What Next? Speculative Thoughts

Putin expected Ukraine to reject Western liberalism and nestle docilely within the Russian orbit. There is zero chance of that happening now, because, after the unrelenting death and destruction he has inflicted upon them, Ukrainians are almost unanimous in their hatred of him and in their unwillingness to accede to his demands.

Putin’s immediate goal is to break Ukraine’s back and its will and seize control of the country. If he succeeds, it will take him awhile to regroup and decide what steps to take next in his campaign to restore the glorious Russian Empire of his imagination. The world will settle into Cold War II. If Putin fails to gain control of Ukraine, or he gains control, but Russian forces suffer prolonged attrition in continuing battles and guerrilla warfare in the rubble of Ukraine’s cities, and, despite not having access to anything but state-sponsored propaganda, ordinary Russians begin to perceive that Putin has grossly miscalculated, he may escalate the war out of desperation and fear of being humiliated, for example, as Russian-American expert Masha Gessen speculates is possible, by launching nuclear-armed missiles on airbases in Poland, forcing NATO to respond, initiating a widening of the war, a desirable development as far as Putin is concerned, because it would be congenial with his propaganda line that he is leading Russia in a heroic defense against Western powers that are trying to destroy it.