Home news How will the war in Ukraine end? Three possible scenarios

How will the war in Ukraine end? Three possible scenarios

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And the war in Ukraine? Shashank Joshi, defense expert at The Economist, describes three scenarios.

In March 2022, few analysts believed that Ukraine would still be an independent state in November. But look, eight months later and the Ukrainian army has killed or injured 80,000 Russians, the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet has sunk and the Ukrainian air force is still flying. Ukraine exceeded all expectations. How is it going? There are three possible scenarios.

Scenario 1: Russia wins anyway

Russia nevertheless manages to avoid defeat. The Russian army stabilizes the front during the winter months while building new battalions from mobilized recruits. Meanwhile, US Republicans are blocking further arms shipments to Ukraine, while European arms depots are depleted. Despite a shortage of semiconductors and specialized equipment, the Russian defense industry manages to finance enough armor and artillery to equip new troops.

In the spring, new Russian recruits push back the Ukrainian troops, tired by months of offensive. Russian drones destroy Ukraine’s energy and water infrastructure. By summer, Ukraine will be on the defensive. After losing Kryvyj Rih, Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, Western countries are forcing Ukraine to accept a Russian ceasefire. In the months or years that follow, Russia prepares for a new attack on kyiv.

A destroyed plane at the airport of the recently liberated city of Kherson. © Anadolu Agency Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Scenario 2: stalemate

He comes to a dead end. It’s a much more likely scenario. Russia is mobilizing hundreds of thousands of young men, but failing to train them to become effective fighters. The best coaches are up front. Experienced officers have been killed or already deployed. Recruits are trained as light infantry. They lack the armored vehicles needed to go on the offensive, but they are able to hold trenches and defense lines.

After announcing the withdrawal from the city of Kherson, Russia evacuates its approximately 30,000 soldiers to the west bank of the Dnipro. They retreat to the east, leaving behind many weapons. It’s a victory for Ukraine, but ultimately puts Russia in a stronger military position, as the river now protects its left flank. The Ukrainian advance is halted. Ukrainian troops suffer heavy losses for limited territorial gains.

Unable to win the war on the battlefield, Vladimir Putin seeks to prolong the war by undermining the Ukrainian economy, shattering morale by attacking civilian infrastructure and exhausting Ukrainian allies. Europe faces difficulties in filling its gas supplies by 2023, leading to winter blackouts. Putin wants to hold out until 2024. He hopes that Donald Trump will return to power in the United States and end support for Ukraine. But it’s a risky gamble: Russian public opinion is turning against the war, the Russian economy is groaning, and Putin is increasingly vulnerable.

A wall in Archanhelske, a village in Kherson province, bears the slogan
A wall in Archanhelske, a village in Kherson province, bears the slogan “Putin Khuylo” (“Putin is an asshole”). © NurPhoto NurPhoto via Getty Images

Scenario 3: Ukraine perseveres

The third scenario is the most encouraging and at the same time the most dangerous. In this scenario, Ukraine maintains the initiative and the momentum. It inflicts heavy damage on the retreating Russian forces from Kherson and brings its long-range HIMARS missiles closer to Crimea for the first time. Russian defenses of Lugansk crumble, Ukraine recaptures Shevyerodonetsk and pushes east. As Russian casualties mount, recruits refuse to fight. Western countries are supplying Ukraine with air defense systems, minimizing the impact of Russia’s terrorist tactics and rapidly reducing their arsenal of precision missiles.

In the spring, President Volodymyr Zelensky orders his army to open a new front in Zaporizhia. Five brigades cross the Russian defensive line, cross the Russian “land bridge” to Crimea and encircle Mariupol in the summer. Ukraine is moving its HIMARS south and targeting its artillery on ports, bases and arms depots in Russian-occupied Crimea. Ukraine threatens to invade the peninsula. Putin issues an ultimatum: stop or we deploy nuclear weapons. Victory is in sight. But this carries risks.

Copyright The Economist

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