The hottest question today is when and how will the war in Ukraine end. Raul Rebane proposes seven scenarios in Vikerraadio's daily comment.
When? Allow me to quote Oleksiy Arestovych, adviser at the office of the president of Ukraine. Having become one of the most respectable war experts in a short time, he said on Thursday that the hot phase of the war will last for another two or three weeks before the Russian army will run out of steam. This will likely be followed by a trench warfare phase, but time will tell.
How? I will be proposing seven scenarios. They have been put together based on expert assessments, analysts, opinions of well-known bloggers and journalists and even ordinary people.
Once I had my list, I realized that none of the items are likely accurate. All seem almost as unlikely as Putin's attack on Ukraine on February 24 did. But it happened, and this war will have to end somehow. I titled each scenario in the interests of clarity.
This would mean Russian winning and appointing in Kyiv a satrap who would be content to take orders from Moscow. President before last Viktor Yanukovych, for example. After all, this was the main objective of the war from Russia's point of view. It seems highly unlikely today.
Russia will take a defensive stance in its occupied territories and create new people's republics it will then be the only country to recognize. In other words, a repeat of the war in Georgia in 2008. While this might bring a temporary ceasefire, tensions would stay high. Ukraine is definitely looking to restore its territorial integrity with support from the West, making this option the start of something new, as opposed to an end to the war.
This is partly what is happening. Putin and his boyars isolating the country. The movement of information, money and people will end. The apparatus will be driven by fear and repression. A ceasefire of some sort will be agreed. Putin will cling to power by threatening nuclear war, content to wait for the West to do business again for gas. Not completely out of the question.
Sanctions and the war will eventually cause Russia to collapse under its own weight. The economy will crash, people will have had enough and the current Russian existence will end. While this might happen, it will not happen quickly. Many of us have experienced something like that firsthand. It is how Estonia regained its freedom.
Russia will see a coup. The boyars will remove Putin and send him to a dacha to live out his days. The war is ended. This is what happened to Khrushchev in 1964. Another highly unlikely scenario as Putin has the blood of thousands on his hands and people would much rather see him in a prison cell.
Emperor Paul I was physically removed from power, killed, in other words, in 1801. While there is much speculation, this remains a theoretical mental exercise today as there are no signs to suggest anything of the sort. Polls put Putin's support rating at 70 percent, while only two despots have ever been killed while in power in Russian history. For example, there was not a single serious assassination attempt against Stalin in 30 years.
Nuclear war, or the absolute worst option. "Why do we need the world without Russia in it?" Putin's much-quoted expression goes. This would be the zenith of chauvinist madness and hopefully impossible because everyone around Putin would also have to give up their life, family and everything else.
But simply through its existence as an option, Hiroshima proves that if the world is keen on survival, crazed dictators' levers for destroying life on the planet should be minimized. In other words, Ukraine's struggle is for all of us.
I'm sure the reader has their own scenarios that should also be discussed. Allow me to close by proposing four questions. While difficult, finding the correct answers will determine out future.
- Will the Ukrainian people's will to defend themselves endure?
- Will the West remain united in its stance toward the war in Ukraine?
- Will Putin and Russia together remain a possibility after the war?
- What is the majority of Russians' dream for the future of their country?
The latter is crucial. If that dream is a powerful Putinist empire that threatens and attacks its neighbors, which is what we are seeing today, there will not be real peace in this corner of the world. Ukraine is too shocking of an experience.
Whether the process of Russia morphing from an empire into a country is already underway, time will tell. This is no longer Putin's problem in the long run as he does not last forever. It is already the problem for the perpetual Russian people. The longer the war drags on, the more the ball will be in the Russian people's court.
For as long as the matter remains unsettled, we are left with the eighth option for the end of the war, as phrased by Prime Minister of Lithuania Ingrida Šimonyte: "There is only one way this war can end, with Ukraine's victory!"
Editor: Marcus Turovski