by Raffaele Crocco
As we enter the 95th week of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, questions are being asked about the likely course of the war. On the ground and in diplomacy, the situation seems static. There are no winners, no losers, only – still – death and misery for the civilian population. To observers and analysts, the chances of victory for either side seem slim. So questions arise about possible scenarios: what would happen if one side won?
This week, the Institute for the Study of War published a report looking at possible scenarios in the event of a Russian triumph. Beyond the inevitable catastrophe for Ukraine, marked by the likely loss of the Country’s independence, the report argues that the real losers would be the United States. Indeed, according to the report, the US has far more at stake in this conflict with Russia than world opinion might perceive. The analysis suggests that a military defeat of Kyiv, involving the near-total conquest of Ukrainian territory, would be highly likely and achievable if the United States were to cut off military supplies.
What would be the consequences? Two scenarios are possible. The first envisages the end of the war with a Russian army, battered by losses but in fact triumphant and accustomed to combat, deployed along NATO’s border from the Black Sea to the Arctic Ocean. An army that is still effective. US intelligence data says so. The Ukrainian army, with US and European support, has indeed destroyed almost 90% of the Russian forces deployed to invade the Country in February 2022, but Moscow has replaced these losses and upgraded its industrial base, compensating and reorganising its arsenal at a rapid pace.
The second scenario is even worse than the first. Imagine a victorious Russian army, experienced in combat and much better equipped than before the invasion. In addition, the Russian economy would begin to recover, helped both by the erosion of sanctions against Moscow and by the Russians’ developed ability to circumvent or mitigate those that remain. In this way, the Kremlin could quickly rebuild its armed forces to a higher efficiency level than before 2022. In the analysis’s view, Russia could then pose a serious conventional military threat to NATO for the first time since the 1990s.
Either scenario would be disastrous for the United States, which would be forced to spend enormous sums of money to counter the Russian threat. Washington would be forced to deploy much of its military potential in Europe alongside the armies of NATO Countries, diverting it from other strategic scenarios such as the Pacific. The economic costs would be enormous and unlimited and would continue indefinitely. From this point of view, the researchers argue, it is clear that it is economically more advantageous for the US to support Ukraine and help it maintain its position at this time. The cost is less than the repercussions of a potential defeat for Kyiv.
Some in the United States claim that this analysis was prepared and circulated in recent days to put pressure on Republicans who have blocked the allocation of funds for military assistance to Ukraine. That may be so. What is certain is that the United States, with its commitment to maintaining its role as the world’s ‘superpower’, is investing heavily in this war, both economically and militarily. A Ukrainian defeat would be a further erosion of international prestige. A victory for Kyiv, on the other hand, would allow Washington to keep Moscow away from NATO’s borders for a long time to come. The nearest Russian troops would be 500 miles away.
The Black Sea would almost become a NATO lake. Moscow would then look to Belarus for reinforcements, but the threat from those bases would be of a different and lesser NATO weight. In practical terms, this would allow Washington to invest less in Europe and concentrate money and strategies on countering China in the Pacific. This hypothesis is in line with the preferences of the US administration. Beyond the “ideological” declarations of propaganda, it explains the rationale behind the substantial financial investments made to support Kyiv.