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Russian War Goals

As of 2022.02.21, it is luckily not clear if there actually will be war, although the probability for this is seen as quite high. To analyze potential Russian war goals, a number of scenarios have been built which use historic references to identify them. Those references are very coarse but may help to distinguish the scenarios. We also try to summarize which consequences we expect if a certain model is implemented.

Czechoslovakia model:

  • No total capitulation of Ukraine, but armistice agreement
  • Annex Donbas & land bridge to Crimea
  • Possibly annex the Black Sea coast area around Odessa and Mykolajiw or create a puppet statelet in the region
  • Create East Ukrainian Kyiv-based Quisling state with Russian bases
  • Current Ukrainian state becomes West Ukrainian Lviv-based authoritarian state aligned to Poland
  • Create a Hungarian-majority statelet at the border to Hungary as potential offer to Hungary, to split NATO
  • Create a Bessarabian-Transnistrian-Gagauz statelet out of parts of Moldova and south west Ukraine

In 1938, the Munich agreement did not only lead to the occupation of the western parts of Czechoslovakia by Germany, but also to the annexation of other parts of the state by Poland and Hungary, and later to the splitting off of Slovakia and the occupation of Czechia. Russia might think that it is possible to "buy" Hungary or even Poland by offering them parts of or influence over Western Ukrainian regions. This model does not solve Russian issues in regards to NATO though - a Western Ukraine allied to Poland would become a de facto member of NATO, supplied by Poland and Turkey if not officially NATO. Also, the East Ukrainian Quisling state would be instable and threatened by guerilla warfare. In contrast to the historic splitting of Czechoslovakia at Munich, this model would not be achieved by diplomatic pressure but only after a protracted and bloody war.

France model:

  • Total capitulation of Ukraine after a short conflict
  • Short term occupation of whole country
  • Longer military rule / occupation in critical regions (coastline, western border)
  • Annex Donbas & land bridge to Crimea
  • Permanent Russian bases in all of Ukraine,
  • Create authoritarian "Petain" government representing all of Ukraine after capitulation of Ukrainian army.

The long term goal of this model would be a "Slavic Union" state. This model would probably the most attractive to the Russian government. It would lead to wide scale guerilla fighting, like in France in the 1940s. This guerilla warfare probably would spill into Belarus at some point, possibly supported by nationalist parts of the Belarusian army. The human costs on both sides would be extreme, especially in the north western parts of Ukraine.

Double Isolation model:

  • Occupying all of Ukraine and the Baltic states
  • Tactical priority to cut off land links of Ukraine and Lithuania to the West.
  • Reincorporating these countries in a new "Soviet Union".

This model follows the "War with Russia" scenario by former DSACEUR Sir Richard Shirreff. It would block all Western aid to these countries. NATO Article 5 action would be blocked by short range nuclear forces and conventional forces at the western borders of Ukraine and Lithuania. The consequences of this model would be official state of war between Russia and NATO, an immediate accession to NATO by Finland and Sweden and probably a strong realignment of the Central Asian states including Kasakhstan towards China, to avoid becoming the next victims. A sea / land blockade of Russia and potential "neutral" states would be a direct consequence, with the question how China would act. Also, a NATO counterattack against Kaliningrad, occupied Ukraine and Transnistria would be possible as there would be no reason to restrict a counterattack to NATO aligned territory.

An additional goal of any Russian attack would be to secure important centers of arms industry and especially nuclear technology. Uranium mines are located in the Kirovohrad region, west of the Dnipro river, while Dnipropetrovsk and Krywiyh Rih are important industrial centers. Strategically, those areas would be important to the occupying forces.

The Russian leadership probably has flexible war goals, deciding in dependence of the situation which they will pursue. The "Double Isolation" model carries a high risk of nuclear warfare and total economic disruption. The "Czechoslovakia" model might seem to be the most appropriate if Ukraine is able to put up a strong initial resistance. If there is less resistance and Ukraine capitulates quickly, the "France" model would probably be the preferred one for Russia.

But large wars never develop as planned. Russia must be made aware that in the long term, all these scenarios will lead to failure and to the downfall of the Russian state, with major consequences for the livelihood of the Russian people.

JCOT, 2022.02.21