What if Russia Does Not Win the Ukraine War Soon?

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There are disturbing signs that the West is serious about making this a “forever war.” The idea is even worse than it looks at first sight.


Tarik Cyril Ama is s historian from Germany working at Koç University, Istanbul, on Russia, Ukraine, and Eastern Europe, the history of World War II, the cultural Cold War, and the politics of memory


At this moment (and for quite a while already), Russia clearly has the initiative in the war between it, on one side, and Ukraine and – de facto – the West on the other. High Ukrainian officials and military officers – including the commander-in-chief Oleksandr Syrsky and the deputy head of Kiev’s military intelligence service Vadim Skibitsky – are admitting publicly that their country is in deep trouble. Realistic observers in the West, such as Brian Berletic and the Duran’s Alexander Mercouris and Alex Christoforou, correctly point out that the West’s injections of aid cannot turn this situation around, partly because there is no way to compensate for Kiev’s lack of manpower and partly because the West itself does not, actually, have industrial resources to render support at a scale that would make an effective difference.

We also know that Russia has built up large reserves, which it has not yet committed to the fight. Moreover, there has been an intriguing shift in Russian terminology: While the term “offensive” has been avoided for a long time – with Russia categorizing its territorial gains as the result of a strategy of “active defense” – it has now popped up officially. The Russian Minister of Defense is reported to have spoken of the need to step up supplies to the front in order to “maintain the required pace of the offensive.” This may or may not have been a deliberate signal. It could also be a simple way to keep Ukraine and the West guessing. Yet, taken together with recent Russian advances and other operations – such as air strikes on Odessa and Kharkov/Kharkiv – it could mean that Moscow will launch a major offensive either this spring or summer, as many observers are expecting.

In one scenario, then, the war could end this year, with a Russian victory. The extent and precise political shape of that victory cannot be predicted. Capturing all of Ukraine east of the Dnepr/Dnipro River (plus those parts of the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions (oblasts) to its west? Seizing major cities such as Odessa and Kharkiv? Another strike at the capital Kiev/Kyiv? Likewise, we can’t forecast what kind of Ukraine would emerge from such a Russian victory: A neutralized and regime-changed rump state? A rump state bent on revenge and continuously subsidized by the West?

In a highly unlikely – given the West’s persistent refusal to consider a real compromise as a way out – the war could end with a negotiated peace, which, given the realities on the ground, would have to be shaped in Russia’s favor and thus would amount to victory by another name.

But it would be unwise to rule out a third possibility. It is true, that the West does not have the means to make Ukraine win. Yet it is crucial to distinguish between this fact and what Western leaderships are ready to acknowledge. The West, in short, is not rational, and it has displayed an enormous capacity for wishful thinking.

Hence, we should pay close attention to signs that the West is seeking to prolong this unnecessary war for years by any means it can. Recently, in particular, there have been several such worrying signs. Here, I would like to highlight three of them:

First, the Biden administration National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan has declared that Ukraine should, in essence, hold out this year, so that in 2025, the West can use it again to launch another offensive against Russia. The Ukrainian president Volodymyr/Vladimir Zelensky has also spoken of trying to attack again, provided his country will receive more Western weapons. Both statements are unrealistic – not a first from either Sullivan or Zelensky – suggestion, but let’s set that aside for a moment. Our question here is what harm policies based on unrealistic assumptions can still do.

Second, the Italian newspaper Republicca has published an article – most likely based on deliberate leaks – that purports to report internal NATO thinking on “red lines” in Ukraine. That is, under what circumstances NATO would intervene directly – and, conversely, under what circumstances it would not do so. In essence, the reported “red lines” – as summarized in the Ukrainian publication Strana.ua boil down to two: NATO, so this article claims, considers intervening directly, if Belarus joins the war on Russia’s side (or if Russia launches another major attack from Belarussian territory) or if Russia goes beyond Ukraine’s borders to attack either a NATO member state (duh, frankly) or Moldova, which is not a member but a target of NATO expansion policy. Once again, let’s not immediately get sidetracked by dismissing these purported NATO “red lines” as nothing but a reflection of NATO’s exaggerated sense of its own capacities. They may well be that, but that does not mean that they are not meant seriously or that they can’t do great damage. As they are, they seem to reflect a desire to keep the war in Ukraine and to deter Russia from one of its most devastating conventional options, namely a fresh strike on Kiev/Kyiv from Belarus. That points to an intention to both “cage the war in” and keep it going.

Third, the USA is continuing its push to confiscate Russian state assets of about 300 billion dollars that are currently frozen in Western banks. It has not yet succeeded in persuading the Europeans to join this operation, and on its own, Washington cannot seize – really, steal – more than a few billion. It is, however, the intention that counts here, and that is to find the equivalent of a fairytale pot of gold to go on paying for the proxy war in Ukraine.

Taken together, such Western signals remain hard to read with confidence: They could be no more than a façade of bluffs, meant to distract Russia from pursuing its clear advantage on the ground to full extent. In that interpretation, this is, in essence, a desperate West trying to cheat its way out of a clear, incontrovertible, and very discrediting defeat.

Yet, despite the fact that all of these ideas are deeply unsound, they could also reflect an earnest intention to drag this war out. Behind this could be an idea that Russia’s successful economic mobilization also has costs and may, in its current form, not be sustainable for years. That is, incidentally, the message of a recent Financial Times article that, we may be confident, does not lack political inspiration. The key fantasy here is, in short, to make the war last long enough so that the West can turn the logic of attrition against Russia.

Once again, the key question – in terms of the harm all of this can do – is not, actually, if it could “work.” It very probably cannot. The key question, instead, is what can happen while the West tries such a policy, and it fails. And there the greatest single risk is that if Moscow should ever come to believe that the West might succeed in applying a new combination of proxy war and long-term attrition, it would be sorely tempted to cut that scheme short, including by a limited nuclear strike to make clear that it will simply not accept such “new rules of the game.”

Once a “small” nuke is used, there is, of course, no telling where the escalation will end. It is a bizarre idea to think that we could end much of humanity because Ukraine needed to have an “open door” to NATO through which, however, it was not really supposed to actually ever walk.

I started writing this post before I saw a new piece of news: The Russian President has just ordered forces near Ukraine to drill for the launch of tactical nuclear weapons. I cannot say I am surprised. But we should all be very scared indeed. And, ideally, we should finally sit down and negotiate a realistic compromise.

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John Nygard
John Nygard
1 month ago

Nuke war is the goal of NATO and the One World Government cabal.
As I have been saying for months, there is no way Putin is going to lose this war and not use a nuke. Everyone knows that, so if we don’t negotiate and wind up in a nuclear war, it isn’t because of Putin.

28 days ago

Blah blah blah blah, it’s always about the pieces on the chessboard and never about the one moving the pieces. Rothschild has been trying to take Russia (the centre of the board) for the last 200 years and will NEVER give up trying regardless of how many billions of lives it costs. Read “The Grand Chessboard” by ex US National Security Advisor ‘Zbigniew Brzezinski’, cut the BS and go straight for the head of the snake…….game over, peace in the world.