The Russo-Ukraine War of 2022 is now a week old. Perhaps it is time to step back a minute and consider where we are and what could happen next. In the first week of the war I learned two things I think are of significance:
- The Russian military is not as competent or as fearsome as I and many other analysts thought they were
- The Ukrainian military is neither as weak willed or as incompetent as I and many analysts thought they were
These two things have combined to both frustrate the Russians and encourage the Ukrainians. Many people people, me included figured Russia would have taken Kiev by now but they have not. As a matter of fact, it does not appear that the Russians have secured any of the major Ukrainian cities, not even Kharkov, which is only 20 miles from Russia proper. From many posts
on social media it also seems that the spring thaw is coming early this year, which will also seriously hamper Russians offensive efforts. This, along with massive Western economic sanctions, has caused the Russians leadership to engage in some pretty provocative talk and hints about how the war may widen. It would appear that Putin is suffering from some type of bunker mentality and I wonder about the quality of the intelligence and advice he is being given.
All that being said, what comes next? I see several possibilities and all depend on a host of different factors.
- Russian troops figure out their problems, adapt, and their advance picks up speed allowing Putin to achieve his war aims
- The Russians call on their only real ally Belarus to invade western Ukraine in an attempt to seal of the Ukraine-NATO border area to stop the flow of additional weapons and support into Ukraine from Western powers
- Ukrainian resistance continues to stymie the Russian advance and the Russian cant figure out their logistic and support issues leading to a stalemate
- The Ukrainians are even more combat capable than many think and they manage to mount a counterattack on one of the many salient the Russians have pushed into Ukraine leading Putin to serious negotiations
- Some action by Russia or Russia’s (up to now) silent partner Belorussia leads to the involvement of one of the NATO nations bordering Ukraine causing the war to widen and most likely begin to spiral out of control
The wild card in all this is China in my opinion. What are the Chinese going to do? SO far, they have done little except refuse to condemn the invasion and refuse to impose sanctions on Russia. All that may change depending on how they read the progress of the war, the distraction of the Western powers, and what opportunities to advance their own agenda they see.
The European powers have as much as admitted that they lack the real military capability to effectively intervene in anything like a timely manner (shades of British support for Poland in 1939 anyone?) absent significant US support. The US is trying to focus on two things at once, the war in Ukraine and China. What I have not seen mentioned thus far is that the US does not really have the capability anymore to wage two regional near-peer wars anymore and the US is the 500-pound gorilla when it comes to military power on the global stage. If the war widens and US/NATO gets involved I fully expect China to make a play on both Taiwan and the South China Sea. Indeed, China would be stupid not to if their chief rival for power in the pacific is preoccupied on the other side of the Eurasian landmass.
Hopefully, we will have more clarity on how things will play out at the beginning of next week because I expect that if the Ukrainian military is going to crack and crumble it will happen within that timeframe. If at this time next week Russia has still failed to take Kiev and decapitate or at least significantly weaken the Ukrainian government then things will really start to get interesting.