The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Who Wins and Loses Because of the Ukraine War?

I’m basing this on current trends and what I see as the most likely outcome.

Russia will take about 30% to 40% of Ukraine: the East and the coast along the Black Sea, areas that are generally Russian ethnic or speaking. While they were pushed back from Kharkiv, I think they’ll take the Oblast by the end of the war. Basically, see where Russians are the majority and that’s the land that Russia will feel it can keep and not fight an endless guerilla war.

They make have to take more land than that to force a peace on terms they can stand, but they won’t want to keep it because everyone knows the West is trying to draw them into a long term guerilla war. (Such a war could be won in Ukraine because of the terrain, but doing so would require a lot of killing, deportatons and camps and many years. It’s not worth it for Russia.)

The Russians original goals will not be met, and Finland and Sweden will joint NATO (although they were already quite integrated), so in one sense it can be said that Russia has “lost”. In certain other senses it can be said to win.

But let’s look at the major players, one by one.

Ukraine: the big loser. Unless this war goes far different than I expect (possible and I’ll admit it if it does) they’re going to come out of it a smaller country with no coast, who has lost their industrial heartland and even if the gas is turned back on, they will lose most of the transit fees in a couple years max as the EU transitions away. They will find that the “rebuilding” they were promised is IMF style neoliberalism and the average person will wind up worse off.

Verdict: Disastrous Loss.

The EU: In the win column, the EU should have built up a larger military long ago and will now do so. They will be more unified, at least initially, feeling they have all supported a war and with fear of Russia acting as unifying glue.

In the lost column they have firmly moved into the US satrapy column. In order to move out they would have to create their own army that is not dependent on US built military equipment and that’s the opposite of what they’re doing. (Foolish, because the US is losing its ability to build either ships or combat planes. The F-35 was a boondogle, Boeing has lost its engineering chops, and they recently decided to decommission built ships because they are so bad.)

The increase in price of fuel (US gas is about 50% more expensive than Russian), commodities and food as well as the general inflation shock from the Ukraine war will lead to a poorer Europe. Spending more money on the military will make ordinary people feel worse off and so will inflation. Industry will be badly damaged by increased fuel and mineral prices. All of this will lead to increased political instability and is likely to help the fascist right and possible the more radical left (if the left ever gets its act together.)

Joining the US in such huge sanctions and seizing Russia’s reserves (“frozen”) means that they are choosing to join the US side of the new cold war world rather than being a third pole, and this will eventually limit their trade options, as they, like the US, cannot be trusted with money.

The EU is, overall, likely to come out of this war poorer, more isolated and with increased political instability, but with a much larger military and feeling more unified at the elite and country to country level (at least until and if political instability changes that.)

Veridict: Slight Loss.

The US: The US has gotten Europe firmly back as a satrapy. NATO expands, the Europeans will spend more more on US military goods and buy expensive US gas and oil. The possibility of Europe becoming independent and forming a third pole in the upcoming cold war between the US and China is now minimal, and essentially zero for at least a decade or two.

On the negative side, Russia is now firmly in the Chinese sphere. Because the US’s strategy in the case of a war with China would be to strangle China with a military enforced trade embargo, this is a big problem. Russia can supply China with massive amounts of food, fuel and commodities, making the “choke them out” strategy against China unlikely to succeed. Likewise a friendly Russia means China has a relatively secure flank to the Northwest. There are even signs of Chinese-Indian rapprochement, and though I’ll believe it when I see it, India not joining against China would be a huge boon to China.

Since China is the “real” threat, not Russia, the one country that can replace the US as the world’s most powerful nation, strengthening China’s position is a loss.

The US also will suffer due to inflation from knock on effects of the Ukraine war, and that will cause increased domestic instability. Elites continue to funnel massive money to the domestic security apparatus (police of various varieties, spies who target US residents), however, and elites feel fairly secure, though I think they’re wrong as they’re funneling resources to police who stand a good chance of joining a right wing uprising.

The final major effect for the US is that freezing Russian reserves and encouraging the massive level of sanctions, is seen by most of the world as evidence it’s not safe to keep money in the US lead banking system, or even to trade with them. This has accelerated de-dollarization and I suspect will be seen as the precipitating event of losing reserve status for the American dollar. The world will split into two financial blocs, one centered around China-Russia, the other around the US-EU. The US receives huge benefits from reserve status and from being at the center of the world financial system, and as with Britain after WWI, it will suffer mightily when it loses this position.

My evaluation is that what the US will likely gain from the Ukraine war is less than it has or will lose: dollar hegemony and being the financial center of the world are a big deal, and confirming Russia as a junior Chinese ally makes their main geopolitical rival far stronger.

Verdict: Loss

Russia: Russia has weathered the initial economic storm well, but most EU countries will move off Russian gas and oil. Some of that gas and oil cannot be brought to market anywhere else for a few years (probably 3) until new pipelines are built and while there are customers, they will pay less than the Europeans did.

Sanctions will not cripple Russia, but there are goods like advanced semiconductors and, more importantly, some tech needed for gas and oil extraction, that they will be cut off from. China cannot immediately replace those oil and gas related goods, and they are at least ten years behind in semiconductors (and themselves cut off from some key capital equipment they can’t yet build). That said the oil and gas tech is probably within quicker reach, and Russia doesn’t need the most advanced semiconductors in large quantities so far as I know.

In most economic terms Russia will be OK: they have a big food surplus; they have more than enough fuel, of course, and they can buy almost everything they don’t make from China, who is not going to cut them off; indeed, rather the reverse. India is also rushing to cut deals with Russian businesses. Sanctions will force more import substitution and help overcome the “resource curse”, making it cost-effective to make more things in Russia (if they aren’t overwhelmed by cheap Chinese goods.)

Sanctions will not cripple Russia the way they have many other countries, though they will be felt. Nor will they cause a revolution and if there is a coup it will be because Putin is old now and may be ill with Parkinsons or something else.

