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In pandemics or wars, the spread of both accurate and inaccurate information playing on emotions and sentiment is fundamental to mass media sales.
This usually will come in the form of inaccurate information.

~Jim Osman @EdgeCGroup

This tweet/sentiment summed up a lot of what we've been seeing over the past few days: A bull market in emotion and moralising.

Everything that Putin does is terrible. Any calls for NATO to directly intervene are incredibly reckless. Social media commentary (everyone's an expert) is far worse than usual.

And it's incredibly easy to get sucked in.

I watched the first five minutes of this absolute horror show on Sky News yesterday 👇

The live virtual audience were incredibly emotional, and everyone applauded and gave their thumbs up to the idea that NATO should intervene, with boots on the ground in Ukraine.

Until the panelist (a retired General I think) pointed out that this would definitely lead to World War 3. Boring spoilsport.

Public opinion just isn't a good place to get information. As a rule of thumb, the more emotive and dramatic the messaging, the less you should pay attention to it.

To have any hope of analysing this type of situation with a clear mind, morals and emotions have to be set to one side.

It's not just the media that are waging an attention war either

Nope. Policymakers are at it too.

On both sides. Eye-catching soundbites and declarations are often intended to provoke responses from allies or enemies. Sometimes, they are intended to win the hearts and minds of the public.

Posturing helps maintain the public's sense of (relative) order too.
It's playground stuff.

  • NATO Warns...
  • Russia Warns...

"If you do that, I'll tell my mates and we'll all batter you after school"

You can't trust anything you hear in the fog of war. It's usually deliberate or unintentional propaganda.

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Politicians and policymakers are people too (it might not always seem like it, but I promise you they are). Fears of doing the wrong thing as decision-makers play on their minds. Mis-steps and emotions affect them too.

Especially for many of the public-facing voices that don't necessarily have the background knowledge...

Which makes the moral high-ground an irrelevant, but tempting battlefield for them to engage in. But it's mostly noise.

And the range of possible outcomes in these scenarios seems so huge that highly improbable stories and scenarios are given a free pass in the media.

‘Yes, He Would’: Fiona Hill on Putin and Nukes
Putin is trying to take down the entire world order, the veteran Russia watcher said in an interview. But there are ways even ordinary Americans can fight back.

In the heat of the moment, it certainly seems like anything's possible.

But what's probable?

To decipher this, you probably need some degree of historical/geopolitical knowledge to assess the potential motives of the parties involved.

Putin hasn't suddenly gone mad and attacked on a whim.

In my non-expert opinion, this tweet from President Zelensky in June 2021 could well have been the final straw...

Russia responded...

Kremlin says NATO membership for Ukraine would be ‘red line’
The Kremlin said on Thursday that Ukrainian membership of NATO would be a “red line” for Moscow and that it was worried by talk that Kyiv may one day be granted a membership action plan.

And just three months ago...

Biden assures Zelenskiy that NATO membership in Ukraine’s hands, Kyiv says
U.S. President Joe Biden assured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that Kyiv’s bid to join the NATO military alliance was in its own hands, Zelenskiy’s chief of staff said after the two leaders spoke on Thursday.

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What's the context?

Russia has never been happy with NATO's expansion eastward. It doesn't really matter if you 'blame' NATO expansion or Russian imperialism.

Ukraine's stuck in the middle.

Ukraine war follows decades of warnings that NATO expansion into Eastern Europe could provoke Russia
Lost in the outrage over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is the fact that many in the West have long warned that widespread NATO expansion into Eastern Europe could spark just such a conflict.

Why is Ukraine a red line for Russia?

Some excellent background in the following links... From 2015 👇

Russia and the Curse of Geography
Want to understand why Putin does what he does? Look at a map.

What if Putin’s motives aren’t so mysterious after all?
What if you can read them clearly on a map?


10 Maps That Explain Russia’s Strategy
Many people think of maps in terms of their basic purpose: showing a country’s geography and topography. But maps can speak to all dimensions—political, military, and economic. In fact, they are the first place to start thinking about a country’s strategy, which can reveal factors that are otherwise…

And this is an excellent read from 2014 (before Putin annexed Crimea) ...

Is It Time for Ukraine to Split Up?
One expert thinks the country would be better off if it were partitioned.

I'm not arguing necessarily that Ukraine should split up. I am saying, however, that were it to split, were something like that to occur, and especially if those three problematic provinces—the two in the [eastern region of the] Donbas, Luhansk and Donetsk, and arguably even the Crimea—were to leave, Ukraine frankly would be better off.

And in my non-expert opinion, a divided Ukraine seems like the most probable outcome when the dust settles.

Putin knows that aggression towards NATO members and any attempts to reclaim those states is a red line for the West.

NATO directly intervening on Ukranian soil is a red line for Russia (which is why NATO have promised support rather than "boots on the ground".

Which means some kind of compromise is most likely...

(DMZ = De-Militarized Zone)

The entire thread is well worth a read. If nothing else, it's thought-provoking and cuts right through the noise.

Anything can happen in times of conflict, but chasing every headline really isn't worth it. Step back, try to fill in the blanks and take the long view.

Nobody likes a myopic hyperbolic discounter anyway...

(Author of the amazing Superforecasting)

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