What If Ukraine Falls?
If Russia takes over Ukraine, it will transform all of Europe
Russia’s involvement in the Syrian civil war in 2015 shocked the United States and its allies, and President Obama predicted that it would become a quagmire for Russia and Vladimir Putin, similar to the United States’ failures in Vietnam and Afghanistan.
Russia’s intervention in Syria has been successful and has resulted in greater regional clout, a loyal partner in Bashar al-Assad, and has allowed Russia to project power in the region.
The United States and Europe are finding themselves once again considering the potential for a major Russian military intervention in Europe itself.
Putin appears to be willing to take on significant risks in order to solidify Russia’s leverage in Ukraine, as well as Belarus and Kazakhstan. The US and Europe should be prepared for the possibility of Russia succeeding in this mission.
The potential consequences of Russia gaining control of Ukraine are dire, with the United States and Europe facing the challenge of rethinking European security and avoiding military escalation with Russia. This could lead to a new era of uncertainty and unpreparedness in which the two responsibilities may be incompatible.
There Are Many Paths to Victory For Russia
Russia’s potential victory in Ukraine could involve the installation of a compliant government, the partition of the country, the defeat of the Ukrainian military and the negotiation of a Ukrainian surrender. If successful, this would result in Ukraine being effectively detached from the West.
If Russia is successful in their military aims in Ukraine, Europe will drastically change. The sense of security that the EU and NATO provide will be gone, and the EU and NATO’s capacity for policies beyond their own borders will be limited. In addition, only Finland and Sweden will be considered allies outside of EU and NATO.
The United States and Europe are likely to be in a perpetual economic conflict with Russia, which will employ cyber-measures and energy blackmailing to counter Western sanctions. China may take Russia’s side in this conflict, while Russia will use all means to influence European politics and elections.
Russia has a large, powerful military and is not shy about using it. The EU’s defense policy is weak in comparison to NATO’s and its eastern members are particularly vulnerable to Russian aggression. An effective response must include more than sanctions and words–real military reassurance is necessary to protect the EU’s members.
EU and NATO countries will not recognize a new Russian-backed regime in Ukraine, instead wielding sanctions and supporting those smaller members. Russia will respond to any NATO bolstering of Ukraine’s insurgency with threats.
Europe’s economic power is its main asset, while Russia will take advantage of any internal divisions or disruptions in Europe or its partners to further its own interests. Russia could provide support to pro-Russian candidates and movements, and use any economic or political issues to weaken the power of the US and its allies.
If Russia wins the war in Ukraine it could have severe consequences for Europe, as it would lead to increased Russian resources and a heightened risk of political and cyber battles to affect U.S. elections. If Trump had been elected in 2024 for example, it could have severely damage the transatlantic relationship and risked the security guarantees of NATO and it remains to be seen how the new congress will treat Ukraine.
The Ukraine situation has also created a heightened risk of political and cyber battles coming from Russia. The 2024 U.S. presidential election will be a big test. If a Trumpian candidate gets elected, it could severely damage the transatlantic relationship and risk the security guarantees of NATO.
NATO and The US Must Stay Committed to European Stability
The United States has a vested interest in keeping Europe stable, as the two are each other’s largest trade and investment partners, and a well-functioning, peaceful Europe is beneficial for U.S. foreign policy. If Europe is destabilized, then the U.S. would be more alone in the world. In order to prevent Russia from dividing European countries, Washington must make a strong commitment to European security.
Europe will call for higher military engagement from the US, and every NATO nation should raise their defense spending in response to the Russian incursion of Ukraine. This is a call for Europe and the US to collaborate to better address the Russian-Chinese situation.
Nuclear superpowers would be forced to restrain themselves.
In the current climate of Moscow’s ongoing confrontation with the West, China could potentially serve as an economic supporter and an ally in opposing U.S. power. In a worst-case scenario for the American grand strategy, China could be encouraged by Russia’s boldness and potentially challenge the U.S. over Taiwan. Nonetheless, there is no promise that a rise in tensions in Ukraine will be advantageous to the relationship between China and Russia. War in Europe would be detrimental to China’s goal of becoming the major power in Eurasia, due to the unpredictability it brings. Although Chinese displeasure with a militarily aggressive Russia may not lead to a reconciliation between the U.S. and China, it could be the start of new dialogue.
Turkey under President Erdogan has long taken advantage of the rivalry between the superpowers. Nevertheless, the country has a close relationship with Ukraine. Turkey, being a NATO member, will not benefit from the militarization of the Black Sea and the eastern Mediterranean. Russian activities that unsettle the surrounding region could reorient Turkey closer to the United States, consequently creating a rift between Ankara and Moscow. If this occurs, it will be beneficial for NATO and open up more chances for a collaboration between the U.S. and Turkey in the Middle East. Turkey could then become the ally it is intended to be, rather than a source of annoyance.
The United States and Russia, now adversaries in Europe, must be careful not to let their animosity go beyond a certain limit. In spite of the stark differences in their perspectives and ideologies, the two most powerful nuclear nations must exercise restraint in expressing their anger.
Sadly, the Trump Administration missed an opportunity to create rigorous arms control agreements, which are now needed more than ever in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Standing Up For Whats Right
The West can demonstrate its support for decency and dignity in this conflict by adopting a similar approach to the one taken by the United States during World War II, when it retained the diplomatic properties of the three Baltic states in Washington, D.C., even after they had been annexed by the Soviet Union.
As the crisis in Ukraine continues, the West must not underestimate Russia. We must not count on wishful thinking to be true. It is not a work of fiction that Russia might win a victory in Ukraine. Regardless, the West still has a say. The US and Europe, as well as other parts of the world, have got to voice their opinion and put their support behind Ukraine.