The Russian-Ukrainian war is in its second month, the world is watching with horror and dismay the warmongering of the participants and with the hope that the peace talks will no longer be an information war. Several sources have pronounced victory or defeat for Russia and censorship in various forms complicates understanding. This article presents a simple framework for readers to draw their own conclusions about such conflicts, and not to be guided by the conclusions presented here or elsewhere.
Effective use of a framework requires a common understanding of some basic issues, concepts, contexts, and backgrounds. The unit of analysis is a war with clearly identified actors. “Demilitarization” means excluding from the territory of one country capabilities that can potentially threaten another, it does not mean giving up an army altogether. Germany and Japan, for example, built strong defensive forces after World War II. Cities are not military objectives, they are strategic, political or economic takeovers. Urban warfare is very costly in life and destruction, to be pursued only for overriding objectives. Russia itself experienced this in Berlin (1945) when the last 15 kilometers of territory conquered in about 15 days cost the Soviet army more than 150,000 dead. Precision rounds are useful, but require intensive use for weeks/months (USA-Iraq/Serbia, Russia-Chechnya/Syria). In the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War, with regime change as its objective, the Indian army went straight to Dhaka while positioning itself to block enemy movements in other cities. States constantly monitor and act on the capabilities of others more than on intentions that can change overnight. Russia has the most nuclear warheads, including TNWs, but its second strike capability is limited. The Russian Air Force is configured primarily for defense and ground support roles, compared to the US Air Force’s strategic and SEAD/DEAD capabilities. NATO/US/UK offensive capabilities were increasingly able to access Ukrainian territory, potentially diminishing the effectiveness of Russian capabilities. With weak natural defenses in the northern European plain, Ukraine (and Belarus) allying with potential adversaries is a nightmare for Russia.
The framework here consists of analyzing a war according to three criteria: a) Objectives of the initiator (attacker), in three dimensions: Strategic, Political and Military, and their interrelationships. Objectives are seen from the position of the initiator (aggressor), preferably as stated by the initiator or those that can reasonably be inferred without interfering with the subjective conclusions of the analyzer (reader). Wishes/dreams or their interpretations are not goals. b) Degree of achievement of these objectives, considered as a gap between pre-war and post-war; c) The costs incurred to achieve these objectives. These are to be seen in the short and long term. The unit of analysis here is the current Russian-Ukrainian war.
The objectives of the initiator (Russia), declared or implicit, are given in the box. Those who are already excluded (pursuing regime change or occupying Ukraine) have not been taken into account, as well as their implications (no need to occupy the capital kyiv at great expense, adequate encirclement). Invading with 200,000 men a country with an army of 175,000 men well dispersed in urban areas limits the objectives.
DEGREE OF ACHIEVEMENT OF OBJECTIVES
These are subjective, susceptible to misinformation and should be taken with caution:
a) Ukraine should not be part of a powerful and potentially hostile coalition like NATO: the statements of Ukrainian leaders indicate a rapid achievement. Third-party diplomacy may have prevented the war itself.
b) “Demilitarization” of Ukraine: Will be achieved concurrently with the previous objective, with the assurance of adequate defensive forces for Ukraine.
c) Ukraine’s acceptance of Crimea’s membership in Russia: Strategically located on the Black Sea, Crimea is under Russian control with “membership” confirmed by a “referendum” since 2014. Probable achievement in the long term unless Russia is completely “defeated”. ”.
d) “Independence” for the regions of Luhansk/Donetsk (Donbass): regions with a strong Russian ethnic/linguistic population (Minsk Agreements-Normandy Format), civilians would be ready to fight against the Ukrainian army and militia. Achievement likely to be limited to the small area and the movement of the Ukrainian army from the surrounding area. However, attempting to expand this region westward to the city of Dnipro (the mainstay of eastern Ukraine) will result in serious competition.
e) “Denazification” and Russian as second official language: All societies have marginal elements and Ukraine has “neo-Nazi” armed groups. Russian is the language of 33% of the population who feel linguistically discriminated against (Vienna Document-2018). Most likely reached in eastern Ukraine, whatever the conflict.
f) Securing a land corridor linking Russia and Crimea: gives Russia control of the Sea of Azov to forestall potential threats. Mariupol, hotly contested, is the key to this objective and others (for the Donbass and for the coast). It is unlikely to be achieved, but Russia can secure security and access commitments.
g) Control of the coast from Mariupol to Odessa: makes Ukraine landlocked and will be unacceptable to it. The movement of Russian forces west from Mariupol/Mykolaiv towards Odessa or north towards Dnipro will indicate the Russian position. Russia may not insist if other stated goals are achieved, and this one will not.
These can be strategic, political, military, economic and overlapping. a) Economic: The extensive economic, financial, trade and technological sanctions imposed by the West will have very serious long-term repercussions on the Russian economy. Secondary sanctions will make the impact even more severe. With a nominal GDP of $1.5 trillion (2020, PPP – $4.1 trillion), the economy is smaller than that of Texas and is projected to contract by 15% (2022) and 5% to 8% ( 2023). Inflation is already above 15% and the currency has been hit hard. The downward trend in income inequality, with a Gini index of 48.4 (1993) to 37.5 (2018, USA-41.4), will be reversed. Exports which have fallen to around 26% of GDP in 2020 will be at high risk as the world develops alternatives. The global economy, heavily dependent on Russia’s commodity exports, will also suffer with disproportionate impacts on European and Asian economies, exposing Russia to a vicious economic cycle. The industry is facing accelerated technological decline and obsolescence. Some of the West’s actions were expected, underscoring the importance of the goals for Russia, even at such a high cost. Other actions like the freezing of sovereign reserves are unexpected, and still others will unfold over time. An insurgency will be severely debilitating in the long run. b) Strategic: Russia’s ability to project power beyond its near abroad will rapidly diminish. The importance of the United States for Europe and the increased American presence near Russia will increase considerably. NATO has been reinvigorated. Russia faces isolation in several international forums. The West senses an opportunity for regime change and to drastically diminish Russia’s role for a very long time. Russia will lose strategic space to a rising China due to increased dependence, and will be reduced to a subordinate role in any partnership. c) Military: The scale of the losses of personnel and equipment of the armed forces is not a constraint, but a long-term guerrilla warfare will not be sustainable.
The objectives are mainly strategic and military while the costs are economic and strategic, indicating that the invasion cannot be defeated militarily. This war and the consequent militarization of finance and business will lead to the cementation of the blocs. Globalization peaked in 2008 with world trade/GDP at 60%, has steadily declined to 45% in 2020 and will continue to decline. Russia losing the Russo-Japanese War of 1905 destabilized Europe, and then experts warned well in advance that Europe was heading for a conflagration which occurred in 1914. The Combination of Fault Lines Europe, a marginalized Russia and a remilitarized Europe could pose serious risks for the world in the future.
Vivek Joshi is a consultant with A-Joshi Strategy Consultants Pvt Ltd and has over 25 years of international management experience. He is the author of a book “Start-up to Scale-up: Entrepreneur’s Guide to Venture Capital”, and publications listed at http://experttrat.com/publications-videos/