What if Russia Annexed the WHOLE Ukraine ?!

The battle for Kyiv was supposed to take a few days- a week at most. Spearheading the assault was Russia’s vaunted Paratroopers, forces so revered in Russia that they have their own holiday. Yet within 48 hours, it was clear that the air assault on Kyiv had failed with terrible losses amongst Russia’s elite troops, and for weeks after the Russian column attempting to enter the Ukrainian capital suffered devastating counterattack after counterattack as it struggled to meet basic resupply needs. Eventually, Russia declared defeat and retreated, using troops aimed at the heart of the Ukrainian nation to instead reinforce the fight in the east.

But what if the assault on Kyiv had succeeded? What if the war in the east fails for Ukraine? What will happen if Russia formally annexes the breakaway Soviet republic and brings it once more back into the fold?

The Situation so Far – Russia vs Ukraine

The current Russian offensive seems to have dramatically redefined goals. At the start of the war, it was clear that Russia was attempting a decapitation strike on the Ukrainian capital, hoping to subdue the nation in days and install a puppet leader. When the assault on Kyiv failed, Russian goals were redefined and a settlement of sorts appears to have been reached- instead of taking the entire nation and turning it into a Russian proxy like Belarus, Russia appears to be satisfied with first taking the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Then, Russian efforts have been focused on seizing a land corridor to Crimea and securing the Dnipro River. This will allow Russian-occupied Crimea to no longer be at the mercy of Ukraine, which in the past had cut off the peninsula from vital freshwater supplies by building a dam. The move caused Crimea’s agricultural industry to shrink dramatically, and greatly limited the economic opportunities available to Russian investors there.

 President Zelensky

It’s currently questionable if Russia can maintain its hold on these regions though. Ukraine is launching a brutal counter-attack across the southeastern part of the nation, and is within striking distance of Kherson. Taking Kherson would give Ukrainian forces an easy crossing point across the Dnipro River and also allow them to base aircraft and long-range artillery such as American HIMAARS to attack targets inside Crimea. Kherson would also allow the Ukrainian military to threaten Russian ships inside the Black Sea and Sea of Azov with long-range anti-ship missiles- tech which is still being provided to Ukraine by the west.

This counter-attack would not have been possible without the aid of US long-range attack platforms such as HIMAARS and the TACM, which allow Ukrainian forces to finally threaten Russian forces with deep strikes. For two months, Ukraine used its western weapons to destroy supply and movement routes- such as blowing up the bridges outside of Kherson on the eastern side of the city- and to strike at ammunition depots and command posts. The effect was telling, with the Russian military being forced to move its supply centers further away from the front, greatly increasing the time required for resupply of combat troops and slowing any combat operations they may attempt to undertake. The loss of many senior command staff to deep strikes has also had a severe effect on both morale and the Russian military’s ability to fight, limiting the scope of its combined arms operations.

Western Supplies are Strengthening Ukrainian Counter Attacks against Russia

If Russia was to take the whole of Ukraine, it would first need to cut off the flow of western weapons into the nation. Yet Russia has little to no political capital left to influence western powers to cease supplying Ukraine, and its attempts to bully Europe into submission by cutting down on gas supplies has done little to stop the flow of advanced weapons to the Ukrainians. In fact, the supply of western weapons has only increased in both numbers and scope, with the American congress approving the training of Ukrainian pilots to fly the F-15 Eagle. In six months’, time, it’s extremely likely that the Ukrainian air force will be operating American F-15s armed with advanced medium-range anti-air and anti-radiation missiles- putting Russian control of the skies in serious jeopardy.

Patriot air defense system ukraine
Ukrainian Soldiers to start training on the Patriot Air Defense System at Fort Sill in Oklahoma, USA

Meanwhile Russia’s own stockpiles of modern weapons are running out, and with sanctions of high-tech materials such as semiconductors, the Russian defense industry is unable to replace advanced modern weapon systems. To take Ukraine, Russia would somehow have to completely reverse the political and strategic picture- a frankly impossible event. As there is no realistic scenario where Russia succeeds in taking the whole of Ukraine, we instead have to suspend disbelief and imagine what would happen if this somehow happened.

What is Russia Miraculously turns the tide in favor

The very first thing that would happen if Russian took the whole of Ukraine is it would make Moldova incredibly nervous. Transnistria is a breakaway region along Moldova’s border with Ukraine that has strong ties to Russia and the old Soviet Union. In fact, Russia maintains a very small contingent of troops there to act as peacekeeping forces after a brief conflict between Moldova and the breakaway region. During the early weeks of the war in Ukraine, it became apparent to many observers that Russia was attempting to push deep through the south of Ukraine to Odessa, even bombarding Odessa in preparation of an assault. But this push wasn’t just to take the strategically important port city, but also to facilitate the creation of a Russian controlled corridor extending all the way to Transnistria, giving the Russians access to Moldova.

