Possible Outcomes of the War?

So what are the possible outcomes of this war in Ukraine?

Well, first it depends on who is advancing and taking ground and what they end up negotiating as a settlement months or years from now. We could be looking at:

  1. If Russia continues advancing:
    1. A negotiated settlement handing over to Russia the provinces of Kherson, most of Zaporozhzhia, all of Lugansk and Donetsk, along with Sevastopol and Crimea. 
      1. Such a settlement would probably also include a ban on Ukraine joining NATO.
      2. It might also include a recognition of some or all of Russia’s claim. 
  2. If neither sides make much further progress on the ground.
    1. A cease-fire in place?
    2. War to continue at some point in the future?
  3. If Ukraine starts advancing over this summer:
    1. A negotiated settlement returning Kherson and Zaporozhzhia to Ukrainian control.
      1. Might include a recognition of Russia’s claim to Crimea, Sevastopol and the Donbas.
      2. This assumes that the Ukrainian advance is limited.
    2. A negotiated settlement returning Kherson, Zaporozhzhia, Lugansk and Donetsk to Ukrainian control.
      1. Might include a recognition of Russia’s claim to Crimea and Sevastopol.
      2. This assumes a significant Ukrainian advance.
    3. Finally, if Ukraine’s advance breaks into Crimea we could be looking at a ceasefire with all territory taken from Ukraine since 2013 returned to it. 

And then there are four scenarios that could heavily influence all this in the coming years (keep in mind I now suspect that this war is going to continue for maybe three years (which would carry it into 2024 or 2025): So How Long is this War Going to Last? | Mystics & Statistics (dupuyinstitute.org)

  1. Putin dies, is overthrown, or replaced. This needs to be discussed as a declining economy and extended war often results in political instability at home. How long does Russia have before it has to address political concern at homes. Probably not an issue for the next three months. Probably is an issue for the next three years if they are not winning the war in Ukraine. So, what are we looking at:
    1. Putin dies or is incapacitated. Lot of stories that he is suffering from cancer. I do think it is likely that they are true. He is 69 years old. He ain’t going to live forever and there is no clear successor.
    2. Putin retires at the end of his current term (which ends on 7 May 2024).
    3. Putin is replaced. This could either be a palace coup or something more dramatic. It could be a retirement and something more dramatic.
    4. In all three of the above cases the replacement president or body could be:
      1. Someone who supports and continues Putin’s policies.
      2. Someone who believes the war should be pursued more aggressively and wants to mobilize the population (less likely if the war continues for years).
      3. Someone who wants to reach a settlement with Ukraine and end the war.
      4. A member of the opposition takes the presidency (probably would favor ending the war).
  2. Russia descends into political violence. This could come about if:
    1. Anti-war protests mutate into anti-government protests. Right now there are no significant anti-war protests and probably will not be over the next few months. Not sure where we will be in the next few years.
    2. A coup fails and the coup plotters continue fighting or there is a countercoup effort. Lots of possibilities here. Don’t even want to list them. One only has to look at the history of Russia from 1917-1922 to understand how bizarre these scenarios could get. Such a scenario could include a second Russian Civil War.
    3. Central authority collapses and there is no clear new leader of Russia. We have seen central authority collapse before (in 1991). In this case, it was picked up by the various state governments (Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, etc.). What happens if central authority collapses and there is no one to pick it back up? 
  3. The presidency of Volodymyr Zelensky is replaced. 
    1. His next election is in March 2024. He could be voted out, although I do not think that is likely unless he is losing the war.
  4. The U.S. president is changed to someone who opposes supporting the war. 
    1. The U.S. presidential election is in November 2024 with the president taking power in January 2025. Right now, both political parties in the U.S. support this war, although there are factions in both parties opposed to providing aid at its current level. There is currently one major potential candidate in one party who may be opposed to such aid (Donald Trump).

Due to outside factors, 2024 could be a turning point in this war. 

Is there any possibilities that I am missing? (I have ruled out a collapse of the Ukrainian Army, the mass mobilization of Russia to conquer all of Ukraine, Russia going nuclear, etc. I have also ruled out such unlikely possibilities as an alien invasion).

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Christopher A. Lawrence
Christopher A. Lawrence

