What if Ukraine wins the war?

The Atlantic thinks it is:

Talk of stalemate obscures the dynamic quality of war. The more you succeed, the more likely you are to succeed; the more you fail, the more likely you are to continue to fail. There is no publicly available evidence of the Russians being able to regroup and resupply on a large scale; there is plenty of evidence to the contrary. If the Ukrainians continue to win, we might see more visible collapses of Russian units and perhaps mass surrenders and desertions. Unfortunately, the Russian military will also frantically double down on the one thing it does well—bombarding towns and killing civilians.

The Ukrainians are doing their part. Now is the time to arm them on the scale and with the urgency needed, as in some cases we are already doing. We must throttle the Russian economy, increasing pressure on a Russian elite that does not, by and large, buy into Vladimir Putin’s bizarre ideology of “passionarity” and paranoid Great Russian nationalism. We must mobilize official and unofficial agencies to penetrate the information cocoon in which Putin’s government is attempting to insulate the Russian people from the news that thousands of their young men will come home maimed, or in coffins, or not at all from a stupid and badly fought war of aggression against a nation that will now hate them forever. We should begin making arrangements for war-crimes trials, and begin naming defendants, as we should have done during World War II. Above all, we must announce that there will be a Marshall Plan to rebuild the Ukrainian economy, for nothing will boost their confidence like the knowledge that we believe in their victory and intend to help create a future worth having for a people willing to fight so resolutely for its freedom.

As for the endgame, it should be driven by an understanding that Putin is a very bad man indeed, but not a shy one. When he wants an off-ramp, he will let us know. Until then, the way to end the war with the minimum of human suffering is to pile on.

So, what happens if Ukraine wins the war? It’s a trick question. It can’t.

If Ukraine prevents Putin from achieving his strategic aims of creating a neutral buffer zone between himself and NATO, then he will do it by other means.

Most chillingly, I fear this sentence is the key: “the Russian military will also frantically double down on the one thing it does well—bombarding towns and killing civilians”.

That is, Putin will level Ukraine’s cities instead of gaining regime change in Kyiv.

When Moscow withdraws, reconstruction via a Marshall Plan will not be possible given the constant threat of Russian artillery positioned around all borders and Ukraine will devolve into a failed state.

This is the same thing that great powers have always done to save face, Russia included. Whether it was the bombing of London, Dresden, Hanoi, Aleppo or Grozny.

So, what will that do?

  • First, Ukraine hardly wins out of it.
  • Second, the pressure on western nations to intervene will intensify considerably. If they do then all bets are off for a broader conflict involving NATO versus Russia and its satellite states. Or, oil and gas from Russia are cut off.
  • Third, Putin himself will face rising opposition at home. This might result in a coup to find a Ukraine off-ramp. Or, a coup of ultra-nationists determined to restore Russian power via the use of WMD.

Not all of the possible outcomes are bad for markets (let alone humans) but most are and a few are very bad indeed.

Houses and Holes
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