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The war between Ukraine has been officially raging on for two months as of the time of writing this article... though, many agree, that the war actually started in 2014, not 2022. Curious people flock to the analysts with the question "Who'se gonna win?". This is obviously a loaded question, and for multiple reasons.
Let's go back in time a little, right to 1940, and to Finland. Anybody remember the Winter War? The Soviet Union had a brief, three-month war with Finland, and the end result was a peace treaty, in which Finland ceded some land to the Soviets, but remained a sovereign state with an anti-Soviet government.
Was this a Soviet victory or a Finnish victory? Depending on the point of view, you could argue, that it was both. Officially, the Soviets won (albeit at the cost of heavy casualties), they even gained some land (Karelia), but Finland preserved their sovereignty both on paper and in practice - Finland wasn't annexed by the USSR, and neither did it become a Soviet puppet state, which more or less counts as a Finnish victory if you ask me.
If you, as a puny human being, encounter a bear, what kind of outcome qualifies as a victory? If you kill the bear, that's a victory. If you chase away the bear without getting injured, I guess that's also a victory. What if you chase away the bear, but get injured in the process? If we take this line of thinking to its logical conclusion, then we can safely say, that any outcome that sees you surviving the encounter - even if you lose a literal arm and a leg - can count as a "victory" against the bear.
Thus, by the above-established precedent, we could argue, that in a conflict against the mighty Russian bear, any outcome that excludes your annexation or vassalization by Russia can be considered a victory, even if you are forced to cede land to Russia or give other concessions.
But, if we ignore all that, let's look at another aspect to establish, whether a Russian victory or a Ukrainian victory is more likely. What are their stated goals?
What does "demilitarize Ukraine" mean? It's a bit misleading, but what it actually means, is to expel all foreign military from Ukraine and prevent Ukraine from joining any international military alliance like NATO.
What about denazification? Ukraine has a rather strong far-right, which may not have much of a presence in their parliament (though they still name streets after Stepan Bandera, a famous Nazi), it has infiltrated every level of their military and law enforcement. The infamous Azov Batallion is a thing, and it has been operating with impunity for a long time.
Protecting ethnic Russians - Ukraine has a rather large population of ethnic Russians, and the Ukrainian government has been mistreating them for a very long time. The aforementioned Azov Batallion was responsible for burning several alive. In 2014, Ukraine and Russia made an agreement - the Minsk Agreement - about the treatment of ethnic minorities, but then Ukraine began to violate this agreement immediately. This made it pretty clear to Russia, Ukraine will always mistreat its Russians, and the only way to truly protect ethnic Russians, is to straight-up annex Russian-majority lands, such as Crimea and the Donbass.
In the long-term, Russia's goal is to close off all the corridors, all the chokepoints, all avenues for an easy foreign invasion. Russia wants a buffer zone, for defensive reasons.
What are Ukraine's goals? If you're a hardcore Ukrainian Nationalist, you might say "to protect Ukraine's territorial integrity" or "to re-conquer Crimea and the Donbass".... but realistically, neither of those are going to happen. Realistically, Ukraine's goal is to survive, and to avoid becoming a Russian puppet state or satellite. Sure, you could argue, that Ukraine's long-term goal is Western/European integration, but in the short run, during this war, they have one objective: to survive.
Ignorant people might say, that unless Ukraine chases the Russians all the way back to Moscow and squeezes an unconditional surrender out of Putin, they will have lost, but let's be real: when your enemy is the mighty Russian bear, any outcome that has you surviving (and not becoming a vassal of the bear) can be considered a "victory", even the bear successfully snatches a Donbass and an Odessa from you and forces you to swear an oath never to join NATO.
You may have noticed, that these two countries' goals aren't mutually exclusive.
Russia wants to keep Ukraine out of NATO - Ukraine's Zelensky has already accepted, that his country is never going to be a member of NATO, and if he's not completely demented, he'll probably agree to turn Ukraine into an Austria-style neutral demilitarized state.
Russia wants to denazify Ukraine - the Azov Batallion is in tatters, with much of them trapped in the sewers under the Azovstal factory. Besides, Zelensky is Jewish, shouldn't he be thanking Putin for getting rid of those Nazis?
Russia wants to protect ethnic Russians - As long as there is a significant Russian minority in Ukraine, Ukraine will never be part of the EU, and will always be contested territory between the Western and Russian spheres of influence. If anything, Putin would be doing Ukraine a favour by annexing Russian-majority territories.
