Performative War

Darya Dugina and the explosion that took her life.

The Meaning of an Assassination

What the assassination of Darya Dugina and the attempted drone strike Russia’s Black Sea Fleet headquarters have in common.

Days after an attempted drone strike on the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Sebastopol,

Russian journalist Darya Dugina was killed by a car bomb, apparently intended for her father, the political philosopher Alexander Dugin. Russia’s federal security service, the FSB, claims the assassin was a Ukrainian SBU operative named Natalia Vovk, and has posted video and other documentation supporting their claim.

Dugin Isn’t a Member of Putin’s Inner Circle

Despite claims in the West and in the Ukraine that Dugin is a major influence on Russian President Vladimir Putin,

As Russian journalist Anatoly Karlin pointed out several years ago, Dugin was the 39th most prominent political philosopher/ political scientist in Russia:

Alexander Dugin is continuously trouted out by the Western media as this gray cardinal of the Kremlin, who is the “brain”, the favorite philosopher, and even the Rasputin behind Putin and no doubt soon behind Trump as well.

The banal reality is that Dugin is, at least in relative terms, far better known in the West than he is in Russia.

Last month, a Russian website quantified the media presence of the country’s top politologists. Dugin placed a rather unremarkable 39th on that list.

Regular readers may recall that Anatoly Karlin correctly predicted Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine earlier this year.

So why target Dugin? Most likely, because he’s so well known in the West.

Performative War

What the attempted assassination of Alexander Dugin and the pinprick strike on Russia’s Black Sea Fleet headquarters have in common is that they were effectively forms of “performative war”, as described by Neal Stephenson in his most recent novel, Termination Shock.

For readers unfamiliar with Stephenson, his early novel Snow Crash is a favorite of tech types from Google co-founder Larry Page to Union Square Ventures partner Fred Wilson. And Neal Stephenson has been one of America’s most prophetic novelists. Already two dystopian trends he predicted in Snow Crash have come true: people living in shipping containers, and mass illegal migration from the Global South to America (although in Stephenson’s book, they came by sea, which was likely an homage to Jean Raspail’s earlier novel, The Camp of the Saints).

In Termination Shock, a character notes that warriors in the past–from the ancient Greeks to the Comanche Indians–would engage in acts intended to intimidate their opponents.

But at a certain point, it stopped working:

Beyond a certain point–which happened at different times in different parts of the world–hard tactical outcomes were all that mattered…Like, it would not have made sense to chain [German Field Marshall Friedrich] Paulus behind a T-34 and drag him around Stalingrad. It wouldn’t have moved the line of battle one inch.

It doesn’t seem like it will work in the Ukraine either, where the mooted Ukrainian counter offensive in Kherson appears to be going in reverse.

The War and the War of Words

The slow, grinding nature of the Ukraine War over the last several months has allowed contrary claims about it to coexist: a couple of months ago, a top advisor to Ukrainian President Zelensky claimed the Ukraine was losing up to 1,000 troops per day, with up to 500 of those killed in action; on Monday, though a Ukrainian general said they had lost fewer than 9,000 soldiers killed in the entire war. American Colonel Douglas Macgregor (Retired) estimated recently that the Ukrainians might have lost 60,000 troops killed in action (versus about 12,000 for the Russians).

Ultimately, though, the war will be decided on the ground, which raises the question: why engage in performative war? My guess is it’s meant to encourage the continued flow of aid from the West and the U.S. in particular. If you’re wondering how a Ukrainian assassination of a young Russian woman might encourage that, it’s important to note that the Ukrainian side denies responsibility for the attack. But they are using it as a way to cast the Russians in a negative light.

A Quick Update on a Previous Post

In a post last month (Riding The Natural Gas Rollercoaster), 

I mentioned that our top name on July 15th was the ProShares Ultra Bloomberg Natural Gas ETF (BOIL).

Screen capture via Portfolio Armor on 7/15/2022.

As of Monday’s close, BOIL was up more than 82% since then, and our July 15th top ten names were up 22.97%, on average, versus 7.33% for the SPDR S&P 500 Trust (SPY). 

This appears to be another example of our new security selection factor improving our entry points into volatile names like BOIL. 

As a reminder, we post our updated top names every night for subscribers on our app and website. 

If You Want To Stay In Touch

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One response to “Performative War”

  1. […] In Monday’s post, I wrote about the assassination of Darya Dugina.  […]


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