In early March of this year, I wrote “Ukraine and Epistemic Failure Analysis” as a response to the Right’s collective failure to predict that Russia would invade Ukraine and initiate what has become the largest European war since that bit of unpleasantness with the Germans in the 1940s. That essay concerned itself with that very narrow failure of the nationalist Right to accurately predict the onset of war. Since then, that conflict has developed and expanded, and so have the Right’s reactions to it and its predictions as to its ongoing course. They have been, almost without exception, wrong. In this essay, I will enumerate these failures and comment on why I believe they took place.
For starters, Western dissidents, from MAGA to White Nationalists found themselves convinced that there would be no war, but that if there were to be a war, Russia would seize the whole of Ukraine, or at least its capital, Kyiv, within a week. The infamous “three days to Kiev” slogan is now widely mocked, but it was sincerely believed in the beginning. Even in the first months, at least until the Russian retreat from the Kyiv, Sumy, and Chernihiv fronts in Ukraine’s forested north and the beginning of the slow grind in the Donbas region, there was the belief that Russia was “holding back” and treating Ukraine with kid gloves. As I write these words, we are in the eleventh month of the invasion and Russian forces seem exhausted, even when augmented by the newly-mobilized soldiers from the September invasion.
At the root of the “three days to Kyiv” myth were two beliefs: in Russia’s great strength and in Ukraine’s pathetic weakness. The first exists in great measure due to the fact that the Russian state takes great care to appear strong and project an image of strength. Projecting an image of strength has its advantages, since the weak-willed are intimidated and you get to be the big man without actually being all that big and strong. However, without also actually being strong, it means that the myth of your great strength is fragile and can evaporate the second you try to muscle someone who decides to test your strength. Such people and entities are few and far between, but they do exist. Some have more balls than brains, others are governed by notions of honor rather than by self-preservation or reason, while others can still see through your bluff. It also leads your enemies to overprepare. According to this paper, the Ukrainian military took the Russian threat very seriously and thus prepared to fight the best Russian army that could possibly exist. When it came to it, they had to fight a Russian army with amateur logistics which committed blunder after strategic blunder due to political indecision at the level of the civilian government.
While we’re on the subject, people also believed Ukrainian defense efforts would be comically inept. While we can enumerate a laundry list of reasons why Ukrainian state capacity would be low — it is sometimes considered Europe’s most corrupt country; it’s poor, and politically and linguistically divided; it has very low birthrates; and its economy is still somewhat stuck in the Soviet period — the reality is that Ukraine was dismissed because “it isn’t a real country.” Aside from the fact that the denial of Ukrainian nationality was a Kremlin propaganda point which very heavily saturated the Western dissident Right in the years between 2014 and 2022, it also feeds into most Westerners’ dismissive views of the East. The difference between a Russian and a Ukrainian is academic to someone who looks at the region from far away and with a dose of contempt for those somewhat animalistic Slavs. Let the Russians absorb the statelets of Eastern Europe and clean up the map somewhat — who cares? Suffice to say, in the past ten months the Ukrainians have shown themselves to be eminently real, or at least real enough to call the Russian bluff and seriously imperil Russian imperial ambitions.
A subset of the myth of Russian great military strength is the myth of great Russian economic strength. It was believed that Russia would have Europe on a leash with its control of energy resources. In the immediate aftermath of the invasion and the Western-imposed sanctions, a great hullabaloo arose about how Europe would freeze in the winter unless it lifted the sanctions and stopped its support for Ukraine. At the same time, we were treated to some very creative fiction about the great strength of the Russian economy — that while it may look small on paper, because it is focused on staples like oil, wheat, and fertilizer, it’s “real,” unlike the financialized Western economies. Ten months down the line, not only has Europe not frozen, it has managed to develop the infrastructure to substitute Russian energy imports, while the combination of sanctions and labor shortages (due to mobilization and emigration to escape mobilization) have economically crippled Russia. The Right failed to predict that the global economy is a dynamic and antifragile system which does not depend on any single node in order to survive and thrive. The “real,” unfinancialized Russian economy has turned out to be nothing but a natural resource extraction operation, and rather embarrassingly dependent on Western technology. Almost all industrial capacity from the Soviet period has been lost and many of its technological aspects have been outsourced to the West. The advent of sanctions means that the rug gets pulled out on many operations, even those as crucial to the state’s finances as hydrocarbon extraction and exports. Import substitution is a joke, and now that some of the best and brightest Russians have fled the country to avoid mobilization, it’s less likely than before.