In territorial terms Russia likely to wind up larger. They get the industrial part of Ukraine and the coast, they can send water to Crimea (which has been cut off from years, and whose agriculture was devastated as a result) and while many will say they didn’t win the war, etc… people who want to stand up to them will not be keen on “winning and losing 30% of our country.” If that’s victory, it looks pretty bad.

A unified Europe with more countries in NATO and a bigger military is a loss for Russia, and one can expect that NATO will move more missiles and ABMS close to the Russian border, including hypersonic missiles as soon as they have them. In that sense the war is a clear loss: Russia wanted those weapons removed from near its border, and there will probably be even more of them.

In the end Russia will be able to credibly claim it won the war as a war: it took territory and kept it and it’s hard to say that a country which took its enemy’s territory lost a war. That said, there will be a case that it is a Pyrrhic victory, in that there is an economic hit, NATO has expanded, Europe will have a bigger military and so on.

The counter-case is simple: Ukraine was talking about getting nukes and had started shelling Donetsk in what looked like a prelude to invasion. Russia didn’t get its maximal goals, but it did gut Ukraine as a threat and did secure Ukrainian land in what is likely to be a semi-permanent fashion absent an all out NATO/Russia war.

The maximal goals didn’t happen, but in a bad situation Russia may reasonably claim it got quite a bit. As for sanctions, every year there had been more of them, none had ever been rescinded and all the war did was move them up.

Verdict: Marginal victory.

China: Yes, strictly speaking China isn’t involved in the war, but the war affects China greatly. China needs about 10 years to get to a reasonable parity with the US in semiconductors and aviation, the golden technologies of US hegemonic rule. The Ukraine war has made it clear they probably have less time than that, and that the world economic order is likely to split sooner because China is stuck between US demands to support sanctions and its own strategic needs, which require Russia as an ally, or at least a reliable supplier. Russia being decisively defeated or economically crushed would be catastrophic for China, so they must keep it alive and viable.

Still, all in all having Russia unable to sell to or buy from the West is unbelievably good for China: there is no alternative for Russia. If they can’t go to the West they must go to China. India may be willing to trade, but India’s economy is tiny compared to China’s and its industry scarce. China can make almost everything Russia needs and everything it can’t make it’s working on learning how to make. And, as previously discussed, Russia as an ally makes it impossible for the US to choke China out in a war.

Verdict: Victory

Concluding Remarks: Of course all of this based on a model of how they war will go which may not be the case. Perhaps the maximalists in the West are right, and the Russian military is fundamentally incompetent, can’t do logistics to a disastrous degree, and is on the verge of collapse. If you think Russia can’t even win the conventional war, all of this is is nonsense because a definite loss is likely to lead to regime change and possibly even collapse.

Likewise if you think that sanctions will have much more effect than I do, or that China will not integrate with Russia economically, then this is all wrong.

But overall, this war looks like a case where Russia gets a marginal victory; the US and the EU get some wins but their victories are effectively Pyrrhic, and China is the big winner.



Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – May 15, 2022


Civilization Ending Long Covid Pt. 2 — 320K Long Term Sick In UK Labor Force


  1. Ché Pasa

    There’s quite a lot of chitter-chatter these days that Russia will not achieve its goals, any of its goals, and in the end will disintegrate into a few “Russian” city-states and Western-aligned semi-states. In other words, Russia, for all intents and purposes, ceases to exist. That has been the goal of our psychopathic foreign policy establishment for decades, and if it takes the utter destruction and depopulation of Ukraine to do it, so be it. In fact, better it should be, it seems.

    Now from my perspective, it looks like our Western Elites sincerely believe that they can control the Nazis and fascists they’re utilizing as storm trooper-defenders in Ukraine and that they have been integrating into armed forces and security forces since the end of WWII. They’ve proved themselves over and over again to be loyal and effective. But I don’t think they can be controlled in the end, and we’re looking at a near-future in the West run by Nazi and fascist cadres for their own gain and interest, not for the benefit of the elites that have employed them up to now.

    No matter how the Ukraine Thing turns out.

    I’m really sorry for the Ukrainians who never wanted this and believed that it wouldn’t happen, that saner leaders (of whom Zelensky was supposed to be one) would ensure it didn’t happen. Oh well. Many of the refugees will be integrated into the rest of Eastern Europe, Maybe it will be better for them. At any rate, all those Middle Eastern refugees can be expelled now, right?

    Europe can adjust. No matter what.

    The rest of the world, excluding the Anglo-sphere, is facing a quandary. Go with the faltering Western empires or no. India is perhaps the most crucial to this rearrangement of alliances. The choice is stark.

    I notice Ian does not yet accept the reality of the nuclear war scenario. This seems to be true through much of the Western establishment thinking. “We” — the West — are not going to engage in nuclear annihilation, only the mad-man psychopath in the Kremlin would do so, yadda yadda. Which “we” would have to respond to, of course. So yes, “we” would do it, but only if “we” had to.

    But take a step back and see how our elites would recognize an advantage in all out nuclear war — for them. Bezos and Musk and whatnot can observe from outer space, and they can stay in orbit until the dust settles. I’m sure they’re ready and even eager to do so. The claim has long been that nuclear war will produce Nuclear Winter which — ta da — could actually reverse anthropogenic global warming. Certainly a reduction in population (though not tremendous at least at first) and manufacturing that would result from nuclear war will have a positive effect on climate change, right? So from the perspective of our overlords, all out nuclear war can be a net good.

    Sorry to say, that is how some of these people have been thinking for a long time.

    Better strap in; this bumpy ride isn’t over yet.

  2. Ian Welsh

    Nuclear war is possible, but i don’t see it as likely. Russia has too much of a deterrent.

    Now with China, it might be a different picture.

  3. Dan Lynch

    Mostly agree.

    As for an EU military build up, exactly who is Europe planning to fight? Russia does not want to invade Europe (though if Sweden & Finland join NATO, that may lead to “military-technicalmeasures”). If the West does get into a fight with Russia, the West will lose, because Russia’s missile & air defense technologies are way ahead and that gap is not likely to close in my lifetime (and that’s not even taking into account that Russia and China have a defacto military alliance). A Western military buildup makes no sense other than as a money-maker for the MIC.

