The Ukraine 'war': how is it going to end and when? Look at the possibilities

With Ukraine virtually reconciled to loss of its eastern part, almost giving up on NATO membership and willing to consider remaining neutral, why is the war still going on ?

The Ukraine 'war': how is it going to end and when? Look at the possibilities

Abhijit Shanker

As the Russian attack, though said to have slowed down, moves deeper inside Ukraine, and as its military might is on display, the world is also witnessing its fallibility. Before the onslaught, military experts expected Kyiv to fall in a little over three days. Two weeks later, the siege is still not within sight.

Vladimir Putin might have expected his approval ratings to soar in his country, extending his political life; instead, what he is witnessing is the might of the Russian citizens as thousands take to the streets to protest his actions. Putin must know he cannot imprison everyone. So, what really are his options in the post-Ukraine aggression?

These are some of the probable scenarios that surface within the next few days or weeks:

Kyiv Falls: If this happens within the next few days, Putin will possibly install former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who lives in Russia, in power replacing the current President, Volodymyr Zelensky. This will ensure Ukraine does not join the NATO, which was one of the key reasons Putin attacked Ukraine.

Zelensky has had three assassination attempts in the past week, and if he survives, he will possibly take refuge in a European country or the United States, making him a hero for the West forever. But with the recent influx of arms from the West, it may be some time before Kyiv falls.

Russian Economy tanks: This may happen sooner than Putin had calculated. The sanctions imposed by the United States and several other countries, including the United Kingdom, will force Russians to get restive, if not rise in rebellion. In any case, his popularity is likely to take a hit and his authority eroded despite the media in Russia, India and China rallying for him. Already stung by high prices, shortages and restrictions, Russians’ patience is being tested severely. It may not last long.

The increase in global oil and gas prices will force affected countries to press for further action against Russia. The iron curtain and the blanket ban on information might not be enough to keep ordinary Russians from learning about the invasion and the truth about Ukraine.

Western Countries forge a coalition: This is unlikely but then stranger things have happened in the past. The coalition may come together as and when US President Biden’s and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s individual approval ratings begin to dip below accepted levels, and their careers spiral downwards. We can soon expect Putin to start taunting both Biden and Johnson. How the duo then react cannot be predicted.

UN grows some teeth: Putin’s war may be the moment the United Nations uses to grow teeth and seeks to isolate Russia and eject it out of the Security Council. Again this is an unlikely scenario and will still leave China to veto UN sanctions in the Security Council. But the least that can be predicted is that it will not be a decision for the current Secretary-General, Antonio Gutérres to make. He would likely have gone back to Portugal by the time the Security Council gets to this.

Another Cold War: The end of this aggression will also clearly divide the world as we know today, in western and eastern blocks, and likely lead us into another cold war. This one will probably not be a repeat of the earlier one. It might be the United States vs Xi Jinping. China has been making its strategic moves over the past several decades, and it sees this situation as one which could propel it as a superpower, equal in stature as the United States.

It is rumoured that China had asked Russia to postpone its attack on Ukraine by a few weeks, until the Winter Olympics in Beijing were over. If true, it is already the key player in the global geopolitics, deciding when a sovereign country can be pulverized.

Some of the scenarios may converge or yet another one may emerge. It is a sad state to comment on, and something most of us had assumed we had left behind.

The world is still coming to terms with Putin’s decision to bomb another country, kill civilians including women, children and the elderly and getting his own soldiers killed and held as prisoner. Questions like how long Ukraine can hold out and whether the conflict can escalate into the third world war are gaining currency. But there are no ready answers.

The future is uncertain and the old world is teetering on the brink. We are now in an era where nothing should come as a surprise.

(The author is a former Chief of Communications with UNICEF in New York, where he worked for more than a decade. Views are personal)

(This was first published in National Herald on Sunday)

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