by Shelt Garner
I’ve been brooding on what the political and strategic endgame of a Russo-Ukrainian Winter War might be. Here are two possible scenarios I’ve managed to come up with. Putin’s war aim this first scenario is simply a partial — but large –conquest of Ukraine using a hybrid of military and political force.
Putin’s primary objective would be to seize Kiev and overthrow the government there. He would use a pincer movement using forces he’s assembled in Belarus. At the same time, there would be a series of major attacks into Ukraine from the east and south. Once Russia took the Ukrainian capital, there would be a brief reassessment of how the war was going.
If the Ukrainian government sued for peace at this point, then the war grinds to a halt and everything is settled at the negotiating table. Ukraine gives up everything east of the Dnieper River and the general area of Novorossiya. Signing such a deal would, of course, cause the Ukrainian government to promptly collapse. But the Russians would begin to consolidate power in their newly acquired territory by drawing upon the large Russianized population in that part of Ukraine.
Then, some sort of fascist-like government would likely be formed in the rump state of Ukraine and we spend the next 10 years talking about the brave partisans deep behind enemy lines.
The other scenario would go like this — the Ukrainian government in Kiev has time to bug out, probably to somewhere in the far west of the country like Lviv. This would prompt the Russians to go well beyond the Dnieper River, heading towards Lviv itself for a final battle. This would be extremely risky on Putin’s part, but he might lulz it. In this scenario, he would totally re-organize the entirety of Ukraine to form some sort of Russian Union with the now-conquered Belarus.
But, this, too, would be a pretty crazy scenario for Russia. Even drawing upon a lot of sympathetic, Russified Ukrainians in the eastern portion of the country would not stop millions of Ukrainians — especially west of the Dnieper River to take up arms against the Russian jackboot. Throw in how much training and military material the West would be giving the Ukrainian Resistance and Putin is really, really playing with fire.
The last time the Russians invaded a nation that didn’t want it — Afghanistan — they lost everything. There’s no reason to believe the same would not be true with Ukraine.