Thinking after Ukraine

It’s time to start thinking what happens after Ukraine falls.

You might be forgiven for thinking that all the stories of plucky defenders of Ukraine indicate the war is going well. It’s not. While Ukraine didn’t fall quickly like Georgia or the Crimea peninsula, it is fairly obvious that the war is not going well for them.

  • The Russians are on the doorsteps of Kyiv. Yes, taking one’s capital isn’t nearly as important as it once was, but it is a big symbol and will give Russia the chance to setup a government body. It’ll be 100% illegitimate, but if Russia enforces it, it doesn’t matter.
  • They have nearly taken all of the southern land that borders the Black Sea. That’s really important for two reasons. First, that means you can’t resupply directly from the sea, which is the quickest way to bring heavy units like tanks and armor into your country. Second, it means that if anyone was to bring a carrier strike group into the Black Sea, they have to overfly Russian territory that is sure to be crawling with anti-air guns and missiles.
  • The Russians recently took a nuclear power plant responsible for a pretty large percentage of power in the region. Not only do they have the brainpower to run the plant, but now they can start cutting power to Ukraine.

And we’re only a little over a week in. Remember that it took 100 days to kick Iraq out of Kuwait, and around two months to take out Taliban leadership in Afghanistan. Russia isn’t on the timetable they want, but they aren’t nearly as bogged down as people want to believe.

So what happens when Russia wins? First, you better believe that China is taking notes about Taiwan. Every single sanction we throw at Russia is going to cause the Chinese to build defenses. Kicking out of SWIFT? China already has an alternative, called CIPS, that you can bet they will push as better than SWIFT over the summer. I’d expect China to crack down on its wealthy people with wealth outside of China, disguised as accusing them of “tax evasion.” Essentially, China will make China an island that can be (mostly) self sufficient in order to insulate itself from sanctions.

Europe? The good news is maybe the Europeans will finally get serious about their own militaries. Europe has been comfortable under a US military umbrella, but Ukraine is making them really uncomfortable about now. Remember when President Trump told Germany to pay its fair share of military costs for NATO? Remember when he told France that too? Wonder why Russia doesn’t take those two countries seriously, and what the consequences could be? Well, now you know.

Lastly, I’d put money on Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Kazakhstan pursuing nuclear weapons. Let’s be completely honest, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea could build them tomorrow if they wanted to. They possess the technology and brainpower to do it, and as they watch Ukraine, they are going to want their own assurance that China won’t decide to hurt them. Saudi Arabia would likely just purchase them, potentially from Israel or India, or even North Korea. They won’t wait for the US to not respond to an Iranian attack. Kazakhstan, which dismantled the nuclear weapons left in its territory by the Russians, is likely regretting that decision, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they buy weapons and secretly ship them into the country.

It’s not pleasant, but we should be thinking about what comes after Russia dissolves Ukraine. It might take them a month…but sadly, short of significant powers getting involved, its going to happen.

This post represents the views of the authors and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

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