Making predictions and projecting into the future is never easy. It is all the harder to do this for 2023, but I'll still try
The other day, my friends and I were discussing when and how the war might end. The expectations ranged from several months to many years, and each position had a strong argument. I was the most optimistic, and I will explain why.
The combination of economic, diplomatic, and political pressures on the Kremlin has reached the point where it is easy to project six months ahead and understand that in each of these components, the situation for Moscow will only get worse.
Yes, the Russian Federation has a solid balance of payments surplus, but budget revenues began to fall rapidly back in July. Meanwhile, expenditures increased, as war is an expensive business. Then Russia lost its gas revenues and suffered a blow to its oil revenues. So in six months, it will be very difficult for the Kremlin to continue to finance the war.
On the diplomatic front, the West is not backing down and is showing unexpected unity. Beijing and Delhi are no longer hiding their irritation as the war has turned out to be not a ten-day victorious campaign, but a protracted struggle, where Russia has more defeats than achievements.
Inside the country, public opinion changed dramatically after the start of the mobilization. In addition, military defeats have made the war much less popular in Russia. Back in July, 57% of Russians supported a continuation of the war and only 32% were in favor of talks with Ukraine, according to Meduza, which cites a poll commissioned by the Kremlin. Now 55% want negotiations with Kyiv, and only 25% want the war to continue.
The very first thing we need to start development is not even money, but a stable long-term security architecture.
It is not difficult to imagine that the Kremlin is approaching bankruptcy in each of these components - economic, diplomatic and domestic - in the spring. The military dynamics are also not in their favor.
On the other hand, Ukraine has turned out to be a remarkably stable social construct. The Russian invaders bombed refineries, but the Ukrainians learned how to quickly deliver fuel from abroad. The Russians are destroying electricity and communications, but Ukrainians are fixing everything and using generators and Starlinks.
According to Western media, all conscious people in political and business circles in Moscow have understood that Russia has indeed lost, that there are no options for how to improve its position, and that it would be better to stop now, because it will get even worse in six months.
The very first thing we need to start development is not even money, but a stable long-term security architecture. We do not want our children, who will return home from abroad, to have rockets fired at them again in a month. We need a containment system. To a certain extent, understanding the might of the Ukrainian army and Ukrainian society is the first element of deterrence. Russia's attack on Ukraine was driven in part by the misconception that it would be an easy prize. Now, everyone in Moscow understands that the attack on Ukraine is, at the very least, going to be a long bloody war with hundreds of thousands of dead and wounded on their part and catastrophic economic consequences for decades.
Another significant element of deterrence, according to Commander-in-Chief Valery Zaluzhnyy, would be parity in long-range missiles. Yuzhmash once produced such missiles, and it would be great if their production was resumed, at least as a joint venture in neighboring Poland. Understanding that every 10 missiles fired at Ukraine will result in 10 retaliatory missiles may well cool the aggressive rhetoric of television cretins in Moscow.
However, the main element of our future security architecture, of course, must be aguarantee of security - if not from NATO, then from countries such as the UK and the U.S. Recently, an American publication reported on Russian intentions to attack Japan before they attacked Ukraine. Tokyo was not particularly frightened, and explained this by the fact that they have a security agreement with the United States.
If rationality and common sense begin to catch up with the flabby egos and emotions of the Kremlin’s elders, then the war should end in the next year. And I believe that this will not only be the end of post-Soviet Ukraine, which hesitated for 30 years about where to go, but also the catalyst for rapid and powerful pro-Western transformations like those that Poland and the Czech Republic went through.
After the war, Ukraine will have a huge support fund and will move towards EU membership. Five years ago, I would never have believed that Ukraine could be-come a member of the EU during my lifetime. And now I'm convinced of it, for there is a backbone that keeps domestic politicians in good shape, and it consists of pressure from Western partners, civil activists, and free media. This is the mixture that helped bring the country to its visa-free regime with Europe.
Those who visited Poland or Portugal 15 years ago and now can compare what incredible changes are taking place even in the infrastructure of countries with EU financial support. This and the so-called solidarity fund is a huge chance for a break-through that we have been waiting for so long. For the next decade, Ukraine will become a place to be.
And I now consider this forecast to be quite realistic.
In any case, as former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres said, pessimism is a waste of time.