great British Brexit Robbery (Guardian)

Trump, Putin, and the New Cold War (The New Yorker)

The information war is real, and we’re losing it (Seattle Times)

Engaging with history in Ukraine

15 08 2015

Writing in The Nation, Jared McBride raises some important questions about the uses of (and control over) history in wartime Ukraine.

Marci Shore’s “Reading Tony Judt in Wartime Ukraine” indirectly, but provocatively, answers them.

Andrei Portnov’s “On Decommunization, Identity, and Legislating History, from a Slightly Different Angle” provides a balanced perspective on the same issues.

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