One of the bleakest predictions of where things go from here is this analysis from The Guardian.
“There are two likely paths: continued escalation, potentially across the nuclear threshold, or a bitter peace imposed on a defeated Ukraine.”
In this article, author Christopher Chivvis postulates that Putin has invested so much into this war already that he is “unlikely to settle for anything less than the complete subjugation of the Ukrainian government.” If necessary, he will simply obliterate Ukraine in order to put a puppet government in place and declare victory.
In fact, he expects that regime to sign a “crushing” document that doesn’t just keep Ukraine out of NATO, but forcefully aligns Ukraine with Russia, making it a Russian province in everything but name.
Chivvis has an equally bleak forecast for what happens if the West continues to supply Ukraine with materiel which allows it to keep fighting after Puttin’s puppet regime signs onto that surrender.
“The more effective Nato support to the insurgency is, the more the Kremlin would likely be willing to risk attacks on safe havens in Nato territory – most likely employing irregular forces or even the infamous Wagner Group, a private organization that operates globally as a quasi-special force of the Kremlin. These operations could lead to a massive escalation that would open the door to a much wider war between Nato and Russia – exactly the war that Joe Biden has been trying to avoid.”
Eventually, says Chivvis, it all comes down to a series of ways in which the war can escalate, but all the paths “eventually lead toward the nuclear threshold.” By which he predicts that if Russia isn’t able to crush its way to victory using conventional weapons, it will begin the use of tactical nuclear weapons, still holding the threat of full on global thermonuclear war over the heads of anyone who might seek to strike back. No matter what happens next, the door is open — nukes have been used for the first time since World War II, making it much more likely they will be used again. And again.
In one way, this is a prediction that seems to be mesh with what everyone predicted from the beginning: Russia is seeking to replace Zelenskyy’s government with a puppet regime that will sign a surrender deal so favorable to Putin that neither Ukrainian partisans nor any other world power will accept it as legitimate. It just takes it to the next step, saying that Putin will not just keep on waving bombs, but start using them to underscore his demands.
However, the one thing that seems barely considered in this analysis is the economic damage being done to Russia through sanctions, which could seriously impact Russia’s ability to sustain combat. It started with pretty extensive shelves of weaponry, but those shelves are being diminished and no more supplies are coming — not from the West, not from China, not from Russia’s supposed allies.
And Putin can always wave the threat of nuclear war. He always has raised that threat, either explicitly or implicitly. For Putin, it’s always 1955.
However we get through this, the next step is to make sure that no one gets to raise that threat again.
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