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Keir Giles : Ten “Don’ts” For Dealing With Russia

Abstracted from a twitter thread by Keir Giles [ @KeirGiles ]

From his book : “Moscow Rules: What Drives Russia To Confront The West” – available at: (US) and (UK and Europe).

KEIR GILES’ work has appeared in a wide range of academic and military publications across Europe and in North America, and he is a regular contributor and commentator on Russian affairs for international print and broadcast media. He is a Senior Consulting Fellow at the UK’s Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House), and also works with the Conflict Studies Research Centre (CSRC), a group of deep subject matter experts on Eurasian security formerly attached to the British Ministry of Defence. He is a regular contributor to research projects on Russian security issues in the U.S., UK and Europe.

Ten “Don’ts” For Dealing With Russia

1. Don’t say “they wouldn’t do that, it doesn’t make sense”.

Abandon any assumptions about what Russia might do that are based on what a Western liberal democracy would consider rational. Russia‘s decision-making framework is bounded by an entirely different understanding of history, geography, social policy and relations between countries from that of the West. To understand the choices open to Moscow, it is critically important to see the world through a Russian lens, rather than be guided by what “makes sense” in Washington or Brussels.

2. Don’t confuse understanding Russia with excusing Russia.

Russia is guided by its own distinctive sense of historical imperatives, and consequently an enduring sense of privilege to disregard commonly accepted norms of behaviour. But the conviction with which these views are expressed does not necessarily make them right, or provide an excuse when they are acted on in ways the West finds repugnant.

3. Don’t ask binary questions.

Don’t ask about Russia “is it either this or that”, “either yes or no”. The answer is likely to be both, at the same time, or neither, or more. Dealing with Russia necessitates being comfortable with paradoxes and contradictions, and many things spoken and written about Russia are both true and not true at the same time, Consequently, when you ask “why does Russia do X”. don‘t look for just one answer There will be several reasons, some of which will overlap and some of which will contradict each other.

4. Don’t be distracted by bluster, bravado and bluff.

Just because Russia makes a lot of angry noise about your plans or proposals doesn’t mean Moscow will not be prepared to live with them when they are implemented. Russia defaults to threats and feigned outrage in order to improve its negotiating position, because the West’s responses show that this sometimes works. Listen instead for changes in tone that indicate real concerns.

5. Don’t forget that Russia does not consist of just one man.

The current leader in the Kremlin at any one time is not the problem if he is driven by persistent Russian beliefs and imperatives. The country and its leaders respond to internal and external challenges in ways that remain consistent over centuries; course corrections that accompany a change of leadership tend to be temporary aberrations.

6. Don’t just hope for “change”.

Change in Russia is rarely as deep as it appears, and certainly not always for the better; so it is dangerous to assume that political change in Russia is desirable because it will necessarily be an improvement. Russia’s current behaviour towards other countries and its own citizens is reprehensible. But by historical standards, Russia is still in a period of unprecedented liberalism. It would be hard for things to get better, but it would be very easy for things to get far, far worse.

7. Don’t expect Russia to respect values and standards that were invented elsewhere.

You can’t embarrass Russia over its behaviour at times when it places no value on its reputation. “Naming and shaming” has limited effect: it is important to “name” by continuing to call attention to Russian actions and holding Moscow to account for them, but do not expect Russia to feel the “shame”. What western liberal democracies think, or believe, or would like to happen is not a deciding criterion when Russia considers which course of action to choose.

8. Don’t hope to appeal to Russia’s better nature.

Russia sees compromise and cooperation, with no evident and immediate benefit to state or leadership interests, as unnatural and deeply suspicious. This places strict limits on the potential for working with Moscow even on what may appear to be shared challenges.

9. Don’t assume that there must be common ground.

It’s natural to search for these shared challenges. assuming there must be some way we can work with Russia on mutual interests. But there is a reason this search does not bring results, despite being conducted intensively throughout the almost three decades since the end of the USSR. Whenever it appears that Russia and the West could work together on a problem, it quickly becomes clear that not only Moscow‘s understanding of the issue, but also its preferred solution and the methods it would favour to deliver it are entirely incompatible with Western norms, values and even laws.

