Russia-Ukraine war: prediction

Aneela Shahzad June 14, 2024
The writer is a geopolitical analyst. She also writes at and tweets @AneelaShahzad


One way to gauge the length of a war in the future is to measure its spread into the past. But gauging the past in a temporal fashion, gathering related events in a timeline, can be misleading. It’s because with each point of time there is connected a plethora of related spatial events that have affected the issue under observation, and they are practically impossible to account for wholesomely.

This accounts for the tragedy of geopolitics. In its width, it tends to encompass the whole of humanity and the whole of human history, yet because of the impossibility to do so, it is forced to generalise – and in generalising, men err! When given the chance to generalise from a seemingly infinite slew of data, one is prone to choosing only a certain set of data. In this very ‘human’ action, one tends to pursue a specific line of thought, decorate the line with supporting facts and events, and give it authenticity with an underlying philosophical argument.

Incomplete, selected and over-generalised theories in geopolitics lead to faulty doctrines, the carrying forward of which would produce negative effects at a global extent – a norm in our political history.

So, out of several possible prisms through which to look at the Russo-Ukraine War, one is the Western lens that sees Ukraine as an independent country willing to join the EU and NATO, and that Russia does not respect Ukraine’s freedom of choice and has unlawfully invaded at its east. This line of thought is based on western philosophy of Liberal Democracy that actually came into practice in the form we see today, only post-WWII, when the idea was pitted against the communist’s socialism idea. And throughout the Cold War, the US and the USSR fought each other via proxy wars in the name of defending their ideals. The East, and recently the Global South, however, take the ‘rule-based international liberal order’ as a unidirectional syphoning of all goods and wealth towards the West, not a defence of freedom and sovereignty.

Then there is the historical lens that starts from the 9th century when a Varangian prince from the north, Oleg the Wise, came all the way down the Volga to make Kiev the first capital of the Rus’ people. It is a debate whether the Rus’ are separate from the Slavic people or a subgroup of them, but the Rus’ and the Slaves have vied for control of Kiev since then, sharing a common cultural ancestry all along. Moscow was formed a seat of power only in the 13th century. All this makes the Ukrainian issues seem like an internal rift between two neighbours which have learned to accommodate each other in the passing centuries.

If seen from the geographical lens one can easily sense a unity of landscape in the form of the Great European Plain that starts at the feet of the Ural Mountains in the east inside Russia all the way to the Carpathian Mountains that also form the natural border at the western end of Ukraine, cutting Ukraine from the rest of Europe. This great plain makes this land the breadbasket for a great part of humanity and makes for smooth borders and flowing economy between the two states. Geography also shows that Russia, already having a landmass of 17million square kilometers, would prefer at its borders, not to have unmanageable seized territories, but rather stable allies that would serve as natural buffers between her and her foes.

Now if we look at the edicts of UN resolutions that affect the Russo-Ukraine War, they call for a ‘just cause’ with use of force as a last resort. The war, in order to be just, must also be authorised by the UN itself. And the war must be fought only if the probability of success is high and the cost-benefit ratio positive. Firstly, neither party asked for a UN consent before entering this war. On whether either party has a ‘just cause’ is debatable, because both Russia and NATO allies are playing a power game on the Ukrainian soil, and seemingly Ukraine itself opted to be part of this power game, allowing itself to become a proxy-theater! As for the probability of success, Russia clearly seems to be on the winning side, and billions being spent for Ukraine’s military aid make the cost-benefit ratio for the West a complete negative.

Lastly, the most crucial is the post-WWs Cold War lens. When the USSR broke down and the Warsaw Pact dissolved, NATO moved on to join in former Russian allies in Eastern Europe. Putin alleges that he offered Russia’s joining NATO and that NATO eschewed the offering, preferring Russia as an enemy and not an ally.

The Russians took the hint and remained apprehensive at every NATO move closer to its border. One after the other new NATO members in Eastern Europe were lined with NATO’s missile defence systems. And the Russians rightly thought these missiles were pointed towards Moscow. Starting from 2000, there was also a series of Colour Revolutions breaking out in post-Soviet pro-Russian states, calling for western-style liberal democracies and removal of pro-Russian leaders.

Mapping all these spreads of events in the past only tells us how complex and overlapped the reality of the crisis is. Projected in the future, one could safely predict that the historic and ethnic issues cannot be resolved without extreme violence and calls for peaceful compromises and living in cooperation in the present. Geography also calls for Ukraine to remain in business more with Russia then with those across the Carpathians.

As for Ukraine’s sovereignty and freedom of choice, it should have been smart enough to not allow its soil to become a proxy theater for two
vying big powers. And once it had allowed that, it was equal to be under either NATO dictation or that of the Russians – they would not have their own way now!

Can the length of this war be predicted then? If one goes with the theory that both the Orange Revolution and Zelensky’s coming to power were staged events, any equally abrupt event could end the war on the spot. But if one looks at the US ambition to dominate global politics for times to come, the US and Russia seem to be in for a big-time survival-extinction doom or boom scenario, which will end only with a decisive end.


Replying to X

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

For more information, please see our Comments FAQ