385 - Ukraine asides | Scoins.net | DJS

385 - Ukraine asides

War in Ukraine

I continue to find this difficult to engage with.  It looks increasingly likely that the conflict will continue for a long time. We could argue that it began with the invasion of the Crimea in 2014. And 2018. Current occupied territory is shown nearby. I am expecting Russian attempts to take the whole of Donbas and the complete southern coast. I read reports that Russian forces have significant military problems, mostly to do with their personnel. But at the same time large numbers of civilians have been moved into Russia – no doubt unwillingly, to be returned perhaps in the future to occupy Russian Ukraine. The UN has a diplomatic role to play and, Russia being a supreme council member, the situation may cause the demise of the UN itself. What then might replace the UN is very much unclear. See also the comment on Ostovsky in the previous essay.

If we assume that the West as a whole wants to avoid war (on Russian soil, anywhere other than within what was the Ukraine) then surprisingly few options are open. Both sides are in positions where what the say and what they do will not be in alignment. While the West sees the main issue with Putin himself, he has a coterie of like-minded and very powerful people around him, so removing the figurehead would not cure the problem.  Aside here, an article [5] on the curious number of oligarchs that have apparently suicided recently.

Ostracising Russia, as many would like to do, has issues, mostly to do with the purchase and supply of oil and gas. While Germany is a major purchaser of Russian gas, whatever they do to reduce demand simply moves that gas to places like India and China, for whom fossil fuel is a significant need and any deal is worthwhile. Also, the ways in which the 'market' operates makes it surprisingly simple for gas originating in Russia to be purchased from apparently reputable non-Russian suppliers – there is simply far too much money at stake for principles to be allowed to get in the way.


One would think that spring would reduce energy demand significantly. But the leap in gas prices is having a steady knock-on effect, e.g., UK inflation at 7% source, and rising. Increased fuel costs nudge virtually everything upwards; loss of Ukraine (and Russian) wheat is going to have another significant effect, (see list); Russia and the Ukraine produced (2020) 111  of the global 760 million tonnes, not quite 15% of the whole. The EU produces a bit under 17% and only China grows more, still under 18%. So I think we should expect inflation on fuel and food to continue upwards. Wheat price forecast. Gas price forecast. 

That UK prediction looks like a multiplier of five or six on 2020 gas prices, which not only would make gas more expensive than electricity, but that too would rise in price. This is not at all straightforward; gas prices are quoted in pence per therm, currently passing 200 and at a mean for 2022 of 153, while electricity is quoted in price per MWh and the 2022 price is £150. 100 therms equate to 2.93 MWh, so would cost around £153 and that would be £52 per MWh, about a third of the electricity value. But we make quite a lot of electricity from gas (see [4]), which is why the prediction for electricity price in 2022 is three times what it was in 2020. So we might as well accept that all energy is going to leap by a multiplier of three or more and that, while the government will take actions to slow these changes down, in the end the multiplier will be more like four, say in 2023 (and ignoring the inflation that this brings).  I expect the relative prices of electricity over gas to change from 3:1 towards 5:3 during 2022.

Bearing all that in mind, the incentive to Insulate Britain ought to be significant. But of course we have, like the Ukraine situation, a  lot of hand-wringing and precious little ability to do anything very much about matters. At an individual and personal level this changes how one might spend and I have often pointed to the national spend on entertainment (broadband, streaming, phones and tvs) so that I expect there will be a reduction in that as the same money moves to buy food and energy. 

As ever, those with capital are in a position to make preventative moves, such as additional insulation. In our individual case, I'm afraid we'd be better off changing house thanks to the severe limitations caused by living in a conservation area.

