Julian Borger



Ukraine Crisis, February 22, 2022: Putin makes impossible demands on Ukraine, supports inclusion of Ukraine-occupied territory in boundaries of “people’s republics”; Biden’s “rational actor” approach to graduated sanctions not likely to deter Putin from larger war

The “rational actor fallacy” is a phenomenon well known by political scientists and students of international affairs. The classic study of this phenomena is Essence of Decision by Graham Allison, a professor at Harvard, who demonstrated the flaws in using a “rational actor” model to analyze the behavior of the U.S. during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.
As we wrote yesterday,

Joe Biden, like Barack Obama before him, seems to have fallen into the trap of assuming Russia is a single, unitary mind, rationally calculating costs and benefits in making decisions that determine state behavior. Now, like Obama, Biden is trying to make fine intellectual distinctions in weighing sanctions, as if Putin were an accountant carefully adding up on his calculator the costs and benefits of invading Ukraine.
In fact, however, Putin is a KGB thug, a war criminal (Syria, Chechnya), an apparent serial murderer of his opponents (Boris Nemtsov, Alexei Navalny–unsuccessful attempt, to be sure, et. al.), and someone who invaded the Donbas in 2014 and kept a war going that has cost some 14,000 lives.
–“Ukraine Crisis, February 21, 2022 (Part II): Weighing options–Biden’s Munich moment,” February 21, 2022.

The problem with Biden’s “rational actor” approach to graduated sanctions is that Russia’s actions, at this point in the execution of a huge and carefully choreographed war plan, may not be under the control of Putin, the postulated unitary, rational actor. Moreover, even if they are, the finely graduated sanctions of Biden’s team are not likely to have enough power to jolt Putin out of his war trance in time for him to pull the emergency brake, assuming that he can be persuaded that he needs to.
At this point, only massive sanctions, imposed immediately and simultaneously, might conceivably jolt Putin out if his war trance. Graduated sanctions are very unlikely to do so. Even massive sanctions, holding little in reserve, may not work. But they should be tried.
The one thing that is certain is that there is no single rational actor, sitting in a control room somewhere, who could accurately perceive the threatened impacts of additional tranches of sanctions, and then exercise control over a country and a war machine that are fully engaged in war.


Ukraine Crisis, February 11, 2022: PBS correspondent Nick Schifrin reports Putin has issued orders to invade Ukraine; Putin’s last off-ramp; Biden needs to re-open off-ramp, propose summit

Nick Schifrin reports in tweets that Vladimir Putin has issued orders to invade Ukraine.
What could be the last chance to avoid war would be to reopen that last exit ramp for Putin.
At this point, only President Joe Biden has a shot at doing that successfully.
Summary and Conclusion

In conclusion, Biden should act urgently to reopen the last off-ramp, as suggested above, and even propose a summit with Putin, and perhaps other leaders.
At the same time, Biden should take the two steps in the United Nations suggested above.


Taliban take Kandahar prison, Afghan morale in free fall, Biden delusional: Afghanistan Chronicle – August 11, 2021

As the democratically elected government of Afghanistan teeters on the brink in the face of a Taliban onslaught which is the result of President Joe Biden’s disastrous decision to withdraw all U.S. forces from the country, Biden and his foreign policy team are disconnected from reality. In his op-ed in the Washington Post, Max Boot highlights the “delusional” thinking in the Biden administration. This thinking could find no more cogent illustration than the fact that Biden is proceeding with plans to hold a Summit of Democracies in December.

The Silence of the Generals

One question permeates a deafening silence: Where are the retired American generals and defense officials who should be screaming from the rooftops about Biden’s surrender to the Taliban, and his passive acceptance of Taliban war crimes on a growing scale?

These generals and officials fought the Taliban, and watched over 2,500 American soldiers die fighting the Taliban.

Where is their patriotism now? Why don’t they speak out and shout out about what is going on?

If they remain silent, they will take the shame of their silence to their graves.


Clear statement from U.S. Ambassador to U.N. on withdrawal of Russian forces from the Crimea and the eastern Ukraine

Developing The American Ambassdor to the United Nations has delivered a clear statement the Security Council that the United States regards the Crimea and the…


Cherif Bassiouni, top expert on war crimes, confirms Russians and Iranians, including Putin, responsible for war crimes in Syria if they were aware of operations

Developing See Josh Rogin, “Putin and Assad could face justice for war crimes in Syria, Washington Post, October 9, 2016 (7:53 p.m. EDT). Julian Borger,…


REPRISE — Civilization falters: Aleppo Burns; Obama looks the other way; Putin threatens, Petraeus underlines feasability of military options; U.S. government paralyzed by Obama’s obstinancy (Updated October 8, 2016)

Check back for further updates UPDATE: October 8, 2016 Russia has this afternoon vetoed a French-sponsored Security Council resolution aimed at halting the war crimes…



UN report charges al-Assad regime with crimes against humanity—Obama’s debacle in Syria — Update #75 (August 15)

The UN Commission of Inquiry has just filed an updated report on the atrocities in Syria, finding the government has committed the wide-scale and planned…