    The deterrence of Mutually Assured Destruction, when Russia & the U.S. were roughly equal in military ability, no longer applies, because Russia has leapfrogged ahead of the U.S.. Russia has the ability to intercept the majority of U.S. missiles while the U.S. cannot intercept Russian missiles. Further, Russia’s hypersonics armed with conventional warheads have enough destructive power to turn U.S. cities into rubble without causing a nuclear winter, so Russia might be able to survive a hot war with the West.

    (don’t believe the claims that the U.S. will soon have hypersonic missiles, at least not the good kind. It’s easy to make a missile go hypersonic, but it’s hard to hit anything with it. Meanwhile Russia claims its S-500 & S-550 air defenses can intercept at least some hypersonics).

    If the world were run by sane people, we’d be focused on treaties that limit the types and the placement of missiles. That’s the only way to defuse this situation.

    Realistically, the best we can hope for is a new Iron Curtain dividing the world between the Russia-China group and the U.S.-EU group.

  4. Andy

    Russia will take about 30% to 40% of Ukraine: the West and the coast along the Black Sea.

    I think you mean East…

  5. Willy

    I don’t much like any of those teams, but I do recognize a few games which they seemed to at least partly win for their fans.

    Russian, American, European, Ukrainian citizens: Verdict: Loss.

    They’ll continue being powerless pawns of their own elites because they’ll continue to prefer being on teams that are Dear Leader whimsy-led, instead of demanding leaders who actually do make their lives better.

    But there were some bright spots. Common Ukrainian citizens turned soldiers weren’t slaughtered wholesale by opposing career soldiers, instead fighting heroically and well. Common Russian soldiers did as most common soldiers do when forced into poorly inspired wars and waged poorly uninspired war for all to see. The concept of targeting PTB became more popular. The concept of senile and or mentally ill PTB being unfit to lead became more popular. And hopefully, the concept of random wars created to maintain weapon maker PTB profits (and loyalties) became more of an idea, again.

  6. Astrid

    I’m slightly less fearful of nuclear war based on Putin’s very measured responses to Western provocations. He is behaving as a man who understands the implications of crossing various financial, diplomatic, and military Rubicons and is doing everything he can for as long as he can to let all parties walk things back. I need to balance this with living under a ruling class with the personality of the Joker (Lex Luthor seems to be giving them too much credit) and the execution of Wile Coyote.

    Ian, given that there’s completed severance of the interests of the rulers and the governed in Ukraine, EU, and the Anglosphere, I don’t think one can characterized wins and losses as you do anymore. In the US, the MIC will win big no matter what. The warmongers in both parties will likely get whatever they want. Main Street will lose no matter what. Wall Street and the Fed are likely to ride high in the short run but I can’t imagine good prospects for the dollar in the medium to long run.

    As for EU. Everyone except maybe the EU English speakers of Brussels and the Polish Lithuanian irredentists have already lost big. They are going back to their pre-1500 geopolitical position, they just don’t know it yet.

  7. SST

    Every action NATO/America has taken since Yeltsin died has been to encircle and choke off Russia with nukes. So many nukes, so close, that they have no chance against our first strike, and that means no choice about letting us dictate the terms of their economic surrender. Every action, every bit of pushing hybrid war upon and against the Russian state has advanced this goal.

    The result is Russia’s doomsday nuclear policy — ‘we won’t fire first, but if we are nuked, we will end the entire world.’ That makes NATO nukes worthless, because you can’t use them without dying. It’s existential for Russia to be so surrounded, so they have made it existential for all of us.

    Of course, Western politicians don’t believe the Russians will actually do that. End the world. They think Russia will meekly surrender just at the threat of a nuclear strike. Just the credible threat will make all that Russian oil, gas, and mineral wealth belong to Wall Street soon after the surrender. After that — on to Beijing! We’re encircling China this way, too. Well, we’re trying.

    Finland and NATO changes everything, because Finland joining NATO achieves this final nuclear encirclement of Russia. Nukes two minutes from St. Petersburg. Nukes for 800 miles up the Russian border, nukes 90 seconds from Murmansk. So it’s existential for Russia right now to stop Finland from joining. But it’s existential for NATO/America also to finish the nuclear encirclement so Russia is forced to surrender their valuables. Neither side can back down without losing, really, everything they are, and want to be. There’s no backing up for either side.

    The West may think, and say, even believe that Russia will never really nuke the planet, but consider the simple idea that they will. What do they keep saying — ‘We have no interest in a world without a free and sovereign Russia. If we are going to become extinct, so is this planet. Do not doubt us.’

    Western politicians are going to be surprised when they are finally, eventually, faced with the choice of launching. They never truly intend to, or maybe just a little bit here and there, but if you keep putting a shotgun to someone’s head to get your way, it’s only a matter of time until they hold one as well, and if neither of you can stomach backing down, well . . .

    There will be a NATO nuke. Probably a little one, probably in self-defense. They may even believe they have no choice. That doesn’t even matter, because right after that first one, there will be hundreds of nukes flying from all directions. The choice will be impossible to avoid, when the moment comes.

  8. Ian Welsh

    Yeah, if I were Russia I’m not 100% sure I wouldn’t invade Finland before they join NATO. But it’s a huge risk that could easily lead to general war. And if they do they can’t half ass it like they did in Ukraine, they have to go all out and crush them fast.

  9. KT Chong

    I actually think China loses in the long term — because of NATO. NATO is adding new members, AND it is in the process of expanding its objective to beyond just countering Russia. NATO is reaching beyond the Atlantic and into the Pacific. China is NATO’s new and next adversary, (and it will be a tool of the US to bludgeon China.) That means, the more powerful NATO is becoming, the more members it includes, the bigger threat it will pose to China later down the road.

