The Unfolding Scenario: An Analysis of a Post-Armistice Era in Ukraine

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by Aurelien

Last week, we looked at what might happen next in Ukraine. An armistice, which is an agreement on how and when to end the fighting, will have to be negotiated soon, although it will not be straightforward to do and could easily break down. Nonetheless, suppose we assume that by mid-2025 (or any later date you want to put forward if you think that’s too soon) there is an armistice in place and the fighting is over, what then? That’s the subject of today’s essay.

There are two main issues involved here. The first is the circumstances surrounding the armistice itself, and the relationship between the military situation and the political decisions that will need to be taken. It’s beginning to look as though the situation I’ve been anticipating for a while is now coming about: the Ukrainians are retreating from a number of positions that are clearly indefensible, and some units appear to have broken, and retreated without orders. With increasing shortages of manpower, equipment and ammunition, and since you can’t fight with money alone, both of these processes are likely to continue. However, there is nothing deterministic or mathematical about a decision to surrender, which is why it’s effectively impossible to forecast even an approximate date. History, which whilst imperfect is the only guide we have, suggests that what will determine the date will be a loss of hope and unity among the ruling elite, and that could come in a month’s time, or a year’s time.

So let us say, for the sake of argument, that at a given point the Russians are fully in control of the Donbas region, and that the UAF have retreated from Kharkov and Odessa. The Russians have stopped offensive ground operations except for a token occupation of Odessa to take control of the port, but continue to attack rear areas of Ukraine and the country’s infrastructure. OK, what then? And who decides? I made the point last week that surrender is something that has to be ordered by the political leadership: it doesn’t just happen. Theoretically, even then, the government in Kiev (and who knows who will be in charge by then) could refuse to surrender. The UAF would have little fighting capability left, but on the other hand the Russians might well decide that it would be pointless to try to occupy the whole country and take Kiev, and it’s doubtful if they would have the forces anyway. At that point, you’d have a “no war no peace” situation where the Russians were probably reinforcing Odessa but otherwise just bombarding targets in the rear area.

In such a situation it would be possible for the government in Kiev (assuming that an effective government existed) to continue to make bellicose noises and gesticulate wildly, promising an offensive in 2026. For its part, the United States (or at least Biden) will be desperate to delay a formal surrender until after the November elections, so it may be assumed that until that time, at least, they will be putting pressure on Kiev to remain defiant. What’s less clear is what they can offer or threaten: there is no more equipment left to send that could affect the outcome of the fighting, and all that money can do is keep the state and its structures going a bit longer. For their part, the Russians would be trying to put psychological pressure on Kiev: low-level sonic booms over the capital, perhaps, or demonstrative targeting of objects of national prestige. So it would all get very complicated and very nasty, but that isn’t to say that, if some kind of surrender can be managed, all the problems will go away. In many cases they will just be beginning.

This is mainly because of the West, which is the second point. The untidy coalition which has backed Ukraine (NATO, EU, but also Japan and Australia) has little internal coherence, and very different national interests and objectives. This was obscured by the fact that the formal objective since 2022—“support Ukraine!”— was easy to conceptualise, as a slogan at least, even if the actual implementation was much more complicated. The leaders of these countries, as well as their advisers and their parasite class, have thus lived in a kind of fever-dream since February 2022. Something they never expected, something they have no experience of, something they basically don’t understand, turned around and bit them. They are going through mechanical motions, living in a parallel universe which retains as many of the features of their own worldview as they can manage, frantically comforting each other with the thought that it will soon all be over.

After the initial shock, the collective policy of “support Ukraine” was feasible because it looked as though the crisis would be short, and would resolve itself to the advantage of the Global West. The worst that could happen would be a couple of months of dislocation, while the Russian Army fell apart, the economy collapsed, and there was a change of government in Moscow. There might be some economic disruption in the West, but not very much, and the long-term benefits of getting rid of the current political and economic system in Russia would be enormous for the West. That didn’t happen, of course, but inside the consensual hallucination which serves as a club-house for western decision-makers, it didn’t matter too much, because, well, give it time. The Russian economy would collapse, the Russian military was out of weapons and the brave Ukrainians would soon evict them from the country. When that didn’t work, well, give it a bit more time. The counter-offensive, with western equipment and western-trained troops, would put an end to the war. When that didn’t work, well, give it even more time and we’ll come up with another clever plan. After all, the Russians weren’t making territorial gains, were they? Except now they are, so that excuse won’t wash any more.

All of which is soon going to reveal, very sharply, the divisions which always existed in the West over Ukraine, but which were concealed under the collective bloodlust of the last couple of years. And these divisions will start to surface now, as the Russians begin to make territorial gains, and the Ukrainians start to retreat. What complicates things is that these divisions are not just between states, but also within them.