Christopher A. Lawrence is a professional historian and military analyst. He is the Executive Director and President of The Dupuy Institute, an organization dedicated to scholarly research and objective analysis of historical data related to armed conflict and the resolution of armed conflict. The Dupuy Institute provides independent, historically-based analyses of lessons learned from modern military experience.
Mr. Lawrence was the program manager for the Ardennes Campaign Simulation Data Base, the Kursk Data Base, the Modern Insurgency Spread Sheets and for a number of other smaller combat data bases. He has participated in casualty estimation studies (including estimates for Bosnia and Iraq) and studies of air campaign modeling, enemy prisoner of war capture rates, medium weight armor, urban warfare, situational awareness, counterinsurgency and other subjects for the U.S. Army, the Defense Department, the Joint Staff and the U.S. Air Force. He has also directed a number of studies related to the military impact of banning antipersonnel mines for the Joint Staff, Los Alamos National Laboratories and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation.
His published works include papers and monographs for the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation, in addition to over 40 articles written for limited-distribution newsletters and over 60 analytical reports prepared for the Defense Department. He is the author of Kursk: The Battle of Prokhorovka (Aberdeen Books, Sheridan, CO., 2015), America’s Modern Wars: Understanding Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam (Casemate Publishers, Philadelphia & Oxford, 2015), War by Numbers: Understanding Conventional Combat (Potomac Books, Lincoln, NE., 2017) , The Battle of Prokhorovka (Stackpole Books, Guilford, CT., 2019), The Battle for Kyiv (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2023), Aces at Kursk (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024), Hunting Falcon: The Story of WWI German Ace Hans-Joachim Buddecke (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024) and The Siege of Mariupol (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2024).
Mr. Lawrence lives in northern Virginia, near Washington, D.C., with his wife and son.

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  1. Unless the RU army collapses, I have a hard time seeing Crimea being taken back by UKR. If/when Kherson is retaken, I assume RU will blow the 2 bridges over the Dnepr. The Donetsk could be a bargaining card, but I suspect they will be given up to RU. That leaves the strip of land between Crimea and Kherson/Zapor. as being up for grabs depending on which way the war goes.

    Putin’s successor is a real wild card. Medvedev takes up the torch ? The palace politics are confusing.

    • Yes, to all this. Kherson is on the Ukrainian side of the Dnepr River, so it is possible that they could take all the territory to north of the river and then be stymied on a Russian defensive line along the river. The Dnepr River is a more serious obstacle then then Severnyii Donets Rivers. On the other hand, the densities of all these fronts are so low, that it is hard to believe that people can get a temporary advantage in any part of the front they concentrate on.

      The issue with Medvedev is I do not know if he has any power base beyond Putin. If Putin in gone, is Medvedev in position to take up a leadership role, or will he be shuffled aside like a nobody. At least in the bad old days (Soviet Union) they had a politburo, who could make decisions and assign a new leader when the old one died. They have no such body now.

      • We can all agree the RU blow those 2 bridges if the UKR get close; the UKR should hit them now, or as soon as they can. HIMARS ? (not sure if that could take down a bridge opposed to a cruise missile) Blowing even 1 bridge should start the collapse of the RU positions N of the river. Blow 2 bridges and you now have the largest POW camp in the UKR.

        • They also have the option of attacking from Zaporizhzhia down to Melitopol. There has been insurgent or special ops actions in Melitopol lately. This might be a simpler way of reclaiming Kherson province.

  2. Presumably much depends on whether the present Russian advance in the Donbass (particularly in Luhansk) is on the cusp of culminating and whether – if that proves to be the case – Ukraine proves capable of going on the offensive in a sustained manner. You have to wonder whether Ukraine might be better off without the Donbass purely from the perspective of postwar reconstruction. Whoever ultimately controls it iwill confront an economy that has been levelled. After Mariupol, it would be politically difficult to justify this, however, and without a return to the status quo ante bellum it would almost certainly only be a matter of time before war was resumed.

    • Well, the failure of Russian to cross the Severnyii Donetsk to north of Lysychansk or to advance from the south from Popasna is really telling. Over the next week or so, what they doing around Popasna gets my attention. I do not think they can take Lysychansk by assault from Severdonetsk (that I why I put that map there). So, it appears that Russia needs to break out from Popasna, or they are completely stalled. We shall see. If they can’t do anything in the next couple of weeks, then I think their summer offensive is stalled. Then it is Ukraine’s turn to see if they can do something.

      • I would hate to see another artillery dump on another city over a month of time. What a waste. But even the RU should realize attacking over a river uphill is reprehensibly stupid.

        Are there good estimates of the RU artillery shell supply ? Can we track RU rail traffic from depots to get an idea of shell consumption ?

        How long can RU keep paying the massive daily $$$ cost of this campaign ?

        • I do not think the primary constraint on Russia is materiel; rather it is manpower, specifically, trained and motivated infantry.

  3. Putin refuses to give up his vision to restore Greater Russia. There are enough ordinary Russians who consider that vision to be the natural vision for Russia. There are enough ordinary Russians who blame their economic suffering on America (my Muscovite landlord’s brother is an example). Their are enough ordinary Russians who think that Russian expansionism should be of no concern to anyone other than Russians (my Muscovite landlord being an example, even though she’s been in America since her northern Midwest college days at the turn of the century and who doesn’t even understand her Ukrainian acquaintances looking askance at her after Russia invaded Ukraine since Ukraine is naturally part of Russia). Stalemate in Ukraine leads Putin to vent his wrath against The Baltic States. We then learn whether NATO has backbone! NATO countries do seem to have been expressing resolve about not being bullied. Finally, Russian military officers let Putin know (through words and then action if necessary) that they don’t fancy going against NATO (back to recognizing nuclear war meaning 20% losses for America and 80% losses for Russia).

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