    As for Russia, there is still a good possibility that it will join the US, EU and its allies (Canada, Australia, Japan, South Korea, India, etc.) in encircling China due to geopolitical reasons. There is a fairly established political science professor, John Mearsheimer, who had made several prescient predictions, including Russia would wreck Ukraine over NATO. One of his predictions is that Russia will ultimately join the West in encircling and countering China, because China will be a bigger and more immediate geopolitical threat to Russia down the road. You can search for his videos and discussions on this issue on YouTube.

    Of course, the more the US, NATO and its allies antagonize Russia over Ukraine, the better it is for China. At some point, the dispute between the West and Russia will become a so-called “blood feud” or “blood hatred”, which will make it impossible for the West and Russia to ever work together (like on China) even if it will benefit both in rational considerations.

    (One of Mearsheimer’s other predictions seems to be coming into fruition: Singapore seems to be inching towards the US and away from China, even though Singaporeans — who are Chinese-ethnic — have deep blood ties to China; so do Taiwanese, of course, but a portion of Taiwanese more or less do not see themselves as Chinese-ethnic due to Japanese colonial influence and brainwashing. Singaporeans still see themselves as Chinese-ethnic. So I was surprised to see that Singapore is picking a side… and it’s not China. Mearsheimer had said that Singapore will ultimately become a US allies in encircling and countering China, which I had thought was unlikely because Singaporeans have always felt a kinship with China. But he seems to be right.)

  10. Z

    I’d give the EU a capital L on this one, not a little one. Even in the EU’s W column there are considerable costs to building up a larger military so I don’t necessarily take that as a gain and as far as unification is concerned, if it even happens, I question that there will be much tangible benefits from that and any benefits that do accrue won’t be shared fairly among EU members and won’t benefit the vast majority of European citizens at all.

    I haven’t heard of many large scale NATO protests in Europe like I would have expected by now. I guess they’re just a bunch of self-absorbed cellphone jabbers like ourselves though I’d imagine they’re not as f*ed up on average as us U.S.ers are.


  11. VietnamVet

    So far Russia is fighting the NATO proxy Ukraine War like WWI. Their armored forces have been unable to breakout like the US 3rd Army did at Normandy in WWII. The Russian Air Force has not achieved air superiority. Perhaps, Russia is holding back in case Poland gets involved. If Russia takes Odessa and closes Ukraine’s access to the Black Sea, Ukraine becomes a rump state whose only purpose is to poke and prod the Russian bear.

    Now is a good time for a cease fire as suggested by Defense Secretary Austin. Sweden and Finland are joining NATO to obtain a MAD Nordic nuclear deterrence. If Russia invades another nation again, at best, a new line of trenches will cross Northern Europe. Or worse, if the Russian Armored Forces make a breakthrough out of the trenches, the only thing that can stop their advance into Poland, Slovakia, and/or Romania are tactical nuclear weapons. This is almost guaranteed to unleash both sides’ strategic nuclear weapons.

    For western civilization to survive a peace treaty is needed now and a new manned Iron Curtain built to separate the Ukrainians from the Russians.

    Although it seems verboten to mention, I must note that the Western Empire has become quite effective at stressing ethnic divisions to fight proxy wars, i.e. the Mujaheddin defeated the Soviet Union in Afghanistan or the Kurds destroyed Raqqa Syria with NATO close air support. The Wellington New Zealand and the Buffalo NY shootings are direct blowbacks from this ethnic war operation in Ukraine. This is another good reason why it is in the best interest of Americans and Canadians that the Ukraine war be halted right now.

  12. Kevin

    As someone who suspected that Ukraine was the one about to attack the Donbas/Luhansk in January-February (looking now as that was likely the plan before Russia spoiled things), I think The U.S. is really trying to goad Russia into doing something that will invoke article 5 of NATO. I think Russia knows this and is prepared for it (perhaps even with china’s direct intervention!). Hence the small force committed to the Ukraine operation.

    Russia is still winning handily (despite what we are constantly told by our media); still making gains, still destroying massive amounts of Ukraine forces at relatively small cost to it’s own. I think things may start to accelerate going forward due to collapsing resistance.

    I also believe Finland will suffer a similar fate if they continue on this suicidal path as the exact same motivations exist for Russia, for even less cost as they’ve already suffered everything short of NATO intervention in response to the SMO. (And like I said, I think they are ready to take that on if it comes.)

  13. Tallifer

    A brief observation in reply to K T Chong concerning Taiwan and Singapore:

    I am not surprised that those nations would differentiate themselves from Communist China. If century-old ethnic connections decided nationality and politics, then America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand would still be one British empire.

  14. Ché Pasa

    I’m sure somebody can correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems to me that reducing the population of Ukraine has been one of the objectives of the West — and now of Russia, too. If I’m reading the statistics right, Ukraine lost about 30% of its population following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and another 25% or so has fled and not returned since the Russian invasion. We have no idea how many have died as a consequence of the invasion.

    Most of the refugees have fled to other parts of Eastern Europe, while a not insignificant number have returned to Mother Russia. Many of those who fled probably won’t return.

    It’s also my understanding that Eastern Europe experienced significant population declines following the collapse of the Soviet Union as did, of course, Mother Russia itself.

    So the Ukrainian influx into Eastern Europe and Mother Russia is likely seen as beneficial in that the refugees are boosting a falling population, providing labor, ingenuity, and other needful skills and things.

    The emptying of Ukraine must be seen as a benefit somehow as well, but to whom and why? I think of the deindustrialization of the United States and the nearly complete emptying of rural America, both to the enormous benefit of a shrinking number of plutocrats, and I wonder if the same or a similar process is being applied to Ukraine with the added fillip of massive urban and suburban destruction.

    In other words, countries aren’t winning or losing; transnational oligarchs are.

  15. Astrid

    Mearsheimer’s “realism” has at its core the presimption of perpetual US supremacy and he doesn’t hesitate to direct strategies that will perpetually immiserates the global south in war and economic extraction to achieve that strategy.