For most western policy-makers, Russia was not a priority before 2022. Covid was still not over, most western economies were in a bad way, most western governments were frightened of something called “populism” which was gaining ground. Yes, there was a civil war in Ukraine, but there was very little consciousness of it, yes there were sanctions against Russia, but then there were sanctions against all sorts of other countries as well. Countries geographically near Russia were, naturally enough, more interested in events there, and major players in NATO and the EU did devote a bit of time to the country, but that was about it. If anything, people thought more about China.

There had never been a single “policy” on Russia within NATO or the EU, and there were different approaches even within the same government. (Indeed, those with experience of the inner workings of international organisations will probably be slightly amused to see, for example, the words “NATO” and “policy” appear in the same sentence.) Attractive as it might be to imagine secret committees beavering away in secret underground lairs in Brussels elaborating cunning plans over many years, NATO is institutionally incapable of any such thing. Which is a shame in a sense, because a properly organised policy could theoretically be put into reverse now, as members of the secret committee met urgently, twirling their moustaches and saying “Curses! Foiled again!” But the big problem here is that, beyond the rhetorical level, neither NATO nor the EU really has a consistent, thought-out policy to back away from. It’s all been made up in panic and haste, by compromise and with crossed fingers, and continually mutating, depending on the situation. Thus, probably no two countries have exactly the same idea of what they have been doing and why, nor even how they got there, even assuming the governments themselves are united on the issue. After all, many countries went along with aggressive policy statements and communiqués about Russia because they didn’t care much either way, and there was no point in wasting political capital opposing them. Likewise, supporting Ukraine against what seemed to be aggressive moves from Russia didn’t seem a big deal in the 2010s, and many governments had other priorities.

This has led to a curious situation where national leaders, their advisers and all the “serious” pundits have been rhetorically on the same side of the argument since 2021, even if in most cases not a lot of them gave much thought to the details or the implications. But that is actually quite unusual in international politics. If we think of modern foreign policy disasters—Suez, Vietnam, Iraq—it’s striking that there was considerable open political opposition at the time, and that there were people afterwards who could claim, with justice, that they had warned that things would go wrong. In this case, only a few marginal figures in a few countries expressed much doubt at the start, and the consensus that “support Ukraine!” is a Good Thing is still largely intact. As a result, the only public strategy that it’s feasible for the Global West to use will be the move-the-goalposts one I have described  on several occasions, in which “Putin wanted to conquer Europe” but was frustrated by the brave Ukrainians and the steadfastness of the West.

But whilst that will do as a public defence  in the short term, (and will be eagerly retailed by the pundits who got things just as catastrophically wrong) it doesn’t answer what will be the most pressing problem asked in different buildings in Brussels: What the **** are we going to do now? Nor does it answer other traditional political questions, notably, Who got us into this? and Who can we blame for the outcome? Whilst it’s already clear that the military defeat will be entirely the fault of Ukraine, and that the West did everything it possibly could, this won’t stop the behind-the-scenes recriminations within and between governments, and the very public attempts by different nations to put themselves forward as the neglected saviour: if only their advice had been listened to, or their example followed!

This is what is behind, for example, wild comments about possibly seeing western troops to Ukraine. You will have noticed that, a month or more after M. Macron first suggested that European troops might be sent to Ukraine, absolutely nothing has happened, in spite of breathless rumours and allegations that troops would be deployed “soon.” In reality, this is part of a series of initiatives designed to profit as far as possible from the aftermath of the catastrophe, and reinforce the French position in the political struggles to come. (More recently, the idea of a European expeditionary force for things like the evacuation of nationals, first discussed thirty-five years ago, has been trotted out once again.) It’s the same logic, I think, which is behind the recent decision by the US Congress to unfreeze “aid” for Ukraine. I suspect that those responsible were briefed in no uncertain terms by the US intelligence agencies that the game was over, and their concern now is not to leave themselves vulnerable to accusations that, by holding up the aid, they were responsible for the defeat. That may seem a ridiculous accusation to make, but we are in a situation now where people are competing to do and say things that present themselves as more faithful than anyone else in their support for Ukraine, so as not to be held responsible when things fall apart.

This point is directly related to the fact that most governments and pundits were caught up in something they weren’t prepared for, didn’t really understand but went along with anyway. To get a sense of what that means in practice, a good comparison is one of those start-up companies whose shares briefly touch the stratosphere before falling to earth. Let’s think of, I don’t know, an AI-enabled internet-connected dog-walking robot. There will be a small number of true believers who think this is the next iPhone. There will be supportive technical journalists with more enthusiasm than actual knowledge. There will be people trying to make a quick profit. There will be those carried along by the general enthusiasm. There will be those trying to make use of the same enthusiasm for their own purposes. There will be those afraid of missing out on an opportunity to become rich, and so on and so on.

