Friday, 18 November 2022 — The van says…
This may be how many see the Ukraine today, yet a very different picture will emerge when the war is finally over.
Affairs in Eastern Europe are as dynamic as ever, yet as time moves forward, people are looking to what the future may hold for the Ukraine. As much as Western powers wish this operation to be the downfall of Russia, the conflict is slowly turning into a liability for those who have invested so much in Kiev. This article will examine the here and now in order to predict the there and then that may await what remains of the Ukraine once hostilities are finally over.
After the fall of the USSR, countries that were formerly under the control of the Soviet Union began to purchase military materiel that better fit into the NATO framework, yet rather than scrapping older equipment, armies chose to mothball it on the off-chance it was ever needed. The last two years have seen those stocks be brought out of storage as well as still-current assets being donated to Kiev. This has been done by a number of states, yet under the proviso that the vehicles donated be replaced with new ones as soon as possible.
Remembering the eye-watering losses suffered by Ukrainian forces, this has been a lifeline since February, yet stored Western stocks have now been exhausted. The assets that arrived in-theater have over the summer and fall been decimated by tanks and troops alike, the quantity as well as quality today dropping alarmingly. For as long as there are sufficient guns and armor to shuttle from engagement to engagement, Kiev can just about hold the show together, but matters are now reaching a critical juncture. Every loss suffered is something that cannot now be replaced, each battle resulting in weakened capabilities, therefore bringing the end of the Ukrainian war one step closer. To a degree however, the lack of former Soviet equipment is being supplanted through the use of NATO-standard equipment, yet this is also proving to be troublesome for a number of reasons.
The use of foreign equipment is creating hurdles, both in the Ukraine as well as in those nations that have chosen to provide it. Military materiel that has not previously been used by the Ukrainians requires that soldiers be retrained in its use, the characteristics of Western materiel being a far cry from what has been used in the past. This not only means that troops have to be removed from the frontlines in order that they learn the skills necessary, but with there being such a range of different NATO and Soviet machinery in theater, ensuring that the right ammunition for the right gun is available has caused Ukrainian planning and logistics a lot of headaches. The issue of headaches is however not restricted to the Ukraine.
Hurdles at Home
The Ukrainian war effort has only been possible due to the huge contributions made by its supporters, yet as fuel prices rocket and a recession makes itself felt, when Western nations face the expenses of replacing equipment that has been sent to Kiev, politicians are now facing the ire of their electorates. Administrations are claiming that they are doing everything to make the current domestic situation as painless as possible, yet frantic efforts are still underway to keep the Ukrainian war machine as a going concern. The immense outlay necessary to rearm themselves at such a crucial time is not going unnoticed by those who eventually have to pay.
The Lights aren’t On
The progressive destruction of the Ukrainian electricity grid is now beginning to become as critical for the government as it is for the people. As damaging as strikes are, when the system is slowly torn apart, the entire country grinds to a halt. Affairs in Lvov are now so bad that with winter approaching, some are now being advised to leave their apartments and move into neighboring villages.
Many on the Russian side have complained that the grid should have been destroyed in one decisive blow, but other sources state that in doing so, there is a risk of certain nuclear power stations going into meltdown with unthinkable consequences. October and November have seen the ruination of the electricity system, and with no replacement parts now remaining, there is neither light in Ukrainian cities nor at the end of the tunnel.
And Nobody’s Home
Rather than just a conventional brain drain, it is not only the cream of the Ukrainian academic crop who are indisposed due to the present hostilities. We know that very many of the entrepreneurs and more useful members of the Ukrainian labor pool have left the country, and them returning to their homeland is a very difficult matter to contemplate. As times go by, they will integrate into their host societies, the prospects there being infinitely greater than those that will be on offer in the Ukraine. Moreover, many of those who did not escape the numerous mobilizations from Kiev and were forced into uniform have already lost their lives in the conflict. Whenever and however this war ends, brains and brawn will be the driving forces behind any recovery; with so many crucial people having traveled west or gone south, immense challenges will face to whatever remains of the Ukraine when peace is eventually achieved.
From the Bottom Up
After looking at the previous points, there is one incredibly important matter that will loom over the country whatever its fate may be, and this is debt. Nations may have been falling over each other to provide Kiev with everything it apparently needed, but at the same time, donors have supplied what they wanted, and on very favorable conditions to themselves. Many of the former Soviet vehicles and systems were of no real value to the states who held them, yet they have been offloaded onto Kiev at inflated prices as well as much of the munitions being very old stock indeed. When this is all over however, Kiev will face the prospect of somehow attempting to redress an immovable fiscal imbalance.
A country that couldn’t balance the books in peacetime is hardly likely to be a beacon of prosperity when recovering from a war such as this, and rather than it being able to square with its creditors, whatever remains after the guns have stopped firing will come under even greater American control than it already is. The rich black land that made this region the breadbasket of the Soviet Union would be gladly purchased by Western GMO companies looking for a quick buck at reduced prices.
Top Down Design
The figure at the top of the Ukrainian hierarchy is of course Zelenskiy, he being as much a symbol of his country as Bandera is to many of his subjects. Just as was the case eighty years ago, the rhetoric is not providing results; Zelenskiy’s words may be his greatest weapon, yet those weapons of late have been shooting him in the foot. After a Ukrainian rocket somehow landed in Poland, his absolute denial of the obvious has not only garnered criticism from a previously supportive media, but has also strained relations between him and his principal backers. Experience tells us that once one of Washington’s useful idiots outlives their usefulness, another character will be shoehorned into his place. There is no sign of that happening yet, but as seen in countless previous scenarios, today’s hero can be tomorrow’s history.
To date, the only thing between continuation and collapse for Kiev is the assistance being rendered by its sponsors in the West. By the end of this year, even with the global economic outlook being as bleak as it is, the US alone will have chipped in over a hundred billion dollars to the Ukrainian cause. With other republics and realms giving what they can, public pressure will however reach the point when governments cannot give any more.
In simple terms, Kiev is on life support, but with life becoming ever more difficult for western economies, when that support stops, so does the war and the Ukraine as it stands today.
With its infrastructure down and debts going up by the day, it is presently unknown how an already broken economy can simultaneously get back up as well as carry the debt that it has now accrued. Moreover, with so many of its workforce no longer being available, the human resources necessary for a postwar recovery are also absent.
As we look to the future, a Ukraine that is reduced in size and circumstances will both become a martyr to the Western cause at the same time as it will be left at the mercy of the political and financial mechanisms that created the conflict in the first place. One can only hope that the territories incorporated into the Russian Federation will serve as an example to the world of the dangers of Western expansionism as well as the promise offered by the East today…