Russia Victory day parade
Victory Day military parade rehearsal | AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko

If Ukraine were to fall to Russia, Moldova would inevitably be next. Moldova is technically a neutral state, fearing Russian reprisal if it were to make a bid to join NATO. As such, it’s not protected by the organization’s defense commitment, and would be easy pickings for the Russian military. Taking Moldova would allow Russian forces to create an even larger buffer in the south between itself and NATO in case of war, and from military bases in the country, it could threaten most of the Black Sea with long-range attack munitions- a very important capability for Russia as in any conflict with NATO, the weak Russian Black Sea Fleet would be destroyed rather quickly. With so much territory to buffer NATO with in the south, it would allow Russia to concentrate more forces along its border with the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, putting more pressure on these breakaway republics and seriously threatening them in case of war.

Of course, now that Sweden and Finland are in the process of joining NATO, being able to reinforce its northern borders is of even greater importance for Russia. Just remember that if you’ve ever had a bad day, at least you’re not the Russian leader who dedicated his life to destroying NATO and ended up making it even stronger. Control over Ukraine would help Russia counter NATO’s ability to project air and naval power into the Black Sea. It would in effect leave Russia with full control over the entire northern coastline and most of its eastern coast as well thanks to the military occupation of regions of Georgia. From bases along the coast, Russia could use its land forces to make up for its relative naval weakness, and shut the Black Sea off to NATO fleets under threat of great loss of both life and ships. However, of even greater importance would be Russia’s rights to the vast oil and natural gas reserves hiding under the Black Sea- large amounts of which are currently under Ukraine’s claimed economic exclusion zone.

The taking of Crimea by Russia in 2014 gave it access to a good chunk of these reserves, but taking all of Ukraine’s southern coast would place a significant amount of these reserves in Russian hands. Having access to these vast new reserves would make Russia an even greater energy superpower than it currently is, and with energy fueling the majority of the Russian economy it can be argued that seizing these reserves is not only a goal, but perhaps a matter of national economic survival. What is certain though is that the acquisition of approximately half of the Black Sea’s energy reserves would give Russia significantly more leverage over the west, while denying it the economic bounty lurking under the waves.

Russia Controlling Sea of Azov – Control over food and energy supplies

The Black Sea isn’t the only strategically important water feature that Russia is seeking to control from an invasion of Ukraine. The Sea of Azov has historically been of extreme importance to regional powers because of its economic interests. Control over the Sea of Azov has resulted in conflicts that have raged over millennia, and the state that has managed to control both sides of the Kerch straits has reaped great economic rewards from doing so as the sea is a vital trade artery. As the world has discovered in recent months, Ukraine is vitally important for two other reasons- it’s one of the largest suppliers of sunflower oil and grain in the world. In fact, it’s the biggest supplier of sunflower oil on the entire planet, and the nation provides a whopping forty percent of the World Food Program’s wheat supply. 

Thanks to the war both of these badly needed foodstuffs have been threatened, leaving populations in developing nations under threat of famine and starvation. The situation had become so serious that eventually Russia was forced to allow the shipping of Ukrainian grain via Turkish proxies, bringing much needed food relief to places such as Africa. If Russia were to control Ukraine, it would be in control of a significant amount of not just the world’s energy supply, but also its food supply. This would put Russia in a position of considerable leverage over western nations it currently sees as rivals by putting pressure on two different critical areas- food and energy. Already Russia has attempted to deny exports of Ukrainian wheat so as to influence global opinion against the west, having some success in turning public opinion in developing nations against the western powers and attempting to leverage this pressure to ease sanctions on itself and halt supplies of weapons to Ukraine. To many suffering from food security issues, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a European matter that shouldn’t affect them, and the west is seen as making a bad situation worse by leveraging heavy sanctions against Russia and providing weapons to Ukraine- both of which are extending the war and preventing food from being shipped through the Black Sea.

Russia’s control over the whole of Ukraine would inevitably see the west turn away from its reliance on Russia for not just energy, but food as well. While this would be a very good strategic move, helping to erode Russia’s own strategic advantages, it would inevitably result in higher food prices as demand for food from elsewhere skyrockets. It would also inevitably lead to the expansion of farmland across the west or in other nations, prompting great amounts of ecological destruction. Perhaps the greatest effect of a Russian annexation of Ukraine however would be dramatic reshaping of the strategic picture in Europe itself.

How things would change for NATO and the West

Russia vs NATO

Russia would have returned a significant amount of former Soviet territory into the fold, and would be able to deploy forces to threaten NATO across the southern European plain. This would give NATO a much broader front to fight Russia on in case of war, and erode NATO’s ability to launch deep penetration assaults that seek to end a war with Russia quickly. From bases in Ukraine, Russian forces could threaten a significant number of NATO air fields and military bases with long range attack munitions as well. The greatest victory however would be psychological, as Russia throws off three decades of slow decay and proves to the world that it’s once more a formidable global power. This would have immediate ramifications for neighboring states such as the Baltic countries, which Russia has made no secret it wishes were back under its fold. Faced with a dramatically evolved strategic picture, NATO may need to rethink guaranteeing the security of states it’s already poorly capable of defending in case of war, granting Russia yet another major geopolitical victory.

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