Ukraine War Status

Latest Summary of Russia / Ukraine War

This document summarizes my current thinking. Latest update 6/30/22 My Rope-A-Dope and Jake Broe on YT: Ukraine Will Win, But it will time TIME. Comments or criticism welcome! (I re-read all the comments to my stories for this doc). I’m also moving away from the who will win war question to what does the war mean for the global economy and other geopolitical questions.

Biases

I believe authoritarian forms of governments are non-adaptive. Democracy, though imperfect, allows for freer markets, happier people, and the encouragement of innovation. Therefore, I back the Ukrainian effort to govern itself independently of the Russian government. As nice as all that sounds, my war assessments are skewed towards Ukraine doing better than it is.

Overview

What’s being fought over? From Russian perspective: Territorial power. Ukraine’s newly discovered oil/gas reserves; water for Crimea; ability to set prices for pipeline gas transit. Another factor, Putin’s pride. Also, Russia doesn’t want a successful, prosperous democracy of Russian-speakers, with many connections to people in the RF to demonstrate that it’s possible to NOT have an authoritarian style government.

From Ukrainian perspective: Territorial integrity. Western technology, education and supply-chain networks. Another factor may be Ukrainian pride, a desire for a Ukraine free of Russian influence after Russia strong-armed it way into Crimea and the Donbas.

Current Assessment

The West tolerated Russia’s de-facto annexation of Crimea and parts of Donbas and Georgia. Putin played a gambit with Ukraine. If there had been no resistance this would have just been Donbas 2.0

But there was resistance and instead of withdrawing, Russia crossed a line with Ukraine, Western anti-authoritarian interests and Western oil/gas interests that cannot be walked back (too many civilians killed and cities destroyed). Ukraine will not stop fighting until Putin is dead. Russia’s military has culminated since most Russians won’t mobilize to fight Ukraine. Ukraine continues to reclaim territory from the invasion. If one looks at the maps for the past 100 days and knew nothing about each combatant, I believe they would see a blitzkrieg followed by a relentless clawing back of territory by the defender.

However, Ukraine may culminate too and Russia hold onto its current territory.

Russia’s economy was already distorted by hording gold and inhibiting investment in tech. The increased sanctions will create severe problems for Russia in the months or years ahead. All things being equal, Russia will self-destruct if it can’t get the sanctions lifted or the price of oil craters.

The slower Ukraine pushes back Russia the more likely an exogenous event will change the calculus–for example, China invading Taiwan.

I don’t believe Russia will go back to Autarky; the country is too rich and still favors the European lifestyle.

Other Medium Writers I Try to Follow

Daily: Stefan Korshak, Maxim Kolomiets Irregular stories: Andrew Tanner, Nadin Brzezinski

Quick Summaries

o. Size of each nation’s economy.
Advantage: RUSSIA

o. Size of each side’s economy (including allies contributing to war effort)
Advantage: UKRAINE

o. Unless the invader has enough people to seize and control a territory permanently the advantage goes to the defender who with time usually drives the invader out. Recent examples: Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam and Lebanon. Someone commented that much of the Donbas identifies as Russian, making that part defending against Ukraine. So I’ll split this issue into three
Western Ukraine: Advantage: UKRAINE
Donbas: More to the West, Advantage UKRAINE, more to the East, Advantage RUSSIA.
Crimea: Advantage NEITHER. I believe this may apply to Odesa more than is reported; that is, Odesa identifies as a city-state, neither Ukrainian nor Russian.

o. Better technology is a force multiplier. Russia and Ukraine use the same tanks and artillery. Russia has significantly more of it. Let’s say Russia has a 6 to 1 advantage. However, if Ukraine received a more accurate piece of artillery from the West that needs only one shell to hit a target that Russia needs six shells to achieve then both systems are roughly at parity.

0–3 Month Advantage: RUSSIA
3–6 Month Advantage: Depends on logistics, but I believe it EVEN
6+ Months: Advantage: UKRAINE (unless China sells arms to Russia)

o. Morale. People fight harder to keep their land and protect their family than others who fight for money.
Advantage: UKRAINE

o. Realpolitik: The EU doesn’t care what happens in Russia and nearby states as long as it gets oil/gas for its industry. However, Russia is making that difficult. In a sense, Russia’s invasion has doubled or tripled the net cost of that oil/gas to the EU.
Advantage: NEITHER (EU will flip back and forth between appeasement and war).

Supporters of Ukraine: U.S., Britain, Poland, Finland, Sweden, etc. [this needs improvement]
Countries ready to sell Ukraine down the river: France, Germany, Hungary, etc.
Neutral: China

o. Oil/Gas Industry: United States, French and British oil interests (Exxon, Chevron, BP, TotalEnergy, Etc.) will influence each nation’s military policy if another nation (Russia) puts its national interests before each company’s business interests (which are otherwise politically neutral).
Advantage: UKRAINE

Simplified Chess Analogy:

0–3 Months:
Space: RUSSIA
Time: RUSSIA
Force: RUSSIA
Position: RUSSIA
Harmony: UNKNOWN
Dynamics: UNKNOWN

3–6 Months:
Space: UKRAINE
Time: UKRAINE
Force: RUSSIA
Position: RUSSIA
Harmony: EVEN
Dynamics: UKRAINE

My Mistakes

I originally believed the Azov Battalions were a legitimate threat to Russia’s security interests (through their efforts to change Ukraine’s government). I succumbed to Russian propaganda.

I couldn’t believe the Russian Army would commit war crimes on a massive scale. It took me a long time to wrap my head around that–though many people who study Russia predicted it from the start.

I overestimated the strength of the Russian military. I didn’t understand the breadth and depth of corruption both in the military and Russian industry.

I underestimated the importance of the oil/gas fields discovered in Ukraine after 2010 — because I didn’t know. Though I’m not positive that they’re a motivating factor for Putin.

I didn’t understand that Putin created (creates) the oligarchs, not the other way around, as it was in the 1990s.

I didn’t understand how difficult Putin has made it for a Kremlin coup.

I couldn’t believe Putin would be so militarily naïve to wait for the Olympics to be over to invade.

I underestimated Putin’s mental illness. Only the mentally ill threaten nuclear attacks.

I underestimated that there are many Ukrainian-hating Russians. Again, others commented on this but I was slow to believe it.

I believed Ukraine would launch a counter-attack to Mariupol to save the city.

A dark, nagging question, did the U.S. want Ukraine to lose in the beginning?

Unintended Consequences

Many weapons will end up on the black market, or used in ways we can’t foresee.

How the war might accelerate totalitarianism in the U.S., though that is counter-intuitive.

Nuclear proliferation on an eye-popping global scale.

Other Stories

James Marinero on Russian regional power growing again.

Putin’s Reasons for Invading

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Max Rottersman

Max Rottersman

I try to write stories that go where the general media doesn’t.