Of course, Russia and Ukraine aren’t the only actors in this conflict. Ukraine depends on weapons deliveries and support from the West to keep fighting. But have no fear: Western dissidents also made serious prediction errors with regard to the West as well. As a corollary to the myth of Russia’s great strength, we were also led to believe that the liberal West is degenerate and weak, that its armies are full of trannies and gays, and that its governments are run by shrill, unfuckable women and weak men will not be able to withstand the great masculine onslaught of shirtless Russian paratroopers. The dissident Right was, of course, wrong again. It turns out that the West was not only very robust and prepared to slog it out with Russia, but that it has a lot more fight in it than it appeared. Now, this could have been a stratagem — as Sun Tzu advises, it is wise to appear weak when you are strong, but it also could have been a case of the hapless Russians, as well as Western dissidents not recognizing strength because they do not realize what strength really is (or where it comes from). After all, every day I see conservatives, MAGA, nationalists, reactionaries, and a whole slew of other types of people loudly proclaiming how weak and pathetic the Left is, not stopping to realize that they’ve been consistently losing to the Left for at least 150 years. Whatever else they may be, someone who’s been consistently winning for 150 years is anything but weak. Recognizing that the West’s ruling class are not only not weak and pathetic, but also strong and secure in their position, or at least strong enough to check Russia by expending a fraction of America’s military budget in Ukraine, is essential if we’re to move forward with the nationalist agenda.
Over the past few years I’ve heard a lot of very confident pronouncements from dissidents about the reality of conflict. Reactionaries famously proclaimed that the era of mass war is over and that an era of elite, specialized soldiers is coming, with the bulk of the population being merely booty to be fought over by these powerful few. However, when reality got an opportunity to vote, it voted yet again for the levée en masse, as first Ukraine and then Russia mobilized their civilian male populations into the army, or in Ukraine’s case the army and territorial defense units. Of these two states, Ukraine’s mobilization efforts were met with less avoidance and resistance and produced better results. While this could be because th Ukrainians consider themselves under attack and are fighting to defend their country, it must also be said that of the two populations, it is the Ukrainians who are more ideological and politically active, while Russians are more pragmatic and politically passive. This has led to reluctance among the Russian population to take part in what it considers the state’s business. Indeed, if the state is the property of the elites — a private state — then why should the common folk concern themselves with its affairs? The moment the elites require the population to concern itself with a state affair as grave and as existential as war, the state must be reformed in order to give the commoners a stake in it; i.e., it must be reformed into a public thing — a res publica, if you’ll allow me an indulgence of gratuitous Latin. The great bugaboos of reactionary thinking, popular politics and ideological mobilization, have proven themselves to be great strengths for a state and indispensable in modern war.
What weapons and tactics have dominated the fight? Not the much-ballyhooed cruise missiles or special forces, but such standard elements of modern war as infantry, both light and mechanized; tube and rocket artillery; air defense systems; tanks and armored vehicles; and fighter jets and tactical bombers. As I write these words, Russian forces are attempting to seize the city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine, but have suffered immense casualties trying to storm the Ukrainian fortifications in and around the city: bunkers and trenches defended by machine gun- and mortar-armed infantry on foot, with heavy artillery support. The front lines are moving very slowly at the moment not because of any technological standstill, as expected by those who predicted that cruise missiles would paralyze armies of the future, but because of mud. Ukraine is still in its muddy season, which has extended into late December in this unseasonably warm winter. Rain and moisture have turned the vast fields into mud soup, which can suck a boot right off a soldier’s foot, to say nothing of trying to drive heavy vehicles over it. Until such a time that the ground freezes firmly enough to bear a tank, there will be no major maneuvers from either side.
