Ukraine: Three scenarios for a long and bloody war | International

The Russian war in Ukraine will intensify in the coming weeks, Vladimir Putin will seek total control of the country and the occupation may last for years, according to calculations being considered in several Western capitals 11 days after the start of the invasion. The aggression has met with greater Ukrainian resistance than Moscow expected, although only a few leaders believe that it can stop Moscow. Most of the allies are convinced that the Russian president wants to go all the way and in the coming weeks the attacks will intensify. These are the scenarios that are played out in various Western capitals: almost all of them foresee a long and bloody war.

These are the scenarios that are handled in several Western capitals:

Scenario 1: “The miracle of the Dnieper”

Under this scenario, which the Atlantic Council think tank calls “the miracle of [río] Dnieper”, the Ukrainians, helped by the supply of allied weapons, stop the Russian advance. Putin, subjected to international isolation and Western sanctions, withdraws.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the BBC on Friday that Russia’s victory should not be taken for granted. “If Moscow’s intention is to bring down the government and install a puppet regime, 45 million Ukrainians will reject it one way or another,” he said.

Join EL PAÍS to follow all the news and read without limits.

subscribe

Once it is assumed that Western countries will not intervene directly, the idea is that sanctions and weapons will make things difficult for Putin and force him to change his behaviour. In the words of a source from the Elysée Palace, who requested anonymity, it is about “increasing the price of war so that he renounces it.”

But on Thursday, after a telephone conversation between Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron, the same Elysee source said: “The president’s anticipation, taking into account what President Putin has told him, is that the worst is yet to come.” ”. François Heisbourg, adviser to the Fondation pour la Recherche Stratégique think tank, notes: “Vladimir Putin has shown that, when he faces difficulties, he does not reduce his ambitions, but rather increases his means.”

Scenario 2: The war escalates to full occupation

The military campaign itself will last for weeks, not months, but the war will be longer and the post-war may last for years with an uncertain outcome. This is the diagnosis made by the top military advisers to the Spanish government.

The allies calculate that Kiev could fall in 5 or 10 days, but it will not be the end of the war, a diplomatic source points out. Then a guerrilla war will begin in which the Ukrainian resistance will benefit from Western weapons such as the Stinger surface-to-air missiles, the same ones that, in the hands of the Afghan mujahideen in the 1980s, made life impossible for the Soviet occupier.

This scenario has been corroborated by senior officials of the Biden Administration (Blinken and the Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines, among others) this week in a closed-door session at the Capitol. According to some lawmakers, the US government anticipates a fierce fight for the capital, Kiev, that can be resolved in Russia’s favor in a matter of weeks, and that the conflict could fester and languish for years.

The Russian strategy, according to Spanish sources, consists of strangling the large Ukrainian cities to force their surrender. If they do not surrender, the Russian Army will enter with blood and fire and will cause a large number of civilian victims, for which it will blame the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky.

The outcome, according to these calculations, would lead to the total occupation of Ukraine. “Our analysis of the ongoing military operations is that the Russian ambition is, in effect, to take control of the whole of Ukraine,” says the French source. Macron does not see the partition of the country as a probable scenario: he considers that what Putin wants is to control all of Ukraine and, in any case, partition would continue to violate the sovereignty of the invaded country and would be equally unacceptable.

Heisbourg, from the Fondation pour la Recherche Stratégique, observes: “This is the basic scenario: the seizure of the large Ukrainian cities throughout the territory, because they want to prevent a legitimate government from continuing to be present in Ukraine.”

The sources consulted in Madrid detail that the most probable result of the war will be the appearance of a new country, New Russia or Novorróssiya. This confederation project was put in place in 2014 by the separatist provinces of Lugansk and Donetsk and then they resigned.

In its most modest version, according to these sources, the new state would cover from Donbas to Crimea, incorporating Mariupol and turning the Sea of ​​Azov into a Russian inland sea. In its most ambitious version, it would connect with Transnistria, the Moldovan separatist region, and Odessa would be annexed, depriving Ukraine of access to the sea. The logical thing, according to this scenario, would be for Putin to annex New Russia, as he did with Crimea, but he could keep it as a satellite republic.

Putin’s strategy, the Spanish strategists estimate, involves placing a puppet government in Kiev, which would commit itself not to incorporate Ukraine into NATO or the EU. To ensure control of it, Putin would keep Russian troops quartered in Ukraine, but preventing them from patrolling so as not to be the target of harassment from a resistance turned guerrilla. This, the Spanish sources acknowledge, would closely resemble Hitler’s occupied France with the collaborationist Vichy regime.

The unknown is how long a Putin who has become an international pariah, and with an occupied Ukraine whose population is overwhelmingly hostile, will be able to maintain this scheme.

US Congressman Ruben Gallego, a veteran of the Iraq war, compares this scenario to the long US fight against the insurgents after defeating the Iraqi Army and occupying the country. An important difference, Gallego declared on PBS, is that at that time a third of the people supported the struggle against the occupier, while the percentage of Ukrainians who opposed Russia is much higher. Another distinction, he added, is the human bill: “In all those years that war there were some 4,500 casualties, but Russia can suffer the same in days.”

Before the start of the war, US administration sources quoted by the local press suggested that between 25,000 and 50,000 civilians, between 5,000 and 25,000 Ukrainian soldiers, and between 3,000 and 10,000 Russian soldiers could die in an invasion. The number of Russian casualties may already rise to around 2,500, five times more than what Moscow acknowledges, according to the aforementioned diplomatic source. Another US Congressional source quoted by CBS believes the conflict could drag on for up to 20 years with Russia the late loser.

Scenario 3: Russia advances beyond Ukraine and directly challenges NATO

“A fairly likely scenario is that, after Ukraine, [Putin] take power in Moldova,” says Heisbourg. But this scenario, maintains the director of the Fondation pour la Recherche Stratégique, leads to a third scenario, in which Putin would try to recreate in Europe the situation prior to NATO enlargement. “Imagine that Mr. Putin has just won the Ukraine war. He has seized power in Moldova. For the first time, he has a continuous political-military border from the North Cape to the Black Sea. On one side, there are the Russian troops, and on the other the troops of NATO member countries, with risks of accidents and involuntary violent actions. Then Putin can say to himself: ‘I am going to try to divide the Westerners’.

The Balkans could be a fertile ground for turmoil. The Elysée points out: “We are very attentive to what Russia can do in its immediate environment.”

Follow all the international information in Facebook and Twitteror in our weekly newsletter.