“Support Ukraine” is a bit like that. There are a number of true believers, especially in the United States, who have spent their lives trying to bring down first the Soviet Union and then Russia. They have occasionally been in positions of power or influence, and have tried to implement that agenda where they could, although, as anyone familiar with the violently dysfunctional US system knows, it’s hard for anyone, or any group to have more than a partial and temporary influence on policy. But in February 2022, they must have thought their hour had come. There was a much larger group, including Cold War nostalgics, those who regretted being too young for the Cold War, and those who had been brought up to see the world in terms of Great Power competition, and who regarded Russia as a rival and conflict not necessarily as a bad thing. There were countries with difficult historical relationships with Russia. In Europe, as I have recounted at length, there was a messianic anti-Russianism among elites, composed partly of historical racialist tropes and partly of fear and dislike of Russia as the “anti-Europe,” a rogue country standing out against the inevitable triumph of Liberal social and economic values as interpreted by Brussels. Then there were the simple opportunists hoping to extract political, personal or financial value from the crisis and the proponents of higher defence spending and rearmament on principle. There were those afraid for their jobs or their futures if they did not join the rush, and those hoping to score political points by rushing faster than their opponents. So defenders of “democracy” against “authoritarianism” and nostalgics who wished WW2 had gone differently found themselves walking in the same procession. And finally, of course, the majority of leaders, pundits and  parasites had no real idea what was going on, but were along for the ride.

Because of course this was going to be easy and risk-free. The Russian Army and the Russian economy would rapidly collapse, and the country itself would quickly be transformed into a somewhat larger Canada. There would be work there for NGOs for generations, books to be written, TV films to be made, institutions to be reformed, political parties to create and sponsor and contracts for western defence equipment. Human Rights activists were already looking at airline timetables to attend the inevitable trials and convictions of Putin and his colleagues, fantasising about being the first to cast a sharpened stone at the inevitable executions. From bankers and property speculators to gender sensitivity trainers and transsexual rights activists, there was something for everybody. Until there wasn’t.

At first, it seemed that, well, profits would be a little longer coming than promised. Then there weren’t going to be any profits. Then everybody was going to lose all of their money, except for a clever few. Now, the Sunk Costs fallacy is well known to psychologists, and also to those who study the eccentric workings of financial markets. The more we invest in an idea, whether financially or psychologically, the more we will stick with it, even in the face of evidence that it’s not working. And when everybody else sticks with it as well, then it becomes impossible to pull out. To change the metaphor, imagine the “support Ukraine!” movement as an apocalyptic Last Days cult, assembling in the desert somewhere to be taken off Earth by flying saucers. There’s been a delay, but the cultists are telling each other, don’t worry, it will be all right. But it’s not going to be all right.

But nobody wants to be the first to ask for their money back, and anyway there isn’t any money. The money and the weapons and the ammunition have all been sent. The cuddling-up to neo-Nazis has already happened, and is on video. Western planners and military experts have helped kill large numbers of Russians. Massive economic damage has been sustained to western economies. Most of the Global South has been alienated. The West has been largely disarmed, and its defence industry shown to be inferior to that of the Russians where it matters. The Russians are now the undisputed military power in Europe, and they are pretty pissed-off. So, what now?

In the short term, the West will do what it always does, which is to take refuge in words, and  continue to talk aggressively to a stronger enemy, and make threats that it knows it cannot implement. Apart from anything else, this is because it will be impossible to agree on what to say instead. There are so many different interests, so many different countries, so many different mindsets involved, that, as often, the car will keep driving in the same direction (in this case off the cliff) because there’s no agreement on which way to turn the steering wheel. At least in the short term, we can expect snarls of defiance more than anything else. But at some point, there will be people sitting, as I once did, in stuffy airless rooms in meetings that last all day, desperately trying to come up with some compromise language for a communiqué that nobody will take seriously, but which has to be issued nonetheless. And then from time to time there will be a silence, broken by somebody asking, Yes, but what are we actually going to do? And there’s the rub.

So let’s begin by assuming that something like the scenario sketched out in my last essay and developed above has come about: the fighting has stopped, an armistice has been signed, and the Ukrainians are in the process of implementing the conditions imposed on them. What is the West going to have to do, and when?