    I don’t think that’s ethical or realistic (all empires fall, and many fail catastrophically because they fight against that destiny so hard) Neither China nor Russia are their propaganda, but they offer a real choice to the rest of the world, and their past history is far less bloody to the subjugated than that of Western Europe or USA.

    I think what we see in wealthier posted of Asia is that the elite and the young are still identifying with the West. Hell, chatted my Taiwanese national cousin-in-law recently and he was pro-DPP all the way despite having Mainland born parents who are heavily into KMT politics. The West has a really strong brand and it takes a lot of tarnishing to fully lose that cachet. I see it happen in the Mainland and Russia, and possibly poorer parts of Asia, but still lots of second class whites in East Asia.

  16. Mark Pontin

    Dan Lynch” *Russia has the ability to intercept the majority of U.S. missiles while the U.S. cannot intercept Russian missiles.*

    Ah, the dream of anti-missile missile defense lingers on.

    It’s not remotely possible.

    [1] Every physicist and rocket scientist I ever talked to who wasn’t working for the MIC said the physics of it was like hitting a bullet with a bullet. Basically, your only real shot at hitting an ICBM is in the short window after launch before it reaches full acceleration.

    [2] Yet how are you going to do that when you’re launching your anti missile-missiles from half the planet away? You can’t. What you ideally need is interception capability in orbit above your enemy’s launch sites already. Thus, though most people don’t know it, a continual low-grade war goes on up there between the various major players in order to control the high ground, which only very occasionally gets in the news. Forex —

    (I don’t for a minute believe what I wrote there; the Chinese were very clearly sending a message that if WWIII ever commenced between the US and China, they’d knock down US satellites networks in the first minutes and the US military would be helpless.)

    [2] Back to Russia. For argument’s sake, let’s suppose it’s advanced sufficiently that it has the capability to intercept some noticeable minority of American ICBMs, unlike the Americans who just *might* — merely might — have the shaky capability to shoot down a Norkean ICBM if Pyongyang ever gets that together. Even so, Russia is not going to able to successfully intercept every one of a full launch of, say, 300 ICBMs aimed at Russia.

    [3] Especially as those ICBMs are all MIRVed. That is, they *each* carry multiple independent reentry vehicles, *each* vehicle carrying a thermonuclear warhead. So if an interceptor manages to close with an ICBM and somehow isn’t taken out by the chaff that the ICBM is then programmed to release —
    –then the ICBM’s next move is to fire off the (usually ten) MIRVed warheads. What’s one interceptor going to do that can effect all those ten MIRVs? Nothing.

    [4] And then, if you actually look into the thermonuclear payloads of each MIRVed warhead, they’re such that if *merely one single ICBM* out of a salvo of hundreds gets through they’ll annihilate a major nation. Now Russia has the largest land territory of any nation on Earth, so Russia’s land territory wouldn’t necessarily suffer thermonuclear blasts — though the consequent radiation fallout would probably do the trick–but each MIRV would be targeted at a major population center. So one single MIRVed ICBM getting through can wipe out most Russians.

    [5] And we haven’t considered the nuclear missiles launched from the nuclear subs that the US maintains just off Russia’s coasts and Russia maintains off American coasts. They’ll hit their targets in less than a minute, or not much more. Not much chance for interception there.

    This has been your apocalypse porn for the day. The point being, the idea of effective anti-missile defense — and winnable nuclear war — remains an extremely stupid joke.

  17. Michaelmas

    @ Ian –

    Your summation seems the likeliest scenario to me, with the provision that some processes *might* go faster in the next decade than you or anybody expects. That is, we may be nearing ‘very slowly, then all at once’ territory.

    For instance, take this —

    ‘The European Union’s trade deficit with Russia — its main energy supplier — more than quadrupled to 45.2 billion euros in the first quarter from 10.8 billion in the same period of 2021.

    ‘The trade gap with Norway, another large energy supplier, surged to 16.9 billion euros in the first quarter from 500 million euros in the same period of last year.

    ‘The trade gap with China, Europe’s biggest trading partner, almost doubled to 91.9 billion euros in the January-March period from 50.3 billion a year earlier.’

    So, sure, Russia’s profits on its energy exports are now way up, as is the rouble, which the EU nations now have to pay for their energy imports with.

    But, beyond that, these series of massive own goals due to EU elites’ incompetence and craven subservience to their US paymasters — with the concomitant costs borne by their countries’ populations and business sectors–could lead various figures across Europe to conclude that power is more or less lying in the streets.

  18. Ammonite

    KT Cheong
    Whether Singapore aligns to US or China has no significant impact on the global stage. Lee’s trip to Washington have already broadcast to the world that Singapore is aligned to US. This will not go down well with the Chinese and will come with a price in future.

    Russia joining forces with US and EU to encircle China? When NATO is looking to destroy Russia with this war? Seriously seems like most people cant reason with logic nowadays.

