What Game Theory Can Tell us about the War in Ukraine

Sunday, 31 July 2022 — Strategic Culture Foundation

Though peace will come to Ukraine, it will be peace with justice and dignity for the country’s Russian speakers, irrespective of the day dreams of the LA Times and NATO’s other organ grinders.

What game theory can tell us about the war in Ukraine, a recent LA Times op-ed by two American academics, has to be the worst exposition of game theory in times of war that has ever seen parchment since Thucydides discussed the Melian Dialogue 2,500 years ago in his History of the Peloponnesian Wars we previously discussed.

When the Athenian envoys politely explain to the Melians why they, a neutral island, should submit, the Melians equally politely rebuff their arguments, whereupon the Athenians slaughter their men, enslave their women and colonize the island. The Melians obviously miscalculated, as perhaps did the Athenians who eventually had to surrender Melos to Sparta.

Fast forward to Ukraine and the LA Times sees an overly simplified, one dimensional chess board. All NATO has to do is look at Russia’s limited array of end moves and work backwards along a binomial tree to see what NATO must now do to thwart the evil Rooskies. The solution, NATO’s arms industries will be glad to hear, is to pump ever more volumes of advanced weaponry into Ukraine “to make [Putin] believe that there is no way that he can possibly win six months down the road”. Once NATO brings overwhelming force and steely resolve to bear, then Russian resolve will crack.

If NATO don’t up the ante now, they might have to send in troops later on when the Ukrainians are a spent force, when NATO have literally fought to the last Ukrainian and things then would quickly escalate, perhaps into nuclear war. Further, if “Putin” conquers Ukraine, then the keys to Vienna, Vilnius and Venice will all be his and it will be as if The Golden Horde has returned. The proof of all this is that little Lithuania has been forced to tool up, all with borrowed money it must pay back at some future time. Given that Ukraine is but the first in a line of dominoes that will fall to Russia in these “nightmare scenarios …. the [NATO] alliance must act now to strengthen Ukraine’s defense. Only when Putin has no hope of victory in Ukraine will peace in Europe ever be secure.”

Militarily, this childish analysis assumes Russian artillery cannot pound everything there is in Ukraine to dust. As long as the war is confined to Ukraine, Russia cannot lose, the military distractions of Kaliningrad and Transnistria and the PR stunts of parading Azov co-founder Giorgi Kufarashvili and Clown Prince Zelensky to the world notwithstanding.

Theoretically, the LA Times piece is a shambles as a game, to be fully defined, must specify the parties to the game, the information and actions available to each player at each decision point, and the payoffs for each outcome. Game theory typically uses these elements, along with a solution concept to deduce the best sets of possible outcomes for the players, who have been previously defined.

The main players in this game are obviously Russia and her allies on the one side and the United States and her satrapies on the other. The Zelensky junta is no more independent than a monkey is of its organ grinder. Barely a day goes by but these foul mouthed ones are doing their Oliver Twist routines, looking for more, always more money, men and materiel.

Sadly, the only way to look at the ordinary Ukrainians is as Hitler viewed the soldiers and civilians of his Reich, as expendable chips of no intrinsic worth in NATO’s greater game. That is a monstrous crime in itself for which Zelensky and NATO’s other cronies must answer for in full.

Russia, rightly or wrongly, now finds herself dug in beside the Russian speakers of Eastern and Southern Ukraine, who are fighting for their very lives much as the Vietcong were against the American invaders some 50 years ago. Whereas NATO sees Ukraine as the Yanks saw Vietnam, as a juicy snack to be gobbled up, the people of Donbas, like the Vietnamese before them, necessarily see things differently. Not only are they not playing the same game but to the residents of Eastern Ukraine, this is not the LA Times’ Junior Common Room parlor game but a matter of life and death.

When considering the information and actions available to both sets of players, we quickly get into very muddy waters. The Zelensky junta clearly wants to extort as much as possible from both Ukraine and their NATO sponsors before they call it a day. The Russians, as with the early days of their Syrian campaign, send out mixed messages, some ballistic missiles today, an airstrike tomorrow and a land advance the day after. As one is left guessing as to Moscow’s strategies and tactics, the Russians clearly have the greater choices and thus the advantage; Russia is literally calling the shots and setting the play, as the Amercians say.

That leads us to the pay offs, the end moves of the various players enmeshed in this deadly game. The Russians, having crossed the Rubicon, can settle for nothing less than peace with justice for Ukraine’s Russian speakers and Ukraine’s other vulnerable minorities. NATO will have to live with that and those Ukrainians NATO used and abused will have to get on with their lives as best they can.

Although James Fearon has examined the end game in more detail, he makes two very pertinent points, which may be applied to Russia’s Ukrainian campaign. First off, Russia is not making the blunder of the cult of the offensive, which cost so many lives in The Great War. Slow and steady is their motto against Zelensky’s Nazis who, in Mariupol and elsewhere, followed Hitler’s disastrous Hold Fast order almost to the letter, when they would have been best served by retreating.

Secondly, there has to be a realistic final account, a treaty where the victor gets the spoils and the loser gets, at best, consolation prizes. That was the case on May 7 1945 when General Alfred Jodl unconditionally surrendered. It was also the case on 2 September 1945, when Japanese Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu, representing the Emperor, and Chief of the Army General Staff, General Yoshijirō Umezu, signed Japan’s (conditional) Instrument of Surrender. Ditto when the American war lord Bill Clinton forced through his Good Friday Peace Agreement on Ireland and his Camp David Summit on the Palestinians.

Not so in Ukraine where the junta murdered Ukrainian negotiator Denis Kireev and where MI5 mischief maker in chief Boris Johnson regularly commuted to Kiev to ensure Zelensky and NATO’s other paid puppets rejected all peace overtures.

But peace, at a price, will come to Ukraine when organ grinders like Johnson and his over paid monkeys in Kiev are removed from the chess board. Zelensky, who was elected on false promises of making peace with Moscow, has to go and so too do the the Azovs’ dream of an Intermarium, which is as unrealistic and unattainable as Mussolini’s dream of an Italian Mare Nostrum, or Hitler’s dream of a 1000 year Reich.

Wars and the peace treaties that end them are about the art of the possible, not about the ramblings of Azov fascists or American academics. Though peace will come to Ukraine, it will be peace with justice and dignity for the country’s Russian speakers, irrespective of the day dreams of the LA Times and NATO’s other organ grinders.

3 thoughts on “What Game Theory Can Tell us about the War in Ukraine

  1. mijj says:

    is Game Theory valid? I don’t think it is. If the players are playing different games (eg presumed goals likey not the actual goals) then whoever is resorting to game theory is at a disadvantage.

    Like

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