Ukraine wants to remain sovereign and unaligned - So be it. As far as Russian geopolitical strategy is concerned, a neutral Ukraine is just as much of a positive to Russia's interests, as a pro-Russian Ukraine. In fact, if anything, Ukraine's neutrality could even be used as a shield against potential Western invaders.
Just like in case of the Winter War, we very well could end up with an outcome, where both sides can claim victor (albeit with a stretch) and not go home empty-handed.
If you've been following both Western/Ukrainian and Russian reports of the war, you may be forgiven for scratching your head and thinking that two wars are going on between Ukraine and Russia, in two parallel universes.
In one of these parallel universes, Western journalists and fact-checkers are reporting that the collapse of the Russian army is going to happen any day now, and that the superman Ukrainians, led by the Ghost of Kyiv, are going to chase the Russians all the way to Moscow.
In the other one, Russian journalists are reporting, that while the Ukrainians are putting up a valiant resistance, their collapse is inevitable, and it's only a matter of time before the Russian army is parading in Kiev.
Well, in the real world, neither is true, albeit the Russian version of the story is far closer to reality.
Yes, mistakes have been made. All of us initially assumed, that the special military operation would last only a single afternoon, and we'd see a total Russian victory. Yes, the Russian army made a lot of rookie mistakes, lost a lot of equipment, made many dumb decisions, etc. But let's not kid ourselves. This is Russia we're talking about. Russian incompetence will not lead to Russian defeat - it will only delay their inevitable victory and make it slightly costlier.
Unless Zelensky intends to fight to the last Ukrainian - in which case, he's probably going to get removed from power - the most likely outcome, is Ukraine being forced to cede the Donbass (and maybe some other Russian-majority lands) to Russia, agree to neutrality, and call it a day. Russia doesn't intend to do regime-change in Ukraine, and neither do they intend to wholesale annex the entire country - especially notthe regions of Halych and Volhynia, they definitely don't want to touch those two regions, not even with a ten foot pole.
If the Russians really beat the Ukrainians extra-hard, they may try annexing all of Novorossiya and possibly Kharkiv. But them being content with just the Donbass - Donietsk and Luhansk - is far more likely and realistic.
No matter how many weapons do Western countries send to Ukraine, unless they want to risk all-out nuclear war, realistically, there is no way that Ukraine is going to get out of this war without losing territory.
Let's suppose, that hypothetically, the unthinkable happens, and the Ukrainians somehow manage to completely chase the Russians out of their country, win the war, force Putin to concede defeat, etc. Realistically, the chance of that happening is near zero, but let's say, that hypothetically....
What then? What is the best-case scenario for Ukraine? Well, Jake Tran made a 18-minutes long video about that:
But in case you can't be bothered to watch a 18-minutes long video, here's a summary:
All the "aid" going to Ukraine is actually loans, not free money. They will have to pay it back, with interest none the less.
Ukraine already owed 22 billion dollars to the IMF even before the war, with 9% interest.
Ukraine's economy was already in tatters even before the war.... and who knows what kind of third-world conditions will be country be in, once the war is over.
There is no way in hell that the IMF will just forgive all that debt. They might forgive parts of it, in exchange for certain concessions, like more privatization, a more pro-American government, basically selling out the entire country to the international bankers.
Yes. And the video didn't even mention the fact, that Ukraine is suffering from some of the same problems as Russia (ageing population, brain-drain, rampant corruption, etc.). The fact that virtually all educated people (e.g. bankers, software programmers, engineers, etc.) and the fertile, childbearing-age women having left the country before or during the war is only the icing on the cake. These nubile women have only one youth - they're not going to wait until the end of the war, they're not going to be saving themselves for a Ukrainian man. They're going to be marrying Dutch, German, English, Swedish, Czech, Slovak, Polish, etc. men, and their children won't be Ukrainian.
So yeah, if you're a hardcore, Russophobic Ukrainian Nationalist Warrior, this is the future you're fighting for. If you see Russian annexation as a fate worse than death, then this is your best-case-scenario: a future as a debt-slave, as a slave of the IMF. Compared to that, is Russian rule even that bad?
So yeah, there is no light at the end of the tunnel for Ukraine. Even the best-case scenario sees them effectively reduced to a third-world country where everything is owned by wealthy Western "investors" who never even set foot in the country, their women and children - the ones that remain, that is - exposed to the dangers of human trafficking and prostitution to sate the appetite of perverted foreign bankers, their men working 80+ hour weeks just to make ends meet and not starve to death, etc. All the fertile farmlands in Ukraine, all the oil fields and whatnot? All of those will be bought up and owned by rich Western investors. The entire country will become a literal debt slave. And that's the best-case scenario for a nominally sovereign Ukraine that's not aligned to Russia. Sovereign on paper only either way.