  19. Mark Level

    As usual, I think Ian’s outline of likely events is facts-based, rational and credible. What is most interesting to me, however, as not just pointed out here but also at links from Naked Capitalism, The Saker, MoonofAlabama, etc. is how the European population is going to lose badly in terms of living standard, not to mention possible refugee entry, and we’ll see how long the “the Ukies are white so we’re okay with having them here & helping them out, but no dirty Africans or Asians please” attitudes prevalent in England & France, e.g., prevail. I haven’t spent any time in Europe since ten weeks in Spain in 2004, but it’s still hard for me to believe that as the Euro Elites dispossess their people more and damage their own petroleum-based economies and accept the NeoLib austerity regimes which US Neo-Imperialism tries to plant in every country in the world, that there won’t eventually be some popular pushback? I get that the US is a hyper-violent Terror State, the Iraq & Afghan war and torture regimes have to have proven that to everyone who is even moderately sentient– are people just too terrified to oppose the empire, figuring they will be the next target? I guess the Elites will imagine they are “winning” for awhile (to quote a recent US PoTOP, President of the One Percent), but getting high on one’s own supply does lose potency after awhile and the hard withdrawal follows inevitably. The main issue I see that Ian did not cover is how good these developments will be for the populace of Latin America and likely the Middle East with the Eye of Sauron distracted from sending its destructive rays their way (will agree with Astrid however, whether Sauron or the Joker, US-Anglo Elites’ execution of their horrible schemes is done sloppily a la Wile E Coyote). Anyway, it would be nice to see some positive developments free of the Empire’s constant rain/reign of death, destruction, rape (those pesky nuns who dared support peasants) & rapine, & it would be nice, though maybe rose colored glasses are required, to hope that some local actual “democracy” or at least self-rule is restored in those areas . . . My other take away from recent events is what utter garbage the US MSM has been, they clearly KNOW they are lying but they continue unchecked . . . So while the boot is coming down hard on the faces of women and non-whites in this country, and everyone else not in the TPTB clubhouse is being slowly economically strangled, I guess the status quo will degenerate further and further into performative toxic masculine chest-beating and bleating from on high about our “Greatness” & “Exceptional” nature as a country, despite the evidence in front of everyone’s eyes. I do have to wonder though, since poor doddering President Bidet and the Dems have dropped any agenda beyond increased unending war in the Slavic hinterlands, if when Trump (or DeSantis) comes roaring back into power, & the US begins public executions of women who have miscarriages or public lynching of gays who are accused of “grooming” children by daring to be out and a “bad example”, if the socially liberal denizens of “old Europe” (Rummy’s snide put down) will continue to stay enthusiastically in the US stable? Supposedly (if, caveat, the MSM could be believed back c. 2006 that the European plebs were disgusted with Bush’s cruelty in the Mideast, the torture and aggression) Europeans don’t like witch-burning, fag-bashing and the declasse behavior that excites the likes of DeSantis, Boof Kavanaugh, et al? It does surprise me that the Swedes and Finns, e.g., would be entirely happy at such policies being forced onto their formerly tolerant and culturally rich cultures? Maybe lizard-brain will triumph globally and the 1,000 year Reich will be realized in Europe, the only half-complete “Enlightenment” of 5 centuries or more ago rolled back . . . In any case, at least the mask is OFF the US Leadership, openly Lizard Brained Rs and now NatSec Dems who want a worldwide hegemony based on financial hierarchy and dominance, undiluted by any sissy “human rights” fake bullshit, the Azov Nazis are the true “freedom fighters” now, aren’t they? (I’m sure many reader here may have seen the pro-Ukraine protest in New York city where participants were chanting “Azov, Azov” proudly, though somehow I doubt that event ever made the pages of the New York Times.

  20. Blueberry Hill

    Exactly, Mark Pontin. Thank you.

  21. ptb

    Another big L for the EU – the perception of the Euro currency as being independent hedge (vs Dollar risk) is now thoroughly dead.

    Other winners include Turkey, Saudi, Israel, UAE and other Gulfies. Iran might merely break even due to some backroom dealings between RF and Israel, but that remains to be seen.

    Other losers include those concerned about climate change, since EU is going for much less efficient LNG compared to piped gas, and EU customers (Slovakia, Hungary, Finland, maybe others I can’t think of) will be forced to abandon plans for Russian (and Chinese) nuclear power too, with no cost effective substitute yet in existence. Win for China tho as the all-around non-carbon energy king.

    As for US, if fail to take down RF after basically going nuclear with the currency exchange sanctions, then challenging China is simply a non starter. No chance at all in the forseeable future. Likely outcome is US stuck battling Russia for second place (could get ugly), while China pulls away further and further ahead. However, EU is eliminated as a once-strong rival for the second place spot, so that is arguably a win in itself.

  22. Lex

    I’m broadly in agreement, Ian. I don’t think that NATO and europe arm up though, because I’m not sure how they do it in a reasonable timeline within the constraints of reduced access to raw materials and fuel. Even if a large modern military is built in Europe, how do they fuel it in the event of war?

    I also don’t see NATO holding together. Already there are threats of kicking Turkey out if it doesn’t comply with Finland and Sweden joining while Turkey is making demands for its support. The Eastern European NATO members have been partially demilitarized by supplying arms to Ukraine. Rearming all of Europe is beyond the near term manufacturing capability of the west and the costs are enormous. Who gets the first batch of abrams tanks, Germany or Poland?(particularly funny since the US currently produces 13/month and only because politicians refused to shut the plant down and the tank is too heavy for Eastern European infrastructure)

    There are rifts and they will widen once the conflict in Ukraine is no longer active to paper over them. There’s also a question of manning these rebuilt European militaries. I suppose that may be one of the few good jobs in some European countries soon enough, that’s why the Ukrainian army is so big (and ineffective).

    But since there’s no indication that Russia wants to conquer Europe, a military build up is relatively pointless. Some will say that Russia wants NATO at 1997 borders and that’s true, but Russia didn’t say how.

    And the Russian military isn’t incompetent, it’s just not doing what the US expected which combined with the outrageous propaganda and lies from the west on the course of the actual military conflict is producing a very dangerous sense of superiority.

  23. Lex


    The missile defense aren’t going to stop ICBM volleys. Agreed. What Russia’s impressive air defenses do is give a distinct advantage in anything less than full nuclear war. Russia’s primary lesson from Iraq was that the US is entirely dependent on air superiority. Rather than compete they decided to negate. Cruise missiles, short range ballistics and airplanes will suffer. And from all indications they are very good air defense systems.

    The main russian hypersonic (Kinzhal) was designed for the same purpose: it’s a carrier killer to negate US force projection of air superiority.

  24. Z

    Hard to imagine Zelenskyy and his Ukrainian oligarch pals are going to want this war to end any time soon with over $40 billion coming in from the U.S. that they can skim from, including high tech weaponry.


  25. Ché Pasa

    The genocidal bloodlust toward Russia evidenced in part of the “left” (cf dKos, et al) and the consequent Azov/Nazi love seems to be an outgrowth of the red-baiting by the Clinton campaign c.2016. Not surprising, I guess, for a former Goldwater Girl, but what explains its prevalence within the US “leftish” firmament, and further, what explains its spread through much of the Anglo-Euro alliance? Has it always been there?

