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Smart Bombs: Military, Defense and National Security

Could Russia Collapse if Putin Gets Crushed in Ukraine?

Russian Military TOS-1
Russian TOS-1 firing. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

It seems that every Western government supports Ukraine in its quest for total victory over Russia. The NATO alliance and other states have remained remarkably united and steadfast in their beliefs that Ukraine is the victim. Kyiv should be spared no expense in defeating the occupiers and ejecting Russian forces from all territories.

But what would happen after a win? Russia would be humiliated and could even resort to the nuclear weapons option. There could be a dangerous power vacuum in Moscow if Russia endures a messy period of regime change. What is the West trying to accomplish? What is the endgame for this war that would win the peace?

Germany and France Are Less Enthusiastic

Some countries, such as Germany and France, have been less resolute in their support of Ukraine. They are not gung ho like Poland and the Baltic states, who are supporting Ukraine with words and deeds until total victory is achieved.

How to Win the Peace?

What if a final peace deal after Russian capitulation would create a Treaty of Versailles type of accord that would humiliate Moscow and create even more contempt for the West in Russia? French President Emmanuel Macron has been in favor of negotiations and giving Russia “security guarantees,” but it is not clear what he would include in an armistice or peace deal. France has also not specified the type of and number of air defense systems that Macron has discussed with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The Germans have only said Russia “cannot win” without going into details of Berlin’s strategy toward Russia.

Limitation of Military Support for Kyiv

Germany has also resisted providing military aid consisting of its best weapons systems such as the Leopard 2 tank that Ukraine could use to blast their Russian trenches this winter. The United States has not allowed the Ukrainians to have fighter planes or longer-range ballistic missiles called ATACMS for the HIMARS rocket launchers.

Fears of Escalation

The United States, Germany, and France fear escalating the war by arming Ukraine with their best military hardware, while Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, plus Poland are worried that Russia could invade and occupy them again. The Baltic countries and Poland are spending a higher percentage of their Gross Domestic Product on Ukrainian aid.

Will Diplomacy Even Work?

Diplomatic options are limited between Ukraine and Russia. A ceasefire would allow Russia to rest, recuperate, and re-arm. An armistice without a formal peace treaty could create a frozen conflict with a demilitarized zone similar to the situation on the Korean peninsula. Meanwhile, Ukraine would hold out for a complete capitulation from Moscow that includes Russian payment of reparations for death and damages, acquiescence to war crimes tribunals, and reversion to the borders before the annexation of Crimea. All provisions that would be a non-starter for Vladimir Putin. Russia could use nuclear blackmail to create a crisis of confidence in the West, so it is important not to push Putin to the brink.

Post War Outcomes Are Messy

Even if Russia loses the war, the rules-based liberal order could be finished in Eastern Europe. Russia could always bide its time and invade another country after it licks its wounds. Ukraine would likely join NATO and the European Union, further making the case that Russia will be a permanent villain that is surrounded by alliance members and torn apart by countries that wish it harm.

Time for the West to Huddle Up for the Next Play

Due to these problems with the outcome of a Russian loss, the West will likely need a major summit to figure out the path forward post-war. Ukraine will have to be re-built and de-mined – requirements that will require a 21st century Marshall Plan-like type of monetary investment. There will need to be a plan to ensure that Russia does not take the nuclear option – probably a re-birth of New START talks that have languished during the war. And Russia will have to understand that its brand of imperialism will not be allowed in the future.

As Estonian international relations expert Kristi Raik wrote for a recent piece in Foreign Policy magazine, “Eventually, a free and democratic Ukraine, secure in its borders and fully integrated into the trans-Atlantic community, will be the best possible chance for a deep transformation within Russia.” Let’s hope Kyiv and the West can achieve that end state and Russia will allow it to happen.

Expert Biography: Serving as 19FortyFive’s Defense and National Security Editor, Dr. Brent M. Eastwood is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science and Foreign Policy/ International Relations.

Written By

Now serving as 1945s New Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer.



  1. Jacksonian Libertarian

    December 9, 2022 at 3:09 pm

    Thinking that any peace is possible for as long as the corrupt authoritarian Russian Culture and its territorial ambitions holds power, is delusional. Cultures change at glacial speeds, and while there was hope in ’91’ when political forces disintegrated the Soviet Union, that Russia would become democratic, the rise of Putin crushed that hope.

    “Example is the school of mankind and they will learn at no other.” Edmund Burke

    Only a humiliating military loss for Russia has a chance to change the corrupt Russian culture.

  2. Christophe

    December 9, 2022 at 3:15 pm

    In a time of war, defeatism is a crime.

  3. TheDon

    December 9, 2022 at 4:05 pm

    It will collapse if it joints CCP, NK, Iran axis.
    Big mistake.

  4. Ben d'Mydogtags

    December 9, 2022 at 9:44 pm

    Russia is too big to ever occupy and the populace is too proud to ever pacify. The Bear cannot be housebroken or led on a leash. A humiliating peace will sow the seeds of future problems. They may collapse but the collapse will feed the historic Russian paranoia about being persecuted by the West.

  5. mawendt

    December 10, 2022 at 2:11 am

    Meh. Bring it.

    If a man lives in so much fear of an opponent that he compromises to avoid a conflict, he’ll end up being a slave to every bully that waggles a very large missile or raises an angry voice at him. That ain’t livin’.

    Anything that thins the herd. This world deserves it more each day.

  6. George

    December 11, 2022 at 7:43 am

    Yes and this is the reason the Russian’s see this as a life and death struggle, one in which they will feel more and more comfortable bringing nuclear weapons to bear. I guess we’re cool with losing by winning. Then again, I guess the government would accomplish its goal of preventing the threat of global warming. I good century of nuclear cooling and the death of 4/5th of the population would be worth it.

  7. Jeepwonder

    December 11, 2022 at 9:31 am

    Ukraine does not deserve to be the victim of the genocide Russia would impose on them. Poland and it’s neighbors don’t deserve to be occupied next in the annexation Putin would love to impose. What Russia thinks about that isn’t my concern. They are a paper tiger and other people as ambitious as Putin can take over for all I care, they won’t have the weapons or army to do this much damage thanks to Putin.

  8. Al Pecota

    December 11, 2022 at 9:45 am

    It astounds me how people can fabricate and construct out of thin air a version of events that makes them feel good about themselves, regardless of reality, just blurting out pure hopeful thinking delusions for a dopamine hit and a few likes

  9. Peace is best

    December 11, 2022 at 7:27 pm

    NATOs job was to prevent a European war and yet, they have poked and poked until they got one. That Ukraine is a victim is preposterous! And the poor Western European countries worried about “Russia, Russia, Russia” maybe they should have told the US and its NATO buddies to back the ef off.
    Until these “experts” get a good understanding of the situation using their brains rather than pure propaganda from the Industrial Military Complex, talking about what will happen after the war is a waste of breath.

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