We need to think about what happens if Russia loses Ukraine War

Larry Lindsey
Conservative Opinion

Larry Lindsey

President & CEO, The Lindsey Group
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In the wake of the Russian military’s struggles in the Ukraine War, Vladimir Putin has mobilized 300,000 additional troops and even made what some think are veiled threats of nuclear aggression. Straight Arrow News contributor Larry Lindsey says Putin’s actions reek of desperation. He also warns it’s time to think about what happens if Russia loses the Ukraine War. Failure to ask the right questions, Lindsey says, could lead to even more problems down the road.

Although punishing Putin is certainly…morally quite appropriate, it isn’t exactly something he’s going to go for right away. For example, how does Ukraine get Crimea back without sending its troops and probably NATO’s troops onto Crimean soil? But that’s exactly what Putin said would cause him to use tactical nuclear weapons. How do we collect all those war criminals to bring them on to trial? Well, are we going to go to Moscow and seize them physically? Again, that’s the kind of move that would trigger tactical nuclear response. 

Well, those are the kinds of questions people are asking. What you’re not asking is really as important. Suppose we win? Suppose everything goes right. Putin magically collapses, we take the Crimea and whatever. Then what?

What happens to Russia’s resources? Europe has said they’re no longer going to buy them. But what if European or NATO forces occupy Russia? We don’t have to buy them. They can take them or quote, buy them at very concessionary rates. Is the European energy strategy still intact? Or is renewed interests going to come for Russian energy? More importantly, if Russia’s military is degraded, exactly who is it that’s going to defend the resources of Siberia and central Asia from…being taken by the Chinese? Is it the Russian military that’s there now? Or is NATO going to defend those resources?

I doubt it very much. 

Those questions are not even being considered right now. Just as a reminder, we went into our current sanctions regime without giving them a lot of thought in advance. Right now, we’re not giving the end of the war very much thought. But we’re threatening…making threats, I guess that could end up having the war end with a nuclear exchange. We hope that doesn’t happen. But the alternative isn’t being considered, either. 

What do we do if we actually declare victory? It’s time for us to take a deep breath and start thinking these things through.

President Putin of Russia has said that he will use whatever it takes to defend Russia and its people. That was his words. The implication obviously was, that includes the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine. The world is, you know, rightfully alarmed that this may happen. 

But we need to consider Putin’s position if we’re going to model how he behaves going forward. And frankly, the man is a cornered rat. And cornered rats tend to be dangerous. So let’s see what the options are confronting him. He is definitely starting to lose on the battlefield. President Zelenskyy of Ukraine says that the first step in his peace plan is punishment. He must restore the old border, not the one of January 2022, but the one of 2013. That would mean that Russia would have to give up territories that it acquired back in 2014, including the Crimea. This would involve a significant move onto Russian territory by Ukrainian and NATO forces.

The second form of punishment is that Russia would have to pay damages and losses fully until Ukraine is completely compensated. Well, that’s hundreds of billions of dollars. It reminds one, a little bit, of the Versailles Treaty after World War I, where Germany was forced to pay significant reparations to France and other countries. Those reparations kept Germany depressed economically and as we know, 20 years later, they led to a lot of frustration in Germany, which didn’t work out so well. He also required the citizens of Russia be prohibited from traveling abroad. 

President Biden and other Western leaders have gone further. They have insisted on war crimes trials, not just for Putin, but for significant portions of the Russian nomenklatura, the equivalent of a bureaucracy that has the powers of the old oligarchs. Second, we’ve demanded and we’ve stated that it’s our goal to degrade Russia so it can’t ever wage war again. And finally, we want to…we’ve said…we want to permanently disable Russia, both economically and militarily. These are equivalent to unconditional surrender. Something that you might remember we also tried in World War I. 

Well, we go back to our cornered rat situation. Although punishing Putin is certainly…morally quite appropriate, it isn’t exactly something he’s going to go for right away. For example, how does Ukraine get Crimea back without sending its troops and probably NATO’s troops onto Crimean soil? But that’s exactly what Putin said would cause him to use tactical nuclear weapons. How do we collect all those war criminals to bring them on to trial? Well, are we going to go to Moscow and seize them physically? Again, that’s the kind of move that would trigger tactical nuclear response. 

Well, those are the kinds of questions people are asking. What you’re not asking is really as important. Suppose we win? Suppose everything goes right. Putin magically collapses, we take the Crimea and whatever. Then what?

What happens to Russia’s resources? Europe has said they’re no longer going to buy them. But what if European or NATO forces occupy Russia? We don’t have to buy them. They can take them or quote, buy them at very concessionary rates. Is the European energy strategy still intact? Or is renewed interests going to come for Russian energy? More importantly, if Russia’s military is degraded, exactly who is it that’s going to defend the resources of Siberia and central Asia from…being taken by the Chinese? Is it the Russian military that’s there now? Or is NATO going to defend those resources?

I doubt it very much. 

Those questions are not even being considered right now. Just as a reminder, we went into our current sanctions regime without giving them a lot of thought in advance. Right now, we’re not giving the end of the war very much thought. But we’re threatening…making threats, I guess that could end up having the war end with a nuclear exchange. We hope that doesn’t happen. But the alternative isn’t being considered, either. 

What do we do if we actually declare victory? It’s time for us to take a deep breath and start thinking these things through. 


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