    I’m seeing explicit references to the USSR as the enemy to be fought to the death. Whatever it takes. Any effort to point out that the USSR does not exist and hasn’t for decades is shouted down with a passion and virulence that seems to have come out of nowhere. Thus my question, has it always been there? This anti-Russian = anti-Communist hysteria?

    Or is it, like “Russia-gate” largely manufactured out of unfocused rage and powerlessness? The Clinton regime had mastered the tactic of identifying and scapegoating the Other to diffuse focused rage at policies that were harming Americans. That’s become standard practice for our government no matter who is in charge (Trump, for example, was even better at scapegoating than the Clintons. And deSantis, et al, are no slouches themselves.)

    The absence of any counter except in a few marginal corners like here and the seemingly shrinking list of contrariana is deeply troubling. It’s not about “free speech” so much as “free thought” — or any thought for that matter.

  26. Feral Finster

    “In the win column, the EU should have built up a larger military long ago and will now do so. ”

    I would hardly call wasting billions of Euros on a project with a massively negative ROI and cementing their status as satrap to be any kind of a “win”.

  27. Feral Finster

    What concerns me is that sunk cost fallacy, especially as the European and US populations see their standards of living decline and their leadership will need someone to blame.

    *Another* $40 billion for Ukraine, but once that money is “spent” and the tanks are wrecked, what are we going to do now? We can’t admit defeat, especially not after a relentless propaganda campaign that makes Goebbels look mild, even-handed and slightly distracted. The only choice presented will be to keep on doubling down.

    I suspect that this misuse of the sunk cost fallacy is entirely intentional.

  28. Soredemos

    @Dan Lynch

    “Further, Russia’s hypersonics armed with conventional warheads have enough destructive power to turn U.S. cities into rubble without causing a nuclear winter, so Russia might be able to survive a hot war with the West.”

    This is complete nonsense. The point of hypersonic missiles is that they can be used to completely bypass air defense and snipe key targets. But they’re expensive; you can’t make or use huge numbers of them. No conventional munition can turn an entire city into rubble, other than massive numbers of dumb rockets and bombs.


    Your comments are always interesting because of how completely at odds with reality they are. You genuinely think Russia is somehow stuck and can’t breakout? Their goal currently is the systematic destruction of the Ukrainian military. That’s part of what ‘demilitarization’ means. The US is pushing for a ceasefire because it knows how badly Ukraine is getting its shit kicked in.

    And in what world has Russia not achieved air superiority? They achieved it by the end of the first week. Air superiority doesn’t mean the enemy literally can’t fly, it means they can’t fly without a significant chance of never landing again. Which is what has happened: about the only time Ukraine can successfully carry out an air attack is with helicopters hugging the terrain, and even then they usually take heavy losses.

    Russia has zero interest in invading Poland, Romania, or Slovakia. The entire point of this war is that they don’t want nukes on their border. They aren’t happy about them in those countries either, but they’ll tolerate them if there’s a neutral Ukraine in between them and Russia, which is one of the Russian demands.

  29. marku52

    In other news, the NYT and WaPo announced that Robert E Lee and the Confederate Armies were “Evacuated” from Appomattox VA.

  30. Willy

    ”It was necessary to stop this nightmare immediately – the genocide against the millions of people living there (Donbas), who rely only on Russia, hope only on us.”

    “In order to achieve their own goals, the leading NATO countries support extreme nationalists and neo-Nazis in Ukraine in everything.”

    “Its goal is to protect people who have been subjected to bullying and genocide by the Kyiv regime for eight years. And for this we will strive for the demilitarisation and denazification of Ukraine, as well as bringing to justice those who committed numerous, bloody crimes against civilians, including citizens of the Russian Federation.”

    -V. Putin

    International bastards. But those “Ukraininan nukes” do sound like yet another tired old WMD excuse. You’d think Putin’ would’ve learned from all the stupid and expensive American mistakes already.

    As far as the other nukes on his border, Putin really needs to be working on places like China, the DPRK and the USA. Plus make it so that Britain, France and Israel can only deliver their nukes by mail. Lots of work to do yet.

  31. bruce wilder

    There is a view of the First World War that uses a nearly complete ignorance of history to frame that conflict as somehow a “normal” conflict among nation-states that inexplicably got out of hand. All the interesting forces at work and the tremendous dynamics in global political economy changing the global order are obscured to make the advocate’s narrative work with the few factoids admitted to evidence.

    If one admits a richer fact-base, any coherent narrative seems inadequate and hopelessly distant from comprehending the “whole”. Still, it is possible, if a “true” or “comprehensive” narrative is given up, to at least notice important points — like the collapse of “empire” and hereditary aristocracy and any but constitutional monarchy.

    I mention this because 1.) history’s rhyme suggests Russia’s pushback against the neoliberal international order born in the First World War marks a new stanza. And 2.) because I feel, as I have said before, starved of reliable information — the mirror-image of the surplus of info that makes a single coherent narrative of WWI impossible; the “internal” imperatives of narrative construction dominate in the current information environment when there is so little wholly reliable info (and so much disinformation!) mean that “internal” coherency (it’s plausible or credible or otherwise a “good story” to the target audience) is the only test a narrative is given, aka usefulness to the manipulative narrator.

    Both the U.S. and the Russian Federation are dominated politically by their siloviki, to use the Russian term for technocratic political operatives with military/police/intelligence agency backgrounds. For the moment, Putin has the grudging support of a darkly cynical populace — it is hard to see the opposition to his open folly, but it is there simmering. In the U.S., we have the noisy Tucker Carlson, who represents a multivariate conservative resentment of a whole lot of things.

    Ukraine is basically a Mafia state, a “failed state” already by definition of being a Mafia state — and Russia is not so far from it, especially on the local level where politics is often controlled by groups that were indistinguishable from criminal gangs 25 years ago. The figure of that Chechan brigand that Putin settled the War with back in the day showing up now at the head of a crack militia is almost a comical illustration of the implications for the very “mixed” nature of the Russian military alliance, with its veterans of Syria alongside the 8-year veterans of the separatist Republics alongside the usual unhappy conscripts of Russia’s regular army.

