While it is too early to tell how the Russian invasion of Ukraine will turn out for key participants, on the larger scale, it manifests a strategic long-term global reshaping in action.
Prior to looking at the ground tactical variables which are quite difficult to verify, it is important to understand the larger ramifications of what is happening.
The US invasion of Iraq in 1991 ushered a unipolar world order where the US insisted it was the sole global hegemon.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has ushered a multipolar world order and signaled that NATO regimes no longer have monopoly on the use of force.
The Russian narrative is that NATO’s constant expansion eastwards is a threat to its national security.
This is a plausible narrative if one remembers the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 and Washington’s reaction or thinks about how the US would react if Russia established military presence in the Caribbean or Mexico.
NATO’s narrative is that it has no interest in direct military presence in Ukraine.
For Moscow this argument is insufficient given the fact that Ukraine and NATO could have neutralized the Russian narrative and reassured Moscow of this years ago by certifying via a treaty, Ukraine to be a neutral state like Austria and Switzerland.
It would act as sort of a “demilitarized” buffer state, like what Mongolia was to China and the USSR during the cold war era.
Those who dismiss NATO’s threat to Russia do not grasp the depth of societal trauma and the inferiority complex inflicted on Russia with the collapse of the Soviet Union.
It added insult to injury with NATO’s treatment of Russia after the US established its hegemony in 1991.
One of the most astute Russia experts, Dmitri Trenin had articulated in the Washington Quarterly as early as 2009 the most accurate assessment of contemporary Russia-West relations.
Trenin wrote: “Russia was not to be integrated into the core West, but managed by it… Putin aimed at integration with it [West]. Unlike [Boris] Yeltsin, Putin put a price on his country’s cooperation with the United States. Washington would have to recognize Moscow’s primacy in the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States, the Central Asian Republics that were part of the Soviet Union before its breakup].”
At the strategic level, key beneficiaries of the conflict, albeit indirectly, will be Turkey and Islamic Iran.
Turkey is the only viable strategic corridor to bring in energy products into Europe from Central Asia and West Asia on a large scale.
Iran is the only player with vast resources capable of providing substitutes and become an energy corridor.
Thus, it would not be surprising if western corporate media and western politicians switch their tone on Turkey and Islamic Iran soon.
If Ankara and Tehran manage to coordinate their policies to some degree in the new multipolar world order, the Muslim world can for the first time break the shackles of neo-colonialism.
The biggest indirect strategic losers of the ongoing war will be pro-Russian regimes in the Caucasus and Central Asia.
As Russia broke NATO’s geopolitical redline by bringing a major conflict into the “White Heartland”, NATO regimes are most likely to break Russia’s geopolitical redlines and begin destabilizing the Caucasus and Central Asia.
With above in mind, let us examine the key tactical matters which will decide the course of the ongoing war.
A prolonged conflict does not benefit Russia.
To teach Russia a lesson, NATO powers and their Ukrainian allies will do their utmost to create a military or at the very least a political quagmire for Russia in Ukraine.
Will they succeed depends on how capable the Ukrainian army will be in sustaining an asymmetric resistance against Russia’s conventional military force.
A prolonged war will also bring European NATO members closer to the US.
Most importantly, the US military industrial complex will use the new global level conflict to rake in billions in profits.
For the Russian leadership, the external aspect is not its most vulnerable spot.
Internal stability is the most important point for Vladimir Putin.
While the Russian economy will take a hit, it will survive.
If North Korea has survived under western sanctions, so can Russia.
Internally, it is the rural regions which make or break politics in Russia but the western media does not pay much attention to it.
What will be the internal ramifications in Russia is a million-dollar question.
For Ukraine, the only way to end the conflict is to declare neutrality and officially abandon the desire to join NATO.
This will be political suicide for any Ukrainian politician, given the circumstances.
While it is highly unlikely, it cannot be ruled out.
Given the above reality, the conflict’s key decider for the time being is unfortunately tied to military developments.
Unless NATO and Russian politicians, both drunk on power and arrogance, sober up and put serious effort to work out a compromise and find a face-saving formula for a ceasefire soon, the situation could spiral out of control.