10. Don’t think that you can choose whether to be at war with Russia or not.

Sometimes de-escalation, taken to its logical conclusion, equates to surrender. At the same time, Russia will never be “at peace” with you. Normal relations with Russia include fending off a wide range of hostile actions from Moscow; this is the default state throughout history, and Western nations should by now be realising this is the norm.


Pablo Picasso [ 1881 – 1973 ]
Le Cocu Magnifique    |    1968
1 of 12 etchings    |    text by Fernand Crommelynck
plate : 221 x 322 mm [ 8¾ x 12⅝ in ]

War in Ukraine

understanding the conflict – 3 excellent sources

Kamil Galeev

Galina Starovoitova Fellow @TheWilsonCenter. MLitt in Early Modern History, St Andrews. MA in China Studies, Peking University
twitter : @kamilkazani
threadreader :

Phillips P. OBrien

Professor of Strategic Studies, University St Andrews, Author: How the War was Won, and Second Most Powerful Man in the World. Editor in Chief, War in History
twitter :  @PhillipsPOBrien
threadreader :

Trent Telenko

twitter :  @TrentTelenko
threadreader :

Jing Hao 荆浩 [ c. 855-915 ]

Pi-fa-chi (Notes on Brush Method)

The six essentials for landscape painting, according to the sage, are :

氣 Ch’i (life breath):
As the heart responds and the brush moves forward, forms are seized with­out hesitation.

韻 Yün (resonance and elegance):
Where forms are omitted or elaborated upon, the choice is never vulgar.

思 Si (thought):
By sorting out essentials, the painter conceives the form.

景 Jing (scenery):
By observing the laws of nature and the seasons, he searches out the sub­lime and creates a true landscape.

筆 Bi (brushwork):
Though following certain basic methods, it must move freely and know how to improvise. It must not be too solid or assume too definite a form; it must look as if in flight and constant motion.

墨 Mo (ink wash):
High and low peaks are described by a light ink wash, which also makes objects stand out clearly either in shallow or deep recession. The drawing and ink wash are so natural that they do not seem to be made by a brush.


Wintry Forests and Layered Banks
Hanging scroll on silk, attributed to Dong Yuan 董源 [ c. 934 – 962 ]
Kurokawa Foundation    |    Hyogo    |    Japan

Wang Hui

Wang Hui ( 1632-1717 )    |    Autumn Forests at Yushan    |    1668

Hanging scroll   |    ink and color on paper   |    57 ½ x 24 3/8 in. (146.2 x 61.7 cm)   |    Palace Museum, Beijing

SO(10) x U(1)

each panel 16 x 10 [ inches ]    |    ensemble  112 x 18 [ inches ] approx    |     acrylic
conjectured model of a grand unified theory is an abelian gauge theory with the symmetry group SO(10) x U(1)

U(1) x SU(2) x SU(3)

each panel 16 x 10 [ inches ]    |    ensemble  112 x 18 [ inches ] approx    |    watercolour / acrylic
the standard model of particle physics is a non-abelian gauge theory with the symmetry group U(1)xSU(2)xSU(3)

on Anaxaminder [ circa 570 BCE ]

Anaximander claimed that the cosmic order is not monarchic but geometric, and that this causes the equilibrium of the earth, which is lying in the centre of the universe. This is the projection on nature of a new political order and a new space organized around a centre which is the static point of the system in the society as in nature (1). In this space there is isonomy (equal rights) and all the forces are symmetrical and transferable. The decisions are now taken by the assembly of demos in the agora which is lying in the middle of the city (2).

1. C. Mosse (1984) La Grece archaique d’Homere a Eschyle. Edition du Seuil. p 235
2. J. P. Vernart (1982) Les origins de la pensee grecque. PUF Pariw. p 128, J. P. Vernart (1982) The origins of the Greek thought. Cornell University Press.

Peplos Kore    |    circa 530 BCE    |    Parian marble    |    height : 120 cm    |    Acropolis Museum  Athens

Ruins of Vijianuggur [Vijayanagara] near Calamapoor [Kamalapuram]

Photograph of the ruins at Vijayanagara from the ‘Photographs to Illustrate the Ancient Architecture of Southern Indian’ collection, taken by Edmund David Lyon in c. 1868.

