A Ukrainian soldier shows off a HIMARS multiple rocket launcher - part of the package of US military aid (Photo by Anastasia Vlasova for The Washington Post via Getty Images) ‘Despise the enemy strategically, but respect him tactically’ - Mao Zedong
Thanks as always for making a complex, and therefore even more worrying situation clearer. We all need to remain engaged with the evolving nature of this conflict, but it also helps to have some idea of possible outcomes in mind if one is not a military specialist.
As usual, a very thoughtful analysis Lawrence. When it comes to negotiations (who knows when) a key matter not often discussed is that of reparations. Russis owes hundreds of billions for all the damage and death it inflicted, and the sanctions can remain in place forever until they pay, but this all will need to be negotiated and it could make even the prospects of negotiations difficult for the Russians to contemplate.
A good analysis. But it, sadly, lacks two components:
the first is the outcome of the economic standoff between Russia and the West which does not look bvious at all, Russia seems to be able to weather sanctions much better *in the short run* than expected while the West, especially Western Europe, is facing a possible crisis that could turn into a depression if Russia cuts its energy shipments. This will not necessarily help Russia win on the battlefield in Ukraine, though, but it could make life harder for Ukraine and possibly force it to accept disadvantageous peace terms. In this sense, time is working for Russia, as long as it can prevent Ukrainian counteroffensives from succeeding. On the other hand, the longer the war drags on, the likelier unrest is to break out in Russia, especially in the ethnic republics. In that sense, time is not on Russia's side and parts of the Russian power elite are deeply aware of it.
Which leads us to the second factor which you do not pay attention to: the possibility of dramatic escalation. The current Russian leadership, as long as it is not deposed, is unlikely to accept defeat and to retreat, assuming this would result in their downfall. But since the longer the war goes on, the likelier the possibility of total defeat will become. Russia will, in my view, try to conduct a general mobilization pretty soon, possibly after bloody false flag operations blamed on Ukraine and/or NATO. Another option which should not be discarded would be to turn to WMDs, that is, above all, (tactical) nukes. This could, then, very fast lead to a global nuclear war.
This analysis, though interesting, is lacking in geo-strategic depth. I agree with those who point out that Europe is in a precarious situation, due to its energy needs and the prospect of gas and electricity shortages. People who argue this will be overcome with expensive natural gas from the US, Canada and Qatar as well as wind and solar power have no understanding of how deeply destructive Germany's energy policy has been since 2011 and that there is no easy fix for this.
Irrespective of whether or not we are going to see gas shortages and power outages on the continent this winter, European industry will suffer enormously if the EU decides to continue its boycott on Russian oil and its partial boycott on Russian gas. European political leaders will come under increasing pressure to support some form of agreement with Russia. Unemployment and poverty will rise steeply, and so will the likelihood of social unrest. If a major, nation-wide power outage were to occur and to last more than two days in France and/or Germany, then all bets are off. One things is certain: Ukraine will be the least of problems European politicians will have to address in the wake of such a disaster.
Thanks -- I'm unsure of the meaning of 'po' in this sentence:
The military prospect for the Russians po, therefore, is of a juddering, stuttering conflict lasting for some time without a definitive conclusion.
With the right weapons (and training) the Ukrainians will almost definitely win. And Russia is on the ropes already with NO reserves or allies willing to supply them with anything. Sheeit, they haven’t even called it a war yet, bc they are afraid of domestic backlash. Weak.
Short answer- no. Not while Putin lives. In the long run- possibly, depending upon diplomacy with the next Russian leader. The question is how much death, destruction and economic calamity should be suffered between now and then.
Thanks for another clear and easy-to-understand perspective on this conflict.
An excellent piece, the balancing point is that NATO, particularly European NATO, resources notably ammunition and people (recruitment and retention) are in a similar state. The danger is that a cease fire in Ukraine will be taken as confirmation of NATO power, when it has actually revealed that European NATO nations are unable Le got defend themselves. If Russia is held in Ukraine or hopefully repelled it does not relieve European NATO nations from well structured investment in defence capabilities, particularly in the land domain. The Russian invasion of Ukraine is a wake up call - European NATO nations should not answer and then go back to sleep.
Not yet clear. The possibility of Ukrainian victory should not be dismissed. Hundreds of thousands lives lost, enormous destruction, for a right to be a NATO member.
All other Ukrainian goals could have been achieved through neutrality. But at the price of neutrality.
Very interesting analysis.
A moment may come when negotiations will be possible, but not until the question, is it possible to win a proxy war against Russia with a help of economic sanctions has been answered.
If the West can win, there is no need for negotiations.
Personally, I look for the Ukranians to surprise the Russians with a deep thrust into any One of a number of soft spots, headed for the Crimean peninsula.
Excellent analysis. Thank you.
I am still just not sure how committed the west is to living up to its public rhetoric- do the western stakeholders have a plan to win with Ukraine or are we being reactive and giving the right equipment but not in the numbers or timings to win. I guess there is a scenario whereby the west gives just enough to win, but without completely overwhelming the Russians and consequences of doing so. The geopolitical and economic landscapes are dependent on how this battle may be won , not just the win.
Thank you for a really thoughtful analysis Lawrence. However, I'm afraid I don't agree with a number of your conclusions.
I lived in Moscow in the 90s and 00s and was struck then by the Russian tendency to deploy "provokatsiya" to alienate and initate conflict with outsiders. An example of this was the regime's bombing of the apartment buildings in Moscow to provoke the war in Chechnya.
The alienation of the west and the subsequent sanctions have massively benefited Putin because it got rid of western corporations - BP, the banks, Facebook etc and helped him achieve a tighter grip on power. The void left by these companies and financial systems will be filled discreetly by China, India other "neutral" countries. Russia has turned slowly to face East and the sheer geographical size of Russia (often overlooked in favour of simple measurements of power such as GDP) means that they can play the long game, secure in the fact they have China as their "kreesha" (roof).
My own guess is that Russia will simply take over the whole of Ukraine over a few years snd then start on the Baltic states. This will, I fear, be coupled with continued social and political disruption tactics (as seen, for example, in the interference in Brexit and the attempted corruption of the Conservative Party in the UK).
I love the Russian people, (I'm married to a Russian) and many aspects of its culture but I fear what's coming. Have a watch of the last 3 films by the great Russian film director Andrey Zvyagintzev if you want an idea of the recent decay of Russian civil society, moral vaccum and endemic political corruption.
Thank you for a great analysis. Good to hear both sides, and the problems that both face, without the hullabaloo.
The key thing that you pickup on is how long will the west carry on supporting Ukraine?. I fear that the west does have a short memory, even now things like covid on the oncrease, cost of living is more important.
Really believe that if Russia, no the leadship, not the people, is not stopped then, 4, 5 years time, it will happen again. This time it could be Poland, or the Batics..but its back to the short term memory of the west.