I am sure that in Heaven or Valhalla, the veterans of Agincourt are having themselves a hearty belly laugh because war, after all, never changes. Naturally, each war brings forth a change on the battlefield, and we’ve seen unprecedented developments in electronic and drone warfare as well as a great lessening of the role of the attack helicopter, which cannot survive in heavily contested skies where every light infantry platoon has a shoulder-launched anti-aircraft rocket. But aside from these gradual changes that were expected due to the march of technological progress, the Ukraine War isn’t that much different from the way wars have been fought in the past. Notch another failed prediction for the dissident Right, this time in the area of military strategy and weapons technology.
What’s the point of enumerating all the ways in which the dissident Right got this war and its attendant phenomena wrong? Well, if we had merely gotten any one of them wrong, I’d have chalked it up to human error, or to having had the wrong facts, or any of a myriad of reasons why people make mistakes. But we didn’t get one thing wrong; we got everything wrong. And that would be bad enough, indicating that our framework of thinking and analysis is fundamentally flawed. But there’s more. Our primary enemy, the Western ruling class, was right on almost everything. It would be bad enough to say they were right about everything, but it’s worse than that. They, too, committed an error when they assumed that Russia was strong and that Ukraine was weak, but as soon as it became apparent that this was not the case, they immediately changed their assumptions and double-checked their methods and framework of thinking. Our principal enemy erred and then adapted after a period of failure analysis, whereas we erred and then persisted in our error. There has been no reflection on the Right, outside of my own efforts here at Counter-Currents. People are too caught up in defending the honor of their bad takes on the war or signaling their loyalty to this or that side to stop and think about why they’ve been consistently making bad predictions. Compounding the problem is that some of the people who’ve been the most vocal Putin cheerleaders came into the war hot off having predicted that Donald Trump would crown himself Caesar of America in the wake of the 2020 election.
Whichever way we put it, the goal of this movement is to attain political power, either directly or by developing a policy program and ideology that will allow others to seize power and implement our agenda. Standing in our way to power are not only rival political groups, which also seek power, but also the current power-holders: the Western ruling class. What the Ukraine War has demonstrated is that vast swathes of this dog’s breakfast of a movement are clownishly inept, and worse, pridefully clinging to their crooked interpretative frameworks that have led them into error again and again. Having erred, they do not adapt, they do not show contrition or self-reflection, they do not learn from their errors, and they do not even admit that they erred. I could be uncharitable and insult them by implying that they’re in this for money, but there are so many easier ways to make money that I can only conclude that we’re dealing with a coterie of unserious dilettantes chasing the dopamine rush of having the hottest hot take on social media. I won’t name names because it’s unproductive, but you know who they are, and insofar as they’re reading this, they know who they are.
If we are to seize power, then we must establish an interpretative framework which will allow us to accurately analyze world events and adapt to them. If our interpretative framework fails us, it is not the end of the world, since we can always adjust it or abandon it and start anew. What this war and the past ten months have shown me is that many of my old assumptions about the world were wrong, and I have taken steps to remedy this situation. I would like to invite my fellow White Nationalists to likewise do so, insofar as their own interpretative framework has failed them.
As for those who refuse to respond to the pressures of reality, we must abandon them. We are already a small and embattled movement, and we cannot afford the luxury of pig-ignorant ballast that refuses to admit it could have made a mistake.
* * *
Like all journals of dissident ideas, Counter-Currents depends on the support of readers like you. Help us compete with the censors of the Left and the violent accelerationists of the Right with a donation today. (The easiest way to help is with an e-check donation. All you need is your checkbook.)
For other ways to donate, click here.
Enjoyed this article?
Be the first to leave a tip in the jar!
Ich Klage an: Pro-Genocide Nazi Propaganda or Humanitarian Masterpiece? Part 1
Toward a New Spiritual Revolution
The Fear of Writing
Jonathan Bowden’s The Cultured Thug
David Zsutty Introduces the Homeland Institute: Transcript
“A Few More Steps and We Were . . . On Some Edge of Things”: Staircases That Lead Nowhere, Part 2
Where the Dissident Right Triumphs