Vijayanagara, the City of Victory, was the most powerful Hindu kingdom in Southern India from 1336 until the defeat by the Muslim armies in 1565. It was built on the bank of the Tungabhadra River and is surrounded by granite hills. The ruins of this vast royal city incorporate distinct zones and are divided into two main groups, the sacred centre and the royal centre. The royal centre was the residential area of the royal household and included zones associated with the ceremonial, administrative and military functions of the rulers.

The Ramachandra Temple is situated in the royal centre and dates from the 15th century. It is dedicated to the cult of Rama and was most likely used as the state chapel by the Vijayanagara rulers. The main temple, set in the centre of a rectangular compound, is richly carved with reliefs depicting royal scenes and scenes from the Ramayana epic.

Lyon wrote: ‘Passing round the temple to the right, its northern façade is seen as represented in this view. On the left, a portion of the porch…is seen, and also another entrance which exists on this side, and the carvings on its face. Entering the building by either of these doors, the whole interior is found beautifully carved…four pillars of black polished granite and the whole roof are master-pieces of carving.’

Photographer: Lyon, Edmund David

Medium: Photographic print

Date: 1868

British Library

Edward Witten on the anthropic principle

What about new approaches to the fine-tuning problem such as the relaxion or “Nnaturalness”?

Unfortunately, it has been very hard to find a conventional natural explanation of the dark energy and hierarchy problems. Reluctantly, I think we have to take seriously the anthropic alternative, according to which we live in a universe that has a “landscape”of possibilities, which are realised in different regions of space or maybe in different portions of the quantum mechanical wavefunction, and we inevitably live where we can. I have no idea if this interpretation is correct, but it provides a yardstick against which to measure other proposals. Twenty years ago, I used to find the anthropic interpretation of the universe upsetting, in part because of the difficulty it might present in understanding physics. Over the years I have mellowed. I suppose I reluctantly came to accept that the universe was not created for our convenience in understanding it.

a very good interview the full text of which can be found here


Calabi–Yau manifold

Applications in superstring theory

Calabi–Yau manifolds are important in superstring theory. Essentially, Calabi–Yau manifolds are shapes that satisfy the requirement of space for the six “unseen” spatial dimensions of string theory, which may be smaller than our currently observable lengths as they have not yet been detected. A popular alternative known as large extra dimensions, which often occurs in braneworld models, is that the Calabi–Yau is large but we are confined to a small subset on which it intersects a D-brane. Further extensions into higher dimensions are currently being explored with additional ramifications for general relativity.

In the most conventional superstring models, ten conjectural dimensions in string theory are supposed to come as four of which we are aware, carrying some kind of fibration with fiber dimension six. Compactification on Calabi–Yau n-folds are important because they leave some of the original supersymmetry unbroken. More precisely, in the absence of fluxes, compactification on a Calabi–Yau 3-fold (real dimension 6) leaves one quarter of the original supersymmetry unbroken if the holonomy is the full SU(3).

More generally, a flux-free compactification on an n-manifold with holonomy SU(n) leaves 21−n of the original supersymmetry unbroken, corresponding to 26−n supercharges in a compactification of type II supergravity or 25−n supercharges in a compactification of type I. When fluxes are included the supersymmetry condition instead implies that the compactification manifold be a generalized Calabi–Yau, a notion introduced by Hitchin (2003). These models are known as flux compactifications.

F-theory compactifications on various Calabi–Yau four-folds provide physicists with a method to find a large number of classical solutions in the so-called string theory landscape.

Connected with each hole in the Calabi–Yau space is a group of low-energy string vibrational patterns. Since string theory states that our familiar elementary particles correspond to low-energy string vibrations, the presence of multiple holes causes the string patterns to fall into multiple groups, or families. Although the following statement has been simplified, it conveys the logic of the argument: if the Calabi–Yau has three holes, then three families of vibrational patterns and thus three families of particles will be observed experimentally.

Logically, since strings vibrate through all the dimensions, the shape of the curled-up ones will affect their vibrations and thus the properties of the elementary particles observed. For example, Andrew Strominger and Edward Witten have shown that the masses of particles depend on the manner of the intersection of the various holes in a Calabi–Yau. In other words, the positions of the holes relative to one another and to the substance of the Calabi–Yau space was found by Strominger and Witten to affect the masses of particles in a certain way. This is true of all particle properties.

CC BY-SA 3.0, image credit