What Next for Ukraine?
Uncharted waters are the only way to describe the current invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces.
Never before has a Nuclear power invaded a democratic country. Never before has a nuclear power threatened the rest of the world’s nuclear powers to get them to keep out of a conflict.
“Consequences the like of which you have never seen”
Never before has a nuclear deterrent been used to deter countries from intervening in a conflict. The principle of mutual assured destruction (MAD) has been turned on its head.
The West has long assumed that nuclear weapons were a defensive shield. No one in the West considers our nuclear weapons to be a weapon of aggression. If we were ever to use them, it would not be to strike at an opponent, but rather in retaliation for another country using nuclear weapons against us.
This conflict between Russia & Ukraine does raise a few issues in that regard. At what point in time would we use our nuclear weapons?
What if NATO is drawn into the conflict? This may happen accidentally, dumb bombs being dropped by Russian forces close the Polish, Romanian, Hungarian or Slovakian border, effectively striking a NATO country, forcing NATO forces into the conflict.
There is of course the possibility that NATO would still choose to do nothing as with the downing of the Malaysia flight 17 airliner over Donetsk in 2014. Maybe Putin will just claim it’s another accident?
The West as a whole is weak and liberal, especially in comparison with Putin’s Russia. We have a different set of values and very different goals and desires.
Putin seems to have picked his moment when Western leaders were all devoid of backbone. While I am no fan of Donald Trump, he presided over an era of peace while in office. His negotiations with Kim Jong-un ended successfully. When Kim Jong-un attempted to threaten the US with long range intercontinental missiles, Trump explained to him that the US wouldn’t tolerate his games and not only did the US have many thousands of times more missiles than North Korea, but the US missiles all worked.
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The outcome was that North Korea backed down. Since Biden took over North Korea has restarted it’s weapons development program.
If a country wants to be able to negotiate from a position of strength then it needs to be self-sufficient in critical infrastructure, energy, food, etc. Much of the West is providing weapons for Ukraine to defend their country, while simultaneously buying gas, diesel and petrol from Russia.
In the UK we only rely on Russian gas for 3% of our needs, but also Russian diesel for 18% of our needs.
The EU, some countries of which rely on Russia for well over 50% of their gas have vowed to cease all deliveries of Russian gas and oil by 2029. Woohoo, that’ll make all the difference.
It turns out that international commodities markets are great while everyone is playing nice and getting on well, but open to severe manipulation when a significant supplier decides to influence the market.
What Does Putin Want?
So far, Putin has invaded Georgia (2008), annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and now has invaded Ukraine in 2022.
The big question that nobody knows the answer to is what Putin plans to do next. If you discount the poor performance of his troops so far and the solid defence being mounted by Ukrainian forces. If you accept that his invasion isn’t going to plan quite as he hoped, what is his plan?
Is he going to be happy with his conquest? (assuming he achieves his aim and conquers Ukraine).
Is he really spending $1-2 billion per day just to ‘free’ the Donetsk & Luhansk regions in eastern Ukraine from the tyranny of ‘The Nazi Ukrainian Government”? A Nazi government run by Volodymyr Zelenskyy a Jew. It doesn’t really stack up as an excuse for an invasion to me.
Does Putin want to rebuild the USSR as some believe or is he just attempting to protect areas with large Russian populations?
Putin has voiced his concern that NATO has gone against the 1990 agreement not to expand eastwards. Ukraine’s independence was guaranteed as long as it gave up its nuclear weapons, didn’t join NATO or the EU and that NATO didn’t expand east. Putin sees NATO as an aggressive threat to Russia and the addition of 14 countries, many of which border Russia has only increased tensions further.
See full BBC article here – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-56720589
I understand why these countries would want to seek shelter under the NATO umbrella. Non NATO countries must be very concerned right now that they have no protection at all if Putin is planning to expand his ambitions further.
Putin said he wasn’t planning to invade Ukraine, even while amassing 160,000 troops along the border. He has recently said that he has no plans to invade either Moldova of Uzbekistan, so they should be filling sand bags as fast as they can.
The list of non-NATO ex USSR countries is as follows; Moldova, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan. I suspect these countries are in more danger than the ex USSR, NATO countries of Latvia, Lithuania & Estonia.
It is highly unlikely that Putin will invade a NATO territory, intentionally at least.
The way I see it there are 5 possible outcomes;
- Putin realises the gravity of the task ahead of his troops and quickly negotiates a ceasefire and orderly withdrawal
- Ukraine successfully defends against invasion and the Russian advance grinds to a halt. Followed by withdrawal.
- Russia pushes on and takes Kyiv and other major Ukrainian cities, topple the government and install a Kremlin friendly puppet regime. Ukrainian forces refuse to surrender, long drawn out conflict ensues, eventually ends when Russia withdraws.
- Russia takes Ukraine, ramping up its attacks using more thermo baric bombs and attacks on civilian population. New iron curtain established. NATO accepts loss of Ukraine but bolsters neighbouring states. Finland & Sweden join NATO as a matter of urgency.
- NATO – Russian war. Possible options;
- NATO gets involved and implements no fly zone over Ukraine. Russia would then have to decide whether to engage with NATO forces. This could escalate quickly.
- Russia inadvertently strikes NATO member territory. As precision weapon stocks dwindle, this becomes more likely with the use of dumb bombs near the borders of Ukraine. NATO begins air to air or air to ground response.
- If Putin succeeds in Ukraine he may turn his attention to rebuilding the USSR. He may believe due to perceived weakness that NATO will continue to back down.
Currently, the war may be turning in the Wests favour. Putin has underestimated international opinion as well as Ukraine’s determined resistance. In truth the West may have underestimated how little Putin cares about international opinion.
It would be reasonable to expect that Putin and the Kremlin have already factored international sanctions into their strategy. While they will impact on the people of Russia, whether that will filter up to their leaders is yet to be seen.
The best option for the West is for Ukraine to keep fighting and not surrender. As long as we keep supporting them with ample weapons and equipment they stand a chance. The less progress Russia makes and the higher their casualties, the more likely it is that Ukraine will succeed. Kyiv is the key in this regard. The capital city, if they can defend successfully and stop the Russian tanks then Putin’s problems will only grow.
It’s important to bear in mind that in order for NATO to act, all members have to vote. As NATO has grown, this has the effect in theory at least of making the possibility of NATO taking action less and less likely. Unless a member nation is attacked, which would be an automatic trigger for NATO to take action.
The UK media seem overly keen on pushing the idea of world war III. Barely a news broadcast goes by without reference being made to it, as if it is the only outcome, the only end point. I am almost 100% that it will never come to that, regardless of how frightened the media want you to become.
Even if Putin is crazy, I can’t see how he might possibly think he could instigate a nuclear war and survive it.