The inset map [from 6] has a good correlation between the percentage of Russian spoken with the spaces that Russia has taken, 2014-2022. The UN makes much of self-determination but such terms assume no external pressures to agree with external forces applied – and assume a lack of propaganda, some version of free choice or decision. One does not trust that this is so. I trust it in the Falklands and would wish to apply any critical thinking to both the Falklands and the Crimea. For example, for Argentina to have the result it wants, first it would have possession of the islands, then it would flood them with settlers from the Argentine, take the plebiscite and, magically, it gets what it wants. I wonder, too what would happen if the UK was asked to vote on the position of Northern Ireland; I don't wonder very much, becasue I'm sure that the majority on the mainland would not only not care, but would think that a united Ireland would much 'better', if only for their own local (English) interests. But, if a vote is confined to nothern Ireland, there's still a majority for membership of the UK (and to think otherwise, there ought to be an absolute majority for an island union). If such a vote should be localised, does that mean that devolution for say the north-east should be asked only of the north-east? Suppose I tell you I'd very much like devolution for London? Should I have a vote? For that matter, how about a vote for something sensible, like a total rethink about how we have elections, or select candidates for election? We have no such democratic vote, nor are we likely every to have one. We have a political decision that says, more or less, that the public is so very stuoid that, if asked a putative referendum question, there shall be exactly one question (and that the politicians in power get to decide what the question is). Thus we have had a referendum about English devolution (we are told) but, if you went to read the question you would not read it like that, because the choice of alternatives was already picked. The result was then that the vote was a reflection of the question asked, not what the public wanted the referendum to be about — and, indeed, not what the media said it was about beforehand. You could even say the same thing abiout the 1975 referendum, where the question was, more or less, "Shall we stay in?", where we're told now, it was about joining at all. I'm quite clear that what we need is a far better system for polling opinion, ideally informed opinion, so that modellers can predict opinion across the nation (or its regions) with precision. But what happens and what would happen is that the interested parties (vested interests galore) woudl ensure that whatever rresults were produced would be biased toward their preferred position. Thus perception is moved to where the powerful wish it to be, thus we have incorrectly judged 'majorities' and so the cognitive dissonance I wrote about in the previous page.

[1] https://www.ons.gov.uk/economy/inflationandpriceindices/bulletins/consumerpriceinflation/march2022

[2]  https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/wheat-production-by-country

[3]  https://www.statista.com/statistics/374970/united-kingdom-uk-gas-price-forecast/

[4]  https://ember-climate.org/insights/research/gas-price-spike-to-add-29-billion-to-uk-electricity-bills-next-year/

[5]  https://www.newsweek.com/russian-oligarchs-found-dead-all-have-2-things-common-1705780 

[6]  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annexation_of_Crimea_by_the_Russian_Federation  Do read the 'Aftermath' section, which struck me as remarkably weak. "We don't like it, but we'll still trade with you" seems to fit.


It has occurred to me more than once that Putin's war is doing wonders for increasing NATO membership, though I don't suppose he intended that. Membership is open to any European country in a position to undertake the commitments and obligations of membership, and contribute to security in the Euro-Atlantic area. New applicants; Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia and Ukraine. The Republic of North Macedonia became the latest country to join the Alliance on 27 March 2020. Which makes some 30 members. Nine are not in the EU; obviously the USA, Canada and the UK but also Iceland, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Turkey, Albania and Norway. Reversing that, countries in Europe and not in NATO are Austria, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Finland, Ireland, Kosovo, Moldova, Serbia, Sweden, Switzerland, and Ukraine. In the EU and not in NATO are Austria, Cyprus, Finland, Ireland, Malta, and Sweden.  I see no prospect of Belarus joining or being so encouraged; I suspect that Ireland and Switzerland are committed to neutrality, but that Sweden and Finland may well be reconsidering their positions. In many ways, what occurs in the Ukraine is something of a test of NATO resolve, but one that would be far clearer if they had joined before Putin invaded. Maybe the right question is the effect of the Crimean invasion (it was part of the Ukraine) in 2014 on Ukrainian opinion about joining.

There is an intermediate position (read the linked page about Ukraine's relations), much as when a nation wants to join the EU.

The partnership for peace seems to be in abeyance with relation to Russia, and, one suspects, Belarus. It may well be significant that the treaty makes very clear that the opinion of a third party has no effect upon an application to membership. Specifically, Russia's objections to its bordering nations (Sweden, Finland, Ukraine, etc) joining have no effect. This appears to be somewhat different when objections are within NATO already, such as Turkey's objections to Cyprus joining, or those against an application by Serbia.


https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/topics_37750.htm  NATO relations with Ukraine.

https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/official_texts_17120.htm This is the treaty itself. 

Article 5; an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all. Article 6 expands this to attacks also in French Algeria, on Turkish territory, anywhere in the area and north of the tropics, and on the forces, vessels etc of any member state. Article 1 points to peaceful settlement, with an unsaid 'wherever possible', as indicated by Art 5.


There is, in addition a beginning to 'Global NATO'. Australia is often described as a de facto NATO member.


Gas price, 2020 say, is x. At the time the electricity price is 4x for an equivalent energy unit such as MWh

At the end of 2021, the gas price jumps to 4x. One learns that a third of UK electricity is generated from gas.

Q1 What is the new expected price for electricity?

You look at your household bills and compare the total energy consumption for the year, seeing that gas is 60% of the total in MWh.

Q2  How do you predict your total energy cost to change?


This page was moved from Essay 384 to 385 on 20220512.

A1:    I think it is 5x

A2:    I think that the 'before consumption was 2.2x and the 'after' is 3.6x, around a 64% increase, 

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