How Will The War In Ukraine End?

The wild card in these calculations is NATO. Worst case — the United States or other NATO members decide to intervene by sending their own troops to Ukraine.

6 mins read
A Ukrainian soldier looks over a target range, as Ukrainian Armed Forces brigades train for a critical and imminent spring counteroffensive against Russian troops in the Donbas region, Ukraine, on April 26, 2023. (Photo by Scott Peterson/Getty Images)

I will try to make this simple. It is a complex question, but it is something we should be contemplating if the world is going to avoid a nuclear holocaust. It boils down to three possibilities:

  • Unconditional SurrenderUnconditional Surrender
  • Negotiated SettlementNegotiated Settlement
  • Prolonged Conflict and Exhaustion, i.e. StalemateProlonged Conflict and Exhaustion, i.e. Stalemate

From Russia’s perspective, the military operation in Ukraine is not a war. War means destroying the enemy — physically, materially and politically. Despite the claims from Western propaganda, Russia has shied away from inflicting mass civilian casualties. Russia has not tried to destroy Western ISR platforms, Ukrainian government infrastructure or Ukrainian political officials. In short, Russia has only played a few of the military cards it holds. Going to war means you go all in. From Russia’s perspective, the military operation in Ukraine is not a war. War means destroying the enemy — physically, materially and politically. Despite the claims from Western propaganda, Russia has shied away from inflicting mass civilian casualties. Russia has not tried to destroy Western ISR platforms, Ukrainian government infrastructure or Ukrainian political officials. In short, Russia has only played a few of the military cards it holds. Going to war means you go all in. From Russia’s perspective, the military operation in Ukraine is not a war. War means destroying the enemy — physically, materially and politically. Despite the claims from Western propaganda, Russia has shied away from inflicting mass civilian casualties. Russia has not tried to destroy Western ISR platforms, Ukrainian government infrastructure or Ukrainian political officials. In short, Russia has only played a few of the military cards it holds. Going to war means you go all in.

Ukraine and its NATO allies hold a diametrically opposed view — this is a Russian war of aggression. In contrast to Russia, Ukraine has not only mobilized its population of military-aged men, but it has dragooned youth under the age of 18 and men between the ages of 45 and 65 into uniform and sent the cannon fodder forward. Ukraine’s ability to sustain a war footing going forward is entirely dependent on money and weapons supplied by the United States and other NATO member states. Without foreign support, Ukraine cannot continue to fight a modern industrial war. Ukraine and its NATO allies hold a diametrically opposed view — this is a Russian war of aggression. In contrast to Russia, Ukraine has not only mobilized its population of military-aged men, but it has dragooned youth under the age of 18 and men between the ages of 45 and 65 into uniform and sent the cannon fodder forward. Ukraine’s ability to sustain a war footing going forward is entirely dependent on money and weapons supplied by the United States and other NATO member states. Without foreign support, Ukraine cannot continue to fight a modern industrial war.

So let us review some crucial facts: So let us review some crucial facts:

  1. Ukraine is suffering devastating military casualties and does not have a trained reserve force it can send to the battlefield. Ukraine is suffering devastating military casualties and does not have a trained reserve force it can send to the battlefield.
  2. Ukraine lacks a viable fixed-wing combat air capability. Ukraine lacks a viable fixed-wing combat air capability.
  3. Ukraine lacks a stockpile of tanks, vehicles, artillery, and artillery shells. Ukraine lacks a stockpile of tanks, vehicles, artillery, and artillery shells.
  4. Ukraine does not have secure training facilities/bases on its own territory and must rely on other NATO countries to provide training. (This means the training is limited and not standardized.)Ukraine does not have secure training facilities/bases on its own territory and must rely on other NATO countries to provide training. (This means the training is limited and not standardized.)
  5. Ukraine’s counter-offensive, which was supposed to breach Russia’s Surovikin defence lines, has failed and Ukraine lacks the combat power to escalate attacks. Ukraine’s counter-offensive, which was supposed to breach Russia’s Surovikin defence lines, has failed and Ukraine lacks the combat power to escalate attacks.
  6. Russia, by contrast, has ample numbers of trained troop reserves, artillery ammunition, artillery (mobile and fixed), cruise missiles, drones, more than a thousand fixed-wing combat aircraft, attack helicopters, and massive air defence systems. Russia, by contrast, has ample numbers of trained troop reserves, artillery ammunition, artillery (mobile and fixed), cruise missiles, drones, more than a thousand fixed-wing combat aircraft, attack helicopters, and massive air defence systems.
  7. Russia is self-sufficient in critical natural resources required to supply its defence industries. Russia is self-sufficient in critical natural resources required to supply its defence industries.
  8. Russia is no longer dependent on the West for trade and its economy is growing in spite of Western economic sanctions. Russia is no longer dependent on the West for trade and its economy is growing in spite of Western economic sanctions.