    The U.S. has become deeply corrupt. As Ian notes, the U.S. can no longer build or operate naval ships competently or aircraft, never mind gee whiz drones, hypersonics or laser ray guns. Hell, Brandon the Senile cannot keep babies fed. But $40 billion to skim on its way to Ukraine? Sure why not?

    But the corruption is deeper and broader than Pelosi’s husband trading on pillow talk or Hunter earning stripper money with deals. I was forced to watch an hour or more of MSDNC today and those people are so lost in a propaganda of speculation and fake outrage over Jan 6 they do not even know what it is to lie. Trump insisting on the “stolen election” myth just seems to me now as so much artless tit-for-tat in a politics that admits nothing else. I have not been exposed to the Jan 6 nonsense in months and I was shocked to see the teevee Wurlitzer grinding out that tune, off-key. No wonder Tucker Carlson has so much material that he has to talk at 1.5x normal speed in his rants.

    This is not a politics that admits realism, the possibility of legitimate conflict or actual adherence to principle in devising compromise or settlement. I think use of nuclear weapons is a very real danger, because the people in power do not appreciate the real, nor can they conceive of a settlement short of Russian capitulation. There are a lot of ways delusion can accelerate.

  32. Willy

    I just saw a segment from MSNBC about George Carlin’s classic quotes about power. Surprising from a neoliberal place. Still not enough, but more than before. And Biden does seem to appear to be listening more to his whatever leftish sources. Not enough, but more than before.

    The right meanwhile, with their wealthy, their powerful information sources and bribed influencers, their people who can’t ever have enough stuff, continue trying to push in the fascistic direction.

    I wonder what Carlin would’ve said about Ukraine.

  33. bruce wilder

    The New York Times — my daily source on the mainstream fever dream — is very clear in multiple opinion pieces by various selected experts as well as the general tenor of straight reporting, that Ukraine winning militarily on the strength of Western military aid is a real, possible path into the future: end-game scenarios, in other words, encompass both stalemate or “frozen conflict”, and some measure of visible, undeniable Russian failure to hold some of the conquered territory the Russians clearly want. The latter result would destabilize the Putin regime and might make tactical nuclear weapons use likely. The more rabid insist that the West’s goal should be to make sure Russia “loses” as a result of its aggression.

    What is not admitted into the realm of probable is that Ukraine’s military, already aged, ill-equipped and immobile, is ground to nothing long before any shiny toys arrive from the West to be resold on the black market into the Middle East. Nor is the possibility of negotiating a settlement with Russia that respects Russian interests.

    This last — the insistent righteousness of the western narrative obscuring Western perfidy and hypocrisy on the one hand and what could be acknowledged as legitimate Russian interests on the other — that makes the situation dire.

    I think there are real limits on Russian goals. The imperatives of western narrative construction have proposed Russian goals they maybe have never had in order to reap story-telling rewards in tales of Russia failing. Russia aims at conquering the Donbass and securing water for Crimea.

    Can we say what limits there are to NATO’s goals?

  34. Altandmain

    Ian, judging by the level of inflation and the soaring energy along with food prices, I’d say Europe as a whole might be in the “loss” or even “disastrous loss” category.

    Ukraine and Russia have a huge amount of food exports. The nations reliant on food imports have little choice but to comply and if necessary, pay in Rubles.

    When there is a rise in energy prices, that brings economic hardship. Rising food prices to the point where people are unable to afford food can bring serious political instability.

    The higher food prices are already causing problems in Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. It’s not too hard to see the possibility of another Arabic Spring scenario and refugee crisis. During the last refugee crisis, the far right surged, also caused by austerity. It might even result in a “European Spring” if the prices rise to the breaking point.

    I just can’t see how this would be a “slight loss” and far more likely to be a major losses. It won’t matter if the governments want to punish Russia over Ukraine by limiting the purchase of food or fossil fuels. They are one of the most important exporters at a time of desperate shortages.

    The governments of the European countries might simply not have the finances for their desire for huge amounts of military spending. They might modestly increase spending, but economic realities might force them to reign in the military-industrial complex. Otherwise a European Spring looks more likely.

    Another consideration is that the higher energy prices in Europe are going to make their manufacturing goods exports less competitive. Germany in particular, as a major exporter, will suffer hard from their own policies. Already we are seeing the German industrialists lobby their own government for a peaceful resolution. About the only thing saving Europe is the weaker Euro, but that is also contributing to the drop in living standards because they are so reliant on imported energy and goods.

    I also question the premise that the EU is going to be more unified. The existing ruling class may feel more unified, but ordinary citizens do not. If there are changes in government, whether because of the “no confidence” votes against existing governments in the respective Parliamentary systems of each European nation, elections, or “European Spring” if things get really bad, it won’t bring about solidarity with ordinary citizens.

    In that regard, I can’t see this being anything but a loss right now for Europe.

  35. Ian Welsh

    Agreed in general. I noted the food and inflation and instability effects, and elsewhere I’ve noted the industrial effect of higher energy prices.

    You may be right that it’s going to turn into a straight loss. It would be ironic if a right wing surge wound up leading to many countries being Russia friendly or neutral in western Europe. After all, it isn’t western Europe that is driving fear about Russia. No one with sense thinks Russia will try to invade Germany or France.

  36. Altandmain

    I just realized I linked the wrong link for food shortages.

    Not sure if you can edit the link in my previous comment and replace it with this one.

    More recent articles are even more pessimistic.

    Even the pro war mainstream media is unable to cover the extent of the problems. Here’s another example.

    As far as a right wing government gaining power, it is possible. Certainly in Hungary, that has happened. As the full extent of the economic fallout becomes apparent, I think that is a possibility.

    It could spread, especially because the governments throughout Europe don’t seem to have a plan. Their plan was to use sanctions to crash the Russian Rouble and it backfired badly.

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