Analysis: What happens if Russia invades? | Russia
How would a full-scale invasion work?
Exploiting its overwhelming superiority in land, sea and air forces, Russia is expected to attack simultaneously on several fronts, from the northeast, Donbass and Crimea. Ground troops in Belarus, backed by airstrikes, would spearhead a lightning push south to seize the capital, Kiev. The surrounded Ukrainian army would, in theory, be forced to surrender.
What are the main targets?
The main objective would be the rapid capitulation of the Ukrainian government in Kyiv and the “neutralization” of its elected leaders. Main targets would include the presidential palace, parliament, ministries, media and the Maidan Nezalezhnosti – the symbolic site of pro-democracy revolutions in Ukraine.
At what price ?
The United States estimates that artillery, missile and bomb strikes and ground clashes could kill 50,000 civilians, a figure that could prove conservative if the fighting drags on. Hundreds of thousands of people could flee, presenting Europe with a huge humanitarian and refugee emergency. Gross human rights violations and atrocities committed with chemical weapons, such as in Syria, cannot be ruled out. British officials predict “horrific” suffering.
Does Vladimir Putin have a plan B?
According to analysts, Russia could opt for a more limited and less risky offensive to seize additional territories in eastern Ukraine and the Donbass, while asserting the independence of pro-Moscow breakaway republics there, such as in Georgia in 2008. It could also try to seize the main ports of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov and Odessa on the Black Sea, and create a “land bridge” towards Crimea.
Could this all go wrong?
Yes. The Ukrainian armed forces will not be easily defeated. Civilians can join the fight. The United States and the United Kingdom have not ruled out arming resistance fighters, as during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. British ministers predict a long-lasting “quagmire” with Russia suffering major losses. In such a scenario, Russian public opinion could turn against Putin.
What is the Kremlin’s post-invasion game plan?
Putin wants a Ukraine that is institutionally weak, dependent, responsive to his will and detached from the West – like Belarus. It can be expected to put pro-Moscow politicians in charge of Kiev while eliminating opponents and rigging elections (as in Russia). US officials believe the Kremlin has compiled a list of public figures to be arrested or assassinated.
What will the West do?
US forces will not be directly involved now, but military assistance will soon be provided by some NATO states, including lethal aid, intelligence sharing and weapons such as man-portable missiles (as in Afghanistan). If the fighting drags on and civilian casualties increase, the pressure on the West to intervene will increase rapidly.
A pariah nation?
Unprecedented, supposedly game-changing US and European sanctions will follow an invasion. They include potentially crippling restrictions on Russian banking, business, exports, loans and technology transfers, diplomatic isolation and the targeting of Putin’s personal wealth and that of his oligarch cronies. The Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Germany will be frozen indefinitely.
What will be the wider impact?
Global economic and stock market instability will increase. Energy prices will rise further. Staple food supplies to African and Asian countries that depend on Ukraine, the world’s fifth-largest wheat exporter in 2020, will be affected. China’s support for Putin could escalate East-West tensions. Additional NATO defensive deployments on Russia’s borders could increase the risk of a Europe-wide conflagration.