Scenarios of War

We can already throw out the first scenario: It would have been that President Vladimir Putin arrived and after two moves, declared checkmate. The Ukrainians surrender, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy resigns and moves to Warsaw, and the people welcome the entering Russian troops with flowers on the main street of Kyiv. All indications suggest that this was Putin’s plan. But, as world heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson pointed out, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

This time the Ukrainian people took the punch. It wasn’t even the military, although it has proven not to be so weak either. They also have a couple of world heavyweight champions in the Klitschko brothers, one of whom is the mayor of Kyiv right now.

The second scenario is a Russian military victory after a few weeks or months. The army and Putin’s some 340,000 strong national guard patrol the ruins of the big cities, the members of the legitimate government dead or escaped. But the Russians and the local puppet politicians wouldn’t be able to relax for a moment because assassinations and armed sabotage operations would occur regularly. There’s no chance of elections under these circumstances. Ukraine would need to be supported by the Russian treasury, but this would weaken public opinion at home and so guards would have to deploy there, too.

The third is a prolonged conflict with stiffened battlefronts. In this case, the difference in economic capacity between the two nations would sooner or later prevail and Russia would suffer defeat. That’s because Ukraine, or at least the resistance in Western Ukraine, is financed by the United States and the European Union, which Moscow cannot compete with. Russian soldiers just crossed the border for their $500-a-month paycheck. They hardly want to live in the trenches for months. Having to replace fired missiles, lost tanks, helicopters and planes would suck the life out of the nation — just as the war in Afghanistan did to the Soviet Union. Moscow would by then have annexed Eastern Ukraine, but it would still have bitten off more than it could chew.

The fourth scenario is the spread of war to Moldova, bordering Ukraine, or to NATO members Poland and the Baltic states — less likely, but more dangerous. In the case of Moldova, Romania would not remain neutral, and it could easily be the same story as in the case of direct aggression against NATO members. A confrontation like this, however, would be short and would hopefully end in negotiation.

The fifth possibility supposes that Putin sensibly assesses the events and tries to secure what he has seized through diplomacy. Of course, this requires partners, which right now are nonexistent. The West isolated Russia and is counting on time to work in its favor.

Here we reach the sixth version: Putin falls. The palace coup is not unknown in Russian-Soviet history, but you can’t count on it coming soon.

There is unfortunately no scenario in which we jolt out of our nightmare and the birds chirp peacefully. We cannot restore the situation to what it was before Feb. 24.

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