To predict an expected outcome of a potential world-changing conflict which has only started weeks ago is a bit daring. JCOT attempts to do this, though, because important decisions on the economic and physical safety of the citizens and allies of the Federated Micronations depend on this. Please note that, in our experience, predictions containing a timescale are usually wrong in regards to the predicted dates. The war has _not_ started on 2022.02.01, as initially expected. But many of the Trump Presidency predictions made by the SDFM became true, some in a twisted way and after Trump lost the election.
Soon after the initial analysis was published, Russia switched from the "reinforcement" phase to the "Consolidation" phase by first declaring, then executing a withdrawal of all forces oriented towards Kyiv. Ukraine has been able to also push back Russian forces from the direct vicinity of Charkiv, while Russia has completed the conquest of Luhansk oblast and pushed further into Donezk oblast, This has led to a kind of slow moving stalemate situation, with
Western supplies to Ukraine are being ramped up especially after the reports of Russian war crimes. These will include armed vehicles, also T72 tanks. Together with the current level of Russian propaganda, this might mean Russia could either decide for a TNW attack on western Ukraine, or for a massive conventional attack at logistics infrastructure in Poland. Both would lead to Article 5. In the latter case, we would expect a major NATO response, e.g. a cruise missile attack against Kerch bridge, plus a declaration of a No Fly Zone in most parts of Ukraine.
Initial analysis - 2022.03.23
As described elsewhere , JCOT correctly has predicted the attack on Ukraine being executed from several sides. Due to the "false flag" most easily created in Donbass, the conflict started there, but was followed by a "rapid decapitation" attempt from the north and from an attack towards Charkiv. The only attack we predicted incorrectly was the thrust from Crimea - we expected a maritime landing operation instead, which was not yet attempted on the Odessa coastline. Ukrainian forces defended the access from Crimea valiantly, but failed.
We assumed correctly that these attacks would not progress as fast as expected by the aggressor, but finally be successful in surrounding most large cities in the eastern and southern parts of Ukraine. Some of the cities might capitulate quickly, but others, especially those on the east bank of the Dnepr, would keep on resisting. As Ukraine as a whole would not capitulate, Aleppo-like situations have come up in Chernihiv, Kharkiv and especially Mariupol.
At this point, Russia might be prepared to offer an armistice, demanding the capitulation of the remaining surrounded cities as a price for this. Ukraine would probably not accept this, utilizing the extended supply lines and the abilities of the Territorial Defense to inflict huge losses on Russian forces. In this situation, Russia has these options:
- Consolidate forces into those areas they want to keep (Cherson peninsula, to secure Crimean water supply, parts of Donbas) and withdraw from others
- Send reinforcements and enhance air and ground attacks on Ukrainian cities, Chechnya style.
- With a shock attack, possibly nuclear, cut off Western supply lines to Ukraine and push Ukraine into capitulation.
We are currently observing the "reinforcements" variant. The "consolidation" variant would be sort of a capitulation inacceptable to Putin, while the "shock attack" basically is only possible with nuclear weapons. That would lead to NATO Article 5 and possibly a nuclear war.
As Russian supply lines are cut more often by Ukrainian forces, we expect that some Russian battle groups might be cut off and surrounded. First reports in this direction are coming in from the region north west of Kyiv, but we expect a similar scenario for the forces west of Kherson. In the south east, on the other hand, Russian forces might try to surround Ukrainian forces positioned against the Donbas "Republics". But for Russia, the protection of supply trains will become more and more difficult since about half of their helicopters have been shot down. Regarding typical maintenance cycles and repair quotas, we assume it will shortly become difficult to protect Russian supply lines with helicopters.
We expect no effective attack of Belarusian forces in north west Ukraine. Even if some Belarusian units cross the border, they will soon dissolve, with high number of desertions. It is feasible that an attack order by Lukashenka will lead to a civil war or coup d'etat in Belarus.
If the Russian groups active in the western Kyiv and Cherson regions are routed within the next two to four weeks, we expect a decision by Putin to be made, either to consolidate the occupied territory on the Azov coastline and withdraw from the other regions (except maybe the north east as bargaining chip) or to expand the war by using weapons of mass destruction. Chemical weapons are one possibility, as the Russian ally Syria has used such weapons without any military backlash by the west. But their terror factor is locally restricted, therefore it is possible that Putin will decide to use tactical nuclear weapons.
Like in Syria or in Iraq (Saddam Hussein, against the Kurdish regions), we believe larger scale use of chemical weapons will not lead to Western military action. It would lead to another level of sanctions, though, against natural gas and oil and probably all other trade. In case of the explosion of tactical nuclear weapons in western Ukraine, though, the fallout and political shock would lead to Article 5. On the other side, we hope that such a command would be forfeited by the Russian command chain and, either before its execution or after, lead to Putin being arrested and tried by a new Russian government.
If such a command is executed and a TNW device exploded, we probably will see a declaration of a No Flight Zone over large parts of Ukraine, supported by threats of strikes against Russian forces west of the Dnipro. At this point, Russia probably will back down and not escalate into a global nuclear war. Probably.
JCOT, 2022.02.18 / 2022.02.26 / 2022.03.23