The first requirement is acceptance, and in some ways this is the most difficult of all. It’s hard to think of any comparable shock to the western political system in modern times. I’ve mentioned Suez and Vietnam, and in some ways these are analogues, especially for the United States. Ukraine is, in effect, America’s Suez moment, when it will have to radically adjust its own understanding of itself as a world power. But that will take time, and gives rise to all sorts of complications we don’t have the space for here. In the shorter term, it’s going to appear to most western elites that the world has turned upside down, and they will not be entirely wrong. I suspect that nothing since the shock of the Russian Revolution will come close to what western elites are about to experience. The sense in 1917 that history had just darted off in a completely unexpected and unbelievable direction is probably unparalleled since, except to some degree in the end of that same story in 1989-91. But there, the direct consequences for the West of the end of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact were limited, and in any event mostly positive. In 1917, it looked as though some amazing underhand German manoeuvre had succeeded in taking Russia out of the War, unleashing incomprehensible revolutionary forces in Europe, and directly threatening the security of the allied powers and their chances of winning.

I suspect the shock will be as great as it was then, and the fundamental question asked by populations, by opposition politicians and pundits adroitly changing sides, will be, How could something like this happen? You can imagine an opportunist political hack saying something like, “I supported the government at the time against Russian aggression, and I was right to do so. But we were promised a rapid Ukrainian victory and a Russian defeat. Where is that? We were promised that western training and equipment would turn the tide. Why didn’t they? Who is responsible and will they be held to account?” History is not always very forgiving and I suspect that in due course critics will take aim, not at the underlying opposition to Russia or support to Ukraine, which will be too sensitive to touch for some years, but at misrepresentation and exaggeration of the facts by governments. And governments’ only defence, apart from “everybody got it wrong,” will be, “we didn’t know.” Not that it will do them much good. I’m reminded of the old Scottish joke about sanctimonious sinners finding themselves in Hell (with apologies to Scots speakers). They said:

” O, Lord, we didna ken, we didna ken”

An the Guid Lord luikit doun, wi his infinite mercie an compassion, an said –

“Weill, ye ken nou”

Too late is always too late in politics.

The first results will be panic and confusion, because the old norms won’t apply any more. For more than thirty years, western elites have believed in their hegemony and their unilateral right to take important decisions. Even if, in reality, things have been much more complicated, the inherited assumptions of the generation of Macron and Sunak are that, whatever the problem in the world, the West will take charge of it and will dictate the outcome. Even now, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that there are working groups in Washington, beavering away at the draft of a peace treaty between Ukraine and Russia, to be negotiated under US auspices with Washington having the final word. But it’s not just exaggerated expectations, it’s also what you have become used to, and what the system itself expects. Who’s going to be the first US diplomat to say “but maybe we won’t be invited?” The reality is that, just as an armistice will be negotiated directly between the Russians and the Ukrainians, so there is no reason why a peace treaty should not be entirely bilateral as well, if that’s what the Russians want. Sorry, you’re not invited.

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Russia is not the old USSR. You know, Union of Soviet SOCIALIST Republics.
Russia is a capitalist society with prosperity at home.

We can’t compare to the Moscow safe streets either here in our big cities or in Paris, London, Nice, Marseilles, etc.
The globalist West only promises its people that, “You will own nothing and be happy.”
Or else???
So, who’s the good guys here?
Who are the bad actors?
Ukraine leaders and joe’s buddys here are all getting filthy rich off this “war.”
The people of Ukraine are suffering.

The average Russian worker’s hourly wage is roughly equal to the US minimum wage—a bit over $7 per hour.

Last edited 1 month ago by Greg

And that is what you and the Democrats want here.

No doubt that explains why Republicans predictably oppose unions and fight every Democratic Party minimum wage bill.

Last edited 1 month ago by Greg

No, but it explains the goals of Democrats and their push for socialism. Ever notice how all their jobs are part time or low paying jobs and most are for the government?

Nope. I have never noticed that. Got a link?

the minimum wage of 20 bucks and hour means 10.000 with no work as they are replaced with order screens in california.

Last edited 1 month ago by kitt

Ironically, the Russian population below the poverty level is 12.1% while the US population below the poverty level is 15.1%.
So, prices must be lower, too.

Russia ranks 52nd on the Standard of Living by Country list.

Russia ranks 100th on the Life Expectancy by Country list.

You should also make a comparison of personal freedoms. You couldn’t begin to criticize Putin in Russia as you do Biden in the United States.

Last edited 1 month ago by Greg

So its at about 50th percentile. I noticed Germany is high ranking, with the muslim invasion it isnt safe for women. I guess standard of living does not take into account crime or being able to celebrate Christmas.
France, Germany and Austria are among several European countries increasing security checks and protections for churches ahead of Christmas celebrations.

Last edited 1 month ago by kitt