Many Western analysts insist that the situation unfolding in Ukraine is a stalemate and postulate that the war with Russia will drag on for years to come. Nonsense. Given the facts outlined above, the advantages fall entirely into the Russian side of the ledger. Ukraine does not enjoy a single advantage over Russia at this stage. In my view, it is unlikely that the Russian/Ukrainian war will produce a stalemate.Many Western analysts insist that the situation unfolding in Ukraine is a stalemate and postulate that the war with Russia will drag on for years to come. Nonsense. Given the facts outlined above, the advantages fall entirely into the Russian side of the ledger. Ukraine does not enjoy a single advantage over Russia at this stage. In my view, it is unlikely that the Russian/Ukrainian war will produce a stalemate.

What about a negotiated settlement? Possible, but any deal will be on Russia’s terms. Russia will insist on international recognition of Crimea, Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk and Luhansk as permanent parts of Russia. This is non-negotiable. Ukraine’s political leaders continue to insist that is a non-starter. In other words, there is no deal in the offing. What about a negotiated settlement? Possible, but any deal will be on Russia’s terms. Russia will insist on international recognition of Crimea, Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk and Luhansk as permanent parts of Russia. This is non-negotiable. Ukraine’s political leaders continue to insist that is a non-starter. In other words, there is no deal in the offing.

Which leaves us with the third possibility — unconditional surrender. Ukraine’s military is heading towards a breaking point because of mounting casualties. Ukraine does not have a cadre of trained reserves waiting in the wings ready to rush to the front to continue the effort to breach Russia’s defensive lines. Ukraine is facing a situation like the one that confronted the Confederate General, Robert E. Lee, at Appomattox. Lee’s beleaguered army still wanted to carry on the fight against the North but, despite their spirit, they lacked the logistics and manpower to continue. Lee recognized the futility of the situation and agreed to the generous terms offered by General Ulysses Grant. I believe the moment is approaching when Ukraine’s General Zaluzhny will face a similar moment of truth. Which leaves us with the third possibility — unconditional surrender. Ukraine’s military is heading towards a breaking point because of mounting casualties. Ukraine does not have a cadre of trained reserves waiting in the wings ready to rush to the front to continue the effort to breach Russia’s defensive lines. Ukraine is facing a situation like the one that confronted the Confederate General, Robert E. Lee, at Appomattox. Lee’s beleaguered army still wanted to carry on the fight against the North but, despite their spirit, they lacked the logistics and manpower to continue. Lee recognized the futility of the situation and agreed to the generous terms offered by General Ulysses Grant. I believe the moment is approaching when Ukraine’s General Zaluzhny will face a similar moment of truth.

I think the most likely scenario is a major rift between Zelensky and his military commanders over whether to continue the war. Ukrainians having a desire to fight is no substitute for having the necessary supplies of weapons and, more importantly, trained troops to use those weapons. At present, Ukraine has no viable path for sustaining military operations without guaranteed support from NATO.I think the most likely scenario is a major rift between Zelensky and his military commanders over whether to continue the war. Ukrainians having a desire to fight is no substitute for having the necessary supplies of weapons and, more importantly, trained troops to use those weapons. At present, Ukraine has no viable path for sustaining military operations without guaranteed support from NATO.

The wild card in these calculations is NATO. Worst case — the United States or other NATO members decide to intervene by sending their own troops to Ukraine. This will mark the end of the “Special Military Operation” and the start of a full-fledged war between NATO and Russia. The wild card in these calculations is NATO. Worst case — the United States or other NATO members decide to intervene by sending their own troops to Ukraine. This will mark the end of the “Special Military Operation” and the start of a full-fledged war between NATO and Russia.

Larry C. Johnson

Larry C. Johnson is an American blogger and former analyst at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. He is the co-owner and CEO of BERG Associates, LLC.

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