This is the future of Ukraine in the Western sphere of influence. So I ask Ukrainians this: is that really so much better than Russian rule?
The previous chapter was dealing with a hypothetical best-case scenario for Ukraine. But what about the most realistic scenario for the aftermath of the war?
As I said previously, the most realistic scenario is Ukraine having to cede lands to Russia - at the very least the Donbass region, but potentially more - and agreeing to neutrality.
After that, this neutral Ukraine will be saddled with debt that will never be erased. The IMF says they'll forgive some of the debt in exchange for installing a more pro-American government? Can't do it, because that would violate the peace treaty with the Russians, who would then attack again. We would end up with a bizarro Frankenstein Ukraine, that is nominally neutral, while dominated by the West economically/financially and by Russia politically/militarily.
Any regions annexed by Russia will see rebuilding - financed by Russia, obviously - and a return to normalcy. Any regions remaining in Ukraine's hands will see further deterioration of life under the rule of a government that's knee-deep in debt, doesn't even have money to clear out all the rubble or minefields, is forced to almost literally sell the entire country to Western "investors", etc.
Life in Russian-annexed territories will be comparable to that of Russia Proper - rampant corruption, but still somewhat bearable. They won't live like kings, but they'll definitely live better than Ukrainians.
Life in the remaining Ukrainian territories will be defined by a caste system, where the native Ukrainians are at the bottom, and absentée foreign robber-barons are at the top. Hell, at that point, the whole country might as well get bought by some rich Arab oil sheik. Everyone will try to leave the country, and after the current wave of war refugees, there's going to be a lot of economic migrants from Ukraine to the West.
In many ways, Russia is in the same boat as Ukraine, though not as badly. Rampant corruption, endemic poverty, brain-drain, ageing population, separatist-minded ethnic minorities getting uppity, etc. Russia is rotting from the inside out, and if they continue on this trajecetory, the collapse of Russia is inevitable, though probably not within our lifetimes.
There is one major difference though:
Unlike Ukraine, Russia is rich in natural resources, which it can either sell to foreigners for money, or leverage for internal use. Oil and gas, baby.
Unlike Ukraine, Russia is self-aware of these problems, and actually trying to do something about them.The Western sanctions are basically doing Putin's dirty work for him (purging the oligarchs), and Russia still has the strength to resist international pressure, while Ukraine is on its way to becoming an American colony saddled with billions of dollars of debt.
Unlike Ukraine, Russia can - at least, if they play their cards right - mitigate the aforementioned problems and avoid total collapse.
Russians are a hardy, inventive people. They will figure something out.
I'm sure I'm gonna get a ton of bad rep for this, gonna get demonetized for life, etc. but I've said it before, and I'll say it again: the war in Ukraine is, for the most part, America's fault. In fact, you could even argue, that this is not even really a war between Russia and Ukraine, but a proxy war between Russia and NATO/USA. Whether we like it or not, spheres of influence exist in the real world, buffer zones exist in the real world, Ukraine is sovereign on paper only, and the Russians were never going to tolerate the existence of a Western-aligned Ukraine ruling over millions of ethnic Russians and having no natural borders with Russia.
Want proof of the US spending 5 billions on regime change in Ukraine? Here you go:
Was it worth it? Were the thousands of lives lost and ruined, all for the sake of American interests worth it?
From the point of view of the USA's military-industrial complex, it was all worth it: their goal is to weaken Russia, and have them bleed out over Ukraine. They know for a fact, that Ukraine has no hope of defeating Russia, not even with all the western "aid" (loans) and weapons. Ukraine is being used as a sacrificial lamb to weaken Russia, and even if Russia manages to install a pro-Russian puppet regime in Ukraine (which is not their intention) that defaults on all the IMF loans... It will have been all worth it. And if the Russians are merely content with territorial gains at Ukraine's expense, the fact that the Western banker cartel will have an entire country as their debt-slave will only be the icing on the cake for them.
TL;DR: Ukraine is stuck between a rock and a hard place, and there is no way in hell that they're going to leave this war unscathed. If they won't be Russian slaves, then they will be IMF debt-slaves instead. Sorry, Ukrainian Nationalists, but you will have to pick one of two evils. Which one will you consider the lesser evil?