A Few Terrifying Facts About The Russo-Ukrainian War
Epistemic status: trying to summarize the news and predict, post is under revision, too lazy to citation everything
I wanted to collect a few observations I’ve made, as best I understand them. This PBS article does a good job of explaining much of it.
Vladimir Putin has announced the annexation of four Ukrainian territories.
This makes them Russian territory from Russia’s perspective.
“People living in Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson are becoming our citizens forever”—Putin
The West does not acknowledge this annexation, describing it as illegal. Ukraine does not acknowledge this annexation and says it plans to take the territories back.
“By attempting to annex Ukraine’s Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions, (Russian President Vladimir) Putin tries to grab territories he doesn’t even physically control on the ground. Nothing changes for Ukraine: we continue liberating our land and our people, restoring our territorial integrity,” Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on social media.
Russian military doctrine allows the usage of nuclear weapons to defend Russian territory.
Putin has a track record of escalating apparently (this needs more data) and Russia seems to be planning for escalation until the war is won.
“All of our sources in the elite — who all spoke on the condition of anonymity — said the military conflict will only escalate in the coming months.”
Putin has clearly stated that they will defend this territory, including with tactical nukes if need be.
He said they would use “any means available” to defend it
He has mentioned usage of nukes some number of times (a nice-to-have: a list of all the times he has said this)
Medyedev has stated the West would not retaliate if nuclear weapons are used.
“Under Russia’s amended constitution, no Kremlin leader can cede territories once they are annexed.”—someone on Twitter
Putin has stated he is not bluffing.
The U.S. Secretary of State says it is “loose talk”.
Putin has called for a ceasefire.
Ukraine and U.S. does not want to do this.
The U.S. has said there will be “catastrophic consequences” if nuclear weapons are used.
They are keeping the consequences vague for strategic flexibility.
Concerning escalatory developments that aren’t directly related to nuclear brinksmanship:
The Nordstream natural gas pipes were blown up. We don’t know who did it. (This section needs work)
Russia could have done it
Burning the bridges strategy?
U.S. could have done it
U.S. airships were nearby days before.
Some other country or group, hypothetically
Russia has conscripted 300,000 men.
There is some amount of resistance.
Tens of thousands of people are leaving.
There are some protests.
Ukraine has “accelerated” its application to join NATO. https://archive.ph/Yns59
Consensus from all 30 NATO countries is required, though.
France and Germany have expressed reluctance in the past.
“Experts warned that Ukraine’s NATO membership at the moment seems elusive at best. The process could take at least several months, and even years.”
Sweden and Finland have been approved by 28 out of 30 countries. Turkey and Hungary will likely hold out for a while.
Any country in NATO that is attacked by Russia triggers the whole NATO alliance to attack Russia.
Biden has affirmed this, naturally.
Conclusion: Ukraine will keep attacking the annexed territories in order to take them back until Russia uses a tactical nuke out of desperation, and the U.S. will respond with “catastrophic consequences”.
This is obviously uncertain! But the chain of logic forms a coherent enough inside view for me to put a lot of probability on that, and I may start taking bets. I would be curious to see different inside views about what will happen or variations on this one that include facts I should update the post with.
If you want to make the case for tactical nuclear deployment not happening (which I hope is the likely outcome), I want to see a model of how you see things developing differently that has some sort of parts list like I have attempted, not just a vague black box-y sense that nuclear war is too horrible to contemplate and people will naturally successfully manage to try to avoid it at the last minute out of goodness or rationality.